480 Comments
May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

We the people have been held hostage for decades by a byzantine tax system. Like anyone, I don't like paying higher taxes, but I'd gladly do so in exchange for not worrying about so many things that people in more advanced countries never worry about. Prime examples: the cost of healthcare, retirement, college education, housing, and on and on and on.

Recommend a book, "The Nordic Theory of Everything," by Finnish journalist Anu Partaken, which I'm reading to prepare for a family trip to Denmark and Norway. She relocated to the U.S. when she fell in love with an American. Her description of the overwhelming stress she experienced here makes one realize just what we live with every day. A telling, funny anecdote: she says ordering coffee at a Starbucks is more complicated than filling out her Finnish tax return.

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I agree. For example, conservatives argue that universal healthcare impedes on our freedom because then the state would make health care decisions for us. Well, the way I see it is that real healthcare freedom is freedom from worry that getting sick is going to bankrupt you and your family. Plus, it's a false argument because what we have now is the freedom of choice to choose which insurance company will rip us off and deny us the healthcare we need and force us to choose from a limited pool of doctors. The healthcare industry also interferes with our ability to govern ourselves by lobbying for their interests which are contrary to ours while SCOTUS declares that their money=speech that is more valuable than our input into our own governance.

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But is not the state already making health decisions by banning abortions even for rape and incest? Worse, I forget which state forbids leaving to go to another state for healthcare abortions!........ID or UT I think.

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Absolutely, although I was referring to the federal government. Of course, we will be facing a whole new reality if the MAGA GOP crashes the government and reorganizes it according to their authoritarian dream. We are potentially only a couple of weeks away and they have a lot of people with guns who want to see it running around the country.

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“Freedom” for the minority, small-minded to dictate “for Thee, but not for Me” policies. And since they have made god “ in Their own image”, of course they’re right?

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Freedom to or freedom from...

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I think that's why slavery has been referred to as "that peculiar institution," because to its advocates, being a slave is a wonderful thing to be, except for them.

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One again I recommend the wonderful book: God: An Anatomy for an idea of what exactly that image actually is in the Bible especially the OT although there is material on the NT. The best book I have read in ages.

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Old Testament New Testament, took me a few minutes.

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Sorry, I tend to be lazy when i am first up.

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Oh my MLRGRMI, now that's one special turn of phrase; "And since they have made god “ in Their own image”. I'm gonna want to use that - thanks for sharing that !

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They are certainly trying

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Idaho. Right here! Freedom

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Idaho. And some Oregon counties have voted to join Idaho.

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Likely Eastern Oregon I'd say. From Bend to Joseph. Beautiful, beautiful country but I could not stay there. I am conservative in many ways but I do not and will not demand that others do only, exactly what I do. There's the intolerable difference.

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and southern Oregon. Nothing wrong with being conservative, but now we are talking the far right.

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At its base, the argument for less taxes is racism. There is a pervasive belief (on the right) that taxes pay for black and brown people to loaf. It goes on from generation to generation primarily because it isn't publicly challenged.

"They" can't see the correlation between poverty among people of color and a system that denies them a chance.

Although plenty of white women have the same biased belief, women are also lumped into the category of "takers" from the taxes of the more privileged white men.

That most of US population, including whites, suffers from an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, is an irony abetted by ignorance.

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We are, if nothing else, a nation of ironies. 1) The filibuster, which allows a minority in the Senate to talk the legislation to death rather than vote on it. 2) Protect children from drag queen story hour, but refuse to ban weapons used in mass shootings. 3) "Pro life-Force pregnant people and/or children to give birth even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's health while calling for the death penalty in capital cases 4)Manufacturing a debt ceiling crisis, which could likely result in a depression costing millions of jobs and hurting millions of people. The list is endless, this debt ceiling debacle is the definition of insanity. These MAGA extremists are batsh*t crazy and prove there ain't no dumbass vaccine.

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How about editing #2 to "Protect children from books that acknowledge racism, but refuse to ban weapons . . ."? Too many liberals and progressives have swallowed the line that drag queen story hours are innocuous. They aren't. It's not that they're "grooming" kids -- that's total right-wing BS -- it's that they're parodying women, often in sexist or outright misogynistic ways, before a young audience whose young female members are already having to negotiate our society's screwed-up assumptions and expectations about sex and gender. Fwiw, I don't think it's doing the boys any favors either.

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Susanna I agree. The whole drag queen issue is ridiculous. The drag shows have always (?) been for ADULTS. And as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with that - for ADULTS. The whole right wing panic about them - "grooming"? Yeah - idiotic. I guess I just dont get why - all of a sudden - its considered a good "teaching experience" to bring children into the mix. With all the gender issues currently, adding to them really isnt a good thing.

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Susan's and Maggie

I don't think children see a sexual component to drag queen story time. Kids' entertainment has always featured larger than life characters. To see people who look like characters from their movies, TV, and books is cool! Nothing inappropriate at all!

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Yes, and the ironies for the most part belong to the Rs....the party of death.

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Yes but it is not irony. It is elitism enabled by corruption under many legal guises. Democracy here is an idealism, barely approached.

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IRONY ABETTED BY IGNORANCE

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"Irony abetted by ignorance"

Fair notice: I am stealing that gem. With attribution.

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And ignorance that this who are are proud to announce. I have always felt that the base of it is actually fear of being lesser than someone who knows that facts. My ex-classmate in Elkhart actually once told me she wouldn't like to be educated like me. Too unsettling probably for her religious faith. I did want to say that I was glad not to be a Christian like her, but I am generally polite. This week she is ranting about immigration. Most of the replies agreed with her, but there was one that noted employer exploitation of the undocumented. And yes, we have a lot of Italians in Elkhart. Maybe they came before the 1924 immigration act which reduced numbers of Italians coming by 90%. I even gave her the cite from A Fever in the Heartland which focuses on the KKK in Indiana and other places in the 1920s. I was tempted to say that sometimes reading has benefits, but I refrained.

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As a former Hoosier who grew up in the 50s and never knew the KKK was so strong, I am happy I went to IU in Bloomington where I joined a Christian Church religious student organization that taught me about the world [went to NY to the UN to observe the Security Council in action during a world crisis], inequality [to volunteer at Hull House settlement in Chicago], how to do non-violent sit ins in 1960, etc. I am certainly ashamed of the state of affairs among our politicians there now.

