Archive for ‘Health’

12/26/2016

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO AT HOME?

Abortion: Trump will soon have the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices. One constitutional issue remains a woman’s lawful right to an abortion. At one point in the campaign, Trump was of the opinion that women who have abortions should be jailed. While that will not happen, the Court is now likely to further restrict 5th and 14th Amendment liberty rights as to abortion. On top of that, the Republican Congress will cut funds for Planned Parenthood, even though 90% of their activities have nothing to do with abortion.

Campaign Finance: With a Republican Congress, there is no hope any useful legislation restricting big money in politics will be enacted. Nothing will change. Lobbyists will continue to inhabit the swamp. Big money will not be drained out of it, as Trump promised.

Cities: Nothing much will change in black inner cities. The Republican Congress doesn’t care much about them and Trump himself knows little about how poor people actually live. Trump said blacks would have to be crazy not to try something new with him, but they knew better, and most voted for Clinton. While Ben Carson and other token blacks will be paraded around by Trump, nothing much will improve in minority communities.

Citizenship: Trump said he wanted to end constitutionally protected “citizenship by birth.” With regards to persons born in the U.S., the 14th Amendment makes it crystal clear that they are both citizens of the U.S. and the state where they reside. Trump apparently doesn’t understand how difficult it is to amend the Constitution. Outlawing citizenship by birth will never happen.

Economy: Trump talks about creating a 6% to 7% growth rate. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to be able to stimulate such high growth. The greater fear is that his lack of understanding of international trade may trigger another recession or depression.

Environment: There is no doubt the oil and coal industries will benefit under Trump. With an Exxon chief running the State Dept., they will get what they want in global trade. Environment treaties that are in the way will be abrogated. The Keystone Pipeline will be completed. Any Native American who gets in the way will be dealt with the same way the U.S. has always dealt with Indians.

Government: Like most Republicans, Trump said he would eliminate some government agencies and departments. Sadly, the Republican Congress will only propose eliminating the most effective and useful regulatory bodies, and they’ll expect Trump to sign such bills. Since I doubt Trump will actually read any law presented to him, he’ll probably just go along with whatever they give him.

Guns: There is no hope during the next four years that anything useful will be done regarding the proliferation of guns, or the massacres they routinely generate. The Supreme Court will uphold the right wing’s twisted view of what the Founders intended by the Second Amendment.

Health Care: Trump repeatedly said he would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The question is with what? He said he opposes the more efficient single-payer model. So, if we continue using private insurance, how are we going to keep working people insured without subsidies? The only alternative is to regulate prices in the health care industry. Since “regulation” is a dirty word to most Republicans, no useful law will come out of this Congress. Health savings accounts are not going to cover galloping inflation rates in the health care industry. There is also little chance a Republican Congress will break up the virtual monopolies that exist in the health care delivery system, or in the pharmaceutical sector. Without subsidized insurance, people will either just die, or they’ll return to the more expensive government-subsidized emergency room.

Presidency: Since Trump has not previously been elected to anything, not even dog catcher, he will be on a tremendous learning curve. He will soon learn that the 435 House members and 100 Senators collectively have much more power than he does. While he can use the “bully” pulpit (a description that certainly fits), Congress controls the purse strings, and nothing happens without money. To be sure, Trump will continue to blame everyone but himself, but in the end, he may be forced to deal.

Religion: The U.S. Constitution endorses no religion. It doesn’t even mention the word “god” or “Christianity.” It speaks of religion in only two places. First, it bars all religious tests, and second, it prohibits an establishment of religion, such as Christianity. A Muslim U.S. Citizen, who happens to be a follower of Islam, is fully protected under our Constitution. Trump cannot do anything to them based on faith alone. He is not going to round up Muslims, or make them register, or do any such things to American citizens.

Retirement: During the campaign, Trump said he would not touch the retirement age. The problem is the Republican Congress doesn’t appreciate how much ordinary elderly people need their Social Security checks, and they will propose to raise the age. If this happens, I would hold Trump to his word and ask for a veto.

Supreme Court: While campaigning, the Republicans made Trump sign a paper promising to nominate one of 11 pre-approved right-wingers to the Supreme Court. Any one of them will be readily accepted by the Republican Senate. As a result, for perhaps another generation, the Court will remain conservative, particularly if Kennedy, the remaining Republican swing vote, or one of the four Democrats retires or dies.

