Friday, June 23, 2006

GOP Senators Blocking Veterans’ Health Care

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Time for change's Journal
Posted by Time for change in General Discussion
Fri Jun 23rd 2006, 11:58 AM
April 2005

In April 2005, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) attempted for the third time that year to provide adequate funding for veteran health care by sponsoring a $2 billion amendment to a military spending bill. The bill was voted down along party lines, with Arlen Specter being the only Republican voting for the bill. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), who led the fight against Murray�s amendment, said �an emergency request is unnecessary in this tight budget year.�

June 2005

But then, just two months later, we have this reported from the Washington Post:

The Bush administration, already accused by veterans groups of seeking inadequate funds for health care next year, acknowledged yesterday that it is short $1 billion for covering current needs at the Department of Veterans Affairs this year.

The disclosure of the shortfall angered Senate Republicans who have been voting down Democratic proposals to boost VA programs at significant political cost. Their votes have brought the wrath of the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and other organizations down on the GOP.

With that, Hutchison changed her tune, saying �We can never fall short on our promises to those who have sacrificed so much�. And many GOP Senators voiced similar sentiments, acting quite surprised about the new news that veteran�s health care was under-funded.

But according to several veteran�s groups, the problems should have been obvious to anyone who was paying attention:

Richard Fuller, legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans, said that the problems should have been obvious to anyone visiting a VA facility: �You could see it happening, clinics shutting down, appointments delayed�� The article goes on:

Joseph A. Violante, legislative director of the Disabled American Veterans, said Perlin's testimony yesterday confirms the veterans' assessment that the administration is "shortchanging veterans."

The Bush administration and House Republicans have been the main focus of anger among veterans organizations. Their "policies are inconsistent with a nation at war," said Steve Robertson, legislative director of the American Legion. They violate the basic military value of "an army of one, teamwork, taking care of each other," he said.

And here is what House Democrats recently had to say about this issue

America's veterans fought for our freedom overseas. They shouldn't have to fight the government to get the benefits they deserve. But the Veterans Administration (VA) health care system is perennially under funded. Democrats believe that our troops should be taken care of when we send them into battle and that they should be given the respect they have earned when we bring them home.

Right now, more than 30,000 veterans are waiting six months or more for an appointment at VA hospitals. Last year, Democrats proposed to increase funding for the VA by $1.8 billion and to require the VA to pay veterans $500 a month when their claims have been left pending for more than 6 months. In contrast, last year, Republicans broke their promise to increase veterans' health care by $1.8 billion. This year, the President's budget fails to provide enough current services for veterans' health care and about $3 billion less than veterans' organizations agree is needed for their health care.

June 2006

Then, just recently, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) sponsored a bill �To provide an assured stream of funding for veteran's health care that will take into account the annual changes in the veteran's population and inflation�.

And this bill was to be paid for by �restoring the pre-2001 top rate for income over $1 million, closing corporate tax loopholes and delaying tax cuts for the wealthy.�

Whoa. That�s pretty radical � cutting into the hard earned profits of those millionaires. I would have thought that maybe with an election year upon them some of those Republican Senators who were up for re-election would have voted for that. Yet only one Republican Senator up for re-election in 2006, Olympia Snowe, joined the Democrats in voting for this bill.

Excuses for legislating against health care

How do Republicans get away with this? It�s not just veterans who don�t get adequate health care. There were 46 million U.S. citizens as of 2004 who had no health care insurance, and approximately an equal number of additional inadequately insured citizens. So how are Republicans able to do this without getting voted out of office � other than by the fact that the corporate media basically ignores these issues?

Well, they�ve got lots of excuses. First, they claim that Americans don�t want government involved in health care. But this claim is consistently disputed by polling data � for example, a ABC News/Washington Post which showed that Americans �by a 2-1 margin, 62-32 percent, prefer a universal health insurance program� over the current system.

Then they claim that America has the best health care system in the world. That is a patently absurd claim, given that more than a quarter of our citizens don�t have enough health insurance to afford the care that they need. Furthermore, that claim is belied by the high and rising infant mortality rate in the United States since George Bush took office in 2001. Infant mortality rate is considered one of the best indices of the health status of a community or a nation.

Another favorite claim of Republicans is that we can�t afford to provide health care to our citizens. Setting aside the consideration of the billions of additional dollars we would have available if the regressive Bush tax cuts were reversed, our General Accounting Office (GAO) determined that if the United States adopted a single payer system similar to the Canadian system it could save $66.9 billion in administrative costs. The point is that health care is notoriously unresponsive to market forces because health care consumers have little understanding of how to evaluate individual health care providers or systems. Therefore, government control of the process would likely help to bring prices under control. And you don�t see too many politicians complaining about Medicare these days.

