Call me an American Dissident. I believe in democracy and government of, FOR, and BY the PEOPLE. I do NOT believe in the plutocratic corpocracy this country is today, wherein government is made and administered of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy. I believe in wealth which is HONESTLY attained through hard work and merit. I do NOT believe in wealth attained by means of deceit, exploitation, or leverage. There is enough for all in this world. Greed is the major cause of poverty, and both are totally unnecessary.
I thought I'd take a rare break for a couple days from the usual comments on politicians and political issues...
Have you noticed the disgusting nature of some (many) of the TV ads these days? It seems that advertisers and networks will run virtually anything, at all hours of the day and night. I thought I'd single out a few products on which to vent a complaint or two. Perhaps you'll be familiar with some of these products and their ads and will share your two cents' worth on them, too. I find almost all of them nauseating.
Let's start with Viagra. We see ads for this erectile dysfunction medication running day and night on cable and satellite. While the current ad campaign has a nice spiffy musical signature which paraphrases the old Elvis tune "Viva Las Vegas," that's about all you can say for it. Why does this run all hours of the day, and when a young child sees it, how do you answer the inevitable "what is ED" question? Or "what is a 4 hour erection, daddy?" It just seems to me that advertising for prescription drugs, and particularly for this kind of prescription drug, should be directed at physicians, not consumers. And it would probably be best to run these ads after 9 or 10 PM rather than all day and night, don't you think?
Next we've got these ridiculous ExtenZe ads. You've seen the middle aged guy paired with the much younger woman, and both are talking about how this product will cause a man to become "larger" by using it, (and, of course, big macho guy nonchalantly says "of course, I wasn't so much interested in the 'larger' part, but when I heard it could help me perform better..." Yeah, sure, pal), and both will have more fun in bed and make love more often. How utterly ridiculous and insulting to our intelligence! Every time I see one of this product's ads, I start thinking of snake oil salesmen. And naturally, these stupid ads run in prime time, too, just like Viagra ads.
Then, there's good ol' Nutrisystems. The sound volume on their aggravating ads always jumps out at you, and they always show lots of shots of the most unappetizing food you've ever laid eyes on. That stuff looks HORRIBLE! I think a heaping plate of liver and brussels sprouts would look appealing next to that crud. If anybody ever put a plate of that plasticky, rubbery-looking Nutrisystems shit in front of me, I'd go on a hunger strike and die (no wonder the system is so effective in helping one to lose weight---NOBODY would eat that junk)! We always see a hyper blabber-mouthed, gravelly-voiced tomboy Jillian Barberie making as though she can throw a football (she can't), a super slender Dan Marino, or an ultra-dense Marie Osmond acting like a bimbo and urging us to get on the system. But the worst thing of all is that these ads run CONSTANTLY, 2-4 times each hour, and you never get a break. HELP!!!
Finally, we come to Cialis. Here we see numerous couples smiling, holding hands, hugging each other, and then---and then---a man in one bathtub and a woman in the other, out in a field somewhere, or at a beach. Now how ridiculous is THAT? Why TWO separate bathtubs? If you send in 10 Cialis proofs of purchase, do they send you an additional bathtub for free? Call me stupid, but I've never been able to figure out what two separate bathtubs in a weird, non-bathtub-type location have to do with curing erectile dysfunction! What kind of nonsense is this anyway, and, like Viagra and ExtenZe, why are these Cialis ads also featured during all hours of the day or night?
We are sure getting fed a lot of garbage through all-too frequent TV advertising these days. I say, let's nationalize the television networks (as they are in France, the UK, and the Netherlands) and ban obnoxious TV ads for a full year. We need a break from the constant barrage of nonsense we're hit with every hour of every day. It's PATHETIC! Is anybody with me on this? Let me know YOUR thoughts, or share with us YOUR most hated TV ads, ok?
UP NEXT: "BEWARE THE CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN PIRATES!"
"TAX THE VERY WEALTHY TO MAKE EVERYONE HEALTHY!" - VIGILANTE, SOZADEE, CA -
Jesus never excluded anyone He healed due to a ridiculous "pre-existing condition" clause. He never engaged in healing for profit, either.
He repeatedly instructed His followers and humankind in general to tend to the poor and sick. He did not give instructions to exploit them, deny them help, or profit off them, plain and simple.
Why, then, should insurance and pharmaceutical companies be practicing such unfair, profiteering nonsense? Why, then, do conservative Republicans and members of the far-right "religious right" (who loudly claim this to be a "Christian nation") support the unjust status quo and oppose health care reform which would limit profiteering on human health and guarantee medical care for all citizens regardless of their physical condition or income status?
Jesus never instructed humankind to make the rich much richer at the expense of everyone below them.
It is clear these people who actively support health insurance companies' pursuit of excess profit at the exclusion of millions from coverage are not only not following, but are actually contradicting and opposing the teachings of Jesus. So are the defenders of the greedy health insurance and pharmaceutical companies when they loudly protest on their behalf.
This is not a mere economic issue. It is a moral one as well. For this reason, it is high time Christian churches enter the discussion on health care reform, just as they did regarding civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s. It is high time they come out strongly in support of a plan that will ensure everybody gets the same high quality medical treatment regardless of their ability to pay (i.e. a universal, national health care plan). Just as Jesus threw the money changers out of the Temple for a good reason so long ago, it is now time for the religious community to throw greedy, immoral profiteers out of our medical care delivery system. It is time for all our synagogues and mosques to come out in support of this, as well.
