Is President Obama To Blame For Outrageous Health Care Insurance And Medical Treatment Cost Increases?

Is it fair to place total blame on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul legislation, “The Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act” (i.e., ObamaCare), for the outrageous cost of both health care insurance and medical treatment as both Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican propaganda machine (i.e., the Fox News Network) are so to quick to do?  To blame the high cost of health insurance and treatment on the president’s attempt at giving all Americans affordable health insurance is a little like placing all blame on Santa Claus for the hideous gift you received last Christmas.  The rapid growth of health care spending has increased at a slower rate during the past two years than any other time over the past five decades.

As a nation, Americans pay twice as much yet receive half the health care benefits as that of all other developed countries.  Life expectancy in the United States ranks number fifty in the world.  With health care costs having risen more than one hundred and thirty percent between 1999 and 2009, it is this fact that is at the core of the problem.  From 2000 to 2009, profits for the ten largest insurance companies had increased two hundred and fifty percent, ten times faster than the rate of inflation.  Since 2008, the five largest health insurance companies had a combined profit of $12.2 billion, up fifty-six percent.

Part of the problem with our health care system is that doctors now routinely own the very clinics and labs in which they refer their patients for treatment and tests.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that unnecessary medical care costs this country more than two hundred billion dollars a year.  From 1996 through 2010, the number of ultrasounds performed has doubled, the number of CT scans has tripled and the number of MRIs has quadrupled.  Chemotherapy has been found to work on only three to five percent of the patients who undergo it, thus ninety-five percent receive no actual benefit but get both the toxicity poisoning and the bills.

The Institute of Medicine has also estimated that seventy-five billion dollars in insurance fraud is committed every year and nearly two hundred billion dollars are wasted each year in excessive administration costs.  Then there is the cost of our prescription medication.  Americans pay twice what Canadians do for the very same drugs.  It wasn’t all that long ago that local news was reporting on the busloads of senior citizens driving up to Canada to get their meds.  So many, that the FDA issued a report informing us of the hazards of taking medication purchased across the border, despite the fact that the very same pharmaceutical companies were manufacturing them.

With nearly fifty million Americans without health insurance, these uninsured people receive their health care via hospital emergency rooms, which compounds the problem in that this is the most expensive method of receiving treatment.  President Obama should be given credit for trying to insure all citizens have adequate health care.  As a nation, we should be ashamed of this statistic.

Steven H. Spring

 

 

 

 

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You Didn’t Build It…We All Played (And Paid) A Part

Watching the Republican National Convention this past Tuesday night, one could not help but be hypnotized into believing President Barack Obama had committed a serious faux paux earlier this year when he supposedly opined that entrepreneurs did very little to create their business on their own, that they did not build it themselves, it was our government which deserves all the credit.  Not only was this bogus quote repeated over and over again all night-long Tuesday by every featured speaker, including Ann Romney and chanted all week-long by convention delegates, but it has also been used repeatedly in tens of thousands of television commercials the past several months nationwide and especially in key battleground states.  I assume that these commercials most likely are playing continuously on our radio airwaves as well.  Even though I am a life-long lover of music, I stopped listening to the radio around 1980 due to its mass commercialism.  If only I had a dollar for every time I heard a convention speaker, crowd chant or television commercial mock the president with the phrase “We built it,” I could start my very own business.

The word that comes to mind watching these supposedly intelligent like-minded citizens mindlessly repeating a trumped-up fabrication is lemmings, a small rodent many believe commit mass suicide by following one another to their death trudging over a cliff or into the sea.  Over the years, the erroneous belief in the peculiar behavior pattern of this rodent has resulted in the word lemming metaphorically being used to describe people who go along with the group all the while unquestioning popular opinion or belief.

Republican politicians long ago learned that repeatedly telling falsehoods over and over again would eventually convince a great many voters that the lies are in fact truthful.  One need only look at how many Americans are still convinced the president is both a Muslim and Kenyan to understand how effective this deceitful logic works.  During his Wednesday night address to the convention, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s entire speech was later proven by the media to be filled with numerous fraudulent statements.  However, most likely Mr. Ryan will continue to espouse these same fictitious statements repeatedly during the final two months of the presidential campaign.

