Commonwealth Commentary Newsletter   home
July Issue   ·   Archives   ·   Our Writers   ·   Subscriptions   ·   Site Map   ·   Contact Us   ·   Links

CCN Archives 2000   ·   CCN Archives 2001

Archives               Volume 1  No. 9          November 2000

In this issue:

Throwing stones at a fool

The past seven years

Here comes the judge!

Presidential debates

 Throwing stones at a fool
The debates are over and the final leg of the Presidential election is in sight.  The debates changed little and could have been eliminated without losing a vote or so it seems.       
Conservatives  seriously involved in election issues  do not change their minds by listening to candidates respond to canned questions and are not impressed  by childish antics of sighing and heavy breathing.       
And Liberals are not swayed by truth truth or logic, and  remain committed to a wooden mannequin with a flawed memory chip who masquerades as a presidential candidate.       
From the reported polls of  the winner of the  last debate, it also appears, supposed  undecided voters cannot tell the difference between theatrics and truth and watching the debate made precious little difference in that faction either.       
It is fairly obvious that conservative voters will vote for Bush if they vote, and liberals will vote for Gore.  And regardless of how the "undecided" try to color their responses, they know who they’ll vote for from the very beginning.   They know by their chosen life styles and the things they think are important.       
The voting public who feel incapable of making choices for themselves about how to spend their own money or want the government to provide free education, insurance, places to live, the food on their table, the medication they need  and opportunity to kill their unborn will vote for the false promises of Al Gore.  Or any other liberal Democrat on the list.     
Those voters who  lead a Conservative life, accept personal  moral and financial  responsibility will vote for Governor George W. Bush.  
The voters who feel betrayed by their chosen party, may not vote, or will pull the handle for the Independent candidate.   Although this action might ease the dissatisfaction with the parties,  it neither helps the Conservatives who want more moral laws, nor does it benefit the conservative Democrat who want a less socialistic nation.      
Due to the stage play of the last political debate between the Presidential candidates, one can understand why people on both sides of the political fence are discouraged.       
In the third and last debate,   Governor George Bush still looked and acted like an intelligent  nice guy in pain because he was forced to lower personal standards and throw stones at a fool. Governor Bush  appeared uncomfortable and embarrassed at Al Gore’s stiff legged prancing and bad manners, as one is when a slobbering drunk calls you by name while sprawled on the floor at a public function.  It was easy to believe that Gov. Bush did not want to be in the same space with Gore, out of sheer pity for the masquerader.              
Al Gore  acted as an obnoxious spoiled child, portraying the pretentious wooden puppet he is.  Utilizing the same lying words used in previous statements and the same haughtiness, Gore courted the less fortunate with obvious false promises and misstatements.        
Gore overflowed  with self-importance.  Overwhelmed with with warped visions of his self-worth, he displayed to the world his lack of intelligence.  It boggles the mind that there might be people in the United States who think this pretentious, obnoxious individual has the qualities of a leader.      
Even worse than his lofty attitude, like Bill  Clinton, Gore has more than a little trouble with the truth.  If fact, he is a habitual liar.  And when exposed in his tall tales, he shrugs it off and tells yet another one.  And this man feels qualified to lead the nation.     
With Gore’s statement , "You ain’t seen nothing yet," at the close of the debate.  For one moment in his lying career, he was close to honesty.  If elected President,  Al Gore’s lies will make Bill Clinton seem positively truthful in comparison.       
In response to that nearly correct statement, this writer wants to tell the pretentious Al Gore that his is wrong in his words "You ain’t seen nothing yet.".  This country has seen eight years of "nothing" and we don’t want to see "nothing" like him again.
J. Dori Callahan
 The past seven years
In the past seven years, the cost of health care, prescriptions, insurance, private HMOs and Medicare HMOs have all increased. With the presidential election just days away, it is a good time to get informed on the issues.
