Morning Report 11/25/05
Curses, Foiled Again!

You're the leftovers, and you continue to let Cheney and other gobblers pick at you

Harkavy (White House; Social Security poster)

A backward look: Modern-day grinning gramps Dick Cheney (left) preaches Social Security "reform" (read: privatization) in March in Bakersfield, California. Back in 1939 (right), the federal government was using the image of a grinning gramps to tout Social Security itself as a reform measure, which it was.

The tryptophan should have worn off by now, so get off the couch and try to focus on a big task: You have to stop getting carved up by Dick Cheney and crew.

Set aside the fact that he and the rest of the Bush regime, along with the radical redneck GOP members of Congress from the South are carefully setting aside — and casting aside — the dark meat down on the whitening-plagued Gulf Coast.

White or black, man or woman, young or old — you're getting butchered by these people, before and after they've cooked you.

Cheney continues to not only carve but to even set the table. His agenda right now is damage control regarding Iraq. He's got you, and most of the news media, wrapped up. But as I've noted several times before (thanks to the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei), the vise president started 2005 with a grand battle plan to defeat Americans on the domestic front.

If we have to sit at Cheney's table, listening him talk about only what he wants to talk about, we should at least make sure he and his fellow goniffs eventually get their just deserts, which means we have to keep opening cans of whup-ass.

To fortify yourselves for that task, chew on some well-kneaded "hardship indicators" compiled by Arloc Sherman and Isaac Shapiro at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. You'll find the goods. There's a whole cupboard full of them, but for now I'm going to point out only two:

"Poverty has now risen for four straight years; 37 million people were poor in 2004."

What's "poverty"? Here's more on that:

    In 2004 (the latest year for which data are available), 37 million people were poor, up from 32 million in 2000. One in eight Americans — 12.7 percent — was poor in 2004. The poverty line is $15,067 a year for a family of three, and $19,307 for a family of four.

So that means such families with annual incomes of, say, $20,000 aren't officially poor. Think about it. And about this:

    The number of Americans experiencing a particularly deep form of poverty — with family incomes below half the federal poverty line — rose even faster, climbing by 24 percent from 2000 to 2004.

"The number of people lacking health insurance reached an all-time recorded high in 2004."

Those are mean numbers, in more ways than one. But it's the trend that's so disturbing:

    Since 2000, the number of Americans who are uninsured has climbed by six million. Nearly one in six Americans — 15.7 percent — lacked health insurance in 2004, up from 14.2 percent in 2000, according to the Census Bureau.

By the way, more than just a regime change is needed when it comes to any hope of progress on the crisis of health care in America. Hillary Clinton is certainly no answer.

I covered her 2000 Senate race like a wet blanket, and let me tell you that no matter what Rush Limbaugh and other harrumph roasters say, Hillary's no liberal. (See my "Wal-Mart's First Lady" from May 2000.) Never will be, never has been, needs to stay a has-been when any discussion of White House occupancy arises.

She's not responsible for Wal-Mart's venality, but as a board member she was a willing dupe. As to how Wal-Mart handles health care for its million employees, see the latest analysis from the Center for a Changing Workforce: "Wal-Mart and Health Care: Condition Critical." Just a couple of paragraphs from that devastating report:

    • Wal-Mart actually provides health insurance to far fewer employees than the company claims. Less than 40 percent of its employees were covered in 2003 and 2005 — substantially below the average for other large employers and direct competitors.

    • The average store employee on Wal-Mart's Associates Medical Plan is "underinsured," based on national standards. In 2005, a Wal-Mart worker with a family of four would have to pay health care costs equal to 30 percent of their income before receiving most benefits. The company admits: "Our coverage is expensive for low-income families."

This past February 15, I wrote the following about Hillary and health care:

    Placed in charge of reforming health care, she immediately took off the table any hope for a national health care system and made sure that insurance companies would wind up running things.

Harvard M.D. David Himmelstein, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, had many dealings with Hillary early in the Clinton era. I've talked to Himmelstein a few times about Hillary, but back in 2004, CounterPunch's Nancy Welch really captured some good stuff from the good doctor. Himmelstein succinctly summed up how the corporate-welfare Democrats of 2005 are hardly the same as the social-welfare Democrats of 1939:

    [Bill] Clinton made a political calculation in not championing national health insurance and in trying to strike a deal with the private insurance industry. And the end result of the deal was two things. One is that the Democrats abandoned their four-decades-long commitment to national health insurance, so that by the time Al Gore ran for president, national health insurance was struck from the Democratic Party platform for the first time since the 1940s.

    The second is that the Democrats endorsed managed care as a strategy for health care, which said to investors that investment in managed care was safe, stimulating an enormous growth of the power of the HMOs and a reconfiguring of the health care system to one dominated by corporate giants.

    Clinton, maybe inadvertently, gave the go-ahead for the corporate transformation of the health care system.

I don't think it was inadvertent, but that's a topic for another time.

 


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