Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Universal Health Care

Today's Baltimore Sun has an Op/Ed by Jim Jaffe titled, "How would we enforce mandatory health coverage?" The column misses the point entirely about what universal health care actually is.

Jaffe writes, "But how will the new system deal with those who fail to buy the required insurance? There will be more than a few of them." No shit, sherlock. That's exactly what is the problem with the current system -- about 47 million people are unable to afford health insurance. The whole idea behind universal health care is that people won't have to buy their coverage anymore; instead, it'll be available to everyone who needs it.

Maybe I've got Jaffe's column figured out wrong here, but he writes about "any such universal system" in his article. This leads me to believe that Jaffe is discussing the idea of universal coverage in any form. Not at any point does Jaffe offer the alternative to a mandatory health coverage purchase by citizens, which is actually what universal health care advocates are fighting for -- that the government foot the insurance bill.

Jaffe also discusses a point that many workers simply refuse coverage offered by employers, which is interesting:

More than a third of employees who are offered insurance at work opt out. Most of them get coverage elsewhere, but nearly a quarter simply go without insurance. These are people who think they have more important things to do with their money. Some will feel that way even if the price is cut. That's not necessarily irrational, particularly if you're among the healthiest 50 percent of the population that accounts for only 3.4 percent of the nation's annual health bill.
Actually, that is quite irrational in a universal system. One of the values of a universal system is the idea of shared risk. Shared risk means that we all pay equally into the system, regardless of our current health condition, to subsidize those who need health care. Since all citizens would be paying into the system equally through taxes, everyone citizen will have access to health care when they need it, without having to face the burden of high monthly premiums, co-pays, and other costs as a barrier to access.

Currently, our for-profit model of private health insurance allows the healthy to pay less, with the reasoning that they use less health care. What are the side effects of this model? Those who actually need health care end up paying more for their insurance. This effectively turns health care into a class system, in which only the affluent can afford their care. Those who cannot go without coverage, because the healthy are not subsidizing the sick in our private system. This is partly why approximately 47 million Americans go without health insurance -- no one is helping them out.

Jaffe goes on to relate this to Social Security and Medicare:
Many of them would also not participate in Social Security and Medicare if they could opt out. But they don't have that choice, which explains why the participation in these two programs is nearly 100 percent.
And there's good reason people cannot opt out of those programs -- they are built upon the idea of shared risk, which partly explains their longevity. Additionally, those two programs are considered the government's most successful, which have incredibly low administrative costs. This means that we get what we pay for in those two programs, with virtually no money wasted. Private insurance, on the other hand, has administrative costs that continue to rise. A universal health care system administered by the government would be much more efficient with our money than a private corporation.

So, yes, Jaffe is right to criticize a mandatory health care insurance purchase by consumers. But it would have been informative for Jaffe to explain what a real universal health care system is and offer that as an alternative for readers, as well as not leave the impression that mandatory health care is the same as universal health care.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Class War...

... is already being waged from the top. Do something about it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Civil Marriage is a Civil Right

The front page of today's Baltimore Sun has three articles about the decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals to uphold a ban on same sex marriage in the state of Maryland.

Maryland's highest court rejected same-sex marriage yesterday and upheld the state's 34-year-old statute defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
What was the legal argument for doing so? It'll shock you:
It is clear that homosexual persons, at least in terms of contemporary history, have been a disfavored group in both public and private spheres of our society [...] This court nevertheless finds that [...] a history of unequal treatment does not require that we deem suspect a classification based on sexual orientation.
In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Robert M. Bell wrote:
To be sure, there are important differences between the African American experience and that of gay men and lesbians in this country, yet many of the arguments made in support of the antimiscegenation laws were identical to those made today in opposition to same-sex marriage.
In Loving v. Virigina, the 1967 court case in which Robert Loving and Mildred Jeter challanged the constitutionality of Virigina's antimiscegenation laws, the United States Supreme Court ruled:
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888). To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
How could the Maryland Court of Appeals rule that denial of gays and lesbians the right of marriage is not a form of discrimination based on sexual orientation? Clearly, if we were to substitute the words "sexual" for "racial" and "sexual orientation" for "race," we can demonstrate that the reasoning for striking down antimiscegenation laws can be applied to measures banning same sex marriages as well.

The 14th Amendment guarantees the rights and privileges of the United States constitution to all citizens. If we bar gay and lesbian couples access to these rights and privileges, that is a clear violation of the 14th amendment. If a same sex marriage case were ever to go all the way to the US Supreme Court, I'm confident (despite President Bush stacking the bench with staunch conservative justices) that it is very unlikely the Court would overturn 40 years of precedent. In fact, if the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of a ban on same sex marriage, they would also have to strike down the ruling in Loving v. Virigina, which is very unlikely.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We Are A Police State

Asking questions that go longer than your allotted time limit can get you arrested. Freedom of speech? Psh, not in America. Notice how the neither John Kerry nor the audience stand up in defense of this young man. We are in submission.

Welcome to the Police State.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Banned Books

Today, I read this post over at Pharyngula about objections to a book from a 15-year-old student and her grandmother:

Lysa Harding, 15, couldn't believe the sexually charged prose of the novel she checked out from the library at Brookwood High School. Her grandmother was offended, too. Now they're refusing to return the book, "Sandpiper" by Ellen Wittlinger, saying other teens shouldn't be exposed to it.
Yeah, yeah, another load of bullshit. Reading through the comments, though, I happened upon this link to the American Library Association. The news-release has a list of the ten most "challenged" book of 2006:
  • "And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Gossip Girls" series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;

  • "Alice" series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;

  • "The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

  • "Scary Stories" series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;

  • "Athletic Shorts" by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.

  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

  • "Beloved" by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;

  • "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.
What do you notice? Nine out of the top ten challenged books make reference to sexuality in some form or another, and that's why they're on this list.

Are we still so obsessed with the sexuality of others in this country? Parents, just get over it already. Kids are going to fuck whether or not you shield them from the realities of the world. Instead of forcing them to navigate these waters without a compass, wouldn't you rather it be that your children are informed about sex so that they don't make a stupid decision? Don't you think it would be better that your child knows how to have safe sex (i.e., using a condom) so that you don't have grandchildren before your own kids have graduated high school, or so that your kid doesn't have to experience the unpleasantness of piss that feels like burning, broken glass?

Seriously, get your heads out of your asses.