Failure to do so would be defying the will of God. --------------------- ADDENDUM: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009
I awoke this morning to the news that Senator Edward M. Kennedy had passed away, losing his battle with brain cancer. For all who care about social justice and health care for all citizens, this is a very sad day.
Teddy Kennedy made some mistakes in his 77 years on this earth, to be sure. But the truth remains that he could have lived a life of leisure, enjoying his wealth without another care in the world. Yet he chose instead a lifetime of public service, devoted to the causes of the poor, the weak, and the sick. He was, understandably, entirely devoted to the adoption of a universal national health care system for this country. He was recently quoted as saying, "that is the cause of my life."
So, too, must it now be OUR cause.
It is time to, in Teddy's memory, put petty partisan bickering aside for just long enough to do the right thing and pass a health care reform bill that forbids exclusion due to pre-existing conditions, prohibits recission, and guarantees medical care to every citizen of this country. NOW.
"TAX THE VERY WEALTHY TO MAKE EVERYONE HEALTHY!" - VIGILANTE, SOZADEE, CA -
It was a kinder, gentler, and, in many ways, a much nobler time. People were far more civil back then, as they had shared a unique and almost universal commonality. His country had just left a terrible economic catastrophe which had seen millions go hungry and without work. It had also been involved in a horrifically bloody and costly war. Many returned soldiers were still without jobs and there was a housing shortage as well. A new enemy was devouring territory overseas and had declared its determination to conquer the world. Though it seemed that the absolute worst of the preceding few years had passed, much had been lost and many were gripped with an uneasy and gnawing fear. The future seemed uncertain at best. In such a foreboding atmosphere, he decided to run for high political office in an effort to bring hope to millions and improve their lot in life.
He was a member of "the greatest generation", and like most others of that time, he had come from very humble roots. Son of a small town pharmacist, he was raised in a small midwestern village of only 700 people. From this simple and austere setting, he dreamed of some day becoming a college professor. The dream was seemingly dashed, however, once the Great Depression hit. He had to leave the university in his first year of study to work in and help save the small family drug store. To do so, it became clear that he, like his father, must also become a pharmacist, and so he buckled down to learn the trade. This extremely bright and dedicated young man amazingly completed a two-year course of study in only six months' time and received his Pharmacist's License from the Capitol College of Pharmacy in Denver, CO. Over the next 7 years, he worked tirelessly in the family store until it had once again become prosperous, this in the middle of the worst economic downturn in the nation's history.
By 1937, his hard work had made it possible for him to return to college. Two years later he had earned a B.A. from the University of Minnesota. The very next year, he attended Louisiana State University (where a classmate of his was future Louisiana Senator Russell B. Long). Here he obtained his Master's Degree in Political Science. Ever gregarious, friendly, and energetic, he along the way became a brother of the Phi Delta Chi (Theta Division) fraternity, and also an honorary brother of Alpha Phi Alpha, an African-American fraternity. This was a rather remarkable occurrence for a white man of his era. But then war broke out, and the direction of his life took another turn.
Like most men of that time, he felt compelled to help his country fight to victory. After two failed attempts at enlistment (he was rejected due to a hernia), he worked in several different wartime agencies over the next few years to aid the cause. He began to notice the positive effect government agencies could play in people's lives, and so became interested in government and politics as a practical career. He ran for mayor of Minneapolis but was defeated due to an inadequately funded campaign. Undaunted, he remained active in politics, and played a pivotal role in merging Minnesota's laborers and farmers with the state's Democratic Party. The resultant DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) Party he helped forge back then became, and remains to this day, Minnesota's dominant political party. On his second try, he was successful in his bid to become mayor of Minneapolis, and was reelected by a record margin two years after that. He had enacted many local beneficial reforms and had been successful in removing undesirable criminals from the city.
And so it was in 1948 that he decided to make a bid for even higher office. He figured that, if he achieved the office of U.S. Senator, he would be able to work for the betterment of millions all across the country rather than just several hundred thousand on a local level. That year he became the first Democratic Senator from Minnesota in 47 years, and the first Democrat actually elected to the Senate from that state since 1858!It was an amazing accomplishment. He didn't fully realize it then, but he had engineered a huge political shift for his state. But the best was yet to come.
Even prior to his senatorial election, he undertook a principled, courageous, and controversial fight to end racial discrimination. At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, he took to the microphone and boldly proclaimed, "To those who say, we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late...the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!"
Once elected, he spent the next 15 years steadfastly working for civil rights, the cause of labor, and government aid for the less fortunate. He once admonished, "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." He advocated the idea of the Peace Corps, which President John F. Kennedy adopted and established in 1961. He was passionate and articulate and loved to deliver a forceful speech. Comic Johhny Carson once jokingly referred to him as "Minnesota Chats", a pun on the nickname of "Minnesota Fats" which had been given to a popular billiards player of the day. His joyous and smiling approach to politics earned him the praise and admiration of his colleagues, even political foes. While known for his dramatic and fiery public oratory, he was also very adept at soft-spoken, behind-the-scenes listening, negotiating, and compromising. Conservative Republican Barry Goldwater once said of him, "listening to him is like trying to read Playboy magazine with your wife turning the pages." For, while forceful and excitable, he was also very thorough, as well as respectful and quick-witted. On another occasion, Goldwater recalled, "After one of his long-winded speeches I suggested he had been vaccinated with a phonograph needle. He responded by saying that I would have been a great success in the movies working for Eighteenth Century Fox."
