Class Warfare Blog

October 28, 2018

How Do We Know Drugs are Overpriced in the U.S.?

Hundreds of millions of dollars flow to lobbyists and politicians on Capitol Hill each year to shape laws and policies that keep drug company profits growing. The pharmaceutical industry, which has about two lobbyists for every member of Congress, spent $152m on influencing legislation in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Drug companies also contributed more than $20m directly to political campaigns last year. About 60% went to Republicans. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, was the single largest beneficiary, with donations from the industry totaling $228,670.” (Source: How Big Pharma’s Money – And Its Politicians – Feed The US Opioid Crisis by Chris McGreal in The Guardian)

Drugmakers have poured close to $2.5bn into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade.” (Source: same article)

Obviously the pharmaceutical corporations don’t need those dollars for profits or running their businesses, they represent just the cost of maintaining a system in which drugs are always more expensive for Americans than they are anywhere else in the world (you will find the same drugs, with the same licenses, but with lower prices everywhere else). The return on that $2,500,000,000 investment in U.S. politicians is quite healthy. We are obviously being charged that two and a half billion, over ten years, more than is necessary and since they are unlikely to spend that amount only to make that amount more than they would otherwise, I think it is safe to say that the amount we are being overcharged is far more than that.

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So Is Trump Responsible … for Anything?

In an article in The Guardian, Heather Cox Richardson compares the recent attempted bombings with the political atmosphere at the end of the Civil War which lead to assassination attempts on leading politicians. Here are some excerpts:

When Trump demonises opponents, unhinged partisans take their cues
by Heather Cox Richardson

“When a president, as Trump does, demonises opponents as an un-American mob trying to destroy the country, it is not a lunatic who tries to harm them, it is a patriot.”

“By the 1990s, Republicans held on to power by manipulating the system. They claimed Democrats won elections through “voter fraud” and that they were protecting democracy. They deliberately kept Democrats from the polls.

“Voter suppression in Florida in 2000 helped put Republican George W Bush into office despite losing the popular vote and the targeting of state legislative elections in 2010 enabled Republicans to gerrymander states out of Democrat reach.

“Meanwhile, from the 1980s, Republicans insured themselves against Democratic legal challenges by packing the courts. Always, they argued that their machinations were simply protection against Democratic plotting with undeserving minorities to destroy America. By 2018, the Republicans’ president had demonised minorities as criminals and rapists and had embraced the idea that America was a white man’s land.

“Since 1980, Republicans have monopolised resources for a few wealthy Americans and have retained power by skewing the media, manipulating the system and convincing white followers that dangerous minorities threatened their very existence.”

“When a president, as Trump does, demonises opponents as an un-American mob
trying to destroy the country, it is not a lunatic who tries to harm them, it is a patriot.”

 

October 27, 2018

Fake News from a Fake President

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 2:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

We have seen an effort by the media in recent hours to use the sinister acts of one individual to score political points against me and the Republican party,” he said. “The media’s constant unfair coverage, deep hostility and negative attacks only serve to drive people apart and to undermine healthy debate.” Donald Trump, October 25th, 2018

To which I reply: See photo of accused bomber’s van, especially “I am Donald Trump and I approve this message.” (middle window) Also note the telescopic rifle sight circles (⊕) and who they are applied to.

October 17, 2018

Focus the Blame … Elsewhere, Anywhere!

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
Tags: , , , ,

According to an article in Reuters (Pope Blames Devil For Church Divisions, Scandals, Seeks Angel’s Help, October 8, 2018) the Pope is casting blame for the Catholic Church’s scandals, and all other problems on the Devil.

“(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,” Francis said in a message on Sept. 29.

“Since he was elected in 2013, Francis has made clear that he believes the devil to be real. In a document in April on holiness in the modern world, Francis mentioned the devil more than a dozen times.

“We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable,” he wrote in the document.”

Of course, I cannot but be reminded of Flip Wilson’s famous tagline “The Devil made me do it!” (It’s on YouTube, youngins’!)

The Pope, in one sentence, takes “responsibility” and casts blame elsewhere. (‘(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,’ Francis said.”)

It must be immensely useful to have an imaginary friend to take the blame for all of the bad things one does, kind of a spiritual whipping boy. As an atheist I feel limited in my ability to blame others for my failings … I want an imaginary evil friend toooo!