Taxes: Like a typical Republican, Trump promised to lower everyone’s taxes. I’m sure the Republican Congress will gladly give him several tax reduction bills, and he will sign them. As a real estate tycoon, Trump will first and foremost help the real estate industry (as if they need additional tax breaks). He will also cut taxes for big business. The problem with taxes is the Republicans love to spend on costly military adventures, but they fail to raise taxes to pay for them. One thing is almost certain, Trump will not even begin to move us towards a balanced budget, or a lower national debt. The debt will almost certainly get much worse under Trump. I’m still hoping that some whistle-blower at the IRS discloses Trump’s tax records, so we can finally see who he’s been dealing with, and what if any taxes he’s paid.

Transportation: Although the Republican Congress has no use for public works projects that might put regular people to work (as evidenced by their failure to support Obama’s Great Recession proposals), they will throw Trump a bone, and they’ll give him something to sign creating some jobs, fixing roads and bridges in rural areas. This will be so he can say he did something.

Wages: While Trump acknowledged that working people have not had any real wage increases in a long time, there are only a few ways to increase incomes. One is to raise the minimum wage, which is something the Republican Congress will never do. Another is to strengthen unions, which again the Republicans will not do. So, it is unlikely wages will improve under Trump. The only possibility is that they go up due to supply-and-demand employee shortages. If this occurs, it won’t have anything to do with Republican policies or Trump.

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12/22/2012

NRA: Gun Caused Newton Shooting

It’s only been a little more than a week since the horrible grade school massacre in Newton, Connecticut, where twenty 6-year-olds and six teachers were murdered, but the National Rifle Association (NRA) is already confusing people as to its cause.

Yesterday, in a speech by Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, the true cause of the shooting was not mentioned. Instead, he suggested increasing our tax burden by spending countless sums to place armed guards in every school in the U.S. He failed to mention mass killings have occurred in theatres, shopping centers, and even army bases, already protected by armed guards.

The NRA cannot see the forest for the trees. The simple cause of the shooting in Connecticut was a gun, period. Yes, the shooter had a mental issue. People have had mental problems in the past, and no matter what we do as a culture, there will be sick people in the future. All we can do is treat illnesses once diagnosed.

The critical mistake in Connecticut occurred when the mother of the mentally ill kid purchased not one, but three firearms, and then kept them in her home, where her son could access them. Although people have been warned over the years the presence of firearms increases risks of injury or death to the owner, more than anyone else, the mother ignored this, and tragically she died first.

The mentally ill kid then took his mother’s semi-automatic weapon on a shooting spree at a grade school. If the mother had not given him access to the gun, or if we would have barred her from purchasing it, the shooting probably wouldn’t have occurred.

We first have to acknowledge that twenty innocent 6-year-olds were murdered by a gun. Sadly, the NRA just can’t accept this.

Other countries, including Canada where hunting is popular, have far less violence from guns, because their regulations are more effective. The 2nd Amendment is not absolute. It specifically refers to a “well-regulated militia.” As the Founders wrote it, they envisioned regulations. It’s time we implemented gun regulations by banning powerful semi-automatic guns now and forever.

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Social Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) VOTING RIGHTS AND ELECTIONS: Which party is more likely to promote a constitution amendment to remove money from campaigns, or appoint Supreme Court justices willing to interpret large contributions as bribery? Romney goes in the wrong direction as he suggests getting rid of campaign finance laws. (1-16-12). Who is more likely to promote and protect the right to vote by removing unnecessary obstacles, and yet preserve the integrity of the system? Democrats clearly win this one.

(D) MEDICARE: Although the nation must get Medicare spending under control, Romney has no solution, for he would block grant it to the states, which would effectively kill it. (10-18-11) (11-12-11) (2-22-12). Not changing things for current retirees is just a way of screwing those who’ll retire later (1-8-12) Romney wants a premium voucher program, which inevitably will not cover increases in insurance company premiums (1-16-12).

(D) MEDICAID: Romney would also effectively end Medicaid by sending it to the states. (1-16-12). As he put it, he would get the government out of Medicaid. (1-19-12). The problem is a large segment of the population will prematurely die off.

