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America's One Trick Pony
of Band-Aid Policies
|by Gaurang Bhatt, MD|
The shameless American politicians have just one approach to all massive hemorrhagic national traumatic injuries, put a band-aid on them. The disastrous misadventure in Iraq prompted by neo-cons is bleeding the country. It has led to the death and serious injury of our troops. Judith Coburn reports that close to 3000 personnel have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and 15000 have been wounded. The pending disability claims for veterans have skyrocketed from 300,000 prior to the Iraq war to 500,000 currently with nearly 150,000 Iraq War 2 veterans' applications for disability. The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly a billion dollars of contracts were awarded to the healthcare company that Anthony Principi was associated with prior to his becoming the VA secretary and which he left to rejoin. Has anyone heard of Vice- president Cheney and Halliburton?
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel prize winning economist who exposed the foolish and fraudulent policies of the World Bank and IMF, together with Linda Biones of Harvard estimate the cost of the Iraq war at one to two trillion dollars including 122 billion in disability payments and 92 billion dollars in increased healthcare costs. Nearly ten billion dollars a month are spent to prosecute the war.
In addition crude oil prices have jumped from forty dollars to seventy dollars, generating a hemorrhaging additional cost of 200 million dollars a day to America and 750 million dollars a day to the oil importing nations. This windfall has enriched Iran and made it more defiant and some of the extra money garnered by the Sunni Arab oil exporters has been funneled to sustain Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda.
Ever since the Carter era and the first oil shock, the nation had been warned about its addiction to oil and the resultant economic consequences. Carter talked of higher gas taxes and conservation but declined to use his executive powers. The current bumbling White House occupant does the same while refusing to take concrete steps like raising gasoline taxes or mandating higher gas mileage for our automobiles. Instead the crooked politicians in the house and senate talk of temporarily abolishing the 18 cent federal tax on gasoline or rebates of hundred dollars by the IRS to every American family.
In the meantime Exxon and other CEOs retire with hundreds of millions of dollars paychecks and retirement bonuses as the average American worker is downsized or has to take pay cuts like the pilots, UAW and US steel workers. The sellout to large corporations allowed them to under fund their pension plans for workers and dump the liabilities on the government funded Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation which now has a shortfall of over hundred billion dollars. It is reminiscent of Reagan's folly of eliminating the restrictions on the Savings and Loan Associations that led to the prior half a trillion dollar debacle. Congress is unwilling to rein in executive overcompensation and hypocritical congress members ask the Federal Reserve Chairman about how to correct the rising economic disparity in America. The repeal of the Glass Steagall Act that prohibited banks from being stock under-writers has led to the Enron and other debacles with Citibank and others paying billions in restitution and fines and more disasters yet to come from their Chinese walls which permit easy quantum tunneling ad infinitum.
The pervasive lack of vision, responsibility or true national concern is the cause of the foolish policies of American automobile companies which initially lost out to the Japanese in the eighties by continuing to produce shoddy gas guzzling behemoths. They improved the quality of their products but failed to match the Japanese and then returned to the dinosaur sized SUVs to lose out again currently, with a brief respite in between. Their shortsighted band-aid policies started with GM pushing local public transportation into oblivion by lobbying the crooked and corrupt American legislators to subsidize unnecessary highways in the nineteen forties and fifties that led to our sprawling suburbia and exurbia with profligate waste of energy in commuting and MacMansions. The Europeans emphasized public transportation, gas taxes to raise prices to six or seven dollars a gallon and urban townhouses and multi-family dwellings and have escaped the dire consequences that we face.
Clinton's capitulation to insurance companies like Truman's earlier, led to the failure of a single payer national health insurance plan that has come to haunt. The prior cost plus payment system for Medicare and the reformed DRG payments presently have loopholes large enough for freight trains to simultaneously go through. A whole burgeoning industry of health consultants has sprung up to beat the system to milk the Federal Government just like the lobbyists on "K" street in Washington DC.
The rising health care costs due to innovations, the greed of doctors and the unconcern of patients as they don't pay out of pocket costs, has led to unnecessary, ineffective and useless treatments. Insurance companies just raise rates thus causing the number of uninsured, unable to afford the premiums to rise above 45 million nearly 15% of the population. The rising healthcare premiums makes American manufacturers uncompetitive and accelerates the shift to lower cost countries increasing American unemployment and a downward spiraling of domestic wages. The band-aid of the current Medicare part D, a sop to insurance and pharmaceutical interests and to garner the votes of the politically conscious voting seniors will massively increase the federal deficits as proven after the lying deceit and other improper silencing of honest civil servants by the Bush administration was exposed.
The neglect and under-funding of public schools in inner cities due to their dependence on property taxes has led to white flight to suburbia and a disproportionate rise in home prices in those regions which has required two incomes in a single household to afford the home. The sorry outcomes are well documented in the book "The Two Income Trap" by a Harvard professor and her daughter. The dismal state of our public education and the lack of a unifying national standard test for high school graduation has led to essentially illiterate high school graduates who lack skills for livable wage employment and need remedial education for college. They are trapped in low wage service jobs which are dead ends due to the demise of unions and presage a poor future for the nation. Instead of promoting, improving and subsidizing better and higher education, the education budgets are cut, rocketing college costs above and beyond the rise in the cost of living are not restrained and money is wasted on immoral and illegal wars and in giving undeserved and massive tax cuts to the rich.
Even in foreign policy the lack of planning and foresight is obvious in our failures in dealing with North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan prove. Easy instant gratification actions are taken without due consideration of long-term consequences. Latin America and Haiti stand out as the consequences. Scheuer from the CIA and the right in his book Imperial Hubris, Chalmers Johnson, Mearsheimer and Walt from academia and the left in the Sorrows Of Empire and the recent essay in the London Review of Books raise controversial issues which instead of being debated openly and intelligently are either swept under the rug or silenced by name calling, blackballing, mudslinging and smearing campaigns.
Last but not the least, the attention of the public suffering from attention deficit disorder and hooked on sound-bytes is diverted from the real issues by the conniving and derelict media. A recent poll showed that the first concern of the public is illegal immigration. The politicians and the media have hyped it and the foolish electorate has focused on it instead of the deficits, war and economic malaise just as they were duped in a prior election by abortion, gay marriage and moral decay. Earlier in history it was affirmative action. Even today much time is wasted in nostalgic but truly non-existent glory of the Kennedy Camelot era which was really a short-lived administration with no significant accomplishments for itself or achievements for the nation. In reality it led to the disasters of the Bay of Pigs, to the brink of a nuclear Armageddon and the quagmire in Vietnam of a president who spoke the words borrowed from a speech writer and had affairs with beautiful women within the national residence, since bested by Clinton by doing it in the Oval office.
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