Archive for the ‘Barak Obama’ Category

It’s Not Obamacare…it’s the Entire Health Care Industry.

November 11, 2016

This may seem amusing to those who have health insurance that somebody else pays for…but it’s not so funny.

This started in April 2016.

I was having  pain in my hip that I thought might be arthritis (it turned out to be sciatica), and also …a rash—like heat rash, that I could not get rid of.  I also had ‘trigger finger.’

I made an appointment with a doctor in my health plan…but not only did it turn out that she was no longer at the clinic, they called me two days before to cancel the appointment because my insurance would not cover it.  Never mind that I planned to pay for it out of my Health Savings Account.

So, I called the insurance company, and thy told me I was entitled to a Women’s Wellness Exam. This would cover  a PAP smear, a full body skin cancer check, and a scheduling  for a mammogram. The insurance would pay. So, I made another appointment with a  clinic picked  gynecologist.

She was an hour late, so she didn’t do the skin cancer check (so would not look at the rash), and could not address the pain in my hip, but she did take a PAP smear & scheduled me for the mammogram. I specifically asked her if I needed any paperwork.  She told me, “No, just go to Mount Sinai Hospital. You are in the system.”

This turned out to not  be true. I was in the system, but they still wanted paperwork, Thankfully, I had the clinic card in my wallet , and called them to FAX the paperwork.

Now, although I was in the system scheduled for the mammogram, I then had to go to Mount Sinai intake and have my contact info entered  again. Even though the  clerk had all my info in front of her, she managed to spell both my first & last names WRONG:  Robin Micheals—but I did not  see this until I was actually in the x-ray room.

It took over a month to get the mammogram, so I had to schedule a different visit at a different clinic with a general practitioner to look at my rash &  address the pain in my hip….and my finger.  I don’t doubt the doctor is a decent doctor, but the pills he prescribed  for the sciatica did not help at all, and the ointment he prescribed (yes—at $26 a tube) me  did not work, either.  He did tell me that if the problems did not go away in 2 weeks, to call him.  He referred me to another doctor  for the ‘trigger finger’, who gave me a shot, and told me it would only last 3—6 months.

Well, due to his being on vacation and  my taking a different job, a month went by.  I decided to see a chiropractor who was highly recommended by  neighbors who had had sciatica treated.  She really is good….but her treatments didn’t hold.

I did called the general practitioner about the rash, but could not talk to him directly. The clinic insisted I make an appointment to see him to get a referral to a dermatologist.  I haven’t been billed yet, but I went in, and he told me to wait and left the room.  About 1/2 hour later, he came back & told me that the clinic had to find a doctor who would accept my insurance plan.  I laughed.  I said, “This is ridiculous.  I have a $6000 deductible, I’ll pay for it out of  my Health Savings Account.”  He rolled his eyes and wrote down the name of a dermatologist.  A few days later, I got a letter with the name of a dermatologist in my plan.  I called, and could not get an appointment for 8 weeks!  Not until after….Thanksgiving!

I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “I had that—just get some Desitin.” Which I did. It took about two weeks to work.  I will cancel the dermatology appointment.

Meanwhile…I got a letter from Mount Sinai.  My mammogram was inconclusive. They tell me to call my doctor and have her reschedule another mammogram.  You see, I can’t do this myself, for some reason. So, I call that clinic…& they want me to schedule an appointment (and pay for it—or charge health insurance) just for her to make another appointment!

But wait—there’s more!  So the chiropractor suggests I  get an MRI to find out why the adjustments she’s making are not holding.  She tells me  that the cash rate will be $350—400.  That is no problem…but when I call  and ask if I can submit it  to insurance—they may pay (and—how can you reach your deductible if you don’t submit)…ah, no.  Because…they may charge the insurance company $1500, and if THEY DON’T PAY, I have to. That is the difference.

Now, why would an insurance company be charged  double or triple?  Well, that’s how it works.  When you add a step, you add ‘overhead’—and people on a payroll pushing papers, and filing, and a guy at the top who makes $28,000,000 a year.  This is how we create jobs.  They all have a vested interest, which is why they continue to pay our politicians to not have single payer, and allow this  waste.

As I write this, Trump has won the presidency.  He may replace the Affordable Care Act, but the health insurance industry has too much invested in Congress to  allow any changes. We are not going to get anything like single payer  for at least  four years.

I was telling a colleague about this, and she said, “It doesn’t seem like this should be legal.”  Well, anything that is not specifically illegal is legal.  It’s what makes America great.