(D) HEALTH CARE COSTS: Health care needs tough federal regulation to control doctor and hospital costs, as well as drug prices, but neither party openly proposes a solution. Since regulation is the only answer, and the modern Republican Party never advocates price controls, Romney cannot be the solution.

(D) OBAMACARE: Romney was wrong when he thought Obamacare would be declared unconstitutional. (12-10-11). He repeatedly promised to repeal it. (10-11-11) (10-18-11) (1-7-12) (1-16-12) (1-19-12) (2-22-12). He posed a good question when he asked what we would be replaced with. (10-11-11). He alleged Obamacare raises taxes 500 billion, cuts Medicare 500 billion, and is a government takeover. (10-11-11). He thinks eliminating it would save 95 billion annually (11-12-11) (1-7-12). Romney would give states health care waivers (9-22-11), which effectively would repeal it. Since the current health care system is dysfunctional, the greatest problem with the Republican position is their failure to suggest a rational intelligent alternative.

(D) INDIVIDUAL MANDATE: Romney argued people need to purchase health insurance to show their personal responsibility. (8-11-11) (11-9-11). He said uninsured persons are going to emergency rooms and taxpayers end up picking up the tab. (9-7-11). Romney insulted those who cannot afford health insurance by calling them “free riders.” (1-26-12). He later contradicted himself saying he opposed the individual mandate (1-23-12). The problem is even with a government voucher program, health care providers and health insurance companies will continue raising costs and premiums, and most will be priced out of coverage. Deductibles and co-pays will continue to rise. Prices need to be controlled and regulated. Since Republicans will never regulate, the vote has got to go to the Democrats.

(D) PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Romney said he would not repeal the unfunded Prescription Drug Program started by Little Bush (9-12-11). The problem is we need drug price regulation, but the Republicans will never do it. Our only hope is with Democrats.

(D) SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT: Social Security retirement should never be confused with Medicare, or other social welfare programs. The retirement plan, created in 1935, is the most successful and efficient program ever created by the federal government. It needs nothing, except to be left alone. While Romney called it an “essential program” (9-12-11), Republicans from Reagan to Little Bush have advocated phasing it out. So, even though Romney said we should save the retirement plan (9-7-11), he would be pressured by House Republicans to push a right-wing agenda, which is to privatize it. Although Romney said it would not change for current retirees (1-8-12), he would add a year or two to the retirement age (1-16-12).

(D) WELFARE: Romney would turn poverty programs back to the states (1-8-12), which would kill them. He thinks Obama is creating a welfare state (1-19-12), and the U.S. has become an entitlement society. (1-16-12). Romney would block grant Food Stamps (2-22-12), which would cripple the needs of the hungry.

(D) EDUCATION: Romney apparently thinks there is something wrong with teacher unions, as he said he would stand up them. (9-22-11) While he would test children in math and English (2-22-12), which is fine, too many Republicans push the idea of privatizing schools, a long range threat to our culture.

(D) EDUCATIONAL TV/PUBLIC BROADCASTING (PBS): In an shocking campaign promise, Romney said he would eliminate Public Broadcasting (11-12-11). At a time when more, not less, non-fictional programming on science is needed, why cut PBS? Personally, it’s the only benefit I ever received from the federal government. I can’t believe any candidate would eliminate it.

(D) ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: In Presidential elections, we don’t just elect a man; we choose a party to manage the agencies of government. If Romney wins, House Republicans will name the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Extremists like Republican Michelle Bachmann, who advocated abolishing it, will have influence. If Romney wins, we will have a weak EPA. We should prefer over-regulation, than the other way around. Although Romney said we can’t let pollution flow from one state to another (1-8-12), which implies a need for federal law, modern Republicans cannot be trusted to regulate.

(D) FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA) The storm that just hit the East Coast is a good reminder of how bad it would be if FEMA had been abolished, or privatized. We need to remember we all sink or swim together.

(D) SUPREME COURT: It is likely the next President will appoint one or more Justices. A Romney win would tip the court to the hard right. The Court currently has four right-wing Justices: Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts (on most issues). Reagan’s appointee Kennedy completes the usual conservative majority, which has existed since 1972.

