Transcript #157-1

More Health Care Stats: Ammo For The Water Cooler Wars


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



Your sources for this first segment include: Reuters, CNN, the website of the Congressional Budget Office, the Boston Globe, and the Associated Press.


Please take a listen to a brief clip of me speaking on the radio about that all-pervasive right-wing meme, the government can't do anything right.  Apologies for the audio quality.


audio: Jack Clark

We were talking about the right-wing talking points that you get thrown at you, and sometimes it's hard to respond to because they're kind of sneaky and invidious. 

So probably the biggest right-wing talking point—and they use this not only with health care, but with everything—is they'll go "The government's gonna help with health care?  The government can't do anything!  They're incompetent!  Everything the government does is no good!  Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah!" 

So my suggestion is, if you're talking to your friendly local right-winger—I would say "Well, Mr. or Ms. Right-Winger, I feel sorry for you, because you must live a very restricted life." 

And they'll go "What do you mean?"  And I go "Well, you could never fly in an airplane, because obviously, the government runs control towers and the Federal Aviation Administration, and air traffic controllers—and they're incompetent!  They're crashing planes every day!  You don't wanna fly in an airplane, do you?"

And then I go, "And you're also restricted—you could never travel anywhere in a car!  Because if you went on an interstate highway, I mean—those were designed and built and are maintained by the federal government.  And I mean, cars are crashing all the time because of the poor design!  And these giant potholes—people's axles are breaking!"

So my whole point is there's lots of things the government does right, but they don't want to admit that, because it would destroy their argument that the government can't do anything, and therefore should have nothing to do with health care.

I hope you can see the usefulness of my approach for the water cooler wars.


Here's some more for you on the health care debate.


Rush Limbaugh recently:


audio: Rush Limbaugh

I don't believe anybody in this country is dying because of a lack of health insurance.  But that's what Obama's saying, and Obama's the grand poobah. 

So Elijah Cummings goes out there and reports it and repeats it, and so forth and so on, and that's how these things become mantras, and then the drive-by's pick it up.  And before you know it, (whispers) 45,000 people a year… (gasps)  45,000 people a year are dying, dying, dying!  

Virtually never does what Limbaugh "believes" comport with the reality that the rest of us live in.


I've told you in prior shows how the non-partisan Institute of Medicine estimated several years ago that 18,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance.


Well, there's been an update.   The situation has tragically deteriorated.  45,000 working age Americans now die every year because they're uninsured.


This is the conclusion of a study just published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health.


Dr. David Himmelstein, one of the co-authors, put it starkly:


We're losing more Americans every day because of inaction ... than drunk driving and homicide combined.

Why do people without insurance die?  Diseases like cancer are caught too late.  And for chronic conditions, another co-author, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, explains:


If you can get good primary care for your high blood pressure, your high cholesterol, diabetes -- those don't have to be lethal conditions

Uninsured people who have a chronic condition are less likely to know they have it, and even when they know they have it, they are less likely to be able to control it because control of chronic conditions involves regular visits to a primary care doctor.

The leap from 18,000 to 45,000 dying from lack of health insurance, is in part caused by the fact that so many public hospitals and clinics have closed or scaled back.  Again, thank you right-wing policies.


Of course, a right-wing think tank has claimed that this new report "significantly overstated" the death risk.  Well, at least they're not claiming the death risk is zero, like Rush Limbaugh!


The fact is, there's a vast body of medical literature that supports this new report.


For example, a study found that when uninsured people turn 65 and start receiving decent medical treatment under Medicare, they see a dramatic improvement in their health.


Ok, here's one last stat for you, and this one the right can't dispute.


It's from the Congressional Budget Office, the CBO.  The CBO does non-partisan research for members of Congress.  When the CBO earlier this year was releasing analysis of various Democratic health care bills, and the numbers didn't look good, the right-wing touted those numbers, claiming the CBO was the "gold standard."


Well, now that's the CBO is releasing numbers the right doesn't like, don't let them get away with trashing the CBO. 


The recent CBO stat I want to tell you about relates to medical malpractice.  One of the right's loudest claims, is that stopping abusive malpractice claims will allow doctors to stop practicing defensive medicine, and the savings will be a key to reforming our health care system.


Not so.


The CBO found that if right-wing tort reform is enacted, it would reduce malpractice insurance premiums by $3.5 billion dollars a year.


And, the end of the need for practicing defensive medicine would save another $5.4 billion dollars a year in medical procedures not performed.


That's a total of just under $9 billion a year.  Certainly worth saving, if there are no adverse consequences, like an increase in malpractice or inadequate awards to those who suffer genuine harm.


