God, I hate these phony ‘debates’. I detest mentally and typographically bracketing the term with inverted commas. These are NOT debates. These are loosely structured opportunities for political stumping in a disingenuous setting meant to elicit intellectual formality and in the case of the ‘town-hall’ format a hint of democratic involvement by the people. Calling these sound-bite cavalcades ‘debates’ is like calling an under-done pork chop a pig; a lifeless, half-baked slice of the real thing served up for consumption.
The one point that seemed to hover like shrouded doom over the sound-stage of the most recent exchange of talking points was the matter of ‘entitlements’ and social programs. We all know (or should know by now) with rueful certainty that whenever politicians start to sound off about tax cuts and spending cuts, they mean one thing – social programs and ‘entitlements’ are going to get the ax. The programs might not be eliminated altogether; that would be political suicide. All that needs to be done is to severely limit the amount of funding to the programs and they become moribund. (The vaunted ‘No Child Left Behind’ programs springs to mind along with George Carlin’s bit where he states “No child left behind; it used to be the ‘Head-start Program’. Looks like we’re losing ground.” Or words to that effect – my apologies to George. RIP)
On the other hand – the dirty one - Pentagon ‘defense’ contracts to GE, Lockheed and the others scarffing the slop at the trough needn’t worry about the volume of swill flowing from the public coffers. They’ll most assuredly get theirs for keeping our nation safe for pork-barrels, boondoggles and ear-marks and save from peaceful initiative and diplomatic negotiation.
Of course, as private citizens, we know we’re going to get ours, too – right in the neck. Moreover, we know that whoever gets picked in November for on-the-job training in the Oval Office will choose to look beyond the pitiable effects of program cuts on individuals losing health benefits or income assistance and will focus, instead on reports on voter demographics for guidance on which programs get the short end.
This is maddening. Big John Madden-type maddening because it’s so ‘boom-bam; run the ball up the middle’ simple. That such simplicity, such obvious, self-evident nodules of truth must be pointed out, declared and clarified to an educated, adult public sets my head to shaking and my mind to boogling.
There is a perfectly good reason the term 'entitlements' is used when discussing Medi-care, Medicaid, Social Security and the other pitiful scraps that Washington deems to toss our way.
Need I say it? I guess I do - They are called 'entitlements' because we, the people who are taxed and who then provide them to ourselves for our own benefit, are ENTITLED to them.
Furthermore, not only are we entitled to the sorry dog-ends we currently snatch and scurry back to our stool in the corner with but much, much more. Consider this: a tenth of the current bail-out/sellout package would pay for universal health care for every American. Why aren't we getting it?
That is not a rhetorical question. We deserve an answer that satisfies us.
The USA is the only modern industrial nation that does NOT have universal health care. All the other industrial nations, including the Republic of China on Taiwan, have manageable, affordable health care for every citizen. Many countries, like Taiwan, even include resident aliens in the health care programs.
Where is the political will of the people, the working men and women of America? We should all be demanding that our money – OUR MONEY – be used to provide free universal health care for each and every man, woman and child. We should demand that the USA should take its place amongst the other industrialized nations, France, Germany, Canada, Great Britain by legislating and funding a universal health care system that benefits all Americans.
Speaking of which, McCain and other Republicrats like to boast about the American worker being the most industrious, hardest-working, workers in the world. Politicians like to polish the apple when talking to the cogs in the wheels of industry. (That's the way politicians operate; they butter you up before they stick you in the roaster.)
Do you ever wonder why the Western Europeans don’t much bother to match that boast about 'hard-working Americans'? It's simple. Western Europeans have, on average, 4 weeks of paid vacation annually. They also get sick days, maternity days for both parents, personal days, public and religious holidays OFF - mostly with pay. Yet, despite the fact that European workers may not match American workers in productivity or the number of hours clocked each week, Europeans have universal health care, tuition-free university education, free trade-schooling and a list of public entitlements that goes on and on. Now, Europe is no utopia, but the E.U. is seriously kicking America’s butt economically. (There’s no reason to think that the recent on-going serial catastrophes on Wall Street will change that, either.) Whatever social entitlement programs are prevalent in Europe and Asia, they have not disabled their economies. No question.
We're sold the tale that America is the richest, most powerful, most productive, most enterprising nation on earth. Yet Americans don't provide themselves universal health care or publically funded tertiary education programs. For years, as shown time and again in reputable polls, the majority of Americans want universal health care as well as other social entitlement programs yet the representatives chosen to service the will of the people choose to serve the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical companies and the other profit-driven health-care corporations. This is an unacceptable disconnect of public need, public will and public policy.
Not the trickle-down Reaganite policies that have destroyed the social services programs that had been put into place by the New Deal and LBJ's Great Society, programs that assisted many citizens who needed and were entitled to assistance, that's for certain. Those ‘Chicago-boy’, neo-liberal economic theories championed by Milton Freidman have failed - quite often miserably.
Here is the lesson learned about ‘Trickle-down Economic’: The rapacious, anti-social greed of the super-rich allows only the slimmest stream of offal to trickle down to those at the very nadir of the withered teat of neo-liberal economic policies.
As woefully evidenced in Latin America, Africa and Indonesia, the policies of ‘Freidmanites’ more often than not send infant mortality rates higher, life expectancy lower and the majority of the population into horrifically abject levels of poverty and destitution while aggrandizing the ruling oligarchy and enriching the corporate elite.
With the on-going collapse of the investment banking system of high-stakes, high-risk gambling with massive, crushing debt, we are witnessing the neo-liberal policies which the IMF, the World Bank and the US State Department, in collusion with multi-national corporations, have ruthlessly forced upon the Third World with dire consequences come home to roost.
The Chicago Boys of Pinoche’s Chile have invaded the Beltway, folks. They have begun to demand that the American people give up the few still existing social programs that haven’t already been ransacked or discarded by Reagan, Clinton and the Bush Dynasty. McCain and Obama are both talking about cutting taxes and eliminating programs. As stated before, social entitlement programs are always at the top of the neo-con and neo-liberal hit-lists.
How has it come to this?: that the only time the Congress and the White House will support socialist economic policies is to benefit the largest of corporate entities? The American people have been bamboozled and betrayed by their representatives and agents in government service.
Our voices must be raised in unison to demand to know why we are draining the life’s blood from the American work-force and pumping billions into failed banking enterprises brought low by rampant, insatiable greed. We must demand that our government of the people, by the people and for the people steward, safe-guard and protect the health of the American people. We must demand that we get what is rightfully coming to us as citizens of a modern democratic republic – social entitlements.
Let’s see how deftly Obama and McCain can ‘sound-bite’ their way out of that demand in a one-minute rebuttal.