Rewarding Bad Actors

Neither the administration, nor our political system in general, is ready to face up to the fact that we’ve become a society in which the big bucks go to bad actors, a society that lavishly rewards those who make us poorer.

Paul Krugman | NYTimes.com

Health Care Tyranny

Thanks to our undemocratic system and our corrupt campaign finance laws, the health care industry doesn’t have to fight a 50-state battle. It can simply buy a tiny group of congresspeople, which is what it’s done. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, health interests have given these 13 members of Congress $12 million in campaign contributions—a massive sum further enhanced by geography.

Remember, politicians trade favors for re-election support—and the best way to ensure re-election is to raise money for TV airtime (read: commercials). In rural America, that airtime is comparatively cheap because the audience is relatively small. Thus, campaign contributions to rural politicians like these 13 buy more commercials—and, consequently, more political loyalty.

The end result is an amplifier of tyranny: Precisely because the undemocratic system unduly empowers legislators from sparsely populated (and hence cheap) media markets, industry cash can more easily purchase tyrannical obstruction from those same legislators. In this case, that means congresspeople blocking health care reform that would most help their own voters.

David Sirota | CommonDreams.org

A Secret Physiological Link Between Affinity for Guns & Affinity for Health Insurance Bureaucrats?

[I]n my last column, I noted that there’s an unspoken deal between D.C. reporters and “Blue Dog” Democrats to explain Blue Dog opposition to health insurance regulation, unionization, Wall Street reform and pollution controls as a direct outgrowth of them representing culturally conservative heartland districts. This “they’re just voting their districts” myth posits that culturally conservative working-class voters’ affinity for guns, love for Jesus and/or hatred of gays somehow automatically means they are huge fans of health insurance corporations, air pollution, abusive employers and Goldman Sachs executives.

What’s really amazing about this fairy tale is that it is so ingrained in Washington that it’s preposterous supposition isn’t even explained – it’s just assumed fact, presented as so totally obvious as to go without examination.

David Sirota | CommonDreams.org

The Health Care Bill Dies?

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something. And that’s what they’re doing….

This whole business, it was a litmus test for whether or not we even have a functioning government. Here we had a political majority in congress and a popular president armed with oodles of political capital and backed by the overwhelming sentiment of perhaps 150 million Americans, and this government could not bring itself to offend ten thousand insurance men in order to pass a bill that addresses an urgent emergency. What’s left?

Matt Taibbi | True/Slant

Evil Syndicated

By now, everyone in that fraction of the world that pays attention to something other than American Idol and their platter of TGI Friday’s loaded potato skins knows that Goldman Sachs has been caught at another racket in the stock market: front-running trades. What a clever gambit, done with the help of the markets themselves — the Nasdaq in particular — in which information on trades is held back a fraction of a second from public view, while the data is shoveled to the computers of privileged subscribers who can execute zillions of programmed micro-trades before the rest of  the herd makes a move. This allows them to vacuum up hundreds of millions of dollars by doing absolutely nothing of value.

The old-fashioned method used by brokers was called “churning,” in which stocks were bought and sold incessantly (by phone) from the portfolios of inattentive clients merely to generate commissions.  In any sensible society — i.e. a society with an instinct for self-preservation — it would be against the law and the people doing it would be sent to prison.

James Howard Kunstler | Clusterfuck Nation

Profiling CEOs and Their Sociopathic Paychecks

CEOs in America make as much money as they do because there really is a shortage of people with their skill set. And it’s such a serious shortage that some companies have to pay as much as $1 million a day to have somebody successfully do the job.

But what part of being a CEO could be so difficult-so impossible for mere mortals — that it would mean that there are only a few hundred individuals in the United States capable of performing it?

In my humble opinion, it’s the sociopath part.

CEOs of community-based businesses are typically responsive to their communities and decent people. But the CEOs of most of the world’s largest corporations daily make decisions that destroy the lives of many other human beings.

Only about 1 to 3 percent of us are sociopaths — people who don’t have normal human feelings and can easily go to sleep at night after having done horrific things. And of that 1 percent of sociopaths, there’s probably only a fraction of a percent with a college education. And of that tiny fraction, there’s an even tinier fraction that understands how business works, particularly within any specific industry.

Thus there is such a shortage of people who can run modern monopolistic, destructive corporations that stockholders have to pay millions to get them to work. And being sociopaths, they gladly take the money without any thought to its social consequences.

Thom Hartmann | CommonDreams.org

Capitalism, Sarah Palin-Style

But what Palin was saying is what is built into the very DNA of capitalism: the idea that the world has no limits. She was saying that there is no such thing as consequences, or real-world deficits. Because there will always be another frontier, another Alaska, another bubble. Just move on and discover it. Tomorrow will never come.

This is the most comforting and dangerous lie that there is.

… Capitalism can survive this crisis. But the world can’t survive another capitalist comeback.

Naomi Klein | The Progressive

Health Care Hypocrisy

In 1950, when President Truman sent a universal health insurance bill to Congress, the American Medical Association (AMA) launched what was then a massive counterattack. The AMA claimed that government health insurance would lead to rationing of health care, higher prices, diminished choices and more bureaucracy. The AMA beat both Truman and the unions that were backing the legislation, using the phrase “socialized medicine” to scare the people.

Fifty-nine years later, “corporatized medicine” has produced all these consequences, along with stripping away the medical profession’s independence. Today, the irony is that the corporate supremacists are accusing reformers in Washington of what they themselves have produced throughout the country. Rationing, higher prices, less choice, and mounds of paperwork and corporate red tape. Plus, fifty million people without any health insurance at all.

Ralph Nader | CommonDreams.org

Spinning Healthcare

Media accounts keep telling us that the current political debate on healthcare is unprecedented and groundbreaking. But an article in the latest edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, by seasoned healthcare reporter Trudy Lieberman, makes a convincing case that little has changed within the frames of media parameters.

The press “has mostly passed along the pronouncements of politicians and the major stakeholders who have the most to lose from wholesale reform,” Lieberman writes. “By not challenging the status quo, the press has so far foreclosed a vibrant discussion of the full range of options, and also has not dug deeply into the few that are being discussed, thereby leaving citizens largely uninformed about an issue that will affect us all.”

What were seeing now is a slightly freshened version of a timeworn tap dance that ranges across a constricted media stage. As Lieberman notes: “Absent from the debate are not only single-payer systems like the ones in England and Canada, but other systems with multiple payers, like ones in Germany and Japan — or, for that matter, any discussion of why a system that relies on competition among private insurers in The Netherlands hasnt resulted in lower prices for consumers, as advocates claimed.”

The variety of healthcare delivery systems abroad, in industrialized countries, spans a common assumption — healthcare as a human right — an assumption that doesnt cut the mass-media mustard in the United States. “Whats common to all these systems,” Lieberman points out, “is that everyone is entitled to healthcare and pays taxes to support the system, and medical costs are controlled by limits on spending. The specter of a system that takes a significant bite out of stakeholder profits in the U.S. is the real reason the debate is so restricted.”

Norman Solomon | CommonDreams.org