Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mandatory Insurance Anyone?

There has been much clamoring about the government interfering in our personal lives, but little is said about how much insurance companies are interfering in our personal lives. It seems to me that big insurance interferes with our personal lives far more than big government does.

For some time now certain Astroturf groups have been screaming that it is unfair to force Americans to buy health insurance and even claiming that it is unconstitutional, but nothing is mentioned about other kinds of insurance that we are all forced to pay for in one way or another.

They make the argument that you are not forced to buy auto liability insurance if you choose not to own a car, but the public transportation agency you use must and it is factored into your fare. You may rent an apartment and not have to buy renter’s insurance, but insurance costs are part of your monthly rent. And just about any piece of equipment you buy has factored in the insurance costs that the manufacturer, distributer, and sellers all have to carry.

Then there are the professional liability insurance costs built into the fees charged by medical providers, lawyers, real estate and insurance agencies, financial services, and construction contractors of all kinds. Let’s not even get into the reasons for the rising cost of these various kinds of liability insurances…I’ll save that for anther time. But my point is that there are precious few Americans who are not subject to mandatory insurance of one kind or another.

So, why not make health care insurance mandatory? Why do many consider that one area taboo?  They paint the picture red, titled it “socialized,” insert images of Stalin and Mao, and then convince themselves that they are protecting the Constitution and the rights of Americans.

Now let’s put our thinking caps; what is the purpose of insurance? It is to spread potential risk over a large group of people in order that no one has to pay the whole cost in the event of any loss and all must contribute into the fund even if they never have to use it. Now, what are taxes for? Taxes are imposed so that the cost of government services are shared by all citizens even if they do not personally benefit from all services. And "social" refers to the redistributive policies of the government to benefit the public interest. So we have “socialized” police and fire protection; “socialized” road construction and repair; “socialized” water delivery, garbage removal and sewage treatment; and many other “socialized” services that few of us could afford to pay for a we use them.

So, whatever evil names and connotations you want to tack on to either, taxes and insurance are intended to spread costs over a large population for the benefit of all. The problem then is when tax rates or insurance premiums are out of proportion to the benefits offered or in getting too high for many Americans to afford. So why not take another look at mandatory health insurance? Let’s just make it affordable for all.

One more thing—many of these social medicine fear-mongers are seeking a public office at some level or another, but I would bet that a nice health insurance package will come with the job. In fact, there is one local candidate who told me that they are anxious to be elected so they can get the insurance that comes with the position so they could quit going to the Community Health Care Clinic.

Now, I wonder…where will the money for their health insurance come from? You Betcha…taxes! Do you think they will object to taxpayers footing the bill for their health insurance? Bets anyone?

Good for you…bad government.  Good for me…good government.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Think Before You React


Every day we see items in the news that inspire gut reactions of outrage. The trouble is that we too often do not take the time to think about news and by thinking I mean critical thinking. A good example was when President Obama publicly spoke out upon hearing of the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates for disorderly conduct. But at least he recognized his blunder and made amends.

Can that be said of many in the news commentary business that fight over being the first to give their gut reactions to things that they know very little about, like the recent killing spree in Norway? When the news first broke there was immediate blame placed on Al Qaeda, Muslim extremists, and jihadis in general. How wrong they were. The same thing happened in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing—it must have been Muslims. Wrong again.

I am constantly getting emails that have gone through many generations of forwarding, all expressing outrage over one thing or another, but what they all have in common is a lack of examination of the facts. It rarely takes me long to verify the lack of veracity or the twisting of facts from these largely anonymous articles. But these emails just keep going around long after the lies have been exposed.

What is wrong with America is just what Adolph Hitler recognized as his power base when he said   “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think.”  Far too many of us fail to think critically about what happens around us each day. Because of that we, or the people we elect to represent us, give support to laws that pass to “get tough on crime” only to discover the unintended consequences that come back to bite them.

9/11 scared us, but was our collective gut reaction appropriate? Are we happy with the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Are we happy with the way the Patriot Act has curtailed many of our freedoms? Were our leaders using critical thinking skills when they took these measures to “Protect our National interests?” Or were they just counting on the people not thinking so that they could pursue some hidden agenda? Of course, I am not suggesting that our leaders have nothing but the highest respect for the people who elected them.

Now, what do you think?  And take your time thinking, don’t just react.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Protesting Corporate Greed...Finally!


Americans are finally joining the rest of the oppressed world in protesting against corruption at the highest levels of government—not in Washington, but in Wall Street and the corporatocracy for which it stands, for there is where the real power in Washington lies. Thousands of people of all walks of life—well maybe not conservative Republicans—are occupying Wall Street in protest of corporate greed that has led to the polluting of our planet, people loosing jobs and their homes and the rising cost of basic commodities because of market speculators and devious accounting methods.

There is a growing grassroots movement—not the Astroturf  kind or the genetically modified, fertilized, and liberally (I know, liberal is a foreign word to these folks, but it still fits here) sprinkled with herbicides to kill all competitors',  kind of grassroots movements—popping up all America who are not fighting big government, but rather big business. They want the government to put big business in its place, not be bought out by it.

