Monday, May 02, 2005

The Other Crisis

In last week's press conference, President Bush kept on the referring to the 'crisis' in Social Security. There are many, including some in the SSA itself, that dispute this claim that Social Security is headed for bankruptcy either in 2048 or 2018.

Bush tried to make the point that Grandma's benefits would not be cut, but benefits for Grandkid might not be there if we don't act NOW. He's on record saying that he doesn't want to be a President who passes problems to the next President. If he really cares about the next generation, why is he leaving the next generation enoromous debt? The tax cuts he gives millionaires today will be paid by the kids of tomorrow.

If Bush really wants to tackle a 'crisis' he'd better address the CURRENT crisis of health care. Forty six million Americans have no health care at all, 50% of whom are currently employed but their employers don't or won't offer health care benefits to their workers.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who works in a small store that I frequent. She told me she had worked a 12 hour shift. I said "Well, at least you get paid time and a half, right?". No. "Well, at least you have health care, don't you?" No, in fact she had just gotten kicked off Nevada's version of Medicare because, get this she makes TOO MUCH MONEY. How much money can a clerk behind a counter make to be pushed out of health care? At least they kept her kid, who has asthma, on the rolls.

I have been unemployed for too long now and of course, health care is a 'luxury' I'll probably never see again. I have a friend who has been unemployed for almost as long as I have and her COBRA is due to expire this month. She said she can't afford to pay $450 a month in private insurance.

During the 90s under the Clinton Administration it was primarily conservatives who pushed for the NAFTA agreements and other free trade policies. But in the Medicare 'Reform' Bill of last year, what did the 'free marketeer' Republicans push for? Preventing elderly Americans from shopping with feet by going over the border with Canada (a NAFTA signatory). They in effect made free market ILLEGAL when it comes to prescription drugs! You can go over the border and bring back Canadian cigarettes (not that you'd want to ecause they are more expensive then here), which are bad for you, but you cannot bring back Lipitor which could save your life.

Last week the GOP got one of its pet projects completed - the passage of the new bankruptcy 'reform' that had been vetoed by Clinton twice. Once again, they couch their legislation in the form of 'morality', by convincing you that poor people are immoral and they cost you (them) money. They brought back shame as a part of being poor. Of course, there are people who abuse the system, but the standard Republican response is "If we can find ONE person who cheats the system we'll FORCE change on everyone". Why not just punish severely the ones who get caught abusing the system? The bankrupcy law as well as the Medicare law were just bones thrown for the benefit of corporate America.

The funny thing is the two biggest reasons why people declare bankrupcy is due to long term unemployment and medical emergencies. If I should suddenly have to have my appendix removed, where the hell am I supposed to get the money to pay for the emergency operation? Should I just die? If I break my toe, should I just live with the pain until it heals itself?

If the Democrats ever have a hope of every gainging some political traction they should try making the fact that in the richest country in the world, nearly 50 million people have no access to any health care plan (even preventive medical care, never mind the best medical techniques on the planet. They need to make THAT a moral crusade. Start shaming the GOP instead of people who are simply trying to get by from one day to the next.


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