(D) ABORTION: The secular right to “liberty” found in the 5th and 14th Amendments allows women to have an abortion in the earlier stages of pregnancy, when the fetus is incapable of living outside the womb. As a practical matter, attempts to outlaw abortion have been a waste of time. Even if the anti-abortion crowd had another Justice, who would ignore precedent, and reverse Roe v Wade, subsequent attempts to convict women and doctors would fail. Prosecutors will never get 12 jurors to convict women or doctors, and there would be hung jury after hung jury. We live in a free country which has no official religious creed. People disagree as to whether life begins at birth, or some other point before the fetus can live outside the womb. Romney, a missionary for the very conservative Mormon Church, will almost certainly appoint right-wing Justices. He changed his position on abortion. Most recently, he said he is pro-life (12-15-11) (1-19-12). He said Roe v Wade was wrong, it should be overturned, and the issue should be left to the states. (1-7-12). His stand would only give religious fanatics the power to impose their religious views on a secular society, filled with many who want to be free.

(D) CONTRACEPTIVES: Romney did not think any state wanted to ban contraceptives (1-7-12), but he is part of a right-wing Republican Party willing to turn back the hands of time.

(D) GAYS: Romney, whose Mormon grandfather fled the U.S. and moved to Mexico, because he believed strongly in the right to have more than one wife, ironically wants to amend the Constitution to limit marriages to one man and one women. Why the Republicans want to control the life of gays, who are genetically predisposed, is a mystery. We live in free country. It’s time to leave gays alone. Although Romney opposes same-sex marriage (12-15-11) (1-8-12) (1-16-12), and would amend the constitution to stop gay marriage (1-7-12) (1-8-12), the Democrats have the better position, as they believe in personal freedom.

(D) GUNS: Neither party is doing much to control hand guns in cities. Romney signed an assault weapons ban when he was Gov. in Massachusetts, but now he says he is pro-gun (12-15-11). The Republicans offer little hope to control firearm violence.

(D) RELIGION: Romney served overseas in France as a missionary for the Mormon Church. (12-10-11). He said he would seek guidance and providence in making critical decisions (1-26-12). He thinks Obama is somehow attacking religious freedom. (2-22-12). I have no idea what Romney is talking about.

06/14/2012

Coal: Why Don’t Republicans Discuss It?

During the Republican debates, aside from Gov. Romney’s comment that he would promote coal, and Sen. Santorum’s disclosure that he served on a coal company board, the other conservatives simply encouraged oil and gas drilling, criticized clean energy like solar and wind, but said nothing about coal.

Although Republicans argued in favor of repealing regulations that interfere with energy, expressed a desire to eliminate the Energy Dept., and repeatedly demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency get out of the way, they were not specific.

So what would their coal policy be? The question is important because coal remains a major energy source. Large quantities of it are sold to electric power plants, as over half of all electric power in the U.S. is generated by coal. As coal is burned, it heats water in boilers, creates steam, spins turbines, and generates electricity.

The U.S. has one-third of the world’s coal supply, enough to mine for another 350 years. The U.S. started burning coal around 1850 and its use eventually turned America into a strong industrial nation. Most U.S. mining has been located in West Virginia and Kentucky, as well as other parts of the Appalachians, from Pennsylvania to Alabama.

Only Russia has greater coal reserves. Germany’s deposits are in the Ruhr River Valley, Britain’s are in Wales, and China’s are in Manchuria. Historically, coal fields were so important, nations fought wars over them. Germany and France, for example, battled over Alsace Lorraine, Saarland, and the Ruhr many times.

But what are the political issues in the U.S.? One issue concerns mine safety and the rights of coal miners, as coal mining is potentially dangerous. Most coal miners in the U.S. descend about 260 feet underground. Mines must be constructed properly and ventilated constantly. If the pillars in mines supporting their roofs collapse, cave-ins can be fatal. If the air flowing into the mines is interrupted, gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane can build up, catch fire, and explode causing death.

Another issue is the air pollution generated from burning coal. While some equipment eliminates some smoke and soot, there remain many environmental costs from using coal.

The two progressive forces that have protected workers regarding safety, and the public as to pollution, namely the unions and the Environmental Protection Agency, are being attacked by the Republicans.

Although the United Mine Workers Union contributed greatly to mine safety laws, such as the Coal Mine Inspection Act, the Republicans have declared war against all organized labor, and cannot be trusted do anything about mining safety complaints.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency has been the watchdog for the public as to air pollution generated by power plants, Republicans have pledged to abolish it, and our air will not be as safe, if the right-wing gains total control.

