Obamacare is Barely Denting Corporate Profits

Obamacare is Barely Denting Corporate Profits

Bloomberg Business News is reporting that Obamacare is not causing any harm to business the way its opponents stated.  The article is worth reading in full to get all the details.  This article basically means that some of the main talking points Obamacare opponents tried to use to make people fearful of the law, have had a giant shit taken on them.

Koch Brothers Destroy Healthcare

Kochs Kill Medicaid Expansion

The above article is from Salon and it is about how the Koch Brothers helped to kill Medicaid expansion in Tennessee and other states, essentially denying healthcare to many.  If you look at the numbers in Utah between what passing the Medicare extension would have done, vs. what was done, it is mind boggling.  Medicare expansion would have insured 146,000 people at the cost of $236 million dollars.  The plan the Republicans are backing costs $203 million dollars and only covers 16,000 people!  Something isn’t adding up?  Read the article to see the conclusion.

However, it is clear that the Koch Brothers are enemies of our democracy.  From healthcare to the environment to education, the Koch Brothers ideology is destroying real lives.  In turn I can’t help but see what they do as real crimes that deserve real punishment.

Hey Don’t the Wars Come Easy, Hey Don’t the Peace Come Hard

Love junkies wanna change the world:
It quickly stays the same
Money junkies hire all the smart ones
Power junkies run the game

One step at a time
Polarity Hill
If the bad guys don’t get you, baby
Then the good guys will
With angels on the take
And the gangsters in the yard
Hey don’t the wars come easy
Hey don’t the peace come hard

– Excerpt from the song The Big Ones Get Away by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Ever since the election I’ve wanted to bite someone’s throat out like a werewolf.  That is, until tonight.  I was listening to the great Buffy Sainte-Marie and those last two lines struck me.  Buffy Sainte-Marie is a singer who politically is also the real deal.  She was blacklisted personally by President Johnson.  She was an activist that put herself on the line numerous times.  When she sings the lines, “Hey don’t the wars come easy, hey don’t the peace come hard”, she knows what she is talking about.

I played a festival in Canada this year where I got to see Buffy Sainte-Marie perform.  She talked about how not enough people were saying how we treat each other is what’s important, and not the almighty dollar.  Such a simple message, but something we can’t seem to learn in America.

I worked hard to try to get Prop 1 passed here in Austin.  Prop 1 was a bill that was going to put in the first stage of urban rail in Austin and it also included road projects.  When I was canvassing I mostly talked to Democrats.  When I went into the more middle class and working class neighborhoods people seemed to get that this would help make the city a better, more livable place.  The richer the neighborhoods, the more people seemed to claim that we couldn’t afford it.  This was going to raise taxes a total of about $20 a month, and this was not even going to take full effect until 2020.  The price of four beers a month turned people off to doing something that was not only going to make the city better, but was also good for the environment.  And it seemed to be those that could most afford it that were the most against it.

The state of Texas elected Dan Patrick, a former conservative radio host, who makes Sean Hannity look like a Rhodes Scholar, as our new Lieutenant Governor.  That position actually holds power in the state of Texas.

The country as a whole seemed to vote for the most insane politicians possible, at a time when, especially environmentally, we can least afford it.  The oil and the gas industries won big, when we need to be electing people that will help us end our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.  Women and gays are under attack through proposed policies.  Minorities and poor people are under attack at the polling stations.  I had to show an ID to vote in Texas, a move that some estimate might have disenfranchised 600,000 Texans.

The old, the white, and the scared showed up in large numbers, while the young, who have the most to lose, stayed home.  It’s discouraging that people that should know better allowed themselves to be duped, while those that need to know better were so apathetic.  All around no one comes out of this clean, for different reasons.

However, the one of my pet peeves is those that say there is no difference in politicians.  There is an ancient ocean of difference between Sarah Palin and Elizabeth Warren, for one example.  Those that have become so cynical that they are blind to that, I will never understand.

