Corporations Are Killing Us

submitted by Joe Detelj

I am of the firm conviction that proper and sufficient health care is a citizen’s absolute right in a civilized society. The notion that every man, woman, and child should provide the means or else be denied access to what is essentially life is as primitive as human sacrifice. Life in the twenty-first century, or more precisely, in the ten thousandth year of settled civilization, is not possible without the collective responsibility, cooperation, and contribution of the society at large. Consider that every physician, nurse, and medical technician was born into a household, constructed by others, provided with clean water and sanitation. The children were protected in a home with safe streets and public utilities. The vast majority attended public schools, instructed by teachers with an identical foundation. At every point they were nurtured and protected, directly or indirectly by an institution funded or subsidized with taxes supplied by various levels of government. And ultimately, all the useful knowledge and experience accumulated within their profession was supplied by the contributions of untold numbers of our predecessors over the past one hundred or so centuries.

The arguments offered in opposition to universal health care are essentially a defense of a corporate world-view that is a phantasm. The corporation, an idea, a mental construct, a Frankenstein monster out of control on a rampage through the countryside, devoid of any human compassion, designed with the singular purpose of gorging ever vaster sums of money with no capacity for satisfaction has been relegated as the instrument for decision making for this most vital of human requirement. The defense is couched in terms of libertarian rhetoric and individual sovereignty by modern sophists in corporate employment. We are assured this is the best of all possible worlds.

This flat earth mentality does not correspond to the reality of the physical realm. Self-sufficiency is not of this world. A human being alone and adrift from society has no meaning, has no relationships, has no way to come into being or to pass on any trace of his being. Physicists, since Albert Einstein recognize relativity as the order of the universe. The relationship of event A to event B determines the material reality we experience. This is not an extraneous thought. When we drill down to the smallest particles of matter, we find the essential organizing principle of relativity to govern. An electron can vary in size and weight but exists in time and space as an event relative to another event termed a proton thus forming the atom. Atoms join to form elements and on and on until, in greater complexity, we find ourselves literally integral to and very much in communion with the universe, a communion more profound than what is commonly understood.

That noted, as fundamental as health care is to life, liberty, and happiness, and as grounded as it is in our physical connection to each other, it ultimately diverts our attention from focusing on the more basic issue which is the present state of our collective health. It is appropriate to ask with some sense of urgency why our need for medical intervention is growing at alarming rates.  Why are we getting sicker as a community and not healthier? The rising trend is shocking when we examine childhood diabetes, immune deficiencies, allergies, cancer, obesity, and the entire range of degenerative diseases. The CDC has projected shorter life spans for this generation relative to their parents, reversing the positive trend that we had previously enjoyed. That portion of our lives when we are the most productive – “the picture of health” and vitality – appears to be contracting for many. As each year passes life support in the form of drugs, surgeries, implants, and properly prescribed mood altering stimulants are the fabric that binds us over until ultimately we are set aside in isolated confinement left to fade away in a nursing home.

Exploring the margins of the available literature, one can find some reasonable explanation for this situation that finds fault rooted in our industrial food system. Again, the same corporate structure that dominates the health industry, dominates the food industry. The pastoral image of the family farmer tending the back forty is a memory for most and Madison Avenue trickery for all. The close alignment of the food and health industries has perpetuated a self-serving endless loop that enhances GDP to the detriment of the general welfare. Profits rise for the undertakers of these institutions and we the less fortunate receive the garbage, toxins, poisoned air, water and soil to assimilate, consume, and mitigate to the best of our abilities. A reckless abandon is at the core of industrial agriculture with its emphasis on factory farms, concentrated animal facilities, massive pesticide and herbicide use, genetic engineering, and a monopolized, vertically integrated distribution network.

There is a wealth of independent data to support the contention that wholesome, nutrient rich, toxin free food is essential to good health. Healthy soils tended by mindful farmers produce healthy food – food that in turn produces healthy eaters. A fundamentally different view of the state of things in sync with the harmony expressed in physical and natural law is the ultimate solution that will allow remediation for the intolerable situation we find ourselves in at this time. We have at our disposal all the tools we need to commence a journey toward a healthier and sustainable climate in which we can express our potential to the fullest. The symptoms of insufficient health care, a malnourished population, and a polluted environment are the fantastic imposition of social structures whose foundation is set on medieval folk-law.

