Patching Things Up Over a Beer at the White House Is Nice, But Equal
Protection Is Better
While the media covers Obama, Crowley and Gates making up, sipping beer, the
real issue is: Police who abuse power need to be reined in.
By Laura Flanders,
AlterNet. Posted July 30, 2009.
The National Council of La Raza, a top Latino civil rights group, is taking
a shot at RNC chair Michael Steele and several prominent GOP figures for
skipping its ongoing annual conference while Democrats are basking in the
contrast. Having nominated the first Latina to the Supreme Court and sending
no end of speakers to the La Raza conference, they're in like Flynn with
Latino voters, they hope.
But things are not so simple. The day after the La Raza affair there was
another gathering in NY, to which Latinos came out. That was to protest at
the Council on Foreign Relations -- where Homeland Security Secretary
Napolitano was talking up the Administration's anti-terror policy.
A slew of human rights and immigrant-rights organizations, including many
Latinos, called the protest because -- for all the nice talk -- the
administration's immigration policy has actually put more, not less power in
the hands of law enforcement and done little so far to stop abusive raids
and deadly detention practices.
Armed federal immigration agents are still illegally pushing and shoving
their way into homes and taking people away, breaking up families, on
suspicion and Latinos are getting the lion's share of the grief. The Cardozo
school of law reports there have been hundreds of predawn raids in just two
states (New York and New Jersey) in violation of agency rules as well as the
Constitution. And that's not just happening under the big bad Bush
crackers-down. It's happening under Napolitano and Obama.
The demonstration by the immigration groups outside the Council in New York
is a wake up call. Obama allies and voters, like many of those gathered
outside Wednesday, aren't happy.
A Latina on the Supreme Court's great. And a love fest at La Raza's lovely.
But just as in the case of the wrongful-arrest of Harvard Professor Skip
Gates, a beer in the White House is no fix for what ails us.
There's still a problem of inequality and discrimination in America and it
isn't solvable by improving our personal (or political) relations. At the
end of the day policy -- like policy governing policing and immigration --
is where the action needs to be. If Obama and the Dems are going to applaud
themselves for "being on the right side of history" they need to back up
their words with real work.
Again, beer and a chat is nice. But ensuring equal protection is better.
ICE and police who abuse power need to be reined in.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv
which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech
TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or
GritLaura on Twitter.com.
Happy Birthday, Medicare
By Marie Cocco
Truthdig: Jul 29, 2009
It's a fine time-perfect, in fact-to celebrate the government-run,
taxpayer-supported colossus in the American health care system that turns 44
this week. Medicare has done all it was supposed to do, and more.
It thrives despite apocalyptic warnings from its original opponents that
"socialized medicine" would hamper doctors, hospitals, patients-perhaps even
doom the entire American health care system. Medicare is exceedingly popular
and remarkably well-functioning despite its current critics' claims that it
is singularly wasteful, out of control in some never-specified way or, at
the very least, holds the potential to bankrupt us all in the next
Medicare is where political posturing runs headlong into historical
truth: It is, along with Social Security, the most successful government
program-other than its unrivaled military-that the United States has ever
And it has delivered for elderly people what President Barack Obama and
at least some Democrats say they want to deliver for the rest of us:
universal coverage ensuring that people with medical problems will not
become impoverished by their illness, with patients offered a guaranteed set
of services and a choice of private doctors, hospitals and other
practitioners when they need treatment.
"Medicare was a comprehensive-and comprehensible-program, available
throughout the country and with a core set of benefits," says Judith Stein,
director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
In other words, it delivers the opposite of what the private insurance
industry has been providing. And it is doing so with a better track record
of controlling costs. Beginning in 1997, the growth in Medicare's cost per
beneficiary has been slower than the cost escalation in coverage delivered
by private insurers. Between 2002 and 2006, for example, Medicare's cost per
beneficiary rose 5.4 percent, while per capita costs in private insurance
rose 7.7 percent, according to MedPAC, an independent agency charged with
advising Congress on Medicare issues.
So why would Congress create a new health insurance system that doesn't
have a Medicare-like public plan for consumers to purchase?
Because conservatives, Democrats among them, never let the facts get in
the way of their ideology. The Senate, in particular, seems intent on
creating a new private health insurance "cooperative" that has never been
tested, has no track record of delivering quality coverage at an affordable
price, and which consumers would have to learn to navigate.
Forty-four years ago, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed
the law creating Medicare. In its way, Medicare was a testament to our
failure to create a national health insurance system that would cover
everyone. With former President Harry Truman looking on, Johnson said the
need was great, and urgent. "There are more than 18 million Americans over
the age of 65. Most of them have low incomes. Most of them are threatened by
illness and medical expenses that they cannot afford."
At the time, about half of the elderly had no health insurance-they were
too old and too likely to get sick, so the private market simply wouldn't
insure them. The elderly were the demographic group most likely to live in
poverty, and about one in three older Americans were poor. Blacks and other
minorities could not receive treatment in whites-only medical facilities,
discrimination that was barred by Medicare.
Now the elderly are among the best-insured Americans, with upward of 95
percent covered by Medicare. The rate of poverty among those 65 and older is
under 10 percent. The decline in elderly poverty began with the creation of
Social Security-but it accelerated, according to Census Bureau data, only
after Medicare coverage began.
"The need for this action is plain," Johnson said in signing the law in
Truman's hometown of Independence, Mo. "And it is so clear indeed that we
marvel not simply at the passage of this bill, but what we marvel at is that
it took so many years to pass it."
Now we marvel again at the long and contentious legislative path that
health care revision is taking. We hear the same arguments against a
national health insurance plan that were made nearly half a century ago.
But now we have Medicare, and its demonstrated history of delivering
exactly what Johnson said it would. And the marvel of our own time is that
we ignore this success, while promoting untried alternatives that may well
Marie Cocco's e-mail address is <mariecocco(at)washpost.com>.
© 2009, Washington Post Writers Group