Reader’s Forum — Al Bell

A Commentary on An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal

DSC_7664My first question to any elected official I contact about health care legislation (and I will) will be: “Have you read Elisabeth Rosenthal’s book, An American Sickness?”

If the answer is yes, my second question will be: “How have her ideas been incorporated in health care legislation you will sponsor or support?” You can probably imagine the course of the ensuing conversation.

If the answer is no, my second question will be: “Why not?” If the answer is, “I haven’t heard of that book,” or any pathetic derivatives of that answer, I will proceed as follows.

“Here is why you should buy it and read it. Elisabeth presents a comprehensive picture of why and how the medical industrial complex in America mistreats patients, the people we used to believe were the beneficiaries of what we used to think of as our health care system. Patients: that is us. She reveals why and how the complex focuses on profit and not health; why it is a cartel and not a system. She goes on to offer advice on how to work around the obstacles to effective health care despite the non-system by providing information on important sources of aid. She closes by explaining what needs to happen to reclaim a responsive health care system from the piranhas that now call the shots. She reminds us that we have a cadre of superb medical professionals, some of whom have become complicit in this disaster, but most of whom ache to carry out their role as healers and menders to those in need.”

“If you are not willing to read it yourself, then assign it to one of your brightest staff members and insist that she/he communicate with Elisabeth before getting back to you with recommendations on how to proceed. Then contact me and let me know what you intend to do, when you intend to do it, and who else you have joined forces with to make it happen. I especially want to know the names of any in the latter category who are not members of your political party.”

While it may be generally agreed that health care has become a major, if not the major, current concern of Americans, it is also self-evident that the medical industrial complex has shanghaied our political world and inoculated it against any conceivable common sense fix. The same force that is necessary to rescue our dysfunctional federal governance miasma from itself is the one that will turn health care around as well: we the people.

We the people need a tool for opening doors, slamming inattention to the floor, and prying open windows to an approach that will actually work. Elisabeth Rosenthal has given us the pry-bar; it is now up to us to wield it.

Elisabeth is not asking the doctors, specialists, technicians, hospitals, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, and others to sacrifice reasonable income and profit. She is making the case that extortion in those areas is not legitimate, especially when we pay with not only our money, but our health outcomes as well.

A message to my 60-some active contacts and my elected (some newly) officials in Arizona urging them to read and act on An American Sickness will go out this week.

Oh, one more thing. Thank you, Elisabeth, for the immense public service you have performed in crafting this report to the American people. Bravo, indeed!

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.



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#


Readers’ Forum–Maureen Albanese


Book Image

A Declaration of Independents by Greg Orman is a must read for anyone with who is disgusted with the paralysis that is affecting our national government.  It lays out in clear language that the 2 party system thwarts actual governance so the will of the people isn’t Maureen Albanesepossible.  Mr. Orman’s struggle to gain traction as a candidate, highlights everything  that is wrong with our current system.  One of his idea term limits is something that should have happened along time ago.

 After reading A Declaration of Independents it makes it abundantly clear to me that the following needs to happen to make our government work for the people:

  •  We need open primaries.  I shouldn’t pay for sham elections that I can’t participate in.
  • All political ads should be Public Service Announcements.  So no hit jobs on your opponent, just you explaining why you are running and where to get your policy proposals.  The TV networks will balk as they stand to loose a lot of money because PSA are free,  but I don’t care.
  • Real debates, not run by the political parties.  And more of them especially town halls where the voters can ask the candidates the real questions.
  • No more Political PACs of any kind. Everyone is limited to contribute up to 300 dollars per candidate per election cycle.
  • Easy ballot access if you plan to run as a candidate.  The same ballot access for All 50 states.  You shouldn’t have go through hoops if you are running a National Campaign.
  • Term limits
  • All former politicians must wait at least 7 years after leaving office to lobby their fellow politicians.
Mr. Orman’s book is a conversation starter.  We all must work every day to get the democracy we deserve.  We need to talk to each other without the prism of political parties.  Democracy is not a sport it shouldn’t matter which party wins only that government is by the will of the people.

