Transcript #129-1

Right-Wing Ideology Produces A U.S. Health Care System That Is Worst In The Developed World


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



Sources you'll hear in this first segment include: the New York Times, Reuters, The Miami Herald, the Truman Presidential Library, the websites of John McCain and Barack Obama,, the website of the Library of Congress, and the Associated Press.


One of the mantras you hear on Blast The Right is, whatever a right-winger says, the exact opposite is true.


Right-wingers claim that the US has the best health care system in the world.


The truth: it does just about the worst job compared to any other Western industrialized country.  A recent study


…highlights the stark contrast between what the United States spends on its health system and the quality of care it delivers, especially when compared with many other industrialized nations.   

The report…shows that the United States spends more than twice as much on each person for health care as most other industrialized countries. But it has fallen to last place among those countries in preventing deaths through use of timely and effective medical care, according to the report by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group.

The right-wing claims we have the best health care system, to avoid admitting that fundamental changes are needed.


Remember, every other Western industrialized nation has a national health care system that guarantees medical care to every citizen.


Our health care system is a largely a right-wing one, based on the so-called "free market".   Unless you're in dire poverty, you're on your own, Charley.


The Commonwealth Fund report compared 37 indicators, including access, quality, and health outcomes.


For example, since the first of these reports last year, access to health care in our nation has deteriorated.


Did you know that a total of 75 million Americans now either have no health insurance, or are underinsured?  That's 1 in four people in this country.


The Commonwealth report measures how well a nation does in preventing deaths from treatable conditions, like heart attacks and asthma.  We improved, but the other nations improved even more.


So in 2007 the US fell from 15th to 19th, dead last among developed nations.


The death toll?


100,000 Americans would live, not die every year, if our health care system did as good a job in this regard as the health care systems in countries like Japan, France and Australia.


This Commonwealth Fund Report just reinforces other disturbing things you've heard on prior shows.


For example, The Lancet is one of the world's major peer-reviewed medical journals.


It recently published a comprehensive study that found a correlation between what stage cancer is diagnosed at, and the person's insurance status.


If you're uninsured, you're more likely to receive a diagnosis of cancer in one of the later stages.  And that diminishes your chances of survival.


In fact, the national Institute of Medicine says 18,000 Americans die every year because of lack of health insurance.


These people don’t receive such necessities as preventive care, timely diagnosis, or appropriate treatment.


And then you have our shamefully high infant mortality rate.


If our infant mortality rate were as low as, say Japan's or Sweden's, 12,000 American children would live, not die, every year.


In addition to sickness and death caused by our right-wing health care system, there's the economic toll.


Half of all bankruptcies in the US are caused by medical bills, and most of those people had insurance, just not adequate insurance.


You know the number of people declaring bankruptcy because of unpaid medical bills in other industrialized nations?




Yet, despite all you've just heard, many right-wingers are oblivious.


Here's George W. Bush's words of wisdom:


audio: Bush

I mean, people have access to health care in America.

After all, you just go to an emergency room.

Since there's no problem, I guess that's why right-wingers like George W. Bush propose "free-market" adjustments to our health care system that are completely bogus.  The Bush proposal would help no more than 1 in 10 people without insurance.


The public isn't stupid.


A large majority of Americans support a federal government guarantee of health care.


But the right-wing has been successfully fighting such a program since the days of Harry S. Truman, over 60 years ago.


Truman's plan came under vicious right-wing attack.  It was condemned as -- are you ready -- "socialized medicine."


Sound familiar?


How do we make sure all Americans get the health care they need and deserve?


Health care is a right.


HR 676, a bill in the House of Representatives, would basically establish Medicare for all.


Medicare is a "single payer" system.  The government pays, but private doctors and hospitals provide services.


HR 676 has 91 co-sponsors in the House.  You can bet there's not many Republicans among them.


McCain is offering typical right-wing claptrap, such as tax credits, that won't work.


Obama isn't offering single payer, but he's much closer.  With, for example, a Medicare-type plan anyone can buy into.


President Obama and an increased Democratic majority can be pushed towards true single payer.


And in the meantime, interim measures can still provide critical help to those who need it.


For example, the Democratic Congress in 2007 passed an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. 


McCain voted against it, and Bush successfully vetoed it.


Obama, on the other hand, was a cosponsor.  And a President Obama would sign it.


And those millions of additional children would start getting medical care.  Now.


Purists shouldn't sniff at such interim, immediately available gains.


So please go out and whack your friendly local right-winger over the head with this, the consequences to flesh-and-blood humans of right-wing rigid, dystopian ideology.


If they don't recognize a critical problem in our health care system, show them there is one.