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I didn't know either growing up in the 50s, but did know that Indiana had the highest number of KKK members in the 1920s. Now I am learning how bad it really was. What's happening today reminds me of what I reading about what happened then. Same attitudes, different names.

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Michele, you are so much kinder than I. Intentional ignorance masquerading is a thing I have to little patience for.

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Thank you, D4N. I spent too much time last week with someone here who told me that I was too negative. He (and I sure this person is male) must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed and needed someone to pick on. He did not describe me as anything close to kind. I don't really have much patience for intentional ignorance either, but tend to be polite online. I find myself liking certain individuals, but not humankind in general.

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I think for far too many - religious and non-religious - they are afraid to find out they are wrong. I admit - I dont watch FAUX - its part of my cable channels - apparently cant say no! But I do now & then read the blurbs on the internet - you know - Fox, Washington Examiner, Daily Mail etc etc. just to see what kind of crap they are spewing.

I dont think these "believers" do that. Maybe the headlines so they can spout off about the libs. The do not want to "know". (or be educated, like your classmate).

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They don't want to know partly because they would have to question their own beliefs. I once had to agree not to talk about religion with a colleague because I insisted that if God was omnipresent and omniscient, then he could be Allah too or any other name. I was in a car pool with her and one other Nazarene. They were finally down to gays to oppose and hate, so they were very upset when we had a lesbian legislator. I can't remember, but that legislator may be the person who is now our governor. I did tell them they were down to the last bastion of people to dislike. The daughter of one was dating a black guy, maybe married him, so that prejudice was out.

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Thank you, Michele.🤣🤣🤣 I cannot imagine why one would read(?).

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Aw shucks, you don't have to "attribute" or else I will have to do the same for some gems I find on Substacks! (Donald Dick is one) But thanks for the kind words.

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Count me in on that intent by Ally; I'ma borrow that one.

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Love your name...HOPE💙

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Thank you. It's a lot to live up to!

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Especially these days!

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I can imagine that's an especially difficult 'wear' the past many years.

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The irony is that those countries that lean more socialist than the US score higher on all measures of human well-being than the US. There isn't much freedom if you're always worrying about the basics of life.

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May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

Hell, they are hardly even socialist by the classical meaning of the term. That is such a GOP bs trope. Social support benefits EVERYONE, including the rich who now have a healthier, more stable workforce. Pay those more and they spend it back into the larger economy - a virtuous circle of mutual well being.

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the GOP is right in one respect-- we've socialized losses. Financial bets that don't pay off, if big enough to be a "systemic risk," are underwritten by taxpayers (2008 financial crisis, auto industry bailout, current regional banking crisis). The payoffs from winning bets, of course, flow to shareholders, who pay relatively little in capital gains taxes. The wealthiest in our society, who reap the biggest rewards from late-stage capitalism, put very little back into the system that subsidizes them when they win, but when they lose, we're all on the hook for their losses. Socialism!

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This infuriates me. But that never stops them from screaming "Socialism!! Socialism!!" about every damn thing.

You can reason with a 2 year old easier than you can reason with one of these MAGAts.

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Agreed. I remember being admonished for "arguing with the toddler" that her underpants were on backwards.

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It has nothing to do with reason and everything to do with "messaging" coming from a party of liars with a bad agenda.

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Very well stated. Thanks.

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Chris Carmel

Absolutely agree. It's fine to bail out big corporations with taxpayer money, but Socialism when funds are used to prop up the safety net for ordinary citizens.

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Chris, they are not right in any respect that they lay claim and messaging to. They are only 'right' in the same way a broken clock 'can' appear right twice a day.

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Yes indeed, the degree of subsidy and social support to business is enormous. Much infrastructure is inherently designed to facilitate economic activity, apart from specific subsidies and tax supports to businesses - energy is a biggie, agriculture likewise, railroads, highways are built to handle heavy commercial traffic, mining, on and on. The payback is economic activity which creates employment, taxes of all kinds. And you're absolutely right about financial bailouts, derived from certain certain risks and instabilities in economic and financial activities. The 2008 crash was entirely the result of too risky underregulated behaviour. And, of course, there are tax deductions for retirement plan payments, which is massive. Etc. Sorry being so long.

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No apology needed Frank. I think your comment here is a great example of truth that 'needs' repeating and understanding.

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J. I believe there is a song line: "Freedom is just another word for nothin' else to lose".

Another gem by Janis Joplin.

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Written by Chris Kristofferson as well as many other songs sung by others.

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Another of his lines "Houses where the didn't' used to be"

I once thought of writing to the King of Sweden to try to get Kriss

nominated for the Nobel prize for literature. Popular literature perhaps but none the less wonderful.

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Gordan Lightfoot also sang that. But it's a true thing.

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And the Grateful Dead. Apparently, they learned it at the same time as Janis and both started performing it. Janis' vocal bit at the end was lifted from when Bob Weir was singing it to her and la la'ing it to demonstrate the melody.

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It's a great song.

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Americans would support Medicare for All. Put it to a vote.

How many Americans are stuck in jobs they hate - just because that job offers a healthcare plan? Americans that might have a great idea and want to work with a startup that can't afford health insurance.

Americans might want to work less than the required 30+ hours a week temporarily to raise pre-school kids - but can't because they need the healthcare policy.

Medicare for All would reduce, yes, REDUCE the total cost of healthcare for Americans. Medicare has an administration expense of about 4%. Private insurance companies harvest 20% or more (guess why).

Medicare for all would stimulate the economy by freeing people to start new businesses, assist young families in raising their kids and it would be CHEAPER.

In a recent non-binding ballot question here in Massachusetts, voters were asked if they would support a universal healthcare plan that would also outlaw private health insurance companies. It passed. Too bad it was just a non binding question. But a revealing one, nonetheless, eh?

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First I full support Medicare for all - Universal Healthcare, it also important to note this is not Medicare Advantage which should really be called Medicare Disadvantage. For many with Medicare Advantage your are back at fighting with the insurance company for needed coverage. Sure you get some add-on like dental and vision but if you need a mitral valve repair and your back in an insurance fight. I just had mitral valve repair last November under Medicare, big bill and No Fighting. In my lifetime I have seen insurance go from being coverage for your needs to a nightmare profit making machine that only serves the insurance company and their stockholders.

