The Orthodoxy

It doesn’t look good for the so-called “public option” in Obama’s healthcare program. Too many conservative Democrats are jumping ship for it to pass in the Senate. And Republicans, wedded to their hard right Capitalist orthodoxy, have already branded it “socialist.”

Were it not for the orthodoxy we, as a nation, could perhaps see how truly illogical it is to provide our basic healthcare needs to the insurance industry as a commodity to exploit. I have spoken to people who spend more than a thousand dollars a month on health insurance, are unsatisfied with it, but would never accept a government system because it would raise taxes (not anywhere near a thousand dollars a month) and would advance the slip and slide toward “socialism” and the “loss of individual freedom.” And that in spite of the exploitive nature of many private insurance companies.

These are true believers, indeed. To the point that they are willing to cut off their own noses to spite their faces.

So we, as a nation, will suffer so that these industry CEOs can have their share of the American pie. I got these figures off a post on the web but they appear reasonably accurate.

The right-wing Orthodox Capitalists would call this the American Dream in action. Many among the rest of us cry out in bewildered disgust.

ANNUAL COMPENSATION (2006 and 2007):

Ronald A. Williams, Chair/ CEO, Aetna Inc., $23,045,834

H. Edward Hanway, Chair/ CEO, Cigna Corp, $30.16 million

David B. Snow, Jr, Chair/ CEO, Medco Health, $21.76 million

Michael B. MCallister, CEO, Humana Inc, $20.06 million

Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO, UnitedHealth Group, $13,164,529

Angela F. Braly, President/ CEO, Wellpoint, $9,094,771

Dale B. Wolf, CEO, Coventry Health Care, $20.86 million

Jay M. Gellert, President/ CEO, Health Net, $16.65 million

William C. Van Faasen, Chairman, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3 million plus $16.4 million in retirement benefits

Charlie Baker, President/ CEO, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, $1.5 million

James Roosevelt, Jr., CEO, Tufts Associated Health Plans, $1.3 million

Cleve L. Killingsworth, President/CEO Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3.6 million

Raymond McCaskey, CEO, Health Care Service Corp (Blue Cross Blue Shield), $10.3 million

Daniel P. McCartney, CEO, Healthcare Services Group, Inc, $ 1,061,513

Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555

Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825

Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751

Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555

Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825

Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751<—


  1. Oy vey! That reproduction is awful! Oh well.

  2. Alas, the downturn in the economy has hurt many people, and CEO's are not immune to it.

    Consider this example:

    According to Forbes, after a 15% collective pay cut in 2007, chief executives of the 500 biggest companies in the U.S. (as measured by a composite ranking of sales, profits, assets and market value) took another reduction in total compensation, 11%, for 2008.

    In total, these 500 executives hardly made $5.7 billion in 2008, which averages out to a miserly $11.4 million apiece (and computes to less than 1% of total revenues and 3% of total profits of their companies).

    Now is the time for all men and women to come to the aid of the American Dream.

    Here is an easy way you too can start to MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Save our CEOs.

  3. Speaking of orthodoxy and heterodoxies, I have been struggling with the notion of "centrist Democrat" lately. I am curious: Is that a genuine political leaning? A sincere ideological conviction? Or is it more of a political gimmick?

    Inquiring mind wants to know: what's a "moderate Democrat?" Is that the same thing as a "compassionate conservative?"

    Politico is reporting here, that a coalition of more than 100 moderate House Democrats is hoping to unify as they attempt to limit the size and scope of a government-sponsored health insurance option — a key sticking point as health reform enters a delicate phase of negotiations.

    Members of the New Democrat Coalition have organized a meeting with their counterparts in the Blue Dog Coalition on Friday morning in a bid to show some strength in numbers as they haggle with party leaders and the three chairmen drafting the bill.

    The Blue Dogs are the political descendants of a now defunct Southern Democratic group known as the Boll Weevils, who played a critical role in the early 1980s by supporting President Ronald Reagan's tax cut plan and consistently voted in favor of deregulation and increases in military spending. And the Boll weevils, in turn, may be considered the descendants of the "states' rights" Democrats of the 1940s through '60s.

