Posts Tagged citizens united

I Will Miss Bernie Sanders

bernie-sanders-having-birdiesandersI will miss Bernie Sanders and the air of hope and optimism he brought with him during this Primary season.

After all the capitulations of the Obama Administration to Republican demagoguery in general and to the GOP in particular; after all the nay-saying and “no we can’t do it after all” crap and over-compromising to the point of actually compromising one’s core principle and thereby essentially allowing Republicans to set the tone and direction of national policy and debate, it was great to see someone who inspired real change;  who wasn’t just another god-damn politician looking out for himself and his bottom line, perpetuating the same failed policies that further no one but the greed and avarice of the one percent.

Republicans have set the bar so low that it really does not take much to exceed it. This country has moved so far to the Right, that both Obama and Clinton would have fit well into the Reagan administration instead of FDR’s. The Republicans are so awful, that they make people like Clinton and Obama look good and liberal, rather than showing them as the moderate Republicans they really are. Republicans who have turned  not being a fascist into a standard which politicians like Clinton aspire to (“Hey vote for me, at least I was not THAT  horrible.”),

Seeing people come together, being fired up, having hope for a better future for all Americans, was inspiring. I think a lot of even cynical people felt that there was finally a political leader who wasn’t telling us what we wanted to hear becasue it was politically expedient,  but who, behind closed doors, just went on with business as usual. Someone who finally got it and who strived to make it happen, even if he knew it was hard. It was great to see someone who isn’t running a capitulation campaign,  where you aim really low so you can at least get that done (which is sort of the message I got from Hillary Clinton, in a nutshell). 

A lot of Clinton’s supporter believe that Sanders’ supporters live in a fantasy world where everything is free and they don’t have to work for it.  We were and continue to be dismissed as a bunch of pie-in-the-sky dreamers, detached from reality, who don’t know any better, versus Clinton who repeatedly prides herself in her pragmatism and no-nonsense attitude.

But we are not blind. We understand the political process perfectly well.  We understand that the President isn’t an elected king and that he has to work with Congress and lawmakers to make things happen. We understood the value of compromise. We know that this is going to be an upward battle requiring effort, a thick skin and hard work. And we knew that Bernie Sanders was not going to waltz into the White House, swing a magic wand and make it all happen.

But winning is only half the battle. The appeal of the Sanders movement is about achievability as much as it is about inspiration and believing that one must and can work toward a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal  healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system. That in and of itself is half the battle.  And if you can’t even envision that, just like Clinton cannot and won’t envision it, then why do you even fucking want this job? Why do you bother?

Goldman-Sach-Hillary-900-e1455056003700

In fact, I have often wondered why given her defeatist pragmatic attitude Clinton even wants this job. She is rich enough so it is not like she has to work. And how much more money can one person need and want?

Is it for power? Prestige? To be the first woman President? Bragging rights?

I look at her track record and I look at her during this Primary season and I don’t see a public servant, I don’t see someone who wants to bring about change and reform. On the contrary, what I see is a neoliberal, Wall Street-funded, status quo-perpetuating, multimillionaire  militarist.

It is a shame. We had the chance to elect an utterly honest man who has not spent  the last 40 years enriching himself at the expense of the American people. Unlike Sanders’ positive and hope filled message, this so-called victory by Clinton brings with itself an air of hopelessness and despondency that weighs down my heart.

The masses of people being gullible sheep who vote against their own self interest is nothing new, but it never ceases to amaze and appall me when I do witness it.  Sanders is a man who, going by his tax returns alone, is  broke compared to his multi millionaire colleagues in Congress. He and his wife made less in one year ($204k) than  Clinton makes in one speech to Goldman Sachs. He didn’t vote for every war he could vote for,  he was not being sponsored by banks and corporations while also receiving endorsements by the likes of the Koch Brothers and war criminals like Henry Kissinger. Unlike Clinton he has not spent the bigger part of his career aligning himself with the powerful and wealthy against the powerless and poor.

Yet who do people vote for? Hillary Clinton. A woman who  wore a $12,000  Armani  suit while giving a speech on income inequality.

Hillary-Clinton-Banks-Wall-Street

As a woman and feminist I am supposed to feel really elated and happy here. It is a historic moment for the United States to finally have a woman Presidential nominee and probably also President. However, I feel nothing but disappointment and despair. I look at the next six months with a heavy heart and know that she will win the General Election, too, given that the person she is running against is not really a viable candidate, or even a opponent, but more like a troll. So in a way Clinton will be running unopposed come this November.