Although the Republicans have not clearly stated a coal policy, what they have said about destroying unions and dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency is all we need to know to figure out the rest. We should be concerned that if the right-wing takes total control, the coal industry will become more dangerous to workers, and the purity of the air will decline.

06/04/2012

Regulating Commerce: What Can We Do?

The Supreme Court will soon be deciding if all or part of the 2010 federal health care act went too far under the Congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. The question is to what extent does the “commerce clause” give Congress the power to regulate?

Art. I, Sec 8 (3) of the Constitution provides: “Congress shall have power…to regulate commerce…among the several states.” The first significant “commerce clause” case involved a challenge to a state law in Gibbons v Ogden (1824), where Chief Justice Marshall held Congress has the power to regulate every aspect of commercial intercourse, including every transaction not wholly carried out within the boundaries of a single state.

During the nation’s first 100 years, despite a federal power to regulate commerce, Congress passed no significant law in that regard, and instead most legislation was at the state level. Congress first used the “commerce clause” in 1887 to create the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate the railroads. Three years later, they added the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890).

An activist conservative Supreme Court however went right to work limiting any federal expansion of the power to regulate commerce. They held in 1895, while Congress could control railroads and common carriers, manufacturing conducted wholly within the confines of a single state, was outside their reach. In Hammer v Dagenhart (1918), Congress tried to eliminate child labor by establishing a minimum work age, but a conservative Court held the act exceeded their constitutional powers, because manufacturing was outside the reach of the “commerce clause.”

The interpretation of the “commerce clause” changed significantly during the Great Depression, when a new Court held in NLRB v Jones & Laughlin Steel 301 U.S. (1937), Congress could regulate manufacturing, even if it is based within one state. The Court abandoned the old distinction that kept manufacturing beyond the reach of federal regulation. The new test was any activity “affecting” interstate commerce could be subjected to regulation. In a challenge to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which regulated wages and hours, a progressive court in U.S. v Darby (1941), finally overruled the old 1918 Hammer decision above.

In Wickard v Filburn 317 U.S. (1942), the Court upheld the power of the federal government to regulate local farmers, who never did any business outside their state, on the grounds their production nevertheless affected aggregate national supplies and prices. In Heart of Atlanta Motel v U.S. 379 U.S. (1964), a local motel in Georgia that discriminated against blacks was subjected to the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, because they accepted guests from out-of-state, and therefore engaged in interstate commerce.

The question now is whether the Supreme Court will limit the national power to regulate health care providers, businesses that provide health insurance to workers, as well as the powerful health insurance industry. Will they exclude the “individual mandate” from the reach of the commerce clause? The answer is there are five conservative votes on a 9-member Supreme Court, and though we have no crystal ball, at least 4 or 5 of them will vote to overturn at least part of the new law.

06/02/2012

Health Care in U.S.: Hostile to Consumers

Would you buy a car, and drive it off the lot, not knowing its cost, just hoping for the best when the bill arrived in the mail? I didn’t think so. But that is exactly what the U.S. medical community seriously expects you to do when consuming health care.

American medicine operates within a totally dysfunctional economic system. Patient accounts do everything possible to avoid price quotes. If consumers are patient enough to wait on line to speak to an actual human being, many of whom are impatient, condescending, or just downright rude, they will at best hear only vague meaningless “estimates.”

If a written letter is issued, and it actually states an “estimated” price for a procedure, the following paragraph will qualify the cost, and make it totally meaningless, through additional language that states: “this does not include any potential facility fees, anesthesia fees, lab or pathology fees, or supply charges.”

Don’t they realize “estimates” followed immediately by language that allows billing for of a whole host of additional expenses, renders them absolutely worthless? How is the consumer to know even a ballpark cost? What is the reasonable consumer to think?

But let’s not accuse the relatively well-off medical community for creating this terrible American system we have. Let’s keep the blame where it belongs, on the consumer, for they are the ones who deserve ridicule. How dare they even seek price quotes in the first place? Just who are these peons with the audacity to request information on costs? Don’t they realize they’re addressing the medical community? Don’t they know those in medicine simply don’t dirty their precious hands with costs, that is, until it is time to collect, and the wretched consumers are fully expected to pay every nickel, under a one-way highway billing system.

