Friday

Can economic draft be far behind war budget?

( '? SEE THE COST OF WAR COUNTER AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BLOG, AS IT CLICKS ONWARD DAY AND NIGHT AT A HORRID PACE: MUCH WORSE HOWEVER, IS THE COST OF LIFE AND HUMANITY... UNCOUNTABLE......

Bush's proposed 2006 budget has a $2.5-trillion price tag. The cost of this budget places the country in a record $427-billion deficit. ("Budget Analysis," AFSCME) A budget of this size could easily provide for a reorientation of the economy to insure universal womb-to-tomb healthcare and education along with massive investments in infrastructure and job works programs.

Instead, the budget proposal has placed 150 domestic federally funded programs on the chopping block while bolstering spend ing for the Pentagon and Homeland Security. Most of the targeted programs affect the poor and working class communities.

One third of all scheduled cuts come from education programs, for a total reduction of $1.3 billion. These include the total elimination of the Perkins Loan program, which provides college funding for low-income students, and the Even Start family literacy program.

The Bush war budget has already eliminated 300,000 students from Pell Grants and another 700,000 students from after-school programs. Bush has declared a virtual war on students at home as he seeks an additional $82-billion supplemental spending bill to sustain the war of occupation in Iraq.

The White House has consistently demonstrated that the ruling class's priorities are brutal wars of conquest and expansion and not providing for people's basic needs. But there exists another aspect to the Bush budget.

With nine out of 10 Army divisions currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the military falling far short of recruitment goals, the ruling class is forced to find new ways to sustain its overseas military presence.

The Bush proposed cuts lay the basis for accelerating the economic draft. High unem ployment rates coupled with decreased educational opportunities compel young people to look toward the military as a source of education and training.

This creates a situation where working class youth and young people of color are forced into the Army and Reserves out of economic necessity.

In addition, the Bush administration has engaged in some behind-the-scenes maneuvering that suggests that an actual draft remains on the table if it becomes neces sary to sustain the occupation of Iraq.

On March 31, the Selective Service System will report to George W. Bush that it is able to implement the draft within 75 days of congressional approval. ("America Readies for Draft," NewsMax, June 25, 2004) The renewal of military conscription would be an ominous sign that the current government will not be deterred in its push for foreign conquest, regardless of the consequences.

Ultimately the only way to stop anti-worker budgets and military drafts is through a revolution that will thoroughly uproot the profit-driven capitalist system and replace it with an economic system that meets the needs of all humanity: socialism. Long-term goals, however, must be accompanied by shorter term strategies and tactics.

With this in mind, it is important for youths and students to actively engage themselves in the antiwar struggle. That is why Fight Imperialism--Stand Together (FIST) organizers are calling on young people everywhere to come to New York on March 19 and rally in Central Park to demand that Bush bring the troops home now and stop the wars abroad and at home on workers, youth and students.


Hoskins is a FIST organizer. Contact FIST at fist@workers.org.

2 comments:

BernieC said...

This is a little bit of a personal example to buttess what has been said above. I am hardly looking for sympathy, but people need to know what can happen to them even when they play by the rules.

I was willing to fight in Vietnam if called. I was young, knew little. I never got a student deferment like my classmates.

If my government needed me to risk my life to stop the spread of Communism I would have gone.

Instead I became a journalist, working at five or so newspapers and a wire service, United Press International.

I was a good reporter. Avoided as best possible the temptation to think in terms of which side is right. My articles were balanced and well written.

For years I avoided voting. I didn't want to encourage the mindset of thinking in terms of who is right and who is wrong. Many of my colleagues did the same.

Impartiality is an ideal important to journalists, and regardless what anyone says I have never seen any of my compatriots who didn't consider that goal as a moral imperative.

We were performing a civic duty. Our responsibility was great and people take pride when their job is well done. We put our names on our work, so it had to be good.

Then, in 1980, I suffered kidney failure. Social Security talked of putting me in a home and giving me $56 per month as an allowance.

Instead I became a reporter for UPI in New York City. I managed dialysis, a career, a marriage and the purchase of a home. Something few dialysis patients can do.

