|OPINION AND COMMENT By Bob Weaver|
While Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney debated about how many years they believe America should stay in the ill-conceived Iraq War, some economists are now predicting war costs will likely run into the trillions of dollars.
Additionally, the Iraq war, based on a set of false assumptions, bad intelligence or political lies (take your pick), has cost the lives of nearly 4,000 U.S. troops.
So far, the USA has spend $500,000 billion, not including other costs not directly linked to the conflict.
We're not sure who won the debate point over which candidate wanted to stay the course longer, but a quote McCain used in 2002 came back to haunt him - "I believe that the success [in Iraq] will be fairly easy."
McCain is on record saying it would be fine with him if we had to stay in Iraq for 100 years, if it keeps America safe.
There is a cost.
Lawrence B. Lindsey, President Bush's chief financial adviser in 2002, predicted the war would cost between $100-$200 billion dollars.
His statement to the press caused the Bush administration to go into sticker shock. He was fired in three months.
HEALTH CARE CRISIS IS SLEEPING TIGER, UNTIL YOU NEED CARE
Now, President George Bush's 2009 budget is slashing health care money and other people programs to millions of Americans who lack access to an already broken system.
Rural health programs, like those serving our regional rural counties, could be cut by 87% - down to $16.9 million nationwide.
Nearly 50 million people in this country have no health insurance, and millions more have "poor" insurance with limited benefits.
The ability of employer-provided health benefits are being scratched everyday, affecting both current workers and retirees.
This week, General Motors and the UAW is seeking to reduce the size of the company workforce and open positions for new employees who will receive much lower wages, reduced health and other benefits.
GM is offering a buy-out package to all 74,000 UAW workers, struggling to pay benefits with a debt reaching $40 billion.
West Virginia's PEIA health insurance, which covers tens of thousands of educators and public employees, goes up another 10% this July.
While many people tend to blame their providers, powerful money interests connected to health care have successfully fought the revamping of the broken system, which now consumes over 16% of our gross national product.
If costs continue to increase at recent levels, health care will consume 30-40% of our national product by 2030.
The issue is particularly acute in the United States, which spends much more per capita on health care than any other country.
The baby boom generation is approaching retirement as health care costs and premiums are soaring.
PERKS, BREAKS AND GLOOM
The Bush administration is cutting Medicare and Medicaid and wants to slash those programs $91 billion over five years for Medicare and $14 billion for Medicaid.
That's after giving seniors a prescription drug benefit provided by taxpayers, paying the drug companies full-fare for their products.
Edward Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, says the Bush administration gave billions in subsidies to insurance companies to run privatized Medicare plans.
And while many retirees continue to pay more for their prescriptions, the administration bans Medicare from negotiating volume discounts with the big drug companies.
Most of the Medicare cuts in the budget would be achieved by reducing the annual update in federal payments to hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, ambulances and home care agencies.
DRACONIAN MEASURES INSURE NO WINNERS BUT BIG MONEY
In the next five years, the largest amount of Medicare savings, by far, would come from hospitals: $15 billion from an across-the-board reduction in the annual updates for inpatient care; $25 billion from special payments to hospitals serving large numbers of poor people and and $20 billion from capital payments for the construction of hospital buildings and the purchase of equipment.
One way to strengthen the Medicare program is to cut payments made to private insurance companies through "Medicare Advantage." Medicare pays 12 percent more under this arrangement than they do under traditional Medicare. What a deal.
More importantly, draconian budget cuts do nothing to solve the bigger problems facing our health care system and its skyrocketing health care costs - increasing premiums to the insured, reduced benefits to workers, companies piling huge losses and closing, and placing hardship on millions of the uninsured.
The problem continues to compound while you are sleeping, and there has been no leader that has comew forth in recent years with a plan to fix it.
Surely, USA citizens are not winners.