Monday, September 19, 2005

Ghouls Among Us 

Piggybacking on Riggsveda's post below, let me draw your attention to a story it is highly likely you've already heard about, but this story simply cannot be repeated often enough, for my money. In fact, I would suggest some sort of left blogispheric response that keeps this story alive and appropriately wriggling around the neck of that snake charmer of a Senator, Jeff Sessions.

The original discovery was made by TIME magazine, and among the many bloggers who have linked to it, Kevin Drum led me to this blog, "Common Sense," new to me, by a young progressive who calls himself "Nate," and lives and toils, to elect like-minded candidates, right there in the heart of Texas.

Nate's visceral take on Sessions' attempt to troll for corpses, the right kind of corpses, the ones who may have had estates to bequeath to doubtless completely deserving heirs is just right.

With all the items on a list of things to be upset about in a post-Katrina America, try and imagine that what stood out for the Senator from Alabama, and it should be noted, the Senator from Ariz., John Kyl, both Republicans, of course, was the imminent demise of their long-planned (we're talking several decades here)effort to repeal the estate tax, mainly by renaming it a death tax, which it is clearly not, and pretending that the primary beneficiaries of repeal would be small farmers and small businessmen, kept by this cruel tax, approved by a radical leftist like Teddy Roosevelt, from handing off to their heirs that which had been created by the superior entrepreneurial spirit which accounts for the fact that there is an estate to hand off. In fact, less than 5000 American families are affected by this tax, and Democrats have always been willing to raise the exemption to a high enough figure, five million, say, that would protect any genuinely family farm or genuinely small business.

If you've ever wondered if it might be possible that Republicans just didn't know that they were wrong about who is affected by that tax, forget about it. Here's TIME, as quoted by Nate, on the subject:
It's been hard. Only a tiny percentage of people are affected by the estate tax—in 2001 only 534 Alabamans were subject to it.

It gets worse than that, though.

The Republican leadership is still determined to make substantial cuts in Medicaid, something they had expected to start to accomplish the very week Katrina struck. Remember, Medicaid is the one program by which the genuinely poor among us are able to access anything remotely approaching comprehensive medical care. I won't bore you with yet another recitation of how more expensive it is, in the long run, to force poor folks to seek medical help on a crises basis, in the nation's ever-dwindling and over-extended emergency rooms.

David Sklar, writing for The Warren Reports at TPM Cafe, has the story here. You'd think they'd be talking about expanding it, to include those middle class families on the Gulf Coast who lost everything. Instead, I'm guessing they'll substitute some sort of Heritage-approved, gerryrigged temporary medical care that makes money for Big Medicine, like the large corporate "care-giving" institution on which Dr. Frist's fortune is based.

It's interesting that Dr. Warren and her cohorts got on this one so quickly; their blog within a blog has concerned itself with the increasing burdens being shouldered by middle-class Americans, but increasingly, all of us have begun to see the ways in which the war on the poor, Reagan's substitute for the "War On Poverty," has quietly been extended to the great American middle-class.
We might also note that Medicaid cuts increasingly affect the middle class families, as well as those below the poverty line. Medicaid enrollment rose by an average of 11.6% per year from 2000-2002 and by 7.1% in 2003 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. With middle class Americans losing employer-based health insurance coverage and facing rising health insurance premiums, they may be forced to turn to Medicaid's "safety net" health insurance.
We have two eloquent and wrenching examples of what Sklar is talking about in comments left today right here at Corrente:

Here's alert reader, Catana, with a preview of coming attractions for those of you not yet of an age to qualify for Medicare:
Sigh. I'm just waiting for the year when the basic premium increase exceeds my cost of living increase. As it is, I have less and less real money to spend each year when I get my SS payment. At least I never signed on for part B, and won't be signing on for part D. Between those two, I'd have to give up eating.

And here's alert reader, Larkspur, proving that you can be unlucky in America and still be a damn fine writer; would that any of our millionaire media elite could write as well:
I still don't get it. I mean, I know they'd be pleased if all really poor Americans just disappeared from the face of the earth. But they are also doing their best to eradicate the middle class.

And yet the whole structure depends on people buying things. I get it that the things to be bought can be made outside our borders. But you still have to have consumers. Currently, I am a very very bad consumer because I don't have much money. The only clothing I've bought in the last year or so has been from thrift stores.

My neighbor used to pass me his computer magazines when he was done with them, but it's been so long since I've upgraded anything that none of the articles make sense to me. And while I know, obviously, about TiVO and WiFi and cell phones with pictures in 'em, I don't own any of that stuff and have no plans to buy any of it.

More and more of us are cutting back. So who will buy all of the things that need buying? I know the folks at the top are getting wealthier, but you can't sustain a country like ours unless the great masses buy buy buy.

What are they going to do with us? I'd really like to see an unedited vision of a true neocon future. Gated communities and crumbling, abandoned suburbs? Minimally lit cities, half-filled with squatters, except for the city centers, which are brightly lit and heavily patrolled?

What are they counting on? Simple attrition? That's going to take a while. Emigration? Avian flu?

I get it that George W. Bush may not be capable of imagining the future in any meaningful way. But surely his supporters can. What do they see?

I'd sure as hell like to know, too. Readers, bloggers, leave your suppositions in Comments; satire and snark are welcome.

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