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Archive for July, 2009

cheap-health-insurance-plansTonight I watched the presidents case for his healthcare plan. I was impressed with some things, but extremely disappointed in others. One issue I had with the speech/discussion was that the president continued to mention doctors adding treatments to patients needs. As mentioned this raises costs that are sent to insurance companies and in turn passed on in the form of increased premiums.

The question that was not asked and the underlining issue around the point of doctors “adding” care is what disappoints me. Over the past few years numerous reports have come out about hospitals and patient care. One of the issues addressed in these reports was illegal immigrant care that is crushing hospitals. In a USA TODAY article from Jan. 2008, the state of Texas placed the costs of illegal immigrant care at $1.3 billion, California $1.4 billion, Colorado $31 million, Minnesota $14 million. Just four states put illegal healthcare debt at $2.8 billion. That is an issue and one that was and continues to be utterly ignored.

The simple fact is this, an illegal immigrant, for that matter anyone, can not be denied healthcare in the United States. However, unlike the average Joe who slices his finger off and goes to the hospital damn well knowning he doesn’t have insurance, average Joe will get billed and will be forced to pay or go into debt.

The illegal immigrant that goes to the hospital does not face these fears (for the most part this in no way means every illegal immigrant, but a fair majority). In the end the illegal that goes to the hospital and gets the care for his sliced off finger will not pay. Those cost fall on the hospitals. This has and continues to have an impact on the health care system, and under the Obama plan, there is no end in sight.

Across the country hospitals are closing their doors, cutting staffs, and just losing money. Is it any surprise to anyone that hospitals facing these issues would see an insured patient as a cash cow that may circumvent some of the costs being lost on treatment of non insured and illegals? When a patient walks into the hospital and pulls out that insurance card that is a direct deposit form into the hospital coffers. So if the doctor knows what is wrong and can treat it fairly cheaply but still sends you to countless tests…should the president or anyone be surprised by these actions?

Is the system screwed? Yes it is, however the current Obama plan is not going to fix it. In my most humble opinion it will only get worse. As mentioned in a previous post and numerous research venues and polls, of the 40 million (47 million tonight) people without insurance a low ball number place illegal immigrants at 17 million of that 40 million. There is no assurance that illegal immigrants will not be included on the plan…in fact that is exactly what will happen.

It can not be denied that illegals are in this country. It can not be denied that they contribute, but they also drain. The idea that they “do the jobs Americans won’t do” is moronic. If illegals did not cut down the pay for those jobs because they will do it for less, then American’s very well might actually do those jobs…if they were paid a fair wage. I am not a racist and the accusation of such vileness because one disagrees with the the inaction of our legal system is wrong and sad. It denies people a voice. It denies people the ability to voice their concerns. It denies action to be taken.

I agree with the president that healthcare needs to be reformed, but where I disagree is that it should  not in any way be taken over by the government. Laws can be passed that regulate insurance companies and medical care. Fair laws that allow people to get the care they need without being beholden to a government system. America does not need a national healthcare plan that, like all other nation that have nationalized healthcare, has more problems than solutions. America needs to be a leader once again…not a follower. We need to regulate and balance the system, not screw it or take it over. We can set an example to other nations that have national healthcare that are seeing increased problems with those systems, such as healthcare being denied, long waiting lines, or people seeking medical care in the United States.  We can rise above the fray and instead of taking some easy, costly, government run route, we can show the world that changes can be made without breaking the backs of people.

America is a nation, and probably one of that last nations where doctors are still held in extremely high reguard. They are seen this way because this country out performs other nations when it comes to medical care. Where we have fallen behind is allowing business interest and insurance companies control and damage what we have. These are the problems that need to be fixed and can be fixed with laws passed to regulate. Passing laws that force insurance companies to provide cheaper coverage or make it illegal to deny insurance to those seeking it can do so much more than a huge beauracratic system that comes with all out government control.

While doing all this the issue of illegal immigration and the strains it places on healthcare in the United States needs to be addressed. As part of any new laws being proposed, a law that addresses companies hiring illegals without providing insurance must be dealt with. Maybe then those jobs would seem a little more desirable to American’s. Issues such as these needs serious discussion without the label of “racist” being tossed around.

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TheAmericanWayI just finished reading Gambone’s “The Greatest Generation Comes Home” and I have been reflecting on a history that is nearly 70 years old and America today. How far have we come and what changes in this nation were created by the World War II generation?