Personally, I was priced out of the private health insurance market long ago. No, I am ok. I can walk, talk, and get around just fine, but my parents had diabetes and heart disease, so on the assumption I would also succumb, my premiums started galloping upward with each payment, until the private carriers finally got what they wanted, and pushed me away without insurance. So, now I pay cash for health care, and must shop around.

Although the online price for a cataract procedure was an average of $3,300 and up, when I tried to nail something down this week, I was unable to do so. The Dean Clinic gave me an “estimate” of $5,686 with all the qualifying language mentioned earlier in this article, which amounted to no price quote at all. Anderson and Shapiro started at $2,999, “with no hidden costs,” but then after I was switched to the next operator, I was told I needed a physical and EKG, since I was over 55, even though I was symptom free. The “estimated” cost online for the unnecessary EKG was around $2,000. So, I was left with truly no idea what the cost of a relatively simply out-patient 10-minute cataract procedure would be, except that it would be starting somewhere above $5,000.

I don’t mean to single out just two clinics, as almost all of them have created problems over the years. When I set up an eye exam at the University of Wisconsin Eye Clinic earlier this year, I was quoted $246, but when the bill arrived, it was $358, which was $112 more than the quote. I just laughed, because I knew they would not honor their own quote. Since their ophthalmologist “estimated” cataract surgery at around $6,500, I definitely didn’t return there, due to their history of billing more than their quotes.

There is no reason the government could not simply order health care providers to post their prices for each procedure, somewhat like those visible at gas pumps. Yes, each patient is unique. We all know that. But while treatment may differ slightly from one to the other, there is no reason we could not mandate a public disclosure of all-inclusive singular prices, so consumers could be informed, and could begin shopping in a competitive market. For the uninsured, the current pricing system is totally dysfunctional.

02/14/2012

Valentine’s Day: Who Started This?

Ok, it Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, but where did it come from? Who’s responsible for this day, which is not a holiday, but celebrated like one?

Some say Feb. 14 became a romantic celebration, because it’s when the birds selected their mates.

Some say it all started during an ancient festival that honored Juno, the Roman goddess of women. This theory makes sense, since it’s not too much of a stretch to believe some Italian guy created a day for goddess worship.

Some say St. Valentine’s was named after a Roman priest who was beheaded in 270 A.D. The question is what the hell did that guy do? I mean–to get beheaded. Did he not grow any flowers for his princess, or forget to stop at the Roman candy shop?

Did you know Pope Gelasius changed Valentine’s Day from Feb. 15 to Feb. 14? But why did he do it? I mean what was wrong with the 15th anyway? Apparently, this particular Pope had a little thing going on, over on the side, if you know what I mean, and just couldn’t wait another frickin day, so he simply moved it up, since after all, he was the Pope. Must have been nice to be Pope.

In Sicily, unmarried women get up before dawn, stand by their windows until sunrise, and watch for the first man to go by, because he, or someone who looks exactly like him, will within the year become their groom. I suppose this is also where fast closing vertical blinds were invented.

In Derbyshire, England, young women circle a church 12 times at midnight, repeating the words: “I sow hempseed, hempseed I sow, he that loves me best, come after me now.” No one would doubt those birds just had to be growing weed.

I’ve got to go buy some chocolates

12/28/2011

Climate Change: Let’s Teach the Facts

Climate Change cannot be confused with day-to-day ups and downs in the weather. Being hot one day, and cold the next, or rainy one day, and clear the next, has nothing to do with it. A below-zero day in January, during a Green Bay Packer football game, proves nothing. Climate Change instead refers to differences measured over a minimum of 30 years.

Scientists started seeing temperature changes in the 20th Century, and particularly since 1975. They determined the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal for industries, and fuel oil for motor vehicles, created greenhouse gases, which warmed the atmosphere. They found the oceans warmer now than at any time since record-keeping started 130 years ago. They noted a sea level rise of more than a half a foot in the 20th Century. They now predict unless changes are made, warming will accelerate in the 21st Century, as average temperatures will likely climb another 5 degrees F.

Glaciers that cover 80% of Greenland, which descend below the surface up to two miles, and have existed since the Ice Age, are now melting, due to global warming. If all the ice on Greenland melts, it would be a serious problem, as the oceans would rise 23 feet. Even if only some evaporates, scientists say if nothing changes, the sea will rise about a half of a foot to two feet, by the end of 21st Century.

