Single Payer Health: It’s Only Fair

It is certainly a step forward that the new health reform law is projected to cover 32 million additional Americans, out of the more than 50 million uninsured today. Yet projections suggest that roughly 23 million will still be without insurance in 2019, while healthcare costs will continue to skyrocket.

Twenty-three million Americans still without health insurance after health reform is implemented? This is unacceptable. And that is why, this week, Representative Jim McDermott and I are announcing the re-introduction of the American Health Security Act, recognising healthcare as a human right and providing every US citizen and permanent resident with healthcare coverage and services through a state-administered, single payer program.

Let’s face it: until we put patients over profits, our system will not work for ordinary Americans.

Bernie Sanders | CommonDreams.org

The New Economy: Design for Life

As we restructure our human economies to support these conditions, they will increasingly mimic and integrate with the biosphere’s natural structures and processes.

Like the biosphere, the living economies we seek will self-organize within a framework of market rules. Rooted locally everywhere and dependent primarily on their own resource base, they will have built in incentives to optimize creative adaptation to local microenvironments. With the decision-making powers of ownership distributed among the community’s members in their multiple roles as producers, consumers, and citizens there will be a natural incentive to internalize costs and manage resources responsibly.

The culture of a living economy recognizes the mutual responsibility of individuals to meet their own needs in ways that contribute to the well-being of the whole and thereby optimize their own well-being. Business enterprises are expected to do the same. Making a profit is recognized as essential to the health of the enterprise, but is not its sole or primary purpose.

These outcomes are wholly beyond the reach of an economic system in which the locus of power resides in global financial institutions that recognize only financial values and seek only individual financial gain.

They depend on complex processes of self-organizing adaptation that are possible only within place-based caring communities built around institutions that nurture and reward adult responsibility and link decisions to consequences. It is fundamentally a question of life-values and shared power, both of which are long standing human ideals that we now have both the imperative and means to put into practice.

David Korten | YES! Magazine

Why being a foodie isn’t ‘elitist’

The cheapness of today’s industrial food is an illusion, and the real cost is too high to pay. While the Farm Bureau Federation clings to an outdated mind-set, companies such as Wal-Mart, Danone, Kellogg’s, General Mills and Compass have invested in organic, sustainable production. Insurance companies such as Kaiser Permanente are opening farmers markets in low-income communities. Whole Foods is demanding fair labor practices, while Chipotle promotes the humane treatment of farm animals. Urban farms are being planted by visionaries such as Milwaukee’s Will Allen; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is defending the rights of poor migrants; Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is fighting to improve the lives of food-service workers; and Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver and first lady Michelle Obama are pushing for healthier food in schools.

Calling these efforts elitist renders the word meaningless. The wealthy will always eat well. It is the poor and working people who need a new, sustainable food system more than anyone else. They live in the most polluted neighborhoods. They are exposed to the worst toxic chemicals on the job. They are sold the unhealthiest foods and can least afford the medical problems that result.

A food system based on poverty and exploitation will never be sustainable.

Eric Schlosser | The Washington Post

Republican and Democratic Plans for Medicare and Medicaid Misguided: Push for Privatization Will Accelerate Costs and Deaths

Privatization of health care is a failed experiment in the United States.

The United States differs from other nations in allowing investor-owned corporations to profit at the expense of human suffering and lives. After decades of experience with this unique privatized model of financing health care, the results are clear and startling.

The United States has the highest per capita health care costs, the highest prices for medical goods and services (and lower overall usage rates) and no control over health care spending. Despite attempts to patch the current health care situation, the number of uninsured and those with skimpy health insurance that leaves them unable to afford health care or at risk of medical bankruptcy continues to grow. Suffering and preventable deaths are higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations.

In addition, there have been no significant gains in important measures of health such as life expectancy and infant and maternal mortality rates. Our health disparities continue to grow, especially for those who have chronic conditions. And our health care workforce continues to be inadequate as health professionals quickly burn out from trying to practice in our complex and irrational health care environment.

It is time to recognize the failure of the market model of paying for health care and embrace comprehensive and effective health reform. The model for our ‘uniquely American’ solution lies in traditional Medicare, a single payer health system for those who are 65 years of age and over. Since its inception 45 years ago, Medicare has lifted seniors out of poverty and improved their health status.

