I have been trying to avoid writing about the upcoming presidential election. Who needs another blog among the millions already circulating, when the choices seem pretty clear? The Republicans with John McCain will continue to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, encourage fear and domestic paranoia with perpetual Code Orange alerts, and drill offshore (even though it would have a minimal impact at best which would not be realized for 10 years). I’ve had enough of that, and I sensed the American people had as well.
My smug certainty was rudely awakened after the Republican National Convention, when Sarah Palin was nominated as the vice- presidential candidate. McCain is 72 years old and picks a 44-year-old governor of a sparsely populated state, the mother of five, a born-again evangelical Christian with strident anti-choice and pro-gun views, and zero foreign policy experience. My initial cheer came from thinking her nomination was a death knell for the Republican ticket. Sarah Palin is not a pragmatic voice of tolerance and restraint. She is a sound bite and nobody in their right mind would put her a heartbeat away from the presidency. But Palin became an overnight sensation, tilted the polls, and what I thought was a shoo-in election has become anybody’s race. In the process, we have become so captivated by the lipstick chronicles that the substantive issues aren’t being addressed.
I finally succumbed to writing this Schlagbyte after last week’s Wall Street collapse. We are facing the greatest financial crisis this country has seen since the Great Depression. McCain’s response was that “our economy is basically sound” and I can’t take it anymore.
McCain is my senator; he has to know that Arizona is already in recession, that the fundamentals of our economy are not strong, and that we are in a scary, white-knuckle financial dive. How have we gotten here? The Republicans opposed regulations for the financial markets. McCain’s former adviser, ex-Texas Senator Phil Gramm, slipped an amendment into an appropriations bill that forbade federal agencies from regulating financial derivatives. The result is today’s Wall Street collapse and the government bailout that will cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars to ensure that investors stay financially healthy.
But who is keeping the taxpayers healthy? Healthcare is the biggest sector of the economy, and Americans are struggling to repay medical debt. In 2007, 41% of working age Americans (72 million people) were paying back medical bills. People are being pushed over the edge, scrimping on food and home heating, accumulating credit card debt, and taking loans (if they can qualify), in order to make ends meet.
In our “basically sound economy” McCain is going to address the healthcare crisis by pushing the individual insurance market. This is a sure-fire program to increase the number of uninsured, because that industry is founded on the principle of maximizing profits by screening out the sick and minimizing claim payments. The US ranks highest in preventable deaths among 19 developed nations because of the uninsured and the many exclusions for chronic or pre-existing conditions. The for-profit health insurance industry has outlived its usefulness. As someone who speaks to thousands of people in all levels of healthcare each year, I can tell you we need to move to a single-payer national health insurance program.
While Obama’s healthcare plan does not yet get us to a single-payer system, he has promised in his first hundred days to require insurance companies to accept anybody who applies for coverage, expand the children’s health insurance program (SCHIP), and look at the damage done to Medicare by privatizers. This would be a much needed and welcome move in the right direction.
I want a president who can see the economy is unhealthy, that we are drowning in debt, and that much of it is healthcare related. I want a president and vice-president who will change healthcare delivery to make it more fair and equitable. I want a president who saves the lives of all Americans, not just the investors, and I don’t care if the lipstick is on a pit bull or a pig, as long as it’s Obama dancing at the Inaugural Ball.