But this is hardly any major part of the solution to our health care crisis which involves tens of millions of uninsured Americans.


That's because, $9 billion a year is only ½ of one percent of our annual health care expenditures, according to the CBO's numbers.


That's a penny out of every $2 we spend. 


So there you have it: tort reform is not a crucial element of health care reform, and, earlier, lack of insurance kills big-time.


Dr. Woolhandler, a primary care physician, said the following:


For any doctor ... it's completely a no-brainer that people who can't get health care are going to die more from the kinds of things that health care is supposed to prevent.

Yet Rush Limbaugh could still say with a straight face:


audio: Rush Limbaugh

I don't believe anybody in this country is dying because of a lack of health insurance

I don't know if Rush has no brain, or he's deliberately lying.


Either way, he has to say what he does, because it's the only way he can justify his bottom line of destroying the entire social safety net:


audio: Rush Limbaugh

Roosevelt is dead.  His policies may live on, but we're in the process of doing something about that as well.

Just remember, that's really what's behind all right-wing rhetoric about health care reform, or most anything else relating to public policy.


Up next -- things you never learned in Sunday school.  Stick around.




Transcript #157-2

Progressive Economics = Christian Economics?



Listen to Michael Moore catch Sean Hannity perhaps not being completely truthful about going to mass:


audio: Michael Moore, Sean Hannity

HANNITY: All right. But in all seriousness, you're a talented moviemaker, you have a left-wing point of view, you don't apologize for it. I'm going to give you credit for that.

MOORE: Right.

HANNITY: Because I think you're an unapologetic socialist, however you want to describe yourself. Fair?

MOORE: Christian.

HANNITY: I'm a Christian.

MOORE: Yeah, well...

HANNITY: But we have different views on the economic system.

MOORE: Well, no, but I believe in what Jesus said that...


MOORE: You — well, are you Catholic?

HANNITY: I'm Catholic.

MOORE: Really? Did you go to mass on Sunday?

HANNITY: Every Sunday. I went to...


MOORE: You went to mass this past Sunday?


MOORE: What was the sermon about? Do you remember the Gospel?

HANNITY: It was about Michael Moore and capitalism.

MOORE: No, no, come on. You didn't go! You didn't go!


HANNITY: I go every Sunday, I go every Sunday.

MOORE: Well, so, do you remember the Gospel this past Sunday?

HANNITY: I don't remember the Gospel this past Sunday.

MOORE: It was just two days ago.

HANNITY: I don't remember. I went Saturday...

MOORE: You're not paying attention.

HANNITY: I went Saturday night.

MOORE: You went Saturday...


HANNITY: I hate to say it. I got there about as late as I went to your movie, so...

MOORE: Right, right.


Well, you know, Jesus was very clear about the rich man is going to have a very hard time getting...

HANNITY: The eye of the needle, that's right.

MOORE: Yeah, and that the first will be last, and the last will be first.

HANNITY: Well, you're rich, so you're going to be last.

MOORE: And we will be — well, if I don't do good with what blessings I've received on this earth, that's absolutely right. So — but we're going to be judged, you would agree with us, by how we treat the least among us.

HANNITY: I totally agree.

MOORE: Right, so...

HANNITY: I'm very generous, as my wife is, with charity. And I think anybody that's been blessed — and this gets to the heart of, I guess, the debate we're going to have here tonight.

One of my favorite topics, which I don't get to nearly often enough, is how to call out those whom I call right-wing pseudo-Christians.


Sean Hannity could be their poster child.


You're going to hear now a bit about the Catholic Church's social doctrine.  This information will enormously enhance your ability to engage right-wingers in debate.


Let me acknowledge that you may be saying to yourself, I don't want to hear a bunch of religious crap. That's not what you're going to hear. 


You're going to hear progressive economics 101, radical economics even, bedrock human morality.


You must keep in mind: possibly the largest and most organized and, unfortunately, most effective opposition to the progressive agenda is the religious right.


So if you're a progressive, you need to be familiar with this issue, to be able to articulate how far from being in accord with Christian values, right-wing policies truly are. You have to be able to put right-wing Christians on the defensive.


Also if you're a progressive, your understanding of the following will allow you to easily handle any red-baiting you encounter on economic issues. 


When you espouse economic justice measures, and a right-winger starts dismissing what you're saying -- and you as well -- as a socialist or a communist, you can simply tell them, "Sorry, that's not correct.  What I'm advocating is actually part of official Catholic social doctrine.  So unless the Pope is a socialist or a Communist, you'll have to come up with a better criticism than that."


Let me add: if you're a right-wing Christian yourself who is listening, perhaps you're not aware of this manner of understanding true Christian economics, and you'll benefit by listening to this as well.


