Tuesday, April 01, 2008
TAKING BACK AMERICA – THIS IS MY COUNTRY!
Yes it is time for change!
If the people of America want to get control of their country now is the time but it can only happen if they take responsibility for what happens in their country. You see, people seem to have forgotten the rest of the story when it comes to our Bill of Rights. When they published the full title of the Amendments to the Constitution the editors left out part of the title. It should have read the Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
There is no better generation to fix that problem than the battle tested, Cold War conditioned, oil shortage hardened Baby Boomers who are the only generation of the past century to understand the price of freedom and the dangers of democracy. I think every person who cares and wants things better should wear a tee shirt and paste bumper stickers that proclaim, “This is My Country!”
We can start by telling the politicians who want to be president that we the people will tell them what we need and what to do. Last time I checked they work for us. So the true Agenda for Change will be presented in this series of articles on Taking Back America. The pollsters, political advisors and advertising agencies that put words or sound bytes into the mouths of politicians have it all wrong. They are the very people who got us into this mess.
No we need to give government back to the people, give God back to the government and give meaning back to our Declaration and Constitution. We need to provide what people need, stop promoting what we don’t need, and start seeing government act like our friend and protector rather than a front for greed and power hungry individuals or corporations.
America must be wealthy, not the rulers who try and run or own America. Don’t you think those who claim to know have victimized us for long enough? We want a nation where housing laws protect the homeowners not the mortgage and financial institutions. We want banking laws that protect the citizens not the credit card companies, debt collectors, lawyers and hidden fees.
Our government licenses telephone companies, television and radio stations, banks, mortgage companies, investment banks, doctors and stock brokers among many others, while we regulate the stock market, commodity market (including the price of oil and food), energy companies, interstate commerce, foreign aid and practically every other aspect of our lives. Do you feel protected?
We spend more money protecting oil producing nations, arms dealers, drug companies, banks and investment houses than we do protecting people and that has simply got to change. Look at the cost, $500 billion and 4,000 American lives in Iraq to protect the Arab nations from Arab terrorists, or is it the Arab oil producers from disruption? What do we get? Record oil prices, no effort by OPEC to increase production and lower prices, and the scorn of the world.
Or how about our Afghanistan experience? We spend billions to chase the terrorists out of Afghanistan into hiding in Pakistan, a nation where we spend billions more to protect the military and government that gives the terrorists safe haven. We have no viable foreign policy, we just support the arms dealers of the world who make sure there is always civil unrest, genocide and demigods running amok where we can spend billions more defending people. If America stopped financing war directly and indirectly do you think the arms dealers would spend their own money to cause wars?
Back in the good old USA we have more than enough wars of our own to fight against the destruction of our immune systems by the pharmaceutical companies, the addictions imposed on us by television, video games, hospitals and doctors, the health care industry, the wellness industry, the physical education industry, and all those who think the only way to good health is through the pocketbook.
Then there are the phone companies, banks and credit card companies with their incredible hidden fees and confusing billings, insurance companies that increase rates for reasons having nothing to do with their insurance coverage, the media whose message is always influenced by the advertising dollars it might generate, and the government who works for everyone but the people it is supposed to represent.
Oh it is time for change all right, and the change we need must be cataclysmic to do any good. All the shadowy figures that profit from our difficulties, steal from our treasury and attempt to influence our minds and destroy our wills are counting on us being too weak, too self-centered and too preoccupied to bring about change but I say they are wrong. Once again the bad guys have underestimated the power of freedom and the will of the people.
Proudly display your sign This is My Country and then do what they don’t expect, show you care. Help establish the Agenda for Change that we need, not the one politicians say we need. Start out by making a concerted effort to send a message to the oil profiteers by joining in a national effort to stay at home from Memorial Day until the Fourth of July, Independence Day, and reduce oil and gas consumption as much as possible.
Spend weekends with your family, seeing what you missed in your community, state and surrounding areas. Enjoy the local festivals and events. Turn off television and limit your time on the Internet and we can start to get back our nation. Asking you to save money does not sound like too much to ask. Please share this article with anyone and everyone you can by directing them to: http://coltonspointtimes.blogspot.com/.
Comments and suggestions are welcome.
What are the targets for change?
1. Money Mongers of the Financial Institutions
Who are these people and what threat do they represent? Well, the intricate web of interlocking ownership, access to media, control of pricing in stocks, currency, commodities and bonds, and insulation from scrutiny probably make this the single most powerful force on Earth, capable of controlling governments and destroying opposition without ever getting their own hands dirty. You see they are invisible to the general public.
