Healthcare


How an Army of Pharma Lobbyists in Washington Have Locked in One of the Biggest Corporate Ripoff Schemes in America Pharma is creaming tens of billions out of the federal government in a variety of schemes. By Martha Rosenberg / AlterNet February 22, 2016

Cuba's health system Cuba, a country of 11 million people, has achieved health outcomes that are the envy of the Third World. It has one of the lowest infant and young child (under age 5) mortality rates and longest life expectancies in the Americas, outperforming the U.S. on all three of these indicators[6] (although the maternal mortality rate is still considerably higher than that in rich countries[7]). This year, Cuba also became the first nation in the world that, according to the World Health Organization, had eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.[8] How has a Third World country, subjected to decades of economic sanctions, accomplished this?

Part of the answer lies in the post-revolutionary government’s establishment of a comprehensive, universal health care system — structured around primary and preventive care — with a network of physicians, nurses and home health workers generally living in the same community as their patients.

To ensure adequate staffing for this initiative, the government invested heavily in medical education, which resulted in Cuba having nearly three times as many physicians per capita as the U.S.[10] This also enabled the country to send a self-reported total of 130,000 of its own health professionals to provide low- or no-cost medical care to patients in other Third World countries, with nearly 37,000 working in 70 countries as of 2008.[11] Cuba was among the first to respond to the past year’s Ebola epidemic, sending more doctors to Sierra Leone than any country besides Great Britain.

The country’s universal vaccination programs eradicated many previously commonplace childhood and tropical diseases, including polio, measles and diphtheria.[13] Many of the vaccines, as well as other medications, are manufactured by a domestic pharmaceutical industry that was developed, in part, in response to the U.S. embargo. This biotechnology sector employs about 10,000 people and manufactures most of the medicines used in the country, including 33 vaccines, 33 cancer drugs, 18 drugs to treat cardiovascular disease and seven drugs for other diseases.[14],[15] At one point, Cuba was the leading provider of pharmaceuticals to Latin America and also supplied medicines to several Asian countries.[16] Its medical infrastructure is also relatively advanced, with 22 medical campuses and academic journals in all of the major medical specialties.

Much of the progress made in improving the well-being of the Cuban population also traces back to policies independent of the health care sector, including universal education, guaranteed nutrition, clean drinking water and modern sanitation.[18] Perhaps more important were the Cuban government’s egalitarian economic policies that dramatically reduced the wealth inequalities that had existed prior to the revolution.[19] An extensive body of research shows that income inequality is closely associated with, and likely a critical determinant of, population health, and Cuba is no exception.

What makes Cuba’s health advancements all the more remarkable is that they were achieved under more than five decades of a stifling economic embargo. In 1962, three years after the Cuban revolution, the U.S. instituted the embargo to cripple Cuba’s economy,[21] in the hope that the pain inflicted on the Cuban people would spur them to overthrow the government. (The embargo was just one of several methods employed by the U.S. to do away with the Cuban government; see text box below for more details.)

In a comprehensive 1997 report documenting the impact of the U.S. embargo of Cuba, the American Association for World Health (AAWH) observed that it was “one of the few embargoes of recent years … that explicitly include[d] foods and medicines in its virtual ban on bilateral commercial ties.”[22] The report found that the tightening of the embargo during the 1990s had resulted in shortages of drugs, water treatment supplies and food, leading to malnutrition and waterborne diseases, among other problems.[23] The AAWH concluded that “[a] humanitarian catastrophe [resulting from the embargo] has been averted only because the Cuban government has maintained a high level of budgetary support for a health care system designed to deliver primary and preventive health care to all of its citizens.”

Amnesty International followed the AAWH report with its own 2009 analysis of how the embargo had affected the “economic and social rights” of the Cuban people.[25] The report documented numerous instances in which Cuba was unable to import a range of medical supplies, including HIV and psychiatric medicines, vaccines and syringes, medical devices, diagnostic equipment, condoms, and pediatric nutritional products.

