Friday, July 31, 2009

Must See T.V.

Wendell Potter is an ex-executive at one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, CIGNA. On July 10 he was interviewed on the Bill Moyer's Journal on PBS.
It was truly one of the most enlightening presentations I've seen on the problems with health care in America. He laid out from an insider's perspective, the duplicitous actions that are the foundation of the for-profit health insurance system plaguing the United States.

Wendell Potter will be featured again tonight on Bill Moyer's Journal. It should be well worth the time of anyone who hopes against hope that the United States will join the rest of the developed world in offering universal health care as a right of citizenship.

During their discussion, Mr.Potter was asked a question about the attempts by the insurance industry to refute the premise of Micael Moore's movie "Sicko". (Anecdotal stories reported local workers at Humana receiving e-mail talking points to shoot down Mr.Moore's movie.) Mr.Potter answered Mr. Moyer's question by stating that the movie was totally accurate in its depiction of the insurance industry.

That is significant because the insurance industry's defenders portray the health insurance business as integral to the delivery of quality health care, rather than the unnecessary blockage of quality care that it truly is. In "Sicko", people's choices were dictated by the profit-driven health insurance system. Those who have seen the movie will recall the man who lost a finger because of cost, or the toddler who died while the mother tried get to a "network" hospital,or the Ground Zero workers Moore ferried to Cuba for government-provided health care. All of these people had health insurance. All of them received inferior care. Mr.Potter's inside view backs up the premise of "Sicko".

The single best solution to our problems is a single-payer health system. President Obama early on ruled that discussion out of order. It is, in all likelihood, too late to veer back toward the path of a single-payer solution, and in its place we now have the "public option" as a stand-in for single payer. Many on the Corporate Right, members of this faction can be found in both political parties, are fighting tooth and nail to keep even this watered-down remedy away from the citizens of the U.S.. They are fighting us to protect them. Survey after survey find vast majorities dissatisfied with the health care system in place now. Government studies judge the current system unsustainable. And yet, the Coporatists can not let go of the cash cow which has become health care in America. Campaign contributions flow from this cow, quarterly dividends and massive pay checks and bonuses flow from her too.

I have seen the movie "Sicko" several times. I saw it again recently at a forum on health care. At the recent showing I noticed something for the first time. At a demonstration in Washington supporting health reform, a demonstrator was wearing a tee shirt with the old union slogan, "Which Side Are You On?". That is the central question we should ask our representatives as they visit us during the congressional recess.


Monday, July 20, 2009

We Are the Knights Who Say NO

In their uber–classic film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, the troupe encounters the Knights who say “NI”. Python’s knights demand a shrubbery as their due. They were funny.

In New Albany it appears we now have the “Knights who say NO”. NO to new fees. NO to new taxes. These knights are also funny, but not in the same way as their "NI" brethren.

Their resistance is expressed on newly-minted signs in declarative red letters. To their NOs, might I also add other NOs? NO to a clean city, NO to a functional street department, NO to a rational civic compact ensuring a decent place to live, NO to reality.

Mayor England has proposed a $5 per month increase in the fees charged for trash pick ups. This money, we are told, will free up the street department to focus on its eponymous mandate of maintaining the streets and those things which are related to the streets. I surmise from the economical use of language on the signs sprouting up about town that the Mayor's proposal may be the source of those signs.

What do the Knights Who Say NO propose in the alternative? A city where street and sidewalk maintenance is ignored so refuse can be disappeared at the expense of those amenities/services? A city where the fees sent off to the sewer department are raided monthly to subsidize the current garbage contract which, inexplicably, is set too low to pay for what Eco-Tech charges now? A city where those fortunate enough to live in neighborhoods with alleys, see those alleys piled high with stuff too poor to give away? See that stuff turned into homes for vermin? See that stuff weigh down the inner city and add to its decay?

Some people pine for the days of Tuffy Inman. Those were days when New Albany received the “All American City” award. Those were the days of “Clean up. Paint up. Fix up weeks”. Those were the days before The Gipper made “us” and “our” four letter words. There was a reason the 80s were the Me Decade, and some of those reasons are still with us today, and trying to frame the debate as a tax-avoidance stance rather than the free-riding,shirking stance it is.

No one jumps for joy at paying higher prices for anything. When designer coffee appeared on the scene though, people began forking over two, three, or more dollars for a newly-credentialed cup of Joe. Monthly charges for the daily things of life continue to go up. Last year gasoline cost north of four dollars. Gripes per gallon increased, but who actually parked the car? (Increased fuel costs are, by the way, likely part of the reason why the Eco-Tech contract is not covering the costs.) People will increase their spending for the things they want, or the things they won’t give up.

So,are we to conclude that people don’t want a cleaner city? People won’t put their shoulders to the civic wheel? People want to ask for city services but they don’t want to pay for those services? People want to carp because they oppose the Mayor on other issues, or in general? Yes. That’s exactly what you are to conclude if you listen to the Knights Who Say NO.