Utopia 14: Monument

If you want people to get nothing done, convince them they are on one side of something. —Carolyn Casey


Jack opened a familiar file on his computer and touched a button on the key pad.  A random generator shuffled his students and a picture of one of the children appeared on the screen.  He noted the face and pushed the button again.  Then he folded the computer and pushed it back into his wallet.

He went to his bag and removed 3 containers which were carefully wrapped in wax wrap for the trip.  He took his containers and his luggage into the hall.

The children were mostly assembled there with their luggage.  Hotel staff loaded luggage onto carts for transportation to the shuttle.  The luggage would be shipped on ahead to the train depot while he and his class went to the Monuments.  Those who were already packed were grouping in their usual cliches in the hall.  Jack waited patiently as the chaos cleared and all but his own bags were loaded onto the carts.

“Okay.  We have some preparations to do before we go down to breakfast.  Everyone line up with your backs to the wall and put your hand over your eyes.”

With some jostling and giggling they complied with his instructions.

Jack took two of the jars and unscrewed their caps.  He dipped his fore finger into the first one and it instantly turned a bight purple.  He approached the line of children and touched his finger to Farid’s forehead.   Instantly a neon purple dot appeared on his olive skin.  Jack continued down the line of students touching each forehead.  When he came to Will he paused and dipped his middle finger into the other jar.  His finger turned a brilliant, lime green.  He touched this finger to Will’s forehead and then proceeded down the line until her reached Marion who was the only other recipient of the green dye.

Finally he placed purple dots on his and his two chaperone’s foreheads.

“Okay.  You can open your eyes and follow Ms. Cortez and Ms. Laucowski to the cafeteria.”

He began to screw on the lids to the dye bottles and opened the third bottle.  He dipped his handkerchief in the bottle and cleaned his two stained fingers.  The dye vanished instantly.   He packed away the two dye bottles in his luggage but secured the clear bottle in his back pack.  He then allowed the staff to take his luggage as well.

When he entered the cafeteria he noted the locations of he children.  Nothing seemed amiss.  The children were dining and chatting excitedly in their usual groups.  He took some pancakes made of mesquite flour and corn meal and some prickly pear syrup and sat down with the two adults.

“Do you think the experiment will work in such a short period of time?”  Concepcion Cortez asked.

“We’ll see.”  Jack smiled.

“The children have been together a long time.  I think their habits are pretty ingrained.  Maybe if you had done this when they were younger.”  Rhonda put in.

“Perhaps.  I didn’t think of it until now and it fit so nicely with this trip.  Maybe on my next class…”  Jack drifted off speculating.

The children finished eating before the adults and were eager to be off on their adventure.  Jack gulped the last of his breakfast and led his crew to the platform.  They were again loaded into  two shuttles.  Both Will and Marion climbed into the same shuttle and Jack also entered this one.  With some coaxing Rhonda accompanied Concepcion into the other shuttle.

The shuttles traveled for about an hour through the desert and then began to climb.  Jack sat to the back of the shuttle and appeared to be reading.  What he was really doing was observing.  He looked on as Marion chatted excitedly with Rupa and Will’s hands flew in rapid conversation with Andy.  As they traveled the terrain became more desolate and rocky.  The shuttle began to climb into the mountains and when they did get out Jack was relieved that the air not hot enough to suck the wind out of his lungs.  The shuttle had deposited them at the base of the trail.  Here the desertification had taken hold slightly later due to the elevation.  Brush and bushes outlined what were once fallen trees like ghosts.


The children were lined up and instructed to fill their canteens with water at the provided spout.  Then they were off up the trail.  The group was initially in a  staggered configuration of the usual friendships.  But soon Jack watched Andy take up a conversation with Farid and as they moved ahead of Will, Andy bumped Marion’s shoulder.  He continued to climb without noticing that he had sent Marion stumbling into Rupa.  Rhonda stepped forward in defense of her daughter but Jack caught her by the arm just in time.

“Remember.  We agreed to let it happen.  Not all lessons are pleasant ones but all are valuable.”

Rhonda dropped her eyes and dropped to the back of the line with Jack to walk with him for a while.  She seemed to do well for a few more minutes until Rupa took up a conversation with Svana and and Marion was left trekking up the last of the hill silently walking behind the other two girls.  Rhonda looked on with a worried expression that only Jack saw.

