The turn of a new century, even though it's being celebrated a year early, is a good time to review where we've been and more importantly where we're going. For those of us who have seen the human destruction caused by the "great depression" we should be excused for viewing the current economy with some degree of apprehension, but I sometimes get the feeling that I'm watching reruns of a very bad movie ...
Every day we see the market averages climbing skyward, with only an occasional dip that the experts decree to be a great opportunity to jump in and get some "bargains." The advent of the on-line investing has bought hordes of new investors into the equity markets. Today any person with a computer and credit cards can be his own financial advisor/investor and these decisions can be made without the meddlesome interference of third party interlopers. As these neophytes note the rapid rise of their investments many are surely going to look for more capital to invest into this virtual money machine called Wall Street. Quite naturally their eyes will wander to the large amount of equity that many have in their homes. The first leg of retirement financial security could be jeopardized by these actions, but another detrimental facet of this search for economic security is the neglect for the second leg of this security. Yes, I'm talking about Social Security.
Too many of those seeking these instant riches cannot be blamed for being distracted from the coming great debate over the fate of Social Security. After all they are very busy developing strategies to accumulate untold amounts of personal wealth to be very concerned about something which will only bring in a measly few bucks a month. It is this mindset that gives encouragement to those who seek to destroy America's most valuable social program. We cannot discern at this particular time what the political landscape will be after this current election cycle runs its course, but the current crop of candidates suggests that it will be just more of the same. The political agenda will be masterminded by those who control the flow of cash to Washington. When it comes time to pay the piper we all know who will be the ultimate payee, and it will be those who are devoid of the political clout demonstrated by Wall Street, insurance companies and other financial institutions. This is the group that salivates at the thought of getting their hot sweaty hands on the Social Security Trust Fund. ...
Defined pension plans being replaced by 401Ks, low personal savings rates, many seniors using home equity to dabble in the financial markets, and the prospect of a privatized Social Security system should raise serious concerns for the future.
All of the above warnings might be nothing but benign signals created by the new economy, but should a substantial financial collapse occur America will once again plunge into the depths of an even greater depression. At a minimum Social Security must be preserved in its present form to ensure that America's seniors will still enjoy at least a vestige of sustenance. Those who will not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
West New York, NJ
How did health insurance come to be equated with health care? And what is the source of the great fear of so-called "socialized medicine"? Who is responsible for maintaining our current inefficient, ineffective and financially insolvent health care system? Could it be the insurance companies?
Did you ever stop to think what health insurance does and why it is so important that everyone buy into this "system"? Everyone pays in, but not everyone uses benefits; only a certain percentage do. In fact, the greater the likelihood you will need benefits, the more likely you will be denied insurance coverage, or have to pay a higher rate. It's almost a game of Russian roulette -- "maybe if I pay my insurance, I will stay healthy and not need it". Isn't this overall concept rather socialistic in nature?
Why does a school district or state buy an insurance plan/policy for uninsured children? Wouldn't it be just as logical, and possibly less expensive (no middleman) to put funds in an escrow account to be used for emergency medical services on an as needed basis? Is it insurance that is needed or is it medical care?
Now our government is looking at Medicare coverage for prescription drugs because the cost of these drugs has become too high for many elderly citizens to afford. They have to choose between drugs they need or food. Is it possible that the drug company's prices need examination? Are the insurance companies and the government contributing to this high cost by supplementing money for drugs?
When did this "health insurance as care" get so established and why? In my lifetime, I can remember going to the small town, family doctor. My Mom paid the bill when we left the office. When "insurance" (trying to get something for less than it really costs ) started, did doctors start charging more? If so, would costs go down if insurance providers were not involved? How many doctors today have different rates for the insured and the uninsured? What are the hidden costs of insurance?
In my view, health insurance is already socialistic, so why the big fight over comprehensive health care for everyone? Would such a plan eliminate the need for insurance? LIGHTBULB! Who lobbies the most against comprehensive health care? Could it be the insurance companies? Is that why the government is only really talking about comprehensive health insurance, not comprehensive health care?
There is a whole industry and massive numbers of employees making money where none should be made. It is a layer between the people and health providers that is not really justified or necessary. Government officials and others cannot figure out why the percentage of uninsured is increasing while the economy has been so "good" (that's bordering on another issue). Could it be that no one trusts that the money they pay into insurance will, in fact, insure them health care when they need it? Will health care be denied for a variety of reasons? Could it also be that people are looking to alternatives to the "care" that is covered, because it is often neither caring nor effective? If insurance pays for more drugs, how much more likely will our "care" be influenced by the drug salesman peddling his company's wares to doctors? How much more will the pharmaceutical companies' campaign contributions increase?
