CLIMATE CHANGE IS NOT THE ONLY “INCONVENIENT TRUTH”

11 10 2014

truthlies

(This is a slightly edited version of a blog post that first appeared in my candidate blog, “Holsinger for House.”  You can read the original here.)

Al Gore called his landmark presentation on climate change “An Inconvenient Truth.”  I think he chose the word “an” very purposefully,  He’s a smart guy, and he knows that climate change is not the only “inconvenient truth.”  There are many “inconvenient truths,”  subjects and realities that conventional American politics carefully avoids or glosses over.  Gore explored this in a subsequent book, “The Assault on Reason,” a volume that most Democrats seem to have chosen to ignore. I believe American politics would benefit from greater public awareness of and dialogue on these “inconvenient truths. ”  Here are some that come to my mind.  If you have any other ones you would like to nominate, feel free to comment!

GROWTH IS THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION

Conventional politics is religiously dedicated to the proposition that fostering “economic growth” will solve all our problems, and that anything that halts or slows “economic growth” is a Bad Thing.  This theory has been most notoriously promulgated as “trickle-down economics,” AKA “Reaganomics,” but its practice is not confined to the GOP.  The fallacy of economic growth as a solution to our problems is that we live on a finite planet, with finite resources, and our dedication to “growth” is running up against the limits of those resources, whether we are talking about fossil fuels, phosphates, clean water, fish, other foodstuffs, arable land, oxygen, or anything else tangible.  If we use up all of these things, even over the next few hundred years, what will people (and  other animals) do to substitute for them in a thousand years? Ten thousand years?

The notion that “whatever increases the Gross National Product is good, “is gross.  Hurricane-caused damage increases the GNP.  Diseases that require expensive treatment increase the GNP; frequently, diseases are caused by other activities, such as environmental degradation, that increase the GNP.  Lots of things that increase the GNP make us less happy.  Happiness comes from a sane state of mind, not the possession of a mountain of toys.

“Economic growth” has tended to benefit those who are already wealthy more than those of us who are not.   That leads to another inconvenient truth, which is that

AMERICA IS AN OLIGARCHY

The wealthy and powerful, the people the Occupy! movement refers to as “The One Percent,” are the people who call the tune in this country. It doesn’t matter what is best for most people, whether it’s an open internet, a sane health care system, a decent neighbourhood, or a clean environment.  Our government will do what benefits the wealthy. Read the rest of this entry »





CAN WE TALK?

9 02 2013

opening music:

Richard and Mimi Farina, “Sell-out Agitation Waltz

Bob Dylan, “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

Robbie Basho, “Dravidian Sunday

The Beatles, “Within You/Without You”

Pity Tennessee’s “progressive Democrats.”  They just can’t get no respect, nor satisfaction either.  The old guard, the “blue dogs,” just won’t stand for it.  The progressives reached their high water mark with the election of Chip Forrester as TNDP chairman in 2009, but Forrester’s tenure was undermined by two factors:  the old guard conservative Dems withheld funding, and the Democrat-dominated State Legislature had ignored activists’ concerns and agreed to go along with the Republicans’ request to defer implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act until after the 2008 election.  2008 was supposed to be the last year Tennesseans voted on easily hackable electronic voting machines; but, mirabile dictu, the Republicans scored upset victory after upset victory, and the first thing the newly Republican state legislature did was repeal the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which had passed nearly unanimously.  Yeah, they were for it before they were against it.  While the cover story that has been floated to explain this is that Barack Obama’s candidacy cast a pall over the electability of Democrats in this state, the circumstances are highly suspicious.  As Joe Stalin is said to have said, “It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes that counts.”  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about tonight.

In spite of a concerted effort by the state’s urban Democrats, the good-old-boy network prevailed, and the urbanists’ candidate, Dave Garrison, who was thought to be a shoe-in, was defeated by Roy Herron, an anti-abortion, anti-union, A+ NRA-rated member of the “West Tennessee Mafia.”  Tennessee’s liberals and progressives have been relegated to the back of the bus again.  The blue dogs may not be electable, but they still know how to hog the manger.