The U.S. has long been isolated from the rest of the world on its policy towards Cuba. Every year since 1992, the United Nations General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly (188-2 was last year’s tally) in favor of a resolution calling on the U.S. to end the embargo.[27] Nevertheless, The New York Times claimed in an editorial last year that it was not the U.S. but Cuba that suffered from a “beleaguered international standing.”

Are Endoscopes and Colonoscopes Killing People? The FDA knew all about the endoscope risk six years ago, but has ignored it. Action Alert!

Over the last few years, you may have seen one of the several tragic stories of antibiotic-resistant “superbug” outbreaks in major hospitals that have killed dozens of patients and sickened hundreds more.

Some of these outbreaks are linked to contaminated endoscopes—medical devices used to diagnose and treat diseases of the liver, bile ducts, pancreas, throat, stomach, and the intestines. Similar devices are used in colonoscopies, which means that the colonoscope risk is likely to be just as bad.

Why Medicare-For-All Makes More Sense Now Than Ever Private health insurance drives up costs for everyone.

"The United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitations services and basic education to every person on the planet. And we wonder why terrorists attack us." - John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Rwanda and Bangladesh Have Universal Healthcare -- Why Can't America? Some poor countries have shown that good basic healthcare for all can be provided at a very low cost.

The Two Things That Rarely Happen After a Medical Mistake Patients seldom are told or get an apology when they are harmed during medical care, according to a new study based on results from ProPublica’s Patient Harm Questionnaire.

Study Shows Dramatic Correlation Between GMOs And 22 Diseases While most companies brag about their product, the GMO industry spends hundreds of millions to hide their product. The US does not requiring labeling of GMOs despite the fact that 64 countries around the world label GMO foods.

The Dangerous Truth About GMOs That Monsanto Is Desperate to Hide A review of 19 studies on mammals fed commercialized GM soy and maize found “consistent signs of toxicity in the liver and kidneys.”... Additional questions are raised by human exposure to the herbicides applied to GM foods. Roundup Ready soy is engineered to tolerate Roundup. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, remains in the plant eaten by people and animals. Additional ingredients are added to Roundup, and the Report notes the combination is more toxic than glyphosate alone... Toxic effects include “disruption of hormonal systems and beneficial gut bacteria, damage to DNA, developmental and reproductive toxicity, birth defects, cancer, and neurotoxicity.”

Republicans Go After Social Security on Very First Day

The Choice Ahead: A Private Health-Insurance Monopoly or a Single Payer by Robert Reich. The Supreme Court’s recent blessing of Obamacare has precipitated a rush among the nation’s biggest health insurers to consolidate into two or three behemoths.

The result will be good for their shareholders and executives, but bad for the rest of us – who will pay through the nose for the health insurance we need.

The big health insurers have money to make these acquisitions because their Medicare businesses have been growing and Obamacare is bringing in hundreds of thousands of new customers. They’ve also been cutting payrolls and squeezing more work out of their employees.

There’s abundant evidence that when health insurers merge, premiums rise. For example, Leemore Dafny, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and her two co-authors, found that after Aetna merged with Prudential HealthCare in 1999, premiums rose 7 percent higher than had the merger not occurred.

The problem isn’t Obamacare. The real problem is the current patchwork of state insurance regulations, insurance commissioners, and federal regulators can’t stop the tidal wave of mergers, or limit the economic and political power of the emerging giants.

The alternative is a government-run single payer system – such as is in place in almost every other advanced economy – dedicated to lower premiums and better care.

Open Payments Data Open Payments is a federal program that annually collects and makes information public about financial relationships between the health care industry, physicians, and teaching hospitals. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) collects information from manufacturers of drugs and devices about payments and other transfers of value they make to physicians and teaching hospitals.