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May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

I suffered more than 2 years of pain because I couldn't afford insurance. Didn't even know whether it was my back, hip or knee. But I cried every morning because the pain was so bad and I had to haul myself through another day. The minute I became eligible for Medicare, I signed up, saw a doctor, and had hip replacement surgery about 10 weeks later. I felt 10 years younger and brand new!

Medicare paid 80% plus a good bit of the physical therapy I needed.

Never bought into so-called Medicare Advantage because my doctor and surgeon were on different plans, so if I bought one, I couldn't go to the other. But both accepted Medicare, and that worked for me.

Medicare doesn't cover a lot though, so if we ever do manage to get Medicare for All, coverage needs to be greatly expanded to truly be Universal Medical coverage .

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I guess I'm very lucky because I've had a Medicare Advantage plan for 20 years when I first signed up for Medicare. But then - so far - knock on wood - other than cataract surgery & bunion surgery - have been very fortunate. I admit, that could all change in a moment.

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It's possible to have secondary Medicare coverage without it being a Medicare Advantage plan. That's what I have, and there's still some over-managing by the insurance company, but overall I think the Advantage plans are probably much worse.

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My Medicare Supplement plan (F) covers everything that Medicare doesn't. I have never had a bill in 8 years.

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I have the same, but many people don't.

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I wasn't clear in my original comment that I have a Medicare Supplement plan that covers the 20 percent that Medicare doesn't after my deductible. For us they follow Medicare with no push back. Works well in my experience.

Our son and his family moved to Canada because he took a job there as a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. They are quite happy with their medical coverage and have one child, now a young teen born there. They all became Canadian citizens and now have dual citizenship. I joked about going to live in their basement, maybe I should stop joking about it.

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Medicare Advantage is private insurance masquerading as Medicare. I had it during my first year of eligibility. Never again!

I’m a Type 1 diabetic with an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor. That’s two medical devices needing replacement parts every month, plus insulin. I have original Medicare and a supplement, and a reimbursement account as a retiree benefit (I worked for a state university). I pay the Part B deductible at the first of the year, and my reimbursement account pays me back for the premiums. And that’s it. Medicare covers everything else. To be honest, I’m healthier now than when I was working. I had an endocrinologist tell me that, if it weren’t for Medicare regulations, she would only see me once a year.

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“ The answer to our health care crisis is clear. We propose a publicly financed, non-profit single-payer national health program that would fully cover medical care for all Americans.”

https://pnhp.org/

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Remember how the commodification of home mortgages led to the real estate bubble in 2008 that crashed the world economy? Private insurance companies have done something similar with doctors and healthcare. Now, all the insurance companies have to do to increase their market value is to slightly increase their percentage of routine claim denial, or slightly delay their payments to providers, just like tuning the knob on a radio dial. To the insurance company, providers are just the tool that provides them a product to manage at a minimum expenditure and a buffer to soak up liability for medical decisions that are actually being made by themselves. That's why United Healthcare is valued as the 12th most valuable company in the United States, higher than JP Morgan. https://companiesmarketcap.com/united-health/marketcap/

Insurance companies and most medical practices work very hard to make sure that doctors have no idea what is charged for their services, who charges, who pays, and who's responsible. They are flattered that they're somehow above it all, that they should only pay attention to the "important" issues of medical care only, no reference to fact that financial reasons are the primary reason for patient noncompliance with treatment. Patients are looked on as the source of problems, complaints, and nonpayment, not as the most likely allies in what is an obvious war between medical providers and insurance companies.

I wish we had mechanisms for doctor-patient coordination for the coordinated billing to insurance companies, so that claims denial can be addressed instantly by the doctor and patient jointly, instead of by the secretive, piecemeal current non-system of appeals. Instead of behaving like adversaries, we patients should band together with providers to get every penny owed us by the insurance companies.

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Dirk, it’s all divide and conquer.

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In some places, they have subscription medical care where you contract with a group of doctors. These bypass insurance companies completely. My friend in Alaska has that.

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I hope the Alaska thing is different from the rise of the "concierge" medical practice in the Atlanta area, where for an extra annual fee, you get preferential treatment, like earlier appointments, discounts on cosmetic care (yes, in-house liposuction) and even get seen by the doctor (gasp!), instead of just by the PA. My own primary care physician has a dual practice -- the ones who pony up for the "concierge" service get to see the old pill-pusher himself (with complimentary botox injections), while the hoi-polloi like me get the assistants.

Even if your Alaskan friend's doctors are honestly trying to set up an alternative model for medical delivery (hooray for them!), it still leaves out the other, arguably more important providers, ie. pharmacies, hospitals, equipment providers, and outpatient procedure facilities. I sense a mighty incentive, applied God-knows how, for all the providers to behave like separate nations, each cutting separate deals with the insurance companies, never cooperating more than the bare minimum to get through the next billing period.

It seems strange, on reflection, that the patients and medical providers are so unwilling to see themselves and each other as natural allies against the real adversaries, which are the third-party payors. And frankly, a patient-provider coalition would have that same adversarial relationship with the third-party payor regardless of whether the payors are private companies richer than nations, like we have now, or a single-governmental payor, as often proposed. One side will always want to maximize services, the other to minimize costs.

Nevertheless, I believe that a single-payor, non-profit system would be more efficient, both in controling costs and in coordinating payments between the multiple providers that often attend with each medical "event." It would also be more accountable, literally, since the government, which for good or ill is our only truely democratic institution, would have to play a much more comprehensive role than they presently do. The current clusterfumble (eh-hem) is mainly a way to extract maximum wealth from sick people and deliver it to the holders of financial investments, all while delivering the minimum possible healthcare as a sideline.

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If I may reply to my own comment, on reflection, the "mighty incentive" I referred to above is not very mysterious, it's baked into the system. Because despite patients and providers being natural allies against third-party payors socially and economically, the business structures used to organize medical p;roviders are, by default, the same structures used to organize the insurance companies. (I suspect this is by dafault ibecause historically patients have the least power in a medical setting, and government has taken a "hands off" approach to healthcare delivery, so the only models left for orgainizing medical providers in America the is for-profit business model.)