The practice of telling false statements repeatedly in the hope that the vast majority of the population will soon become convinced of its truthfulness most likely dates back many centuries.  Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebbels was quoted as saying “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”  In no way am I implying the Republican Party is even remotely comparable to the Third Reich of Nazi Germany, as nothing can compare to the horrors and atrocities committed by the Hitler regime.  However, the Republican candidates for president and vice-president seem to have never heard of lie they have no qualms repeating time and again.  I only reference Dr. Goebbels’ quote to illustrate how destructive this practice of telling untruths can become.  And remember, a great many Americans and numerous countries were misled into believing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction by President George W. Bush and his administration.  Ten years later, we still haven’t figured out how to end the Iraqi conflict, a war that was both unwarranted and avoidable and resulted in the deaths of more than 4,400 Americans and an estimate as high as 1.2 million Iraqis.

Anyone who heard President Obama’s entire comment knows this incessant mocking during the Republican National Convention held inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum arena and in television commercials is not accurate.  What the president really said was that it was because of government’s investment in infrastructure and education, among other tangible assets, that made it possible for any entrepreneur’s business to be successful, in that if not for roads and bridges built with tax dollars, protection provided by the police and fire departments and an educated workforce, again provided by tax dollars, it would be almost impossible for any business to get its goods built and to market.  In addition to tangible assets paid for by tax payers, a great many if not all businesses are partially financed by our government at every level, be it federal, state or local assistance via bailouts, income tax loopholes, small business loans or property tax abatements.

The problem with the president’s comment was that he did not eloquently state it much as Elizabeth Warren did a few months back during her Massachusetts senatorial campaign.  And if truth be told, Mitt Romney said very much the same thing ten years ago to Olympic athletes while he was, in his own words, helping “save the Olympic games,” which was due to $1.3 billion in financial assistance from our federal government.

Was I the only one who noticed the irony in the fact that while every Republican speaker disparaged the president with his misquote Tuesday night, but they did so in a sports arena that was built with the financial assistance of tax dollars?

Steven H. Spring

 

 

 

 

How To Create Jobs And Turn Around The U.S. Economy

There is a very simple solution to solving this nation’s ailing economy.  And no, it does not involve giving millionaires and record profit earning, record bonus taking, tax avoiding corporations another round of massive tax cuts.  To stimulate the economy, the federal government has to create jobs that pay more than minimum wage that the business community has thus far refused to do so.  This is the ultimate catch 22 situation in that the private sector will not create jobs until demand of consumer goods increases, however, the demand of consumer goods will not increase until decent paying jobs are created.  The straightforward solution in which to turn around the U.S. economy is to significantly invest in our rapidly deteriorating infrastructure.

In the past several days, major water mains breaks have occurred in Atlanta, Baltimore, St. Louis, Honolulu and the New York City/New Jersey metropolis region.  Every day, seven hundred water mains break throughout the nation, with corrosion being the leading cause due to the age of the system and the type of ground in which it was laid.  These breaks cost billions of dollars annually to repair, not including the cost of emergency equipment, traffic disruptions and time lost from work as drivers are stuck in massive traffic jams.  The American Society Of Civil Engineers recently give the nation a D- in the quality of our drinking water.  The total cost to fix the U.S. water system has been estimated to be nearly $350 billion and expected to take 20 years to rebuild.

In addition to replacing our aging water system, America needs to replace its outdated and deteriorating system of highways and bridges.  The American Society Of Civil Engineers also gave the nation a D rating for our highway, rail and air infrastructure.  Road usage is expected to increase sixty percent in the next twenty years while sixty percent of our roads are rated poor or substandard.  Maintenance  costs just to keep up with needed repairs are expected to cost upwards of $200 billion annually.

By heavily investing and updating our entire infrastructure system, which all are in extremely poor condition, America would put millions of its citizens to work earning a decent wage.  The price of raw materials are once again inexpensive due to the faltering world economy.  Borrowing the necessary money to pay for such an investment would be inexpensive as well due to record low interest rates.  Yet, just the opposite is happening as cities and states are finding their highway construction projects delayed for ten years or longer due to lack of funding.

Replacing our entire national infrastructure is how you stimulate the entire economy, this is the trickle down effect that tax cuts to the upper one percent of the nation do not, and did not provide.  This is how you put America back to work.

Steven H. Spring

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Day In America

How is it that when a poor or disabled person receives some form of government assistance, it is considered welfare and a huge drain on the federal budget, but when a millionaire receives an enormous tax credit for their million dollar mansion, it is nothing more than a standard itemized deduction?  In 1913, under section 26 U.S.C. 163 (h) of the Internal Revenue Code, Congress approved the Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction, which allows homeowners to deduct all interest paid on a primary residence with a mortgage up to one million dollars from their taxable income.