    While some progressive activists view the Blue Dogs as an important part of a Democratic Party "big tent" coalition, other progressive activists have been advocating primary challenges against Blue Dog Coalition members in an effort to unseat Democratic Party members they view as unreliable or too conservative (a very iffy proposition considering that Blue Dogs' House seat typically come from rather conservative districts - and oftentimes are former Republican House seats).

    Blue Dog Democrats who voted with the Republicans on the war in Iraq (including to grant the Executive branch warrantless wiretapping powers) were sometimes referred to as "Bush Dogs."

    Politics abide by its own rules. And it has its own kind of twisted logic, by which, maybe, two birds in the bush are worth one in the hand---or are they?

  4. Thanks for the history lesson, which, history that is, is always worth remembering. (Though I think Santayana was wrong - or that at least numerous modernday citers of that famous maxim, which are legion, are wrong - about repeating history. Human nature is the real culprit, and tends to repeat itself whether it gained anything from the past or not.)

    Most of the new "conservative" Democrats took the place of Republicans in conservative districts this last fall, so I suppose we have to expect them to be "fiscally conservative" in order to remain in office. Having once been mildly involved in local politics in a conservative district (Terre Haute, Indiana) which never elected a Democrat I know that a progressive in such a district doesn't stand a chance. No more than Newt Gingrich would in Barbara Lee's district, representing Oakland and Berkeley, California. Terre Haute's rep today is a Blue Dog: it's amazing that he was ever elected at all.

    I had hoped that somehow "party unity" would somehow surmount these conservative forces among the Democrats. After all, don't most Americans favor universal healthcare? I think some poles even indicate that single payer is favored by a large percentage: one which isn't reflected by the conservative stalwarts in the Congress.

    This being the USA, I'll be happy with any plan we get so long as it covers everybody, and there is no longer such a thing as "the uninsured." And that's going pretty low. Look at Medicare Part D - an outrage. But one we seem to accept.

    I think we agree Single Payer is the best option: the one which makes most sense.

  5. "Let not princes complain of the faults committed by the people subjected to their authority, for they result entirely from their own negligence or bad example".
    ---Niccolò Machiavelli, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio (1531), Book III, Chapter XXIX

    John Edwards said it well:

    At the end of the day, [the system] is rigged by all those who benefit from the established order of things. For them, more of the same means more money and more power. They'll do anything they can to keep things just the way they are -- not for the country, but for themselves.

    He was speaking of Corporate America:

    [The system is] controlled by big corporations, the lobbyists they hire to protect their bottom line and the politicians who curry their favor and carry their water. And it's perpetuated by a media that too often fawns over the establishment, but fails to seriously cover the challenges we face or the solutions being proposed. This is the game of American politics and in this game, the interests of regular Americans don't stand a chance.

    And of "corporate Democrats":

    "We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other."

    But that was, John Edwards, the candidate (Aug. 2007) speaking, of course. President Elect John Edwards, had this been his lot, would have had to temper that discourse down somewhat. There are things that a political candidate will say---even the truth (when truth is politically expedient)---that he or she would never say once in public office. Would President Elect Al Gore have found it within him to bring up an inconvenient truth had he been the one to accede to the highest office back in 2000. One can only wonder...

  6. Gore grew a beard once he stepped out of elective politics. And described himself as a "recovering politician." He has shown scant inclination to go back into the ring. He's happy doing what he does.

    That beard, it seems to me, was a grasp, a search for his natural and true self. He wanted to be he once again.

    Obama still has a glow of idealistic hope about him. How long will that last? Is it already all gone? Did he ever truly have it in the first place? Is he merely a Denzel Washington (a master actor) with higher aspirations? Is he Machiavellian?

    Some day I hope to have to eat these words. Maybe he will finally turn out to be a great president. Or one who was crushed by the forces pitted against him. Power, in his world, comes like huge unwieldy weights which swing back and forth. No one knows who will be knocked over. He is even losing members of his own party.

