Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I was listening to a story on NPR this morning about the financial crisis in California. Their state budget gap is $24 billion and as usual, kids and the truly needy among us will be the hardest hit. In these situations, the government ends up making decisions that are pennywise and pound foolish.
For example, California is considering closing its poison control center for a savings of $6 million. The center gets over 2,000 calls per day, mostly from parents, concerned about something their child just ingested. Most calls end with simple wait and see or do it-yourself advice. Without this service, ALL of these parents will likely end up in an emergency room somewhere at a HUGE cost to parents and society. The government saves $1 on one side of the equation and the citizens will spend $20 on the other.
In the midst of this fiscal crisis, what really irks me is the 10,000Lb gorilla that no one ever discusses: Our insane military budget. We spend over $1 trillion per year on “defense”. Global military spending hit a record high in 2008, led by the US. Our annual military spending is roughly equal to the rest of the world combined, while the US and its close allies account for 2/3 of global military spending. No wonder we don’t have money for anything else.
One of my saddest days as an adult was at a tax update class for CPAs back in the 80s. It was sad because at the time, I didn’t have the guts to speak up. I was young and there were 40-50 other CPAs in the class. The instructor was giving an update about the fiscal situation in Washington DC and said something to the effect that there was no funding available for any domestic needs because the government was broke. I remember thinking how dishonest all of us were accepting this pathetic nonsense. All of were financial experts. The government had plenty of money but was spending half of all our funds on weapons and war. The same is true today.
It is time for us to speak up about this awful waste. No one disputes the need for a strong defense but we could do that with ½ the budget freeing up $500 billion annually for domestic services. Maybe a little of that can keep California’s poison control center open.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I love Portland. We are in the midst of Pedalpalooza, a 2-week long bike festival with over 200 events. Every day there are classes, events, parades and lots of special rides (pub rides, pizza rides, chocolate rides, naked rides, endurance rides, and many, many more). Last night I went on the Epic Pizza Ride.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
- Senator Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee. In the last six years he's raised nearly $15 million of which 23 percent came from insurance and health interests.
- Senator Charles Grassley (R), ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee received 23.5 percent of his financial support over the past six years from insurance and health sectors.
- Senator Charles Dodd (D), who is essentially running the Health Committee in the absence of Senator Ted Kennedy got 23 percent of his funds from the insurance and health sectors.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has at least $50,000 invested in a healthcare index.
- Senator Judd Gregg (R), a senior member of the Health Committe has up to $560,000 of equities in major healthcare companies including Bristo-Myers Squibb and Merck.
- The family of Congresswoman Jane Harman (D) held at least $3.2 million in more than twenty health care companies at the end of 2008.
- Senator John Kerry (D), and his wife Teresa Heinz kerry hold at least $5.2 million in companies such as Merck and Eli Lilly.
- Senator Johnny Isakson (R) holds at least $165,000 in pharmaceutical and medical stocks.
- Senator Kay Hagan (D) holds at least $180,000 in more than twenty healthcare companies.
- Senator Chris Dodd's (D) wife serves on the board of four healthcare companies and received more than $200,000 last year in salary and stock for her service.
- Eight of the twenty-two member Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have financial interests in the healthcare industry. This committee was to hold a hearing today on healthcare reform.
I’d like to be writing about business but feel the health care situation is dire and that we have a unique opportunity to really solve this problem. I also know firsthand how the healthcare mess impacts TriLibrium, my colleagues, my family and our clients. This problem must be solved to bring America in to the 21st century.
I used to be fairly oblivious to class power. I’ve always felt kinship with the underdog and have always been in solidarity with labor and the people who do the work. I think saving and investing has value, but the Wall Street mentality of large and fast returns to investors who in reality do nothing, is absurd. That mentality has lead to the current crisis which is creating so much turmoil in our communities.
The reason I was oblivious to class power was the myth I’d been taught that portrayed a level playing field for all people where one’s efforts, skills and luck determined one’s fate. What I failed to appreciate was how the rules of the game influence the outcome of the game. And in America, the game, the rules and the outcome are largely controlled and determined by the investing class through their political contributions.
When I talk about the owning/investing class, I’m referring to the top 1-10% of Americans who own and control a majority of the private assets and financial wealth in our country.
When you examine our system through the lens of class, you can see where the rules of the game define class power.
A social safety net helps the working class while diminishing the power of the owning class. Without a social safety net, workers are particularly fearful of job loss and accordingly, will do anything to keep their job since they know that job loss would mean economic ruin. Job loss without a social safety net means no food, no shelter, no health care and no education.
The owning class is vehemently opposed to a social safety net because (a) they don’t need it and (b) it gives power to workers to walk away from being exploited. This is one of the reasons corporate America and the owning class is opposed to universal health care. Job based health care gives those who control the jobs (owners and corporations) power over workers. Universal health care takes that economic weapon away from the owners.
I believe universal health care is vital to our future and that the only system that will work is a not-for profit, universal, single-payer system. I believe it is being blocked by rich and powerful forces who more than anything, want to keep this powerful control lever over American workers.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the money that might be influencing the people charged with deciding our future health care system.
Monday, June 15, 2009
What health care reform proposal is supported by a majority of doctors, an overwhelming number of nurses, has over 70 co-sponsors in the house but is off the table due to the corporate control of our economy and political system?
Thursday, June 4, 2009
If you want to know more about the water issue, check out the following movie trailer.