He went on to become his nation's 38th Vice President, serving under President Lyndon B. Johnson. As Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey continued with his expertise in listening, negotiating, and compromising. He worked with his old Senate colleagues and was instrumental in getting civil rights, voting rights, Medicare, Fair Housing, and other progressive LBJ legislation through Congress, back in that golden era when Congress actually delivered a great deal of benefit for average working people, farmers, and the poor, not just big business.
Humphrey was narrowly defeated by Richard Nixon in 1968 when he ran for the presidency. He went back home to Minnesota to teach political science at Macalaster College. Voters returned him to the U.S. Senate two years later, and he remained there the rest of his life. I consider myself lucky to have actually met him and shaken his hand briefly in 1975. He had a big, powerful hand with surprisingly tender palms. I remember thinking at the time how that hand had probably shaken 1 million others prior to having shaken mine, for he had met people all across the country and throughout the world in his long career. The very next year, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing him deliver a stump speech in southern Minnesota on behalf of then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. I had driven down to see and hear both men speak in an open field and see how they would fare before a crowd in this normally fairly conservative Republican area of the state. Humphrey launched into a fiery "give-'em-hell-Hubert" type of tirade about how Earl Butz, Gerald Ford, and the Republicans had ruined the rural and agricultural economy, and how Jimmy Carter would set things right. At the end of his speech, Humphrey had a good number of those Republicans loudly cheering that day. It was a sight to behold! (Of course, that was back in the days when Republicans actually listened to, and compromised with, their opponents, and didn't try to disrupt political gatherings, or, like spoiled, unruly little children, shout out those not sharing their view. Our country AND the Republican Party were in far saner, more civil, and much better shape in that way back at that time)!
When Humphrey died in 1978, his funeral was attended by hundreds of world and American political leaders, friend and foe alike. All came to pay their last, heartfelt, genuine respects to the man who had been dubbed "the happy warrior" and who had celebrated and fought for the causes of equal rights, fairness, and opportunity for the entire human race.
I have no doubt that Hubert H. Humphrey would be delighted to see we have elected Barack Obama as our first President of African-American heritage. He would likewise be delighted that we now have Sonia Sotomayor as our first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. And I am certain that he would be an avidly vocal supporter of a universal, public option (if not an outright single-payer) national health care bill, just as he had strongly supported Medicare in 1965. There is absolutely no way this great fighter for justice would have allowed today's greedy and exclusive health insurance and pharmaceutical companies to fleece the public as they have been doing steadily for the past two decades. He would have lambasted and shamed them publicly, and thrashed them for their excesses. His would be a leadership we could use today. He would do as he always did: strongly voice his support for public health care reform publicly, let tthe piggish-monied interests know he meant business, and then privately listen to and negotiate with the opposition to get a meaningful and beneficial bill passed. His approach would not be like that of Mitch McConnell, or John Kyl, or Jim DeMint, or Eric Cantor, or John Boehner, whereby all one says is "no" and tries to gin up angry protestors across the country for the benefit of lobbyists and big insurance companies. For Humphrey worked on behalf of, and truly understood, average working people and those who need special help, not big business and corrupt corporate lobbyists. He never forgot the hard-pressed people who were all around him as he came of age, the difficulties his own family had faced, or how government could be a good and effective means to help better everyone's lives. He would stand today with the positive-oriented and visionary Dennis Kuciniches, Bernie Sanderses, Anthony Weiners, and Sherrod Browns in government, not with the previously mentioned naysayers. Hubert H. Humphrey would now rise and state, with firm conviction, that "those who say we are rushing this issue of universal national health care, I say to you we are 233 years too late, and the time has come for Government to get out of the dark shadows of exclusion and obsession with excessive private profit and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of providing for universal human needs!"
AND HE WOULD BE THOROUGHLY CORRECT.
UP NEXT: JESUS AND UNIVERSAL NATIONAL HEALTH CARE REFORM
"TAX THE VERY WEALTHY TO MAKE EVERYONE HEALTHY!" - VIGILANTE, SOZADEE, CA -
As you know, my last two posts dealt with those who are profiting immensely from our current exclusionary private health "care" system, highlighting those from the health insurance racket. But they are only part of the reason your health care costs so much. Another guilty industry is the pharmaceutical industry, which I highlight here.
Below is my Top 10 list of pharma CEOs whose obscenely high salaries help contribute to the high cost of medical treatment in this country. Just like their greedy profiteering counterparts in the health insurance industry, they are ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE. Unlike David Letterman's Top 10 lists, though, this one is not cute or humorous. In fact, it should make your blood boil. Remember, folks, that roughly 30% of the cost of expensive American drug company research and development is underwritten by YOU, the American taxpayer, in the form of subsidies. So how do these companies and their CEOs show YOU their gratitude for such support? By producing some of the medications in cheap labor countries overseas instead of employing American workers to make them here, by selling the very same drugs here, where these companies are headquartered, at TWICE the price they sell them to Canada, Australia, and other places in the world with so-called "socialized medicine" systems, and by rewarding themselves and their board members with piggishly high salaries at YOUR expense, that's how!