The stories are rampant with images of the returning soldier taking advantage of the GI Bill to pursue his/her education and changing the economic fabric of a nation virtually unscathed from the ravages of World War II. Unlike nearly every nation in the world, America came out of the war untouched and primed to take advantage of the needs of the world…of course with a price. It is greatness that has been discussed and examined and made famous through Tom Brokaw’s series of books and the onslaught of World War II histories that have come with every decade long anniversary.

However I am starting to question the “Greatness” of it all. Not the sacrafices made, but the subsequent sacrafices of American culture that have followed. Take college for instance. Post 1945 saw a dramatic increase of American’s attending college…nothing like this country or any other has seen or will probably ever see again. However we are dealing with the reprocussions of it every day in our institutions of higher learning. Since 1945 college has become a right os passage for many high school graduates. The idea, even if unattainable is ingrained in the minds of high school students across this nation.

This is fascinating especially if one thinks of what college was pre-1945. College then was a institution reserved for those with means and ability. It was not a set in stone aspect of a youths life as it is today. Unlike today with the variety of scholarships, grants, student loans, etc., the pre-1945 generations did not see college as something that was, but something that was for the other guy. Post-1945 changed that and continues to change that. Yet what has that done to the college atmosphere?

Stadium seating, packed classes, packed housing, packed lines, and packed debt. It is hard to say this, considering the length of my higher education, but in many respects, it was my graduate work that help me more than by undergraduate work. The sad truth is, and many will not see it this way because they have only known the system that exists today, but college’s have in all sense of the word become factories of education. This is not a bad thing perse. If you think about it a higher educated populace can only benefit society…or that is the hope. However what has become lost in the atmosphere. The undergrad college atmosphere has become in many respects no different that the high school atmosphere. Getting to class, taking notes, studying, and moving forward to the next semester and the next year. Jocks and Geeks still have their cliches, they are just paying anywhere from $10,000-$60,000 a year to have them.

I would argue to get a pre-1945 college atmosphere one needs to go beyond undergrad work and move into graduate and post graduate studies. Here and only here is where one finds more of a hands on atmosphere. Small classes of scholars involved in discussion on a level not seen or unable to achieve at the undergrad level.

The GI Bill, as argued by many historians and social scientist, was one of the biggest pieces of social welfare legislation passed. It surpassed anything that Roosevelt did in the 1930’s or Johnson did in the 1960’s. 16 million Americans were give a ticket to higher education, government backed loans, etc. Many argue tthat the New Deal programs of Roosevelt have opened the door to the over reliance on the government. Others have argued, poorly, that it was not the New Deal, but the GI Bill, that created this reliance. I say poorly because I don’t believe either actually did so to the degree as other would argue.

Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, though radical and a strong move towards socialism, were not meant to last. I remember having this conversation with my grandmother. I asked her about the New Deal and what it meant to her and her family. She was a teenager then, but according to her and many other who I have asked the New Deal for many “was not meant to last.” So many within that generation did not see the New Deal as move towards socialism. Rather many saw it as a helping hand until things got better in the nation and the programs and mentality that came with them would end after the crisis.

Today many, especially within the media and liberal parties, point to the New Deal as a bench mark for current proposed social legislation. Some even go so far as point to the GI Bill as another benchmark. Then of course following the time live of events they point to Johnson’s Great Society. For them it only makes sense that they must follow in the social welfare timeline and enact new legislation such as vast reaching health care plans and various other measures were the government controls aspects of American choice.

In an economy as shaky as America’s currently is, it is easy to make such arguements. But unlike Roosevelt’s New Deal or Johnson’s Great Soceity, the new social welfare programs have no timeline of duration. They are meant to last for generations. There is no idea or thought that they are temporary fixes to social ills and that American life will get back on track. Roosevelt did not believe that every New Deal program was everlasting, nor did Johnson. It was their hope that these programs would fix a problem and they would eventually, via the market and economic mobility, would phase the government out. However, no matter what their thought process was, it did not happen. In fact the opposite happened and continues to happen. Not only have they not been phased out, any cursory look at American politics today, suggest that they are ever expanding.

The arguement that the GI Bill has had anything to do with this is extremely weak in my humble opinion. The GI Bill was enacted for a practical purpose….transition of millions of American veterans back into civilian life. The Bonus March of 1932 and the issues that those months in Washington D.C. exposed mandated action by the a government seeing 16 million men and women in uniform expected to return. The GI Bill does not even compare to the New Deal or Great Society programs, or current legislation in Washington D.C. 16 million American’s sacraficed for victory, not to mention the half million that made the ultimate sacrafice, or the millions other who lost limbs and their bodies and minds to World War II. They served their nation and deserved their nations payment for that service. And like subsequent generations who have entered the military, that sacrafice continues. One can look at the changes made, especially to colleges, and be somewhat disilllusioned by the reslut of that sacrafice, but in the end, generations of American now see college as a possibilty that the pre-1945 generations did not see.  