Book Review: A Singular Woman, by Janny Scott (the biography or Barack Obama’s mother)

September 20, 2013

I think everyone wants to make the world a better place.   I didn’t go to college until I was in my early 30’s.   I count as my major accomplishment the founding, with others, of one of the first community based recycling centers in the USA. In fact, it was after my first trip to Africa that I decided to  attend college.  I  knew then what I wanted to study.  I  didn’t  go to college right out of high school, because I had learned to groom dogs, and I was happy enough doing that, and my high school grades were only fair.  I also  was tired of ‘academia’.  I  was curious, I enjoyed learning, but  it was time to concentrate on making a living, and my next goal for myself was getting a show dog, and breeding her.  That really didn’t work out, but  I lived and lived.  My  boyfriend (later fiance  and husband ) was in school.  Getting divorced was the catalyst for me to  explore more of the world and be a ,little adventurous.  Then, after I had returned from a safari to Tanzania, my  world opened up…and being an American, I wanted to ‘help’. So it started like that.  I knew that , in order to help, I had to study  anthropology to understand how people made  decisions about their lives.  I was lucky that   my  university had a program of international/intercultural studies, and I learned a lot about development issues.  I became a Peace Corps Volunteer to have an impact, to  give back, to make a difference. Also, because there  were no jobs.
Stanley Ann Dunham started a different way, but  being very open to the people she met, and really caring about them, one thing led to another and she led an extraordinary life, nicely documented by Scott.

I think  many people now know that Obama’s parents met as students in Hawaii.  What they may not know is that  his father did not tell his mother that he already had a family in Kenya until after they were married, and he  pretty much abandoned her & young Barack when he got accepted into Harvard.  He might have been charming, but he really was a typical African man.  Stanley Ann, with the help of her parents (particularly HER mother) managed to  return to school, and later met her  2nd husband and  went to live in Indonesia with him.  She picked up the language readily, and (although this is not really addressed in the book) used her academic background in anthropology to learn about the craft industries of Indonesia.  One thing led to another and she  started looking at  how the crafts people  made their livings, and the barriers to economic success, which led to her  interest in mirco finance, and  assisting  poor women.

Scott really explains  well  how  Ann Soetoro negotiated a role for herself and a life in Indonesia.  She  divorced  Soetoro due to  a difference in  values, but wanted her daughter to  know her father.  She sent Barack to live with her parents and gain  an American education, because she felt his chances of future success would  be furthered  by this, and that the Indonesian schools at the time could not provide what he needed.  She  became what we call an expatriate, and  maintained the life  for many years.
She  delayed completing her Ph.D. in favor of taking on  challenging  assignments that  would ultimately improve the lives of the poor and make a difference.  She worked for USAID and the Ford Foundation.  There is no doubt that  because of her work, many  people were able to create better lives for their children.  She was only 52 when she died, apparently of  uterine cancer.  So very sad, but she lived her life on her own terms.

Many of my friends are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and many went on, after their  Peace Corps service, to  become internationalists and development workers. We see the  ‘less developed world’ as our  ‘constituency,  and people we must advocate  for.

I’d suggest this book to anyone who  is interested in  anthropology, development issues,  women’s issues, President Obama, travel, or Peace Corps.

Say NO to bombing Syria

September 6, 2013

This is going to be quick.  I’ve had a really busy week.  My co-worker broker her wrist & can’t groom dogs….so I am   doing more than double what I usually do…& got a new tenant (and arranged to have trees trimmed so they don’t fall on the house,  donated a bunch of  linens & blankets to a ‘free store’ for the very poor,  arranging to help a local animal shelter…. etc, etc…& am lax on training my own dog…)..

I am shocked that John Kerry, a Viet Nam vet,  thinks bombing Syria is  a logical response to  Assad gassing his people.  I am shocked that President Obama  also thinks this is  logical—-when the rest of the world clearly thinks it’s NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS—OR— KNOWS RUSSIA & CHINA WILL RESPOND THEIR OWN WAY.  They  haven’t thought this through.

Possibly, bombing the airports and  seaports might affect something, but  strategic bombing strikes on civilians…what?  What is the expected outcome if we aren’t moving towards regime change?    &  how do ‘we’ (meaning the USA) know the rebels will treat the citizenry of
Syria any better than Assad?    How do we know that after our air strikes,  Assad won’t resume gas attacks?  Iraq has said they will attack Israel if we attack Syria.  Then what?

& while we’re at it—yes, the gas attacks are  horrible…but why is it ok for North Korea to starve it’s citizenry to death? Why do we still have the embargo against Cuba, which provides  medical care for all  its citizens, but get along fine with  England, another socialist country?

I am really   overjoyed that people are  contacting their  congress people in record numbers to ask questions…and we can  now see that Obama is not as progressive as his base  hoped him to be.

Bernie Sanders  of Vermont  has a current  running response on  http://www.youtube.com that I hope you will check out.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9xEuFcx0cY   I hope I can rant  on something else next week.