I believe the insurance industry is, in large part, the major problem with our health care. And, I feel that our government has never even considered this as an unnecessary layer in the provision of adequate medical care. Government leaders' hands are tied because of dependence on the insurance lobby for campaign funds so it is unlikely we can look to them for help. So how do we get out of this mess? What are the answers? Where can we get positive change?
The other day me and another guy were in a bar talking politics and we agreed that what this country needed most was a Republican president like Trent Loft and enough .30-06 Remington rifles to go around.
Just then in comes a dumbo liberal and orders some foreign-sounding beer. You know the type -- always whining about pollution, nuclear waste, global warming, acid rain and everything else Rush has told us not to worry about.
I said, "Hey, bleeding heart, what's your problem this time?"
So he starts yapping about our NY state legislators accepting $75 dinners from the Philip Morris lobbyist. "If they're not being bribed for access it certainly gives that impression," he said with that liberal know-it-all tone in his voice.
Well, here's where I knew I had him because I read what [legislator] Bob Nortz told the Times. I said, "Listen up pinko, Bob Nortz said the dinners the tobacco people paid for are just social events where 'you laugh and joke in a comradely way'."
The lib comes back with a high and mighty response: "All government people should keep an arm's length away from all lobbyists' gifts at least for the sake of appearances."
By now I'm losing patience with this guy. I said , "Look, you, Bob Nortz is on the legislative Ethics Commission and he's not allowed to do anything unethical. All you're doing is making the poor guy look bad."
"Certainly he doesn't need any help from me on that score," the tax-and-spend lefty said heading for the door like a sore loser.
After that episode, I wanted to prove that the tobacco lobbyists were not trying to gain comradely access to Mr. Nortz and Mr. Wright but rather they just wanted to socialize and laugh and tell jokes like all comrades do. Just like Bob Nortz said.
So I wrote to the Philip Morris chief and told him how much I liked to laugh and tell jokes in a comradely way and how much fun it would be for everyone if he could get me into the next round of $75 dinners.
So what happened? Just like every other time I try to give someone smart advice, my letter gets lost in the mail and I don't never get no answer back.
Guffin Bay, N.Y.
Too Much WTO Coverage? Sorry, Mr. Antonich [Letters, "Too Much WTO Coverage," 2/1/00 PP], you are wrong. In the early years of the Great Depression, Francis W. Townsend of California had a great idea, pension of $100 per month for all the elderly and Townsend Clubs were organized in many states. The interest in pensions culminated in 1935 in the Social Security Act, since much expanded.
The discussion fostered by the teach-ins and protests in Seattle may prove to be the beginning of another great seminal idea, "Take back our government". What the delegates did or didn't do there is of no great importance that the people spoke out is of the greatest import or could be if they aren't silenced once again!
Certainly, your coverage beats all the bilge that we are fed in the mass media i.e. the excessive and revolting coverage of one Cuban child in newspapers, magazines and TV, ad nauseam. We are drowning in "human interest" crap and celebrity frenzy in most of the national media so keep up the good work.
MARJORIE S. NEWELL
State College, Pennsylvania
The appeal by Elian Gonzalez's grandmothers to President Clinton for help to return the boy to his father fell on deaf ears. Perhaps if they had brought suitcases full of cash, they might have been invited to spend a weekend in the Lincoln Bedroom. Wealthy donors to the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign enjoyed this privilege.
The bones of Elian's ancestors as do those of the Cuban patriot, Jose Marti, rest in Cuban soil. Our president should show the world some moral leadership and return this boy to his father!
I was pleased to see Howard Zinn's "Notes for a Gathering" [2/1/00 PP]. However, I was disappointed that it was not explained what "gathering" Zinn had written this for. Accordingly, and as one of the gathering's main organizers, I'm sending you a brief report of the Progressive Dialogue meeting which took place on December 4-5, 1999 [see story on page 10]. Zinn was one of the conveners of the meeting. He wrote his "Notes" because he wasn't able to attend.
TED GLICK, National Coordinator
Independent Progressive Politics Network
Named by Life Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century. Defender of the working class. Founder of Public Citizen -- the nation's largest consumer advocacy organization. A constant critic of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and corporate irresponsibility. Former presidential candidate for the Green Party. He cannot be bought off by Big-Buck special interests and fat-cat campaign donors. There is no other person even remotely qualified to be President!
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