If they propose so-called free market solutions, tell them that's what we already have.  They don't work.


We just can't afford more any more increased human misery, suffering, pain and death from right-wing policies.




Transcript #129-2

Cruel Bush Immigration Raids: A National Disgrace


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



You probably know that progressives aren't all of one mind on the immigration issue.  I found that out last time I addressed the topic.


That's ok.


I have to speak the truth as I see it.


When I see actions that are cruel and inhumane, I'll continue to speak out against them.


Two recent immigration enforcement actions by the Bush administration cry out for condemnation.


Sources you'll hear in this segment include the New York Times, and the Associated Press.


In Houston, two hundred immigration agents raided a company called Action Rags USA, and arrested 160 workers.


Two hundred agents?


Does the scale of that expenditure of time and money and personnel strike you as absurd as it does me?


Action Rags exports used clothing and rags.


200 agents!! Go find some al Qaeda cells!!


200 agents!


To arrest some poor souls sorting shmatas!


200 agents to arrest 160 workers.  These dangerous shmata workers undoubtedly required a greater than 1 to 1 ratio of law enforcement to "criminal."


The right-wing tells us over and over again that we ought to be terrified about Al Qaeda mass murderers sneaking across the border.   Wouldn't those 200 agents be better used as border patrol personnel?


Ok, that raid got me upset.


But the next raid and its aftermath infuriated me.


It took place at a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, called Agriprocessors.


It was the biggest immigration action in US history.


Nearly 400 undocumented workers were seized.


In the past, workers who were in the country illegally would simply have been deported.


Here, however, unbelievably, 260 were charged as serious criminals.   For using false social security numbers or false residency papers.


They were offered a deal they couldn't refuse.  Plead guilty, serve five months in jail, and then be deported.


Or, wait six months or longer in jail for a trial, face a 2-year minimum sentence, and then deportation in any event.


The proceedings were, in the words of a New York Times editorial, "clearly rigged for the wholesale imposition of mass guilt."


Court translators usually don't make comments about proceedings.  These were so unfair that the translator felt compelled to speak out.


Here's a bit of what he said:


audio: translator

Many of the people we interviewed didn’t know what a Social Security number was or what it’s used for.  And you could tell they were telling the truth because they would say it with shame, like they didn’t want to appear ignorant. 

But you would ask them, “What is this number here?”  “I don’t know.”  “Who put it there?”  “The factory—the plant—they just filled it out for me because I don’t know the language.”

The truth of the matter is that many of them couldn’t read or write Spanish, let alone English.  And one of the elements of the offense of Social Security fraud is “knowingly.”

So there was a pretty good indication that many of them were actually not guilty.  But yet they had not choice but to plead out.

Here's more from the New York Times:


The plea deal is a brutal legal vise, but the immigrants accept it as the quickest way back to their spouses and children, hundreds of whom are cowering in a Catholic church, afraid to leave and not knowing how they will survive. The workers are scattered to federal lockups around the country. Many families still do not know where they are. The plant’s owners walk freely.

Five months in jail right out of the courtroom?


How are families supposed to survive?


White collar, or should I better yet say white criminals, get weeks or months to prepare for prison.  And their families have exponentially bigger resources to fall back on.


Now, follow me on this:


It turns out that some of the workers at the rag sorting plant had lived  in Houston for more than ten years.


Ten years here, and now we tell them, you can't sort shmatas for us any more, how dare you sneak in here, we're kicking you out of the country.


In the law, there's a doctrine called equitable estoppel.  Equitable, as in equity, justice.  Estoppel, meaning a bar, a restraint.  You can't do that, because to allow you to do so would be unjust.


As when someone has detrimentally relied on your words, actions or silence.


It applies by analogy here.


For decades, we invited undocumented workers to come here and provide cheap labor for us.  With a wink and a nod, we didn't enforce the law.  We induced these severely impoverished people to come here and set up a life.  We looked the other way.


Ok, if someone arrived here last week, and they're caught, deport them.


But if they've been here for years, and have established a life, and maybe even a family, it's a moral obscenity to turn around and at our whim, say, oops, too bad, off you go.


Even worse when we charge them as criminals and railroad them to jail first, leaving their families stranded.


Up next: more on how this right-wing approach to fixing our broken immigration system is profoundly unjust, if not downright racist.  Stick around.




I believe racism is at the root of this cruel conduct.


If you're going to deport long-time residents, it would naturally be a somber occasion.  Not a light-hearted time, not a cause for gloating, for glee.


But listen to one of the head cheerleaders for the right, Ann Coulter, showing a level of cruelty that surprises even Bill O'Reilly:


audio: Coulter/O'Reilly

Coulter:  I'd build a wall--in fact, I'd hire illegal immigrants to build the wall--and throw out the illegals who are here.

