On April 13, 2011 President Obama gave a speech at George Washington University about the budget (and forgot to wish Thomas Jefferson a 'Happy Birthday!'). April 14, 2011 progressive talk radio shows like The Stephanie Miller Show and The Thom Hartman show hailed the speech, calling Obama a visionary, or as one caller put it, "Kennedy-esque" I began to wonder, "Did I hear the same speech?"
I dissected the speech on air, playing it in its entirety on my own radio show April 13, 2011. I heard a lot about cuts. I heard a lot about Medicare and Medicaid and I heard a lot about bipartisan efforts to cut trillions from the budget over the next 12 years. I heard about taxing the rich but sadly missed the part about taxing corporations as if they were people, since the U.S. Supreme Court said in the Citizen's United ruling that they have the same rights as people, I assumed that meant the same responsibilities as well and same tax liabilities. I heard a lot about sacrifice and visions of the future. What I didn't hear was any real Democratic principles or how America is going to really take care of itself or its people; just its budget.
In the budget "debate" the Democrats have had it wrong all the time. They contended that the budget was no place to have an ideological debate about things like Planned Parenthood, the EPA or NPR (or anything else with initials it seems). But that's exactly the place to have that debate; the things a country chooses to spend money on are the things that country values most, cares about most, wants to succeed the most. The budget is a direct reflection of our ideals and morals, just like a home budget is the very same. People spend money on things they like, and keep money from things they don't. It's that philosophy that drives the markets around the world, and governments. We fund popular programs, defund unpopular ones (or keep their funding hidden).
Bush attacked Stem Cell Research, Reagan didn't spend a dime on AIDS for seven years, on and on. The budget and the debate over it have always been a reflection of our morals and our values.
The Democrats have already agreed to $40 billion dollars in cuts, the biggest reduction ever. Those cuts aren't very democratic, and I grow weary of politicians calling things that hurt Americans "tough choices." They shouldn't be a "choice" or even an option, cutting or tampering with these programs; they should be off the table. Yet, they're always first on the chopping block.
Let's talk health care from two points of view in America right now before we talk of cuts. We all know we need socialized medicine, single payer, universal coverage birth until death all medical necessities period, end of story. All insurance companies are, all they do, is function as a middle man between the doctor and the patient, making billions off the sick by doling out care. They harm Americans and make the system so unaffordable and inaccessible that tens of thousands of Americans die each year from lack of access to it.
Take me, yes, me. Four weeks ago my heart went in to atrial fibrillation, which is a medical term for Holy Crap! My heart is beating 150 beats or more per minute out of rhythm in my chest! I'm dizzy! I'm sweating! Help! I don't have insurance because I lost my job in 2008, couldn't find a new one at a company, went solo and can't afford the premiums yet. I took a new job but benefits don't start until later in the year through my union, if I make X amount of dollars between now and then.
I called my cardiologist. $160 for the office visit. $110 for the EKG. $230 for lab work to check electrolytes. He decided to I had "holiday heart" and was going to try and put it back in rhythm with medicine. $50 for the pills that act immediately, $220 for one month's supply of the extended release versions. So, here I sit, three weeks later, heart in rhythm (knock wood) and bank account $770 minus at a time when I simply don't have that. Add in the mandatory visit to my pain specialist for my injured lower back (car rear ended me when I was 22 in my Celica, blew out bottom disk, caused degenerative disc disorder, osteoarthritis and sciatica), $110 every three months just to say, "Hello, things are exactly the same as last three months, see you in three months," so I can get a $130 as needed for pain prescription. So for the month of April, $1110 in doctors. In May, I see my regular physician to renew my blood pressure and cholesterol medicine (I'm 49). My numbers are fine without the meds, borderline, but just below so the meds are a "precautionary" safeguard; a safeguard that keeps me from being insured since I've been on blood pressure and cholesterol medicine for five years. Office visit $65, meds $75 generic, so $140. That's $1250 in under six weeks, with no end in sight. I had access to that this month. Next month? The month after? I didn't go to the ER because most bankruptcies are over medical bills, and I may be a payment late, but I still "own" a house (although Wells Fargo is doing all they can to make that a past tense statement).
OK, my fault for not being insured I guess. But take my best friend Karen. She's on medicare and Social Security disability. She gets $1100 a month from Social Security. Out of that, off the top, they take $120 to pay Humana for her drug program, so she really gets $980 a month. Last month, at age 65, they found cancer on here eyelid. Basil Cell Carcinoma. It required surgery. They did the surgery. When they did it, they used Betadyne, to which she is allergic (she had told them). So after the surgery, she had an allergic reaction. Her copay for the month of March for the medicine, the surgery, office visits that she had to pay out of pocket FIRST or there would be no medicine or surgery was twice what she makes a month. It became so much, that last week she could "only see doctors with $15 copays. The doctors with the $40 copays or any medicines more than $10 would have to wait a few months." Wait a few months, and she's on Medicare; copays more than her monthly stipend, and she's on the program they want to cut.
When she heard of the Republican plan for Medicare, she cried, openly cried. She had had enough; now they wanted to turn her over to the insurance companies, the same companies that are bankrupting her now. Medicare is not some fabulous program that it's painted to be, the safety net to save seniors. Even at its best it keeps seniors in poverty. At $1100 a month that's $13,200 a year. In Egypt, the average Egyptian before the rebellion made $10k to $15k a year. They rebelled in part because that amount was NEVER going to let them advance socially or economically; yet we expect American seniors to survive on it and speak of cutting it.
I won't go in to the particulars of President Obama's speech except to say it was an embarrassment to hear how we couldn't help Americans because we had to pay INTEREST in LOANS to BANKS and other entities. How Medicare must be cut because of the cost, meaning that CORPORATIONS won't be told to lower the cost of health care, period. No, you can't charge $3000 for an MRI. No, you can't charge $500 for a drug. Period. Yes, we're going to price fix, or socialize, you decide, but you can only rape Americans so much. Nope, none of that. Instead, it's what we can't afford and how we must cut.
We have spent untold Trillions, with a "T" on war. The defense department actually gets a RAISE in the new budget. We are spending one million dollars per troop per year in Afghanistan; one million per troop. But seniors get $13,200 a year and their medical gets cut cut cut. We are spending $250,000 per year per troop in Iraq. Each Tommyhawk missile we've lobbed in to Libya has cost us $500k each, and we've launched over 50, or $25 million dollars worth. Plans cost millions, or even a billion, tanks, missiles...we pay private contractors more than we spend on education...it's all laughable.
I heard nothing new from President Barack Obama in the speech; it was the same old we can't afford the poor but care; we love everyone but must take from the neediest because the richest can't be bothered. My friend gets a bill from the IRS for $11,000 told to liquidate her 401(k) or sell her father's house of 35 years that she took over for back taxes years back to repay them, no payment arrangements for her while GE or Verizon or Exxon Mobile skates on billions in revenues.
Until a President comes forward and says we are removing corporations from Health Care completely, making it a not-for-profit single payer system, socializing medicine for all Americans to buy in to the plan, period, or get it free if they can't afford it, until we pledge to spend as much on education as on defense and until we realize that the moral deficit we are suffering given our current budget decisions is far worse than economic, in Washington, it remains more of the same. When all the budgets are said and done, the wealthy will still be wealthy, the poor even poorer and millions of Americans still living in abject poverty watching the dream from outside the window, beyond the glass, able to see it but not able to touch it or afford it.