The traditional Medicare plan that  was created in 1965 paid only for hospitalization and 80% of medical fees. Many different private medical supplement plans, some good and some not, have grown during the years, costing up to $3,000.00 per year. In the late 1990’s, government planners and members of Congress hoped Medicare HMOs could be a good tool to control Medicare costs, predicting that 25% of seniors would eventually enroll in Medicare HMOs.
Seniors joined those Medicare HMOs (health maintenance organizations) because they could not afford to pay for their own drug costs, 20% co-payments and non-hospitalization expenses or the high private premiums. “In the beginning, there was great promise,” said Claire Smith of California Health Advocates. “Then, just disappointment.”     
In June 2000, the lobbying group representing HMOs estimated that the organizations it represents would drop over 700,000 seniors from Medicare HMOs. The Medicare HMOs said they are dropping these seniors because the federal government is not paying enough to cover the cost of their care. By late July 2000, the Clinton/Gore administration had increased that estimate to 933,000 who would be dropped. “This is a real blow to the credibility of the Medicare HMO program,’’ a spokesman for AARP said.  
Blame is placed on the Republican-controlled Congress for appropriating too little money, and blame is placed on the Clinton/Gore Administration for creating a system of distributing the available money in such a poor way that some parts of the country did not receive enough to cover the cost of care while other parts of the country had large profits.
HMO industry executives also put some of the blame on themselves, saying that part of the problem is that managed care plans competed so fiercely for members in the late 1980s, and early 1990s that most offered zero premiums and free pharmaceutical benefits. “We no longer can sustain the business with these premium wars,” said Katherine Feeny, senior vice president for Secure Horizons, the nation’s largest Medicare HMO.
HMOs account for 39% of all health plans in the United States. Analysts at Paine Weber say that private HMO premiums are going to increase this year 10.5% to 11% nationwide, and in the Southeast they are expected to rise a bit more, 12% to 13%, but individual companies may see increased premium costs of 20% or more.     
There are a number of reasons that both private and Medicare HMO costs are increasing. First, HMOs simply believe this good economic time allows it to be able to increase premiums. Second, medical costs have increased 7% to 8% this year, and third, pharmacy costs have gone up 13%.
Of the 933,000 seniors who will be dropped from Medicare HMOs and abruptly left with no prescription coverage, electoral-vote-rich California has 57,000 and George W. Bush’s Texas has 185,000 who will be dropped. The timing of when these beneficiaries will be dropped is interesting – January 2001, after the new president takes office.
The greatest fear seniors have about being dropped from Medicare HMOs is no longer having their prescription drugs paid for. The Clinton/Gore administration has seized upon this problem and its attendant fear to resurrect a plan it has been pushing for years – universal prescription drug coverage for the nation’s 39 million Medicare recipients.
Presidential candidate George W. Bush  has prepared a slightly different response to deal with this crisis that would hit the new Administration in its first days. At a cost of $12 billion per year, Mr. Bush has proposed a stop-gap measure, called Immediate Helping-Hand, until more fundamental  reform can occur. This program would subsidize prescription drug benefits to seniors on a sliding scale: seniors with incomes under 135% of the federal poverty level, about $12,000, would get free prescriptions, and seniors who earn 175% of the poverty level would get 25% of their drug cost paid for. Total prescription drug costs for any senior would be capped at $6,000 per year.      
Since 1992, during the Clinton/Gore administration, the average cost of a prescription has risen 48%, to $42.30.   Between 1995 and 1999, drug expenditures in the United States more than doubled, from $65 billion to $125 billion. One government study predicts prescription-drug spending in the United States will reach $243 billion by 2008.
Our neighbors to the North and South both have price controls on prescription drugs, which draws U.S. citizens over the borders to get their prescriptions filled in Canada and Mexico.