So here they are, the rip-offs who keep raising their prices at will and lining their pockets with YOUR money. I have included a photo of each so you'll know exactly who to verbally thrash should you ever encounter them in an empty elevator or a dimly-lit parking lot or ramp. I have their exorbitant 2008 salaries posted here (taken from a May 11, 2009 Fierce Pharmo report by Maureen Martino and Calisha Myers), as well as a few of the drugs/products their companies produce which do help you live and feel better, but which you also pay dearly for so that they can live luxuriously while you feel the financial pinch. These are the people who profit off of your sickness and misery. THEY ARE YOUR ENEMIES!
10. JOHN LECHLEITER CEO, Eli Lilly 2008 salary: $ 13,000,000 (Cialis, Evista, plus a number of insulins for diabetics)
2. MILES WHITE CEO, Abbott 2008 salary: $ 28,300,000 (Vicodin, Prevacid, Depacon, Humira, Leptos, Erythromycin)
And the number 1 reason your prescriptions cost so much:
BILL WELDON CEO, Johnson & Johnson 2008 salary: $ 29,500,000 (Axert, Reopro, Doribax, One Touch diabetic blood glucose meters, Prezista, Doxil)
Remember these names, faces, and companies next time you must pay for an expensive prescription drug. These are the people who directly or indirectly cause many elderly on fixed incomes and millions of others low on money to have to sometimes choose between their product or food to eat. These are the people who want no price-lowering pressure to come from a government-run, public option health care plan. They would rather punp money into expensive ads designed to get you to suggest their particular product to your doctor than to have everyone able to afford medication. They would rather preserve their gigantic salaries than see everybody able to afford medical care. THEY ARE YOUR ENEMIES. For their primary interest is maintaining and increasing their profits, and your cure or relief from pain or misery is of a distant secondary importance.
"TAX THE VERY WEALTHY TO MAKE EVERYONE HEALTHY!" - VIGILANTE, SOZADEE, CA -
TOP, L TO R: Allen Wise; Ronald A. Williams BOTTOM: Karen Ignagni; Michael McCalister
This is my second consecutive inlstallment on the true beneficiaries of private health care. They are the persons shown here, NOT YOU. If you're insured, they benefit with immense salaries YOU pay for through your premiums. They are the ones who directly or indirectly cause you to pay ever-higher premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. They are the ones who directly or indirectly have your coverage stop if it gets too expensive for their liking. They are the ones who directly or indirectly decide how long your hospital stay will be, and whether or not you will get the type of treatment, or the dosage of medication your doctor prescribes for you. They. too, are the ones who are attempting to prevent the passage of a universal or public option health care reform bill in Congress. If you're NOT insured, remember that they are the ones who have, directly or indirectly, excluded you or have made premiums so ungodly high you can no longer afford their "coverage". THEY ARE ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE. These are the Chief Executive Officers of some of America's largest health insurance companies. Three are an unholy trinity of profiteers who view their first priority as maximizing and increasing already gigantically huge profits for their companies, and their second priority as providing necessary health care for you. An additional CEO here is an aider, abettor, and parasite of these companies: she is the CEO of a very powerful Washington, D.C. firm raking in the cash lobbying for the big insurance companies against health care reform, especially against a public option. I will introduce this batch of profiteers to you now, and, as I did in part I of this installment, will provide details on their own exorbitant personal incomes, which you, the insured, are paying for. I hope you will remember these people next time you make an insurance premium payment, see a doctor, or go to the hospital. THEY ARE YOUR ENEMIES!
KAREN IGNAGNI CEO, America's Health Insurance Plans (a lobbying firm). Annual salary: figures unavailable for current salary or profits, but her 2005 salary was $ 1,236,422 according to CNNMoney, of February 15, 2006. You can bet your grundies that her salary has risen tremendously as the demand for her "services" has exponentially increased with the advent of Obama's push for health care reform, and she is one of the key health care lobbyists! She opposes a windfall profits tax on health care insurers (naturally)! ------------ Some of her revealing quotes: "It [an across the board cut in health care spending] doesn't have to happen right away, but having a commission, having a mechanism would give every stockholder group an incentive to create more productivity, to reduce unit costs and to create more efficiency." (AHHH - SO STOCKHOLDERS AND CORPORATIONS ARE THE MAIN CONCERN HERE? WHAT ABOUT THE MILLIONS OF UNINSURED AND UNDERINSURED? AREN'T THEY IMPORTANT TOO? WHERE IS THEIR INSURANCE COVERAGE UNDER THIS DELAY YOU ARE RECOMMENDING, KAREN? SOUNDS LIKE THE OLD BUSHONOMICS ARGUMENT OF "LEAVE THE MARKET ALONE AND IT WILL POLICE AND FIX ITSELF." WE ALL KNOW WHAT A CROCK OF BULL THAT WAS)! "It is hard to envision any kind of publicly sponsored option...that wouldn't rely on administered pricing...we are kidding ourselves if we think underpaying providers means cost-containment." (WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR PRECIOUS HEALTH INSURANCE HOSTS ARE DOING RIGHT NOW WHEN THEY DICTATE TO DOCTORS AND HOSPITALS WHAT THEY WILL PAY, KAREN)? "It would be irresponsible to [have the insurance industry cut premiums by a set amount] unless we knew that cost would be cut by [that same] amount because premiums are driven by cost." (PARROTING THE OLD INSURANCE COMPANY INFERENCE THAT DOCTORS AND NURSES ARE THE REASON FOR HIGH MEDICAL COSTS, EH, KAREN? WHAT ABOUT THE EXCESSIVE SALARIES OF INSURANCE COMPANY BOARDS, OR OF PARASITIC BLOODSUCKERS LIKE YOU LOBBYISTS, KAREN? ALL OF YOU MAKE MORE MONEY THAN MOST DOCTORS)!