October 15, 2018

Defining Conservatives

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
Tags: , , , ,

A self-defined conservative laid out a number of points why he finds conservatism attractive. These are not all of his points, just some and I respond to these. Here is my truncation of his list, mostly without the supporting commentary:

  1. Conservatives are in favor of less government.
  2. Conservatives are in favor of following the law.
  3. Conservatives seem to support lower taxes. Government can’t really do anything right, companies are much better at getting the right products to the right people at the right time. The higher taxes go, the less well they can do that and the more government will step in and screw things up even further.
  4. Conservatives want people to reach their full potential. They want people to enjoy life and be the most that they can be – without interference from anyone else or from the government – especially from the government.
  5. Conservatives are pro-immigration … but they want legal immigration, not illegal immigration.
  6. Conservatives value life.
  7. Conservatives believe in helping out people who have less than they do. Did you know that 80% of charity money comes from conservatives?
  8. Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land. They believe the government should follow the Constitution and the law and not butt into people’s private affairs.
  9. Conservatives will fight for your right to say whatever you please even if they disagree with it.
  10. If you’re poor, a conservative will give you a chance at a job, they will try to help you get an education and a place to live, food and clothing if you need it. But they also expect you to take responsibility for your own life.
  11. The way I see it, is that conservatives want things – like in politics – to work.
  12. Conservatives favor capitalism over socialism because they know that capitalism works better.
  13. Conservatives believe in a strong defense because every country that has dropped their defense has been attacked by some other country.

I don’t know how far I will go with these, but here are some of my responses.

Conservatives are in favor of less government. Well, yes and no. The federal government has expanded under all Democrats and Republican presidents in my lifetime, so no matter what is said, we have gotten more government and not less. The claim that conservatives are in favor of less government is ideological support for their attempts to cut parts of the government they do not like. They tend to follow actions in this vein, for example, with irrational demands to expand military spending (often as a way to support military-industrial corporations, which donate heavily to their political coffers e.g. ordering new tanks when many of the tanks we have are being scrapped because they are unneeded). They seem to be in favor of what they like and not in favor of what they do not. So, there is no position here, just ideological support for “smaller government” in the areas they do not like and larger government in the areas they do.

Conservatives value life. Uh, again, yes and no. Conservatives are frequently anti-abortion. Once you are born, however, you are on your own. And if you make a really big mistake, like breaking the law while black or brown, they are staunchly in favor of the death penalty. So, again, this is a statement meant to portray conservatives in a good light, but really, who doesn’t value life, especially their own? Everyone values life. But being “pro-life” is just ideological cover for what they want to do, like banning abortion, which is a huge government intrusion into people’s private lives. So, here again, their desire for smaller government doesn’t extend to government restrictions on abortion. They want more government regulations in this area, but less in business.

Conservatives believe in helping out people who have less than they do. They just do not want the government involved. They prefer a situation in which the poor know who is giving them a handout. They prefer “charity” as the mode in which we help out our fellow citizens who are struggling. Clearly studies show that “charity” is not up to the task, but still the government, which is really the collective “we” as in “we the people,” should not be involved, say critics. Examples of other countries which have effectively figured out how to provide their citizens with basic supports (healthcare, education, etc.) we cannot copy because well, it would make government effective and the last thing conservatives want is a perception of the government being effective. The government is the only power in play that can rein in uncontrolled capitalism and the richest conservatives do not want that. Government has to be perceived as being inefficient and incompetent … except in the areas they like, such as the military.

Conservatives want things – like in politics – to work. Uh, like everybody else? Actually, they seem to want politics to work the way they want it to and, if it does not, they set about changing how politics works. They recently have been gung ho for voter suppression when historically they have been in favor of the act of voting for everyone. It was just that they began to lose too many elections because the wrong kind of voters were voting.

Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land. Well, who doesn’t? It is interesting, however, that whenever the conservatives discover the Constitution doesn’t say what they want, they set about changing it. For example, the Second Amendment right to bear arms was viewed since its writing as a collective right for Americans to bear arms in support of militias. But that wasn’t good enough, so centuries old settled law was changed so that bearing a firearm became an individual right. (With regard to the NRA’s campaign to change the “normal” interpretation of the constitution, Chief Justice Warren Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”) More recently, the Supreme Court’s conservatives have given corporations free speech rights as well as the right to donate as much political money as they want, as if those “powers” of corporations were not just manifestations of their executive officers, giving them super powers as citizens.