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Labor Day

submitted by Joe Detelj

Cancer is a metabolic process of undifferentiated cell division. Ultimately, growth of the tumor is limited by the death of the host organism. Growth of GDP as an index of undifferentiated economic growth is widely held to be a measure of social  health and well being. We are more fully served by the biological insight and are at a minimum, misguided by the creation of the orthodox economist whose self serving conclusions are the necessary product of  unreal assumptions.

But, faulty algorithms aside, growth, the gospel of entrenched public policy has collided with the real world of six billion humans; finite resources, in particular cheap and easily extracted fossil fuels; climate change; and the metastasized social inequality embedded in the DNA of capitalism. Clearly, we are at a profound point in our history. Species extinction, in particular our own, has  to be considered a  possibility. Issues of equity, justice, and a  sustainable mode of production  compel a need for a more democratic, decentralized, and biologically based economy.  This will not be easily accomplished. The dominant political climate is characterized by fear and denial, paradoxically, based on a recognition of the current state of affairs and a general inability to imagine a solution. There is nothing more urgent than the need to seriously begin a conversation relative to what fundamental changes need to be implemented and what will a more appropriate social order be like.

The choices being offered by the usual suspects are not exactly comforting. One wing of the Party is seeking an acceleration of deregulation and the continued privatization of all public goods. . The other wing is seeking to moderate the mechanisms of destruction that precipitated the crisis and is only willing to make changes on the margin, all the while the rants and raves of the lunatic fringe decry a drift toward socialism. While it must be admitted that risk and costs have indeed been socialized for finance capital and transnational corporations, too-big-to-fail, profits have clearly remained in private and limited pockets, and that is the root cause of the problem.

If there ever was a fable for our time it is Humpty Dumpty, for all the king’s men and women are unable to put Humpty together again limited as they are by imagination, vested self interest and the courage to redistribute even a modicum of the obscene concentration of wealth the is the dominant feature of our gilded age. A recent AP story in our local newspaper featured a Labor Day(which is May1 in most of the world, pardon the digression) article that presented a bleak future for American workers .It was, incidentally, the catalyst for this response. It presented the continued demise of the middle class, that is, those workers paid a wage above subsistence, and the establishment of a two tiered work force consisting of highly skilled more richly compensated workers supported by an army of low paid service workers. The options we are to accept seems to be computer science or Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, or Pizza Hut with no room for a skill set in between. This is the service economy that was promoted by the usual suspects as the envy of the world.

We are truly living a paper economy with any real substance being off-shored as fast as the masters of the universe on Wall Street can click their mouse. It is however, entirely within our power to initiate a more viable alternative. While it is unlikely that we have a complete blueprint for the  democratic and sustainable social order that we will need to create amid the ruins, there are concrete policies that can be implemented as transitional steps that will facilitate the process. Historically, the period from the end of the second World War until the early 1970’s  was received as a golden age of sorts. It clearly was the economic highlight for the vast majority of Americans. Admittedly, the period suffered serious imperfections, but it was for most a prosperous time. Workers wages and corporate profits were simultaneously rising. The Treasury enjoyed trade and domestic surpluses. Union membership was approximately 40% of the workforce.  The tax code pre Reagan consisted of a marginal rate of 91% and wealth was more equitably distributed than at any other time in our history. It was accepted morality that a progressive income tax and high inheritance taxes was not just fair, but actually sound public policy. A necessary starting point for popular demand that offers a concrete and specific solution  to our present malaise must be the reinstallation of a progressive income tax and the prosecution of off-shore tax havens whose existence has allowed the wealthiest corporations to pay little or no taxes. Presently, half of all international trade transactions are processed through these sheltered accounts whose sole purpose is to evade any contribution to the public welfare. The real, not imagined cause of the current deficit lies in the tax code.

