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Tell Senators: Now's Not the Time for a Break on Health Care Reform

Making sure senators keep hammering out health care reform is AlterNet's top Take Action Campaign for the week.
 
 
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As "Blue Dog" recalcitrance and GOP "kill!" rhetoric continue to stall much-needed health care reform, it's important for Americans to understand what's really at stake.

President Barack Obama's plan is not, as naysayers tend to argue, an attempt to undermine the fundamental tenets of capitalism. Rather, the public option simply represents a commitment to placing human well-being above rabid marketeering. For too long, our nation's health care system has based its profit model on denying, rather than providing, adequate care.

Nowhere is this clearer than in a report filed on July 27 by a cluster of industry lobbying groups. The report shows that organizations like the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Pfizer and Glaxosmithkline spent $127 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2009. PhRMA and Pfizer together spent close to $25 million.

Add to the equation a recent NPR broadcast that highlighted the industry's propensity to rescind coverage for absurd reasons (one woman lost her insurance because she had been treated for acne; another man lost his because his weight had been incorrectly entered on a form), and it's not hard to spot the troubling trend: Our health care system functions best when it keeps people excluded and sick.

Though it would be easy to fault kamikaze thinkers like pundit Bill Kristol and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for the lagging pace of reform, much of the blame also rests on Democrats who continue to pander to special interests.

In the 2008 election cycle, Democrats received 90.7 million, or 54 percent, of the health care lobby's total contributions. And since January 2009, Democrats have collected 60 percent of all contributions from the industry -- a hefty $5.4 million.

Now, as the August recess approaches, and Democrats say no meaningful reform will happen until the fall, they seem to forget that 47 million Americans don't feel like waiting for them. The fact that an estimated 22,000 people will die before 2010 because of insufficient health care has seemingly slipped their minds.

Meanwhile, Kristol's "go for the kill" comment seems more prescient than pessimistic. If Democrats don't get their act together and push meaningful legislation through, the whole initiative could fall to pieces. Tell your senators that now is not the time to take a break. Let them know you, along with 72 percent of Americans, stand behind a public option.

Here’s the rest of our Take Action Campaigns this week:

II -- Push Obama for Stronger Climate Legislation

The passage of the Waxman-Markey bill by the House of Representatives in late June was an important first step in progressive climate legislation. But it was only the beginning of some very important movements on the part of the Obama administration.

Now is Obama's chance to really get tough on climate change. If we combine a strong limit, or "cap" on carbon emissions with energy and transportation policies, we could save money on energy costs while eliminating global warming. Join the thousands who have told Obama he must follow through on what he started.

III -- End the Outrageous HIV Travel Ban

This year, significant steps have been taken to end the discriminatory HIV travel ban, a law that bars HIV-positive individuals from entering the United States. "We're trying to end the stigma and the discriminatory practice for a disease that doesn't warrant exclusion for coming into this country," Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told MSNBC on July 20.

The Department of Health and Human Services has put the ban up for public comment.Now it's up to us to let the administration know just how important its dissolution is.

IV -- Don't Cut California's Home Care

In an effort to salvage California's sputtering economy, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a plan that would rob home-care workers of one-third of their paychecks. Those now making $12.50 per hour would end up with only $8 -- far below the state's living wage.

Tell Schwarzenegger that making life unlivable for those already struggling is no way to resuscitate any economy. You can do it here.

V -- Stop Mining in Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks

Integral to a salmon-rich ecosystem, these areas in Alaska have been closed to mining since 1971. An initiative penned by the Bureau of Land Management under the Bush administration is proposing the opening of new drilling projects.

This would devastate the well-being of bear, wolf and fish populations, as well as wreak havoc on the area's ecosystem. It's up to us to shoot down this terrible idea. Voice your support here.

VI -- Act Now to End Anti-Abortion Violence

The killing of Dr. George Tiller is just one unfortunate example of the domestic terrorism that has inserted itself into our public consciousness as of late. Although no difference exists between the paranoid fundamentalisms of Islamic and Christian terrorism, our government and media stop short of treating the two with equal seriousness.

That's why it's up to us to voice support for courageous providers of women's health care. Please help. We must not let brutality and intimidation set the tone for an essential discourse.

VII -- Help Prevent a Devastating Oil Spill

"Atlantis," a gas-and-oil-drilling platform located in "hurricane alley" off the coast of Louisiana, has some serious problems. According to a BP database, the platform is missing 85 percent of its engineering diagrams. If a hurricane were to damage the platform, the ecological consequences could be catastrophic.

Even though this risk throbs blatantly within America's borders, our Department of the Interior's Mineral Management Services has done nothing to address it. It's time we told Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to launch a direct investigation into the Atlantis' administrative misdeeds.

We can't afford to keep taking this risk.

VIII -- Reform Broken Immigration Policies

The U.S.'s immigration policies are tangled, damaging and nonsensical. They shred family ties, cause a whirlpool of wage decreases, deplete the workforce and do nothing to improve national security. Each year, we spend billions of dollars to maintain the broken status quo. It's time for a change.

Obama supports such a change, but only Congress can draft meaningful legislation. It's up to us to make it understand the necessity of reforming immigration policies. Join others at Reform Immigration for America who have already made their voices heard.

IX -- Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Among the most thinly veiled examples of institutionalized homophobia in the United States is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military's absurd requirement that gay men and lesbians remain silent about their sexual orientation.

It's outrageous and homophobic to think sexual orientation has some bearing on an individual's ability to perform his or her job. Yet the U.S. continues to maintain this bankrupt policy. Let your representative know that you've had enough. Tell him or her to ditch "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

X -- Stop Violence Against Guatemalan Trade Unionists

Since Congress passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2005, Guatemala has erupted into one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists. Nine were slain in 2008, and two were killed in 2007.

According the International Trade Union Confederation's 2009 report, "the situation [in Guatemala] has worsened for trade unionists. Anti-union violence is constant, with assassinations, threats, harassment, shootings at people's homes, raids and attacks on union offices, and assaults and harassment of trade union leaders and their families."

To find out how you can help the AFL/CIO battle such violence, click here.