The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 849 — July 20 - August 3, 2009

Editorial:
Bank “Recovery”
– A Second House of Cards

Jul 20, 2009

The biggest Wall Street banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, announced big profits for the last three months. Leading the pack was Goldman Sachs, with 3.44 billion dollars in profits. It also said that it set aside a whopping 11.4 billion dollars in bonuses for its employees, the lion’s share of which goes to the top executives. The bonuses are as high as what Goldman Sachs paid in 2007, during the height of the financial bubble.

Of course, these profits were not taken from their businesses, but from the trillions in government bailout money that the government handed over to them. A chunk of this government money came through AIG, which handed over close to 20 billion dollars to Goldman Sachs alone. Another huge chunk was handed to them in the 700 billion dollar TARP program. Beyond that, the government bought up or guaranteed their toxic assets and debts, loaned them money interest free, etc. Most of these operations have been kept secret, despite all the politicians’ talk about “transparency.” As for the banks promise to repay most of this money... don’t hold your breath.

This bailout money, the story goes, was supposed to stimulate the economy, fund new investments, help create jobs, reduce what people owed on their homes and ease the housing crisis for ordinary people.

None of that happened.

The only thing the government bailout stimulated was bank profits. The rest of the economy has continued to plunge. The number of unemployed has practically doubled in a little over a year. And every month, there are more and more homeless.

So, no, the money that went to the banks didn’t stimulate the productive economy. Worse. In the midst of the economic plunge, the banks are squeezing the economy dry. They are ratcheting up their profits by increasing how much borrowers have to pay on loans, mortgages and credit cards. The banks are ramping up the foreclosures and tossing millions of people out of their homes, with estimates that three million families will face foreclosure this year. The banks have penalized savers by paying almost no interest on deposits. And they launched a new plague of fees and penalties on anything and everything.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner dared say he was starting to see a recovery in the financial sector. The financial sector, yes. The banks are returning to what they did before: making money on money – speculating on a massive scale. But this time they are doing it with government money. New waves of speculation are what is behind the wild price swings in energy prices, for example, or the ups and downs in the stock market.

For these banks, it is a no-lose situation: they are risking nothing but taxpayer money for their own private gain. At worst, they could again threaten to collapse... and get a fresh bailout!

The capitalist system, which those big banks dominate, can no longer provide jobs, services, products. More and more of the basic necessities are being eliminated, just so that the fabulously rich can grow even richer.

This capitalist system, which long ago outlived its usefulness, ought to be junked, thrown into the dust bin of history – as a famous revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, recommended over 70 years ago.

Pages 2-3

Launder Your Money at Home

Jul 20, 2009

Dummy corporations don’t just grow wildly in the Caribbean or Switzerland.

Jason Sharman, a political scientist at Australia’s Griffith University, was able to incorporate a fake company in Britain. It took only 45 minutes and $750 – no documents required! As part of his study, he tried to incorporate companies using fake names in countries throughout the world. In the richer ones, he was quite successful. These are the countries that pretended outrage this past April over “offshore tax havens.”

Sharman concluded, in The Economist, “the U.S. is the worst on this score, worse than Liechtenstein and worse than Somalia.”

Nevada, for example, with a population of two and a half million has more than 400,000 corporations! The state’s website boasts about “limited reporting and disclosure requirements.” In other words, there’s no worry about laws and taxes when you incorporate your fake company with dummy directors in Nevada – or in several other states.

Sharks, Big and Small

Jul 20, 2009

As soon as some of the biggest banks announced that they would not accept California IOUs, a new breed of “entrepreneurs” sprang up on the internet: wannabe loan sharks offering to buy IOUs, hoping to cash in on the high, tax-free interest the state is promising.

“Not so fast,” said the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), the federal agency that is supposed to regulate financial markets. The SEC declared the IOUs “securities,” meaning that only dealers registered with the SEC would be allowed to profit from them.

