Monthly Archives: December 2009



By Helen L. Burleson, Doctor of Public Administration

For those who have not read Moby Dick by Herman Melville, you may not have heard the expression, …”man’s inhumanity to man….”

It is not difficult to understand the concept especially when you see it in action and implemented by those cold, callous, indifferent, indecent, insensitive egomaniacs in Congress whose main goal in life is to feather their own caps, regardless of the consequences.  Those in Congress who are pawns of and are owned by corporations and further all the causes of those corporations in order to share in the undeserved, obscene profits of those corporations, do not deserve to be called men or women.  They are beasts of prey!  They are predators and parasites who feed on the flesh of the innocent and unsuspecting.  They are now engaged in a feeding frenzy to see which one of them can do the best job of protecting the interests of the masters they serve: the financial industry, the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the military industrial complex.

 No decent person with any degree of humaneness would do all he or she can do to obstruct the right of the American citizenry to have access to quality, affordable health care with the ability to select and choose the health care program that best meets the needs of that individual and the family of that individual.  How can those vultures listen to the plight of people who have been victimized by the health care industry and not feel compassion?  It seems that the blood in their veins coagulates which prevents blood from flowing to their brains in the normal fashion.  How else can one explain that they would rather share in the illicit bounty of these corporations than to do what they were sent to Congress to do – to represent the voters who put them in office?

 Now in this land of plenty, medical personnel find the necessity to establish free clinics and offer volunteer services to compensate for the failure of Congress to provide for the American citizen what they in Congress have for themselves.  This does not even cause them to blush.  We don’t expect them to feel any shame because they have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have no compassion or empathy.  Where are their parents?  Where are their spouses or significant others or their children to help them to see the crying need in America for affordable health care?  Have these culprits desensitized their families, too?

 It is surreal to see them standing before microphones pontificating illogical rationale for why they don’t support quality, affordable health care for all American citizens.  They hypocritically complain about the costs to provide good health and longevity for American citizens while finding no problem with the enormous costs of killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of those fatalities being our American youth.  They would rather pay for bombs than for prescriptions that help to keep people alive here in America.

 All decent Americans should be outraged and should call these demons out and vote them out of office, never to be a scourge on our society again.

 Both Robert Burns, the Scottish poet and Herman Melville, an American author, talk about man’s inhumanity to man.  I would advise the obstructionists in Congress to read the literature of these two very sage men.

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The fact that many of us do not feel any urgency to revamp a system that leaves millions of our sick without care is revolting

The fact that a significant number of Americans feel no urgency to revamp a system that leaves millions of our sick without care is symptomatic of the fact that many are suffering from a hardening of more than their arteries. You don’t need a college degree to see that America’s character crisis is not restricted to members of Congress. Our healthcare debate has revealed that far too many Americans suffer from a lack of compassion paired with moral deficiency. Many would prefer that our fellow citizens go without medical care rather than to make even the slightest of sacrifices. How many times have you heard someone say; “I don’t see why I should have to foot someone else’s bills”?

I’ve never heard a decent explanation for why a public healthcare option is bad. Most of the right wing contingent rail against “socialism,” real or imagined; they say we should fear the hand of “big government” upsetting the doctor/patient relationship [I find that ironic, given that private insurers dictate every treatment patients can receive]; they purport that a government-run program would compete unfairly with private insurers. More ironic is that in most states meaningful health insurance competition does not exist and furthermore, since insurance companies have been exempted from anti-trust laws, competition is meaningless — a sham. So our beloved “free market” system continues to line the pockets of insurance executives and shareholders; leaving policyholders defenseless against the prerogatives of insurance company actuaries, attorneys and claims representatives; and keeps healthcare out of reach for millions of people.

I can’t call the bill that the Senate has just voted on reform at all.  I might call it “ill-form” or, to be more blunt; a grand deception on par with the Iraq War, the TARP bailout, the energy bill, and recent finance reform legislation. The fact is there is no reform in this bill. In this bill insurance companies will benefit more than consumers. It is business as usual. Real reform is national health care. And with that said; NO reform is better than “ill-form.”

The stranglehold of drug companies on healthcare providers, the side-effects and symptom-based orientation they promote [rather than treating underlying causes] and their 2,000 to 3,000 percent markup are essential components of the health-care mess that need to be addressed along with the windfall profits of the insurance industry that are, effectively, the cancer of our health care system. Insurance companies demand higher profits every year. A five percent overhead is reasonable for collecting premiums and paying doctors [Medicare‘s amounts to 3%.] They have overhead rates approaching 40%. 

It is an obscene commentary that the greatest threat to the economic security of our country is the unfunded liability associated with Medicare. In concert, the costs increases to American businesses for providing healthcare coverage to employees is making us non-competitive with other countries and with more and more businesses shedding the burden of providing insurance, a larger group of uninsured Americans is created every year. If we as a country can’t work as a team to fix the greatest threat to our future economic security, then all hope is lost for the future.

The goal of the current bill is to provide 30 million more insurance premiums (that’s 30 million more customers for the insurance corporations) with as few strings as possible. All new costs will be borne by taxpayers. In order to make this as revenue neutral as possible, Medicare services will be gutted. What’s a few million old folks when there are hundreds of billions to be made, right?

The health care bill mandates insurance while increasing the profits of the insurance cabal. The bill provides an exorbitant financial gift for decades to the health care industry and Big PHARMA. There is not one item in the bill that will contain costs to the American consumer. It will, in fact, create an additional burden born on the backs of all middle income Americans…a tax with penalties if you choose not to enroll.