Since medical practices have the same structure as insurance companies, with partnership shares, senior partners, CEO's, and the like, the incentives used to motivate those at the top of those organizatoins are more like those of insurnace executives. Their purpose is no more to deliver medical care to patients than it is Ford's purpose to make cars -- both businesses exist to make money for their owners, their product is merely their means of doing it. And those at the tops of their medical provider "heaps" would have to take a real hit to their wealth in order to run their firms like a government agency, providing medical care at minimum cost.

So, what will we offer those folk who are benefiting extraordinarily from our current clusterfumble? What will we give them in exhange for giving up their outsized gains, gains which they, of course, consider completely justified and authorized by law? I think we'll have to do better than a promise of clemency during the next Peasant's Revolt.

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Boy, I can just imagine the money put into a campaign against, but I’m all for it.

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Thank you Bill A. !

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May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

My daughter has a progressive spinal condition that she inherited from me. She's had 3 surgeries in 10 years, the last one in 2022 after spending 2021 going to doctors and having many tests and treatments in order to get her insurance company to approve her for a 4th surgery. Those bastards, after she met the deductible and jumped through all the hoops, took so long to decide to cover her surgery that the hospital couldn't schedule her until 2022. She's still paying off a $5,000 bill from the Jan. 2022 surgery and may need more surgery either this year or next. Meanwhile, she lives in constant pain.

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😟😡

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these stories are so real and so awful. Take care.

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When you go on Medicare many decisions are totally out of your control, unless you have considerable wealth, or enough disposable income above and beyond average daily living expenses. Remember "the death panel" fright messaging when this was debated long ago ? The fact is the NAMI, industry and commerce types, including the Chambers of Commerce, threw nations worth of money to defeat any sort of universal care for the simple reason that the provision of healthcare is the main attraction of employment packages - they despise any form of competition for employee attraction and retention.

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* As a matter of fact, when one signs on for 'any' medical insurance plan, much is outside of your control; Not to mention that one 'needs' a small army of experts to read through, evaluate, understand thoroughly and knowledgeably to recommend any insurance plans; the fine print, inclusions, exclusions are always a nightmare most of us are not fully up to if we're honest.

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Why are we so behind the other developed countries in social services, education, healthcare, etc.? In one word - conservatives. A very undemocratic system of government in the worlds oldest democracy. The misrepresentative Senate exists, if I am not mistaken, as a compromise to the slave states. When will this nation wake up to the fact that we are forced to live under minority rule.

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Harvey, yes. That's exactly why De Fascist and other conservatives want to whitewash and censor history - to obscure truths like this -"The misrepresentative Senate exists, if I am not mistaken, as a compromise to the slave states".

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Sorry, but yes, you ARE mistaken. It was a compromise demanded by the "small," i.e., less populous, states -- favoring, e.g., RI (69K population in 1790 census), VT (85K), with very few "human chattels," and disfavoring the more populous, e.g., VA (ranked 1st by a wide margin at 748K, 39% of them enslaved, but the most populous even without counting the enslaved). So no, the coequal Senate was a compromise demanded by the "small" states, not the slavery states.

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At that time, though, slaves were not considered people and therefore did not count toward the population. It's also worth noting that senators were appointed by state government and only much later were elected directly by the people. Very much an exclusive club for the wealthy.

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"[D]id not count toward the population" -- no, they DID count -- x 3/5 -- for apportionment of the House of Reps, giving extra representation in the House to the White men in the slavery states. (THAT was a compromise that favored those people in those states.) You other point is spot on: U.S. senators were appointed by state legislatures until (drum roll) after ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913!

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They had the advantage of the additional 3/5 of the slave population and the luck of not having them vote. Some how makes me think of today - suppress their vote and have only 3/5 or less of 'them' voting. Do what it take to keep the white men in power.

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Anybody been asleep while republicans impose their religious views on our health care decisions. Well, for women primarily, Viagra still available nationwide, maybe at Jiffy Lube…

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I remember reading something about Viagra one of the VA's "perks" for vets? Could that be right?

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I agree.The worry that millions of us wake up to every single day of having a catastrophic illness and be under insured, uninsured,or some combination of that grinds on our quality of life.It doesn’t need to be this way and it certainly shouldn’t be.

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I was talking with a person from Norway who is wealthy and she was not complaining about the taxes which are high because of the benefits that they provide. I think about the mountains of stress around health care for example that our system aids and abets. i had a cousin who worked in the health insurance industry and they had to sign nondisclosure statements. However, it was obvious that the main thrust was denial of benefits whenever possible for whatever reason. She called it death care, not health care.

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Insurance companies' business model: collect premiums; don't pay benefits.

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Yep.

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Yes Hurwitz. Taxes in other Western countries are much higher than here because of the extra benefits they enjoy in healthcare, education, maternal/paternal leave and much else.. They do not get a daily barrage of mail from charities desperate for funding.

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Well said, Edwin Hurwitz. Too many Americans do not understand what “democratic socialism” is. Recommending Tony Judt, friend of Timothy Snyder.

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Are you recommending any particular books by either of these guys? Hurwitz & Judt?

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Amen!

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I wish I could like this comment 100 times.

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We don't even have that choice. You're either stuck with the insurance provider selected by your employer or pay hundreds of dollars to get coverage from another company. The system is rigged against ordinary citizens.

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Unless, of course, you're a member of Congress.

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Exactly!

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Insurance companies can make the health care decisions or government can. It’s already rationed.

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There's not evidence that the government will ration health care. When insurance companies do it there is no recourse, unless you are very wealthy. When the government does it, at least we theoretically have recourse through elections and lobbying. Of course, the Roberts Court has tried to reduce that recourse as much as possible.

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I am an American ex-pat, having lived in Switzerland for 50+ years. Upset by the Maga Republicans’ total misuse of the words ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’, I wrote a book which, among other things, describes the Swiss ‘welfare system’ which includes a reliable social safety net, universal health care and quality education for all. Furthermore, the trade unions here are robust and public radio and television prevent the spread of fake news. I like to take Switzerland as an example of the fact that public services and a free market economy are not mutually exclusive but should be mutually supportive. Switzerland’s private sector is thriving and is home to some of the world’s biggest companies (Nestle, Swatch, Novartis, etc.) For the past ten years Switzerland has been placed at the top of the list of the world’s most innovative countries by the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization.

