‘Responsibility’ is Key to World Economic Crisis

Is the present generation willing to accept the simple responsibility of paying its bills?

Or will we refuse to pay? That’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it?

The Roberts decision upholding the Affordable Care Act turned the spotlight on RESPONSIBILITY.  The effect of the High Court decision is to require that people of means take responsibility for buying their own health insurance. Some view that as an unreasonable request.

The decision also leaves a central question open to debate. Will society accept responsibility for the health care costs of the poor? The High Court’s position on Medicaid essentially requires each state to decide whether it will accept responsibility for its poor citizens. (A related question is: Can individuals act responsibly to preserve their own health?)

On the world economic stage, the crisis in Europe also spotlights responsibility.

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Supreme Court Health Care Decision Divides The States

Fascinating complexity in the decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts upholding the Affordable Care Act!

English: President George W. Bush announces fr...

President George W. Bush, a Republican, announces his nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First of all, Justice Roberts, a conservative Republican appointee, voted with the High Court’s “liberal” justices to create the 5-4 majority upholding the law. Republicans and conservatives across the U.S. hysterically called him a “traitor.”  Wait. Isn’t a patriot’s first loyalty to the United States of America, not to any political party?

The frightening possibility is that some partisans no longer see loyalty to the U.S. as a patriot’s first loyalty. It’s possible that some of the more extreme Tea Party loyalists have already seceded from the United States in their own troubled minds.

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America: What I Believe In 2011

Image via Wikimedia Commons

(Please click on “comments” at the left side of the title for an interesting back-and-forth between polar opposite points of view.)

The deadlock over raising the debt limit seems almost like a clash of religious beliefs. The two sides hold different beliefs. The deadlock has helped clarify my thinking about what I believe. Maybe this debt crisis of 2011 will help us all clarify who we are, and what we believe.

Image via Wikimedia CommonsI believe that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the best part of America. I believe that without Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, a large part of the American population — more than half the people over 65 — would fall into hopeless poverty.

Some people believe it would be impossible to balance the American budget without deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I believe that America is still, right now, the most prosperous society the world has ever known. I believe that America can afford Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

I believe it would be fair for the most prosperous among us — those with incomes of $250,000 or more a year — to pay a little more in taxes for the good of America. These people have prospered in America. They live the good life. Aren’t they patriotic enough to want to keep America strong? I believe they ARE patriotic and willing to help. It is inconceivable that they could be otherwise.

Some politicians say they oppose any tax increase because a tax increase would “destroy jobs.”

I don’t believe it. How would a modest tax increase destroy jobs? The president is not talking about making rich people poor. He’s talking about a modest tax increase on incomes over $250,000. How exactly will that destroy jobs? Will people earning $250,000 or more even notice a small tax increase? Will a small tax increase change their way of life? I don’t think so. Some may believe otherwise.

I believe there are other ways to balance the American budget. I believe we are spending far too much on a worldwide military presence. I believe we do not have to be fighting foreign wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. I believe we could drastically reduce foreign military spending, pull American soldiers out of harm’s way and closer to the North American continent. We could reduce defense spending by perhaps a third, and still have a military that is by far strong enough to defend the North American continent.

I simply cannot understand why anyone would want to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. I believe the vast majority of Americans support these programs. I believe that common-sense cuts in general government spending and defense spending, combined with a small increase in taxes on the most fortunate among us, would bring the American budget into balance.

What do you believe?

THIS CHART PUTS THE FINANCIAL CONDITION OF MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY IN PERSPECTIVE. BEGGING THE QUESTION: IF MODEST CUTS WERE MADE IN U.S. SPENDING ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT AND DEFENSE, AND SOME EFFICIENCIES ARE FOUND IN MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY, THEN HOW MUCH WOULD STILL NEED TO BE RAISED IN TAXES? Chart via Wikipedia

Keep the faith.

— John Hayden

Last Stand of the White Men in Suits

HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERS. AP photo, 02-09-11

Not to belabor the obvious, but does the above photo look like the last stand of Republican white men in suits?