I’m referring to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and it is happening, not just in Manhattan, but in cities all over our nation. For the last several weeks, a growing number of people, who are fed up with corporate greed, have set up camp, albeit without tents, in Liberty Plaza. The group is growing daily and recently over 700 protesters had been arrested by the NYPD for obstructing traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge; a set-up from the reports coming in. Incidentally, the NYPD has recently received a 4.6 million dollar donation from J.P. Morgan Chase. I just have to ask if this is why the police are so diligent in keeping these peaceful protesters in line. The police have even been ordered to not accept donuts from protesters in the square. There have even been incidents of protesters being maced by over eager officers.

Do these protesters have the answers to America’s problems? I don’t know, but they are no longer satisfied with complaining about problems, they are pulling themselves away from the comfort of home and making themselves be seen and heard; enough’s enough. And that’s where change starts.

We have got to start looking at new ways to solve our national problems instead of doing the same things over and over hoping that the next time will work for sure. Think about it; if we keep smashing our head against the wall we may eventually break through, but what about the damage done to our head? Many feel that the solution to one of our current problems is the creation of more jobs; but is that really the answer to our problems? Ask the working poor who may have several jobs and work more than forty hours a week if job creation is the answer to their problems.

Just creating more work is not the answer; our whole economy needs restructuring because we are placing more value on stuff instead of us. When job creation means the removal of mountaintops and raping the earth to squeeze out every drop of oil and extract every chunk of coal to the detriment of the air we breathe and the water we drink, is that worth the jobs created? Arsonists keep firemen busy, along with all the trades that must rebuild after the fire, but does that justify the arsonist?

Our whole economy depends on growth to stay alive; no city can maintain zero growth and expect to remain viable. But when does the growth become too much? America became the economic power we have come to rely on because we had more room to grow than Europe or Asia did. After World War II came the Baby-boomer's who fueled the need for more of everything, but now smaller families are the norm so growth can only come from having more people, either by convincing Americans to start having larger families or by encouraging more immigration, either one is unlikely to happen. But, if by chance it does, could we still keep a healthy growth without eventually depleting our natural resources? Just how far do we want to go in gambling our children’s futures away?

So since Wall Street and our elected representatives are not listening to the people-–remember We the People that our Constitution was written for? —It is time we speak up and protest. It is time we come up with a new economy that values teachers more than hedge fund managers, an economy that values us as humans, not just as consumers, and one that values our children’s future. We must come up with new ideas to accomplish this, so let’s start thinking and start acting—just as they are on Wall Street right now.

To follow this event, keep listening to NPR or go to www.alternet.org and www.occupytogether.org. Learn how you can be a part of it. Be a part of it.

And if you must, I’m sure the Corporate Faux News Reporters will have their own spin on what’s happening.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Proud to Be

When I first came to Montana I was amazed all of the bumper stickers on vehicles proudly proclaiming Montana roots; third, fourth, fifth generations signs were and are very common to see. I thought, wow, that’s great to be proud of your heritage, I didn’t see bumper stickers proclaiming, “I’m Proud to be a Minnesotan” back in my home state. But, after further thought, I got to thinking, what about me? I chose to live in Montana, I’m proud to live here now. But those people had no choice in where they were born. Montana was a decision made for them. So where is the proof they are “proud Montanans?”

The longer I lived here, the more I began to observe how many Montanans seemed to have no respect for their state by the way they ignored many state laws, like drinking and driving, speeding, and littering. When I travel scenic highways I must be on guard against Montanans speeding around me to get from point “A” to point “B” as fast as they can. If they were proud of Montana, wouldn’t they take the time to enjoy its scenery? And I see no proof of that “proud” spirit when I see our highways littered with empty beer cans and cases, diapers, and fast food garbage.

There is a town up on the Hi-line with posters speckling the town like fly feces on a barn window, reading, “Treasured State, NOT Treasured Landscape” When I first saw this I thought, “What the Nantucket?”


Yeah, I get it, they have something against the Missouri Breaks National Monument—for whatever reason that makes sense to them—but as I drive through the Missouri Breaks I see a “treasured landscape.” Well, I guess you have to come from somewhere else to treasure it, because as far as I can tell, they are not proud of the beauty Montana has to offer in their portion of the prairie.

Then, thinking about our nation as a whole—it seems to be filled to the brim with people proclaiming they are proud to be Americans; but I have to ask, just why are they proud? Have they bothered to learn its history and geography—beyond high school level? Have they bothered to read the US Constitution—beyond the Second Amendment? Are they honest about paying taxes? Do they bother to vote? So where is the proof that they are proud of their nation?

And what about your religion, is it something you inherited, but never bothered to learn its basic tenets, or read its holy book, or follow its teachings? Show me the proof that you truly believe what you say you do.

I see a lot of people who are rabid about defending their nation and their religion; they’re willing kill or die for what they say they love—without really knowing or honoring either. They are where they are and believe what they believe by accident of birth and yet they have the audacity to put down another nationality or religion or people who had no choice in where they were born or what color their skin is or in what their fathers believed and worshiped.

On second thought, don’t show me the proof; show the world the proof, the world watches how we behave and they are not impressed. Then, show yourselves the proof that you are proud of where you live, of the government you support and the religion you follow—even if you have to start from scratch to learn it for yourself. Prove it to yourselves before you expect anyone else to believe you when you say “I’m Proud.”