I am so deeply saddened by the erosion of our democratic institutions in the USA. Maybe you would like to read my 📕 book, ‘From Montgomery to the Matterhorn: Reflections on Life in My Two Homelands’. It is available on line.

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Piss on Nestle, sorry but they are evil

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I was in Switzerland last year for the first time. So, so beautiful. Lucky you.

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Congratulations on your book. I'll look for it.

I'm heading to Switzerland in July for the first time....Geneva, Zurmat, and to see the land of 72 waterfalls. 😎

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We’re moving to Portugal in September for all these exact reasons

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Mobileholmes, Maybe I’ll see you in Lisbon. I have several American friends who have moved to Portugal and Spain in the past few years. No regrets. They are very happy. And relieved. I’m visiting for a month in September. Working with Habitat for Humanity and hiking around. Good luck to you and your family. I would love to move, but my family, much younger than me and with children and jobs, find a move out of the country challenging. I find living in this country challenging.

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Habitat for Humanity was started by President Jimmy Carter. Volunteers help build and or repair homes for families in need, in USA and Internationally. I worked in Porto in 2019 for 10 days. Then the Pandemic and War in Ukraine closed down many international builds, including one to Armenia that was canceled. Now we’re on schedule again. Volunteers pay their own way. Airfare and cost of expenses. https://www.habitat.org/

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I find that living in the United States challenging, and it has became unbearable thanks to Donald TUMP and the domestic terrorists that some call MAGA's.

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It's not quite so unbearable to the people who are so stupid that they think Trump "can fix it" while not believing that he's the worst enemy this country has ever had.

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Irenie, tell me more about working for Habitat for Humanity outside the country. I could easily see myself doing that as a first step to liberation. Thanks !

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I hear you too, but dying here in eternal optimism I feel this still fledgling country yes IS a challenge ...to see gains & solid growth in hope and liquidity.We have the ability , earth itself does , to struggle through this learning to walk stage , with great minds and resources...of many and the some whom read these Letters AND comment .I do so hope for it/them/us and wish all safe travels, comfortable homes, and strength to bare the growing pains.

💙VOTE💙

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Sad that I have to depend on govt retirement check. Not sure how much longer that will be safe. Glad to be old.

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Had a young friend with two young children who moved last year. Between school gun violence and anti LGBTQ Sentiment, they didn’t feel safe here. They came back about 6-8 months later. One thing was Portugal raised years of residence for citizenship from 5 years to 10 after they arrived. Another was I think city living wasn’t for them.

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Do you have to be a citizen to take advantage of Portugal's wellbeing benefits?

If so, how easy is it to obtain citizenship?

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May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

The author is Anu Partaken. Autocorrect is maddening. And when will Substack add the editing feature to our phones?

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Edit seems to work when you access substack directly from the internet. When I open the letter through email, edit does not show up. Good luck.

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I turn off autocorrect on every device I acquire.

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Yup. Ever since an embarrassing incident with autocorrect when texting a comment about the American penal system, I've turned that feature off whenever I find it. I'll make my own embarrassing mistakes, thank you very much...

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Why din't I think of that? Done!

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Look forward to reading the book. Probably will make it really clear how much needs to be changed here - as if I didnt know already! Thanks Michael.

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I just ordered that book! It'll be happy on my shelf right next to "The Year of Living Danishly."

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I can edit my replies here fine on my iPhone (bought reconditioned from my favorite local non-Apple smartphone repair person). I wonder if not seeing the Edit option is an Android issue?

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Weird. New model iPhone. Will get to the bottom of it. Thanks for mentioning.

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I have android, Elizabeth, and can use edit on my phone.

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I actually had success doing that yesterday, but (based on irenie's statement) don't recall how I had accessed it. It was the first time in many tries that I had been able to do that.

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Congratulations. I had every intention of moving there when I retire in 2.5 years. But then I remarried and my wife refuses to even consider it. Guess I should have done a questionnaire before I got married ;)

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Go for a visit.

I think that we are going to go for 3 months when my wife retires to see if that is something we want to do. I have friends who live in Loule, and becoming an expat is something we are looking at.

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we will definitely go visit. We have friends that are seriously considering it, and they have friends that have already made the move to Funchal on the island of Madeira.

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That is a great decision on your part. I hear that Portugal is a great place to live. I hope i can move to Canada early next year..

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I already did. Lived in the US since I was 12, now back in Canada and what a relief.

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How is the health care system there?

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Everyone has access to healthcare, and they don't have to pay for it out of pocket. There are shortages of healthcare providers in certain areas, but nobody has to declare bankruptcy due to medical bills. Also, if you want you can buy extra insurance for certain medical services not covered by the government insurance system. The health care you get is the same caliber that you get in the US, with many medical innovations having come from Canadian researchers. There can be a longer waiting period for voluntary surgeries. No system is perfect, but there's something about going to your doctor and then not having to pay a deductible, just show your government health insurance card and you're good to go.

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I am very happy for you. Canada is such a beautiful place, i get on the Google earth thing and on it you can go down to street level and see how it really looks up there. I love to have winters where it actually snows a lot, down here where i live it used to snow about 2 to 4 times a year, but it hasn't snowed here in 5 years now, it seems the climate change thing has deprived me of snow here. I am impressed with the infrastructure there too, the four lane highways like the ones we call ''interstate highways'' here in the USA look very well maintained. There are many other reasons i want to live in Canada too. I have took a Canadian citizenship test and passed it and i have all of the information and phone numbers and addresses to the immigration office in Halifax, Nova Scotia and i hope they can instruct me of all of the things i have to do to move to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. Canada's healthcare system is a thousand times better than here in the United States.

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I am trying to decide between Porto and Paris ... have all the paperwork in front of me, but having trouble making the decision. Either way, my retirement years will not be spent here.