I would like to offer the state’s progressive Democrats a creative solution to their dilemma: Let the blue dogs have their party.  Go Green.  Read the rest of this entry »





A SKEPTIC LISTENS TO THE HEALTH CARE SPEECH

11 09 2009

I have been pretty hard on Barack Obama–although if Sarah Palin had become vice president, I might have chosen to relocate to Canada for my personal safety–but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen, not once Goldman-Sachs threw down for Obama.

A friend of mine is (or used to be) close to Al Gore, who confided in him as he was about to become Vice-President that he thought he really wouldn’t be able to implement much of his political vision because the President and Vice President are little more than figureheads, who have to deal with firmly entrenched political realities.  Al was right, all too right–from NAFTA to welfare to the Middle East to global warming to the so-called “war on Drugs,” the Clinton-Gore years  at best were a stumble in place and at worst took us way on down the wrong road.

That’s the context in which I see Obama’s movement from an enthusiastic endorser of single-payer health care, to his acknowledgement that, while it makes the most sense, it’s not possible in the arena of American politics, any more than prosecuting Cheney and Bush for war crimes or prosecuting Tim Geithner and the rest of the Wall Street Wolves for economic crimes.  It’s their economy and they’ll trash it if they want to.

I am amazed that a President who has indebted the public up to our hairline in order bail out private enterprise gone bad is accused of being a socialist, but that just goes to show you how ignorant a lot of people really are.  There are loads of paranoid nut jobs in this country who would raise hell if  Bush and Cheney got their due, and all these same ignorant, neurotic people will not let the government go after our vampiric medical establishment and its vicious brother, the convenience food industry.  Like, “I’ll give up my Big Mac when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!”  Probably sooner, rather than later, if the mortality statistics mean anything.  But I digress….

The firmly entrenched political reality in America is that establishing a single-payer health care system, no matter how much sense it makes economically and socially, is a non-starter.  This country is too much in thrall to big money, and big money is not going to go away or commit suicide, at least not fast enough to make a difference.  And so Obama’s “public option” was meant to be a small experiment that, if it worked, would grow–but then Congress, specifically the “Blue Dog” Democrats like Nashville’s own Jim Cooper–messed with the public option, and, unless it gets changed back, they pretty much disabled it.  As originally formulated, this “public insurance” would have paid doctors 5% more than Medicare pays; but the Blue Dogs, supposed financial conservatives, insisted that the “public option” pay doctors and hospitals a negotiated fee that will, in all likelihood, keep it from being significantly cheaper than private insurance.

So, when Obama, after doing a great job of describing the knot our for-profit medical system has tied us in, started proposing his “solution,” it made about as much sense as bailing out the banks for screwing us over.  We, the taxpayers, are going to be asked to bail out the insurance companies for screwing us over, and it’s very likely that the bill that eventually emerges from Congress will do little or nothing to help people who are going bankrupt over their medical bills in spite of being insured.  It will certainly do nothing to eliminate the bureaucratic  labyrinth that consumes enough of our health care dollars to cover the cost of  a single-payer system.  It will do nothing to cap or reduce medical costs, or the cost of insurance, or the cost of pharmaceutical drugs.  It will do nothing to educate people about how to eat right and exercise right so as not to get sick in the first place.  It will be a bonanza for the private, for-profit insurance companies, who do not need a bonanza.  They need to be busted, but it ain’t gonna happen on Obama’s watch.  It’s as if Teddy Roosevelt had let himself be intimidated by Standard Oil.  Shame on you, Mr. Obama.  You may not be a “blue dog” Democrat, but you are definitely a “yellow stripe” Democrat.

In a recent article in The New York Times, Michael Pollan points out that

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet – there’s smoking, for instance – but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.

Mr. Obama’s rhetoric was soaring, and he got most of the important facts right.  But his solution is as effective as a band-aid on a gunshot wound.  If this bill passes, even with its so-called “public option” intact, it will be yet another reminder that our government, no matter which major party is in charge, no matter how good its proclaimed intentions, is completely incapable of acting to benefit “we, the people.”

music:  Cream, “Politician








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