The trail opened up into a colonnade of flagpoles.  Many of the flagpoles had two flags on them.  The now defunct state flag flew under the Great Desert Restoration Project flag.  The states that still survived flew solo on their poles. The colonnade ended in a new amphitheater that looked out on the monument.  They had reached the monument at near noon and the effect on the stone was not as dramatic as at sunset but he site was still breathtaking in its grandiosity.  Four determined, regal faces stared out over the horizon from the verge of the cliff.

The children filed into the amphitheater and took their seats.  To his satisfaction Jack noticed that Will and Marion ended up on the back row of the tight group the children made on the stone benches.

Farid hung back and climbed to the top of the amphitheater.  Jack realized the time and decided to pause before starting the presentation that went with the monument.

“We’ll eat our lunch here.”  he said as he watched Farid unroll a small carpet from his back pack.  “Who can name the first face?” Hands sprung up. “Geraldo?”

“George Washington.”

“Good.”  Jack’s eyes swung back to the accustomed site of Farid as he went through the dance of his noon day prayers.  His family were believers and had come to Jack with their concerns about public school.  Corona was a small town and there was no parochial school for the belief that they held.  Few people prescribed to specific beliefs any more and so most people were unaccustomed to seeing a display of devotion. They could have chosen home school over the Internet but Farid was an only child and they worried that Farid’s socialization would suffer.  But public school could be just as damaging if Farid was not accepted.  They need not have worried.  The children were placed together at such a young age they accepted Andy and when Farid began the prayers they looked on in curiosity but soon even that faded.  Now none of them even turned to watch Farid go through his dance of standing, kneeling, bowing, standing as he uttered the repetitive words in Arabic.

“And why is his face on the monument?”

Several of the children shouted out that he was the first president, father of the nation.

“Good.  But why was that important?”

“Because he represents the struggle for independence from monarchy.”  Andy signed.

“That’s right. And who is the next? Svana?”

“Thomas Jefferson.”

“Good job. And why is he there?”

“He wrote Constitution I, which started the age of democracy.”

“Excellent. Now someone else. The third face?”

There was a silence. Slowly and uncertainly Tanner raised his had.


“Theodore Roosevelt?”

“Very Good.”  Jack watched as Farid finished his prayer and stood.  Normally he would nonchalantly pick up the rug and return to the group.  But today, Jack noticed him pause.  He stood over the rug staring down at it.  Then slowly he turned to look at his friends.  A grim look was in his face as though he was remembering something unpleasant.  He turned back the the rug and shook it out with more force than usual and packed in away.  He returned to the group and very deliberately sat by Will who smiled and whispered something to him.  Jack smiled, “And why is he here, Tanner?”

Tanner paused a second and then said, “Manifest Destiny?”

“You’re right.  But tell me what that is.”

“The descendants of Europeans believed that they were ordained by a superior spiritual being, God, to inhabit all of the Americas.”

“And does that have some significance here?”

“Well the area was once owned by the Native Americans.  They actually had a treaty with the US government to keep the mountain but the US took the mountain back by force and evicted them from the area.”

“Excellent. And the final face?”

“Abraham Lincoln.”  Tinashe announced.

“Correct.  And he is there because…”

“He was for freeing the slaves.  He represents equality among men and the reunification of the states after civil war.”

“Excellent.  OK.  Now a tough one.  Who can tell me who created the sculpture on the mountain?’

“Gutzon Borglum.”  Tanner said without looking up.

“And give me one interesting fact about him.”

“He was a member of some hate group.  Ahhh the CCC or something like that.”

“The KKK?” Tinashe asked.

“Yeah that’s it.”

“The Klu Klux Klan.  They hated everyone who was not Western European in decent and Christian in belief system.”  she said and then added softly, “Especially African decent.”

“Good.”  Jack, careful to keep his voice without emotion.  “Lets continue the lesson.”

Jack walked to a podium at the side of the stage.  There he saw a depression of a human hand on the surface of the podium.  Jack placed his hand on the podium and bell sounded.  He also pushed a button on the podium that showed a picture of an ear.  Jack took his seat in the front the amphlitheater in time to see a young man in a slightly outdated tunic walk out onto the stage.  He was followed by a middle aged woman.

“Hello.  I am Morton Deforrest, associate professor of history for the University of Idaho.  Behind me is Mount Rushmore.”  He gestured to the cliff face ignoring the woman behind him who was signing his words as though she were not present.  “A monument to 4 of the Early American Presidents.  The monument was truly an achievement when it was constructed in the 1920’s and 30’s and a great work of art.  It was seen that way by generations of Americans.