ALLEN WISE CEO, Coventry from 1996-2004, and again since January, 2009 2004 salary: $ 13,052,799 2004-2006 sales of stock: $ 73,695,702 2004-2006 stock options exercised: $ 14,402,564 Value of Hilton Head, SC home: $ 3,275,500
RONALD A. WILLIAMS CEO, AETNA 2007-2008 salary totals: $ 47,300,112 Value of unexercised stock options: $ 194,496,797 In the top 10 of Forbes' $ 100,000,000 Club
MICHAEL McCALISTER CEO, Humana 2004-2008 salary totals: $ 150,982,708 2006 stock options exercised: $ 22,294,710 Unexercised stock options: $ 60,865,194 Value of Park City, UT home: $ 6,978,380
It isn't just due to lobbyists that health care reform is having such a tough time getting through Congress. Oh no. William H.T. Bush, George W. Bush's uncle, and Susan Bayh, wife of blue dog Indiana Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, BOTH sit on the Board of WellPoint (whose profits last year totaled $ 2,491,000,000 - that's $ 2.491 BILLION - last year)!
There you have it, folks. THESE are the primary beneficiaries of our unjust and profit-driven private health "care" system, NOT YOU. There is no excuse for the excesses it contains, or for the fact that it now excludes 1 out of every 6.5 of us. It is rife with exploitation. The next time you encounter someone shouting out against a not-for-profit public option for health care in this country, or who wants to disrupt a Democratic Town Hall discussion on health care, direct them to this blog and this post and my previous one. Ask them, "is your health care better, or cheaper, or covers more for the same money than it did 5 or 10 years ago?" Ask them,"do you like paying multimillion dollar board member salaries every year so their salaries and profits can shoot through the roof while your own premiums, deductibles, and co-payments rise and your own wages stay the same or go down?" THEN have them tell me, as Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona has said, that "health insurance doesn't need any more regulation" and that we do not need any health care reform.
This current corrupt system we have MUST be drastically changed! It is a profit maintenance system, not a health care system! Flood your elected representatives with letters, phone calls, and emails, and let them know you want this unjust and exclusionary practice of excessively profiteering off of people's illnesses to STOP! Do it NOW! Do it TMORROW! Do it NEXT WEEK! And DON'T GIVE UP THE FIGHT!
"TAX THE VERY WEALTHY TO MAKE EVERYONE HEALTHY!" - VIGILANTE, SOZADEE, CA -
TOP: L to R: Edward Hanway; Stephen Helmsley BOTTOM: Angela Braly,
This is a post about private health care, everybody, so before you read this, take your blood pressure medication and an aspirin, put your Depends on, and have a seat. Better grab some Immodium AD, too. I don't want any accidents here. Ready? Here we go...
The persons shown above are ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE. Why? Because they are one of a number of major reasons your health insurance premiums are so high and are ever-rising, and why you are gradually being forced into ever-higher deductibles and co-pays. Yes, they provide for you, but you pay for it dearly, because they provide amptly for themselves at your expense. They are responsible, directly or indirectly, for the reason a public option for universal health care is having such a hard time getting passed in Congress. They are also directly or indirectly responsible for the exclusion of millions of people from health insurance coverage, and for millions of others finding that some or all of their doctor-prescribed treatment will not be covered. They, rather than your physician, are directly or indirectly responsible for the length of your hospital stay. Finally, they are directly or indirectly responsible for coverage being abruptly canceled for those in the middle of long, expensive, and ongoing medical treatment for a serious condition like cancer. These are the Chief Executive Officers of some of America's largest health insurance companies. They are an unholy trinity of profiteers who view their first priority as maximizing and increasing already gigantically huge profits for their companies, and their second priority as providing necessary health care for you. I will introduce these people here now, and provide details on their own exorbitant personal incomes, which you, the insured, pay for. I hope you will remember them next time you make an insurance premium payment, see a doctor, or go to the hospital. THEY ARE YOUR ENEMIES.
EDWARD HANWAY (evidently looking skyward at his growth in profits, salary, and stock options) CEO, CIGNA 5 year compensation total as of 4/30/08: $ 120.51 MILLION Unexercised stock options: $ $28,881,00 Value of NJ Beach home: $$ 13,607,400 ------------ Hundreds of entertainment industry workers in CA and NJ who buy as a group got hit with a rate increase which raised same family-plan premiums to more than $14,000 per year!