O'Reilly:  You'd throw them out.

Coulter:  Yeah!  Yes! 

Did you catch her sadistic tone:


audio: Coulter

Coulter:  Yeah!  Yes!

And even if someone felt glee, would it not take an even more hard-core racist attitude to also wish harm to the departing immigrants?


Listen to radio talk show host Neal Boortz.  He's not fringe.  He's syndicated.  He's on Hannity & Colmes all the time:


audio: Boortz

…During the warm-up hour of The Neal Boortz Show, we came up with a marvelous suggestion for solving two of America's problems at the same time: disposing of nuclear waste and doing something about the illegal aliens in this country. And that is, if the evil listeners to talk radio can just succeed in killing the amnesty bill, or if we can at least succeed in getting an amendment to the bill that says before you can get a visa to work here, you have to go home. OK?

Then all of the Mexicans who are here, as they leave the country we can give them a lovely parting gift, like they do on Jeopardy! We can give them a little -- yeah, a little bag of nuclear waste from one of our nuclear power plants or maybe one of our nuclear military vessels.

Give 'em a little bag of nuclear waste as your lovely parting gift. AMF, which means "Adios, my friend." Send them back across the border to Mexico. Tell 'em it's a tortilla warmer. You know, to put it in the tortilla box, and the tortillas stay warm. And then they will. And you'll be able to find them at night too, because they'll glow. And this will be a big hit.

Simply appalling.  How ugly.


And, there are states that have passed laws increasing penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants.


If you look at a chart of where those states are, they're largely in the old Confederacy.


No surprise.


Get the picture?



Let me now take you down another line of thought.


One of the underage workers at the meat plant, Elmer L, said he started at 16 years old, working 17 hour shifts, 6 days a week.  He said:


I was very sad and I felt like I was a slave.

A slave indeed.


Countless Americans have lived far more comfortable lives than they otherwise would have, because of these poorly paid, undocumented immigrants.  See if you can relate to this passage from Barbara Ehrenreich's book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.  It may give you a new perspective:


When someone works for less than she can live on - when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently - then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The "working poor," as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.  (p.221)



How can anyone deny that?



And I just have to throw this in as well, because it gnaws at me.


If you're speaking with any right wingers of the Christian or Jewish persuasion about this, you must tell them:

The Old Testament enjoins us dozens of time to treat the stranger well.  The stranger is the Biblical term for immigrant, refugee.


We must love the stranger, even as much as we love ourselves.


We must not wrong or oppress the stranger.


The same laws should apply to the stranger as to the native.


This applies to charity, wages, and to justice itself.


Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter profess to be strong Christians.


If you're talking to a right-winger who professes to be a Christian, remind them that one of things Jesus sent people to hell for in Matthew 25's parable of the sheep and the goats, was not welcoming the stranger.


For more on this angle, you can check podcast #111.


I'll tell you.  Reading the coverage about Postville, some things did give me hope; some local residents were clearly upset about the action.  One 50-year old, Dave Hartely, said


It just didn't need to get to this, to a boiling point. People knew what was going on in there, in Agriprocessors, and this could have been dealt with another way.

And along just these lines, I'll close with a powerful excerpt from two  New York Times editorials.


On some issues I vehemently disagree with the Times editorial board, like on globalization, and Hugo Chavez.


But here they're remarkably spot on.  I can't improve upon their words:


The conditions at the Agriprocessors plant cry out for the cautious and deliberative application of justice.

No one is denying that the workers were on the wrong side of the law. But there is a profound difference between stealing people’s identities to rob them of money and property, and using false papers to merely get a job. It is a distinction that the Bush administration, goaded by immigration extremists, has willfully ignored. Deporting unauthorized workers is one thing; sending desperate breadwinners to prison, and their families deeper into poverty, is another.

Yes, it's cruel and vindictive, designed to appeal to right-wing extremists.


Continuing on, the Bush administration


…has abandoned mercy and proportionality. It has devised new and harsher traps, as in Postville, to prosecute the weak and the poor. It has increased the fear and desperation of workers who are irresistible to bottom-feeding businesses precisely because they are fearful and desperate. By treating illegal low-wage workers as a de facto criminal class, the government is trying to inflate the menace they pose to a level that justifies its rabid efforts to capture and punish them. That is a fraudulent exercise, and a national disgrace.

It's cruel and irrational and vindictive and counterproductive to everything that's humanly decent -- in other words, it's pure right-wing.


We progressives must fight it with all our heart and soul.  But for an accident of birth, there go you and I.


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