Other glaciers throughout the world on mountains are also melting and shrinking. Glacier National Park in the U.S., where there has been ice for 7,000 years, will be dry by 2070, if no change occurs. The Alps in Europe have lost more snow and ice in the past decade, than in the previous 150 years. The same was observed in the Andes of South America and the Himalayas of Asia.

Global warming will eventually flood coastal areas, sink islands, and trigger droughts. These changes will in turn adversely affect agricultural food supplies and drinking water. They will lead to starvation, great migrations, and refugee issues. The warming of the oceans will further increase storms and hurricanes.

To address global warming, scientists and instructors must teach the subject to Americans who have no particular interest in it, which means dumbing-down presentations to fifth grade levels. Americans must in turn ignore the ignorant people on Fox News and right-wing radio, who deny science, and make fun of the issue.

Politicians and voters must confront special interests in the coal and oil industries who have vested interests in keeping things just as they are. The federal government must work with other nations towards a global solution. Washington has to strictly regulate carbon dioxide, impose carbon taxes, and eliminate subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels. Alternatives to gas combustible engines must be promoted, such as mass transit. Wind and solar has to be developed. Americans must become more efficient with energy and start respecting the earth. It’s the only one we have.

12/27/2011

Health Care Law in Plain English

After reading a Health Care Law article by attorneys Skindrud and Cleary in the Wisconsin Lawyer (12-11), I translated it into a plain English version for ordinary Americans.

“Obamacare,” as Republicans put it, was not written by President Obama, it was drafted by lobbyists, enacted by Congress, and handed to the President on March 23, 2010, for his signature. It is actually two laws: the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” and the “Health Care Education Reconciliation Act.”

The purpose the new legislation is to cover most Americans with private health care insurance, and to reduce taxpayer subsidization for ER services, provided to the growing number of uninsured.

The law contains an individual mandate, requiring the purchase of health insurance. The idea of forcing people to buy insurance is not new. For nearly 100 years in Wisconsin, businesses have been under a government mandate to acquire Workers Compensation Insurance, from private carriers, to cover employees in the event of accidents at work. Employers also contribute to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) to provide for laid off employees. They must further pay the Social Security-Medicare system, under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

What is different about the new health care law is the individual mandate to buy insurance, as opposed to one requiring businesses to do so. The new Act raises Constitutional issues as to whether it exceeds the Congressional power to regulate Commerce, a question that will be ruled upon by the Supreme Court. While states have long mandated the purchase of automobile liability insurance or at least proof of financial responsibility, the opponents of the health care law may be able to show legal distinctions between auto and health.

For the most part, the new law does not kick in until 2014, when individuals must have “minimal essential coverage.” If they do not, penalties may be imposed for each month they went without it. The punishment will be based on a percentage of income, as reflected in annual tax returns.

Although most Americans will see no tax increase as a result of the new law, those earning $200,000, or more, will contribute a certain percent of income to help finance the new Act.

The federal Medicaid program for the poor, administered by states, but paid largely by Washington, will extend coverage in 2014 to those under 65, who are not disabled, if they earn 133% of poverty or less.

Each state will open up Health Insurance Exchanges in 2014, as a place for individuals, and businesses of up to 100 employees, to find affordable insurance. Larger employers must wait until 2017. Individuals and businesses will pay a portion of the premiums, up to certain caps, and to insure affordability, the government will pick up the balance owed to the insurance industry. Those at the poverty level will pay 2% of income in premiums; those at 400% of poverty will pay 9.5%.

Private insurance companies will be required to provide coverage for “essential health benefits,” without lifetime caps. Co-payments and deductibles will disappear in 2014. Children will no longer be subjected to pre-existing condition exclusions, and are now able to stay on their parents plan through age 26. Adults have to wait until 2014 to be free of the pre-existing condition exclusion.

To control health care costs, the government is pushing health care providers through Medicare reimbursements to abandon the fee-for-service system, reduce ER visits, eliminate duplication, and end unnecessary procedures. Payments for excess readmissions for conditions like heart failure will be reduced. The plan is to cut Medicare re-imbursement rates by 30% in 2012.