Maureen Albanese is an administrative assistant and activist. She lives in Manhattan.



A Declaration of Independents

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


641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#


Reader’s Forum–Richard Ronner

Photo on 9-24-15 at 12.03 AM

The Missing Middle: How Gridlock Adds to the Wealth Gap

In Chapter 18, “The Missing Middle,” Hedrick Smith quotes several veteran legislators describing a time of bipartisan cooperation and interparty camaraderie, when families of legislators of opposing parties would have dinner together in their homes, or offer to help one another with re-election–practices impossible to imagine in today’s toxic partisan climate.  He compares the passage of the healthcare legislation of the 60’s–Medicare in 1965–with the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and looks at the passage of the signature Democratic legislation of the 60’s, the civil and voting rights acts, which could not have been achieved without significant support from key Republicans.  Smith demonstrates that common, innocuous (if unethical) practices like gerrymandering safe districts inexorably leads to increasingly extreme political views, and the disappearance, over time, of the moderate middle.

Smith relates the fascinating history in a very readable narrative, in this case beginning with the political realignment initiated by these highly controversial (in some quarters) bills–the deliverance of the southern block of conservative Democrats to the Republican column, culminating, over decades, in the rise of the far right.  Reading this material raises questions and a hunger for more understanding of a complex history–the convoluted and obscure story of the history of the Senate’s operating rules, for example, having to do with filibusters (talking and phantom) and cloture thresholds of 67 senators needed to cut off debate.  Though not everything can be addressed even in this rather sizable volume, there is a tremendous amount of political information and understanding to be gained from this book.

Richard Ronner is a nurse practitioner and a long time independent. He is active with the NYC Independence Clubs and New Yorkers for Primary Reform.



Reminder: Politics for the People

Conference Call With Hedrick Smith

Sunday, June 19th @ 7 pm EST

(641) 715-3605   Code 767775#



Reader’s Forum–Natesha Oliver

Natesha Oliver (r) with Cathy Stewart and Politics for the People member, Cheryl White (l)

Natesha Oliver, (l) with Cathy Stewart & Cheryl White @ the National Conference of Independents 2015

Chapter 17: The Skills Gap Myth: Importing IT Workers Costs Masses of U.S. Jobs

After reading Ch.17 of “Who Stole The American Dream” by Hedrick Smith, I say  the American people have been robbed of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” or should I say have been SOLD OUT. Liberty has been systematically altered in the negative, life has been pissed on by Congress and other elected officials trusted to ensure its progress and hell, most Americans can no longer afford to pursue happiness, when at one point they could. That breaks morale and THAT makes me wonder is that the intent of our current governing structure, to break the morale of Americans to the point we are easily controlled? We all know at our lowest point we don’t care about s**t and will accept damn near anything.

We are facing a new Administration next year and after reading portions of Hedrick Smith’s Who Stole The American Dream, I am more concerned than ever about My personal future.

Between flip floppers, mean and hate filled minded, scandal scarred, and  candidates that don’t even associate with people progressing politics, where is this country headed? Reading this book gives a good indication of where we can go back to if we don’t force a change in how we, Americans, check this government.”

Natesha Oliver is the founder of MIST, Missouri Independents Stand Together. She lives in Kansas City.


Reminder: Politics for the People

Conference Call With Hedrick Smith

Sunday, June 19th @ 7 pm EST

(641) 715-3605   Code 767775#

Reader’s Forum–Al Bell


Al Bell (R) with activists from Open Primaries and Independent Voters for Arizona, May 2016

A Marshall Plan for America:  a review by Al Bell of Part Six of Who Stole the American Dream? By Hedrick Smith: Challenge and Response

Hedrick Smith tells the story—quite tellingly—of how and why the American Dream is in trouble. He ends by suggesting ten steps—a Marshall Plan for America—for turning that around. This review focuses on those steps.