STEPHEN HELMSLEY CEO, United Health (insurer of 70,000,000 Americans) 2007-2008 salary totals: $ 16.4 MILLION Total value of unexercised stock options: $ 744,232,068 2009 options exercised: $ 127,001,068 Value of Wayzata, MN home: $ 6.64 MILLION ------------ His company has spent a whopping $12.6 MILLION on lobbying to defeat health care reform since 2007, and the funding for this has come from its own premium payers - YOU, if this is your insurance company! Are you getting your money's worth? His company has been fined numerous times over the years by the federal and state governments for violating prompt payment laws, wrongfully denying 133,000 claims, and delaying payment of both customer and physician claims. Featured in some detail in the new film by Brave New Films called "Sick For Profit" - check it out!
ANGELA BRALY CEO, WellPoint 2007-2008 salary totals: $ 18,938,483 2006 sale of stock = $ 4,858,585 Value of Indianapolis, IN home: $ 1,987,700
Sorry if you soiled your pants, folks. I was pretty shocked when I saw these figures too. I found them at the Sick For Profit website (http://sickforprofit.com/). As you can see, the real beneficiaries of our private health care system are the health insurance corporations themselves and their vastly overpaid boards of directors, NOT YOU. And certainly not those whom they have excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions, or those whose coverage has been cut due to their treatments for medical conditions lasting too long or becoming too expensive for the insurance companies' liking.
Part II of this installment will follow very soon, and will feature 3 more examples of executives just like those highlighted in this segment. Watch for it, and tell your friends about it (especially any of them who think a not-for-profit public option is so bad or say they'll shout down any upcoming Democratic Congresspersons' Town Hall meetings dealing with health care reform)!
Two of the sites I frequently visit for insightful, well written, and excellently reasoned posts are Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues (http://firstname.lastname@example.org/) and Beggars Can Be Choosers (http://www.beggarscanbechoosers.com/). I recently commented on Manifesto Joe's site about how I believed this current Republican madness and hysteria being staged at Town Hall meetings was a fad that would eventually pass, as such unreasonableness could not possibly survive long under its own weight. Beggars Can Be Chooser's Marc McDonald also posted a comment on that same blog, in answer to mine, which I found to be very thought provoking. There may be great truth to what Marc says, which I post below. I hope not, but it may very well be true. Those of you who are unfamiliar with the abovementioned sites may wish to visit them. They are always a great read!
"America seems to be entering a new Dark Ages. Superstition and ignorance are increasingly replacing science and reason. Alone among First World nations, America has a sizeable population that rejects everything from Darwin to global warming. The likes of Sarah Palin actually revel in their ignorance. Public education continues to deteriorate. Fewer and fewer Americans read. A good portion of Americans are fat, smug, clueless and totally ignorant about the rest of the world. I fear we may be at the edge of an abyss of a new Dark Ages. With the collapsed economy and the voices of hate and ignorance growing louder, I fear that we are in for some very grim times ahead, as America moves closer to Third World status."
I found these comments to be profoundly chilling, and I thank Marc for his brilliance, passion, and insight in presenting them. Could it be that we are becoming, or have become, what John F. Kennedy feared we would become, a "soft" nation unable to meet the demands or challenges of the day? It is a horrifying and sobering thought, but one which deserves deep consideration in light of recent events!
To all who may be attending their Congressperson's Town Hall meeting this month: Remember, as you encounter a packed room of people shouting out against health care reform, these people were most likely brought in from across the country by wealthy Republican conservatives to disrupt your meeting, and they most likely don't even reside in your district. They have been fired-up by conservative special interest group lies, and now they in turn will be repeating those lies, like President Obama's health care plan will force seniors into euthanasia, will provide taxpayer money for abortions, will end up killing people due to delays in getting medical treatments, will come between you and your doctor, and so on. ALL of these statements are LIES, and they fit a long, steady pattern of conservative, and especially conservative Republican, scare tactics and lies used for over more than 50 years to turn the public away from progressives, liberals, and progressive legislation. I present below a long, only partial, list of those lies.
After having caused the stock market crash in 1929 through years of free market, anything-goes, unregulated capitalism, the Republicans and economic conservatives of that era were horrified by Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" programs of active government involvement in the economy. They said fair, common-sense, and humane measures like legalizing labor unions, instituting welfare and Social Security, implementing jobs programs for the more than 20% of the work force that was unemployed, providing unemployment for those who were out of work, and regulating banks, the stock market, and big business was "socialistic", had "gone too far", and would "destroy capitalism." Oh, yes---they also said it "wouldn't work." Sounds suspiciously similar to the type of nonsense being pedaled today by conservative Republicans like Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner, doesn't it? Well, these statements were wrong then, just as they are today. They were LIES told by fearful people without vision or heart who didn't understand the situation at hand and/or didn't care about those in need all around them. What Roosevelt's measures really did, of course, was to SAVE capitalism and plant the seeds for the growth of a huge and prosperous middle class.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, ever-fearful conservatives, led by the notorious Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, were seeing communists under every bed. Many innocent people were hurt by being blacklisted for trumped-up and supposed communist activities. This LIE about alleged communist infiltration throughout government and society unnecessarily and permanently ruined many people's lives.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the big conservative LIE concerned civil rights. Fearful conservative defenders of the status quo argued that granting civil rights to minorities through federal legislation, letting blacks eat at the same lunch counters as whites and use the same bathrooms and buses as whites, was a violation of states' rights and would destroy white American culture and civilization. This, too, was a flimsy conservative LIE. Our country is immensely better off today for having allowed people of all races, ethicities, and creeds equal access to education, employment, and social and cultural activities! Another conservative lie at this time was that, if we didn't fight in the civil war in Vietnam, that country and all the rest of Asia would go communist. This lie was even adopted, adapted, and expanded by liberal presidential cabinets during JFK's and LBJ's administrations. The rest of Asia did NOT go communist after we withdrew from that war, and all it accomplished was create huge profits for the military/industrial complex and kill more than 50,000 American soldiers and countless innocent Vietnamese civilians. Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, darlings of conservative America back then, even lied about having a "secret plan to end the war." They had none, of course, and only used and manipulated the war to gain and maintain political power.