My sources here are several Papal encyclicals and other official Catholic Church documents.  In the transcript and on my podcast blog for this show, you can find a link to my Church Teachings compilation.   It contains all the excerpts I'll read from these documents, and a ton more.


I've distilled Catholic social doctrine into eight overarching principles. 


1. The world's resources were meant for all to share equitably, so that each individual and people have a sufficient share:


[T]he goods of this world are originally meant for all… Private property…is under a "social mortgage"…  Solicitudo Rei Socialis

This equitable use of the earth's resources, will the beloved free market of right-wingerdom achieve this? 


No, it won't.


Principle number 2:


2.  The market alone can not address all human needs, and its shortcomings need to be addressed:


[T]here are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish… Centesimus Annus

Wow, so the right-wing worship of the market is truly idolatrous, since there are higher values that must trump the market when the market causes "fundamental human needs to be remain unsatisfied" and "those burdened by such needs to perish."


This leads to the question, what causes such fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied?


Principle 3:


3. The existence of unjust political and economic structures must be recognized:


[O]ne must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest…[I]t is not out of place to speak of "structures of sin"...Solicitudo Rei Socialis

Are you getting the picture?  This is all 180 degrees the opposite of what right-wing Christians will tell you.


And  if structures of sin cause poverty, that leads inevitably to the next principle of Catholic social doctrine:


4. Demonization of the poor is wrong:


It will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor - as individuals and as people - are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced. The poor ask for the right to share in enjoying material goods and to make use of their capacity to work, thus creating a world that is more just and prosperous for all. Centesimus Annus

It's not poor character, it's injustice and oppression that cause poverty.


Indeed, far from demonizing the poor, as right-wingers always do,  principle 5 states:


5. We must exercise a "preferential option for the poor":


[T]he option…of preference for the poor…is … a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. Solicitudo Rei Socialis

The globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor. Ecclesia in America

What must we do, just hope and fervently pray that the poor are helped, that alms are given?


A thousand times "No!"  That alone won't suffice.


Principle 6:


6. Concrete actions to help the poor, not pious wishes, are required:


As far as the Church is concerned, the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action... Christ's words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment... Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice... Centesimus Annus

That duty to promote justice leads naturally to principle 7:


7- Individual acts of charity are not enough -- social, political and economic policies must be addressed:


This constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church's social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression. [Now here's the linchpin to it all] It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal. Ecclesia in America

This is so critically important.  Right-wingers are always saying, "We've given to charity, we've fulfilled our Christian duty."  No you have not.  There are structures of sin that must be corrected.  Social, political and economic structures must be made more just.


Finally, there is principle 8:


8- These social justice principles and the preferential option for the poor, apply internationally as well, and therefore fundamental changes in global economic structures and practices are necessary:


The globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor... The Church…is called... to cooperate with every legitimate means in reducing the negative effects of globalization, such as the domination of the powerful over the weak, especially in the economic sphere…Ecclesia in America

Wow.  Do the actions of Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and other progressive Latin American leaders come to mind?


So… these are the eight principles.


I know the Catholic Church on woman's right's and sexual matters has some terrible positions, but on this economic stuff, it's spot on.


These principles lead to some specific policy prescriptions in Church doctrine: within nations, a living wage, and internationally, reduction or outright cancellation of the debt of poor nations.


I put a link in the transcript of this show, and on the podcast home page, for actions you can take to further Third World debt relief.


There's a ton more to talk about here, but this was intended as a brief introduction.  I hope it's whet your appetite.


For a fuller treatment, you can listen to podcast 111.  And for the whole nine yards, and then some, please do check out my 50,000 word essay:  What Would Jesus Do?  Jesus Would Send All These Right-Wing Pseudo-Christians Straight To Hell.


In a moment, we'll debunk the right-wing ranting about ACORN.  Stay tuned.





Transcript #157-3

The Real ACORN Scandal Is On The Right



Your sources for this last segment today include: the website of the U.S. Treasury Department, Reuters,, and the Associated Press.


Oh my goodness!  There's a dastardly group of evil-doers, all-powerful, about to destroy our nation: the community group ACORN.  I'm sure you've heard quite a bit about them in the news lately, as the corporate media increasingly takes its cues from Fox News about what to report on.


So how about I give you a few facts about ACORN?


To start off with, here's a short clip of me debunking two of the lies repeated ad nauseam by the right:


audio: Jack Clark

This is what the right wing always does.  They take a story—it's a minor story, but it's legitimate—there's some knuckleheads on the ground floor of ACORN who, when you walk in there, they don't know the difference between legal and illegal activity.  

