Reader’s Forum — Lou Hinman and Jeff Aron

Lou Hinman 

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The runaway inflation in the cost of living in America is worst in precisely those sectors of the economy that the 99% can’t live without — higher education, housing, and healthcare. In An American Sickness, Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal describes in excruciating detail how American healthcare has been hijacked.

How did this happen?  How did we Americans get so divided that a plastic surgeon dares to bill $50,000 for 3 stitches – just one of the many examples that Dr. Rosenthal sites.  (I also read a story not long ago in the New York Times about an “out-of-network” surgeon who ambushed an unsuspecting patient, sewing him up after his operation, and then billing him for a quarter of a million dollars!)

Medicare has become a vast, publicly owned resource  – a huge accumulation of money, automatically withheld from the paychecks of working people for their entire working lives – that is ripe for systematic looting by private interests.  In exactly the same way, private insurance companies don’t complain about extortion by the drug companies, and the newly privatized “not-for-profit” hospitals and their incorporated medical practices, because they can pass the extortionate billing on to their tens of millions of subscribers – you and me.

The corruption of the American system of healthcare has become institutionalized.  Indeed, our healthcare system now fits Irving Goffman’s description of a “total institution” – an institution that, whatever its original or nominal purpose, has as it’s real priority perpetuating itself and benefiting its hangers-on.  Such total institutions are, as Dr. Rosenthal suggests, a sign of a culture in decline.

When President Eisenhower left office in 1961, he warned us about what he called the “military-industrial complex.” In the decades that followed, military production did, in fact, become a juggernaut of profit-making for private interests and, simultaneously, an institutionalized parasite on the productive resources of the American economy and the needs of the American people.  Healthcare in America has now become just such a parasite – the “medical-industrial complex!”

As Dr. Rosenthal astutely observes: “In healthcare, entrepreneurship outsmarts regulation every time.” In the independent political movement, we know this pattern very well.  We’ve learned, for example, that trying to stop the flow of money to Democrat and Republican politicians by campaign finance reform can’t succeed, because new regulations, written by those politicians, come with new loopholes.  The development of new corrupt practices is impossible to keep up with, in both politics and in healthcare, without addressing the question of political power.  We can’t reclaim either our government or our healthcare without creating a new political culture.

Lou Hinman lives in New York City and is an activist with IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs.

Jeff Aron

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I won’t say that I “enjoyed” reading An American Sickness by Dr. Elizabeth Rosenthal. It corresponded too closely to experiences of my family and friends – not merely the illnesses and deaths but the difficult engagements with all aspects of a system that creates economic and existential insecurity which have nothing to do with “health.”

Whether based on personal interviews or other research, the stories Dr. Rosenthal shares help us to understand and are devastating critiques of the (mis)organization of healthcare in the United States. So many people are failed by this “system”. I kept wondering what those who supported it might say in its defense. More to the point, I wondered what we as a country would need to do to produce a system(s) other than what we have. What can we do about the overweening power of hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceuticals — all of which have enormous political leverage as well as economic incentive to keep things as they are? Would it be possible to build partnerships between those who currently profit from this state of affairs and those who are not served well by it? How might that be organized?

I really appreciated Dr. Rosenthal’s suggestions about what individuals can do. However, I feel similarly to Susan Massad and others who have written that something bolder — more grassroots and more challenging of the larger system of which healthcare is a part — needs to be undertaken.

As I read An American Sickness, from my location as an activist in the mental health arena who also has been a community organizer, I thought of areas of concern and contention in healthcare which might have been more fully explored, e.g., severe mental disorders, aging, and lack of access and education for marginalized groups. While addressing these may not have strengthened the very strong case Rosenthal makes, including these populations as resources would be powerful elements of a movement for change.

I also thought about my brother, my mother, my life partner — all of whom died of serious illnesses — the challenges we faced, the diversity of people we met, the pharmaceuticals that were prescribed, the offices, clinics and hospitals we entered — and how all of us were shaped (deformed) by the economic and political forces that organize the practice of medicine — and everything else in our society. We can and must do better.