Of course, Hillary Clinton is qualified and experienced for the job. Nk doubt in my mind she is brilliant. However, it is not her qualifications that are in question here, it is her priorities. She is bad for America and this historic moment of finally having a woman on the command chair is overshadowed by the fact that Clinton is not the Progressive she claims to be.

Clinton is not running (at this time or any other) to help the American people, who have been nothing short of brutalized by corporations and the politicians that do their bidding – including Clinton – or to make America a better place. She’s running because the Presidency is the biggest prize in the world, and she wants that prize. Trump is running for the same reason–bragging rights.

If she wins, and she will win, her presidency will then be focused–again–not on the people, but on doing just enough to secure a personal legacy and a place in the history books as The First Woman President.

Someone who accepts nearly a million dollars in speaker fees from Goldman Sachs to congratulate them on a job well done and who goes to fundraisers were people spend nearly $400,000 on a plate, and someone who has a track record of voting for all the fraudulent wars this country has been engaged in for the past five decades and Wall Street bailouts and policies aimed at furthering the 1% at the expense of everyone else, someone who has already said that there will never, ever be universal health care and free – or at least affordable -education and meaningful student loan reforms for all, not just special interest groups – is not someone who should be running on the Progressive ticket.

For the record, Goldman Sachs does not pay HRC $250,000 per speaking engagement for nothing. Those rich people in the aforementioned dinner organized by George Clooney don’t spend nearly $400,000 a seat to help poor people. This is an investment and those people will  want a return on their investment; a return which doesn’t include you or I.

Clinton is a moderate Republican, paid and endorsed by big banks to convince the middle class to be happy with the old deal. And this past Tuesday, middle and working class America agreed by making her their nominee.

 

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Bernie Sanders’ vs. Hillary Clinton’s Tax Returns

Benrie v Hillary

Bernie Sanders reportedly earned just over $200,000 in 2014. That same year, Hillary Clinton, Sanders’s top Democratic rival, gave about 45 paid speeches, many of which paid her more in a single hour than Sanders made the entire year.

The Washington Post reports on Sanders’s income. “The senator from Vermont reported income of just more than $200,000 on his 2014 returns, according to the first few pages of his federal and Vermont filings, which were shared with The Washington Post back in June. On Friday, the couple is planning to release the rest of the returns, including attached schedules,” writes the paper. “The vast majority of the couple’s income came from Sanders’s $174,000 Senate salary and Social Security benefits that both he and his wife, Jane, a former college president, receive.”

In 2014 alone, Clinton gave speeches to GE (for $225,500), the National Automobile Dealers Association ($325,500), Deutsche Bank AG ($280,000), and many more.

As CNN reported at the beginning of this year, “Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, combined to earn more than $153 million in paid speeches from 2001 until Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign last spring, a CNN analysis shows.

“In total, the two gave 729 speeches from February 2001 until May, receiving an average payday of $210,795 for each address. The two also reported at least $7.7 million for at least 39 speeches to big banks, including Goldman Sachs and UBS, with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic 2016 front-runner, collecting at least $1.8 million for at least eight speeches to big banks.”

Here’s a list of Hillary Clinton’s publicly disclosed paid speeches since leaving the State Department, totaling a sweet $21,667,000:

Hillary Clinton Speeches 2013-2015_1

 

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The Death of A Wretched Human Being: Antonin Scalia

downloadLast week, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died at the age of 79 in some luxury resort in West Texass. He did not pay to stay at that luxury resort owned by John B. Poindexter,  a Texas native and decorated Vietnam veteran who owns Houston-based J.B. Poindexter & Co., a manufacturing firm with  seven subsidiaries and a  combined annual revenue of nearly $1 billion. Poindexter told The Washington Post that Scalia was not charged for his stay, something he described as a policy for all guests at the ranch.

I did not pay for the Justice’s trip to Cibolo Creek Ranch,” Poindexter wrote in a brief email Tuesday. “He was an invited guest, along with a friend, just like 35 others.”

A friend, indeed.

One of Poindexter’s companies was involved in a case that made it to the high court. Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving an age discrimination lawsuit filed against one of these companies, court records show.

Is it just mere coincidence that a year later we see a Justice of that very same court invited to the luxurious home/ranch of the owner of the company involved in a case which the Supreme Court refused to hear?