Although the goal of coverage to all is a noble one, the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court may in a 5-4 vote find the individual mandate unconstitutional. If the law is upheld, some previously without coverage will benefit, but the biggest winner will be the health insurance industry, since the federal government will subsidize their unregulated premiums. The government will probably also lose the struggle with the health care industry to lower reimbursements. While a single-payer system would have been better, and more efficient, we can only wait and see what develops under this law.

10/08/2011

Nutritious Food: Mandate It In Schools

Congress should take action to solve the national health care crisis by enacting a National School Exercise and Health Act, which would require all students K-12 to have some Phys. Ed. on a daily basis, (as discussed yesterday), and would also set strict nutrition standards as to what foods may be served or sold in U.S. schools.

Americans, with an overabundance of food, consume more than they need, and weigh too much. This overconsumption has raised blood sugar levels, and increased diabetes, an insidious disease, which remains asymptomatic for years, until it strikes in midlife. Bad food, with too much fat and cholesterol, narrows or blocks the blood vessels, which must remain open to nourish the body.

Many illnesses are related to poor diet and blood flow problems. Strokes are triggered by fat and cholesterol in the blood to the brain. Vision losses occur when vessels to the eyes do not carry enough oxygen. Coronary Artery Disease arises from a buildup of junk on the arterial walls. Kidneys fail when too much sugar flows to them and destroys the filters needed to pass waste to the urine. Erectile dysfunction results from a narrowing of the tiny arteries in the penis. Limbs are also lost from blood flow issues.

From school lunches, to fast-food places, and vending machines, the U.S. serves up the wrong kinds of food, and we are setting up our children for health issues later in life. We consume too many calories from carbohydrates and fats, and don’t burn them up.

The two types of carbohydrates: 1) Direct Sugars (candy), and 2) Starches (French Fries), both raise blood sugar levels. Bad carbs are poison to diabetics, and all would be healthier without them.

Sugars, such as the heavy doses in regular Pepsi or Coke, must be totally banished from schools, and replaced with only diet brands. Candies must be taken out of vending machines, as they do absolutely nothing healthy. School lunch menus should delete desserts, which add calories, but yield too few nutrients.

Carbohydrates of the unhealthy sort must be removed from schools. Potato chips should disappear from vending machines. French Fries, dipped in grease, should become criminal. Corn, a starch that fattens up kids like hogs, should be eliminated. Unhealthy breads in pizza and sub sandwiches just have to go.

Healthy carbohydrates should be served instead, such as rye, whole-grain, and whole-wheat breads, high in fiber. Fiber is good, because it carries excess cholesterol to the liver for elimination. Oat bran and oatmeal are particularly high in fiber and are nutritious. Beans including black, kidney, navy and pinto, should become staples, along with split peas. If potatoes are served, they should be baked. Brown rice is another acceptable carbohydrate.

Fruits and vegetables are complex carbohydrates and healthy. Fruits are high in fiber and vitamins and should be available every day. Children should be fed apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, pears, raisins, and a number of berries. Vegetables, especially the green leafy ones, should be served, as they contain vitamins and minerals, are low in calories, and carry no cholesterol.

Dairy Products, like whole milk, have saturated fats that raise cholesterol, and must be replaced with skim or 1%. Regular cheeses, also high in cholesterol, must be substituted with low-fat types. Unsaturated diet margarines, made from vegetable oils, should be used instead of butter, which is a saturated fat. Since egg yolks are high in cholesterol, if they must be used, only the whites should be included. Serve low-fat yogurt, not ice cream.

Meats processed from fatty animal parts are high in cholesterol and saturated fats, and must be outlawed. Schools should no longer serve as dumping grounds for left-over animal parts. While lean meats are expensive, they provide protein and their cholesterol is lower. Skinless chicken or turkey, lean beef, pork tenderloin, lamb shank, or veal cuts, should be prepared.

Fish should be served, since it is low in fat and contains protein. It must be grilled, broiled, baked, or steamed, and never deep-fried. Fish oils lower blood fat levels and cholesterol, and can actually reverse diabetes. They work like Aspirin blood thinners, by preventing blood clots, and reducing heart disease.

It is time the nation saved on our collective health care expenses by getting serious about food. It is time to lead those who know little about nutrition by mandating healthier diets in our public schools and outlawing what can be sold in vending machines.