A 91-Year-Old Man [in England] Gives Incredibly Moving Speech on the Importance of Universal Health Care "recalls his youth in the tenements of Britain, the “desperation of poverty” and the horrors of life before the National Health Service was implemented... recounts the preventable death of his 10-year-old sister due to lack of funds and the cries of a neighboring woman dying of cancer without being able to afford morphine... Smith also highlighted the importance of keeping the NHS free for all, and warned that if it wasn’t, “Your future will be my past.” " [includes video]

"Bush simply lied, feigning interest in the common good as a cloak to get elected, bide his time, let the media move on to other issues... and let his HMO and insurance backers escape scot-free from any public accountability for their abuses" (Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer, eds. The hightower Lowdown, July 2004: 2).

Americans for Healthcare
Healthcare-NOW
National Coalition on Health Care
Health Care For All


"Always start with values, preferably values all American share like security, prosperity, opportunity, freedom, and so on. Pick the values most relevant to the frame you want to shift to. Try to win the argument at the values level. Pick a frame where your position exemplifies a value everyone holds--like fairness. Example: Suppose someone argues against a form of universal health care. If people don't have health care, he argues, it's their own fault. They're not working hard enough or not managing their money properly. We shouldn't have to pay for their lack of initiative or their financial mismanagement. Frame Shift: Most of the forty million people who can't afford health care work full-time at essential jobs that cannot pay enough to get them health care. Yet these working people support the lifestyles of the top three-quarters of our population. Some forty million people have to do those hard jobs--or you don't have your lifestyle. America promises a decent standard of living in return for hard work. These workers have earned their health care by doing essential jobs to suppor the economy. There is money in the economy to pay them. Tax credits are the easiest mechanism. Their health care would be covered by having the top 2 percent pay the same taxes they used to pay. It's only fair that the wealty pay for their own lifestyles, and that people who provide those lifestyles get paid fairly for it" (George Lakoff. Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: 116-117).


"Business leaders complain endlessly that the current system of private healthcare insurance based on employment provides fewer and fewer people with less and less quality care at higher and higher cost. Yet Corporate America turns its back on a publicly financed system, which, by all indicators, the taxpayers would willingly support.

"Publicly financed but privately run healthcare for all--including free choice of physicians--would cost employers far less in taxes than their costs for insurance. Universal coverage could also work magic in less obvious ways. For example, employers would no longer have to pay for medical care under workers' compensation, which in 2002 cost them more than $38 billion. Auto-insurance rates would fall for them--and everyone--if the carriers were no longer liable for medical and hospital bills. You'd think that in its own selfish interest, Corporate America would be fighting to replace the existing system... yet it doesn't lift a finger.

"Meanwhile, under the Bush administration healthcare coverage steadily shrinks... By 2001 it accounted for 13.9 percent of US gross domestic product. (It constituted a much smaller share of GDP in countries with universal healthcare, such as Sweden, 8.7 percent; France, 9.5 percent; and Canada, 9.7 percent.)...

"A simple fact largely explains why spending bloats while the ranks of the insured thin: Health insurance is increasingly unaffordable...

""Double-digit increases in healthcare costs are a drag on economic growth," says Henry Simmons... They "slow the rate of job growth," "suppress wage increases for current workers," "undercut the viability of pension funds," "put American firms at a steep disadvantage in world markets"...

"Taxation... hugely subsidizes health insurance, while benefiting mostly "the affluent"...

"In 1991 the GAO made a stark finding regarding single-payer's benefits: "If the universal coverage and single-payer features of the Canadian system [had been] applied in the United States," in that year, "the savings in administrative costs" --$66.9 billion--"would have been more than enough to finance insurance coverage for the millions of Americans who are currently uninsured," the GAO said in a report. The $3 billion left over "would be enough... to permit a reduction, or possibly even the elimination, of copayments and deductibles"...