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Paris is VERY crowded and VERY expensive, BUT it IS Paris! Your $$ will go much further in Porto and the climate is marginally better. You'd have to learn Portuguese -- PLEASE don't be one of those American ex-pats that moves to another country and refuses to learn the language, expecting everyone to speak English! When you're surrounded by the language you're trying to learn it is MUCH easier to pick it up. Good luck on whatever you decide!

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I have considered the same!

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Ha! I once decided to try Starbucks.

"What's your name?" "Why?"

I eventually got my coffee, but have never been back to a Starbucks, anywhere.

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I make better coffee, and much much cheaper.

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A friend of my daughter had a button that said "Latte is French for "You paid too much for your coffee".

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It’s quite funny when Americans in Italy order a latte and get a glass of milk.

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I was cautioned by my coffee loving Portuguese friend that "coffee" here means "two shots of espresso". I love that. She has to sugar hers.

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Espresso definitely needs sugar! We use turbinando sugar at home, it’s got a lovely dark hint of molasses that goes really well with espresso. My Italian husband is very picky about his coffee!

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A daily coffee at Starbucks for at least $3 is for people who don’t do the mental math. Even if yo go only on weekdays, that’s at least about $750 a year. For coffee.

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May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

I confess that I occasionally visit Starbucks on the road, two or three times a year, but buy my staple coffee in large bags of beans from Costco. I believe that part of the psychology that laid the groundwork for plutocratic takeover was the 1970s "Arab Oil Embargo" which unleashed all sorts of irrational behavior, fanned in part by the press. The only time I ever saw a "gas line" as long as the ones shown on TV, I found a station a few blocks away, with few cars waiting just off the main drag. This in the city of San Francisco.

But somehow that Shock Doctrine event also triggered a steep spike in real estate prices and I grew tired of hearing at every social event about somebody who made a huge profits selling real estate. I also heard, and it seemed this was new, of individuals who had paid maybe ten times the face value of theater tickets as "wow, cool" rather that "what an idiot". Working hard and saving was for chumps.

The contrasting event that was well before my time was the Great Depression, and it seemed to me that the people I knew who had endured it shopped for value. and would reject items that were overpriced. Yeah, yeah, the dollar is worth a lot less today, but I see people flocking to pay crazy prices that have ceased to reflect production costs, cheap to produce having been cheap to buy. In fact, it seems to me that many of the inherently cheap to produce items, foods in particular, have inflated in price far more than the dollar as a whole; and how does that impact the poor? Examples are crackers and peanuts. People used to say, "I paid peanuts" to indicate a trifle. Even before recent inflation, I saw peanuts for $8/pound and my wife saw them for $13/pound. That's not typical, but even typical seems way out of line. Financially I'm better off than most, but I will generally do without rather than be cheated.

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Lol JL ! I want one of those...

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🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

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You're being a little grumpy. You can give any name. They need to be able to give you your coffee when a half dozen people like you are waiting. That said it is expensive.

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I have a friend, Marc. When he went through S-bucks one day, his answer to the name question was: “My name is Marc, with a “C”.

Up comes his order. On the cup: “Cark”. Love it; the barista had a sense of humor.

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Well, maybe OR like the young cashiers who have no idea how to make change, maybe no education in spelling!

After all the coffee I drank when I was working, now drink instant. I mean really, its just coffee!

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Yes, I am being a little grumpy. If I'm buying a coffee while I'm out, I order and pay and find a seat. They bring me my coffee. I really don't like having my name called out, unless it's in some administrative office or waiting room.

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Sounds like a great opportunity to try on a funny fake name!

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I already have enough trouble getting people to understand the one I've got! But yes, with a bit of forward planning it could be enjoyable. I still don't like their coffee.

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I had a friend solve this by just saying “L”. It gives the worker at the counter what they need, and you still maintain your privacy. Counter-workers don’t get to set policy, but bear the brunt of the disfavor with the policies.

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I don’t like Starbucks coffee either!

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I don’t care for Starbucks. My husband loves it. His name is always “Studmuffin”. Which if you know him, is perfectly hilarious.

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About 95% of my Starbucks visits are via the drive-thru. I have met some charming baristas that way (including one who brought their partner, a music ed student, to my last concert.

I had started that friendship when, after attending a class where the facility made a stab at "gender neutral" restrooms by slapping that sign on a piece of paper over the men's room sign. Since they had "she/they" on their nametag, I asked if they'd be comfortable answering a question for me. It turned into a wonderful chat.

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Ish Kababibble

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I haven’t heard that since my childhood! My mother used it all the time; never did figure out what it means?

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I agree that a fake name would seem to be the order of the day. I'll tell them I'm TRIXIE, my first dog.

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Yeah, no Starbucks for me. I just want a cup of coffee.

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I might visit a Starbucks once in a decade. I just don't care for their coffee. I only want black coffee, no frou-frou additions, just coffee right out of the bean. I'm happy with Peet's I get at the supermarket. . . I used to get Peet's when I lived in the Bay Area, so it's kind of a sentimental fave. I like my coffee smooth, not too bitter/burned, which is how Starbucks tastes to me. When I lived in Holland I always used Douwe Egberts, the gold label. The Dutch have wonderful coffee, and when I would come home for visits I would always bring a suitcase full of Douwe Egberts, as my folks loved it.

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I would argue that we are hostage to the self centeredness of people who aggressively scramble to get and keep power. And people like them, who think they achieved whatever success and income they have all by themselves, keep voting for them. Then the ones in power rig the system to stay in power and set the tax system to benefit themselves and the rich who fund their political campaigns to get re-elected. These people never learned to share, would not consider that sharing is beneficial to them as well as to others, they carry a zero-sum mentality, and they don't think they owe anyone anything. They see resources as finite, so whatever you get means I get less.

So we hear Kevin McCarthy bleating “It's not a revenue issue: it's a spending issue!” All that means (to him and his ilk) is if the government spends more on you, then I/we get less. It's that simple. The tax system is just a reflection of the power structure.

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That line is just another Christian Nationalist lie, of course. We have an income problem because of the Christian Nationalist (formerly "Republican") party's addiction to tax cuts for the rich. They may not actually believe in Jesus, but they firmly believe in money. Wealth is self-justifying and should be rewarded by more wealth.