    I liked Edwards when he was running. He spoke about the poor. Nobody has done that seriously since LBJ. Clinton revealed what he thought about the poor with "welfare reform."

    My only quibble with the above is with the first line from Machiavelli. The poles of power were set quite differently then. And not experienced with modern democracy he thought the "common" people aped the great. We have learned from democracy that the great are simply as human as the "common people." They often come from the same pool.

  7. What we have learned from democracy is that power corrupts. And so does the pursuit of power. Basically we haven't learned anything new that Machiavelli or his contemporary didn't already know.

    The poles of power were set differently then, but there was already some understanding about the need for a form of checks and balances:

    In fact, when there is combined under the same constitution a prince, a nobility, and the power of the people, then these three powers will watch and keep each other reciprocally in check”.
    ---Niccolò Machiavelli, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio (1531), Book I, Chapter II

    Politics is transformative. Those who make it to the top (those who become the political "princes" in one fashion or another) are changed. They might still be human but they have very little left in common with the "common people." Al Gore is a good example, and maybe you're on to something here: "the beard, might have been a grasp, a search for his natural and true self."

    As for the "common" people, they do "ape the great"---that is, the stars, and the princes and princesses of Hollywood. And there are marketers whose job it is to assist them in that process---or rather to exploit (or create) the trend to the benefit of their employers.

    There are political marketers too: Fox News's O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and friends, amongst other---and they aren't even very good at what they do--they don't have to--and their ratings are way high.

    There are princes who will bring out what's best in the "common" people. And there are princes who will bring out the worst. We just went through two terms of the latter during the Bush junior's administration.

    Or perhaps, it's the other way around and the prince is just an emanation of the Zeitgeist.

    Probably a bit of both.

    I did too like John Edwards when he was running. His kind of brutal honesty used to come from candidates with no chance of winning. And...well, Edwards didn't win. So, I guess this probably goes to prove one thing or another.

    John Edwards deserves to be credited for the public option concept in the current healthcare debate.

    Of course, Joe Lieberman is against the public option---why am I not surprised? Which, I guess, does too go to prove one thing or another. But, then again, Joe Lieberman is not a Democrat...

  8. ...he only played one on TV for the Gore-Lieberman ticket during the 2000 presidential election.

  9. Meanwhile in the so called Democrats "controlled" Congress:

    Democrats from farm states are among some of the same "moderate Democrats" Obama must win to get almost any piece of his agenda through the Senate: Dennis Cardoza of California, Landrieu and Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Without their votes, Democrats can’t move legislation over Republican filibusters — such as the one sure to come if the health care plan that moves through the Senate includes a public option supported by the administration.

    In the House, rural Democrats threaten to marshal nearly 50 votes against the climate and energy bill backed by the administration.

    More here

  10. Yes, I think what you say is true. Thanks for offering a basic list of the Dems who will stand in the way. I've been wondering just who they are and here is a nice compact little list.

    Also, whenever "reform" is brought up and it personally touches the rep of any district, no matter how progressive, his idealism may suddenly fly out the window.

    Obama may have to appeal to the American people directly to gather enough backing to get some of these programs through. He often repeated the need for popular support for "change" when he ran for president.

    And how far will Obama go himself? How serious is he? I think he is genuinely more conscious of what his place in history will be than he is in any form of immediate personal gain...... Any new president is a novice. So far his instincts appear to have been good and he is playing it smooth and slow. Though on the marriage/gay issue the language his JD presented was crude, reminiscent of the far right.

    Gotta run.... later

  11. "Republicans want to make sure all Americans have access to affordable coverage," Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip for the 111th United States Congress, said today.

    That's good Eric, but what was the GOP doing during the 107th, 108th and 109th "Republican-controlled" Congresses?

  12. What is the Republican program?

    Health savings accounts and tax write offs.