Speaking as one who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, I survive on $698 a month in benefits plus food assistance.  Then consider a person who buys a million dollar mansion at five percent interest receives a $50,000 tax credit the first year of the loan and a corresponding credit every year thereafter for the life of the mortgage.  In years when home mortgage interest rates are not at historic low levels, the tax deduction is even much greater.  If the interest rate were ten percent, the tax credit would be an astounding $100,000.  If this hypothetical millionaire homeowner were paying the top tax rate of thirty-five percent, the tax savings would be $17,500 to $35,000, depending on the mortgage interest rate in these two examples.

Why is our government subsidizing millionaires who buy million dollar mansions and every other homeowner?  Depending on whom you ask, I have seen the total number of pages representing the entire U.S. taxation code at more than 70,000 pages.  In reality, all you need is one page: that being a schedule listing the applicable tax rate per income level.  Every other page in this enormous code document legal means for rich folk and businesses to avoid paying their fair share of income tax.

There is indeed class warfare being waged in this country and it is by the wealthy elite at the expense of the poor and the working class.

Steven H. Spring

 

 

 

 

 

Class Warfare? You Betcha!

President Obama preaches that he wants the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, while Republicans counter that he wants to “soak the rich,” arguing that the president is engaging in class warfare.  Two very different sides to the same argument, but which side is more rational and candid in this debate?  As always, one need only look at the facts to determine which party is telling the truth.

During the past three decades, the only income bracket that has done exceedingly well as far as inflation adjusted income and income tax  paid as a percentage of their income are the wealthy elite.  During this time span, income for the middle class has risen a trifling twenty percent, while income for the most affluent Americans has risen nearly five hundred percent.  On the other side of the coin, upper level income tax rates are at historical lows.  Currently at thirty-five percent, the top rate was as high as ninety-four percent during the war years of 1944 and 1945.  During the 1950s and early ‘60s, the top rate was ninety-one percent until President Kennedy lowered it to seventy-seven percent.  No significant changes were made until President Reagan lowered it to fifty percent, and then lowered it again twice more down to twenty-eight percent.  The first President Bush increased it back to thirty-one percent and then President Clinton increased it further to thirty-nine point six percent.  The second President Bush lowered the rate twice, lowering it to its present rate of thirty-five percent.

One thing to remember is that these rates are not actual rates paid in that income is adjusted by numerous deductions so that actual rates are much lower.  This is why Warren Buffett pays a much lower percentage of income tax than that of his secretary.  The number of pages to the Federal Tax Rules is nearly fifty-five thousand, which includes the tax code, tax regulations and IRS rulings.  The tax code alone is nearly seventeen thousand pages long.  Yet only one page is needed for the tax code, that being a breakdown of tax rates per various income levels.  All these other pages document ways for rich people and corporations to avoid paying their fair share of income tax.  Billions of dollars are being made by Wall Street barons and titans who are currently taxed at fifteen percent because their profits are presently calculated as capital gains and not properly as income.

Another thing to remember is that Republicans are always lamenting that raising the tax rates are, in their words, job killers.  Yet when President Clinton did so, the economy roared, resulting in budget surpluses, a decrease in the national debt and nearly twenty-three million jobs created, the largest number of jobs created by any president.  During the second Bush presidency, there were only a little more than one million jobs created, the smallest number of jobs created by any president who served at least one full term.

Republican politicians like to espouse that U.S. corporations are taking their high paying manufacturing jobs overseas because of the high rate of income tax imposed on them.  This again, appears based little on fact but propaganda.  The corporate tax rate is as low as fifteen percent for taxable income less than $50,000, is twenty-five percent for taxable income between $50,000 and $75,000 and fluctuates between thirty-four and thirty-nine percent for taxable income up to $18,333,333, after which the rate is currently at thirty-five percent.  However, once again if you look at the facts, many of this nation’s largest corporations pay little if any income tax, including GE, Goldman Sachs, Exxon-Mobil, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chevron, Boeing, BP, Citigroup, Massey Energy, Shell, Valero Energy or Fox News.  Corporate tax revenue is also at historic low levels when compared to the Gross Domestic Product, which is the key economic indicator representing the total market value of all goods and services produced in this country.

Class warfare?  You betcha, and it is being waged against the ever-decreasing middle class and working poor by this country’s wealthy elite.

Steven H. Spring