“But with the New Renaissance came new thoughts about our government, our society and our past.  We now look upon this marvel in a different light.  We have become willing to view our past more critically so that we can learn to create a brighter future.  This monument casts a shadow onto some of the darkest thoughts Americans had in their past.”

The young man disappeared a black and white picture of the cliff face without the faces appeared.  The woman remained superimposed on the picture.

“These mountains once belonged to the Lakota Sioux, the largest tribe of people to inhabit the Great Plains which is now the Great Desert.  Then they went by  the name ‘The Six Grandfathers’ and they held great significance to the Sioux belief system.  The land that you  are now on was promised to them in 1868 after the US government took away most of the rest of their land in a bloody war that killed many of the Sioux.”  Pictures of a field with Tee-pees and bodies strewn about in the grass.  “In the 1870’s when gold was discovered here the Sioux were forced to give up this mountain.”

“A man named Gutzon Borglum was commissioned to create the art work. He chose the four presidents he felt best exemplified the Republic of the United States and who increased its territory and power.”  Another black and white of a man with a huge mustache and a bowler pulled low over his forehead.  Then the professor was back on stage.

“How did the government, any government, justify such open acts of murder, theft, betrayal and open mockery of deeply held beliefs?  By something that would plague America until the New Renaissance.  Racism.  The belief that one group of people was inferior to another group of people.  The Western European descendants firmly believed because they had superior weaponry that they were more intelligent, and more ordained spiritually to own the land that the Native Americans inhabited.  Later similar arguments with equally devastating consequences were leveled against Afro-American slaves and their descendants, immigrants from certain European Countries, Latin Americans, women in general, people who chose same sex partnering, and a variety of religious groups most notably the belief system known as Islam.”  The stage was filled with pictures of young black children being harassed with powerful water spray.  A young man with delicate features who had been brutally beaten and tied to a fence post in a lonesome prairie.  A man with Farid’s features and olive skin on his knees cowering before a snarling dog.

Tanisha held her head high with her back rigid. Farid noticeably blushed.  

“People in these groups were often segregated as the Native Americans were on reservations or informally as in ghettos.  Attempts to desegregated the US were fraught with difficulty and violence but even when people from these groups did not live in one area they were subjected to other forms of segregation.  Economic segregation such as earning lower wages.  Societal segregation–they had less benefits from organized society such as health care, nutrition, education, beautiful and safe surroundings.  Frequently they were forced to endure the waste of the more favorite group deposited in their neighborhoods.  Even toxic or harmful forms of waste.”  A child picked through refuse as flies buzzed above her head.

“By the beginning of this Century, the signs of racism were usually subtle and economic.  The dogma that was taught in schools was that all Americans were competing on a level playing field and those that achieved more deserved more.  Yet White males started their adult lives with more money in the bank and more property to leverage.  They had more access to education.  White men dominated in media roles and were exposed to more positive role models in that way.  White men had more business opportunities and access to loans at cheaper interest rates.  They had the least amount of violence leveled at them.  Women were routinely charged more for services and materials relating to them–haircuts, clothing, cleaning products.  Even when those items cost less to produce.  People of color made up the majority of people in prisons and were more likely to be jailed for the same crime as a white male and be subjected to longer terms in jail.

“While ideals changed throughout the centuries and diversity increased within the nation, racism was kept alive despite the progressive nature of thought in America.  The target of the racism was every changing however.”  A montage started with a picture of a man in a feather headdress and faded into a black man, a woman, a man with tightly curly hair and a large nose who wore a small circular hat, a man with brown skin and cowboy hat with Geraldo’s features, a man going through the repetitive motions that Farid had just completed.

“Many historians now believe that racism would have faded away with the slave culture had it not be for its use as a political tool.

“The Populist party threatened to unite the farmers and workers of America into one party to fight the elite control.  However, movement of the late 1800′ was torn apart from within by racism when they nominated a slave owning Tom Watson as Vice President.  Workers unions met a similar fate.  The inclusive wobbles were disassembled while the union that excluded Afro Americans and Asians, theAFL, flourished.  Even the best legislation of the time to protect the worker, the  Wagner Act, excluded domestic servants and agricultural workers so that it would not cover most people of color.