Then there is the so-called �tort reform� trick. That�s where Republicans pretend to support health care by limiting jury awards for malpractice. For example, there is the misnamed �Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Access to Care Act�, which Senate Democrats have successfully filibustered twice. Republicans are more than willing to improve �access to care� by handing money to the insurance companies at the expense of our Constitutional rights (trial by jury), but they won�t consider improving access to care by expanding the insurance coverage of ordinary Americans.

And most notoriously of all, and perhaps the main lie by which Republicans defeated Bill Clinton�s national health insurance plan, is that a federal health care plan would lead to health care rationing. Yeah sure, if they refuse to fund it adequately it would lead to rationing. Yet somehow the Senators themselves receive health care from the federal government, and their health care isn�t rationed. How could that be?

I think that when they run for re-election this fall someone ought to ask them that question, as well as why they voted against Patty Murray�s and Debbie Stabenow�s veteran�s health care bills.
Discuss (11 comments)
A summary of my DU posts
Virtually all of my DU posts consist of one of three general subjects: Election fraud, the tragedy of the Bush administration, or my ideas on the liberal values that we all hope will some day replace the values that our current government runs on.

Election fraud

The DU apparently was born as a result of the 2000 November-December election fraud that began the long nightmare that is the George W. Bush administration.

I went to bed on Election Day 2000, shortly after Bush was announced as our new President, feeling as if the end of world civilization was near at hand. My wife woke me up a couple hours later to tell me the good news that the announcement of Bush�s Presidency had been temporarily cancelled. Thus began a period of 36 days that I followed more intensely than any other news event of my life � ending in the infamous and disastrous Supreme Court decision that marked the beginning of our long road to dictatorship.

My son (EOTE) joined DU in January 2001, a few days after it began, but I did not, for reasons that now escape me. I did, however, do a lot of writing about the 2000 election, including a desperate plea to my Maryland Senators, to please demand a real recount of the 2000 Florida vote. And I also contributed an article to DU on that subject, in my son�s name (I did not use my own name because I was a federal employee and I was afraid that I could get into trouble for writing such an article), in the spring of 2001.

The fraudulent 2004 Presidential election is what brought me into DU. I had worked as a volunteer in the Kerry/Edwards campaign, I had followed the presidential polls obsessively, and by Election Day 2004 I was about as confident as I could be that John Kerry would be our next President. Thus, the reported results of that election were both profoundly disappointing and difficult for me to believe, as they were for the great majority of DUers.

I immediately began an effort to acquire as many election statistics as I could, in a feverish and desperate attempt to prove that the election was a fraud, which I hoped would aid in its overturning. In late November I had my son post an analysis that I did of the discrepancy between the exit polls and the official election results (Note: My son supplied the title, which I feel is too strong, which you can see if you read the article). And finding that it was awkward to have my son post my articles, I joined DU a few days later.

Since then I have posted dozens of election fraud related threads, a small number of the most important of which I have included in my journal.

In particular, I have come to believe that the main mechanism by which the 2004 election was stolen was the massive and illegal targeted purging of Democratic voters in Ohio, especially in Cleveland. This thread contains a great amount of evidence to support that contention.

In addition, I believe that there is good evidence that says that large numbers of votes in Cuyahoga County were deleted by its central tabulator, as explained in this thread, which also discusses an early 2006 partial audit of Cuyahoga County. And, I think that the death of Raymond Lemme, who while investigating Clint Curtis� sworn allegations of vote switching computer programs, was found dead in a Georgia hotel room, just a couple weeks after telling Curtis that he had traced the corruption �all the way to the top�, is extremely suspicious to say the least. And here is a summary of several reasons I have written about for believing that the 2004 election was stolen.

Finally, here are my ideas for preventing another stolen election in 2006 and 2008.

The tragedy of the Bush administration

I believe that a crucial requirement for a good understanding of the Bush administration�s actions since September 11, 2001, is the realization that its �War on Terrorism� is nothing but a colossal fake. Only with that realization do numerous Bush administration characteristics and actions make sense, including: Its disinterest in Osama bin Laden; its great urge to rush into a war with Iraq at any cost; its utter contempt for international law and the rest of the world; its succession of no-bid contracts for its wealthy friends; its lavish tax cuts for the wealthiest of our citizens and corporations during �time of war�; the Dubai port deals; and, its attempt to turn our democracy into a dictatorship.

With that in mind, I wrote in this post about the main reasons why I believe that the Bush administration was complicit in the 9-11 attacks. There are many reasons why I believe that now, but the initial and still most important reason is the utter failure of our military, the mightiest military that the world has ever known, despite repeated warnings and more than ample time on 9-11 itself, to protect its own capital city.