I was strong and I was in the zone for many years. I was a real achiever.

In 1997 I became just too old and worn out to continue working. So I went on disability. Two years ago I got a transplant. I feel much better but am very ill from the years of dialysis.

Late last year the EEOC voted twice along party lines to change the definition of the word "discrimination." It was no longer considered discriminatory to cancel medical coverage ONLY for the disabled and for retirees.

Previously it was the law that either everyone got insurance or no one got it. A company was not allowed to dump any employee who used their insurance too much.

Surprise!

My medications are very costly, but I planned ahead years earlier. I had TWO prescription plans.

I worked hard. I followed the rules. I rose in my career to what I considered journalism's 'major leagues' - a reporter in New York City. I never expected to become rich. But I did erroneously think my advance planning would protect me from the high cost of anti-rejection drugs and all the other meds for conditions I developed during a quarter century with kidney failure.

But my the company that mails me my drugs has told me my firm is canceling prescription plans for the disabled sometime after Medicare starts its plan next January.

My New York City-based health insurer canceled my plan on a technicality several years back.

My significant other has covered me under her insurance plan. But her plan cannot give me any prescription coverage because for some strange reason the new Medicare law says that if you are on Medicare's prescription plan NO OTHER INSURANCE COMPANY CAN HELP PAY FOR THE PART THAT MEDICARE DOES NOT.

Its absurd. Why should the government care if my wife's plan is willing to help pay for my meds? Especially if I die without them.

So even though I paid lots of extra cash to thoroughly protect myself, if my prescription supplier is right and my company drops its disabled in January I am going to be up the proverbial creek.

In the 18-month period leading up to the start of the Medicare prescription plan, Consumer Reports says my prescription costs will have nearly doubled. And gathering information from various private agencies and from Medicare, I calculate that my copay for my medications will rise from $5,000 annually now to as much as $38,000 annually.

I do not believe the cost of producing my medications doubled in a year and a half.

Transplant patients are in more dire straits than drug addicts - and unlike them, we have done nothing wrong.

We need "the stuff" - anti-rejection drugs - or we die. There is no going cold turkey.

Whatever the drug companies demand we must pay or die. And now they have closed the borders. I cannot go to Canada for cheaper drugs.

American pharmaceutical manufacturers have a monopoly and a clientel who will pay whatever they ask.

An eldercare lawyer I consulted says my only option is to sell all that I own and spend down so I only have burial money in the bank. Then I can go on Medicaid, the medical plan for the indigent and get the medications that are literally keeping me alive.

I also obtained disability insurance years earlier, but that will not help me either.

To qualify for Medicaid I will only be allowed to keep $4,500 of my $30,000 disability pension.

Now after I cover my reduced prescription copays out of that $4,500, how much will I have left for rent and a car to get to my doctor and, oh, some food too. Maybe a telephone to call an ambulance if I get sick.

So I have begun taking anti-anxiety medications and live out what may be the last days in my home. The medicine is like penicillin for the mind. I can face my likely demise bravely and still have a high quality of life.

Its a shame I may lose that medication too. And my pain medication. I have bone disease, which hurts badly.

I believe I can die bravely if the worst happens. I AM a pessimist, so maybe I will survive.

But I wonder what quality of life I will live, homeless and indigent.

I live with my fiancee. She was downsized four years ago from a $45,000 annual writing and editing career to an $18,000 one at a book store.

I had been making a bit more than her before my disability. We were doing well, though all the insurance, copays, unpaid portions of hospital bills cost us around $15,000 a year.

The economy has not improved enough for the medical writing field to open again and she has been unable to return to her career.


We were never able to save much for our retirement because of the high medical costs. Retirement will be difficult for my wife and I, if I am there to share it with her.

Probably not.

Now there may be a miracle and the people at my mailaway drug company may be wrong when they say my employer is dropping coverage for its sickest employees. Who knows?

The Kaiser Foundation (as in Kaiser Permanente) said in January that about 40 percent of all employers will drop coverage for their sickest employees.

They say an estimated 5.6 million people nationally will have to decide between losing everything that they have or going without the medicine they need to survive.