The SEC says it is only trying to protect the public from getting ripped off by loan sharks.

Ridiculous! The big sharks, who call themselves “investment firms,” have been ripping off the public for years in broad daylight, with all kinds of fraudulent scams passing as “securities.” Apparently they just want to control this latest ripoff!

IOUs:
Another Rip-off Scheme

Jul 20, 2009

The state of California – just like any household or business – has to be responsible for living within its means. Banks are not and cannot be the solution to California’s budget problems.”

This is how a Wells Fargo spokesman explained why his bank would no longer accept California IOUs.

Yes, Wells Fargo! A bank that has received about 25 billion dollars – an amount nearly equal to California’s alleged budget deficit – from the federal government to solve its own “budget problems.”

But Wells Fargo is not alone. Bank of America, which so far has gotten 55 billion from the federal government, and Chase, which got 25 billion, are among the banks that are not accepting IOUs. Citibank, recipient of 50 billion dollars, said it would accept them only until July 17.

Hypocrites? Yes. But why are the big banks rejecting IOUs? Buying them can be very lucrative, since these IOUs carry a 3.75% annual interest, tax-free.

Given these banks’ record, it’s probably because these vultures are eyeing even bigger profits in the long run. By discrediting the IUOs, banks gave credit rating firms an excuse to push California’s credit rating even lower than it was. And that, in turn, will allow banks to charge California an even higher interest rate for loans – which state governments always depend on for cash.

This whole IOU business sure looks like another scheme for big financial interests to rip off the population

California IOUs:
Another Excuse For Cuts

Jul 20, 2009

Starting July 2, California has been printing IOUs to make some of its payments. “IOU” is the new name for scrip, familiar from the Great Depression era.

Who is getting IOUs? Workers getting refunds on their taxes, state pensioners, students and needy people on financial aid, as well as some businesses. The state is also sending some IOUs to local governments, which may eventually prevent them from making their own payments.

Now that most big banks have stopped accepting these IOUs, it has gotten harder for more people to cash them at face value. Of course, hardest hit by IOUs will be people who are short of cash and have to go to loan sharks to get their scrips cashed for a “fee.”

And why is California putting people through all this? Supposedly because state politicians have not been able to agree on a budget before the June 30 deadline. What a lame excuse!

One thing is certain: state politicians are trying to use the hype around the IOUs as another excuse to cut even deeper into the state programs that serve the needs of the population.

It’s true that the economy is in a downturn. But it’s also obvious that there is still plenty of wealth in California. It just happens to be in the hands of big business and the capitalists, who fatten themselves off of vast tax breaks and subsidies. Take away those tax breaks and subsidies and there would be no budget deficit.

Detroit:
Death by Capitalism

Jul 20, 2009

A Detroit father and his three children died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their house recently.

Vaughn Reed had been laid off from his job at an auto parts company in January and had big medical bills for his wife and youngest child, both of whom require expensive breathing machines. He had filed for bankruptcy in June. Despite the fact that regulations prohibit cutoffs during bankruptcy proceedings, DTE Energy cut off their electricity on July 16.

When DTE did not immediately turn the electricity back on, Reed set up a borrowed gasoline-powered generator in order to power the breathing machines.

Early in the morning of July 17, carbon monoxide from the generator killed Reed and his three children. Reed’s wife barely escaped with her life.

The day after Reed and his children died, the Michigan Public Service Commission announced they were going to allow DTE to start raising electric rates again next month!

The state couldn’t have made it more clear where its compassion lay – with DTE profits – not with human life!

Want a union?
Don’t wait on the Democrats

Jul 20, 2009

The Democrats, claiming to be more “labor friendly” than the Republicans, long held out the promise that if working people put them in office, they would make it easier for workers to organize unions. In 2007, after the Democrats won a majority in both Houses of Congress, every single Democrat voted in favor of “card check.” But they said they couldn’t get it passed because they didn’t have enough votes to break a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Passing “card check” became one of the Democrats’ campaign planks in the 2008 election. In April 2008 Obama, who had been a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, had promised, “I will make it the law of the land when I’m President of the United States.”