Dr. Margaret Flowers | CommonDreams.org

How Wall Street Thieves, Led by Goldman Sachs, Took Down the Global Economy

We could put all the crooks in jail (and we should), but Goldman Sachs would still be there. We could tighten regulations more and more, but the big banks would still be armed with enormous wealth and power to subvert them. Regulations and jail are not good enough unless we want to construct massive regulatory and enforcement agencies that rival the banks in size and scope.

Rather, the report proves why the entire financial edifice must come down. Our nation cannot survive economically unless we do away with the large Wall Street banks and investment houses. It’s not just that they are too big to fail. They are too big – period!

AlterNet | Les Leopold

The World We Want

The world of our shared human dream is one where people live happy, productive lives in balance with one another and Earth. It is democratic and middle class without extremes of wealth or poverty. It is characterized by strong, stable families and communities in which relationships are defined primarily by mutual trust and caring. Every able adult is both a worker and an owner. Most families own their own home and have an ownership stake in their local economy. Everyone has productive work and is respected for his or her contribution to the well-being of the community.

In the world we want, the organization of economic life mimics healthy ecosystems that are locally rooted, highly adaptive, and self-reliant in food and energy. Information and technology are shared freely, and trade between neighbors is fair and balanced. Each community, region and nation strives to live within its own means in balance with its own environmental resources. Conflicts are resolved peacefully and no group seeks to expropriate the resources of its neighbors. Competition is for excellence, not domination.

David Korten | CommonDreams.org

Back to Basics

Since world-wide economic collapses are rare events and since the world has somewhat changed since the last one, we can all be forgiven for not knowing the best ways to prepare. And, since we still don’t know if such a collapse is certain or not, we could also be forgiven for not preparing at all. Especially if, as I’ve written before, one has prepared unnecessarily for past “imminent” collapses that never happened.

However, with images of Katrina and other unplanned-for disasters in mind, the consequences of not planning for a disaster that actually occurs are grave, in every sense of the word.

So, the neighbors and I have been pondering this conundrum and what we’ve come up with is Rule #1: make sure that you are able to feed yourself, family and neighbors, without resorting to food that requires any oil-inputs (for fertilizers, factory farming, packaging, processing, or transportation) and without engaging in any survivalist hoarding.

I should mention here that I live on an island, population around 4500, an hour ferry’s ride from America. The Washington State ferry system has been suffering from anti-government, anti-tax attacks since the early ’90s and was already showing alarming signs of breakdown before the price of oil started rising. Now we consider it a given that ferry service will continue to seriously decline, and a high probability that at some point it will stop altogether, or be reserved to the very few who can pay super-sized ticket prices.

So, even if the world manages to avoid world-wide economic collapse, our little world will change and either food shipped from the mainland will become way too expensive or will just stop coming altogether, or, the best case scenario, we will be limited to buying one or two staples that we just can’t give up but can’t produce on our own (such as rice).

We’re rejecting hoarding for several reasons. Practically-speaking, we have neither the money nor the storage space for setting aside large stocks of provisions. Yet even if we did, you can only store so much for so long — sooner or later, if you can’t produce your own food, you’re dead. Lastly, if you’re all stocked up, but you’re surrounded by people who aren’t, you’re going to need weapons also, and you’ll need to be able to let children starve to death without intervening.

Yuck on that.

So, A lot of soil being turned over this spring, seeds going in the ground, more chickens being added to roosts, a lot of thinking about the water supply. Back to basics.

The best thing about this approach is that even if the collapse never happens, everything we’ve done was really worth doing.

Michael Sky

End of an Error

For some time I’ve been finding it hard to sit down and write. I’ve tried to ignore it as simple writer’s block, figuring the muse would wake up at some point and I’d be back at it.

But here’s my real problem: I just can’t waste another moment thinking about the powers-that-be in government, the media and big biz who are destroying this country, and with it the world; am not willing to spend one more iota of my precious consciousness on the contemplation of George W Bush and his cohort of war criminals; and, frankly, must concede that none of my writing has made an effing bit of difference.

Ouch.

Those of you who have sent emails over the years telling me I was too angry and too consumed with Bush-bashing were right, mostly. Though I don’t want to ever be the sort of person who could witness a major crime against humanity without getting angry and needing to do something to stop it, I’ve known for some time that my writing wasn’t resolving the anger or solving any problems.

So, I’m going to try to take the advice that was usually added to those emails: I will focus on the issues of personal, social, and environmental healing. I will never mention Bush again, nor will I participate in the endless, screeching noise-fest that passes for political commentary in this country.