“As things became more difficult for the vast majority of Americans as the Catastrophe approached, racism was used as a redirection of blame away from the male, white, Christian, European descendant people who tended to dominate the upper classes and ruling structure of the United States.  Instead, blame for the hard times could be redirected to a class of people the ruling class did not feel obligated to.  Some marginalized group that would not be able to defend itself and did not have equal access to the media.”  A picture of a black family being evicted from their home was overlaid over a newspaper article about the stock market crash.  A Latin American man working at an assembly line was overlaid over the padlocked gate of another factory.

“Racism was used to divert attention away from the elite class moving work to other nations and manipulating trade to their benefit even when it was harmful to the majority of Americans and devastating to both economies.  Racism was a keystone issue that prevented Americans from achieving health care equality with the rest of the world.  Race was blamed for wars and for economic collapse.  Race was blamed for increases in crime even when it was clear that people of color were imprisoned unfairly at a much higher rate. The question of what good it did to imprison so many people was never asked.  President Nixon exploited white worker fears about race to run two terms as president and Reagan, Clinton and both Bush’s did the same.  It was used to pass the most oppressive and anti democratic legislation in American history–the Patriot Act.  And in the end we were convinced that nations other than our own were responsible for the Catastrophe and should be charged with fixing it.”

“In each instance, well meaning people’s fears were used to advance policies that were harmful not only to a marginalized group, but also to the majority.  So much so that humans were diverted from taking action when it was desperately needed.  When the Catastrophe could have been averted.  This monument, once a testament to our superiority, now serves to remind us not to be manipulated by such fears again.”

The professor faded away and a moment later his companion finished signing his last words and also disappeared.

Jack took his place at the front of the class.  Andy was rubbing his forehead as though it hurt him.

Rupa and Svana looked at each other and then stood and walked to the back row to sit with Marion.

“What do you think of the decoration on your forehead?”

“Can I change mine to green?”  Andy signed.

“Yes, I want mine to be green.”  Farid chimed in.

Multiple murmurs followed Farid.

Jack pulled the clear bottle out of his back pack.   “I have a better idea.”  he said smiling with an unmistakable look of pride.

The Concepts Behind the Fiction:

1.  Marked

“Until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away.” –Sculptor Gutzon Borglum the designer of Mt Rushmore

[Mt.Rushmore] “fits into our sacred Black Hills like a red-hot iron poker into somebody’s eye…  They could just as well have carved this mountain into a huge cavalry boot standing on a dead Indian.”–Lame Deer

The Black Hills of South Dakota were initially known as the Six Grandfathers and were holy to the Lakota Sioux.  They were given to the Lakota in the treaty of 1868 but by the 1870’s the US took them back because gold was discovered there.

President Grant set the policy for the Sioux:  Assimilation or extermination.  The Sioux culture and language would die or the people would.  Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse did not accept either option and led raids against the US army culminating in the defeat of Gen. Custer at Wounded Knee.  Ironically this was the site of the resurgence of the American Indian Movement in the 1970’s and the title of a famous book about Native American history.

Mount Rushmore was named after an investor and eventually a white man from Connecticut, Gutzon Borglum, was hired to make a monument to America to increase tourism to the area.  Initially the monument was to honor Western heroes including some Native Americans.  Gutzon Borglum, who was a fan of Manifest Destiny and Teddy Roosevelt, convinced the investors that Presidents would have broader significance and increase tourism more than Western heroes.

The insult of Rushmore to the Sioux is at least three-fold:

  1. It was built on land the government took from them.

2. The Black Hills in particular are considered sacred ground.

3. The monument celebrates the European settlers who killed so many Native Americans and appropriated their land.

It is in effect a monument to not only racism, but extermination.

Mt Rushmore Movie

Race and Labor

Race and Unions

Tim Wise on CNN

The Brutal Truth about Healthcare

Environmental “Racism”

2.  True Blood  (Alternative Title:  Chosen)

Discussions about race issues distract                us from the simple fact that you can’t generalize about race, no                matter how well-meaning, without supporting racism. Whenever you                speak of race, you carry the assumption that everyone in that race                thinks and feels exactly the same way – which is completely                untrue and we all know it. It’s not true to the race you belong                to, why should it be true of others? Categorizing people does not                promote healing and brotherhood. It segregates the world in people’s                minds. We then wonder why the nation is unable to heal.–The Age of Distraction


Racism has been the Achilles Heal of our democracy since the very beginning.  I will be frank with you, it is not my favorite subject.  But there are important things to take from racism.  Like why has it been such a problem for us for so long?