If we are to ever provide the infrastructure repair and replacement for our bridges, roads, water and sewer treatment plants, and schools, to illustrate a few options, we need to abandon WTO and return to a trade policy that nurtures domestic industries and ultimately self-sufficiency to the degree that is practical and equitable. Free trade is not fair trade. If a decentralized, environmentally sound infrastructure, the green revolution, is to replace the toxic petroleum based, centralized economy, then selective tariffs and tax policies whose benefits have been promoted by such distinguished radicals such as Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams need to be reintroduced.

And lastly, in light of the most perverse Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott, the Citizen United case, advocacy and action must be directed at enforcement of the anti-trust laws currently on the books and not enforced. Ultimately, at the core of the political corruption, the disenfranchisement of our citizenry, the environmental degradation, and the endless wars to ensure the peace, lies the insatiable need for finance capital and transnational corporations to squeeze blood from a rock, to in effect, get bigger and bigger until eventually only a few merged, mega-entities, and a desolate planet with a ravaged populace remains. Numerous small firms, a more competitive landscape, scale appropriate to community influence, and cooperative ventures are all desirable alternatives that can fill the void left in the wake of Wal-Mart like concentrations.

A reconstruction is over due. If we, the vast majority, are reasonable to seek a better tomorrow and a legacy worth leaving then the modest, concrete, and achievable modest proposals suggested here, which are by no means novel, but rather a rediscovery of proven past practice are real possibilities for a popular movement of change. We have no need for change that requires belief as its only ingredient, but change that embraces caring, commitment, and a challenge to the status quo.

Reaping the Harvest of Cheap Food

submitted by Joe Detelj

One can not venture too far afield today and not come across some feature article highlighting the health care problem of obesity. This is a crisis of epidemic proportions and attention at the local and national level has been in the main  directed at raising awareness of the short term and future consequences to the individual and society in general. Medical experts, as well as Michelle Obama’s recent widely publicized initiative  to address the issue offer the same homeopathic recommendations, more or less, that have become standard fare: get more exercise, have parents monitor their children’s diet, eat low fat processed food.

While no exception is taken to the recommendation of more exercise and less free market choices for the kids, most if not all the emphasis is targeted at  the individual’s responsibility to “heal thyself”. What is blatantly left out of all the discussions is the reality of public policy. It has been a national policy that began in the Truman administration and continues on steroids to this day to convert a diverse, thriving, healthy and decentralized farm economy into a centralized, monocultural, corporate dominated agra-business. The mantra is, cheap food is good.

Well, we are reaping the harvest of that policy and it can not sustain a label of goodness. The sheer volume and availability of cheap processed food, the privatizing of school cafeterias, the nutrient deficiencies of today’s supermarket vegetables, the convenience of sugar, salt, and saturated fats, bio-engineered calories, all rest on a foundation of public subsidies, special tax treatment, and non-enforcement of existing anti trust laws.

So please, it is time we give equal if not greater focus on the root cause of this epidemic. The farmer, the obese child, more often than not from a home with a below average income level, are not the major culprits. We need to change the structural pillars upon which this problem rests and that is the board rooms and hollowed halls of Washington.

Deadly Gas

submitted by Joe Detelj

In the recent past, the good people of our Valley waged a gallant and successful protest and prevented the development of a hazardous waste incinerator from being built here. Our people ignored the pleas for short term economic gain and correctly saw their long term self interests were greatly jeopardized.

A similar but even more menacing threat exists today. Hydrofracking as a means of releasing natural gas in our deep rock formations produces millions of gallons of toxic waste water that contains approximately 100 chemicals that range in effect from unhealthy to deadly. The water is also very likely to be radioactive, contaminated by the radon that had been sequestered in the shale.

There are no regulations on the books that regulates or provides monitoring guidlines for this very recent technology. DEP staff has been cut to the bone in the last belated budget. Unfortunately, things have changed since the “burner battle”; times are leaner and meaner.

Will we swallow the poison pill for the promise of  immediate relief to a depressed economy, or will we struggle again for a sustainable , longer term legacy? I believe the defining question of our time is whether we seriously pursue a green econmy or do we become a modern Centralia sacrificed for this economy in another place?