Fixing the Deficit …& Sequesture

May 2, 2013

In the  Sunday Chicago Tribune    on page 28 of the first section, there  was a ‘story’ with the headline, “Feds Shell out $890,.000 in Fees for Empty Accounts at Banks.”  Seems that when the  government issues grants to researchers, they don’t just issue a  a check:  they set up an account, so the government agency giving the grant can monitor how the money is withdrawn and spent…and then they apparently forget about the accounts after the grant period is over…and the banks charge exorbitant fees  to keep the account active.  You would think this would be illegal—but it isn’t.  Our tax dollars at work.

I know, it has to do with computers.  I had a Charles Shwab account that I closed at about the time they issues a  $.07 interest payment.  They have spent more money  sending me statements, but they  have too many people involved  in doing this, so they can’t just delete the account.  At least I recycle the paper.

Now, if you are like me, you probably wonder  what the government is doing issuing grants to citizens. That’s right. Sure,  virtually all are working for nonprofit institutions that have endowments.  The short answer is they are very good lobbyists, and nobody is paying attention to line items in the budgets.  This is why we can’t close the deficit.

The Head Start program was acknowledged to be very effective in getting low income kids ready for school. That got cut, but a bunch of  congressmen  had to wait a few hours for flights, and they managed to put money back into the budget for air traffic controllers—which should have never gotten cut in the first place.  Meanwhile, how effective are all those screeners  at the airports?  The military said it could do without some hardware, but specific congressmen  whined about  jobs being cut in their districts, so they got money back.   for stuff nobody needs! Obama cut  White House  tours for  tourists …and here’s the money— close to $1,000,000…keeping empty accounts open!

In fairness…this has been going on for decades, and you’d think, with all the  people they have on their payrolls,  Just 1 congress man would have a staffer fine combing the budget & saying, “Get rid of this. ”  (my favorite 2 would be the CIA and USAID). The CIA did a great job stopping the Boston bombers after Russia told them to keep an eye on them.

Our congressmen are  not celebrities, they ar elected officials. We pay their salaries. They get excellent benefits (as do their  staffers), including health insurance you can only dream about.

You might want to  copy this blog and email  it to your congressman & senators.  You can easily find out who they are.  Just google “state senators (your state) and  for your  local representative, you can call your local library  or village hall.  Then bookmark their websites.  Granted… at this point, yu can only vote against them…but i am looking forward to the day when we can post  yelp! reviews of their voting records!

Who Pays? What Does Being ‘Middle Class” Mean?

August 2, 2012

What does it mean to be ‘Middle Class’?  Does it mean you are not rich…but not poor? That you can pay your bills and don’t have more debts than assets?    That you can save money for retirement & can afford 1 vacation a year?

What does it mean when  journalists and reporters talk about the middle class…here and in other countries?

When I was in graduate school, over 20 years ago, I was shocked to learn that being considered middle class was actually based on your level of education.  Not your  income!  It had nothing to do with how much money you had.  Your level of education actually gives you some social/economic mobility.  That’s the important thing.

I had thought it meant  living in a house with electricity, running water, and  a phone. Also, having good health or access to healthy care.  Apparently, it doesn’t.  Nor does it have anything to do with the amount of debt you carry—-witness the many college students graduating  and carrying well over $50,000 in debt!

When I was in India, I was invited to the home (well, actually, the apartment, on the fifth floor of a walk-up) of a middle class couple. The husband and wife both had masters degrees, but no car, no refrigerator. That means they had to shop for groceries every day.  They DID have a TV…but heck:  I was  working in a squatter community where people didn’t have running water, but many households had TVs. You see, the men folk like to watch the cricket & ‘football’ matches…so owning a TV is more important than owning a refrigerator. I could only think , They both have masters degrees, and this is the best they can do?  500 square feet on the fifth floor, no air conditioning, no refrigerator?

I learned, as an undergraduate, some of the indicators that a nation was developing towards a middle class tax base.  They had to have a literate populace (in the 1970’s, Tanzania had a literacy rate of over  90%).  Most households had to have access to communications infrastructure.  They had to have access to at least primary health care.

The theory is…that if people have their basic needs met, they have the  social and economic mobility to create wealth, and a tax base that supports infrastructure that in turn—supports more  economic development. What a great theory.  Matter of fact, it is what all governments are based on!

Unfortunately, for us 99%, none of the economic theorists ever addressed what would happen if the overseers of our government infrastructure—our politicians—spent more than we took in:  on wars, toys, vacations, perks, PENSION PLANS for themselves that are better than Social Security.  & if we 99% had to pay more of a per centage of our incomes in taxes to support  such frivolity than we could save or spend on our own pursuits we would no longer be…middle class. Oh, wait, …it works ok in  the Scandinavian countries. Oh, right—they aren’t supporting wars, and corruption….

So…what do we do?  If we were smart, we would tax the rich.  In fact, the rich would either tax themselves, or get rid of the rascal politicians & get a new set of rascals—because the funny thing is….if  there is no middle class to buy what the rich sell…..there aren’t any rich, either. There is a limit to (economic) growth.