One answer is that is was oh so convenient.   We could take someone else’s land and kill them because they were “savages”.  We could enslave them because they were “inferior”.

Later we could pay them less for the same work.  This worked to drive wages of the white worker down.  They were also used to break up trade unions that protected workers of all skin color.

Several Presidents have used them to convince the majority to vote for them. Nixon convinced people that he was tough of crime–particularly crimes by nonwhites.  Reagan was going to rid us of the nonwhite welfare queen.  Bush I was going to declare war on drugs–used by nonwhites (white-person powdered cocaine was kind of still OK.)  Bush II and the Republican candidates for office in this recent election were going to protect us from Islamic (Middle Eastern) extremists.

But there is an even subtler use of the “other” ploy.  We can use them as scape goats for all the bad things that the rich cause to happen to the poor and middle class.  Like housing bubbles.  Job losses due to free trade.  We use the fear of “others” or “them” to camouflage the theft and wrong doing of the people with the same skin color and religion as the majority.  To hide the wrong doing of those at the top.

3.  Interview with a Teabagger  (Alternative Title:  Feast of Fools, Betrayed)

There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.

Now, people who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.  Paul Krugman

The health care debate and the town hall meetings is our current show that illustrates how the fear of “other” works against all of us.  In this case the “other” does not even have to be of a different skin color or religion.  They are of a different socioeconomic class or political party.

As a health care provider I have a pretty big stake in what happens to the health care system in the US.  I get asked frequently what I think and since my views are so dissimilar from most of my colleagues I have to defend my point of view frequently.  Fortunately I have worked in all the forms of health care the the US has to offer including socialized (US military and Public Health Service), single payer (Medicare and Medicaid) as well as private insurance, so I can speak from experience.  I also made it a point to educate myself on this issue and have written several blogs elsewhere on the subject.

So here is an excerpt from a conversation that I have with teabaggers on a regular basis:

Teabagger:  I believe that more competition is needed to drive down costs in health care.  We should open state lines and allow people to pick their own health care from any where in the nation.  Obama and the liberals want to Socialize medicine.  They will install a Canadian style system of health care. It would end competition and my right to choose.  That would take away my right to choose my own doctor or hospital.   That will kill our democracy and lead to Communism!  (Dick Armey’s site actually does imply this.)

TP:  I’ll leave the idea that we have a democracy alone for now.

This is a long way from socialism and calling a guy who hired Tim Gietner a socialist is laughable.  Besides we already have the purest form of socialized medicine in the world on our shores in the form of the military health care system.  Yet no one I know in the military seems interested in becoming a communist.

Even if some socialism slipped into this country, would that really be a bad thing?  What do you think would happen?  Strongly socialized countries like Sweden and the Netherlands have citizens who are better off.  Most of them own their own homes (without a bank involvement), and have money in the bank. When the economic crisis hit them they did not lose their homes.  Additionally, they had a robust social safety net so that when things went wrong they were not destitute.  It appears from studies that they are happier than Americans too.  So what is it precisely that you fear?  Is it just the word “socialism” or do you have a real concern about how that might change you life?

Granted, I am very left leaning and Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers and I would gladly have a Single Payer health care system.  All three of us have bills we have written for just that purpose.  None of the bills are anywhere near being adopted into law, though.  I think you have absolutely nothing to worry about in that regard.

What is in Obama’s heart, I can not say.  But then neither can you or Dick Armey.  What Obama is proposing is not Single Payer (Medicare) or Socialized Medicine (the military and public health systems).  What is proposed is putting limits on insurance companies.  Much the way Wall St ran amok without rules, private health insurance has done the same.  They invented rules so they could take your money while you are healthy and then drop you or not take care of you when you were sick.  Denying sick people care is one of the richest industries in America. Obama’s rules would prevent that.

It would provide a clearing house of insurance options for anyone without insurance which in many ways serves the same purpose as opening the state boundaries between insurance companies.