That promise soon went the way of so many others once Obama was elected and the Democrats won a 60 seat majority in the Senate that made it “filibuster proof.” In January, a few days before taking office, Obama already began to waffle on card check, in order to placate big business. Then in early May, Tom Harkin, the chief sponsor of the bill, said he couldn’t get all the Democrats to sign on to the bill. In July, the Democrats dropped it.

No one bothered to explain why all these same Democrats, who had voted for card check in 2007, when the Republicans were still in a position to block it, were now voting against it, when the Democrats had enough votes to pass it on their own.

Card Check Hypocrisy

Jul 20, 2009

Democratic Party leaders in the U.S. Senate have officially dropped card-check from the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Under card check, after a majority of workers sign cards saying they want a union, employers are supposed to recognize it. This is supposed to make it a little easier for workers to win their unions, at least according to the law. Bosses and politicians who oppose card check say that it deprives the workers of a formal election and secret ballot, that is, it supposedly violates the democratic rights of the workers.

These claims drip with hypocrisy. In no way is the current system democratic. The law gives employers control over the information that workers get. The employers force workers to meet with supervisors who deliver anti-union messages. The boss threatens to close or greatly downsize the workplace if the workers do organize a union. And companies fire workers trying to organize a union with almost complete impunity.

Studies estimate that one out of every five workers who tries to organize a union is fired. Most never get reinstated, much less back pay. Nonetheless, in 2005, 31,000 workers were eligible for back pay due to employer misconduct. Between 1992 and 1997, that is, under the Clinton administration, more than 125,000 workers were fired illegally, according to the NLRB. Of course, even when workers successfully appeal to the NLRB and eventually win their jobs back – years later – the organizing campaign is long gone.

This system is such a complete travesty that the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, concluded: “Legal obstacles tilt the playing field so steeply against Freedom of Association, that the United States is in violation of international human rights standards for workers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that having “card check” would ensure workers the right to have a union. No matter what the law says, what has always counted was what workers were ready to do, their willingness to fight to impose their unions on the bosses and the government. The same holds true today.

With or without card check, the workers can form their unions. But not if they wait on the Democrats to help them. Even when it comes to a relatively minor reform like this one, the Democratic Party leaders are not willing to step on the toes of big business.

Pages 4-5

A Draw-Down?
No
– a Build-Up!

Jul 20, 2009

Anybody listening to the government or the media’s loud announcements last week would come away believing that the U.S. is pulling its troops out of Iraq – and just cooling its heels in Afghanistan.

In fact, not one U.S. soldier was pulled out of Iraq. They simply were moved off the streets and onto bases just outside the cities, ready to go back in at any time.

As for Afghanistan, the U.S. is preparing to send in 30,000 MORE troops. But to find that out, you had to dig DEEP into news stories. The wars are getting BIGGER, not smaller.

Need we be reminded – once again – that politicians pushing a war LIE?

Robert McNamara:
A Long Career Serving Imperialism

Jul 20, 2009

Robert McNamara, who died July 6, is not widely known today, but he was once infamous as Secretary of Defense, in charge of the U.S. military escalation in Viet Nam.

In fact, his whole career, from Viet Nam to the World Bank, demonstrated a continuous service in the bloody interests of the U.S. bourgeoisie.

During World War II, Robert McNamara helped plan the firebombing of Tokyo for General Curtis LeMay’s forces. Many years later, McNamara commented, “We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo – men, women and children. LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He – and I’d say I – were behaving as war criminals.”

Returned to civilian life, McNamara climbed the hierarchy of Ford Motor Co. to become its CEO in 1960. One year later, President Kennedy asked him to become his Secretary of Defense. He presided over the creation of paramilitary forces, using what McNamara himself called “terror, extortion and assassination” against regimes throughout Asia and Latin America.