Financial institutions control the world simply put and they do not serve the world in the process, as serving is not a good return on investment. They set up mutual funds to consolidate investment power and get government to create more sources of funds and turn them over to the financiers to manage such as pension funds, 401K funds, IRAs and many others.
They create financial “experts” to tell us what is happening to our investment markets and how to invest what money we do control completely ignoring the conflicts of interest when the greatest beneficiaries of the advice are the market makers, the very financial institutions whose experts are giving supposedly objective market advice.
What does that mean? The media takes the advice of industry experts and tells us the price of oil is going up because of the potential for a hurricane in the gulf that may or may not disrupt supply lines and drilling operations. A suicide bombing in Iraq shows that the crude oil supply from that country is not stable so a shortage of future oil may result if a bombing of the oil pipelines is successful. Cold weather in American means there will be a shortage of heating oil no matter that there are sufficient inventories already in the country. So the price of oil goes up, and up and up.
Who benefits? The owners of the crude oil, the companies that pay them for the crude, the banks that finance the companies, the stockholders that own shares of the companies, the IRAs, 401Ks, pension funds and mutual funds that pump money into the companies, the companies selling and buying their stocks, or the companies setting market prices? Guess what, all of them could be part of the financial institutions benefiting from the market manipulations caused by the speculative reports on the industry by the media.
So why does the Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission let them do this? The FTC and SEC are supposed to be our government watchdogs protecting the public from unscrupulous financial manipulators. For two years the same financial sector was behind the unethical, immoral and often-illegal manipulation of the sub-prime mortgage markets as well which nearly sent the USA into recession and certainly left millions of homeowners in foreclosure. Where were the federal regulators?
2. Mortgage Lenders – Vampires of the Golden Dream
Even though mortgage lenders can be owned, controlled or manipulated by the financial sector and banking institutions they are often set up independently until they finish preying on an unsuspecting public, having got caught using questionable practices (sub-prime loans for example), using heavy handed tactics, misleading consumers and initiating mortgage foreclosures.
When this happens the lenders now approaching bankruptcy get bought out by the financial and banking sectors that are seeking to acquire real estate property at far below the loan value. So losses are written off, property is acquired far below the loan value, new mortgages are written to resell or refinance the property, a few million people lose their homes due to foreclosures, and the financial institutions now have a new division with secure assets and credit worthy clients.
Of course we then lose sight of the fact illegal mortgages and unethical selling practices caused the bail out cycle to take place. Or that mortgage lenders, sales people, lawyers and credit rating firms were all players in this billion-dollar scam. That closing fees, collection fees and late fees have made someone millions of dollars at the expense of the hapless homeowners.
Finally even the government backed mortgage programs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (what great names for federal backed mortgage players), not to mention the long list of programs such as VA, Indian, Rural, Low Income and other federal mortgage and housing programs must be ever more vigilant to root out corruption, contract fixing, slipshod construction and repair work, inefficient heating and utilities and other problems that beset our federal and state housing efforts.
3. Credit Card Industry Standards, Fees and Collection Methods
Now this is an area of regulatory meltdown and benign neglect involving federal and state agencies ranging from the FTC to Congress, from the SEC to Justice Department. There is a body of law at both the state and federal levels that regulates these practices but no one seems to pay attention.
The issuance of credit cards through the mail and Internet and the proliferation of offers from credit card companies are astounding. The never-ending changes in interest rates charged, the justification for such changes, the explanation of such practices and the downright deception in consumer information is appalling and predatory.
Fees change constantly for ATM charges, handling, processing, vendor, fraud, security, and any other excuse to stick it to the consumer. Credit rating companies feed information to credit card companies and collection companies making the whole business of debt collection a financial windfall to lawyers, collection agencies, process servers and even the courts. Lies regarding the rights of the cardholder are overwhelming to most people, threatening to them and their credit, and fraught with heavy-handed tactics.
Simply stated there is no protection for people from getting the cards, understanding the changing fees, and especially getting caught in the late payment and collection process. Debts are written off yet collection efforts go full steam. When debts should be forgiven efforts are still made to scare the consumers into making payments. If we allow a credit card company to write off the bad debt, then why is the collection industry pursuing the poor consumer with no money? Why are the bad debts written off years before the debt is forgiven to the consumer?
4. Health Care Industry Cost, Insurance and Unnecessary Treatment
Just look at the facts and there is no doubt this system is broken. In 2006 we spent $2.1 trillion on health care, over $7,026 for every person in the USA, and it took over 16% of our Gross Domestic Product. That is 4.3 times more money than we spent on defense. The cost of health care increases at more than double the inflation rate annually.