Nothing about who Scalia was suggests that it could be a mere coincidence. What is for certain, however, is that it constitutes a conflict of interest.

Interesting to note is that this was not the first time Scalia acted unethically (that we know of).  In 2004, he joined then-Vice President Richard B. Cheney on a hunting trip while Cheney was the subject of a lawsuit over his energy task force, and in response to calls that he sit out the case, Scalia issued a highly unusual 21-page argument explaining why he refused to do so.

While judges have to file financial disclosure statements, including reporting of gifts they receive and disclosing when someone who is not a relative gives them “transportation, lodging, food, or entertainment” worth a certain amount (see 1978 Ethics in Government Act passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal), there is really no one who enforces that. And while every other federal judge below the Supreme Court and the decision about whether or not they should be recused from cases where there could be a potential conflict of interest is potentially subject to the review of a higher judge or other judges on his court, no one reviews the decision of a Justice and thus Supreme Court justices essentially become the final arbiters of whether or not to recuse themselves from cases that may constitute a conflict of interest.

Why am I bringing this up on the day of Antonin Sacalia’s funeral? Because while much of the mainstream press was quickly lining up to offer glowing commemorations of his career as a public servant and brilliant man, I want to be sure that Scalia’s destructive judicial legacy is  not completely whitewashed.

He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues”…  Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr  said in a statement confirming Justice Scalia’s death. “His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”

No it is not. Antonin Scalia’s death is great news and this nation’s salvation. He did not serve this country loyally.  On the contrary,  he used and abused his position in the highest court of the land to align himself with power, against the powerless.

Scalia was a contemptible human being who once during oral arguments in a pivotal affirmative action case suggested that African American students might belong at less rigorous schools than their white peers, and that perhaps the University of Texas should have fewer black students in its ranks.

He decided his cases based on what the Catholic church preaches about women and reproduction.

He repeatedly and casually equated LGBT and its advocates to apologists for incest, rape, bestiality, child pornography and murder.

He has been nothing but an antagonist to social justice ever since he took seat on that bench/ivory tower of his. Heck, his last official act was denying a stay of execution.

Scalia’s death is not a loss to this nation or the Supreme Court. Scalia was the disease that’s been gnawing and eating away at our Democracy like a malignancy.  His death is our salvation as a nation.

And that is what I have to say about him on this day of his funeral.

May he rest in the hell he believed in so much and which he created for others during his short time in this world.

 

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The Mechanisms of Exploitation

One of the reasons the wealthy in this country are wealthy, is because they are the beneficiaries of massive loopholes inherent in our skewed tax code as well as government subsidies paid for by tax dollars. In other words, the dramatic gains in wealth by the super rich are underwritten by everyone else as a result of skewed values embedded in the U.S. tax code. This means that the top 1 percent of America’s wealthiest households—97 percent of whom are white—are subsidized by the rest of the tax base.

A major contributor to the dwindling of the middle class is that the majority of the taxes they pay rarely benefit them, especially with regard to social safety net programs. Those taxes benefit the wealthy, who then get to sit back and save their money while the middle class covers them by picking up their slack. Remember that wage earners pay taxes on their sustenance, while the wealthy would be paying taxes on their wealth.

 It is also no revelation that most of our taxes go towards the war machine, also euphemistically referred to as “defense department”, subsidies for oil companies and farms and a host of tax breaks for corporations that post record profits while siphoning their wealth overseas to avoid paying taxes, employing cheap labor overseas and paying domestic laborers lousy wages that do not keep up with increased cost of living and general growth.

This lack of equity has lead to the systematic erosion of the middle class by transferring wealth from the bottom to top, thus widening the income gap.

As much as corporations like to whine about hard times that are allegedly prompting them to keep cutting pay, benefits or lay people off altogether, research has revealed that, in fact, foreign profits held overseas by U.S. corporations to avoid taxes at home nearly doubled from 2008 to 2013 to top $2.1 trillion. GE tops the list, followed by Microsoft, Pfizer, Merck and Apple – all companies that are supposed to be the shining example of the American Dream and hard work. Turns out, their un-American, self-serving greed is of the same old garden-variety robber baron kind, only this time the velvet tones are neatly wrapped in wit and charm by these master manipulators who call themselves the purveyors of the American Dream.

The American Dream for whom, one wonders.

The middle class has not experienced much of an income growth for the past three to four decades while the 1% have seen their wealth multiply quite rapidly. General Electric, for example, has neatly stashed away over $100 billion overseas while paying an effective tax rate of merely 5% in the US.

