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The Candidates Need to Catch Up to the Public

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Those presidential candidates who continue to tip toe on the critical issues facing voters ought to take a close look at poll results in Thursday's Wall Street Journal.

The poll shows again how far the voters are ahead of the cautious politicians, especially on such essential matters as overhaul of our dysfunctional health care system and the hijacking of our economic and public life by big corporations. (Admittedly, it may be the last independent glimpse like this we see in the news pages of the venerable Journal whose new owner Rupert Murdoch is a greater practitioner of fantasy than Harry Potter.)

Buttressed with a telling headline, "America's Economic Gloomy," the Journal/NBC News poll demonstrated that Americans are especially alarmed about their health security and the shift in resources from working people to wealthy interests.

On the biggest question, 44% of respondents identified "health care costs" as their top economic worry. That was followed by "jobs going overseas" and "the gap between rich and poor."

More reinforcement of those views could be found later in the poll when respondents were asked to rate their confidence in 16 varied institutions. The bottom rung was firmly held by health insurance companies, for which 62% of Americans said they have "very little confidence" or "no confidence at all." Next in line at the rear -- large corporations, 49% little or no confidence, and the pharmaceutical industry, coming in at 47%.

As much as some politicians are slavishly devoted to polls, let's hope they take a closer look at this one.

Every top tier presidential candidate continues to cling to health care reform proposals that would reward and reinforce the very insurance companies and pharmaceutical industry that have caused our present health care disaster and put so many Americans at financial and health risk.

The Journal/NBC poll follows a Rand Corporation review of 132 studies issued last month that found that for every 10% jump in out-of-pocket costs, consumers cut their purchase of prescription drugs by up to 6%. One result, said the study author, is more hospitalizations and more use of emergency rooms. And, earlier this year, the journal Health Affairs projected that out-of-pocket health spending will jump 76% within the next decade.

No wonder Americans are worried, and why they are increasingly angry at the corporations that profit off pain and suffering. Insurance industry profits jumped from $20.8 billion in 2002 to $57.5 billion in 2006, according to a June report by the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy, the research arm of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. In the same period, drug company profits went from $64.4 billion to $94.8 billion.

Americans have had enough, and they'll tell it to anyone who will listen, most recently to the Sacramento Bee this week which found 60% of people they surveyed favored the federal government guaranteeing health care for all, which happens to be the only way to bring our health care nightmare under control.

Further evidence comes from the movie turnstiles this summer where Michael Moore's SiCKO has become the fourth highest grossing documentary of all time with a clear, unequivocal message that insurance companies are the problem and it's time to get them out of the way.

There is one reform that meets that test, HR 676 in Congress and SB 840 in California, a single-payer system in the form of an expanded and enhanced Medicare for all. HR 676, whose lead sponsor is Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, currently has 76 co-sponsors. It also has growing labor and community support, including endorsements from 297 union organizations.

The pollsters are getting the message. It's time for the Presidential candidates to catch up and lead, follow, or get out of the way.

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