July 18th, 2009


Low CO2 Emitters Unite

This article discusses wealth, privilege, and pollution.

Herve Kempf | Low CO2 Emitters Everywhere, Unite!
Herve Kempf, Le Monde, investigates the correlation between wealth and greenhouse gas emissions: "The social body's placidity with respect to enormous compensation packages is fascinating. The financial system has collapsed, the economy is going through its most serious crisis in decades, unemployment follows a rising curve; but, contentedly, and without any sense of shame, the elite management classes responsible for the situation continue to grant themselves exorbitant incomes. Truly fascinating."

Health Care and Money

These two articles look at different ways in which health care and money are related...

Oysters for Health Care
This week, Regina Benjamin was nominated by President Obama as our next surgeon general, charged with educating Americans on medical issues and overseeing the United States Public Health Service. She was the first African-American woman to head a state medical society, a member of the board of trustees of the American Medical Association and last year was named the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius award."

I am pleased to see a black woman headed for a position of authority, especially as she has experience working in extremely deprived neighborhoods and getting the job done anyhow. Her qualifications sound perfect for the current situation.

Although the clinic has not been able to give Dr. Benjamin a salary for years - Mayor Wright says she's owed over $300,000 - she buys medicine for her patients out of her own pocket.   In fact, many of the folks in Regina Benjamin's bayou town are so poor that sometimes she's paid with a pint of oysters or a couple of fish. She's fine with that. And she makes house calls.

Dr. Benjamin evidently considers health care a right and a necessity, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. This is prudent.

Now meet H. Edward Hanway, chairman and CEO of CIGNA, the country's fourth-largest insurance company. At the beginning of the year, CIGNA blamed hard economic times when it announced the layoff of 1,100 employees, but it reported first-quarter profits of $208 million on revenues of nearly $5 billion. Mr. Hanway has announced his retirement at the end of the year, and the living will be easy for him, financially at least. He made $11.4 million in 2008, according to The Associated Press, and some years more than that.

Hanway evidently considers health care an appropriate place for personal aggrandizement. He would rather fire workers than lower his own huge paycheck or his company's huge profit. Insurance companies today have a pervasive tendency to suck people in by seeming to promise more than they actually deliver; they seek out the healthiest customers and reject the unhealthy who might actually require care; and then when claims are made, they deny as many of those as possible on often spurious grounds. In essence, insurance has become largely a means of redistributing wealth from the poor and middle-class to the very wealthy. I think that is filthy. People have a right to make a living, but not to do so by harming others.

This time, don't let them scare you. "It should not be this hard for doctors and other health care providers to care for their patients," Dr. Regina Benjamin said when she was nominated this week. "It shouldn't be this expensive for Americans to get health care in this country."

You go, girl!

The push to overhaul the system that takes care of America’s health may be on the verge of morphing into something even grander, a promising new offensive against the unhealthy concentration of America’s wealth. The entire House Democratic leadership now stands united behind health care reform legislation that hikes taxes on America’s richest well beyond the levels that pundits, over recent years, have deemed “politically feasible.”

This is a closer look at the proposed tax on the wealthy to cover health costs.

If it were up to me, I'd put a low tax rate on primary income (from creating goods or providing services) and a very high one on money made by diddling things around without doing real work (dividends, speculation, etc.). A lot of what's gotten us into this mess is rewarding people hugely for things that aren't work while not rewarding people for things that are work. You get what you reward.