"...a comprehensive study published in the International Journal of Health Studies reached this stunning conclusion: "The United States wastes more on health-care bureaucracy than it would cost to provide health care to all its uninsured"... Streamlining administrative overhead to Canadian levels would save... more than would be needed to provide full insurance coverage...

"Canadian companies pay far less in taxes for health coverage for everyone than the premiums they would pay under the US system to provide their employees with comparable benefits.

"Highly placed Canadian business executives affirm that single-payer nurtures free enterprise... US CEOs of large corporations see it as something "that smacks of socialism", Werntz said, the therefore as "heresy"...

"...a GM vice president called single-payer "a strategic advantage for Canada."... also signed by Ford's and DaimlerChrysler's presidents and CEOs... while providing "essential and affordable healthcare services for all", single-payer "significantly reduces total labour costs... compared to the cost of equivalent private insurance services purchased by US-based automakers"... It saved Canadian employers $4 per hour per worker. Monthly, health-coverage costs for Canadian employers average about $50... health-insurance costs for US employers average $552(Morton Mintz. "Single-Payer: Good for Business." The Nation, Nov. 15, 2004: 18-24).


"The new Medicare drug plan is gap-filled and bewildering to seniors, but it is solid and crystal-clear on matters that really count: it doles out $139 billion in subsidies to drug firms and explicitly prohibits the government from negotiating drug prices and reimporting drugs from Canada" (Roger Bybee. "The War at Home." Progressive Populist, Dec. 1, 2004: 21).


"The discount program does not address the twin problems plaguing the drug market: Americans pay the highest drug prices in the world, and annual spending for pharmaceuticals, now some $250 billion, has been doubleing every five years... the most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors have risen at least three times faster than inflation in the past four years...

"Seniors still flock to Canada, where drugs are cheaper than even those bought with good discount cards" (Trudy Lieberman. "Dealing the Drug Cards." The Nation, June 21, 2004: 24).


"The World Health Organization lists the United States as thirty-seventh in healthcare provision...

"At the national level, the Campaign for a National Health Program NOW, along with the 12,000-strong Physicians for a National Health Program, are organizing for John Conyers's H.R. 676, which would provide for universal, publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare for everybody in this country. This bill would eliminate the big insurance companies' hundreds of billions from our $1.7 trillion healthcare budget, thereby providing enough money for a system that covers all. Everybody would get medical, dental and optical, specialists, mental health, prescription drugs, drug treatment, hospitals and long-term care, among other healthcare essentials. Check out the bill on our website http://www.cnhpnow.org/...

Experience in other nations also indicates that universal coverage need not be costly. While the United States will spend $6,200 per capita on healthcare this year, Canada and European nations with national health insurance spend half that much. Indeed, our $3,600 per capita in public spending is more than Canada, Germany, France or Sweden spend for their entire health systems -- public plus private. In essence, Americans already pay for national health insurance, we just don't get it.

"We're not the only ones who think a single-payer system could cover everyone without increasing costs. The Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office and even private consulting firms of conservative bent have reached the same conclusion" (Letters. The Nation, Sep. 13, 2004: 2).


"...the largest dollar increase for coverage in Medicare's history. In 2006 the monthly charge is to rise 17 percent, to $78.20...

""a body blow to millions of older Americans living on fixed incomes... already staggering under the relentless increases in the cost of prescription drugs"...

"...all part of the president's concept of the "ownership society," an ideologically driven plan that really means that as market forces are imposed onto health care, more needy people will not have access to it" ("With Two Months To Go, The GOP Convention Aired a Lot of Distortions." Washington Spectator. Sep. 15, 2004).


"Social welfare institutions are, however, much more than "safety nets;" if carefully designed and implemented they can enhance efficiency and productivity growth. Cost-effective public provision of health and education can bring about improvements in labour force quality that can, in turn, raise efficiency and accelerate productivity growth. Social welfare institutions reduce social tensions and enhance the legitimacy of the political system, thus providing a more stable environment for long-term investments. Inter-temporal smoothing of consumption through devices like unemployment benefit can even contribute to dampening the business cycle...