After Kennedy was assassinated, McNamara kept his post under President Johnson and designed the military escalation in Viet Nam that eventually was blocked by the Tet offensive carried out by the Vietnamese in 1968. Very keen on statistics, McNamara himself calculated that his policy cost the lives of 3.4 million Vietnamese.

After his resignation as Secretary of Defense, he became head of the World Bank. For 13 years, he pretended to struggle against poverty through the World Bank, by pushing the so-called “development” loans. In reality, these loans were as predatory as today’s sub-prime mortgages. Countries had to pay back the loans with sizeable interest. Among the beneficiaries were the dictators of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, the Philippines, Indonesia and even Rumania under Ceaucescu. The populations of these countries paid doubly – as victims of military repression and of so-called “modernization.”

McNamara’s “modernization” meant that millions of peasants lost their lands in order to profit monster agribusiness companies.

During his entire career, McNamara carried out with zeal the policies of a U.S. imperialism bent on dominating the whole world.

Obama in Ghana:
Hypocrisy and Lies

Jul 20, 2009

On July 11, Barack Obama gave a speech on the relations between Africa and the U.S. during his visit to Cape Coast, Ghana, the fort where slaves were held before being shipped to the U.S., a symbol of the 18th century slave trade. “I have the blood of Africa within me,” he said. Maybe so – but it’s as the chief of state of the main imperialist power that he addressed Africans!

Evoking the past, Obama conceded that a “colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner.” But he immediately added that Africa is in part responsible for its misfortune. He even dared to say that “for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun! There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.”

What cynicism, coming from one of the main representatives of imperialism and its predatory corporations. The pillage of Africa and the exploitation of its population wasn’t limited to colonial times. Dictatorship, misery, disease and wars continue today – products of the trusts whose order rules Africa today.

The personal fortunes of certain African dictators rightly shocks public opinion, but their fortunes are only a tiny part of the immense profits reaped by U.S. and European corporations. In 2008, for example, copper exports from Zambia brought the copper companies almost 3.2 billion dollars. The Zambian government got only 280 million dollars in taxes.

Through debt repayments, the African countries pay back more money to Western countries than they receive in aid. Banks even take a cut in the money Africans working outside their country send home to their families.

The U.S. has very definite interests in Africa. Fifteen% of U.S. imports from Africa come from Ghana alone, and this could rise to 25% by 2020. In Liberia, the Firestone Tire Company has held hundreds of thousands of acres in rubber plantations ever since the 1920s.

The civil wars ravaging Africa today result less from old ethnic rivalries than from the colonial past and the current rivalries of Western corporations. These companies continue to make use of clans and ethnic rivalries to divide people against each other. In Liberia, the French corporation Bolloré bought up a plantation of 60,000 acres of rubber trees controlled by Charles Taylor, thus contributing to finance the civil war.

Obama pretended to be indignant about the recent massacres in Somalia, where war between government troops and Islamist militias has continued since 1991. But the arrival of U.S. troops in 1992, with a U.N. mandate, is what exacerbated the civil war – turning the country over to warlords who have ravaged the country ever since.

Obama’s speech was as scandalous as it was cynical.

California:
50 Years of Radioactive Contamination

Jul 20, 2009

On July 14, 1959, a nuclear reactor near Chatsworth, California began to leak radioactive gases after a near meltdown. The site, operated by North American Rockwell, was carrying out nuclear research for the federal government.

Both company and government officials hid the leak from the public. About five weeks after the incident, the Atomic Energy Commission said in a press release that there was no evidence of radioactive leaks or unsafe conditions.

It was not until 1979, 20 years later, that a group of UCLA students discovered evidence documenting the meltdown. Finally, a study released in 2006 concluded that the 1959 accident could have resulted in 260 to 1,800 cases of cancer within 62 miles of the site.