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Michael, a former colleague’s Swedish partner, the love of his life, lived here with him for several years, but moved back to Sweden for the same reason: she was overwhelmingly stressed by all of the costs, uncertainties, and threats to well-being that Americans live with all the time, that are just not issues in Sweden.

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People like me, who have been living above the poverty level -- but not by much -- for most of our lives appreciate the stress we live with here in the USA every day. The Nordic countries with their social and economic support systems that allow people to live and breathe without fearing every day that some accident or injury or job loss will throw them into poverty and homelessness seems like a beautiful dream!

And I am white. I can only imagine how much harder it is for people of color.😪

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Dear Michael Bales, Thank you for this post. I have often thought that as the MAGA disease began to spread around the nation that the appalling stress of American life affects everyone. For many of us it is a call to make changes to the systems and the values that have driven us to the brink and self destruction. For others, like my brother, it called up anger and blaming. He couldn’t see any way to make changes that would help all of us. That led him to scapegoating, just like Trump. In the end he was so angry with his inability to break out of his talk-radio prison that it utterly ruined what remained of his life.

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There is something to be said about the lack of morality among many Americans.

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Wow, thank you for sharing an overview of your brother's anger and frustration with life. It is true that many see life through the same lens (or via the same talk radio microphone), resulting in complete frustration. Too bad that a closed mind doesn't seek to find another viewpoint, another solution.

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Well said. The principal problem indeed is that our system is now designed to provide, inefficiently, so many services without sufficient financial support. The Republicans' tax cuts are a primary reason, as are the failures of politicians of all stripes to address debt and deficit issues over the decades. But another problem is the failure of virtually all Americans to understand that if we want a Nordic-type cradle-to-grave safety net, we have to pay for it, and that means higher taxes for everyone -- the wealthy most of all, but everyone. Finland has a wonderful system, but they have high national and local income taxes that are significantly higher than in the U.S. -- over 40% on someone earning 75,000 Euros annually.

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Hearing that tax rate sends Americans into shock. Yet, you get what you pay for. And America had little kerfuffle about the worth of paying taxes for the public-good, until the Supreme Court upheld Brown v Board of Education and signaled that public tax money should be for “We The People”. That gave tumbling business-types, who were angry at Roosevelt for interrupting their Gilded-Age-Party, a chance to frame the tax narrative in racist terms. Wow! Was that successful! Now lots and lots of white citizens vote willingly, blindly against their own best interest. The result has been the current state we find ourselves in. Buckets of worry sloshing around in each of our lives. Bankruptcy just an unplanned pregnancy, cancer-diagnosis, or special-needs family member away.

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May 25, 2023·edited May 28, 2023

And of course what sends Americans into such shock about hearing the tax rates is the misunderstanding of how marginal tax rates work. Robert Reich had a great reminder of this in his 7th class on Wealth and Poverty. Evidently many people believe that a 37% tax on all incomes greater than 400K would mean that a person earning 400,001 would have to pay 37% of ALL of their income.

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Yes, with higher taxes -- my tax rate in the Netherlands was like 36% -- you get what you pay extra for, with tons of extra perks and services, including an infrastructure that people here can only dream about! The problem here comes because Americans don't want to pay for OTHERS to have those same perks too, especially if they are BIPOC. Far too many people in this country (notice: I didn't say EVERYBODY) are staggeringly greedy and self-centered. Whatever happened to "altruism"? Sadly, they've become conditioned to be that way without even noticing or caring. "I've got my pile and I'll be damned if I'll give you one single cent of it! WHY should I share??" They also especially resent giving money over to the government to determine how it is spent. Hey, it's called "democratic socialism" for a reason, emphasis on "democratic", which means if you don't like it, then you VOTE for change. Europeans don't get their knickers in a twist helping people who've been forced lower down in the socioeconomic spectra through no fault of their own. In the 18 years I lived in that system I felt every single bit as much "free" as I feel here, probably more so in that I didn't feel I'd have my head blown off just going shopping. It was a society where everyone had an equal voice, needs were taken care of, stress levels were far lower than here. Americans have falsely convinced themselves they have it better here than anywhere else on earth. Bullshit.

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I was an American Field Service exchange student in Denmark in the late 1960s, living on a farm in northern Jutland. Wonderful family. I attend gymnasium and went to lectures and concerts when I could. At one talk on political matters, after the speaker described the needs of nations and talked about what good could come of keeping good policies and creating more equity where needed, I asked the speaker the usual question a teenager asks: "But I'm just one person. What can I do to help?" His answer: "Pay your taxes happily."

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Hear Hear! 👏 I’m with ya Michael...#6&7th paragraphs (of yet another HCR masterpiece ) are to be applauded, I’ve wanted to read such facts for awhile.

But the whole writ nails so many truths . Nails that cement what far too many perceive weak flooring.

Built on ‘We the People’ principles of equality and justice and hard fought by the US for other countries too (btw...) , people flock to our doors to be given the chance to live that dream. While others ..given it ..scheme to undermine the soul of good intent.

The circus is profuse, standing/shouting in grotesquely obvious discord, their feet with holes in them from their own still smoking guns.

Stand your ground compadres, we can and will improve .

Stride quiet, sure, malice to none, and hope for all.

💙VOTE💙

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Thank you for the book recommendation. I am going to buy it for research on my project.

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That is an awesome book. I’m so glad you are highlighting it today, Michael Bales. Such sensible measures they have taken.

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Thank you for putting a smile on my face this morning Michael. That is a pleasant reason, other than the obvious, that keeps me in subscription to this column.

Again, thank you and we'll done.

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I need to read that book! I also recommend "A year of living Danish"

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"This link works." I love it! The power of a few well-chosen words.

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Elevate this to a campaign rally cry; so many levels of meaning.

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Yeh - that's what struck me.

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Bravo! Great Idea!

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LOL.. I love that !

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🤣👍💙

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One more day of school for my elementary school. We had a lockdown drill. All I could think about in those minutes was about Robb elementary. How the moms this week were able to see videos of the carnage of their children! As my 4th graders giggled in the dark and hit elbows in a rhythm on the cabinets. They never thought this could be very dangerous behavior in a real life situation. They were reprimanded and lost dojo points. But they are kids playing games in what is suppose to be a safe place! I was triggered by the very thought of how do I save my students and myself if this were real. I guess it’s a mixed blessing they didn’t think about that and were just being kids. While I’m worrying. What we really need is to get things back to schools being safe spaces where students and teachers can go about our day without being forced to be worried and prepared for the worst! I hope my students never see one of those bad days!