The thing is, even those that voted the opposite of what I believe they should have, are people that I think should be included in the dream.  I don’t want anyone to go without healthcare.  I don’t want anyone to go to a war that is senseless.  I don’t want anyone thrown in jail that doesn’t deserve it.  I wish these people could see that the things that we liberals want don’t just benefit us.

Meanwhile there seems to be nonstop attacks on those most vulnerable.  Why is there so much hatred for immigrants or homosexuals?  The lizard brain is running wild right now.  But at the center of all this are people that value money over other human beings.  And they know how to get those lizard brains in motion.

This week was a huge setback for this country, and because of our power, for the world.  But as Buffy sings:

Hey don’t the wars come easy
Hey don’t the peace come hard

 We on the left must dust ourselves off and get motivated.  There is a dark train coming down the tracks.  I don’t blame anyone for being depressed or discouraged.  Christ, I am.  But to do nothing is to give in to despair and desolation.  There is only two years until the next election.  Not that much time, but enough to get reorganized and hungry again.

Last time our people showed up to vote it led to 10,000,000 people getting healthcare that didn’t have it, to gays being allowed to serve openly in the military, and to the first Latino on the Supreme Court.  That is real and meaningful change.  I benefited from the healthcare law, but I’m a white male that likes girls.  I was happy to see people that were different than me realize their dreams.  in this interconnected world it has to be about more than your own tribe.  We sink or swim together.  There is water in the boat, but we haven’t drowned yet…

EPA to Cut Power Plant Emissions

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/epa-carbon-rules_n_5428632.html

The above link is to a Huffpo article that talks about the new regulations to cut carbon emissions at power plants by 30% by the year 2030.  One thing that you never hear mentioned by right wing think tanks and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, which thankfully is briefly mentioned in this article, is how much air pollution costs us in terms of health.  If we are going to figure out how much such and such costs the economy, we also need to figure out the negative costs that air pollution has on our lives aside from just climate change, which is bad enough.  How many more people go to the hospital for respiratory illnesses, how many more people develop asthma, and so on?  The World Bank estimated in the 90’s that in China, and China’s air pollution has only gotten worse since then, that in one year alone (1997) there were 178,000 deaths as the result of air pollution and valued health damages at 5% of GDP.  When certain groups start going apeshit about the costs of these new regulations ask yourself if they are including these social costs in their calculations.  

The information concerning China can be found here:  

http://www.oecd.org/environment/cc/2053233.pdf

Being Sick in Japan

I was sick in Japan, very sick.  I had strep throat which is bad enough in itself, but it also made my allergy problems that I suffer greatly from ten times worse.   I don’t need to go into disgusting detail, but I was basically in a hellzone.  Not wanting to miss much, I was walking around and site seeing 12 to 14 hours a day while feeling like complete shit.  If I had been at home I would have been flat on my back.

Finally it got too much to bear and I had to see a doctor.  My family, and especially my Mom, helped me locate one and find the help that I needed.  Also, luckily for me the Japanese medical system is amazing.  I was able to go see two different doctors and receive seven different medicines for less than $100.  As a foreigner with no in country medical insurance, I found this to be amazing.  And it should be noted that both trips to the doctors had me in and out in about 40 minutes without an appointment!

This was one of several experiences over there that made me laugh in the face of the term American Exceptionalism.  There are many fools that claim that we do everything better and have it better than anywhere else in the world.  Wrong!  That’s not to say that there aren’t certain benefits of being an American and that there aren’t certain things that we might do better.  However, to make a blanket statement that we are the best at everything is comical at best.  Just the Japanese alone have a better medical system, at least if you have no insurance, and also have much better public transportation than we do.