    Okay, I'll buy that. And enthusiastically I'll begin to build my health savings account. And in two years I have, let's say, four or five thousand dollars in my account.

    And then I fall down a flight of stairs in my house, and the emergency room discovers I need a triple bypass, and that I have to spend at least two weeks in the hospital for one thing or another.

    What? Should I care? I have my health savings account after all. Five thousand dollars.

    Wha'? Are you kidding me?

    But with a serious face this is what the Republicans offer. And their followers, the true believers, rigidly follow it.

    So who are we protecting? The Almighty Tax Payer? Fine. But I suppose the Almighty Tax Payer can also do without teachers, police, fire fighters, etc., because, god, we know taxes are evil. Though some of us seem to think we can do away with taxes and keep their benefits too.

    Look at California.

    Prop 13 whipped up a wave of popular enthusiasm. The voters even made sure the evil tax and spend politicians in Sacramento couldn't raise their taxes without a two thirds vote. Since prop 13 all the wily attempts of the evil tax and spenders have been put down. The Tax Payer has been protected.

    Yet they want government services. They just don't seem to be able to connect that it takes money, taxes, to pay for them. Without that revenue there can be no services. They, California, are billions of dollars in the hole. One of my alma maters, generally considered a great school, the University of California at Berkeley, is enduring huge budget cuts. How long will it remain a "great" school? But taxes are evil, so UC can go down the hole too.

  13. Well, the GOP is basically anti-government. This is no big secret; most Republicans proudly brag about it. Politicians speak cautiously of "small government"---a pleasant euphemism---but they really mean no government.

    To put it bluntly, most Republicans don't believe services (any services) should be provided by government. In the GOP perfect society, "services," any kind of "services" (including heath, education, and security) would be provided by the private sector.

    Which means, essentially, that, if Republicans had their way, in the long term, the education, health and safety of all citizens would be left to Corporations.

    Such a breakdown of government and some of its consequences was demonstrated in Louisiana after it was hit by hurricane Katrina: within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235. Some, private companies like Blackwater, were under federal contract. Others were companies like DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut, and even a foreign company called Instinctive Shooting International (ISI), who had been hired by the wealthy elite to guard their homes and businesses.

    The GOP doesn't trust citizens to self-organize into a government of the people, by the people, for the people, but they trust Blackwater. They don't believe citizens should pay taxes, but they believe citizens should pay unregulated corporations whatever prices they would demand to carry out the services government provides (the invisible hand of the market will make sure that all balances out in the end and that our children and the elderly will be adequately taken care of).

    In a nutshell, Republicans do hold these truth to be self evident that "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", BUT apparently, they don't seem to believe that "to secure these rights, governments" need be "instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed".

    They think the invisible hand of the market should be plenty enough, and that there is no need of a government to "do equal and impartial justice to all citizens."

  14. This is a fascinating conversation, gentlemen. Allow me to get you both a refill. Scotch? Three Chivas Regal, please waitress.

    Moderate Democrats. Republican programs---where there is a refusal to discuss cost and who'd be covered. All enigmas, probably shell games. Was Bill Clinton an example of moderate Democrat? Does Newt Gingrich have a program---or just another manifesto blaming bureaucrats?

    But what of Progressive Democrats? Certainly Obama never pretended to be one. What are they, and is there such a thing? Or are we disgruntled socialists and Greens who feel we have to vote for somebody---and this is what we get?

  15. Yes, Ben, if I may call you Ben? After all, we are sitting elbow to elbow at the bar. There are those who think that way, the way you describe it. But I still think a majority of voters want it both ways: reduced taxes and oversight while continuing to receive the benefits of government. After all, often enough, when there is an emergency the majority expects some sort of immediate government aid. GWB’s downfall began, if I’m not mistaken, because of Katrina and the shockingly inept response the federal government offered. It revealed how little Bush cared about important emergency services and how he gave the top job to a crony.

    But as you say there are those (often Libertarians?) callous enough not to want services at all.