We are now, in the USA, at a terrible crisis. We’ve destroyed the  natural environment, &  are heading towards a population crash.  Too many dimwits have too many children, because they are clueless & this is the way they have always lived. The kids  aren’t learning anything useful in many urban schools, so they become criminals to survive.  Due to our    communications infrastructure, the predators among them can easily corrupt  and destroy naive middle class youth—& they do—with METH.

We really have to get organized to address this.

Labradoodle, Golden Doodle…or Portuguese Water Dog?

May 24, 2012

I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime, but people will pay more for a mixed breed dog than a purebred—because they believe the rumors—the hype.   I guess the hype is that they don’t shed, & are mellower than standard Poodles.

It’s true—the Poodles tend to be very active.  Some would say hyper, They are hunting dogs with a lot of energy.  But they are good with kids.  People who breed any purebred dog for the betterment of their breed are  concerned  not just with conformation, but genetic soundness:  that is,  solid hips, eyes that won’t go blind by the age of 3, other issues.

The person breeding dogs as livestock—to make money, doesn’t care about anything but money…& he will lie lie lie about everything—including the dogs he breeds being non-shed dogs—even not ever requiring professional grooming.

In the past 20 or so years that the Doodles have been around, I’ve seen coat textures of several types—including like a wire-haired pointing griffon, a wire-haired Labrador retriever, and something akin to an Old English Sheepdog.  Sometimes the hair is sort of like poodle hair, with a  kink to the coat, but it is usually very sparse….& ask any groomer:  about 70% of them shed, and you won’t know what your really got until the dog is  physically mature—about age 2.

So we have these ‘professional’ breeders claiming they know genetics, & their dogs are F1/F2 crosses, meaning they breed true, but unless you are a lawyer willing to sue (have any idea what it costs to file a civil case in court?), their guarantees are bogus.  In fact, what keeps the breeders of purebred dogs—again—breeding for the betterment of their breeds— on the up & up is that they would be censured by their fellow club members.

&, in fact, that is  exactly  what the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America does:  you adhere to their code of ethics, or your club members don’t breed to your dogs—& since the gene pool in Porties is very small (the original  were 28 dogs saved from the streets of Portugal), it pays to work together. They have—in the face of the president’s family getting a Porty as a pet—kept the breed from getting into the hands of puppy mill/commercial breeders.

I was thinking about this the other day because the facility where I work got another Doodle in for day-care.  Cute dog—nice coat, but I can tell already that the coat will change, & in a year, this dog will not look like the dog this family bought. Maybe they don’t care, but most are somewhat disappointed.  But, I know, even if you explain all this to people, they don’t understand.

The AKC  could  right this, but they  have lost all direction in the guise of keeping themselves afloat. They stopped publishing the Gazette which was so valuable, and continue to publish  Family Dog magazine, which  provides almost no value.

& although I thought I would not see the day in my lifetime, I’ll bet anything that some of the Doodle breeders will get together &  apply for AKC recognition. I mean if the breeders of Black Russian Terriers could do it (which is—what, a wide Giant Schnauzer), why not?

But I’ve written this to explain to people who pay so much for a designer dog that you  are over paying. You  are not paying for the years ethical hobby breeders put in to perfect their bloodline, but  for hype….and  hear it from the man responsible: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/nov/13/inventors-idea-regret

Shopping for Health Insurance in America

March 29, 2012

My senator, Mark Kirk, had a stroke about 2 months ago.  He is still in the hospital. Not in a nursing home, or a convalescent center—but the hospital. He has excellent health insurance.    Why wouldn’t he?  He is an elite in America .  I want what he has.

He is one of those people who has health insurance— passing judgement on how the rest of us should  have health insurance. So are all the journalists who write for newspapers & magazines.  Seems the one thing they haven’t thought about  (in the age of  Obamacare—as the insurance portability act is being called), is…if we have to BUY  health insurance (and we can’t all be part of Medicare), who regulates what the insurance companies charge?

Here’s what happened to me when I  got my homeowner’s insurance renewal:  it went up 25%. The company, Farmer’s, claims the replacement cost of my house went up.  Maybe—but what more likely  happened is that so many homes are in foreclosure, that fewer home owners are buying insurance (see—to get a mortgage—you must have replacement insurance—usually called fire & casualty).  The  mortgage holders—the banks, don’t have to insure the  buildings they’ve foreclosed on—-so  the rest of us have to make up the profits the  companies are losing.

Same with health insurance.  You want to know why America s think liabilities are ‘toxic assets’ Assurant Health raises my health insurance premiums every 2 years by about 30%—then, tells me they are giving me a discount of 10% for  answering some questions. No joke!  I even have a letter from them.  They have to keep their profits, of course.  In this reality, shareholders are much much more important than people needing  insurance.

