of the great tragedies of the past year is the failure of our national
leaders to take care of old business that should have been addressed
a half-century ago - health care for all.
doesn’t matter that the politicians are of one stripe or another.
They didn’t do the job and the people and the nation will suffer
The general health of a people
is a national security issue and our national health doesn’t measure
up to that of other so-called developed countries. It doesn’t even
measure up to some “developing” countries or what used to be called
the Third World.
There has been speculation that,
if there were not a health-care-for-all program, beginning with
the inauguration of Barack Obama as president, there might not be
one for another generation or two. After all, when he was a mere
senator, President Obama expressed strong support for universal
health care. He thought single-payer universal health care was a
Then he was inaugurated and
began to see who runs the country and all of its various parts.
He began to see the wisdom of further pursuing our military adventures
in the Middle East, even after he had said that we would leave Iraq
(in due time), close Guantanamo prison in Cuba, and change the way
we approach foreign policy.
What he didn’t say was that
we would leave Afghanistan. In fact, he said during the campaign
that he would put more troops into that impoverished and benighted
country, one with very little in the way of a tradition of central
There is little that is reported
about the actual numbers of American troops and mercenaries in Iraq
There has been little reduction in either country, even with the
30,000 troops moved from Iraq
has a reported 750 bases of varying size throughout the world, which
makes it one of the biggest and most powerful empires the world
has ever known.
All of that costs money and
empires have a way of extracting that money from its own citizens
because, often, the people of the countries conquered don’t have
the financial wherewithal to pay taxes. What they pay with is their
natural resources and they don’t much benefit from their exploitation.
Just have a look at the condition of the people of Iraq
and their efforts to regain some semblance of a normal life, such
as having water and electricity for more than a few hours a day.
According to the Census Bureau,
last September, about 39.8 million Americans were living in poverty,
up from 37.3 million in 2007. The prediction was that the poverty
rate would increase in 2010 and that the unemployment rate would
stay high, despite claims that the country is coming out of the
Great Recession. Poverty is defined by the U.S. government as a family
of four having an annual income of $22,025, for a family of three,
$17, 163, and a family of two, an income of $14,051.
Anyone trying to raise a family
on any paycheck knows how difficult it is to make ends meet and
to eat a few times a day. At the poverty end of the pay scale, three
meals a day is out of the question. With continued job losses and
downsizing of businesses, with continued shipping of production
out of the country, the prospect of a full recovery is bleak. A
full recovery would include a job for anyone who wants one. And
those jobs would have to be well-paying.
Right now, there are six job-seekers
for every job opening and it looks as if it will stay that way for
some time. The ripple effect is, and will be, profound. Schools
are cutting teachers, kids have bigger classes, the “frills” such
as art, music, and sports are being cut. Some schools are closing
and considering mergers.
The effects on local communities
are just as profound and public services will be affected: road
and street maintenance, water systems, sewage treatment, public
health services. State and local governments are in or are nearing
bankruptcy. Citizens are reaching the end of their capacity to pay
We’re reaching a time in which
the military-industrial complex will have drained just about as
much as it can, while leaving a whisper of life in the country.
President Eisenhower warned of the growing power of the military
machine in his farewell speech to the people in 1961.
No stranger to war and the machinery
of war and the philosophies of those who pursue war for their own
ends, he nonetheless warned: “…This conjunction of an immense military
establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience.
The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt
in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government.
We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must
not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources
and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our
Eisenhower also pointed out
that “…we annually spend on military security more than the net
income of all United States corporations…”
was a lot of money, but today, the Pentagon and military spending
account for half of the world’s total military spending. By contrast,
China and Russia combined spend about 10 percent of what
America spends on military
Wars in the Middle
East could cost, according to some economists, upwards of $1 trillion.
And that doesn’t count the potential cost of the dangerous game
that is being played against Iran,
a country, like Iraq,
that poses no direct threat to the United
Endless war and the prospect
of endless war will complete the bleeding of the American people
and the U.S. economy in the not too distant future. The
wars have done great damage already. Borrowed money for wars could
have rebuilt communities, saved schools and our public university
systems, and provided universal health care, and there would have
been some left over.
A great threat to our stability
is the general ill-health of the American people. As a nation, we
can not casually note that 50 million do not have access to health
care and perhaps an equal amount do not have adequate health care.
A nation can’t survive when its people are not well.
This is a strange time, when
an international criminal can call the tune and nations dance. Of
course, it helps if the tune called is the one that nations want
to dance to, and that seems to be the case with the “war on terror.”
It’s a convenient appellation
and it means that anyone can be considered a “terrorist,” worthy
of being the object of a new “war.” These are not nations or states.
They’re criminals, but they can cause a nation to launch a new war
against a gang or a single individual and call it warfare. That
is, unless a handy nation can be found to blame for harboring such
criminals. In that case, a more conventional war can be launched.
In his farewell address, Eisenhower
seemed to be anticipating the kind of government and political system
that exist in the U.S. today, when money is
being borrowed for wars that will not be paid off by the third generation,
if at all. The
ill-health of America, physical, political, and spiritual, that
he feared is here now.
“…Another factor in maintaining
balance involves the element of time,” he said. “As we peer into
society’s future, we - you and I, and our government - must avoid
the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease
and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.
“We cannot mortgage the material
assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their
political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for
all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of
Millions of the children of
whom he spoke live today in poverty, without the prospect of a proper
education, without wholesome food, and without the health care that
they need to become full and active citizens.
isn’t only the disparity in wealth in America or the lack of good jobs that are robbing
the young of their possibilities, it is war and the prospect of
wars without end that are doing them in.
Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union
organizer. His union work started when he became a local president
of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for
14 years for newspapers in New York State. In addition to labor work, he is
organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under
enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers.
to contact Mr. Funiciello.