Sunday, April 16, 2006

Lame ideas from Richard Lamm

An organization called Kansas Health Ethics brought in former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm for their annual conference last week.

According to the Speakers Platform website, Lamm's speaking fee is from $5,000 to $10,000. Let's see what KHE got for their money.

He said some loony things. But that is to be expected. Because he is a former three-term Democratic governor, he has become a favorite vehicle to deliver right-wing messages-- whether on immigration or health care. I'm not saying that is what KHE wanted but that's what they got. (It might, of course, be what Charles Koch, a big contributor to KHE wants.)

Te headline in the Eagle blars "Health care should require moral choices"

At a time when 40 million Americans have no health insurance, when America spends more for health care and get far worse health care than any other industrial country, Lamm's message is "Our current system maximizes the demand for medical services paid for with pooled resources that insulate people from cost."

According to Eagle reporter

Richard Lamm is not suggesting you kill your ailing elderly mother to save health care costs.

But he is suggesting that health care reform will require Americans to make moral decisions based on priorities that impact the greater good -- and that might mean no more transplants for 85-year-olds.

Maybe it's time to let grandpa die peacefully and naturally...
Moreover,
Perhaps it's time, Lamm said, for a national health policy that denies, for example, care to obese patients until they lose weight, or denies coronary bypass surgery to patients who won't quit smoking.

People need to take responsibility for their health -- and their health care costs, he said.
And this, too,
40 percent to 70 percent of deaths from the most common diseases -- like heart disease and cancer -- are attributable to individual lifestyle choices such as smoking, diet and inactivity.

Where does America draw the line at supporting these bad habits by paying for health costs once the damage is done?

Not a very precise estimate, is it?

Although, Lamm says he is for universal health care, his message is a reactionary one, right in sync with the attempts of Bush and right wing think tanks to push Health Savings Accounts.

In short, Kansas Health Ethics paid big bucks to have an expert tell highly-paid doctors that the problem with medical care is the patients.

This analysis is completely mistaken. Kansas Health Ethics would have done a better job if they had simply reprinted and discussed the recent New York Review of Books article by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells.

Krugman and Wells note that
"Comparing common benefits," says the Kaiser Family Foundation,
changes in Medicare spending in the last three decades has largely tracked the growth rate in private health insurance premiums. Typically, Medicare increases have been lower than those of private health insurance.
Moreover,
why does US health care cost so much? Part of the answer is that doctors, like other highly skilled workers, are paid much more in the United States than in other advanced countries.

[Wonder how that would have gone over with the doctors and movers and shakers cultivated by KHE. ]

But the main source of high US costs is probably the unique degree to which the US system relies on private rather than public health insurance, reflected in the uniquely high US share of private spending in total health care expenditure.
In fact,
if the United States were to replace its current complex mix of health insurance systems with standardized, universal coverage, the savings would be so large that we could cover all those currently uninsured, yet end up spending less overall. That's what happened in Taiwan, which adopted a single-payer system in 1995: the percentage of the population with health insurance soared from 57 percent to 97 percent, yet health care costs actually grew more slowly than one would have predicted from trends before the change in system.

(For more on health care options, see Ezra Klein fine web essay on the health of nations.)


Lamm's Ties to Anti-Immigrant and Racists

Lamm is coauthor of the 1986 book The Immigration Time Bomb: The Fragmenting of America. In recent years he has worked closely with Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, the most rapid anti-immigrant politician in Washington, D.C.

("[w]hen The Denver Post profiled an illegal immigrant high school student with a 3.9 grade point average, Tancredo tried to have the boy deported," as well as his family. The New Republic article also quotes Tancredo saying that keeping immigrants out of the United States is a question of national identity and accusing his opponents of nihilistic cultural relativism and anti-americanism

In 2004, Lamm was part of an unsuccessful attempt by anti-immigrant activists to take over the Sierra Club, the nation's largest environmental group. Lamm had never been active in the Club. In fact, he joined the Sierra Club at the same time he filed as a petition candidate for the national board .

In a letter to Sierra Club President Larry Fahn, dated October 21, 2003, Mark Potok, the editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report warned: "Without a doubt, the Sierra Club is the subject of a hostile takeover attempt by forces allied with [John] Tanton and a variety of right-wing extremists. By taking advantage of the welcoming grassroots democratic structure of the Sierra Club, they hope to use the credibility of the Club as a cover to advance their own extremist views. We think members should be alert to this."

Lamm is chair of the national advisory board of the Federation of American Immigration Reform.

Here's a Southern Poverty Law Center Report on John Tanton, the key figure in FAIR and the anti-immigrant movement. It details Tanton's close ties to racists and white supremacists.

Another revealing report is from the Center for New Community.

Here are a few of the disturbing facts about FAIR
  • FAIR has received over $1 million in donations from the notorious racist Pioneer Fund.
  • Tanton started a publishing house/magazine called "Social Contract Press." He hired as editor Wayne Lutton who has published over a dozen articles in the holocaust denial publication, The Journal for Historical Review. Lutton is on the editorial board for the New Century Foundation which publishes the racist magazine American Renaisance. He also sits on the editorial advisory board of the Citizen Informer, the magazine of the neo-confederate Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor organization to the White Citizen's Council.
  • At a 1997 anti-immigrant rally in Alabama, FAIR West Coast staffer Rich Oltmann shared the platform with leaders of the CCC and William Burchfield, a one-time leader of Thom Robb's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
  • FAIR's weekly television show"Borderlines" has featured white nationalist leaders including Sam Francis and Jared Taylor.
  • In a 1988 memo in support of immigration control (never intended to be made public), FAIR founder John Tanton wrote, "As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night?"
  • Garrett Hardin, a member of FAIR's board of directors, has been quoted as saying that sending food to Africa encourages people to overpopulate, and that infanticide is a valid population-control method.
And, less you think that Lamm is an innocent dupe of extremists, take a look at this 2004 speech about the "plot to destroy America" by promoting multiculturalism.

FAIR and Kansas

FAIR has done some mischief in Kansas. In 2001, using a front group called the Coalition for the Future American Worker, placed anti-immigrant radio, television, and newspaper ads in Wichita and Kansas City These ads falsely sought to create the impression that they have the support of labor unions and environmental groups.

Similar ads and direct mailings appeared in the Kansas City area in 2004 in support of Congressional candidate Chris Kobach, who attempted fan anti-immigrant sentiments in his campaign to unseat Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore. Kobach was hired by FAIR to bring a lawsuit to overturn the Kansas law permitting Kansas-educated immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition.

Ethics Suggestions

Maybe next year KHE can have a session on the ethics of hosting a fradulent analysis of health care by windbags who actively work with racists and extremists and who promote division and hatred.

Here's the email for Patresa Ebersole, Executive Director of Kansas Health Ethics: pebersole@kansashealthethics.org

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