There is little doubt that the air and soil around the facility have been contaminated not only by the accident but by decades of nuclear and rocket testing. But the companies involved, Rockwell and the site’s current owner, Boeing, have never cleaned up the area completely. Nor has the government fully acknowledged the problem. Now under court order, the Department of Energy says it is still preparing an environmental study on the site so that a clean-up can begin!

People who have lived in the area don’t need studies to know about the contamination. They know it from the ailments that they themselves, as well as thousands of relatives and neighbors, have had to live with.

The government’s war-making machine has been deadly at home also.

Stop the Execution of Troy Davis!

Jul 20, 2009

Troy Davis, a black man falsely convicted of killing a Georgia police officer, faces execution, barring a favorable Supreme Court ruling on his final appeal. In April, a federal circuit court of appeals denied his request to present evidence proving his innocence. It ruled that Davis was too late in filing his appeal, based on restrictions included in a law passed in 1996 under Clinton.

Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing Officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. His conviction was based entirely on eyewitness testimony, since there was no physical evidence against him.

Since the trial, 7 of 9 eyewitnesses have submitted sworn affidavits that the police coerced them into testifying falsely against Davis. The main eyewitness sticking to his story is a man others pointed to as the real shooter.

The injustice in the case is so blatant that even some pro-death-penalty types, like former FBI director William Sessions, have come out in opposition to Davis’ execution.

But Davis’ case, is not isolated. Unfortunately, an innocent man, railroaded by cops into a murder conviction, is something that happens regularly in this country.

The fact that the second highest court in the country can rule that an innocent man who has spent 18 years on death row can be put to death because of a technicality, shows the insanity of this criminal “injustice” system.

If Troy Davis is saved, it will only be because people put and must continue putting officials on notice that official murder will not be tolerated.

Another Appeal Rejected Over a Technicality

Jul 20, 2009

The courts’ denial of Troy Davis’s appeal is certainly not the first time judges have upheld a conviction of an innocent person because their appeal was filed too late. Just ask Jeffrey Deskovic.

In 1990, Deskovic was convicted of the rape and murder of a classmate, Angela Correa. Deskovic, 16 at the time, signed a confession after long hours of questioning and false promises from the police.

Deskovic’s lawyer filed an appeal in 1997, after a DNA test proved his innocence. Two judges ruled that Deskovic’s lawyers had filed his appeal four days too late. Despite all efforts by the lawyers to explain that a court clerk had specified the deadline incorrectly, the judges rejected the appeal.

Who was one of the judges who dismissed the appeal of an innocent person falsely convicted? None other than Sonia Sotomayor, Obama’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice.

Sotomayor:
Another Part of a Conservative Court

Jul 20, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor, the new nominee for the Supreme Court, is described as a judicial liberal. The truth is, she’ll be another part of a Supreme Court that has been moving more and more to the right in recent years.

Republicans in the Senate are making the pretense that Sotomayor is “too liberal” and “too ideological,” because of a remark she made about being a “wise Latina woman.” But Sotomayor is no ideologue pushing so-called “liberal” causes. In fact, she’s more conservative than David Souter, the judge she’ll replace. In her years on the bench, she has ruled consistently with big business. On criminal cases, she’s especially hard-nosed. While on the Appeals Court, she helped reject 45 out of 50 racial discrimination cases her panel heard.

She’ll fit into the current Supreme Court. Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court shifted further to the right in the term just finished. It ruled against environmental groups in five out of five cases. It ruled that evidence obtained from an unlawful arrest can still be admitted in court. And it ruled that prisoners have no constitutional right to a DNA testing that could prove their innocence!

This is a very reactionary court that has been getting more and more reactionary in its rulings. And with Roberts as its Chief Justice, it is clearly making plans to go even further in that direction, toward attacking abortion rights, the rights of those falsely convicted, and workers trying to protect themselves on the job.