OK.  You got your minor story.  But then what the right wing does is they have to blow it way out of proportion and lie about it.  For example, they said "No ACORN office turned us away."  Then ACORN turned up with a police report from Philadelphia that they had filed.  The police were called in California to report a human smuggling case.  So, you know, that's a lie.

Another lie--and this one I love—it's a Sean Hannity special.  You can be talking about the weather with him and he'll drop this on you.  "And the stimulus bill earmarked 8 billion—with a "b"—for ACORN."  Now as soon as you hear that, you gotta go "that sounds ridiculous."

It is ridiculous.  But he'll keep repeating it.  The whole stimulus bill altogether had up to 8 billion for the tens of thousands of community groups across the nation to apply for and split up.  So at most, you know, ACORN could have gotten a small piece of that.  But they said they said they weren't even applying for it anyway.

Would you like a third lie?


Right-wingers are fond of claiming that the entire financial crisis was caused by ACORN pressuring banks to give mortgages to those who couldn't afford them.  And the battering ram that ACORN used was, so it's claimed, the Community Reinvestment Act.


The right should be embarrassed at making this assertion.


It's Bush administration officials who themselves said the CRA had nothing to do with the financial crisis.


In November 2008, Bush's Comptroller of the Currency point blank stated that only 6% of the subprime loans were made by institutions subject to the CRA.  So


CRA is not the culprit behind the subprime mortgage lending abuses, or the broader credit quality issues in the marketplace. Indeed, the lenders most prominently associated with subprime mortgage lending abuses and high rates of foreclosure are lenders not subject to CRA.

And in December 2008 one of Bush's Federal Reserve Governors echoed those sentiments:


The long-term evidence shows that the CRA has not pushed banks into extending loans that perform out of line with their traditional business…

The very small share of all higher-priced… loans…that can reasonably be attributed to CRA makes it hard to imagine how this law could have contributed in any meaningful way to the current subprime crisis.

But right-wingers keep on spreading their lie.


Right-wingers also succeeded in stampeding Congress into cutting off any federal funding for ACORN, screaming about "clear-cut, unadulterated, taxpayer-funded corruption."


The right is so concerned about ACORN.


But let's take a quick look at just some of what the right conveniently ignores.


You may recall in podcast 148 we discussed how the multinational company KBR, a former part of Halliburton, Dick Cheney's old company, did such shoddy electrical work in Iraq that American soldiers were being electrocuted.


Well, unfortunately, there was yet another electrocution of an American soldier, in September.  And again, while taking a shower.


KBR kills our soldiers, but the right doesn't ever talk about that, let alone want to cut off KBR's funding.


And all this money ACORN is getting.  It comes to about $53 million  over a period of 15 years.


A report recently came out finding at least $6 billion in questionable charges by defense contractors during the Iraq War.


That's one hundred times the amount of money ACORN has received in total.


The right's silence about this defense industry theft of government funds is deafening.


Lest you think I'm exaggerating about the disproportionate amount of time the right spends on ACORN, as opposed to truly serious malfeasance and corruption, check out these numbers.


The group Media Matters -- who I wholeheartedly recommend for your daily reading -- Media Matters took the period May 2006 through September 2009, and tallied the number of times on the programs of Sean Hannity and Glen Beck, that ACORN was referenced, compared to the number of references to truly serious scandals, like Jack Abramoff, Blackwater, and Halliburton/KBR.


The results?


ACORN -- 1,502

Abramoff -- 62

Halliburton/KBR -- 43

Blackwater -- 4


Yup, 1502 vs. 62 and 43 and 4.


Talk about misleading your audience.  Loyal viewers of Beck and Hannity would think that ACORN was the most important scandal in the world, compared to minor or even virtually non-existent episodes like Abramoff, Halliburton/KBR and Blackwater.


You know the bottom line.


ACORN advocates on behalf of the poor, and many of its members are minority.  ACORN registers the poor and minorities to vote.  They vote heavily Democratic.


That's what's behind the right-wing attacks on ACORN.


That, and using ACORN as a wedge issue distraction, like gay marriage, to take the eyes of the average American away from the policies of the right that are impoverishing them.



Ok, so to sum up today's show, we have to bring back the public's attention from distractions like ACORN, and mobilize the public to stop the right's effort to bury Roosevelt's policies.  We need to further Roosevelt's policies, by enacting true universal health care, so that every American gets proper medical treatment.  And doing that, contrary to what right-wing pseudo-Christians would have you believe, would be doing what the Christian faith -- and indeed, what any religion -- no ifs, ands or buts -- calls for.


A lot of work ahead.  Let's get at it.



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