So,  stupid me, I shopped for health insurance on http://www.ehealthinsurance.com where  they tease you by having you answer a bunch of questions, tell you  that you qualify for a plan that costs $150 per month, & then…. you click &  suddenly it’s more complicated.  I answered all the questions, but  they wanted  confidential health records.

Ok, I call my physician, whose practice got taken over by a huge company:  Northshore University Health Systems, and the people in the office tell me I have to  fill out a waiver.  I have to  let my confidential records be tossed around.   I ask them to fax it to me at work (I don’t have a fax @ home—so they fax me where I work), I fill it out, fax it back (Feb.16)…& a few days later, someone from http://www.ehealthinsurance.com     calls me to tell me they haven’t gotten my records yet. I tell them I just made the request to my  doctor’s office, & the representative tells me it might take a few days.  Not to worry.

Then, on March 8, I got an email, telling me they (http://www.ehealthinsurance.com) haven’t gotten my health records yet(but it’s not really http://www.ehealthinsurance.com but Untied Healthcare, so, I  AGAIN called my  doctor’s practice, and  I am told they will go out in the next day or so.  But them, March 19, I got another  email from http://www.ehealthinsurance.com  (still ,    United Healthcare )  telling me they are closing my application.  HOWEVER, I call them, & they tell me I actually have to call their underwriter. It’s not like they won’t sell me insurance.

The next day, March 20,  I was a judge of election (primary—14 hours of nothing, but can’t yammer on the phone),  I could not call, but when I got home, I  had a letter from the http://www.ehealthinusrnace.com UNDERWRITER telling me they could not provide me with insurance.  I call Golden Rule– the underwriter—-&  it turns out they have a company that actually receives this CONFIDENTAIL information:  RSA medical.  So I had to call RSA.

But not only that—-it turns out my  doctor’s practice doesn’t send out the information, either:  they give my (YOUR)  confidential medical records to a company called  HEALTHPORT.

So, RSA tells me that they’ve been calling & calling Healthport, and have not been getting any response. So I call my doctor’s practice manager. She tells me she will look into this.  She calls me back. The reason Healthport is not responding to RSA is that they are waiting to get paid!  Huh?  So—if you want to get paid, how about responding & telling RSA you want to get paid!

& this—apparently—is—beside the profits the insurance companies must make for their stock holders—part of the reason health insurance is expensive:  so many people involved—ALL WITH HEALTH INSURANCE—-who  can’t  manage to communicate with each other…& deciding whether YOU get health insurance.

Damn straight—I don’t think this part of  Obamacare makes any sense. We wanted single payer, & we got this.  There is no logical reason I (or YOU) shouldn’t have the same  great medical insurance that Sen. Mark Kirk has…except the wars, & giving food aid to North Korea (so they can disrespect us & launch rockets instead of feeding their people).

If we must buy insurance—we must pay what the sellers want us to pay.  I’d go without, but I own a home, & have a few assets. My net worth is about $500,00. Any catastrophe, &  I am living in a tent.  They have us by the short hairs…as they say.

What’s interesting to me is that all the billionaires who claim to be progressive have not come up with a NON-PROFIT (Blue Cross? Don’t make me laugh) health insurance company based overseas—like everything else, which wouldn’t cost more than 1/2 a day’s pay.

To my Friends in the Southern Hemisphere….

March 25, 2012

Life had gotten so unusual here in Chicago (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Part of what  motivates me to  address this is that I have been reading a lot of history lately.  I read an autobiography of William O. Douglass, the Supreme Court Justice, who was a hero of mine when I was a teenager in the late 1960’s…. & Sarah Vowell’s  Assassination Vacation, about the assassinations or our presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley—and the dynamics surrounding those killings.

We have (sort of) an odd dynamics going on now:  extremely, unseasonably warm weather, and a primary election which decides our canditates for the Fall elections.

1st, let me address the weather.  We didn’t have much of a winter.  We will usually have at least a week of below freezing temperatures—our cold weather usually lasts from November through March—in Winter.  Usually it’s several weeks at a time, or at least only a few days of above freezing, and then back to freezing (so the ground stays frozen) but this didn’t happen last Winter season. We had very few freezing days.  Almost no snow, so no Spring floods.  Lots of tornado activity (very sudden, dangerous storms)  We would be overjoyed (many people are), except—this is not right.  We didn’t have a proper dormant period for  perennial plants;   no ‘hibernation’ for those animals that generally do.  We have—essentially—a drought. Then BOOM!!! Summer weather…for the past 2 weeks. No gradual warming—& this has affected all the plants, & I am sure  bird migration patterns as well.

Several years ago, we lost a lot of wild birds to West Nile Virus. You’d find dead birds all over.  This might do them all in. No birds means a lot of flying bugs, & bugs on food crops.

