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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

May 24th, 2010 7:04 PM

Pallor and Pain; Sorrow and Stain

Over this past weekend, I watched more coverage on the BP Gulf oil spill and felt this growing sense of deep sadness and rage. The spill threatens so much more than we can yet fathom as we see this most recent fouling of our planet unfolding slowly, steadily and insistently with each passing hour.

Are you ready for Social Security cuts?

Across the globe, we are settling in for wars that may last many more years as we hear assurances that it would be a fool’s folly not to war as the terrorist threats against us make any other course of action akin to inviting terror attacks everywhere.  I’m not even sure most Americans know exactly why and all the places where we are warring.  For many years now, the threats that demand our warring behavior have been intentionally painted more vaguely.  And those vague and ever shifting reasons for war keep people fearful and looking around every corner for potential danger.

Are you ready for Social Security cuts?

The struggle for single-payer healthcare (a progressively financed single standard of high quality care for all) continues as the oil spews into the Gulf waters and as war continues.  Seems odd to think of how we’ll move an agenda in support of more healthcare reform when so many of our people seem impotent or disinterested or unaffected by the tremendous suffering being wrought in the name of profit in the quest for more oil or the quest for more power around the world.

Are you ready for Social Security cuts?

How can we engage one another on issues of social and moral uplift outside of the band of activists and advocates who have had the interest and the energy and have made the time to fight the good fight?  There are so many difficult and pressing human issues, why keep fighting for single-payer?  Why keep fighting now?  Does this still matter when we see the lack of urgency with which the powerful respond when the less powerful suffer unimaginable loss in the gushing oil spill area or in war-torn communities half a world away?

Are you ready for Social Security cuts?

The reality is that the gushing spill of human life and the suffering within the US healthcare system continues unabated as we watch other tragedies unfold.  Patients still cannot access care, patients are denied care, patients are sued into bankruptcy when medical debts rise, patients lose homes when medical bills consume family savings and beyond, and patients wander from doctor to doctor being tested and prodded and poked and probed to the limits of their health benefits coverage and their bank balances and sometimes with little regard for any resulting improvement in health.  Patients are fodder for profit – we all know that.  But sometimes we forget the images of suffering.

Are you ready for Social Security cuts?

If we were to see the pictures of the healthcare crisis on the evening news, we’d scarcely be able to endure the images. Patients sick and unable to get better.  Dead people who might have been saved if only the system allowed it.  Not dead of their physical diseases but dead from the greed of a few and the disinterest of millions of their fellow citizens.  More than 120 American die preventable deaths every day because they lack access to healthcare.  Selling them insurance doesn’t necessarily fix that. For some, it may help while for others having faulty insurance does little but satisfy the legal mandate to purchase a policy.

Are you ready for Social Security cuts?

But we heard all of this during the healthcare debate this year, and what we got in the end was not necessarily a fix for the trauma of the healthcare system but a way for more patients to bring a source of payment with them when they attempt to get care.  Mandated purchase of health insurance doesn’t automatically bring better health to patients – it brings a monthly premium due or a penalty if not paid.  Health is another matter altogether.  So, we fight on for single-payer.

Are you ready for Social Security cuts?

With all the pain and trauma playing out in the headlines today, it will be difficult for many to see one of the most terrifying things unfolding behind the scenes.  President Obama’s new National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is about to cut Social Security benefits for millions and millions of Americans who have worked for decades and contributed to Social Security resting in the knowledge that when they grow older or when they become too disabled to work, Social Security will be there.

Let me repeat, President Obama supports cutting Social Security benefits, and the commission he hand-picked is poised to do just that.  It is not in any way because Social Security is going broke. It is not.  Social Security has provided a stable and sure protection against poverty and suffering for many millions of people even as private pension funds slashed promised payments to retirees and as other retirement plans took a beating in recessionary times.  Social Security is not the problem.

President Obama and his Commission want to show the world on the backs of the American retirees of the future – like you and me – that they are prepared to make politically tough choices in favor of more fiscal conservatism.  But really, Mr. President and Commissioners one and all, the world needed no further proof that America will turn a blind eye to its citizens – and perhaps even harm its own citizens to make a political point.  Come on, our leaders have no soft spot for our pain.  And they can act up a storm during election years to try to sell it differently, of course.

Oil spilling in the Gulf.  BP and other oil giants still celebrate huge profits – and rest assured they come out OK even as the Gulf continues to struggle.  Oh, we don’t mind pain.  War in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, war wherever war feels profitable.  Oh, we don’t mind some human suffering to keep the cash flow flowing.  We love our money and we will sacrifice nearly anything to protect it.  

Want to speak up and speak out before it’s too late?  Tell Mr. Obama and his Commission that Social Security benefit cutting is off the table.  Medicare benefit cutting is off the table.  Tell your Congressional members, Social Security and Medicare benefits off the table for your political point-making.  It’s time to stop the nonsense before it’s too late.

Are you ready for Social Security cuts?

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