Basically, I guess I am arguing that we need to stop using broad descriptive generalizations and, actually, I intend to stop talking about conservatives as people. A responder on Quora who was asked “can conservatives say anything nice about liberals?” responded that he had many nice things to say about people who claim to be liberals but what constitutes a liberal is way too broad for generalizations (epithets yes, generalizations no) so that there was nothing he could say which applied to all liberals. I think the same thing can be said to apply to conservatives.

So, I will try mightily to not talk about conservatives … but conservative ideas and ideology, well, I think there is an open season on those.

October 3, 2018

The War with the Parasite Class

Another important post over at Ian Welsh’s website is well worth reading:

How Over-Priced Is the US Housing Market?

Here is just a taste of the tone of the article:

“Parasitical economies, and most developed countries have one, exist by immiserating people.

“This is the real reason for the current push for basic income: the parasite class is scared they may be about to kill the host, and want a government infusion to keep the poor and the (reduced) middle class stumbling on.

“I don’t oppose a basic income, but understand that billionaires aren’t supporting it out of the goodness of their hearts. They expect to take every cent the government gives you.”

 

September 24, 2018

A Failure to Communicate

I read just now the following:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez … was on Jake Tapper’s show on CNN the other day, the host grilled her about how she would come up with the forty trillion dollars needed to fund Medicare for all, housing as a federal right, a federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free public college, and canceling all student loan debt.

She apparently could not answer the question … <sigh>.

Let me just address funding “Medicare for All (MFA)” for the nonce. Currently, the average family of four pays in excess of $16,000 per year for their health insurance. Mostly this goes unnoticed because these payments are made by their employers as part of their compensation. How much do you think the actual value of that insurance is? If you compare it with costs in other developed countries and look at how inflated the costs are and consider that the insurance companies providing the “insurance” are quite an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy (Medicare has a 3% overhead. If private insurance companies likewise have a 3% overhead, where do all of the handsome profits those companies make come from?). Basically that $16,000 represents a quite unnecessarily inflated cost. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, the actual cost is $9,000 for that family of four. If MFA is invoked, the employers will be required to pay that $16,000 directly to the family and then that family will pay, say $10,000 in taxes (a bit more than their own costs to be able to cover the unemployed, etc.) and pocket the other $6000! (Note: these are not the actual numbers, but even if $100 ends up in your pocket, you would be making money on the deal.)

Once we have Medicare for All, we also have group buying of pharmaceuticals, something Big Pharma has spent billions to avoid (why they are opposed to such a system is it would squeeze its profits down from the astronomical to merely lavish). This will reduce the cost of medicinals, at least to what other countries are paying (for the same drugs from the same companies … yes, they are gouging the Rich Gringos because they can). Similarly there are a multitude of large cost savings that can be wrung out of the system (e.g. there would be only one billing process, not hundreds, for doctors and hospitals to contend with).

Currently the US spends about double what any other rich nation spends on health care per capita. This means we could spend 10%, 20%, or even 30% less and still be spending more than any other country on health care. If you remove the costs of private health insurance companies, we can save even more.

Conservative pundits always focus on the cost/taxes and never mention the cost savings. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez should be better prepared if she is going to go on camera to defend our ideas.

PS The Federal Reserve “printed” several trillion dollars to bail out the banks and Wall Street firms during the Great Recession and these same pundits didn’t blink. Plus that “forty trillion dollars” is not for just one year and they are careful not to mention that.

September 15, 2018

Ethics and Morality without God

In a recent post on Daily Kos I read the following:

“I once said to a Native American friend that I thought that the Golden Rule was a perfect expression of social ethics, and before I could put the period on my sentence, he shot back, ‘No, it’s not … because if you’re a misanthrope who hates people and just wants to be left alone, you can behave that way in clear conscience. In my tribe, I have responsibilities to widows, orphans, and the ill. I have to hunt for those who can’t. That’s mutuality.’” (sfzendog)

This attitude toward the collective responsibility we all have, as well as individual responsibility, might be summed up in “love thy neighbor as thyself” but it isn’t made at all explicit in Christian ethics/morality.

Many people do not know that the “tithe” which has morphed into a fundraiser to support the church building fund and minister’s and staff’s salaries, was originally a tax. The Jews had a theocracy. Even when outsiders came in and established a new ruling structure, the Temple kept its own governing structure and the tithe/tax was a way to support widows, orphans, and the afflicted. That is what it was for, explicitly. The Jews had a structure in place regarding the collective responsibility of all to support those in need.