Ann and Dan York retired to Lake Havisu City in Arizona’s rural Mojave County from San Diego in 1990. At the time, they had their main drug costs covered by their HMO, Premier. Since then, Premier has gone bankrupt and the other two HMOs covering their area closed up. As a result, they must pay for their own prescription costs. Several times a year, they get on a Blue River Tour bus with 100 or so others to cross the Mexican border to get a three-month supply of drugs, the maximum allowed by the U.S. Customs Service. The Yorks buy two different cholesterol pills: Pravachol, which they buy in Mexico for $24.00 versus $55.00 at their local Wal-Mart; and Lipitor, which they buy for $1.45 a pill in  Mexico, rather than $2.00 in the U.S.
Others in the Yorks’ tour group get even bigger bargains. Paula Nicklas, a 56-year-old woman with a heart ailment would pay $294.12 in the U.S. for the one month supply of five drugs she buys in Mexico for $47.91. Constance DeFroud needs prescription eyedrops for her glaucoma. In Mexico she pays $12.00. In Arizona, she would pay $88.00.
Prescription drugs manufactured by U.S. drug companies cost less in Mexico because they are subject to price controls, but also because the government negotiates prices with the manufacturers for bulk prices.
U.S. drug companies are also willing to accept less profit in Canada than they do in the United States. Canada  has a policy which says drug manufacturers cannot charge “excessive” amounts for patented medicines. A price review board, created in 1987, oversees the cost of drugs and makes sure the price never increases faster than the consumer price index. Tara Madigan, of Canada’s Department of Health, said that before the price review board was created, “Canada’s drug prices were the second-highest among comparable developed countries. And today, Canadian drug prices are third lowest.”  
Unlike Mexico, U.S. citizens cannot simply take their U.S. prescriptions to Canadian pharmacies and fill them. But Canadian walk-in clinics are willing to re-write prescriptions for U.S. patients who bring their medical records and doctor’s notes.   Like Mexico, tour buses carry U.S. patients to Canada for cheaper drugs. Lucille Danyvow’s cancer drug, Tamoxifen, costs $241.67 back home in Vermont. In Montreal, she buys the same quantity for $34.00. Her cholesterol medication, Zocor, is not as good a savings: $60.00 in Canada versus $101.82 in Canada.
The U.S. drug companies still make a profit on their Mexican and Canadian sales – just less of a profit. And this “cost-shifting” causes American consumers pay more because consumers in foreign countries pay less. Drugmakers must accept much less profit in foreign countries, where government price controls are the norm. As a result, the pharmaceutical industry earns most of its profits in the United States, the only major country where drug prices remain unrestricted.
The average number of new drugs approved by the FDA each year doubled between 1980 and 1998, from 19 to 38. Some of these are entirely new categories of drugs, treating conditions that were largely untreatable even a few years ago. According to PhRMA, U.S. drug companies will spend more than $22 billion on research and development this year, a 10 percent increase over 1999. Manufacturers say it costs $500 million and takes from 12 to 14 years to develop a new drug, and only one in 10 drugs developed ever gets through the complicated and expensive clinical-trial process and makes it to market. The ones that do make it have to recover not only their own costs, but also the costs of all of those that fail.
Alan Holmer, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), has a short answer when asked if prescription drugs cost too much. “Compared to what?” he says. Drugs that help patients avoid heart attacks, strokes and other medical disasters not only keep people alive and with their families, he says, they reduce spending for hospital stays, surgery and other costly treatments. Holmer is intimately aware of both the cost and the power of the new drugs. His 20-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter both have cystic fibrosis, but, he says: “My kids don’t go to the hospital anymore.” A National Institutes of Health study supports his  position, showing, for example, that treating stroke patients with clot-busting drugs saves $4,400 per patient by cutting the need for a lengthy hospital stay.  “If you have a life-threatening disease,” Holmer says, “ your best hope is the American pharmaceutical industry.”
In their final presidential debate, a member of the audience asked the presidential candidates a question we all would like the answer to: “Are either of you concerned with finding some feasible way to lower the price of pharmaceutical drugs such as education on minimizing intake, reform of the FDA process to streamline the drug company's procedure, instead of just finding more money to pay for them?”     
