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David Horsey | Donkey in the Headlights / SeattlePI.com

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Health Care: The Disquieting Truth

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  • Tracking Medicine: A Researcher’s Quest to Understand Health Care 
by John E. Wennberg
Oxford University Press, 319 pp., $29.95
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  • Health Insurance costs going up, and reformers won’t admit it
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Arnold Relman, New York Review of Books

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Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Will Shapira

Joely Richardson and Dylan Walsh in the television series Nip/Tuck Warner Bros. Television/Everett Collection

Most experts agree that the central problem with the US health care system is its high cost. We can’t afford universal coverage unless there is much better control of medical expenditures, which are now reaching over $2.5 trillion per year. What’s more, without effective control of health costs the federal budget deficit and the national debt will continue to increase.

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Nevertheless, our political leaders have decided to expand and improve insurance coverage first, while deferring any serious attention to costs. Moreover, as I will discuss in the second part of this review, the book by John E. Wennberg demonstrates that in many parts of the US, costs are driven up by an excessive supply of medical services.

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In March, after more than a year of bitterly partisan congressional debate, a narrow majority of exclusively Democratic lawmakers passed the most extensive health care reform since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted forty-five years ago. As described by Jonathan Oberlander and Theodore Marmor in these pages, the main thrust of this extensive legislation is to provide federal aid for mandatory expansion of coverage by Medicaid and by private insurance plans, and to expand benefits under Medicare. It has also been promoted by its sponsors as a measure to control costs, but it is not. Oberlander and Marmor make very clear that there is little reason to expect it will do much in the near future to control the relentless rise in health expenditures—a task that must wait for future reforms.

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Health Insurance costs going up, and reformers won’t admit it, E. Thomas McClanahan, Kansas City Star | KS

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  • Threat from Sebelius defies economic reality
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  • Steep rate hikes on way for individual health insurance
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America's Decoupling from Reality

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  • Trapped in the mud, millions of Americans are complaining about their loss of economic status, their sense of powerlessness, their nation’s decline. But instead of examining how the country stumbled into this morass, many still choose not to face reality.
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  • Building a Nation of Know-Nothings
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  • The United States of Fear
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Robert Parry, Consortium News

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Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Joanne Theilen

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As Election Day 2010 approaches – as the United States wallows in the swamps of war, recession and environmental degradation – the consequences of the nation’s three-decade-old decoupling from reality are becoming painfully obvious.

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Yet, despite the danger, the nation can’t seem to move in a positive direction, as if the suctioning effect of endless spin, half-truths and lies holds the populace in place, a force that grows ever more powerful like quicksand sucking the country deeper into the muck – to waist deep, then neck deep.

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Building a Nation of Know-Nothings, Timothy Egan, New York Times | NY
It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

The United States of Fear, Bill Quigley, Common Dreams
You tell me what happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave since September 11, 2001.

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How Right-Wing Billionaires and Business Propaganda Got Us into the Economic Mess of the Century

Joshua Holland's new book shows how the corporate Right obscured how they've rigged the "free market" so they always come out on top.

Joshua Holland, AlterNet

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AlterNet Editor's note: AlterNet is proud to present this excerpt from senior writer Joshua Holland's new book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy (And Everything Else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America). Holland's research-rich but entertainingly written book slices and dices the latest talking points, explaining the issues with depth and nuance. The book tells an important story about the American economy that you won't read in the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. It's one that is vitally important to understand as we grapple with some new economic realities. It's a story about how the corporate Right has obscured the ways in which they've rigged the “free market” so they always come out on top. Ultimately, it goes a long way toward explaining how so few Americans noticed as a new Gilded Age emerged under a haze of lies, half-truths and distortions.

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*****

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The Great Recession that began in 2008 wiped out $13 trillion in Americans' household wealth —in home values and stocks and bonds—stoking the kind of anger we’ve seen from pissed off progressives and from the Tea Partiers who dominated the news in the summer of 2009.

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But although a lot of people threw around some angry rhetoric—and even invoked the specter of armed revolution—the reality is that when the economy nosedived, we basically took it. We didn’t riot; we took the bailouts, tolerated our stagnant wages, and accepted that Washington wasn’t about to give struggling families any real relief.

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The Myth Of A 'Christian Nation'

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That the US is not a Christian nation is historical fact--not an opinion--worth remembering.

A. James Rudin, Religion News Service/Huffington Post

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is credited with saying that "everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

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Some leaders of the religious right would have us believe that America was founded as a "Christian nation." The facts, however, say otherwise.

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While the Founding Fathers, with their diverse Christian backgrounds, had every opportunity to make the fledgling United States into a "Christian nation," the factual record reveals they consciously refused to do so.