All this has crated a situation whereby the middle class is basically digging its own grave, caught in a vicious cycle of little income growth, coupled with higher cost of living, paying the highest amount of taxes while at the same time not seeing most of that money they paid come back to them in the form of social safety net programs, ultimately resulting in them to slide down the social class ladder even further and with every slide slip deeper into the poverty trap. 

Tax Breaks Are A spending

The hundreds of tax breaks lawmakers have written into the federal tax code –  for instance, special low tax rates on capital gains, and a deduction for home mortgage interest – in order to promote certain activities they deem beneficial to society (which are not), function as a type of government spending. 

In fact, tax breaks are officially called tax expenditures within the federal government because, from the perspective of the government, they are no different from spending on any other government program. That’s because, when the government issues a tax break, it chooses to give up tax revenue – so both spending and tax breaks result in the same outcome, which is less money in the U.S. Treasury.  

The need for the money the government just decided to not collect from certain entities (that also happen to line the pockets of those very government officials – most of whom are millionaires)  does not go away because the tax break was issued. That need is still there. And if the government cannot collect, or will not collect,  it from the wealthy, then it will have to collect it from us.

According to the White House, in fiscal year 2014 tax breaks are expected to cost the federal government  – and by extension all of us who do pay taxes – $1.18 trillion – slightly more than all discretionary spending in the same year.

For the government it means that it does not get to collect the revenue it needs to remain solvent, which in turn results in the government going after the easiest of entities to cut from – the poor who don’t have lobbyists residing in the Capital buying politicians.

This is evidenced by the fact that cuts, usually, almost always begin with and come in the form of slashing food stamps, public assistance programs and a host of other social safety net policies.

The class divide we are facing is facilitated by these very middle class-destroying economic policies that are promoted by politicians in both parties.

Democrats are not any better. They too agree on beginning every cut by going after middle class causes and the poor. They merely disagree with Conservatives over the extent to which those cuts are to take place. While I do want to give credit to some truly dedicated Democratic officials, I want to point out that voting for policies that ultimately go after the most vulnerable and marginalized entities in society to subsidize the privileged does not make you a progressive, nor is it a vastly different position from the Conservative one. That is hardly deserving of accolades. In fact, it makes you part of the problem, just to a slightly lesser degree.

In the end, for the working middle class it means that they have to pick up the slack of those who get tax exemptions.

Coupled with deregulation, lousy labor laws and standards that favor the corporations and their money-making schemes over employee/worker rights and human dignity,  Citizens United, Too Big To Fail, and a host of other middle class busting policies, the middle class has essentially been reduced to nothing but a source of cheap labor and tax revenue, effectively shifting the economic burden of society away from the wealthy – who, among other things, by virtue of paying no taxes, can accumulate wealth easily and rapidly –  and onto the working poor and middle class wage earners.

Given that a good number of our elected officials (including judges) are wholly owned subsidiaries of corporations, this situation is not likely going to change anytime soon. After all, what incentive would a lawmaker have to put a stop to the very corporate greed and exploitation that is subsidizing his or her campaign (and summer house, car elevator, shiny, gold plated bootstraps for his kids etc). 

General Motors, Money and Free Speech

In 2001, General Motors considered, and rejected an ignition switch design that two prominent safety advocates say could have avoided the problem that led the automaker to recall millions of vehicles this year.

The company’s decision to reject the safety switch was motivated by cost. Without much oversight and accountability, GM just decided to forgo this important safety feature, resulting in not only recalls of vehicles but according to GM, the faulty ignition switch has been linked to 32 crashes and 13 deaths.

All so that GM executives may pocket a few million dollars more in bonuses and compensation.

Via the Citizens United ruling and the subsequent ruling earlier this month lifting the ban on aggregate campaign donations,  the crooks in the Supreme Court took a huge step toward giving wealthy donors, including corporations, unlimited freedom to influence elections, considering corporations and the money they can give to influence political outcomes “people” entitled to “free speech” under the First Amendment.

The move to exclude millions of people who do not have the money to influence political outcomes does not only deeply compromise the political integrity of our governmental institutions, but, as Justice Beer wrote in the dissenting opinion, this “decision eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”  

Again, the entities that will be paying the price are middle class wage earners who cannot, on the political sphere, match the wealth of a powerful corporation or a billionaire – not without allies, effectively resulting in only people of extreme means and wealth being able to influence elections.

