Saturday, September 15, 2007

News (sic) Reporting

It is neither fun, nor rewarding to watch News Broadcasts here in the USA. What makes it worse is that it is rarely informative either.

More than anywhere else than I have experienced, it is slanted, biased and the worst of "lowest common denominator" I have witnessed.

The so-called News reports do little other than pander to an uneducated, and largely uncritical audience. That, at least, is the impression they give of the Broacasters respect for the viewers.

A case in point toninght. The local affiliate of ABC broadcast a piece about the falling school roles in Oklahoma. They attribute at least some of this to the latest round of Immigration Legislation passed by the Oklahoma Legislature, and will become law in November.

This particularly odious piece of law is both Un-Constitutional, and discriminatory; but that is another post. Clearly though, local community leaders and business have been reporting falling trade and numbers of Hispanic families coming here, and reports that, so far, up to 20 000 may have already left for more humanitarian States.

Of course the Extremists here see this as a victory .... and have little understanding of the concept of "Phyrric" None of this excuses News Channel 8 for it's story. They were suggesting that the Education and Social Services would benefit to the tune of $200 million anually, in Oklahoma, from reduced costs.

That assertion is both bogus and intellectually dishonest. Bogus because it simply isn't true, dishonest because they know it isn't true, and if they don't, then they are absolutely in the wrong business.

Last year, the IRS published figures that showed they received contributions totalling $56 Billion (yeah, you did read that right) from residents with no Social Security Number. Of these, an estimated 10 million people were adjudged to be illegal immigrants. No one particularly disputes these figures, even the Republicans seem to stipulate to them. Most estimates put the social costs of accommodating the same group of immigrants at around $26 Billion per year. Do the math!

What News Channel 8 seemed to be suggesting is that as Ford Motor Company might save around $7500 for every car they don't make, the company would indeed benefit from selling no cars at all.

Of course the "cost" of any operation is never, and never can be, judged by the investment, but only by the Return on the Investment. It is dishonest, willfully so, and rather stupid to suggest any other.

What is even worse is that others who trumpet the economics of the Madhouse, are elected to high office, and returned to office time and again.

There is a possibility that they are right, and I am wrong. News Channel 8 did little to persuade me of that tonight.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

We all should have fountains

Whatever happened to healthcare in the United States of America?

I have an angle here, an edge, a motive. My starting point is a profound belief that a society is judged not by it’s military might, it’s technological achievements or it’s presence on the World stage; no, it is judged by how it cares for it’s Seniors, it’s children and it’s sick.

On all three of those tests the USA falls woefully short of accepted standards in the developed world. Baby Boomers will feel the full force of the first, the second is being felt by High School students all over this nation, with Many Children Left Far Behind, but here I want to address the care of the sick.

I am angry tonight. Angry that, as a father and husband I have to make choices about whether or not my 5 year old step-daughter gets the drug her Doctor prescribed, and if so, what we have to go without to afford it.

Natalie has a Staph. infection. Nothing serious, but her allergy to penicillin requires an alternative drug. The one prescribed is an antibiotic that isn’t on the Formulary of her Insurance company (Aetna). So it’s going to cost $80, on top of the $20 co-pay to see the Doctor. That is $100 to sort out a boil on her cute butt!!

Natalie is lucky. She will get her meds, and insurance will meet part of the bill. An estimated 47 million people in this country are not so lucky. They rely on charity, or go untreated. It’s that simple. 20% of the population of the USA, in 2007, have little or not access to effective healthcare. I don’t want to hear about the *waiting lists* in countries with Universal Healthcare systems, or the cost to taxpayers of maintaining those systems. Ask people here with no coverage how long the waiting lists are! Ask my wife, who badly needs surgery, how long is the waiting list. Her Insurance company have decided that *medical necessity hasn’t been established*, despite a pain management doctor, a primary healthcare physician and two plastic surgeons saying that it has!

So, despite approximately $650 per month being paid to cover my wife and her three children, they still either can’t get the treatment they need, or have to pay through the nose for it. Jodie earns about thirty four thousand a year. Those premiums add up to $7800. That is around 23% of her gross income. On top of that are all the co-pays, which could be nothing, or could be many hundreds of dollars a year.

Did I tell you about the fountains in St Francis Hospital, Tulsa?

The building is magnificent …. Marble and fountains in every foyer, beautiful plantings and comfortable chairs. The only problem is that up to 25% of the city population can’t actually be treated there …. They can’t afford it.

Jodie has three children, born in ’98, ’01 and ’03. The first cost her about $40, the 2nd about $1500 and the third about $4000. These were her out-of-pocket expenses, the only difference was that the third was a caesarian section. What happened between ’98 and ’01? And why, with citizens paying those kinds of additional contributions, is infant mortality among the highest in the developed world.

How is this society in a position to criticize a young woman for attempting to flush a baby down a McDonalds toilet, when it might cost her anything up to $4000 to have the baby in a medically accepted manner? Ok, I accept the example is extreme, and the young woman really should have known better; after all, she had had the benefit of twelve or thirteen years schooling!

I am not one of those Europeans who comes over here and simply criticizes. I do not wish to see the USA emulate a British way of life at all. But it is useful to draw the odd comparasion here and there. To not do so is to be blinkered and insular.

In the UK, there is Universal Healthcare, free at the point of delivery. It’s not perfect, and it’s under strain. Some charges have crept in but the principle remains the same. The Brits pay for this in two ways. Employees contribute around10% of gross up to a threshold, and employers pay about the same, with no cap. Put simply, less than 20% of payroll fully funds healthcare, pensions and unemployment benefit. The cover is available free, to all.

As I said, it isn’t perfect, but it’s considerably cheaper than healthcare here in the US, and 100% inclusive.

So why are Americans afraid of *Socialised Healthcare*? I simply fail to understand why y’all are prepared to pay through the nose for inferior products, and then hear folk claim you have the world’s best healthcare. No, you don’t, and you don’t even come close.

Did I tell you about the fountains?

You have insurance companies deciding treatment. Do they have your best interests at heart? You have drug companies literally spending billions in advertising to the public (who can’t actually buy the product), all in an attempt to pressurize a doctor to prescribe the latest wonder-drug. It is unethical, and in many countries is simply unlawful. Do the citizens of Germany, France, Switzerland, UK etc ….. appear to be suffering because Glaxo-SmithKline are unable to sell them prescription drugs over their bowl of Cornflakes?

The USA has one of the unhealthiest populations in the industrial world, but change? No Siree Bob, it’s the American Way.

In this Race For The White House, is there a single politician who has a costed and thought out proposal to deal with this situation. Is any one of them prepared to say NO to drugs? NO to the insurers, and enough already to the hospital administrators?

Is there a politician who has the guts to actually do the right thing, not the expedient thing, or the politically possible thing. Is there a man or woman who is brave enough to dream? Dream of an America where the sick are treated, the Seniors and Veterans adequately cared for, and the children taught?

And not just to dream, to get up of his ass and say so. Say so on TV, say so on the stump, say so from Maine to California. Brave enough to be a Democrat yet say Arnie is trying to do the right thing. Brave enough to be a Republican and say we need to move trillions from defense, and spend it on people? (actually, that last is asking a bit much).

Is any man jack of them actually concerned about the USA, and the welfare of it’s people, or do they all just want to look good on Face The Nation. They will indeed face the Nation soon enough. Let us hope for the sake of the candidates that their lack of clothing is not visible to all.

Or perhaps one of them will step up, and be the Emperor in a full dress suit.