Today with nationalized health care and other ideas coming out of Washington D.C., one has to ask themselves what sacrafices are being made for these social welfare programs? Many argue, and to a large extent I agree with the arguement, that the sacrafices being made are being made by the American tax payer, who in many respects will not see a return on their investment. Billions of dollars in stimulus packages that equall billions of dollars in national debt that have so far gone for naught. Billions more in programs that will go, for a large majority, to people who don’t pay taxes. According to various polls and research insitututes, of the 40 million people without health care the United States, a number repeated by health care supporters, 17 million of those are illegal immigrants. Some put that number much higher, but even if that number is in the single digit millions, a huge wieght is being placed on the American taxpayer, with 40 million making essentially no sacrafice at all.

I have always looked at the Welfare program in the United States as a waste of opportunity, because I view in through the eyes of the GI Bill. I will say now that I did pay into the GI Bill while I was in the Navy and took full advantage of it when I left the service. It did enable me to transition to civilian life and helped me go to college. So it is no wonder that I look at welfare through the prism of the GI Bill. I have always wondered why come the first of the month millions of dollars are being paid to people who are making no sacrafice at all in oder to collect those checks. Why is it that millions of American’s are being paid a government check without having to earn that money via service to their country or communities? Why isn’t the welfare check seen or being used as a pay check for community service? Why is their no requirement for those collecting welfare, food stamps, medicaid, etc. to do 20-30 hours of community service a month? Picking up trash in parks, painiting buildings, volunteering in hospitals, schools, etc. should be a requirement, no…even better, a sacrafice paid by those taking advantage of American social welfare programs. I can not help but imagine how improved nieghborhoods would be if community service was a prerequisit for welfare programs. Nor can I not help but to think of how the stigma of welfare would be seen if sarcrafice and community service was attached to the assistance.

When I teach American history and get to World War II I pose this question to my students: “Was the “Greatest Generation” really that great?” I point to the Great Depression and World War II to argue yes, then point to the racial inequality, the Zoot Suit Rights, the atmosphere of fear generated during the 1950’s, and yes, the heavy burden laid upon subsequent generations to argue maybe they weren’t all that great. As my students ponder that question via discussion I allow them to make their arguements without interuption. It truly does become a lively debate at times. Especially considering I start the lesson with the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan and read to them from Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation”, midway through I show pictures of lynched African American’s during the years 1941-1945, images of the Zoot Suit Riots, and read to them narratives from Terkel’s “The Good War” that don’t fit the narratives found in Brokaw’s work. The final answer isn’t important, because in the end, considering the circumstances, any generation has the ability to step forward in such times of crisis.

Now though, writing this I see the “Greatest Generation” in a different light. I see them making a national sacrafice. It was national from rationing, blood and scrap drives, to service, they gave away some freedom to secure their freedom. That may sound a bit sappy and even jingoistic, but considering the Nazi alternative, it’s not that far of a reach. When 16 million American’s returned home they had the largest social welfare program awaiting them. In a sense, the government was giving them a bonus for their sacrafice. I can not see today’s generation in the same light. My grandmother told me how her family used the New Deal to stay above the water. Her stories were amazing and in many respects inspiring because I remember to this day how she ended the conversation: “When the war started it seemed that all those hardships the years before no longer mattered. I went to work at Mare Island building ships, business in my Dad’s store picked up, and suddenly we had money. Old fears were replaced by the fear of war, but I don’t recall ever feeling we’d lose the war. When it was over I can tell you one thing…no member of my family ever again relied on the government. We appreciated the help, but we also paid it back…for my brother who died in a POW camp in the Philippines…some of us paid it back in full.” 

My grandmother’s words and the state of our union leaves me to wonder, can this generation of government social welfare today say the same? Will it ever be able to say the same? Spare me the “The corporations” arguement, because even with that greed, the assistance being given still does not require sacrafice. Until there is sacrafice, until these programs come with prerequisits of service to nation or community, they are and will always be seen as hand-outs to a generation of “ME” who will never give, in the form of service, to the “US.” In the end maybe that “Greatest Generation” was great.

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Michael Jackson

M.J. & E.T.This is not going to be PC to say the least. When I first heard Michael Jackson was dead, I’ll admitt, I was a bit shocked. That lasted about three seconds and then sort of mentally moved on. Jackson’s death, though sad, should really not be surprising to anyone. As much surgery the guy had and drugs that the guy was dumping into his system was going to shorten his life. That he lived to be 50 is more surprising than the fact that he died.