The 1980s brought us the Reagan administration, union-busting, and "trickle-down economics." This conservative lie held that, by cutting taxes for the very rich and big business, and cutting back on the power and number of labor unions, the added wealth created at the top of the income scale would trickle down to everyone else and all would prosper. That being a LIE, of course, the only ones who prospered from the policy were the very rich and big business. The "trickle down" evaporated long before it ever hit the middle class or poor.
"Free trade" was another lie foisted on us by conservatives in the 1980s-1990s, and its close cousin was deregulation. Conservative Republicans like Milton Friedman, George H.W. Bush, Phil Gramm, and Tom DeLay, as well as right-wing think tanks like the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute began their incessant chant that any and all trade is good for everybody, and that eliminating regulations on business would result in an upswing in prosperity for all. They even succeeded in fooling President Bill Clinton and other "new" Democrats into going along with this nonsense. The fact that all this led to was an export of millions of high-paying American jobs and the freezing of workers' wages here, plus a rise in energy speculation which led to record high gasoline prices, plus ever-spiraling health care costs prove what LIES these conservative policies turned out to be!
After 9/11, hardcore neocon warmongers Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld lied to us, telling us Iraq was actively involved with AlQaeda and was building an atomic weapons stockpile. These conservative LIES led us into an unnecessary, preemptive, and hugely costly war in Iraq which has weakened our economy. This George W. Bush administration insinuated that is was totally against abortion and would overturn Roe vs. Wade. But, with a solid Congressional majority, a conservative President, and a working conservative Supreme Court majority, the Republicans made no effort at all to eradicate abortion. Instead, they cynically USED the issue as a political tool against Democrats. This made them LIARS on that issue, too, and proved that they gave it only lip service to use the religious right for votes. The Bush crew also re-fed us the trickle-down economics and tax-cuts-for-the-rich LIES, and accelerated the rates of free trade and deregulation of business to the point where we slid into the worst, deepest recession since the great crash of 1929. Again, as so often before, these conservative and Republican LIES caused nothing but damage and have brought us down.
Now we are faced with another big conservative Republican LIE: that health care does not need reform, and that doing so will make it "socialist", dangerous, and actually harmful to us all. Much like their arguments in the 1930s and steadily onward, this LIE, too, should be dismissed as nonsense designed to protect only the wealthy and hurt everyone else. Remember this steady stream of conservative Republican LIES when you meet with your Congresspersons and vote in the midterm elections next year, folks. The only fear you need to have going forward is in following today's conservative Republican talking points, which are all LIES!
"Tax the very wealthy to make everyone healthy." - Vigilante, Sozadee, CA -
The men shown here are all enemies of the people. They are but a tiny handful of conservative Republicans who are attempting to stall and defeat legislation designed to aid everyday working people, the middle class, and the poor. Like desperate soldiers in battlefield retreat, they are attempting to destroy all that may aid the President in their path. Their aim is to delay passage of any bill not beneficial to corporate America, or any bill desired by a progressive President or Congress. As such, they are not acting as spokespersons for or representatives of the majority of their countrymen. They are, instead, acting as spokespersons for and representatives of special interests, i.e. corporate America (namely, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries) in the current heated debate over health care reform.
Soundly defeated in last November's elections, the now extremely conservative Republican Party's far right agenda of cutting taxes for the wealthy and big business (trickle-down economics) has been thoroughly rejected by the majority of voters. So has their modern tenet of using preemptive military action against foreign countries. So has their penchant for deregulation. And so has their preference for preservation of the status quo, particularly as regards job losses and wage stagnation for workers, and, especially, the unfairness and rising costs found in our badly-flawed health care system. But the conservative Republicans are not making any attempt to change their approach to more readily conform to the mood of today's public. Egged on by extremist media figures like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the rest of the Fox "News" network, they have instead allowed themselves to become lulled into a strange complacency. In spite of all logic to the contrary, and with their national numbers shrinking and becoming more regional than national, these fools actually believe they will once again gain control of Congress and the White House by staying exactly as they are today. Their tactic? A deliberately ongoing, insidious attack on President Obama and his agenda. Their arsenal of weapons includes outright lies, utter non-cooperation, disinformation, manufactured rallies, and constant questioning and verbal attack. They are attempting to slam to an absolute halt the progressive elements of Obama's agenda, hoping that discrediting him or making him become ineffectual will guarantee their future electoral success. This is not a patriotic approach to solving the grave problems facing our nation today. Governance by constant inaction and total opposition accomplishes nothing. More than at any other time in their history, insanity reigns supreme in today's far-right, far-from-mainstream Republican Party.