Passing just anything will not keep the health care reform issue alive — I believe it will kill it. Given the contentiousness of the debate, neither Democrats nor Republicans will revisit the health care crisis for another 15-20 years, perhaps more.

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Too many Americans are acquainted with hardworking people who can’t afford some critical medical treatment. I lived in a small town when I was in high school and every week we held some kind of school raffle, church stew or spaghetti dinner to scrounge together the funds to meet the medical expenses of a family who had a child with with a brain tumor–or to help pay for the open heart surgery of someone’s mom or dad.  We were actually trying to pay for brain and open heart surgeries with our bake sale earnings! 

It is difficult to understand how anyone, unless they are rich, could reach the conclusion that Americans are better served by their doctors than anyone anywhere in Western Europe. The reality is that in life expectancy we rank 42nd and our infant mortality rate ranks 29th. These somber facts attest that our healthcare system is not even a contender for the best. The state of American health care is truly repulsive.

For a country that loves to moralize, we fail to acknowledge that those things we do and do not find repulsive reveal a lot about who we really are. Being anything but reviled by people dying due to lack of medical treatment in the United States is both unfeeling and immoral. The lack of compassion for the un/under-insured is pandemic. We say we don’t like it and we wish that it could be otherwise, but it doesn’t exactly make us sick and we do nothing to change it. Can we not see what is wrong with this picture?

It is incontrovertible that the American health system is the most expensive in the world. Our health care system is an also-ran on virtually all measures of quality– It is discriminatory on the basis of employment (only large companies who pay some portion of exorbitant premium costs offer coverage to employees versus small companies that can’t or the self employed and un/under-employed who can’t), on the basis of health history (coverage is denied for having a health issue or revoked for having to use it), on the basis of marital status (surviving spouses and their families are often dropped if an employed spouse dies or becomes disabled)…the list goes on.

We are in the maelstrom of a concocted fear of change. Some are fearful of losing their current insurance even though their employer could very well drop or change their coverage at any time or increase their payment portion, thereby reducing their pay check. Others have fear of government run systems with expectations of inefficiency and concerns that a third party may make their health care decisions (although insurance companies do so routinely now.) Our medical decisions are made by insurance underwriters, backroom administrators determining which procedures and tests will be paid and which will not, and levying price pressures on brand-name pharmaceuticals without concomitant stipulations on generics. There is much decision making now that is neither in the control of physicians or patients.

A person’s health is not a product that should, be subjected to the machinery of the so-called free market. If one wants to argue that markets are in fact more efficient than regulated government programs, this requires evidence. There is NO evidence at all that the market rationally allocates health resources. It does not. Because, unlike deciding whether to buy an X-box or a big-screen TV, people do not choose when and where to be sick, or when and where to be injured, or to inherit a genetic disease. Their children do not decide to wake up at 3 in the morning screaming with a high fever. When these things happen, patients do not sit down and carefully research information to decide which of many emergency rooms they should go to.  It is an emergency and they go to the one that is closest!

There is too much human suffering and unnecessary death caused by lack of access to health care. Healing the sick and caring for the elderly should not be meted out, to those who aren’t wealthy, based soley on cost-effectiveness. Access to care must be the same for all.

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Unfortunately, when one is a public figure, one’s actions are scrutinized by the public.  When the rest of us screw up, our publics learn about it and react.  In Tiger’s personal circle, it has always been common knowledge that he was a “hound.”  The light only shone publicly in the way that it has because  of the choices that he made: One; he was indiscreet and Two; his wife, whom I don’t know, but I’m sure, feels  greatly disrespected ,as any woman would with that kind of impropriety being shoved in her face;  unlike Hillary Clinton and a host of other  public wives who’ve “stood by their men” in the face of sexual impropriety,  when she was pissed off, due most likely to her own lack of maturity, clocked him with a golf club… we and the rest of the world now know several colorful versions of the story (I admit that I howled when I heard Wanda Sykes version, now on YouTube & even shared it with some.  I was surprised by how many brothers and sisters I know who said they could completely identify with that one!) – But this thing has progressed beyond innuendo and the mere casting of aspersions… there are recorded conversations, text messages, photographs… and unending speculation as skanks continue to crawl out of the woodwork.

No, it is not up to the public to pass judgment.  Only God can do that. None of us are perfect and yes, far too many of us, as voyeurs, cleave voraciously to every morsel that is unveiled in the misfortunes of others while basking in apathy over matters of real importance.  All of us, however, must pay the piper.

David Letterman owned his indiscretions — admitted he was wrong and, most importantly, he APOLOGIZED publicly…that ENDED the speculation by the media and the public –perhaps even earned him a bit sympathy.  Joking is what Letterman does, so he continues to do so even making himself the brunt of his own jokes. And other public figures who’ve navigated “difficult” episodes have publicly acknowledged and apologized for their “mistakes.”  That is what Tiger must do too.  And until he does, the public and media, alike, will continue to speculate.  Like it or not, he, as a public figure, is accountable to his public! 

As for how he and his wife are able to move forward or not… well, that’s a completely private matter to which no one else should be privy.

I find it interesting that, though Tiger has done everything that he can to distance himself from his blackness, including  say he is “Amer-Asian” not “Afro-American,” it is the Black community that rallies to defend and protect him from the fall-out of his own poor choices.  His carefully cultivated reputation of that squeaky clean boy next door is what he has lost along with any product endorsements that capitalized on that reputation.  And that is a cost to be paid.  This doesn’t discredit any adversity that he has overcome, nor does it dispute his athletic prowess.

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