Jeff Aron has been active in independent political efforts in New York City and nationally since the late ’70s. He is a passionate supporter of IndependentVoting.org


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Politics for the People

Conference Call

An American Sickness

With Author Elisabeth Rosenthal

Sunday, Dec. 2nd at 7 pm EST.

Call in number:  641-715-3605 

Passcode 767775#

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Reader’s Forum — Lou Hinman and Sheryl Williams

LOU HINMAN

While I was reading The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen, I saw Call Mr. Robeson, the one-man show written and performed by Tayo Aluko, at the Castillo Theatre in New York. Like Paul Robeson, Mary unnamedBowser made a political choice: she rejected the life of relative privilege that was open to her as a talented, educated, free black person living in the north.  She chose instead to return to Virginia, and risk her life in the war for the liberation of her people.

Ms. Leveen’s account of Mary Bowser’s heroic life also shows very clearly that an entire nation cannot abuse and degrade a whole group of human beings without corrupting and degrading itself.  The injustice of slavery corrupted not just the southern “slave power”, but the northern “free” states as well.  Ms. Leveen shows us how racism infected even the abolitionists in the north.

Today, one hundred fifty-three years after the end of chattel slavery, the corruption of racism is still degrading, poisoning, shaming, and holding back America.  Three generations ago, President Truman (DP) told Paul Robeson that the time was “not right” for anti-lynching legislation.  This past week, the NFL ruled that its players would face sanctions if they kneeled during the national anthem to protest police violence against the black community.

The racists – and this includes Roger Godell, the smooth-talking Commissioner of the NFL – reserve their most rabid hatred for people of color like Mary Bowser, Paul Robeson, and Colin Kaepernick who have the unmitigated temerity to lay down their privilege to stand with their people.  The rest of us reserve for them our greatest respect, admiration, and love.

Lou Hinman lives in New York City and is an activist with IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs.

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SHERYL WILLIAMS

In reading Lois Leveen’s book, “The Secrets of Mary Bowser” I am reminded again of the importance of reading American history. A very richly textured book about the life of a real person, a former slave, Mary Bowser. The level of detail in both the hardships and the mundane have had quite an impact on me.

 

IMG_20171125_084439I can’t but help think about how some of the themes in the book are common to present day African American families. For example, I grew hearing from the oldest generation of my own family stories of the lack of certainty about who was born when given the lack of record keeping as it applied to a people who were once enslaved. The conflicting emotions of pride and loss at just the possibility of access to education. As an adult, attending the with my parents the very same church I attended as a child, listening to announcements about young people in the church who were graduating from high school and soon to be going away to college accompanied by cheers and tears.

The thing that probably surprised me the most, was from the very beginning to see slavery through the eyes of a child. Maybe it’s because I’m older now, have a better sense of what it means for a parent to want better than they had for their children. And since I don’t have any children myself, think about my own parents, and their parents for before them and the strength it must have taken to send children off into nearly unimaginable hostility only to hope against hope that would that they not only survive but also thrive.

A very powerful book, I hope everyone reads.

Sheryl Williams is a long-time independent; an activist who believes in the power of the people.

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Politics for the People

Conference Call

With Author Lois Leveen

TOMORROW

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

Join us and Explore

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

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Reader’s Forum–Lou Hinman

 

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I like A Declaration of Independents very much.  Here are a few thoughts about it.

On the liberal establishment’s apoplexy over Trump:

“Don’t blame the voters.  Blame the two political parties.  This is not a moment of time that appeared out of nowhere.  It’s a byproduct of decades of neglect, the social result of a pampered political class that ignores festering national problems while putting its own interests ahead of the nation’s. Americans are desperate for something different.”

I would add: In electing Trump, the voters have laid their hands on the only tool available to them for fighting back against the political establishment.  Since this voter Book Imagerebellion is not going away, those who think Trump is not up to the job of building a new American consensus should get busy and help break the tyranny of the duopoly that keeps us from having more and better choices.

On the question of “competition” between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party:

“Although they create the illusion of competition, duopolies compete against one another while working together to suppress outside competition.  The define the parameters of the game – and then rig the rules of that game to keep others out.”