I continue to believe that the vast majority of people are good, decent, and naturally inclined toward living in peace; that our problem is with a very small percentage of “dominists” who will do anything to retain wealth and power; and that our quandary is that we can not defeat them using their methods: force begets force, violence begets violence, domination begets domination.

This has been the doom of every right-intentioned revolution or resurrection in human history — as good as it feels to turn the tables on the dominators, any use of dominating force only results in another dominist system.

I see two ways out of this conundrum. The first requires that those who hold the power voluntarily and with full sincerity choose to share that power. No war, no fight, no struggle for dominance. Rather, the very people with the most power to effect change come to their senses and do the right thing.

Solution number two requires that global dominism suffer a total collapse, with millions dying in the ensuing chaos. If we’re lucky, out of the ashes something better emerges.

Much as I would like to believe in the first possibility, I think we all should start preparing for latter.

Michael Sky

7 Reasons to Legalize Marijuana

Yearly drug mortalities: Tobacco, 340-400,000; Alcohol, 125,000; Caffeine, 1000 to 10,000; Legal drug overdoses, 14-27,000; Illicit drug overdoses, 3800 to 5200; Aspirin, 180 to 1000 Marijuana, 0. —US Surgeon General

Just writing the title for this article feels a bit criminal. The War on Drugs has gotten us to the point where saying anything positive about marijuana makes you an immoral, youth-corrupting, teasonous jerk. Yet, the first casualty in the drug war was the truth. In our national frenzy to eradicate certain (but not all) types of drug use, we have become mired in a swamp of lies that do more damage to our nation than any drug ever could.

One does not have to be a past, present or would-be marijuana user to care deeply about this issue. The criminalization of marijuana has negative consequences that affect us all. Even such arch-conservatives as William Buckley, George Shultz and Milton Friedman have called for the legalization of marijuana. Their bottom line: fighting a war against marijuana constitutes a monumental waste of resources.

Marijuana is a common plant that has grown wild around the world for thousands of years. From 1000 B.C. until the late 1800s, it was the planet’s most widely-cultivated crop. Its psycho-active properties have long been important to many cultures for medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes. There are hundreds of productive uses for which marijuana provides an ideal source material. Yet since 1937, the US has made the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana a venal and stringently punished crime. This is great foolishness with dire consequences. It is time for a change.

Continue reading 7 Reasons to Legalize Marijuana

For Want of Empathy

Since 9/11, I’ve written one book and a few hundred blog entries on the issues of human aggression, the cycle of violence, and the dangerous logic of war-think. All of this is added to an earlier book (Sexual Peace, long out of print) that was written during and in response to the first Iraq War.

The one theme that I return to over and over is the abysmal lack of empathy that afflicts so many Americans and ultimately drives our war-mad foreign policy. Though I’d been writing about this in the ’90s, it was 9/11 that brought it into sharp focus.

According to most Americans: the fact that we were violently assaulted and 3,000 civilians murdered perfectly and righteously justified that thousands of young Americans would join the military, train in the ways of violence, and then fly off to foreign lands to violently assault and kill thousands of people, most of whom were civilians who had nothing to do with the attacks on us. We see these young men and women as fulfilling a sacred, even holy trust, engaged in the noblest of actions, giving their lives in defense of their country.

We certainly wouldn’t call them terrorists or evil-doers.

So they fly off to Afghanistan and Iraq and bomb whole towns to rubble; invade homes in the middle of the night and drag often innocent family members off to torture prisons, killing anyone who gets in the way; riddle cars with bullets when drivers fail to comprehend English directives; drop tens of thousands of bombs that are never “smart” enough to avoid murdering the innocent along with possibly-guilty; and, ultimately kill or displace more than a million people.

Surely, the Afghanis and Iraqis have suffered through far, far, far, far, far worse anguish and pain then Americans did on 9/11. Yet when their young men and women take up arms and attack their attackers we call them evil-doing terrorists.

And so it goes, each attack “justifying” the next, each act of vengeance assuring a new cell of “terrorists” bent on getting their just revenge.

The only way out of this ancient cycle is for some one to be big enough, bold enough, and courageous enough to say: It stops with me. I will not seek revenge. Instead, I will stand for peace and reconciliation.

To turn the other cheek: if America is really a Christian nation, it’s past time to start acting like one.

Michael Sky