At 16% of GDP we have the highest health care costs of any developed nation with the next highest being Switzerland 10.9%, Germany 10.7%, Canada 9.7% and France 9.5%. Americans spent one third more on health care than any of these nations, and while 50 million Americans do not have health insurance all of the citizens in the other nations mentioned receive health care. At our current pace we will be spending $4 trillion on health care in just 7 years, by 2015.
With the war in Iraq one might expect the cost of health care for veterans to be substantial as treatment in the war zone is far improved from earlier wars and for every death of a soldier there are 9 wounded soldiers that return home. Yet the cost of veteran’s health care drops to $5,000 per person, $2,000 less per year than civilians.
What is causing these statistical aberrations? Are we much sicker than citizens of the other nations? Is there a greater medical risk to civilians in America than our soldiers in Iraq? Why are 50 million Americans uninsured when all of the citizens of other nations receive health care?
According to the latest statistics employer paid health insurance premiums in the USA were $11,500 for families and about $4,200 for individuals. That means annual health insurance premiums account for a substantial portion of health care costs. Something is very wrong with the system.
So what is the average educational debt for new doctors coming into the market? According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average educational debt of indebted graduates of the class of 2006 (including pre-med borrowing) is $130,571. The average debt of graduating medical students increased in 2006 by 8.5 percent over the previous year. 72 percent of graduates have debt of at least $100,000. 86.6 percent of graduating medical students carry outstanding loans. 40.2 percent of 2006 graduates have non-educational debt, averaging $16,689. Source: AAMC 2006 Graduation Questionnaires.
So how much do they make when they graduate? Cardiologists were the most sought-after specialists last year, fetching salaries ranging from $234,000 to $525,000 and averaging $320,000 a year, according to surveys. Close behind cardiologists are radiologists and orthopedic surgeons. Now why do we loan med students the money when bank financing would be readily available in light of their low risk?
5. Pharmaceutical Industry Proliferation of Prescription Drugs
This can be short and sweet. In 2002 we spent $162 billion on prescription drugs and in 2006 we spent $217 billion on prescription drugs. One out of every five Americans takes 5 or more prescriptions per day. All Americans average 2.9 prescriptions per day. Our senior citizens, who are increasing very rapidly with the aging of the Baby Boomers, averaged $559 for prescriptions in 1992, $1,205 for prescriptions in 2000, and $1,912 in 2005 with spending expected to reach $2,805 in 2010.
Every day it seems the health authorities announce yet another prescription drug that does not work, or whose long-term effects are determined to be more dangerous than expected. Yet every day it seems there are new prescriptions for new diseases. We live longer but spend far more. Kids are over-prescribed with Ritalin and other drugs. They are addicted to drugs they don’t even take raiding medicine cabinets for the new drug culture.
6. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) Drug Approval Process
If drug prices in America have been rising almost five times as fast as inflation then the FDA must assume some of the responsibility as they are the regulatory agency charged with overseeing the over-the-counter and prescription drugs so abundant in our society.
The FDA new drug approval process with layers of clinical animal and human trials is the most costly, most lengthy and often most bizarre in terms of protocols and criteria for approval in the world. It is a process designed for the benefit of wealthy pharmaceutical companies, not for the small and independent research companies and laboratories.
Major pharmaceutical firms have managed to negotiate with FDA for new drug approval even if the drug extends the life expectancy of the patient by just 30 days. Yet when these products are sold to the public no one seems to mention they might only be good for 30 days at a cost of thousands of dollars
Things have gotten so ridiculous in the approval process that television ads for the drug Celebrex contain so many warnings of side effects and drug interactions that the ad actually states “the FDA says the benefits may outweigh the risks” when taking it. Are they crazy? It might be safe to take it?
Human trials approved by FDA require a protocol where half of the patients are given a placebo rather than the drug so results taking the drug can be measured against a control group not taking the drug. Not a bad practice unless the drug is experimental and the disease is going to kill the patient.
For example, stage 3 cancer patients have weeks or months to live. At stage 3 any normal and extremely expensive treatment like chemo, radiation or surgery has already failed. When they are offered a chance to participate in an experiment that might save their life and the option is certain death you might think they would jump at the chance, but that is not the case.
Why would they sign up when only half the people will even receive the treatment, with the other half getting meaningless placebos? If they are in the half that gets the candy and not the drug they die. If they get the drug there is a chance they might live. When you are facing death there should not be a 50-50 chance you won’t get the treatment.
Other problems with the industry include their price gouging, opposition to generic drugs selling for much less, opposition to foreign drugs also selling for much less, payments to doctors for prescribing their drugs, and unsubstantiated claims regarding over-the-counter drugs like cough syrup which has been proven to do no good.