Equating free speech with spending money in elections is, furthermore, not only deeply undemocratic, but it is no different than making voting contingent upon an individual’s wealth. No one can tell me that the vote of a poor citizen carries as much weight as the “vote” of a millionaire.

Of course, corporations are only people insofar as they can donate unlimited funds to buy  surrogate politicians to do their bidding. When it comes to corporate accountability –  another feature of being a person – however, corporations remain immune and cannot be held accountable.

Case in point, again, General Motors that is currently seeking lawsuit protection in federal courts for knowingly equipping their vehicles with faulty parts, resulting in millions of recalls as well as dozens of crashes and deaths.

This is a company that paid no federal income tax for 2011 despite earnings of $13 billion since 2009. Why? Because the Treasury Department (hint: our corrupt lawmakers that run the Treasury Department) gave GM permission to use the $18 billion in losses from the pre-bankruptcy company, the so-called old GM, to cancel out any profits it has made since it emerged from bankruptcy.

In essence, GM would have to make $1 billion for 18 consecutive quarters before the federal government, which bailed out the company, sees a nickel in income tax from GM.

In other words, GM got bailed out with tax payer monies and it not only not paid them back but is also not getting to put a dime into the very government coffers whose funds bailed them out in the first place!!

Guess who, amid this grand gesture of corporate welfare, will be tasked to pick up GM’s tax exemption? The middle class working stiff. (Not that other corporations in this country pay more, or any, taxes either.  See this).

Bootstraps

Hard work has very little to do with why the wealthy are wealthy. Why corporations and their executives keep getting richer by the minute and have become “too wealthy to fail” while those who work for them cannot afford buying a house or sending their kids to college or have any kind of social safety avenues available to them if some catastrophe were to happen.

The problem with poverty and a vanishing middle class in this country is systemic in nature with corrupt, greedy and self serving entities as the gatekeepers at every level, insuring that those wallowing in wealth remain where they are while those who subsidize them think they are on their way there while at the same time giving up their standard of living, their quality of education, their jobs, their worker protections, their civil liberties, their social safety net, their environment, their economy and their very democracy itself.

We are a at point now where those in the 25-to-34 age group are the best educated cohort in American history, with more than a third having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Yet nearly 50% of those are either jobless or underemployed, indicating that clearly, and while important, education alone does not create jobs and opportunities that lead to prosperity. For that, a fair and functional economy is needed — one in which the government, a government filled with people who have integrity, not the corrupt opportunists that are in its employ now – plays a robust role, alongside consumers and businesses, to promote full employment and to ensure a just distribution of gains.

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The Health Care Mandate: Tax or Penalty. Potato or Potato

Supporters of President Barack Obama’s health care law celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2012, after the court’s ruling was announced.

Ever since the Supreme Court’s decision last week declaring the individual health insurance mandate in Obama’s Affordable Care Act as constitutional, a lot of discussions have erupted over the nature of the mandate  – or more precisely whether the requirement to be in it or else get a penalty at the end of the year when filling out your taxes, can be considered a tax or a penalty.

Proponents of the Health Care law say it is a penalty, opponents say it is a tax.  I say: who cares what it is called. As it is stands it is a bad idea, regardless.

Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the mandate as a tax, although concluded it was not valid as an exercise of Congress’ commerce clause power. The five Justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – concluded that the mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, falls within Congress’ power under the Constitution to “lay and collect taxes.”

The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” Roberts wrote. “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”

Most commentators and political analysts agree that the mandate can indeed be characterized as a tax, as the Court found. However, some contend that it is not a massive tax hike on the middle class because the tax imposed by the individual mandate amounts to either $695 or 2.5 percent of household income for those who don’t have insurance and are not exempt based on income levels. By comparison, the payroll tax cut extension Republicans repeatedly blocked earlier this year would have added 3.1 percentage points to the tax and cost the average family $1,500 a year. It is argued that the Mandate, meanwhile, would hit a small amount of Americans — somewhere between 2 and 5 percent — according to a study from The Urban Institute. The number could be even lower depending on the law’s success: in Massachusetts, the only state with an insurance mandate, less than 1 percent of the state’s residents paid the penalty in 2009.

The majority of the Affordable Care Act’s other taxes, such as a payroll tax increase and a tax on high-cost health plans, are aimed at upper-income Americans. It is further argued that millions of jobs will be created as new people enter the health care system and millions of people will gain access to affordable, quality insurance that they otherwise would not have.