"...the fact that all NDCs have developed a common set of social welfare institutions over time (except for the persistent and disturbing absense of comprehensive health care in the USA) suggests that there are some common needs that have to be addressed across countries... necessary to guarantee social stability" (Ha-Joon Chang. Kicking Away the Ladder: Developement Strategy in Historical Perspective. London: Anthem Press, 2002. Page 102).


"My colleagues and I are medical billing advocates, and as such we uncover not just sloppy billing practices at all levels of our medical system but widespread fraud and abuse. Whenever a claim is denied, the patient is billed full price for that service, and often they pay it, or try to.

"Examples: claim denied because the physician entered the wrong diagnosis code on the electronic record; emergency bill denied because the policy-holder neglected to tell the insurance company within forty-eight hours (he was comatose); a widow placed in collections four times by a hospital for a service her deceased husband never received; three defibrillator charges for the same procedure; routine supplies such as gowns and drapes charged individually; not to mention the $1,000 toothbrush for the patient admitted for facial surgery (his jaw was wired shut) or a "disposable mucous recover system" (i.e., tissues) for $12 per box.

"These claims are brought to our attention by studying the bills of the uninsured, but similar errors occur on virtually every hospital bill. People with co-insurance or who go out of network are equally at risk. Recently an insured client who came to me with a bill approaching $90,000 finally paid $2,900--the overcharge almost all due to the insurer not complying with its own rules" (Letters. The Nation, Mar. 14, 2005: 2).


"...life expectancy throughout Western and Northern Europe is higher than in America...

"The WHO also ranked the countries of the world in terms of overall health performance, and the US fell into thirty-seventh place. When it came to evaluating the fairness of countries' health care, the US ranked still lower, to fifty-fourth, or last place among the OECD nations.

"Sadly, the US and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all of their citizens...

"The irony is that the United States spends more per capita for health care than any other nation of the world... Most of the increased cost is attributable to the high administrative costs and margins associated with running a for-profit healthcare system... Waiting until the illness has advanced to a crisis increases the medical costs significantly" (Jeremy Rifkin. The European Dream. pp. 79-80)...


"When a study revealed that mercury in childhood vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids, the government rushed to conceal the data--and to prevent parents from suing drug companies for their role in the epidemic...

"According to a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten, who had analyzed the agency's massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children, a mercury-based preservative in the vaccine--thimerosal--appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and a host of other neurological disorders among children.

""I was actually stunned by what I saw," Verstraeten told those assembled at Simpsonwood, citing the staggering number of earlier studies that indicate a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and autism" (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. "Deadly Immunity." Progressive Populist, July 15, 2005: 1).


Avian Flu

"Over the past generation, writes Lancet editor Richard Horton, "the US public-health system has been slowly and quietly falling apart"...

"Under Democrats as well as Republicans, Washington has looked the other way as local health departments have lost funding and crucial hospital "surge capacity" has been eroded in the wake of the HMO revolution. The government has also refused to address the growing lack of new vaccines and antibiotics caused by the pharmaceutical industry's withdrawal from sectors it considers to be insufficiently profitable; moreover, revolutionary breakthroughs in vaccine design and manufacturing technology have languished because of lack of speonsorship by either the government or the drug industry...

"In spite of this fiasco and millions of doses of unused vaccine, the Administration pressed ahead with the developement of second-generation smallpox and anthrax vaccines, as well as vaccines for such exotic plagues as ebola fever... The government, in other words, was willing to spend lots of money on biological threats that were unlikely or farfetched but no on antivirals or new antibiotics for the diseases that were actually most menacing, like avian flu...