Certainly Sotomayor, appointed by a Democratic president, may not be as reactionary as Roberts, appointed by a Republican. But the irony is, that when recent Republican presidents have had the opportunity, they have appointed openly ideological reactionaries to the bench. When Democratic presidents have had the same chance, they have not taken the opportunity to “rebalance” the court with justices who would in any small way consider the interests of workers, of women, of minorities – of anyone not truly treated equally by the law.

This shift in the Supreme Court is no accident. And in fact, it has little to do with the president who appoints the judges. The most liberal judge on the current Court, Stevens, was appointed by Gerald Ford, a Republican, in 1975.

No, the biggest cause affecting the Supreme Court is what the population does. When people were fighting for their rights, the Supreme Court ruled much more consistently in their favor, effectively inscribing those rights with the force of law. In the absence of an active fight by the population, presidents and senators have felt comfortable stuffing the Court with ideological reactionaries who undo the rights people fought for.

Our rights don’t lie in the Court, or in Congress, or the White House. Our rights are the ones we force them to recognize.

Pages 6-7

Lear Execs Grab Bonuses for Robbing Workers

Jul 20, 2009

Lear Corp., auto parts supplier, declared bankruptcy on July 7. It used the bankruptcy to force workers into a new contract with a wage freeze and higher medical costs.

Lear then asked the bankruptcy court to approve executive bonuses of more than 20.6 million dollars!

Could it be more clear? “Bankruptcy” these days is simply one more corporate weapon used against workers. Executives reward themselves for their skill in using this weapon!

The GM Colossus Rolls On

Jul 20, 2009

After all the “bankruptcy” hype and hoopla, GM has revealed itself to be the same old swindler and con artist.

Ex-CEO Wagoner was granted lifetime executive-retirement benefits and a golden parachute worth 8.5 million dollars.

Upper level executives who retired were replaced by their second-in-commands. The only changes are small reshuffles of insiders.

The average executive pay package will stay the same as before.

The old spun-off Delphi plants that GM wants are to be returned to GM.

The biggest bond-holders – which already had been bailed out by AIG – will cash in again when GM issues new stock.

This is the end result of GM’s short scenic drive through its special “363” bankruptcy. The “new” GM is merely the old GM, minus its legal obligations to workers and dealers.

GM, and all their friends in the government, the press, and even top union officials, bombarded workers with months and years of smoke, mirrors and lies. The fact is that GM’s bankruptcy was nothing but theft – aimed at grabbing workers’ wages, benefits, and living standards.

Workers would be completely justified if they were to repossess those stolen goods. Immediately!

Shop American:
Attendance Control

Jul 20, 2009

Some years ago there was only one attendance control CSM. Now there are three. These pit bulls never let go. If we’re one minute late, we have to explain ourselves. The company’s line is always the same: we should have left earlier. But American’s flights are not always on time!

Page 8

Metro Crash:
An “Accident” Prepared by Government Choice

Jul 20, 2009

Nine people died and 80 were injured in the June 22 crash on the Washington, D.C. Metrorail.

Early reports, as usual, tried to blame the train operator, implying she was using her cell phone at the moment of the crash. But Jeanice McMillan, the train operator, was not texting or using her cellphone while driving the train. And, despite speculation in the media, she had applied brakes – at least 300 to 400 feet prior to the pile up.

No, the fault lay not with the operator, but with the Washington D.C. Transit Authority (Metro).

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) told Metro as early as five years ago to replace or refurbish the 1000 series rail cars, which make up one third of the fleet and are over 30 years old. Two previous crashes on Metro – one in 1996, killing the driver of the moving train, and one in 2004, which injured 20 people – demonstrated that these old cars crumple horribly. And that’s what happened again on June 22, with the first car crumpling as it hit the stationary train.

That’s not all. The train detection system failed. On June 17 – five days before the crash – a crucial part of the system that maintains a safe distance between trains was replaced. After that repair, the system kept failing intermittently. According to the NTSB investigators, this system did not detect the presence of the stationary train.

Finally, it’s not clear the brakes worked. Brakes on the first two cars of the moving train were two months overdue for scheduled maintenance.