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Denise H. - Thank You for telling your story.

I am usually able to express my thoughts and emotions in writing, but I am struggling at this moment. I spent a year of my life in Vietnam, and after returning home I experienced what I understood as "emotional numbness" for quite a long time. I wanted to begin feeling again, and I had to consciously work at it. I believe that a fundamental character trait that many of us share is empathy for other people, even strangers with whom we have never been in contact. I am convinced that many of our fellow citizens do not feel empathy for other people, much less love for all of humanity. Clearly, we should not need to worry about anyone being killed in a classroom in the US. It seems to me that the lack of public policy action in Congress regarding guns juxtaposes perfectly over the definitions of sociopathy and psychopathy. Many Members of Congress have empathy for other people, but others appear to be bereft of any feeling at all for other people. And now the hypocrites are talking about imposing their so-called "religious" beliefs on the rest of us. Psychopaths! Their mindset should probably be listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

I had a conversation today with an electrician working on our house. We agreed that teachers aren't paid enough. I said I think salaries should be doubled. He said no, more like tripled. And the teacher-to-student ratio should be reduced to one or two teachers for two or three students. And he said it would probably be a good idea for the teacher-student teams to stay together for years. And meet in homes.

I am grateful for those of you who are willing to be teachers. I think it's probably the most important job. And the important job for the rest of us is to support teachers and the students, and to work to ensure that no harm comes to anyone.

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I am very moved by your comment today. You make me consider “what are all the situations that allow empathy to thrive? And conversely, what are the situations that numb or shut-down our ability to develop empathy. The right’s media-machine, seems to have a messaging ability to shut down a lot of supporter’s empathy to the struggles of their fellow humans. I have never been in military service, but I would think that what we ask of many soldiers is to suspend their ability of empathy, so they can perceive another human as “enemy”, so they can attempt to achieve a dictated military outcome. Soldiering is a job that may cost you “the ultimate sacrifice”, meaning you may be killed in service to your country. But knowing how many soldiers come back exactly like you - emotionally numb. Whether you come home to parades or protests, one thing you often paid with, to come home, was with your mental emotional health. Is that not as much of an “ultimate sacrifice” too? I’m heartened to hear that you wanted to begin feeling again, and worked on it. I hope you feel the worth of always doing that. And feel the gratitude I carry with me this morning because you shared your comment here.

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Fox kills empathy with every nanosecond on the air…always has

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One reason I never watched...it is hard to find empathy on newscasts other than the last 45 seconds of each broadcast where they try and show something 'positive'. I do think Como often tries to look at the human toil in many of his interviews and reporting.

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May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

I like the electrician's solution to education! As radical and unlikely as it is, at its heart it speaks truth to the needs of our children: safety, quality learning, "far from the madding crowd." (And far from social media.)

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Thank you, David H for your very good comment, i agree totally with everything you said in it, it's the absolute truth.

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I also think teachers should be paid triple the amount they are being paid now. They fully deserve it.

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It’d be nice to not have to work a summer job!

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When I worked at high school, there was never an empty building in the summer. When I was there, usually many others were too. Not all, but many.

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Thank you for sharing. Joe Biden is fighting for the moral soul of this country............not in the name of religion.

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May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

Denis H., thank you for your commitment to the children of our country, citizens and future voters and lawmakers. I’m a retired teacher and also practiced lockdown drills at my elementary school with my students. In 2011, we had a school shooting and a real lockdown from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. when children were released to their distraught parents. No bathrooms or leaving the building. Drapes drawn, lights out everyone sitting on the floor in a circle. The school custodian had shot and murdered the school principal, Sam LaCara. in his office. A child was in the office and hid under a chair, witness to the shooting. Two years of psychological therapy was available for students, teachers and staff and families. For people who think “it can’t happen here,” it can.

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/us/03brfs-SCHOOLPRINCI_BRF.html

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I never thought I'd be thanking teachers for their service as I do for those in our military. I'm surprised young people even want to go into teaching. But, they do. My son's best friend just graduated with a teaching degree. His goal is to work toward his master's and eventually a doctorate. He wants to teach at college level, eventually. The best of all (for me) is he is a history teacher.

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Hope he doesn’t go to Fl or Tx.

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Not a chance. Born and raised in a Blue state. There have only been three Republican governors since 1955 or so.

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Nothing like that direct experience, is there? I'm glad your district covered the aftercare. I have friends who are still impacted by the result of the Thurston shooting 25 years later (both as students and as the first responders to that event).

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PTSD is real and so is the scale ACE Adverse Childhood Experiences that negatively affect stages and outcomes for adolescents and adults. So many children who live in poverty, hunger, substandard housing, violence, fear, disruption and more are in trouble even before adulthood. Yet, even education, childcare, medical, gun safety, environmental conditions are partisan issues and decisions. Another shame and tragedy for a wealthy country like USA.

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I hope they don’t either, Denise. Bless you and all of the teachers for your commitment to our most precious commodity.

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Every day millions of people —children and adults—go to school with your concerns, and we can't even find the will to make the weapon that fuels this threat illegal. Yesterday, the elementary school in the town where I vacation conducted a lockdown drill without students, which I thought was an excellent idea. But we are on the rural fringe, and the idea that there might be a shooter is terrifying.

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Never, ever would work in school again, and the idiots in Tx wonder why they have trouble attracting teachers.

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Then we need to ban and recall all weapons of war from all civilians.

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Hale, a worthy goal!

We find it difficult to imagine a true and lasting peace. We seem to be stuck in a mental-emotional condition that makes it seem impossible to even dream of a world without weapons of war, or a world in which nobody wants to harm anyone else.

We have been maneuvered into thinking that each person is worth less and less as time passes, until millions of us are viewed as worthless. Estimates vary, from one in ten of us, to one in eight of us, in the US are living in poverty. Some people who work full time don't earn enough to pay all the basic costs of being alive in this society.

There is no unanimity of belief about the purpose of our existence. Many are just surviving, living in an unending hellscape. Or so