07 July, 2007

4th of July - Howard Zinn & SiCKO

Put Away The Flags -- by Howard Zinn -- July 03, 2007

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its
symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence
in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so
fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time,
along with racism, along with religious hatred?
These ways of thinking -- cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from
childhood on -- have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those
out of power.
National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both
in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa
Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours -- huge, possessing
thousands of weapons of mass destruction -- what might have been harmless
pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.
Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from
others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other
lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.
That self-deception started early.
When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts
Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot
Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of
land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms,
which says: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine
inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession."
When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and
children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: "It was supposed that
no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day."
On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our
"Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence."
After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: "We
believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country."
It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to
We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the
Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, "to civilize and
Christianize" the Filipino people.
As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least
600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our
secretary of war, was saying: "The American soldier is different from all
other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the
advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and
We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps
against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some
soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.
Yet they are victims, too, of our government's lies.
How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they
die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for "liberty,"
for "democracy"?
One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of
proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the
justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing
of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of
thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed
by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four
years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through
We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally
superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.
We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one
Howard Zinn, a World War II bombardier, is the author of the best- selling
"A People's History of the United States" (Perennial Classics, 2003,
latest edition). This piece was distributed by the Progressive Media
Project. Email to: Progressive Media Project using our contact form.


The RX From "SiCKO:" More Choice -- by Dean Baker -- July 04, 2007

The pundits are working overtime trying to defuse the message from
"SiCKO," Michael Moore's new film. They are trying to convince the public
that the United States could not possibly do what every other rich country
(and even some not so rich countries) have managed to do: guarantee their
people decent health care.

The centerpiece of the pundits' whine is that universal health care could
not work here. They claim the systems which work in other countries
require a larger roll for government in health care than Americans want.
While this claim is contradicted by poll after poll on the topic, we don't
have to argue with the pundits, rather pointless task in any case.

We can just give people a choice and let them vote with their feet.
Suppose the government were to establish a Medicare-type program and open
it up to all individuals and employers in the country. Those who already
have insurance can switch to the government-run plan. Similarly, employers
can switch to it as well. Individuals who do not already have insurance
would have the option of buying in to the expanded Medicare plan as would
employers who do not currently provide insurance for their workers. We can
also have a system of expanded subsidies for health care for low and
moderate income households, which will make health care insurance more
affordable for those families.

This is more or less what both John Edwards and Barack Obama have proposed
in their presidential campaigns. To get to universal coverage, there are
important issues like mandating that individuals have health care
insurance, and also questions about the revenue source for subsidies, but
the key point is to establish a national Medicare-type insurance system
that can get costs under control and eliminate the enormous waste in the
private insurance system.

Medicare's administrative expenses are a small fraction of the
administrative expenses of private insurers. Medicare uses just 2 percent
of the money that flows through the system to cover administrative costs.
By contrast, private insurers spend between 10 to 20 percent of their
premiums to cover administrative costs. They use this money for marketing,
high CEO salaries and dividends to shareholders; all expenses that
Medicare does not have.

This is the reason Medicare always wipes the floor when it competes
against private insurers on a level playing field. That is exactly what
happened in the late 90s when the "Medicare Plus Choice" program was
restructured to remove most of the subsidy for the private insurers that
participated in the program. The vast majority of the HMO's that had
entered the Medicare system went running for shelter, whining that they
could not make a profit if they were only compensated as much per patient
as the traditional Medicare program.

This is why when the Republican Congress wanted to expand the role of
private insurers in Medicare with the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act:
They put in a system of subsidies that the Medicare Payment Advisory Board
estimates at 12 percent per beneficiary. The insurers again claim they
could not possibly make a profit if they got the same per patient fees as
the traditional Medicare program.

This experience is important. We cannot afford universal health care if we
don't bring the costs of the US system more in line with the rest of the
world. We currently pay more than twice as much per person, with no
obvious benefit in terms of outcome. The key to creating a more efficient
system is to have a government-run system comparable to the traditional
Medicare system.
But, we don't have to pontificate about American values and the role of
government - leave the silly pseudo-philosophical debates out of it. This
is a straight dollars-and-cents question that can be determined by the
market. Give people a choice and let them decide whether they want to be
insured through the government-run system or want to stick with private
health care providers.
The pundits have managed to flip reality on its head. It is the health
insurance industry and their partners-in-crime, the pharmaceutical
industry, that are scared of the market and competition.
If we just allow a government-run plan to compete on a level playing field
with private insurers, we can soon get a system of universal health care.
The question for the insurance-industry-loving pundits is: "What's wrong
with giving people a choice?"


Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy
Research (CEPR). He is the author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the
Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer
(www.conservativenannystate.org). He also has a blog, "Beat the Press,"
where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues. You can find
it at the American Prospect's web site.

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posted by u2r2h at Saturday, July 07, 2007


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