All these factors – old cars, overdue brake maintenance and problems with the track sensors – were the recipe for disaster.

Millions of passengers in cities across the United States ride old subway cars like the one that crumpled in the deadly Washington, D.C. crash. Six other large transit systems rely on older cars in poor or marginal condition: Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York and suburban New Jersey.

It’s criminal. There is money that could be spent on fixing the falling apart infrastructure – like public transportation. But local and federal governments give that tax money to the corporations and banks, benefitting only the wealthy.

That choice is responsible for nine more deaths.

Subway Cars Serve Bank Profits

Jul 20, 2009

In 2007, the Washington transit authority didn’t replace the subway cars involved in the accident because of a financial deal it had with banks, letting them use these old cars as a tax shelter until 2014.

In capitalist society, how many human lives is a tax break worth?

Health Care “Reform”
– Bailing out Insurance and Pharmaceuticals

Jul 20, 2009

The Democrats seem ready to push through some kind of health care “reform” bill. Nobody can say for certain what the final bill will look like – especially since all the nasty details will be worked out in a final Senate-House “conference” committee. But the current bills already provide warnings for working people: the final plan will wind up costing much more and providing much less than what has been promised.

Two things are certain.

One, the final plan will require almost everyone to have health insurance coverage whether they pay for it, whether their employer pays for it as part of the wage bill, or whether higher taxes pay for it.

Two, the plan will be outrageously expensive, no matter who pays. There is nothing in the current bills to control the costs charged by insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies. In fact, all these proposals to control costs have already been removed from the bills.

Of course, the medical care system in this country could be made somewhat more useful. But this country’s medical system cannot be reformed by simply adding a new program on top of the same basic underlying system that exists, a system driven by profit. Certainly other countries haven’t got rid of the profit motive in health care, but at least they have reined it in. And every industrialized country with a national health care system spends less than half what the U.S. spends, while every other country provides better health outcomes than the U.S.

You would think if the Democrats wanted to reform the system they would look to see how this was done.

No, they didn’t.

Supposedly this U.S. health care reform will solve the problems in other ways.

The Democrats say people will get subsidies to help pay for insurance. Yes, but even for those who qualify, most people would still pay between $3,000 and $5,000 a year – just in premiums, not counting other costs.

The Democrats propose to fine employers who do not offer health insurance. Yes, but the fines are so small – $750 per year per full-time employee – that it would be much cheaper for employers than providing insurance. And individuals who refuse to buy insurance will face the same $750 per year penalty!

Those without insurance from their employers supposedly could buy it from a government-run “public plan,” if it exists. Yet, the Democrats are already discussing dropping it, instead offering only a national “exchange” to help people find an insurance “co-op.” Such co-ops would be allowed to charge higher rates by age and health status.

The bills all say that no insurance company can deny anyone for “pre-existing conditions.” That doesn’t say people can get care for a price they can afford.

The Democrats say that they will expand Medicaid so that people unable to buy insurance can qualify – and yet one of the proposals to cut costs is to reduce the money spent on Medicaid!

There are also various proposals to pay for the program. The one that has gotten the greatest attention in the media is a surtax on the wealthy. Even if this isn’t cut back or eliminated, it leaves the greatest amount to be found elsewhere. But where?

The Democrats are proposing to find money by reducing money today spent on Medicare and Medicaid. In other words, they are proposing to cut the only government programs.

The Democrats are also talking openly about taxing the health care benefits provided by employers. The Communications Workers of America estimated that this would cost each of its members $3,165 per year.

In other words, in the end the new health care system would be the same as the old one, only more complicated, more unwieldy, and more expensive. In reality, under the guise of solving a problem for ordinary people, the Democrats are solving a problem for the big corporations, especially for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries that are to be given a much bigger captive audience.

It’s another “reform” like all their other reforms – an attack, in other words.

Of course, the Republicans have their own answer – leave the sinking ship of medical care alone – let it continue sinking.

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