Recent polls have shown overwhelming support (72%) for the adoption of a public option, universal health care plan administered by the government. 57% have even expressed willingness to pay higher taxes to support such a system. Yet conservatives and Republicans nationwide are fighting this idea tooth and nail, in a most determined scorched-earth manner. Just as they did on the President's Economic Stimulus Plan, (which is now showing signs of actually working, something they claimed would never happen),Republicans are loudly voicing opposition and are using a variety of weapons to kill the public option altogether. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has expressed nothing but contempt for everything the President has proposed since day one, and you can see it in the snide expression on his face and hear it in his constant negative comments. Weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell boldly and prematurely claimed the public option to be dead. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) even made the outlandish statement this past week that health insurerance industry does not need any more regulation, even as they are raising prices at will and are paying exorbitant executive salaries while excluding millions of people from coverage! This unified Republican attack has not been limited to domestic issues, either. Just this week, Liz Cheney came out with the wholly nonproductive and inflammatory comment that our country needs "a commander in chief, not a global community organizer." The GOP have become so extreme in their approach that theirs can no longer be dismissed merely as strong opposition. Their modus operandi for such opposition has taken a far darker and more sinister approach which is now akin to outright subversion and sabotage.
The website Think Progress.org recently obtained a 3 page memo from a far-right group called Right Principles encouraging outside conservatives to flood Democratic congresspersons' Town Hall meetings this month and shout down any discussion of health care reform. It gave specifics on how to disrupt these meetings. Other shadowy groups have been actively busing in conservatives from all over the country to attend and disrupt Town Halls. This, of course, is preventing an honest discussion on a major relevant national issue, and, as such, could be considered a subversive action of deliberate sabotage. It is attempting to create for TV cameras, newspapers, and Congresspersons to see and note the illusion of a non-existant huge majority of voters opposed to health care reform. Like the phony Teabagger taxpayer protest non-event of a few months back, this, too, is a manufactured series of actions designed to distort public opinion and influence government policy. This Right Principles health care memo was authored by one Bob McGuffie, a member of the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm called Freedom Works, which is run by the very conservative former Republican Congressman Dick Armey. Now, encouraging outside agitators to crash political discussions between Congresspersons and their constituents is not my idea of acting responsibly in a republic like ours. It is instead a seamy act of subversion.
Conservative media figures like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, to name but two, are acting as a sort of fifth column disinformation ring when they lie and distort information on public policy initiatives as they do nearly every day. Their aim is to sew distrust and skepticism of the President among viewers, not to truthfully inform or stimulate intelligent discussion. They are therefore also guilty of subversive actions, and their activity greatly undermines the functioning of our democratic system. Their irresponsibility leads only to polarization, not unity, and it serves only their interests, not the nation's needs.
But conservative Republican Congresspersons and Senators and corporate America take the cake when it comes to sabotaging legislation through distortion, delay, and hair-splitting. Their aim is to stall health care debate long enough to enable special interest groups like health insurance and pharmaceutical corporations plenty of time to launch a massive campaign of fear and misinformation to completely defeat health care reform. PBS has reported that the industry is spending a whopping $1.4 million PER DAY on lobbyists and ads designed to kill the public option. The lie about how the public option plan will force seniors to undergo euthanasia was hatched by a board member of Cantel Medical Corporation, a medical device manufacturer. But the industry isn't spending millions only on lobbyists and advertising. Mitch McConnell has received $3.1 million in campaign contributions from the medical/industrial complex over the years, according to the Center for Responsible Politics. No wonder he has come out so strongly in opposition to a public option! Even moderate "Blue Dog" Democratic Congresspersons have received generous contributions from the medical/industrial complex which is apparently heavily influencing their stances. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), for example, has received $414,000 from hospitals, $667,000 from insurance companies, and nearly $1 million from pharmaceutical companies. The Republican Party itself, always an ally to big business, has even committed to spending $1 million this month on anti-public option ads. Now THAT'S not a party truly dedicated to the overall public good!
It is clear to see that influence-peddling by lobbyists for the benefit of the medical/industrial complex has been paying big dividends for that complex. Their willingness to spend $1.4 million per day to defeat the public option is highly indicative of the massive profits they make with the system just as it is. It is easy to understand why they wish to preserve such a system, which allows them to exclude millions of people, end medical coverage for others at will, and constantly raise prices when they wish. But that is also indicative of tremendous injustice and proof of why such a system must not be allowed to stand any longer.
The attempts by corporate America, their lobbyists, their bought-out Congresspersons, as well as fearful and ignorant conservatives who aid and abet all of those fools in subverting and sabotaging our system of government borders on treason. These people have the right to express their opinion, to be sure, but not to interfere with OUR rights to hear and speak as well, nor to undermine our democratic process. It may seem as though they have the upper hand at the moment. Yet there are counter-measures we progressives can take to nullify and even overturn these conservative actions. First, tell everyone you know about the misinformation and subversive strategy they are employing. Let's make these corrupt, corporatist conservatives the focus here rather than the lies they are spreading. Second, let's give obstructionists like Boehner, McConnell, and Kyl a little lesson in democracy and throw those bastards out of office next time they are up for re-election. They have been ignoring we taxpayers in favor of corporate America long enough. Third, let's all attend our Congresspersons' Town Halls this month and shout down the phony, bused-in protestors who don't belong there in the first place. Let's continue barraging them with letters and phone calls in support of a public option. Above all, let's keep pushing for real health care reform with universal coverage and a public option---MEDICARE FOR ALL!