Affordable, Quality Care? Really?

The questions that arise from this legislation supposedly aimed at opening the door to affordable quality insurance for all Americans are manifold and responses to them largely determine the success or failure of the Affordable Care Act:

1) Will people really have access to affordable and quality care? How can requiring people to maintain a minimum level of insurance coverage equate to quality care? By definition, minimum implies some very basic coverage which means a lot of diagnostic tests and procedures will not be performed under an insurance plan that only has to meet minimum coverage requirements. Quality coverage means exactly the opposite of the minimum you have to do. Unless the bar for minimum is set pretty high to include some of those more expensive, comprehensive tests – which given this country’s aversion for altruism is unlikely – it is uncertain how quality applies to what has been commonly coined as Obamacare.

2) Is this really going to be affordable? Especially when coupled with the quality factor mentioned above? Under the Affordable Care Act, people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. A provision which is supremely important given that insurance companies have pretty much been able to do so for years, causing people with certain conditions not be able to get insured and thus treatment. But from what I understand, under this Act, there is no law saying that the insurance company cannot hike up the rate or impose huge deductibles. Someone has cancer? Sure – they can’t be denied coverage. Just that they have to pay, hmmm, I don’t know, 950 a month in premiums and a $5,000 deductible. Is that reform? Is that affordable? Because you bet that any minimum coverage – as required by the Mandate above – will not include quality and affordability.

Insurance companies collude with on another. They are not allowed to, but informally they have been for years. Given that this legislation is not  accompanied by serious reform of the health care industry and especially insurance companies, it is once again unclear how affordability is ensured.  No matter where you go – your premium will not be $300 in one place and $90 in another. Chances are that for a person with a certain medical background they will be uniformly the same across the spectrum. Yeah they’ll cover you, but half the tests won’t be “allowed” or require deductible pay or “special approval.” Good luck dealing with authorization claims endlessness percolating in the system while you succumb to your disease.

Yes, technically you are in some plan, so the government can check you off the list saying “look, we insured her. She is taken care of“. But is it actually going to be affordable? And quality? Will it meet your needs without you having to once again consider bankruptcy or a second mortgage to take care of your health needs?

3) What happens to the “penalty” tax people pay if they do not buy insurance? Where does it go? Back into the tax pool to continue endorsing oil companies? Israel? Wars? Rich people? Corporate welfare? Where will the money go? Since the government isn’t offering health insurance, which was the whole point of reform to begin with, where does that incoming tax-penalty go?

A Mandate without Reform of the Health Insurnace Companies

Which brings me to my next point: The Mandate is worrisome mainly because it is not accompanied by serious reform of the health care industry and especially insurance companies.

That is at the crux of the matter.

The mandate itself is not the problem and the only way it currently is a problem is that it is not accompanied by the reform of a broken health care system.

Europe has a similar system in place. I am specifically referring to Germany where such a Mandate also exists. But they also have government run insurance that is competing with private insurance companies, untimely giving them an incentive to remain competitive and treat their clients better. Obama’s Affordable Care Act does not have that.  We don’t have Medicare for All – which, incidentally, is how Obama should have frame his attempts at reform in the first place – and we don’t have a heavily regulated health insurance industry.

They can do whatever they want to do, as long as they don’t run directly into what has been specifically prohibited or provisioned for in the law.  They have, right now, a team of lawyers working on how to make it the most profitable for them by seeking out loopholes. So, for instance, they might not call it pre-existing condition, since that is against the law, but they’ll call it something else – just as the banks did: they were no longer allowed to charge overdraft fees, so now they charge you a mandatory monthly fee or have added fees hidden in something else – directly avoiding the letter of the law but essentially carrying out it essence.

Reform, however, has to be good and meaningful. Otherwise just putting anything on paper without truly thinking it through is neither progress nor reform.

The foundation of this health care reform is lacking. Just like a building that was erected on a shaky foundation. Who cares what great materials were used and how awesome the design of the rest of the structure is.  If the foundation is lacking and brittle, like this mandate, the whole building will eventually fall apart and collapse.

Coercing people, under penalty of law, to become the customers of insurance companies that have traditionally been scamming the American people bankrupt and sick and which remain largely unregulated, is not reform. The mandate would be a good idea if the insurance companies actually did have real competition – i.e. government run insurance running  side by side private insurance – but as it is now, we are being sold to insurance companies and if we don’t become their customers, we get penalized at the end of the year when we do our tax returns.

