The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

What’s More Important Than Saving American Lives? Almost Everything

Let’s spell this out.  You can’t have health care reform which increases the deficit because the borrowed money was all given away to corporations and rich people.  The 15 trillion of bailouts are the case in point, but the lousy Cap and Trade bill is also to blame.  If it was auctioning all of the permits instead of 15% that would have raised 582 billion dollars more than the current bill.

Spending money is a matter of priorities.  Congress and Obama’s first priority is not health care, if it was, they’d be willing to spend money on it.  They aren’t, so it isn’t.  Period.

If find this especially odd given that “protecting Americans”, aka “saving American lives” is supposedly the job in Washington. 22,000 Americans die every year due to not having health care and many more due to inadequate care,, but apparently “saving American lives” is only job when it means you get to spend money on the military, kill foreigners and put American troops in body bags; or when it means you get spy on Americans and torture people.

Al-Q’aeda would need to commit 11 9/11’s a year to kill as many Americans as die due to not having health care.

So, what’s more important than American lives, as measured by willingness to actually add to the deficit for it?

  • Killing Iraqis
  • Tax Cuts
  • Killing Afghanis
  • Sending American soldiers to die in foreign countries to “save American lives”
  • Bailing out large corporations like Citigroup, AIG and  Goldman Sachs
  • Giving money to the IMF to bail out other countries banking systems

What else is more important than saving American lives?  Add to the list in comments.


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  1. US politics is all about the money because Washington is bought and paid for. Until there is effective campaign finance and lobbying reform that eliminates legalized bribery, this will continue. It would also be helpful if there were laws that break up corporate media conglomerates (trusts) that are essentially propaganda machines for the status quo.

    And “the left?” There is no left to speak of in the US. Progressives are somewhat left of center. They are not leftists in the ordinary political sense of the term.

  2. LorenzoStDuBois

    “The 15 trillion of bailouts are the case in point”

    One frustrating thing for me recently has been seeing vastly different numbers to describe the bailouts. I think every time you drop a number like this that isn’t super common knowledge, you should back it up. What is 15 trillion referring to? I’ve seen $23 trillion, $11 trillion (which is a huge difference from $15 trillion), $9 trillion, $7 trillion, less than $700 billion (since a lot of that has been repaid)….

    It seems like everyone just has their own way of calculating this. How did you come up with this number? What references or sources do you recommend for keeping track of the bailout? I’m not arguing with the number, I just feel like it’s insane no one agrees on how many trillions (!!!) have been spent to bail out the financial system. I don’t know why this isn’t a bigger deal.

  3. Great post, Ian, but I have to agree with Lorenzo’s comment. When I saw your $15 trillion number on a different post, I thought you maybe forgot a decimal point or something. But clearly when you say $15 trillion you mean $15 trillion. I don’t think I’m capable of feeling more disgust at Obama than I did when I thought it was “just” $1.5 trillion, so I guess on some level it doesn’t matter, but it might be nice to see a cheat sheet or links that explain the assumptions behind all the different numbers that have been tossed around.

  4. Jim

    Making a profit.

  5. Ian Welsh

    Lorenzo, I take that number from Barry Ritholz’s book, Bailout Nation. I’ve seen larger numbers, but I trust Barry’s number. Any of these numbers are approximations, because we don’t know exactly, since the Federal Reserve refuses to tell us, so you have to piece it together. Suffice to say, it is in the trillions, and is absurdly large.

  6. Formerly T-Bear

    Glen Greenwald indicates 23.7 TRILLION as the probable sum expended, promised, or put at risk in keeping the financial marketeers inflated at present.

    The next collapsing bubble will be the prime mortgage sector,some 80 times the size of the sub-prime sector that failed, hit by double whammy falling RE values and black-hole unemployment, some estimating (U-6) of 20% currently and certainly accelerating as consumer spending is further curtailed. There are dark ages to follow.

    The current congressional circus, designed to confuse, misguide, and deceive the public is to create a failure in the first instance of such portions that any subsequent attempt will be foregone as impossible, there can be no other rationality behind not having single payer health provision on the table at the outset. The Congress and the President are conducting a political scam to deprive the stupid, ignorant, self-deceiving, and uneducated American Public of a basic human right, a right being sacrificed upon the alter of profit.

    It would be well done if the current slate of incumbents including the President were never allowed access to the government they so willingly destroyed.

  7. When the NHS was founded in the UK back in the day, I’m given to understand that some conservative upper class British people thought that by dint of this the British people had lost their vigour as a nation. Yes, there are people who believe that the lives that need to be saved are only those of the worthy, and for the rest of us, we must work harder…

  8. Newberry’s argument is that the rest of the world is willing to fund our military establishment so they don’t have to, but they’re not willing to fund what could be called “domestic consumption” — health care, education, and so forth.

  9. senecal

    What’s more important? Preserving the system of profits for capital (expansion of Jim’s comment above.) It’s not just bailing out the big financials, it’s keeping them intact, in an even stronger position than before, while shifting the costs onto ordinary people and workers. Or, let’s put it this way — if you interviewed for CEO of any of large corporation, and “improving American lives” was your principal platform — good luck!!

  10. tc

    I’d add the war on drugs: imprisoning the self-medicating network to preserve the cartel status of Big Pharma.

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