Being sick is a curse in more ways than one.  There is small chance of enlightenment when you are trapped in the physicality of a body that isn’t working properly.  I am someone that has always struggled with patience and a temper.  I have worked on it tremendously throughout the years, however, in being sick and not being allowed to get rest, most of my hard work went right out the window!  Not only was I miserable physically, but I made life hell for those around me.  I couldn’t see any farther than the extreme pain that I was in.  There might be those that have terminal diseases and long term illnesses that learn to transcend them, but I bet not in the first week.  When you are sick, especially in a way that is not physically apparent, it makes it hard for others to understand what you are going through.  In short I am trying to say that an illness, even a temporary one like strep throat, can make life difficult for yourself and your loved ones. Being sick can lead to misunderstandings in many ways and none of them are fun!

The experience of getting easy to access medical care and of being sick in a hard situation made me realize even more than I already have that there is no reason to let people suffer.  Why should the richest country in the world allow people to not get the medical care that they need?  I realize that Obamacare is a step in the right direction, but we can and should go further.  I’m sorry my Republican friends, but you are dead wrong on this issue.  And if you blindly think that we have better medical care than anywhere else in the world, at least in terms of care for the average person, travel to Japan or Europe and see for yourself.  You will find things that will make you eat your words for breakfast!

The Weathermen < The New Right

I’ve probably seemed a bit crazy to some in the viewpoints I have expressed here lately.  I make no apologies, but I would like to explain.  As I expressed in previous blogs, my beef isn’t with Republicans per se, but this extreme right wing version of them that is dictating much of our national discourse.  These are the ones that claim the Bible, but care nothing for the poor.  These are the ones that exclaim the virtues of the free market, but then try to do everything in their power to stack the odds in their favor.  They are represented economically by people like the Koch brothers.  They are represented politically by the likes of Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Scott, and Sarah Palin (if being a part term governor and a one time vice presidential candidate is all you need to do to be qualified as a political leader).

Look, the left has had it’s crazies at times.  I have talked to my father many times about The Weathermen in the 60’s.  These were radical lefties that believed in blowing up buildings to get their political points across.  I would say that this new right is every bit as destructive as and even more dangerous than the Weathermen were for the left in the 60’s.  Think I’m bluffing?

People only have one life.  If they are killed by being at the wrong place and time because of a bomb or from pollution what is the moral difference?  You could argue one is more intentional.  You could say that one comes from malicious intent and the other comes from lack of empathy.  But that is a philosophical argument that I’m sure doesn’t matter much to the person that is either blown up or that has just died from cancer.  And while the Weathermen aimed at specific targets, and violence is never the answer, these sweeping laws that the new right champion can hit people of all races and walks of life wherever they live.  So while I would say the actions of the Weathermen and the new right are equally as morally repugnant, the new right is even more dangerous.  Bombs kill people, but so does pollution and lack of adequate health care.  That is undisputable.  And again although you could argue the difference in morality of intent, I don’t believe you can argue the difference in morality of outcome.  They both end up with undeserving people dead, dead, dead.

It’s fine if you think that Obamacare is a bad plan, but if so, come up with a solution that will get more people the healthcare that they so desperately need.  Just killing Obamacare isn’t a plan.  Luckily so far all attempts at this nihilistic approach have failed.

If you believe that the government should be smaller, that’s ok too.  There are actually places where I’m sure bureaucracy could be trimmed and we would all be better for it.  But come up with a plan that actually aims to improve quality of life for as many people as possible.  Just destroying government is as stupid as saying lets destroy all business.

I’m a left winger and I believe that business should be regulated and controlled, but I’m under no illusions that business has helped create this modern society that we life in.  When I go down to the record store to buy a new album by my favorite band, that is a business that created that store, that helped to fund that record usually, and that band is operating as a business.  The same could be said for more essential needs like when I go to get things at the food store or when I need to buy medicine.

But this new right is against any kind of balance in our society.  They might not want to blow Congress up, but they are happy to destroy it from the inside so that it can no longer perform the tasks that the American people need.  And the end game from that internal destruction is people suffering.  Again what is the difference between someone blowing up a grain silo and someone defunding your job so that you can’t afford to put food on the table?  We can definitely have a philosophical discussion about the moral intentions in each act, but the end result is the same.