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The Right's Shameful Muslim-Bashing, The Progress Report

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  • "If the prospect of losing our Constitution to religious government frightens you, don't worry about the tiny Muslim-American minority. Worry about the anti-mosque majority Gingrich is working to mobilize." --Slate Magazine's Will Saletan
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  • Zero Tolerance
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The 100 Vote Senate

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The Senate does not operate by majority rule; It does not really even operate by supermajority rule. Increasingly, the Senate can only act unanimously.

Progress Report, Think Progress

It's common wisdom that nothing gets done in the U.S. Senate without a 60 vote supermajority, but this common wisdom is entirely too optimistic. Although only a small minority of senators object to any one of President Obama's judicial nominees, confirmations have slowed to such a glacial pace that Republican control over federal trial courts increased since Obama took office.

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Likewise, a massive 372 bills that passed House during the Obama presidency have yet to receive a vote in the Senate. Only a handful of these bills were even remotely controversial in the House, and 44 of them passed the House unanimously. Such obstruction works, even against uncontroversial bills and nominations, because the Senate's system of filibusters, delay tactics and secret holds empowers just one senator to bring the institution to a standstill. The Senate does not operate by majority rule; It does not really even operate by supermajority rule. Increasingly, the Senate can only act unanimously.

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Policy Lessons from Canada’s Deficit Slashing Days Are Limited

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  • Country’s Experience Shows Austerity Measures Didn’t Generate Growth
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  • Nobel LaureateKrugman: The Myths of Austerity
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  • Nobel Laureate Stiglitz: EU Austerity Is Wrong Bet
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Jordan Eizenga, Center for American Progress

Under Finance Minister Paul Martin, above, Canada's Liberal Party made large spending cuts in the 1990s in an effort to reduce Canada's deficit and bring down the debt.

Recent claims that 1990s Canadian fiscal policy should serve as a model for other countries trying to achieve stronger economic growth show a misunderstanding of what actually happened in Canada’s economy during that decade. The bottom line is that Canada’s budget cutting was appropriate under a unique set of circumstances, and in fact had little to do with the growth that ensued.

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In 1993, following a prolonged economic recession, Canada’s Liberal Party took over a federal government that had incurred historically high debt and deficit levels. Government debt was over 60 percent of gross domestic product, and deficits were running at 8 percent of GDP, more than twice the OECD average. Under Finance Minister Paul Martin’s helm the Liberal Party made large spending cuts in an effort to reduce the deficit and bring down the debt. Martin’s 1995 budget slashed departmental spending by 20 percent to cut the deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 1998. By 2000, government debt levels had dropped, the deficit was eliminated, and economic growth had increased.

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George Osborne, British chancellor of the exchequer, calls 1990s Canada a “striking example” of cuts leading back to prosperity and recently sought the advice of Mr. Martin. The British Government has even gone so far as to establish a Canadian-style “cuts committee” in which cabinet ministers must justify every dollar of expenditure to a panel of their colleagues.

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The Myths of Austerity, Paul Krugman, New York Times | NY

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  • The next time you hear serious-sounding people explaining the need for fiscal austerity, try to parse their argument. Almost surely, you’ll discover that what sounds like hardheaded realism actually rests on a foundation of fantasy, on the belief that invisible vigilantes will punish us if we’re bad and the confidence fairy will reward us if we’re good. And real-world policy — policy that will blight the lives of millions of working families — is being built on that foundation.
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  • This isn’t a recovery, in any sense that matters.
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Nobel Laureate Stiglitz Says EU Austerity Is Wrong Bet, Reuters, in Common Dreams

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  • 'If that (austerity) happens I think it is likely that the economic downturn will last far longer and human suffering will be all the greater,' he said.
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  • The Myths of Austerity
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Insanity Is Deja Vu All Over Again

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  • With the present so radically departing from our past, history has become a damning package of inconvenient truths.
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  • Building a Nation of Know-Nothings
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David Sirota, In These Times

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Out of all the famous quotations, few better describe this eerily familiar time than those attributed to George Santayana and Yogi Berra. The former, a philosopher, warned that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The latter, a baseball player, stumbled into prophecy by declaring, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

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As movies give us bad remakes of already bad productions (hello, Predators), television resuscitates ancient clowns (howdy, Dee Snider) and music revives pure schlock (I’m looking at you, Devo), we are now surrounded by the obvious mistakes of yesteryear. And it might be funny—it might be downright hilarious—if only this cycle didn’t infect the deadly serious stuff.

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Building a Nation of Know-Nothings, Timothy Egan, New York Times | NY
It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

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