To me, the most sickening and disgraceful aspect of the Bush administration�s �War on Terrorism� is its complete lack of concern for human rights, demonstrated among other ways by the indefinite confinement, without trial or even bringing of charges, of thousands of prisoners of war, and its frequent use of torture. I discuss this issue in some depth in this post. And in another post I describe the issue as seen through the eyes of a U.S. Army Muslim Chaplain who had ministerial responsibilities for hundreds of our prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, who witnessed the severe and daily abuse of his charges over a period of several months, and who eventually was imprisoned himself when it was felt that he was making too many waves over what he had seen.

Seymour Hersh�s excellent account of how the Bush administration manipulated and twisted intelligence in order justify a preemptive war against Iraq is a must read for anyone who still supports this administration and thinks that the Iraq war was necessary.

And I think that in the interest of preserving our democracy, we should be aware of the similarities between the Bush administration and Hitler�s Nazis (which I wrote about even before the revelations about Bush�s warantless wiretapping), and understand that if we aren�t vigilant, yes it CAN happen here too.

And lastly, I posted two articles that exemplify what I think of Bush and his administration: In this post I talk about the circumstances surrounding the so-called suicides of several Bush administration enemies (several respondents to that post felt that my discussion was somewhat over the top, whereas several other respondents suggested interesting additions to my list). And in another post I suggest that we should designate and think about Bush and his cronies as the cowards that they really are.

Moral values that separate us from today�s Republicans

It makes me so mad to hear people ridicule what they consider to be �liberal values� and compare them unfavorably to the wonderful moral values of George W. Bush and his Republicans friends. In the vast majority of cases these people don�t even have a vague idea about what liberal values really are. They have simply been conditioned by our corporate media over several years or decades to believe that liberals encourage irresponsibility, are �soft� on national defense and �law and order�, and are wild spenders. These ridiculous myths about liberals have in turn encouraged the Democratic Party to disavow the liberal label and in some cases to veer way to the right. I submit that, rather than running away from the liberal label we should be proud of it, and we should challenge those that seek to disparage it. And to further make this point I posted a tribute to several historical and current political leaders who have been unafraid to speak out loudly for what they believe in, and I suggested an answer to those Republican morons who accuse liberals of hating America.

Many of those who disparage liberals are fundamentalist Christians who repeatedly invoke the name of Jesus Christ, and who believe that the superiority of their moral values to those of liberals and Democrats is proven by their repeated references to Jesus. Don�t these people understand that Jesus was a liberal, whose moral values were much closer to those of the Democratic Party than to those of the Republican Party, with whom they align themselves and vote for? Isn't it an astounding paradox that the Republican Party has usurped for their own purposes one of the most liberal religious leaders in world history, while at the same time showing nothing but contempt for liberals and liberal principles?

Perhaps the most important value held by liberals is a belief in the dignity of all human beings � hence the 19th century movement by liberals to abolish slavery. Here is one of my favorite stories on that subject.

One of the biggest threats to our democracy is the privatization movement. In the name of �freedom� and �self-reliance�, the leaders of this movement advocate the freedom of powerful corporations to destroy our environment and to run our elections, our schools, our social safety net programs, and our prison system, as well as every other program which has long been considered a legitimate function of government. The fact that government is elected by the people to serve public functions, whereas the purpose of private corporations is to make profits for their investors, is either totally lost on these people, or else they simply feel that the above mentioned programs should be run for profit rather than for service.

Another great threat to our democracy is the ownership of our country�s news media by a very small group of wealthy individuals who have strong ties to the Republican Party, and whose motivation in providing �news� is to maintain satisfaction with the status quo, rather than to report what is important and true. Two prime examples of corporate media shills and pseudo-journalists who pretend to be real journalists are Chris Matthews and Tim Russert. Bill Moyers explains how this situation threatens to destroy our democracy, and how this came about through the dismantling of rules and regulations which were meant to prevent the monopolization of our news.

One of the many tricks that our corporate media uses to squelch alternative viewpoints is to label anyone who substantially disagrees with their �correct� version of the news as �conspiracy theorists�. Well, I have news for them. The views of us �conspiracy theorists� are usually much more closely aligned with reality than is most of the trash that we hear from the corporate news media these days, such as the stories about Iraq�s weapons of mass destruction, which were used to justify our illegal preemptive invasion of that country. We �conspiracy theorists� believe that it is not only the right of American citizens to challenge the corporate news media story lines, but it is our responsibility as well, as good citizens who care about our country.

And here is a post where I talk about all the major values that separate Democrats from Republicans.
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