Now, four years after its writing, is this still worth reading? Absolutely. Are the action steps still relevant? Same answer. The reason: force and counterforce have reached fever pitch in the current political attack on historic governance institutions. Anger at everything, trust of nothing, and mountains of money seem to drive our politics. Limited progress on a few fronts leave the situation still grim.

This book joins many others in proposing approaches to long-festering American issues. This is beyond the focus of the Independent Movement specifically, which seeks to enfranchise independent voters, enabling them to participate in and influence our governance. Yet, I believe these excursions are essential. After all, a major purpose for seeking a better electoral process is to achieve a better governance outcome. Strengthening voting is both an end and a means.

I have clustered the steps in a somewhat different order and add only one step from a different source (the author’s sequence appears in parentheses). This is, in part, my attempt to consider circumstances now compared to 2012. You are perfectly welcome to shoot holes in my sequence; just don’t shoot the messenger!

  1. (5) Fix the Corporate Tax Code to Promote Job Creation at Home.
  2. (4) Make the U.S. Tax Code Fairer

Like it or not, politics follows the money. I view these as an indivisible couplet. A sliver of bipartisan light seems to be shining on improving our bizarre taxation system. Congress needs to demonstrate—for itself and for Americans generally—that it can actually solve real problems. Maybe these will break the logjam.

  1. (10) Mobilize the Middle Class
  2. (9) Rebuild the Political Center

This is the terrain of and others focused on voting equity for the largest segment of American voters. I note that: 1) the independent voting movement is already well started and will continue to mature, 2) these initiatives currently operate despite congressional, presidential and party nonfeasance, and 3) success on steps one and two could potentially help steps three and four along.

  1. (2) Push Innovation, Science and High-Tech Research
  2. (1) [Substantially Expand] Infrastructure Jobs to Compete Better

I combine these two because they are central to essential job growth and promote a desirably wide range of employment opportunities. Strong intergovernmental and public/private partnerships—many already in place—will be essential because these are such interrelated initiatives. Return on investment is immense.

  1. (3) Generate a Manufacturing Renaissance
  2. (7) Save on War and Weapons

These two steps are a natural pairing because they will need to be phased in over an extended period. Jobs lost to defense related work will need to be picked up in broader manufacturing categories. We have done this before; those memories need to be refreshed and recalibrated.

  1. (6) Push China to Live up to Fair Trade
  2. (8) Fix Housing and Protect the Safety Net

I am inclined to pull the safety net component out for specific attention and tie it to steps one and two. China relationships and the housing market are so long-term in nature that we might think of them, respectively, as ongoing foreign policy and domestic programs. Attention must be relentless and collaborative.

I suggest an added step proposed by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in their recently updated book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks Was. It could be entitled “Restore Workable Procedures to the Senate.” It should appear near the top of the list. They argue that partisan tinkering with Senate rules has weakened the governance capability the Constitution expects of the Senate (this book should be high on our reading list, too).

It is often said that we are a nation of laws. That is an incomplete sentence. We are a nation of imperfect laws, written by imperfect people, through an imperfect process. Counterculture though it may be, we have to keep paying attention. Mr. Smith provides clues on where to direct that attention. We are not big on attention span, especially given the toxic war the political parties have declared on America.

It has been argued that Americans do best when confronted by a powerful and imminent threat. It’s here. It’s us, just as Pogo once observed. Nobody said that keeping a republic alive and well would be easy and they were surely right. Hedrick Smith offers ample evidence. He also presents a coherent strategy for rebuilding confidence in ourselves.

This Mr. Smith brought Washington to us. Bravo!


Reminder: Politics for the People

Conference Call With Hedrick Smith

Sunday, June 19th @ 7 pm EST

(641) 715-3605   Code 767775#


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