REP. PAUL RYAN. AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite

This morning, Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, presented the Republican budget for 2012. Joining him were a TV screen full of his Republican colleagues on the House Budget Committee. Everyone present, from what I could see on TV, was a white man. With a few exceptions, they are from the Red States, the heartland of America.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Republican budget would cut government spending by $6.2 trillion over a decade, and sharply cut taxes for the wealthy. The top income tax rate would be reduced from 35 percent to 25 percent. Is the U.S. really broke, or is the U.S. wealthy? You decide.

Here is a list of Republican members of the House Budget Committee. White men in suits from the heartland. Only one female name is on the list.

Many believe the Republican budget is so draconian that it's dead on arrival. I hope so, but the hard line on Medicare, especially, is ominous.

NOT TO IGNORE THE REPUBLICANS IN THE SENATE. Roger L. Wollenberg photo, 03-31-11

Umm, the photos above, of Republican leaders in the House and Senate, and the list of Republicans on the House Budget Committee . . . Is this what democracy looks like in America, in 2011? (Disclaimer: Many of my friends and relatives are white men. Come to think of it, I am a white man. Hey, I even own two winter suits AND two summer suits, so I am prepared to attend weddings, funerals, and job interviews in all seasons.)

The name of the Republican budget is “Path to Prosperity.” Rep. Ryan says these words, “Path to Prosperity,” with a straight face, without a hint of irony.

Here’s an early analysis of the Republican budget numbers, from the Huffington Post.

Here’s another analysis by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post.

The “Path to Prosperity” runs right over Medicare and Medicaid. At this moment, it appears to me that the Path to Prosperity would effectively destroy Medicare and Medicaid. Maybe that is a  good thing. Sometimes, I think, the only way to reform a program or a bureaucracy is to destroy it and start over. But I don’t think that’s what Republicans have in mind. I think Republicans intend to privatize health care for the elderly and the poor. In the name of paying off the debt. (For an earlier post on Republican strategy regarding Social Security, see “Divide and Conquer.”)

Also on the Republican chopping block: education, from Head Start to Pell Grants.

I think Republicans are focused entirely on two things: paying off the public debt, and reducing taxes. Two contradictory goals, but possibly both can be accomplished at the same time, by grinding the middle class and the poor — and the elderly — into the dirt. (Go ahead, accuse me of class warfare. Doesn’t this look like a scorched-earth policy to benefit wealthy America and corporate America?)

Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget will “create jobs.”

SHOW ME THE JOBS. How exactly do you create jobs by slashing spending to the bone, on everything except the Department of Defense?

How do you create jobs when Toyota is shutting down 13 factories in the U.S., and food and gasoline inflation is vacuuming up every spare dollar of discretionary spending? AND the U.S. is fighting three wars in the Middle East.

Oh, yeah. And to show their power, or something, Republicans intend to shut down the U.S. government at the end of the week. Will that create jobs?

— John Hayden

What Prevents Surgeons And Hospitals From Providing Free Surgery To Save A Life?

Sunset at Organ Pipes

Image by Bill Gracey via Flickr

News organizations are reporting this evening that at least two patients have died in Arizona because the state has decided it can no longer afford to pay for organ transplants for low-income patients.

The organ transplants can cost from $200,000 to more than $1 million, according to NPR.  A list of 98 patients are potentially impacted in Arizona. NPR provided this explanation of the Arizona budget decision in November:

“In Arizona, 98 low-income patients approved for organ transplants have been told they are no longer getting them because of state budget cuts.

The patients receive medical coverage through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s version of Medicaid.” — National Public Radio

WTF?  How can a state justify refusing organ transplants to low-income patients, particularly in cases where the refusal amounts to a death sentence without a trial?

But there’s another question that’s even more compelling:

Why have no surgeons or hospitals offered to do the life-saving surgery for free?

What prevents a doctor or hospital from providing free life-saving treatment? DO THE SURGERY FOR FREE! Would that be un-American?

Am I missing something here? Would a surgeon or hospital spokesperson care to comment? Is there not a single, altruistic transplant surgeon in America? Is there not a single hospital affiliated with a religion that would be willing to provide free surgery as an act of charity, for God’s sake?

What? Would it set a bad precedent, or something?

— John Hayden