Usually, the weather temperature is in the 50s—60s (Farenheit). We went immediately to 70—80s.  No rain for 3 weeks. Is there any doubt there is GLOBAL WARMING?  Yet, we call it Climate Change’ now.  & we still have a huge  segment of adults who believe God causes weather —it has nothing to do with science (& they are voting for Rick Santorum to be the Republican presidentail candidate).

We do a terrible  job making science education important in the USA. Just goes to  show you you can be rich & mighty without being smart. We are the new Russians—-without science literacy.

I wrote my master’s thesis on this in 1992—-& at that time, we had known since the 1950s that  due to political dynamics (politicians claimed the teachers unions prevented  science teachers from being paid more than  liberal arts teachers) we  import our scientists from other countries.  No joke!

So nobody believes that the inefficient use of fossil fuels, which we still depend on—-is causing CLIMATE CHANGE

The general  consensus is that if the Chinese can waste fossil fuel, why should we be more conservative or look for alternatives?  About 15 years ago, we had a horribly hot (90s—100s) summer with a drought, and many old and infirm people died. Thinning the herd.

So, what does this have to do with our election?

Fact of the matter is…some things have changed for the better under Obama’s leadership, but, due to a Republican legislature, so subtly you would not notice unless you were hoping.

The extremely rich have gotten richer, and have not been regulated or prevented from gaming the system or using their influence—& were, in fact, bailed out as  too important to lose.  Didn’t matter whether you were a Republican or Democrat. Rich is Rich–& that is why  nothing changed.  Obamacare (health care reform) changed NOTHING. ZIP—ZERO. Yet the Republicans running for president vow to get rid of it. Go right ahead.  My health insurance premium went up over 10% ( with no inflation otherwise). That should not have happened.

Meanwhile—& I have blogged about this before—so much of our economy was invested in real estate, where the vast middle class had our wealth—and the decline in value is up to 60% in many areas, with foreclosures  25—40% of all  residential homes….property tax revenues are down.  Big time. Foreclosures are no longer on the tax rolls. But the politicians still pay themselves as though the revenue is still coming in—& have funded the pensions of government workers  as though this money is still rolling in.

Michael Lewis, the writer who wrote The Big Short, and Moneyball, wrote about this several months ago in Vanity Fair magazine–how communities are laying off service workers—police, firemen, other maintenance—but the politicians are still on the tax rolls.  Now, they get their income from property taxes…but the Feds—they get  $$$ from income taxes (& fines, or permits…but taxes)—& they  don’t remember the Reagan years, where Trickle down did not work. The rich who did not pay taxes did not employ more people or make more investments in the USA—they expatriated their $$$ & bought baubles & art.

There are many frustrated people who don’t understand why  the economy remains messed up. Bush  put our whole surplus into the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, we are still  in Afghanistan—which never made any sense & still doesn’t.  You have the asshole Taliban—who seem to have a lot of integrity, & the corrupt Karzai people with none, & none of them are going to treat woman any better, so there are no good guys and we are not protecting ourselves from anything expect economic vitality.  How else can you understand that we burned Korans when it was socilly unacceptable, or that our soldiers go berserk & kill civilians—after over 10 years of this?  You can’t…& it doesn’t matter whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power.  Who benefits? Those  who make weapons.

So, we had a primary election.  We know who the Democratic nominee is:  Obama. Let me tell you about the  Republicans running for president:

All claim to be socially conservative…& are to varying degrees.

1. They wall want to ban abortion & are not opposed to making birth control impossible to get—even for married people…at the same time talking about getting government out of our lives…no joke;

2. They all want all environmental laws scrapped.

3. Businesses should not have to pay taxes at all.

4. Neither should citizens…but where the  money to run the government & pay their own salaries will come from—they seem to have no clue….or think their will be enough if there is no social  security (old age pension—which working people pay into).

5. They haven’t mentioned drugs, but all think that everyone should be jailed for using—except alcohol (& except Ron Paul—who leaves all decisions up to the states…he also believes in a smaller military, as a Libertarian…& doesn’t stand a chance;

6. Homosexuals should have no rights at all.

Foreign policy?  Believe me , they could not find your countries on a map even if they were pointed out.  Romney was a missionary in France, so he knows where that is, but Santorum was shocked to learn that Puerto Ricans (our territory) speak  Spanish.  He thinks they want to be a state, & he would make them all speak English. Fact is, they don’t want to be a state—they want to be their own country.

Climate change? They believe it is God punishing us for our godless ways…and has nothing to do with science.

Many of us know we will have to expatriate ourselves…why?

Property taxes to support local government functions are down because so many  properties are foreclosed & off the tax roles.    That means the banks took them back—& they don’t have to pay taxes on them. What a system .No money to even support the pensions of government workers, let alone ourselves, but the politicians haven’t voted themselves a pay cut.

We are beginning to look like  both Egypt and Greece, but won’t admit it.