The 24/7 coverage of Jackson was to be expected. I personally only expected to last a couple of days and then the media would focus on other things, like in depth analysis of the Obama health care plan, the overall economy, or say the two wars America is currently involved in…or Iran and North Korea. All the latter seem more pressing issues than Michael Jackson’s death.

What has annoyed me about the past couple of weeks is the amount of praise given to this guy. I will admit that I liked Jackson…when I was SEVEN YEARS OLD!!! That’s when “Thriller” came out and I freakin liked that album. Then some how and some way Jackson and E.T. were connected, and E.T. being my favorite film at the time, it was not surprising that I liked Jackson a bit more. So yes I liked him, but my like for him quickly waned. I got more into rock  and  unlike E.T., which I still love and watch occassionally, Michael Jackson became irrelevant in my life post 1984.

Let’s just be honest about all this hoopla surrounding MJ. The guy seriously peaked in 1983 with “Thriller.” After that it was down hill. So many people have been cooning over his music, but honestly the guy stopped making music in 1991 with “Dangerous.” “HIStory” and “Invincible” aren’t even worth mentioning. It’s been 18 years since this guy was really a player in the music world. We are praising this guy on music that hasn’t been new for two decades. Sure MJ broke barriers with “Thriller” and deserves to be recognized for his contribution, but to suggest that MJ has been musically relevant for the past two decades is giving him more credit than he deserves. Sure MJ has influenced musicians over the past two decades, but so have many other groups. Hell, The Doors are still influencing music. That is what music does, the previous influences the present. Music is an evolution. Michael’s rehashed dance moves, moves that were ground breaking in 1983, in the end became fodder for anyone trying to conjur up the 1980’s…the early 1980’s! The truth is, musically, MJ was amazing, but by his own doing, irrelevant.

For the past two decades MJ has been famous for one thing and one thing only, being a weirdo. First of all about the child molestation. Do I think he did it? It’s irrelevant. He was found innocent and that is the law. However he did pay an estimated $20 million in the first case that was brought against him, so it still leaves the question open for speculation, but on the case he was tried for, he was found innocent and that is that. Getting away from child molestation…the guy was a freak. Look at his face from “Off the Wall” to what it looked like before his death. For that matter look at the color of his skin. He had three kids, none of them African-American, all by someone else’s semen. He hung his kid over a wall. He admitted to sleeping with children. Now that is not an admission of child molestation, but no 40 year old man should be snuggling up at night with other kids, even if it is innocent. Maybe MJ was trying to break social norms, but social morallity should always be in one’s mind. The guy dropped off the music scene two decades ago, and without his odd behavior, he would have dropped off the media scene about the same time.

I feel sorry for Michael Jackson in one way and only one way. He was extremely wealthy and people took advantage of that. Michael had some major issues, but he was surrounded by so many “yes “men, that there was no way for the guy to get the help that he probably really needed. Admittedly MJ grew up in an abussive household, he never had a chance to be a child, and has lived his whole life in the media light. If that isn’t someone in need of therapy, then I have no who needs it. But his wealth held back the help he really needed, and instead he had people cow down to him, appease him, and in the end, hurt him. Maybe MJ pushed away those who tried to help him and if that the case, then, in the end, no one should be surprised by his death.

Michael Jackson could have been the greatest star ever, but instead he turned himself into a circus act. Neverland Ranch could have gone down in history as the greatest humanitarian project for children in need, but instead it is tainted and the name alone conjurs up images of molestation and odd behavior. Michael could have been the great artist who released work every now and then, makes the occasional appearance, and with each of those appearance drawn praise and admiration. Instead he chose to continue to be in the lime light. He could have been the largest spokesman for African-American’s, but instead looked caucasion and had three white kids, thus removing any simblance of being African-American. Even then though, he could have come out against the treatment of African-American’s in American society, treatment that forces a man to do whatever he can to erase his African-American heritage. Work or not, he could have tried. Maybe the media createed a Barnum and Bailey act out of MJ, but he sure in the hell helped promote the show. And it is because of this that he can not simply be remembered for good music or quasi-good music post 1991, but instead a freak show for those waiting for his final act.

In the end Michael Jackson died because of his own doing and the memory he leaves is by his own creation. Either a ground breaking artist, a fond memory of those who grew-up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, an irrelevant musian post 1991, or a freak show. All of these things were of Michael Jackson’s creation.

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