Governor Bush answered: “I think one of the problems we have particularly for seniors is there's no prescription drug coverage in Medicare. And, therefore, when they have to try to purchase drugs they do so on their own, [with] no kind of collective bargaining. No power of purchasing among seniors. I think step one to make sure prescription drugs is more affordable for seniors -- those are the folks who really rely upon prescription drugs a lot these days -- is to reform the Medicare system. Have prescription drugs as an integral part of Medicare once and for all…That's part of an overall overhaul. The purchasing power -- I'm against price controls. I think price controls would hurt our ability to continue important research and development. Drug therapies are replacing a lot of medicines as we used to know it. One of the most important things is to continue the research and development component, so I'm against price controls. Expediting drugs through the FDA makes sense, of course. Allowing the new bill passed in the Congress made sense to allow for drugs that were sold overseas to come back and other countries to come back in the United States. That makes sense. But the best thing to do is to reform Medicare.”
Vice President Gore answered: “Listen, for 24 years I have never been afraid to take on the big drug companies. They do some great things. They discover great new cures and that's great. We want them to continue that. But they are now spending more money on advertising and promotion -- you see all these ads -- than they are on research and development. They are trying to extend the monopoly patent protection to keep charging high prices. I want to streamline the approval of the competing generic drugs and the new kinds of treatments that can compete with them so we bring the price down for everybody.”     
A later question in that debate by another member of the audience put the issue into a larger frame: “We spend billions of dollars -- pay billions of dollars in taxes. Would you open a national health care plan for everybody and if not, why?”
Vice President Gore answered with a return to the theme of the “Hillary health care” debates: “I think we should move step by step toward universal health coverage…We've spent 65 years now on the development of a hybrid system partly private and partly public and 85% of our people have health insurance, 15% don't….That's a national outrage. …We have to bring parity for the treatment of mental illness because that's been left out. We have to deal with long-term care. Here are the steps that I would take first of all. I will make a commitment to bring health care coverage of high quality that is affordable to every single child in America within four years. And then we'll fill other gaps by covering the parents of those children when the family is poor or up to two-and-a-half times the poverty rate. [Note: Two–and-a-half times the poverty rate for a family of four is $42,625.] I want to give a tax credit for the purchase of individual health insurance plans. I want to give small business employers a tax credit, 25% to encourage the providing of health insurance for the employees in small businesses. I want to give seniors who are …near elderly… 55 to 65 ought to be able to buy into Medicare for premiums that are reasonable and fair and significantly below what they have to get now.”
Gov. Bush highlighted the philosophical difference between the two candidates: “I'm absolutely opposed to a national health care plan. I don't want the federal government making decisions for consumers or for providers. I remember what the administration tried to do in 1993.They tried to have a national health care plan. And fortunately it failed. I trust people, I don't trust the federal government. …I don't want the federal government making decisions on behalf of everybody. There is an issue with the uninsured. There sure is. …The question is: Are people getting health care and we have a strong safety net? There needs to be a safety net in America. There needs to be more community health clinics where the poor can go get health care. …We need a $2,000 credit rebate for people working people who don't have insurance [so] they can get in the marketplace and start purchasing insurance. We need to have -- allow small businesses to write insurance across jurisdictional lines so small businesses can afford health care. …We have to trust people to make decisions with their lives.”
J. Michael Sharman