I just saw some chart the other day that says that America creates more super rich people than any other country.  I certainly don’t see anything anytime soon that is going to stop the widening gap between rich and poor.  This society of ours creates winners and losers.  If there are going to be losers in our society, in a country as rich as ours, can we not have some kind of safety net so those people can at least live with some kind of dignity?  I would like to see a more just world, a world where the gap between rich and poor wasn’t so extreme.  However, if that is not to be anytime soon, can people at least hope for the bare minimum; a roof over their heads, some food on their table, and the ability to see a doctor without going further into poverty?

I want to write on this blog from a place of sensibility and realism.  I have many good friends that are Republicans.  I know that the average Republican is a good person.  I would like to stay away from talk that seems full of radicalism.  However, when you are facing those in power that have a radical agenda, it is almost impossible to speak about what they are doing with any sane sounding rhetoric.  I wish my Republican friends could see how their party of smaller government and self reliance has been hijacked by a bunch of extremists that are really closer to fascism than any kind of 20th century Republicanism.

The ideology of the new right, if enacted fully and followed out to the end, will lead to the destruction of lives.  It already has destroyed lives along the way.  With a very quick Google search you can find plenty of evidence of people that have died from pollution and lack of healthcare.  I would argue that the destruction these people would bring would make the Weathermen look like amateur hour.

You Got Lucky

As many of you that read this blog can guess, I can be somewhat cynical.  It’s very easy for me to see the dark side of things, and sometimes it takes me a minute to see the light.  My band Shinyribs played HAAM benefit day here in Austin today.  HAAM stands for Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.  Basically musicians in Austin, who are often broke, get cheap clinic care.  There is also an association that is part of HAAM called the SIMS foundation.  It helps musicians with mental health care and addiction problems.  I think that it is so amazing that the city of Austin, that bills itself as the live music capitol of the world, and makes a ton of money off of music, helps take care of its musicians.  I know that I have personally benefited from HAAM many times.  I still have to pay money to see a doctor and to get prescriptions, but the price is greatly reduced.  It’s not true healthcare.  It’s only valid at certain clinics and hospitals around Austin, but it’s literally a life saver.

Why should I, just because I decided to pick up an instrument at a young age, get treated so well.  Sure bars, clubs, and other people associated with the music industry have made money off of me, probably far more off me than I have made myself.  But let’s just face facts, I am flat out lucky to have this service.  Why shouldn’t the waitress that brings you your food, or guy mowing the grass in your park, or the person that waits on you in the store be any less deserving?  Not everyone can be a working musician in Austin.  Not everyone can be a CEO or have a great job.  We live in a capitalist country.  There are going to be winners and losers in the capitalist game.  Our society depends on that.  We should just make sure that those who don’t make a lot of money can live with a certain amount of decency and dignity.  They aren’t going to starve and if they need a doctor they can see one.  It’s not really asking a lot is it?  We need a safety net that looks out for the poor and the weak and the less fortunate.

I am extremely lucky right now.  I bet if most of you that had health care right now were honest with yourself, you would probably admit there is a little luck involved in your story as well.  You had good parents that sent you to a good school, you might have had a mentor that took special notice of you, or you might have just been born with genes that blessed you with intelligence or good looks.  If you say that every single thing that you have ever gotten and achieved was through your own grit and hard work, that no one ever lent you a hand, or that fortune never smiled upon you, then I can only call one thing: bullshit.

I just wanted to make a correction that when I am referring to the city of Austin I mean it as a community.  The government of Austin has nothing to do with HAAM or SIMS.  They are funded by contributions through fundraising.  I was trying to shed light on what a good community we have here in Austin.  Even though Austin has changed a lot in the 8 years that I have been here, and even though it has lost some of its character and personality as it becomes more urbanized, it still has a sense of community that you do not often see in cities this size.  Overall, it is a great place to live.