    With the possible exception of:

    the military

    more border guards

    more police and prisons.

    and water boarding.

    Living behind their gated community - that is, behind its walls - they can peer out at the world from the links of their sunny golf courses or through a giant television where they can keep tabs on the ongoing feud between Saint Sarah Palin and the evil David Letterman.

    The delivery boy can leave off their groceries at their front door and within the air conditioned hush of their macmansions they can write checks for numerous worthy causes: the defense of marriage act, for example. (There are certainly many rightwiingers, who aren’t Libeertarians, who believe government should regulate our private lives.) And how nice that little Filipino delivery boy is, how well mannered, if only all of them were. Unlike all the tattooed street thugs we see when they drive through downtown. Glimpsing the squalors of poverty, so depressing, creating a sickening feeling which we never feel at home. With all its bright and satisfying and reassuring sensations. But that’s a distant world, far away: and the poor need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps anyway.

    It's not just Berkeley that's under the gun: it's the whole University of California system, as well as the state colleges and the city colleges. And I am perpetually grateful to CCSF where had I not gone I may not have ever been able to get into graduate school at Berkeley.

    That’s what free public education means: opportunity. And anyone who thinks at all about it should see it actually improves the whole of society.

    Thanks for the Chivas, Richard. Here in the US we would be called “socialists” by many Republicans. In Europe, where they have a genuine left, we are seen as rightwingers by the left. Go figure. But we have to get out from under the pall of Reaganism. I think Obama is nudging up against that.

  16. This is a good site. I wish, though, there were some way of going back in to correct your own errors. There is a way of editing the original post which is easy enough, though.

  17. To your health then, Quinty. And to yours, Richard - thanks for the drink!

    Last time I visited Europe, they kidded me mercilessly about how we only really have two parties representing us over here in congress. Some of the people I was having a drink with in Zurich actually did crack some joke as to how it's really more like ONE party, and who runs as a Democrat or a Republican is more a matter of political opportunism than of true ideological conviction.

    Ha Ha Ha... They were pulling my leg, of course.

    ...I think they were...

    I am sure that there might occasionally be a candidate who runs as a Democrat because...well...there was no opening for him or her to run as a Republican. Or a candidate may run as an independent in the general election if he or she happens to lose the Democratic Primary (Like some candidate in Connecticut---I can't remember the name---maybe someone can help me with that.)

    This also sometimes happen with Republican candidates who switch party, like, say Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania who had a change of heart. (He was also lagging behind in the Republican Party primary against Pat Toomey. According to the Rasmussen Poll from April 21st, the results showed 30% for Specter, 51% for Toomey, 9% for "some other candidate," and 10% for "not sure.")

  18. I'm still sober enough to think clearly, in spite of Richard's Chivas Regals. At least I think so.

    But I don't think those people in Zurich were pulling your leg. I too have spoken to Spaniards who think we have "one party" with two wings, a left and a right wing. But both basically the same pro Capitalist oriented party. And I have spoken to and read Americans who think the same thing.

    Though I think they go a little too far. I can see a real difference between the two US parties often enough, and I don't think anyone would ever compare Russ Feingold with James Inhofe. There's more of class consciousness (if I'm not mistaken) in Europe too. And more a sense of protecting the rights as a working man. Here, everyone thinks he's middleclass, even the very rich and the poor. And often enough that we can all pull ourselves up through hard work and determination. (Oh, that it were that simple.) In Europe, if government interferes with a working man's rights, they shut the country down. An inconvenience, to be sure. But I love it when the French do.

    Yes, there are those who chose their party allegiance as a career choice. In fact, Spector chose to be a Republican because he couldn't be elected to office as a Democrat. Though no matter what he says, I think he's still a Republican.

    I wonder how the "public option" will survive the Congress? In Europe they must be bewildered (or worse) that we don't have a national system. Even the Swiss converted and they would never go back. Which truth reflects upon another rightwing lie. Those with national systems would never trade what they have for what we have.

    Now that I have sounded off, let's do some serious drinking.