"But as shocked Americans discovered in the winter of 2003-04 and again in early fall 2004, the entire vaccine manufacturing system had decayed almost to the point of collapse. While Bush and Thompson were trying to bribe the pharmaceutical industry to join Project Bioshield, the same industry was abdicating its elementary responsibility to maintain a lifeline of new vaccines and antibiotics. Products that actually cure or prevent disease, like vaccines and antibiotics, are less profitable, so infectious disease has largely become an orphan market" (Mike Davis. "Avian Flu: A State of Unreadiness." The Nation, July 18, 2005: 27-30).


Best Places to Go

"An estimated two million Americans cross the borders annually to purchase their prescription meds in Mexico or Canada. X-rays of American patients are increasingly interpreted by radiologists in India. Patients are being globalized, too, as hundreds of thousands of them from all parts of the world flock to Manila, Singapore, Bangalore, and other centers of low-cost, high-quality care" (Barbara Ehrenreich. "Health Care Biopsy." The Progressive, July 2005: 11-12).


"Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is buying Miami-based Ivax Corp for $7.4bn to create the world's largest generic drug company" ("News in Brief." Guardian Weekly, Aug.4, 2005: 25).


"The fact is there's a big difference between the economics of health care and that of, say, costume jewelry. We the consumers control the demand for costume jewelry; we can splurge on it or leave it alone. But we have precious little control over our demand for health care. Sure, we can exercise and refrain from smoking and sky-diving and swimming with sharks. We can eat right, too (whatever that may mean, with the sietary advice fluctuating from month to month). But it's the medical profession that determines how often we need our blood drawn, our breasts squished, our cervices scraped, or any of the other nasty interventions they have to offer.

"If the medical care we consume was under our own control, I'd say, sure, save up for it and use it wisely. But it's no more in our control than the wind and floods we insure our homes against" (Barbara Ehrenreich. "President Bush, Meet Lorraine." The Progressive, April 2006: 12).


"Over 16% of our economy ($19 trillion last year) goes into our corporatized system--50% more than Switzerland's universal system, which ranks second in spending per person. Not only does the US drastically outspend everyone else, but it does so while leaving tens of millions of Americans outside the system. In contrast, Canada puts only 10% of its economy into healthcare, Australia 9%, and England 7%, and these countries manage to provide care for every one of their people...

"...some 18,000 Americans die unnecessarily each year due to lack of health insurance, roughly the same number who die of stroke, HIV, or homicide...

"A single-payer system is the answer. An unusually strong editorial in March by the St. Louis Post Dispatch expressed the benefits succinctly: "Employers would no longer be saddled with health care. Workers would no longer worry about health care for themselves or their children. And we could toss the disgraceful private health insurance industry, with its wasteful bureaucracy and instructable coverage rules, into the dumpster"" (Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer. "The Four Big Lies about Universal Health Care." The Hightower Lowdown, June 2006: 1-4).


"General Motors is headed for the wall. One of America's largest corporations recorded its biggest losses ever as its US market share dropped to the lowest levels since before it overtook Ford in the 1920s. GM's executive team, led by chair and chief executive officer Richard "Rick" Wagoner, has sought to paint the company's difficulties as the result of unforeseeable changes in the consumer preference and the rising cost of healthcare, but neither is the case. GM's faulty product mix--too many SUVs and not enough superior car products--rests squarely on its management's shoulders. As for skyrocketing healthcare costs, GM's officers have failed to advocate a remedy that is not just in their worker's interest but in ther shareholders' too--national healthcare...

"The corporation's reticence seems even more pecurliar in view of its experience building cars in Canada, a country that adopted a single-payer healthcare system more than thirty yeaers ago...

"GM's US management is not alone in dropping the ball on national healthcare. Few executives have come out for it, though many corporations and their shareholders would benefit. And instead of confining their energies to negotiating the terms of the givebacks they are being asked to sell to their members, the leaders of the United Auto Workers' union would be well advised to lobby more vigorously for the cause of universal healthcare, which they've only lately endorsed" (Jamie Lincoln Kitman. "What's Good for GM?" The Nation, April 17, 2006: 4-5).


