16 April 2011

What's missing in the current debate? How about serious discussion

Imagine a world in which politicians represent their constituents, where people hold meaningful discussions and debates in open forums, and citizens (notice, not consumers) are involved, informed, and optimistic.  If this sounds like someplace you would like to live, you'll have to wait until you die and pray to the mighty yahweh that there is a place for you in heaven, 'cause there ain't no place like that here in the US of A, schlimazel.  If you were lucky when you were born, you're reading this online.  If you were even luckier, you live in Europe, or in the US earning over 100k per year.  Unfortunately even our friends up in Canada have had their share of troubles recently, but they still know how to hold effective debates and discussions while also producing some of the most boring television.  I wish the US market were more interested in the same type of boring programs.  That's what PBS is for - thank you Frontline and Independent Lens.

Besides the fact that everyone in America should raise hell about being branded a taxpayer or a consumer, maybe Americans should be just a bit more attentive to where our money actually is going.  Currently, the US is fighting three wars.  These demand an inexorable amount of resources.  Not one republican nor democrat seems too interested in bringing this up.  End the wars, save trillions.  It doesn't matter who got us into the wars, it matters how we get out. 

Another key sponge is, of course, health care costs.  Medical assistance consumes much of our revenues.  Yet, what no politician is willing to talk about is where all the money is going.  No regulations have been introduced to limit the big 6 health care companies' CEOs from raking in millions of dollars a year (see Sick For Profit) while at the same time raising premiums and deductibles and allowing millions of citizens to go without insurance or under insured.  This is a national travesty that needs to be addressed.  The more uninsured individuals there are, the greater the cost to those who buy insurance.  Isn't health care part of the welfare of the public?

It seems to me that the welfare of the people is one of the government's main jobs.  If the proposal of a central health insurer is such a lousy idea, ask yourself why all of our politicians have government health plans and government retirement packages.  Why aren't Americans asking for the same coverage?  All Americans should have the same plans!

Now, I don't know how much stock the average American puts into the papers that established our government called The Constitution, but that bit of tapestry declares, "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States."  Again, the job of congress is to collect taxes and ensure the general welfare.  It isn't socialism if there is a government health provider - it's a working society that all citizens buy into for the general welfare of that society.  Just imagine no fear of bankruptcy if your kid gets sick, no worries about affording the antibiotics you need to overcome the slight infection you have before it gets worse and they have to operate. 

Health care is a large part of our general welfare, and, there's no affordable health care without health insurance.  So it makes sense that we should all buy into the government's health care system that is ostensibly good enough for Issa, Kohl, Kerry, and the other millionaires.  That's right you're paying for health insurance of millionaires.  You won't hear politicians talk about that!

Maybe what America needs are more renegade doctors willing to go it alone without the burden of insurance companies dictating policy if the government refuses to make the necessary changes.

Another tremendously expensive part of our economy that has been laboriously and persistently absent from all conversation, politically it's even more deadly than chattering about raising taxes, is our prison industry.   No one wants to be seen as soft on crime.  But our policies have ripped apart families, crowded our jails, confined non-violent criminals with rapists and murderers, and created a nether world of slavery, assault, and recidivism.  The US currently houses more prisoners (over 2 million) than any country in the world, witnesses some of the highest recidivism rates (54%) in the world, and has basically resorted to punitive measures rather than reformative investments as a way of handling crime.

According to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Wisconsin’s prison population is projected to increase 25 percent by 2019 at a taxpayer cost of $2.5 billion."  The study concluded that a reduction of the incarcerated population by 10% would save over 40 million dollars.  In short, the prison industry is not just big business, it's huge business.

We won't hear Scott Walker or any of our state legislators, with the exception of Lena Taylor, discussing the prison industry and we definitely won't hear any discussion of it on a federal level.

That's three large pieces of the pie that are missing from the budget talks.  That's three more reason why the budget won't actually get balanced and the deficit reduced.  This post doesn't even mention raising taxes or the costs of a failing education system that is pouring more and more American tax dollars into private sector schools.  Those are two more conspicuously absent subjects.  And yet another two reasons why no one is really serious about balancing the budget and tackling our debt.  
Read more about the costs of prisons in Wisconsin: http://realcostofprisons.org/blog/archives/2011/03/wisconsin_gov_s.html
Read more about the Big Business of the Prison Industry: http://fdoc.us/CorrectionalCapitalism.pdf
Read about the different businesses affected by the prison industry:  http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2006/12/01/8394995/index.htm
Read about incarceration: American Furies, by Sasha Abramsky
Read more about prison costs: http://www.economist.com/node/13702846
Read the UW Madison study here: http://www.familyimpactseminars.org/s_wifis29c05.pdf

1 comment:

  1. you gotta read this