As a health provider, I already deal with 15 companies all with different and ever changing rules.  I fail to see how 30 similar companies would help that.  Obama’s plan provides competition with something different than just another insurance company with the same basic structure.  It provides a  Public Option.  The Public Option is a national health care insurance firm, paid for with insurance premiums just like all the other health insurance companies, but run by the Congress.  They would not advertise and would not have a billion dollar a year CEO salary to deal with, so they can run at a cheaper rate and possibly offer more care to boot.  They are predicted to run about 25% cheaper.  That has insurance companies worried.  The health insurance industry has been very profitable and theirCEO’s have made million on denying care to the people who pay them for it.  They are worried that an option that did not advertise or have high overhead would cut into their profits.  They are actually afraid of this type of competition.  That is why they are fighting it so hard and enlisting the aid of Congressmen DickArmey and right wing talk show hosts.

What they are actually saying is that I should not have the option to pick a Public Option instead of a Private insurance group.  That means that Obama is trying to give me an option that I want, and you are trying to take it away!

Teabagger:  But that is just it.  I am for small government.  The government should not get involved in my life at all.  If we let government into our health care system, there will be a bureaucratic mess between me and my doctor.  They already regulate health care half to death.  That is one of the problems with it.  The government never does anything right.  They will ration my care and I will have to wait in line for care.

TP:  So what is government for?  Government is about all of us deciding some things democratically and doing things for ourselves that we can not do alone.  Like build roads.  Defend ourselves.  Create and enforce laws.  Govern trade.  And they have created roads that work and defended you and your ancestors for a good long time now.  They have run Medicare and Social Security since the 1940’s.  Granted the government is struggling right now, and that is an issue that desperately needs to be addressed, but it is not the failure you make it out to be.

As for health care regulation, they do regulate the deliver of health care (doctors and hospitals) quite well.  But the insurance industry is the Wild West.  The industry frequently does not pay for things they have agreed to pay, tells patients that their contracts do not support the care they need when it does, defrauds doctors and hospitals, and is daily practicing medicine without a license in every state.  There is already a huge bureaucracy between you and your doctor.  As a provider I have to hire someone just to deal with it.  That’s right, a 9-5 M-F job that deals just with getting patients authorized for things I’ve already said they need.  There is another whole person in my office who is just making sure that we get paid and that when they cheat us, a daily occurrence, they are caught and told to pay.

As for rationing, we already ration.  The poor don’t get any and 22,000 of them a year die.  That is the only real death panel in medicine these days. CEO’s of huge profitable health care firms (some of the most profitable firms in the nation) pay an army of people to kick you off the insurance if you get sick.  They find “preexisting” conditions and cancel your insurance the second they might have to actually spend money instead of collect money.  The charge more for women then men.  They disallow things only women need like maternity care and birth control.  They cap how much money in your lifetime you can get from them if you get really sick.  They will not pay for some drugs and procedures even if there are no alternatives, even if the patient will die without the procedure or drug.  That is rationing.  That is irrational rationing.  And they never pay for complementary medicine no matte how good the track record is for certain complementary therapies for certain diseases.

By contrast Germans and the French have more choice than Americans.  The Japanese and the French can go to traditional healers.  Germany, Austria, Japan and Britain outperform the US in wait times.  Even Canada (the bottom of the barrel in universal care and thus the example that is always used by the Teabaggers) outperforms the US in urgent care and ties the US in non-urgent care.

Teabagger:  But Obama has no idea how to pay for this grandiose health care.  He will have to raise our taxes!!  He will bankrupt our children.

TP:  Too late.  The banks already did that.

Actually we already pay twice what every other industrialized nation pays and still not everyone has health care. Additionally, 700,000 bankruptcies a year occur due to health expenses that are not paid for even if the person has or had insurance.  We pay $2.5 trillion a year–17% of the GDP and that figure is constantly going up.  It is not only bankrupting some people, it is bankrupting our whole nation.

Obama has actually outlined how the plan would be paid for.  It is not really mysterious.  He did the things that other nations have already done to lower their costs.  Things like allowing bargaining for lower drug costs.  Providing policies that encourage health instead of waiting until things are out of control before you seek help.  The Public Option is paid for with premiums much the way all health care insurance companies finance their companies.  It will not increase taxes.

I realize that this is hard for you, but the insurance companies have been tricking you about how much they give you.  You would not believe what other countries get for the same dollar in health care that you spend.

Personally I am all for increasing taxes to pay for health care.  I would still come out ahead if my premiums went away and I was assured that if I got sick the health insurance I’ve been paying for all this time was not going to vanish.

Teabagger:  TP, you know that if you give health care away that people will abuse the system and come in for health care when they don’t need it.