Christian ethics/morality on the other hand stops at “love they neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” with little parsing of those instructions. There are clear signs that early Christians were communal (that means communists, Comrade). As Christianity was rewritten by pagans, that collectivism was written out. The Republicans are doing their damndest to wipe out collectivism in the U.S. right now, so this “battle” is quite longstanding.

We still haven’t answered the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are still trying to address mutuality.

Many studies on democratic socialist states show that as they collectively (through government) care for those less fortunate or less capable and just ordinary citizens, the less the need for religion in their population. It therefore seems that religion has a vested interest in opposing government providing basic support for their people. The widespread evangelical support for the current administration therefore is less perplexing looked at in this light.

August 27, 2018

Are Christians Being Persecuted in the U.S.?

According to Christian scripture, a sign one is doing their god’s work is being persecuted for their beliefs (see below).

Take a negative associated with a religion (“Why would I join them, aren’t they being persecuted?”) and turn it into a positive. Spin doctors have been around a lot longer than most people think. So Christians need persecution to be recognized for doing good work … ah, now we know why there is a War on Christmas, and a War on Christianity! If a real persecution doesn’t exist, just make one up!

Christianity, spinning reality for almost 2000 years!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and make you bake cakes for fag weddings and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

August 18, 2018

Why Are We So Afraid?

On Quora, this question was posed: Why are so many Americans “tough on crime”?

One of the answers started this way:

“Americans are terrified.

“The United States of America is a nation of the coward, by the coward, and for the coward. Americans are the most frightened people you will find anywhere in the world.

“We are scared of everything. We’re scared of terrorists. We’re scared of immigrants. We’re scared of criminals. We’re scared of GM food. We’re scared of Muslims. We’re scared of brown people. If you come from any other industrialized country, and you’ve never lived in the US, it’s hard to understand the pervasive sense of fear that Americans live in.

“Americans are frightened, and this fear makes us cruel and mean.”

I immediately thought of the campaign to criminalize being a Black male (not just “driving while Black,” but existing while Black). As Jim Crow laws lost their footing in this country, some way had to be created to control Black people, especially Black men (just had to). After emancipation, one strategy was to criminalize the state Black people found themselves in. Vagrancy laws alone caused a great many Black men to be incarcerated and because they were poor and couldn’t pay their fine, they had to work off their fine … and room and board in the county jail. Voila, de facto slavery all over again. When these laws because unacceptable to society at large, the approach became “lock them up” on a much larger scale. Crimes that Blacks might commit had much longer penalties than if whites committed them. (Remember the crack cocaine sentences that were ten times longer than if powdered cocaine were involved? Guess which “possession crime” Blacks were more likely to be caught for.)

It has become our habit, through long exposure, to motivate ourselves to do anything politically by using fear. The message is “we must change because, if we don’t, something really bad will happen.”

Consider education: the report A Nation at Risk, claimed (erroneously) that our poor education system was dooming our country to second tier status … gasp, or worse! Also in education, the fear that girls were falling behind boys in math was promoted heavily at the exact moment at which girl’s math test scores had become equal to those of boy’s. (No mention was made of boy’s English language scores being much lower than girls, that was just “boys being boys.”)

The early environmental movement went to inflated extremes to gain attention. We were told we needed to “save the planet” as if it were at risk and not us.

Our “news media” haven’t helped one bit. They are not in the business of putting things in perspective, rather they are in the business of selling their wares. And the wares that sell are often the most alarming, most lurid, and most outlandish of stories.

Fear mongering is a booming business in this country.

And we are all paying for this by having fear dominate our lives. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was based solely upon fear. The slogan “Make America Great Again” implies we were great once, but are no longer …. but we could be again, just vote for me. Was there any analysis of this opinion? If a survey of world citizens were to ask the question “Which nation is the most powerful currently?” do you not think the USA would be voted to the top? (And if you didn’t so vote, would you expect to be invaded?)

When was the last time something was done politically because it was the right thing to do, rather than via a fear mongering campaign? Obamacare? The opposition to it was loaded with fear mongering, e.g. Death Panels! The national debt will skyrocket! The “safety net” will become a hammock! If not that, what?

If we insist that we will not do anything unless we are terrified, then all we are doing is waging a terror campaign upon ourselves. We are also letting the fear mongers and those who control the message in our news media to lead us around by the nose.

Welcome to the Twenty-first Century!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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