7. Agriculture – Food Testing, Ingredients and Source
You go to the grocery store, check the fresh meat, see something that looks nice and red and fresh and buy it. Or maybe you buy the chicken to fry up for dinner. Then again you might buy pet food for your favorite dog or cat. Now did anyone tell you fresh meat like beef should not be red? Did they tell you color dyes and carbon monoxide are used to give the cuts of meat that color and they are injected in the butcher shop?
Did they tell you the chicken was raised in a hen house and pumped with hormones, steroids and God knows what else to fatten it up for the slaughter? Did they tell you about everything you just bought included rendered animal parts?
Did they mention rendering plants use raw product including thousands of dead dogs and cats; heads and hooves from cattle, sheep, pigs and horses; whole skunks; rats and raccoons? Did they mention the millions of maggots swarming over the carcasses? Did they tell you the carcasses would be ground up and cooked to create batches of yellow grease, meal and bone meal, and that the meat and bone meal would be used as a source of protein and other nutrients in poultry, swine and pet foods?
That the animal fat is used as an “energy source” and millions of tons will be trucked to poultry ranches, cattle feed-lots, dairy and hog farms, fish-feed plants and pet-food manufacturers where it is mixed with other ingredients to feed the billions of animals that meat-eating humans, in turn, will eat.
When you look at the ingredient label and it says the meat included protein it sounds good but is that protein from the rendered carcasses and what are the health consequences of eating a standard diet of rendered byproduct? The deadly Mad Cow disease was caused by feeding rendered products to cattle.
8. Campaign Reform – Empty Promises and Empty Wallets
For the first time in our history the presidential campaign alone in 2008 is expected to cost over one billion dollars. Now that is a whole lot of money being spent to win a job that pays $400,000 a year and only lasts four years. One billion dollars spent to make $1,600,000. If that is the result of capitalism then we might have a problem.
Campaign reform has been talked about more and acted upon less than any other issue facing congress and the president. Political advertising costs are criminal. Some campaigns spend more money raising money than they do getting elected. Special interest groups give to candidates, give more to national political parties, more to state political parties and then spend money themselves to influence elections.
Over $1 billion will be spent running for president and that can be changed if the president and congress have the guts. Paid ads can be stopped, special interest funding can be stopped, and a logical schedule for primaries can be held. Candidates can receive free media time since all the airways are government regulated. Voter registration can be increased.
There are about 226 million people eligible to vote in the USA and about 142 million are registered to vote. In 2004 about 121 million did vote for president. That means about 53% of the eligible voters participated in the last presidential election, a pretty weak total for the citadel of democracy in the world. That needs to be fixed. Require automatic voter registration with social security cards or drivers licenses if need be but get people back involved in the process. We can’t make people vote but we can make sure they have the opportunity to vote.
9. Immigration Reform – The Slumbering Social Issue of the Day
So far the candidates have done a masterful job of avoiding the issue of Immigration reform although before the campaign heated up they had a variety of ideas to offer. Now it seems the ideas have been taken off the table in hopes no one noticed they flip flopped on an issue.
There are a few areas of agreement. For one everyone agrees we need to strengthen border security on both the Canadian and Mexican borders. We also acknowledge that there are millions of Mexican workers illegally in the USA gainfully employed at jobs typically not wanted by Americans. What to do about them is a huge problem.
Since there is widespread opposition to any kind of amnesty program allowing them to remain without consequence perhaps a better alternative would be to allow those illegal immigrants and their families to remain with a permanent work visa if they are gainfully employed and have paid taxes in the United States.
They are here and they pay our income and sales taxes. They have cars and drivers licenses. They are making a substantial contribution to Social Security even though they cannot draw benefits. What amnesty are we giving them? If we throw them out don’t we owe them back their income, sales and social security payments? I say they have paid enough already for a permanent visa and they should be welcomed if they complete our citizenship requirements.
If the illegal immigrants that are gainfully employed and contributing to our tax and social security system are granted permanent work visas, overnight we will reduce the border security issues saving substantial money and improving relations between our two countries. This will free up resources to pursue the criminal elements from foreign countries that come illegally for far more sinister reasons.
Not only do millions of illegal immigrants pay taxes and provide services we would not otherwise have but they are also victims to hordes of unscrupulous people involved in car sales and repair, medical treatment, legal assistance, and many other areas because they have no way to protect themselves. They cannot go to law enforcement agencies for help, as they would be prosecuted. The simple act of granting well-earned permanent work visas would stop predators from taking advantage of their status.
For more go to: http://www.coltonspointtimes.blogspot.com/