Health care reform is direly needed in this country and I have always supported it. The idea of a person’ s access to doctors and medical treatment depending on one’s employment status and whether one’s employer would even choose to give you benefits at all,  has always seemed extremely bizarre to me. The first question that first sprang to my mind was “well then what do people who don’t have a job or money? Or what if your employer chooses not to insure you?” People are walking around in this country with their health on their sleeves and at risk. If you don’t have insurance, then hope you don’t get sick. If you do have insurance, also hope you don’t get sick really because chances are you may be waiting for weeks and months to get your claim authorized or maybe even dropped from your plan altogether.

When I first started working an after-school job in retail, I was stunned that it was rather a given that one would get health insurance when working somewhere and that one had to wait 3 months or work a certain hours to maybe qualify for coverage.

This is unacceptable and no way for human beings in an Enlightened and civilized society to live. People shouldn’t lose their health and lives because they aren’t wealthy. And people also should not lose their houses and go bankrupt because of medical bills?

Government run insurance or Medicare For All is the solution.  In fact,  offering government-run insurance to people so that the insurance companies have some competition and thus an incentive to treat their customers better if they don’t want to lose them to the government run insurance  was one of the most important – if not the most important – pillar of health care reform.  Not this lousy compromise of guaranteeing cut throat insurance companies every citizen in the country for them to prey on without much constraint essentially.

What really irks me is that as usual the middle class will carry the burden. This is just another tax imposed on them since rich people,  the 1%, won’t be affected either way – just like they have not been affected by the meltdown.

People in this country are so used to being the victims of corporations and at their mercy, that they are ok with any little crumb that might maybe improve their lives. Something is better than nothing, so this bill must be good.

Tax or Mandate. Does it Really Matter?

So, what does it matter what it is called?  The bottom line is that money is being taken away from someone based on whether they are insured or not. Period. Now the naive populace of this country and the rest of the corrupt politicians can quibble over semantics as much as they like, but the facts speak for themselves. Whether you call it a mandate or a tax or a penalty tax – the outcome is the same.

If this current “Citizens United and corporations are people” Court supports it, it can’t possibly be good. Promising insurance companies every single citizen in this country isn’t health care REform. Without reform of the entire medical industry – from the insurance companies, to the free riders, to the AMA itself  – this law has little to offer. This is just another tax on the middle class and poor people.

What about mandatory car insurance you say? Owning a car is optional. If I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it. But I have no choice living and breathing. And the government delivering us on a silver platter to insurance companies without having reformed them is a step in the wrong direction.  The more I think of this, the worse of an idea it is. So of course the Supreme Court upholds it.

Ultimately, Obama’s health care “reform” is built on a shaky foundation and if the foundation is not right, it is bound to break down and collapse. In this case creating a huge government bureaucracy without much backing and substance.

Republicans Should be Happy

I know there is a lot of hatred going on for Obama and that the “anyone but Obama” mentality persist among the racist, jingoist members of this god-blessed country. But if you think about it, Republicans should really be hooting and follering over this; they won once again:  force people to purchase a product, tax them if they don’t.  That is like their wet dream come true – every single day.

Insurance companies control you life – literally – by deciding how to cover you and how much and what. People are completely at their mercy. In fact, insurance companies make money by not covering people, not by covering them. They are so used to looking for loop holes to deny claims and not pay that it has become an established practice in the industry and ingrained fundamentally in their practices.  Throwing the American public at their mercy, like a herd of lemmings given to a pack of wolves, is not the solution, even though it is quite en par with the Right Wing and Republican agenda.

Justice Roberts gave this law a blow from two angles: first, by calling it a tax and then by saying it was constitutional. However, the only constitutional option would have been the public option. Yes we’d lose tons of jobs in the insurance industry and government officials would lose millions in bribes, err, I mean “lobbying perks”, but it would have been the right thing to do by the American people who have been suffering at the hands of these cut throat, extortionist corporations that post record profits at the expense of the sick.

Ultimately the Supreme Court  sided with corporations once again, making sure they receive 30+ million more customers.  Yes, this was once again a corporate decision – good for the private sector, instead of good for the American people. Thank you Mr. Roberts for your allegiance to your beloved insurance companies and thanks America for being completely incapable of enacting meaningful public policy and consistently voting against your self interest.

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