TP:  Actually, people do come in more frequently in other countries.  The Japanese see their doctors 3 times as much as Americans do but they also have less acute illness and live longer.  They also pay less than half of what we do.  So maybe that isn’t abusing the system but using the system to create better overall health.   Maybe Americans should adjust how they see utilization of health care.

Teabagger:  But people who don’t deserve the health care will get it free.  I see people who (pick one:  use a cell phone, have a car, live in a home, eat, have a TV) who don’t have health insurance.  People who don’t contribute to the tax system or who are illegal immigrants.  And my taxes will go up!

TP:  [This argument comes up invariably and is the root of the the real fears about health care.]

All the other countries that provide universal coverage (and that would be all the industrialized countries) pay about half of what we pay per person for health care.  So even if some people get something out without putting anything in, the people who put money into the system still win by paying less than we do now.  That is unless you think that Americans are the only country in the world that can’t run a health care system on what every other country in the world can.

Although the things these people have that you point to are not equivalent to even one years worth of health care (US average $12,000) I must concede that some people may take advantage of the system.  Any system.  Even the one we have now.  There is little you can do to stop that.  And when they take advantage the cost is already being passed on to you via health care premiums and longer wait times.  Even if your taxes do increase under the Obama plan, it will more than be made up in lower premiums and better quality of health care–even if some people are abusing the system.  That is because the people abusing it are few, and abusing it for pennies on the dollar.  By contrast we now have a system where the very rich abuse the system and do so for 25-35 cents per dollar spent.  The radio talk show people have convinced you to be afraid of the bum scamming a dollar from you while the insurance CEO lifts your whole wallet unnoticed.


By this time most teabaggers have run screaming away from me because I am so obviously possessed by Satan or Stalin or something evil.

The truth is that the teabagger movement is very instructive as to how our free will is undermined by big money interests in this country.  It also bring together several of the issues this blog has been talking about.

The health care debate is shrouded in mystery.  Most people, including pundits and reporters, could not tell you the difference between single payer and socialized.  In fact I think most people could not come up with a reasonable definition of Socialism.  Possibly not even democracy.  So most people do not know what the issues are unless they have actually gotten sick and had to use insurance that after years of paying the premium just vanishes.  That is the start of control in this country.  It is a mix of poor education and poor reporting by major media outlets that leaves people baffled and confused.  Meanwhile the big money interests buy their favorite Congress people to do their bidding despite what the public wants.  Like taking single payer off the table when it had a majority of people who wanted it.  (OK it was a slim majority but at the time several polls showed that it did have a majority.

This works for most issues.  But occasionally the opposition to what big money wants is more organized or the thing that is asked of the masses is just to ridiculous to succumb to mere confusion.  If this first line of control fails, there is a back up plan that has gone into effect with health care.

Talking points are sent to right wing talk show hosts.  In the vacuum of information they can make up any nonsense they want.  They tell people that if they get a public option to the health insurance package then their children will be living in a communist country and that their grand mother will die in a death panel.  The talk show hosts almost never have an honest debate.  It is almost always opinion based information and sources are rarely quoted.  When they are quoted they are edited or incorrect a fair amount of the time.  Most of the listeners will never find out that these are just plain ridiculous lies.

An invariable part of this step is the subtext of the “others”.  They must convince the people who listen that someone less deserving then the listener will get something they do not deserve at the listener’s expense.    This is the main work of the plan.  The Hosts must convince a large number of people to believe something that is neither true, and is actually frequently not in their own self interest.

Finally, corporate interests sponsor a “grass roots” (AstroTurf) organization and media (also corporate sponsored) covers this effort almost exclusively.  Instead of raising nickels and dimes from cash strapped but concerned and informed citizens, this group gets all the money they need from their corporate sponsors to put on a good show.  They have a cool bus and port-a-potties at their demonstrations.  DickArmey got about $6 million from the health care industry.  That is why he is the Chair of Freedom Works the leading group supporting theTeabaggers.

We examine how employees reallocate compensation in response to increase in health insurance premiums. We find that a $1 increase in insurance premiums leads to a 52-cent increase in health insurance expenditures. Approximately 2/3 of this increase is financed through reduced wages and 1/3 through other benefits.  Goldman et al


  1. few weeks and it appears that I work Saturday frequently but almost always have Sunday off.  So I am switching to publishing on Sundays.

    I hope to get the next to posts out on time but I am going to The State of Jefferson for a job interview for a dream job so we will see what happens.  I’ll do my best to post though.

Comments have been disabled.