Had I not been so overly optimistic about the economy 12 years ago—during the Clinton era—my mortgage would have been paid off, but I was encouraged to take a calculated risk.  Whatever. That was then, this is now. There is no longer a middle class in America. It is an illusion you see in the movies or on TV.

Is Greece a Failed State? Transparency International! Hello!

November 10, 2011

A few years ago, I  visited Egypt.  Amazing  country.  Thousands of miles of absolutely nothing, punctuated by  areas of intense beuaty, and a  long  area along the Nile of human history.  Incredible.

One thing I noticed, as we drove along, was the  many unfinished buildings. In fact, one of the hotels we stayed in (in Luxor) had a totally unfinished floor.

I asked the guide about this, and he told me that you don’t have to pay property taxes until the building is finished. You can occupy the building, but you don’t have tyo pay taxes.

Ah, yes.  This is how it is in much of the developing world.  That’s the law.  & so their infrastructure crumbles.  You wonder, “How do they exist?’  Foreign Aid.   The Europeans, the  Americans. even the Chinese.  It’s a way to build relationships.a  But it’s also a way to keep the corrupt in power, and the irony is that this foreign  aid is supposed to benefit  the citizenry.  The stand off is, it benefits the politicians, & the  citizenry don’t have to be mature and pay  for what they need.

Granted, a lot of the citizenry won’t be home owners, they will be renters, and they could not afford an abrupt change —because  their landlords will pass on the increase to the renters.  Many will either  take in  ‘roommates’ & over populate the property, or become homeless.

I saw this in Malawi, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer.    I saw it in India, where the homeless/landless canp out  in front of the gates of the wealthy.  We are seeing it in Greece.

I have a friend whose father is Greek, and she has spent  a lot of time in Greece.  She rolls her eyes when you ask about  why you can’t get someone evicted for nonpayement of rent (possession is 9/10ths of the law…& squatters pay off  the people  who would evict them).

Many Greeks go to other countries, make a lot of money, & return to Greece to retire, as the pensions are so favorable….for Greek nationals.

The fact is, the only difference between the Greeks & the Africans is, the Greeks are  mostly cuacasian.

So,  even though the rest of Europe, the EEU, knew that was how the Greeks operated,they welcomed them into their economic community. It made no sense, unless you  would be funding them with other peoples money & making a commission.

I remember when  Transparency International sent  representatives to the African Studies Association conference. The officials, formerly of the ‘World Bank‘   told us how they were going to work with  developing governments to  bring good governance and respect for ‘rule of law’, so they could borrow more money after they had squandered ( and because they were tricked, in many cases—-I refer you to Naomi Klein’s  excellent book,Shock Doctrine:  the Rise of Disaster Capitalism) what they had already gotten.

I recently read a review Adam Gopnick, the New Yorker writer, wrote on The Wealth of Nations.  He highlighted  the notion that it benefitted buyers and sellers to act with integrity.  it was part of the deal…yet the people in charge of doling out money for investment seem to be…unclear on the concept.

Before I went to Egypt, I traveled in Malaysia.  Malaysia is an amazing country.  Very high rate of literacy,   excellent health care system (hey. compared to the USA…) modern infrastructure.  It seems that these people have a different view of transparency and capitalism than the Europeans & Americans.  This country is what America would be like if we hadn’t invested in wars instead of ourselves.

In the next few weeks, a super committee will present to the Congress of the United States  a way to close our bazillion dollar deficit. They are going to raise the eligibility age for  social securlty and medicare, and most likely eliminate the tax deduction for home mortgage ingerest and  real estate taxes.  They will NOT—you wait & see—lower their own salaries or pensions, nor will they  eliminate foreign aid or cut military spending.  We will still have a department of education that  realy  doesn’t do too much to improve the quality of lives in America.  In fact, we will still have all the government departments that repackage our tax dollars & send it out.   Very high income people—the 1%—will not be asked to pay more for anything.

& we will still have people like Cain, Bachman, & Perry having a degree of  credibility becaus they are not Obama, and because most Americans are  exhuaseted, frightened, and innumerate.  I don’t know hwat the solution is.  You can’t  undo  what all those who didn’t have integrity  did to create this mess.

 

Book Review: Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein

September 21, 2011

I didn’t go to college right out of high school, I sort of relied on my boyfriend (ex-husband after a while) to  point me in the right direction  regarding  my political  thought development.  He was a philosophy major and economics minor in college.  What did I know of communism, socialism, Keynesianism or anarchism.  In fact, we were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), and  our group’s philosophy was  anarcho-syndicalism.  That means we believed in  government owned by the workers—the people who made  things work, the producers.  You’d never know it if you got all your information from  privately owned media:  Google ‘worker collectives’, or even ‘Employee Stock Ownership Plans’ and you may find some successful examples.  In any case, the cold war was sputtering out, and would  continue to for another 20 years or so..more of a trading of insults than a war. In Chile, Pinochet had Salvador Allende killed, and the  fact that he was assisted by our CIA was no secret.  Our government was telling us citizens that Chile was not a democracy, because the wrong guy won.