"Corporate chieftains and the political elites have the Rolls Royce of health care, while most Americans have a sputtering Yugo and while millions are walking barefoot. This crass inequality on such a basic human need is a moral abomination. How is it that the richest country in the history of the world has 45 million people with no health care coverage and millions more with pathetic coverage? And how is it that We The People pay $1.2 trillion a year to a corporate health care complex (more than any other country) but rank only 37th in the world in the qulity of the health care we receive?

"The Powers That Be just shrug their shoulders and say America can't afford a system of good quality coverage for all. Can't afford it? W. says America can afford the $1.2 trillion in tax giveaways he's bestowed on the wealthiest people in our land. He says America can afford the $300 billion in direct costs already shelled out for his war of lies in Iraq. He says America can afford the hundreds of billions of tax dollars being pocketed by drug companies and insurance giants through his boondoggle prescription drug program. Of course, our so-called political leaders don't feel the pain of America's corporatized and exclusive health system. The very politicos who say America can't afford universal health coverage receive full platinum coverage for their families--courtesy of you and me.

"No public official should have a dime's worth of coverage until everyone in America has full coverage. The president and Congress ought to be last in line, not first!" (Jim Hightower. "The TIPPing Point." Texas Observer, June 2, 2006: 15).


"Wal-Mart...earlier this year... call[ed] for universal health care...

"Joining Wal-Mart is an intriguing conglomeration of businesses ranging from AT&T... to Kelly Services... to digital-revolution companies such as Intel... AFL-CIO...

"...it's everybody saying, 'Health care costs are killing us.'"

"By 2008, the average Fortune 500 company will spend as much on health care as it will make in profit... Overall, health care premiums for workers are increasing four times faster than wages...

"... in the increasingly global market, US businesses compete at a disadvantage because the United States has employer-based health care" (Barbara Miner. "Labor Offers Business Health Care Cures." The Progressive, May 2007: 24-26).


Moody's Ratings: Protection Racket

"Moody's Investor Services, wholly owned subsidiary of Moody's Corporation, which reported $2.03 billion in revenues in 2006.

"On January 10 Moody's... gave the United States its top AAA credit rating. The terrorist blackmail thrreat came in the form of a demand by Moody's that the US government "reform" Social Security and Medicare"...

"Moody's runs a protection game. It issues credit ratings (in 2007 covering no less than 29 percent of the global credit-rating market by revenue...) based on public data and private information made available by those clients that have "voluntarily" retained its services. The price of not volunteering can be high... the giant German insurance corporation Hannover declined repeated Moody's offers to rate its credit... Moody's immediately issued an unsolicited and adverse rating, and then--just like a small-time mobster after hrling a brick through the window of a liquor store--went back to Hannover and reissued its invitation to offer protection-by-rating. Hannover's top man said he wouldn't surrender to blackmail, and so between 2001 and 2003 brick after brick went through the window as Moody's steadily reduced Hannover's rating all the way down to junk.

By contrast, Enron handled relations with Moody's with ermine gloves. Until days before Enron plunged into bankruptcy Moody's.. refused to lower the boom by demoting onds issued by Enron to "below investment grade." Banks with huge sums at stake allegedly pressured Moody's to keep quiet, even though Moody's had priveleged access to Enron's internal financial operations...

"... market analysts, like Moody's, don't have a clue as to what they are talking about...

"The United States pays around 15 percent of its GDP for healthcare, about 70 percent more than the outlay of other advanced industrial countries. Shift to single-payer and quit shoving money down the imperial sinkhole, and there's no fiscal crisis of any sort, short- or long-term...

"... taxes for those making more than $200,000 a year would generate $60 billion a year. Do this and end the war in Iraq and you wipe out the deficit at a stroke" (Alexander Cockburn. "Moody's The Terrorist at Ground Zero." The Nation, February 4, 2008: 9).


Colby Glass, MLIS