This is what Katherine Ghel and Keith Porter have called “oligopolistic competition” in their Harvard Business School paper “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America”.

On winning:

“Most people say that in modern politics, winning is everything. But my view is that how you win is important, too.”

Yes, how is at least important as what.  The winning-is-everything view (like the view that independent candidates are “spoilers”) puts the interests of the political parties and the duopoly ahead of the interests of America.

There are also a few points on which, respectfully, I tend to disagree with Greg.

He seems to suggest that polarization of voters is a one of the causes of gridlock.  I’m more inclined to think that polarization is partly an illusion fostered by the duopoly and its supporters in the media, and partly a result (rather than a cause) of the duopoly’s corruption of our political process.

It’s an illusion in that it disregards the 42% or more of voters who don’t identify with either party.  It thus implicitly upholds the have-you-quit-beating-your-wife logic of pro-duopoly political “scientists” who assert, with a straight face, that there are no independents!

It’s result (rather than a cause) of gridlock, because when voters have been disempowered by the duopoly, they are vulnerable to being manipulated by it.  When people are powerless, they can be ruled easily by fear.  As Greg notes (quoting Ezra Klein):  “What parties need to do to keep you loyal isn’t make you inspired.  Rather, they need to make you scared.”

I also think that Greg tends to conflate independents with moderates.  This is perhaps natural, because formation of consensus (as Greg otherwise makes very clear) is the very essence of a healthy democratic process, and this is precisely what the duopoly is unable to do.  However, the idea of “moderate” appeals to a notion of a political center, and a left/right paradigm which is itself defined by bipartisan collusion.

So, for example, I think there is a good chance that single-payer health insurance would be supported by a majority of Americans.  In the left/right paradigm that is defined by the duopoly, that would be left-of-center.  But that distorts the situation, because the possibility of single-payer, like many other possible solutions to important problems, has been ruled out of the conversation by the duopoly.

In the last chapter, Greg says:

“While millions of Independents find the Republican Party too far to the right and the Democratic Party too far to the left, being an Independent doesn’t necessarily mean being a centrist. Yes, millions of political moderates yearn for a third option. What truly sets us Independents apart, however, is not ideological. What sets us apart is that we don’t let the duopoly do our thinking for us.”

Yes!

Greg’s proposals for reforming congress are great (“An Independent Agenda” Chapter 12).  But congress can’t be reformed without first empowering America’s independents!  In his independent run for Governor I urge him to make this empowerment itself the cornerstone of his campaign.

Lou Hinman lives in New York City and is an activist with IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs.

 

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POLITICS for the PEOPLE 

CONFERENCE CALL with Author GREG ORMAN

A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

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Reader’s Forum: Lou Hinman

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Lou Hinman on $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

I love Kathryn Edin’s book $2.00 a Day. It gives a clear, concise account of the welfare reforms that were produced by the Clinton administration. It shows how the work of academics are used by politicians.

It also gives us a vivid, unforgettable narrative that exposes the human consequences of these reforms.  Poverty has long been hidden in America.  But $2.00 a Day shows us how poverty has become deeper and even more hidden .  Along with the super-rich, along with the growing gap between haves and have-nots, along with the destruction of families and wealth by the bank-fraud of the sub-prime mortgage disaster, there has grown an under-underclass of the super-poor — the destitute who try to survive in the wealthiest country in the history of the world on almost no money at all.

Those of us who have never missed a meal cannot know what this is like the way that the super-poor know it.  But Kathryn Edin makes us look at it.  She makes us look at fellow Americans whose main source of cash is selling their own plasma.  At mothers of children who are forced into prostitution the pay the electrical bill.   At teenagers who submit to sexual abuse to get something to eat.  At young children who say they want to be dead.

What are we going to do about this?  More of the Clintons (or the next generation of Democratic Party triangulators) will not fix this.  The Democratic Party is not reformable.  To  address poverty, super-poverty, the destruction of the middle class, and the future of our children and our children’s children, there must be structural reform of our political process so that all our voices can be heard.

Lou Hinman lives in New York City and is an activist with IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs.

Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

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