While you are at it, Google “Marshall Plan” and you will find out that is NOT what the USA has been implementing since  we’ve decided to meddle in the economies of so many countries.

But what did it matter?  It was the 1970’s.  We had declared victory in Viet Nam and left. We could still make our rent &  other expenses on a week’s wages (as long as 3 of us split the rent) &  I didn’t think about health insurance, or saving for a rainy day.  I was too immature, too unsophisticated, to understand the economic system.  Fact is, due to the  entire  group of educational systems in the USA is a make work project for teachers, few of us know how economics works.  You can  ‘graduate’ from primary school and not know compound interest, how to start a business or do bookkeeping,  basic, vital economic concepts.  I found them teaching this stuff in Kenya in 1987.  I know I learned it in the late 1960s. What happened?  Why aren’t parents demanding that their kids be able to function?  Because they’ve been sold a bill-of-goods that their kids are educated if they major in liberal arts.  So much for that…when even a toxicologists can’t find a job, we know we are in trouble…We don’t even know what questions to ask about how our government spends out money.

Klein starts her history of how we allowed  Dubya (President Bush the 2nd) to not  provide immediate help to the  victims of Hurricane Katrina.  She describes how   we (American citizens…after all, having a democracy, WE are responsible for the mayhem)  support so many domestic companies and foreign leaders who really  don’t believe in democracy as we generally think of it.

She describes the orchestrated  overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973…the CIA assisting Pinochet with guns and money,  and destroying Chile.  Why did the CIA do this?  Even though he was democratically  elected, he nationalized  natural resources (the copper mines) for the public good.   Because Allende was a socialist and  Pinochet was a Chicago School free marketeer…. Really.  It’s a fact.  Sen.Bernie Saunders in Vermont is a socialist.  He hasn’t been offed because he doesn’t have that much power. How many of us knew what was happening with out tax $$$?

Is that an excuse?  Are we Americans off the hook? Do we really not understand why the rest of the world hates us?  But,  why individuals in the countries that ‘hate’ us want to take the gamble & try their luck here? Then, remember when Poland chose democracy & threw out the old communist regime?  Well, Klein painstakingly documents (copiously footnoted)  how  the World Bank/IMF insisted on an immediate sell off of  every state owned entity…and they(our government employees doing this on behalf of us..) did the same in Russia, South Africa,  Thailand & much of southeast Asia,  and now Iraq.  In Russia, the Communist Party  oligarchs were allowed to buy the  entities they ran.  In Iraq, they were prevented from bidding.  She  goes into detail how Paul Bremer, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld  totally destroyed the  all of Iraq, making it appear that Saddam Hussein  did this, when WE did this to them & the citizens there know it.  In fact, she describes how they started electing governing councils, and Bremer sent in our army to stop them from doing democracy on their own.

It is 2011 as I write this. President Obama  is either unable or unwilling to embarrass the rich, the Republicans, and bring vital change. Seems he  thinks  our  economic policy as we act and implement abroad is fine.   The American congress is now  deciding how, exactly, to dismantle the  home mortgage  interest & property tax deductions, and makes sure nobody can get by on the  social safety net of Social Security.  We’ve got a bunch of free market senators and representatives who do not know  either history or economics,  thinking—no—KNOWING —they are next in line for largesse.  Their  pensions will NOT be cut, and they will join the corporate boards of all the companies who will benefit by what Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize Winner, called,  a colossal transfer of private wealth into public hands. comparable to Russia’s giveaways to the oligarchs.    His book, Freefall (published by Norton in 2010) is also worth reading. He had been an Obama supporter…

Kinda makes you sick, doesn’t it?  There have recently been news reports (and it was on National Public Radio, which I believe  reports more truth than any other media in the USA) that  about 25% of Illinois homes (my state) are in foreclosure.  1 in 4.  This means so much. It means  a lot of wealth (equity) evaporated.  That money was what people were using to reinvest in the economy.  It’s gone.   If the rich don’t  throw around more,  the economy will never come back.  Not in 10 year, not in 20.   This is it.  Those are families who got dogs groomed, had their hair & nails done.  People who shopped for clothes as a recreational hobby! No more. Orthodontia for the kids?  Please…

You really can’t complain about what is going on  if you don’t understand what is EXACTLY going on.  The book  was published in 2007 by Henry Holt.  I am sure you can get it on Amazon if your local used bookseller (please support them, first, or  all you will have is Walmart & no choice in what is available for reading, except the internet), and if you want your kids to have jobs anywhere in the world, start emailing your elected officials–particularly your senators, representatives, & President Obama and tell them no more  defense spending or foreign aid until we reinvest in ourselves.  You’ve got nothing to lose. It’s all gone…