Other estimates say as many as 60 percent of the nation's firms may stop coverage of their sickest employees - the disabled and the retirees - and turn them over to Medicare's paultry prescription plan.


But this week I heard my governor saying the state must make some difficult choices and money that had been intended to go to Medicaid will likely be diverted to education. Medicare may not be able to accept any more of the indigent.

In Pennsylvania they are considering limiting Medicaid patients to 10 outpatient/doctor visits per year and up to seven medications.

Bad news there for transplant patients.

A friend of mine in California who got a new pair of lungs and is on Medicaid has told me Medicaid in his state will not pay for all the prescription drugs he needs to stay alive.

I told him to move to my state. But that was before I got the bad word from the governor about the state of Medicaid here.

I think a lot of transplant patients will be dying. A lot of them believe so as well.

So I may have to live without the medications. The kidney will fail and I may be able to go back on dialysis.

But on January 28 Medicare announced that the nation's dialysis centers are doing a poor job and unless they can meet stringent new criteria they will be closed.

Closed dialysis centers? Waiting lists with only the lucky few getting treatment.

Its the same as when the president said he intended to close public schools that do not meed strict standards. The students who can afford private school have a future. I don't believe anyone has said where the other students will go.

Its funny. If a school was not able to do an adequate job with the staff and financing it had, I would think the solution would be to give it the resources it needed to do the job right. Its rough teaching inner-city kids.

I don't believe the President when he says the teachers just aren't trying hard enough or that teachers are lazy people.

Most people are honest and take pride in their work. They want to do well. Many schools' budgets are limited, so the staff do their best.

The stereotype of lazy teachers who do not care is no more valid than the idea that cops hang out in doughnut shops. If you go with the stereotypes, you never see people as they really are and you make bad decisions... decisions that can devastate them and their families.

Closing the school doesn't help the kids who have noplace to go.

And any dialysis patient will tell you he would be more than glad to go to a bad dialysis center than to have no place to go other than to his maker.

You die without dialysis fast - real fast. Take away a transplant patient's medications and he will last a tad longer.

Closing dialysis do not help patients with kidney failue any more than closing schools help the kids who have no place to go to get an education.

(Medicare wouldn't actually close the centers. As long as the centers meet extremely strict state standards they could remain open but take only take cash carrying customers. Few people with kidney disease have the $60,000 to pay for the treatments, so the patients there would just die. Actually, with no cash carrying customers, the centers probably would close afer all.)


Now, again, I may luck out and my dialysis center may be able to afford to make the required changes and remain in business. And I may get a seat there.

But without my other meds - they are crucial ones - I will be gone in a year or so even with dialysis. I know my conditions and what meds are needed to control them.

If the government does implement criteria that are too expensive for dialysis centers to afford, we will have taken a great step backwards as a nation.

In 1973 Congress guaranteed dialysis treatments to anyone who needed them.

Prior to that only the rich could afford dialysis.

At the time some hospitals created what were called "death committees." Administrators and doctors would evaluate the patients' lives and decide which ones were worth saving (and would get one of the limited seats) and those who were not worth saving and who would be left to die.

Now the President may really be compassionate and is just trying to get me beter medical care. But he was quoted in the New York Times the other day as saying we are going to have to make some extremely hard political and personal decisons because drastically reducing the cost of Medicare is crucial to getting the enormous deficit under control.

I don't believe the president is going to give my center more Medicare money to make it work better.

Dialysis and transplant patients are the most costly and also the most vulnerable of Medicare patients.

We are expendable. The very ill will soon be no more. We don't have to take care of our parents after all.

The money that kept us alive will now go to the rich in the form of tax breaks, to corporations who can now dump their sickest workers and to the President himself for his global adventures.

Hard choices. Invade Iran... or keep the dialysis and transplant patients alive.

Maintain Social Security or start envying the Saudis oil.

It is sad that our leaders find these hard choices. We've decided to switch from butter to guns and a lot of sick people are left holding the bag.

We spend at least five times as much on defense as any other nation in the world.

Who are we afraid of that we have to quickly take such drastic steps as taking medicine away from people who will die without it and slashing retirement pensions to the elderly?