1  Bernstein, Rosenblatt, “More Recipients of Medicare to Be Cut From HMOs”, Los Angeles Times, p.A1, July 25, 2000.
2  Bernstein, Rosenblatt, “More Recipients of Medicare to Be Cut From HMOs”, Los Angeles Times, p.A1, July 25, 2000.
3  Bernstein, Rosenblatt, “More Recipients of Medicare to Be Cut From HMOs”, Los Angeles Times, p.A1, July 25, 2000.
4  Bernstein, Rosenblatt, “More Recipients of Medicare to Be Cut From HMOs”, Los Angeles Times, p.A1, July 25, 2000.
5  Rayner, “Look for Rising Health Care Costs,” Culpeper Star-Exponent, p. 6A, Oct. 7, 2000.
6  Rayner, “Look for Rising Health Care Costs,” Culpeper Star-Exponent, p. 6A, Oct. 7, 2000.
7  Bernstein, Rosenblatt, “More Recipients of Medicare to Be Cut From HMOs”, Los Angeles Times, p.A1, July 25, 2000.
8  Bernstein, Rosenblatt, “More Recipients of Medicare to Be Cut From HMOs”, Los Angeles Times, p.A1, July 25, 2000.
9  “Bush Offers Health Plan for Seniors”, CNN Web posted, 11:24 a.m., Sep 5, 2000.
10  “Southwesterners Hunt for Bargains in Mexico,” Washington Post, A24, October 8, 2000.
11  Noonan, “Why Drugs Cost So Much”, Newsweek, Sep 25, 2000.
12  “Southwesterners Hunt for Bargains in Mexico,” Washington Post, A24, October 8, 2000.
13  “Southwesterners Hunt for Bargains in Mexico,” Washington Post, A24, October 8, 2000.
14  “Southwesterners Hunt for Bargains in Mexico,” Washington Post, A24, October 8, 2000.
15  “Canada Prices Lure Ill Americans,” Washington Post, A21, October 8, 2000.
16  “Canada Prices Lure Ill Americans,” Washington Post, A21, October 8, 2000.
17  “Canada Prices Lure Ill Americans,” Washington Post, A21, October 8, 2000.
18  Noonan, “Why Drugs Cost So Much”, Newsweek, Sep 25, 2000.
19  Noonan, “Why Drugs Cost So Much”, Newsweek, Sep 25, 2000.
20  Presidential debate at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 17, 2000, text, Commission on Presidential debates.
21  Presidential debate at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 17, 2000, text, Commission on Presidential debates.
22  Presidential debate at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 17, 2000, text, Commission on Presidential debates.
23  Presidential debate at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 17, 2000, text, Commission on Presidential debates.
24  Presidential debate at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 17, 2000, text, Commission on Presidential debates.
25 Presidential debate at Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 17, 2000, text, Commission on Presidential debates.