Our biggest threat, the Soviet Union, has gone broke. We outgun everyone.

Where has this terrible national financial crisis come from that we have to leave so many dead people in our wake?

There was a $2 trillion surplus when Bush entered office. Money to fix Social Security, shore up Medicaid.

There must have been some drastic mis-management if in such a short time we must leave the sick out in field to die because we can no longer afford to keep them alive.

One crisis after another. Saddam Husein is going to nuke New York City with drones. Gotta go to war.

Now we have a financial crisis(the administration ceated itself) that is so severe the nation has to let people die if it is to pay off its debts.

What will the next crisis be?

The pessimist that I am, I suspect my dialysis center and many others are not going to be able to meet those strinent new rules.

Now not all centers may close. People with a lot of cash will still get dialysis, and those "death committees" very well may appear again.

Now, I'm angry that Social Security, if it exists when I reach 65, will only pay a pittance of what I was promised.

Conservatives say they want to eliminate "entitlement programs" like Social Security because we aren't entitled to anything. We must care for ourselves... we must earn what we get.

But I get hung up over the way the definition of entitlement is tossed around.

If I make may payments on my car I AM ENTITLED to drive it around. If I make my mortgage payments I am ENTITLED to live in that house.

Now for more than 30 years I paid taxes, lots of money, into Social Security and Medicare plans with the promise that those payments would guarantee me some security in my senior years or if I become ill.

It seems to me and many others that the Conservatives' comments not withstanding, WE ARE "ENTITLED" TO SOMETHING IN EXCHANGE FOR ALL THE CASH WE PAID FOR IT.

But the rules have changed midstream and they say no one is entitled to anything, not even after paying all those taxes.

They are saying, 'The government spent the Social Security trust fund you paid into. Your money is gone. Deal with it.'

Sounds like somebody did something very illegal if they took our retirement savings and spent it on something else - like tax cuts for the rich and lower prescription insurance costs for the large corporations.

Now I may luck out and my company may not abandon me. And maybe my dialysis center will measure up and they will have a seat for me if I can't get my anti-rejection drugs.

But I'm a pessimist, and with the track record of the current administration, my expectations are low.

I hope my end is peaceful - psychologically in particular. I fear death, but I can do it gracefully.

But here is the irony..

In the next election or the one after that Democrats will gain control and many of these programs will be returned.

The pendulum always swings both ways. An I and so many like me may perish because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We will die not for a lack of money, but rather because a cruel ideology is sweeping the land. It is telling us that the strong should survive and the weak should perish.

Survival of the fittest.

Sad. So many will die or become homeles not because we lack the resources to keep them alive but because this cruel new idology has taken hold.

And history has shown that political zealots - Conservatives in this country just like the Taliban in Afghanistan - come and go.

But my point...

I played by the rules, bought extra insurance, even got disability insurance. I worked hard. Earned two degrees in college. I rose in my career.

I did everything they told me was necessary to succeed in this society and now, somehow, I am facing death.

I never expected to be rich. But I thought I would be comfortable.

The American Dream.

It isn't real any more.

They took it away.

It would have been kinder not to have given me that kidney two years ago, and raise my expectation with 'the gift of life,' only to have it laer snatched away from me by the greedy.

One weekend infection and your dreams can be shatteed too.

If anyone doesn't like what I said, have enough compassion to spare me any hate mail.

There isn't much compassion going around these days and what happened to me may happen to you and yours as well.

duckdaotsu said...

Hello my friend! I knew you were an excellent writer, your background shows that I was in the right pressroom. You have much more in common with me than you would ever imagine, and I have nothing but understanding and, in fact, great empathy for your situation. We could share a great deal for and to each other. Feel free to write to me directly, as I noted I can't return a note to you other than through the blog. Thank you for discovering my blog, for sharing all that you have already written thoughout the blog, and for your willingness to write with such honesty and passion.

My email address is on record, or you can click on "quack at da duck" on the right column to send me an email.

My very best to you and yours.
lisbeth west
daoist hermit
side of a mountain in the colorado rockies
in a wheelchair, watching the world from this cyberspot