 Here comes the judge!
You all know the many oft stated reasons not to vote for Al Gore.  There is  one, which has received scant attention yet is the most important of all.
Forget, for the moment that Gore is a crook (taking money from Buddhist nuns, a campaign finance law violation "no controlling legal authority" and  lying about it under oath); Forget also that "Algore" is an environmentalist "wacko" (Earth In The Balance.  Either do things my way or we all die!)   Forget that Gore is a traitor (nuclear and missile secrets to the Chinese Communists for campaign funds) or that he deals with the Russian Mafia behind Congress’s back to let them sell arms to Iran. Then forget that he is a pathological liar (Love Canal, Love Story, the Internet, et. al., ad nauseum.)  Forget, even, that he is a committed Marxist with ties to Armand Hammer, the Stalin stooge who set up the Gores financially (Occidental Petroleum, stock worth up to $1,000,000 and huge salary for the Sr. Gore.)  Forget even that Algore thinks more of trees and animals than of human life (partial birth abortion and setting us up for starvation in order to "save" the earth.)  But remember that Al Gore would appoint three or four Supreme Court Justices, and perhaps a hundred or more Federal judges.
Many argue that George Bush’s refusal to establish a "litmus" test for any judge means that no guarantee of the constitutional "purity" of justices or judges; but he has promised us only 'strict constructionists."  At the very worst he certainly will not appoint the more extreme activists that Clinton has.  Bush’s election is essential for this reason - in the short run.  In the long run the election of a Republican President while holding on to the House and Senate means real judicial reform can occur.
Only the Supreme Court was established by the Constitution. Congress was given the power, under Article III of the U. S. Constitution, to "ordain and establish" all "such inferior courts" as they may desire.  The courts are also placed, in Section 2, under the "Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make."  As one "exception", the Congress could place outside judicial jurisdiction all state laws banning partial birth abortion.
Judges, both of the supreme and of the inferior courts "shall hold their Offices during good Behavior."  Violating the Constitution they are sworn to uphold is certainly bad "behavior."  Judges and justices could be removed for trampling on the Constitution.  Judicial rulings by the Justices not supported explicitly by the Constitution or Amendments ought to be declared null and void on their face, and said Justices removed by impeachment.
Why should Congress, a political body, be given power over the sacrosanct judiciary - supposedly "above" politics.  Many court decisions are political.  Few have much to dowith our Constitution.  The Congress’s taking back the power given to it by the Constitution would be only doing what it should have done long ago.
Our Founding Fathers wisely understood men to be fallible tempted to abuse power, and so they strove to keep government relatively weak in order to keep too much power away from sinful men.  Neither was the Supreme Court meant to be infallible.  Even as the "court of last resort" it was always understood to be subject to overturning by legislation or amendment.  Rather than whining about "the law of the land" Congress should stand up for the Constitution.  And prevent a bloody civil war that many believe we are heading towards - over abortion and other aspects of the anti-Christian, anti-family, anti-rights culture war.
Taking control away from the courts one step at a time could be immensely popular - if the initial step was a popular one.  For example, most of the public is strongly in favor of a ban on partial birth abortion.  Taking away just this one decision from the courts, allowing the 30 some states that have outlawed it to have their laws stand, would "re-legitimize" government.  The public does not like sudden change, but by cutting back on the Judiciary’s power incrementally the Congress could set in motion a permanent change in the popular understanding of the Courts
More is needed than merely picking the best of constitutionally faithful scholars for judges.  Structural change is needed or the see-saw between liberal and conservative will continue - with long-term change always ratcheting to the left.  The power of the Federal Courts must be significantly pruned. And soon.
But it would take wisdom and courage, as many would savagely oppose even gradual change. So it will never happen.  But I can dream can’t I?
Michael H. Smith
 Presidential debates
The recent presidential debates are history but what do they prove?  Some might say they are necessary to reveal what the candidates stand for.  For many it is more to see how they appear on television, or how they react to questions that have nothing to do with presidential capabilities.  Vice President Gore seemed to gain support because he passionately kissed his wife.
The liberals support more and bigger federal government intervention in every phase of our lives.  Don't people realize that a government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have?  The contest seems to be over who can promise the most.
Vice President Gore aggressively supports killing unborn babies at any stage of development.
He would also limit Supreme Court nominees to only those judges supporting a woman's right to kill her unborn baby at any time.  Governor Bush, on the other hand, is clearly pro-life.  There is nothing in the constitution that gives courts the authority to deny life to the unborn.
Vice President Gore strongly supports federal hate crimes legislation which is really part of the homosexual activists agenda.  Hate crimes legislation would clearly lead to punishing Christians for preaching certain parts of the Bible.
The debates are in reality a reminder of the dumbing down of Americans.  Anyone that doesn't know by now, the basic differences between the two candidates, must have just fallen off the turnip truck.  To approach the election with uncertainty is concrete evidence of ignorance of the basic American government system.  If a citizen can't cast an informed ballot he should stay home.  It's kind of like the old saying, " 'tis better to remain silent and appear a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."  If you don't know what's going on, stay home.
Many years ago President Kennedy made famous the words, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country."  Today the outlook of the Democratic Party is give me more, more, more.
Some of the questions asked by the uncommitted in the final debate were shallow and revealed the questioners didn't have a clue as to what was going on in the world.  When asked whether they were uncommitted in the election they probably asked, what election?  The real fear is that the debates have degenerated politics to a search for the candidate with the best Hollywood style presentation, all show and unknown substance.  We don't need debates.  We need an informed electorate.
The sad part is the Republicans are beginning to dumb down their rhetoric to reach themasses.  Lets hope President Bush, when elected, will return this country to a nation under God as it was destined to be.
William E. Nowers
Back to the top

July Issue   ·   Archives   ·   Our Writers   ·   Subscriptions   ·   Site Map   ·   Contact Us   ·   Links