Brilliant Words from AOC: Medicare for All

We only have empty pockets when it comes to the morally right things to do. But when it comes to tax cuts for billionaires or unlimited war, we seem to be able to invent that money very easily.

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Chris Cuomo asked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez how we pay for Medicare for All, tuition-free college, and the green new deal. It gives people sticker shock.
Her answer:
People talk about the sticker shock of Medicare for All, but they do not talk about the sticker shock of our existing system. In a Koch brothers-funded study, it shows that Medicare for All is actually much cheaper than the current system.
Let’s not forget that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act because they ruled that each of these monthly payments that everyday Americans make is a tax. We pay it every single month. (Or we pay at tax season if we don’t buy plans off of the exchange.)
Americans have the sticker shock of healthcare as it is. Why aren’t we incorporating the cost of funeral expenses of those who die because they can’t afford access to healthcare? That is part of the cost of our system. Or the cost of reduced productivity because of people who need to go on disability or are not able to participate in our economy because they don’t have access to the healthcare that they need?
At the end of the day, we see that this is not a pipe dream. Every other developed nation in the world has this. Why can’t America? And that is the question we need to ask.
We write blank checks for war. We just wrote a $2 trillion check for the GOP tax cut. And nobody asks how are we going to pay for it.
So my question is why are our pockets only empty when it comes to education and healthcare for our kids? Why are our pockets only empty when we talk about 100% renewable energy that is going to save this planet and allow our children to thrive?
We only have empty pockets when it comes to the morally right things to do. But when it comes to tax cuts for billionaires or unlimited war, we seem to be able to invent that money very easily. To me, it belies a lack of moral priorities that people have right now, especially the Republican Party.
Nov 27, 2020

 

Bitcoin will get rid of all empires, including the American one – Max Keiser

Nov 26, 2020
The hosts of RT’s Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, look for some reasons to be thankful in an otherwise miserable year.

“Here we have this Thanksgiving celebration, which was the beginning of the end for the native population and the beginning of the beginning for the American empire,” Max says.

“In my view, bitcoin will get rid of all empires, including the American empire. So, this is the beginning of the end of the American empire that we are seeing on this Thanksgiving Day.”

Max adds: “I think, now going forward, whoever doesn’t adopt bitcoin will be living on reservations of their own ignorance and inability to love and seek peace.”

I’m an epidemiology professor and I have some genuine concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. Here’s why…

I’m an epidemiology professor and I have some genuine concerns about the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. Here’s why…
As the world awaits the roll-out of a vaccine to combat coronavirus, the announcement of AstraZeneca’s trial results this week was greeted with enthusiasm by some and scepticism by others. I believe there will be better options.

With over one-and-a-half million Covid-19 deaths and six million recorded cases worldwide, everyone is aware that the need for a vaccine to stop the spread of the virus is urgent. It has to be developed swiftly and safely, and target all age groups, particularly those at higher risk.

The race is hotting up, and among those working on one is the Swedish/British company AstraZeneca, which announced earlier this week that it had developed a vaccine that was ‘on average’70 percent effective. This claim came five days after US pharmaceutical company Pfizer had announced that its coronavirus vaccine was 95 percent effective and had “no serious side effects”.

Perhaps AstraZeneca was confident enough that its product would be strongly competitive in the market due to two key advantages it offers over rival products – a lower price and the relatively uncomplicated way of storing it.

But the AstraZeneca announcement did not impress Wall Street – the company registered a drop of two percent in the stock market. It’s worth bearing in mind that the primary goal of western pharmaceutical corporations is not to serve public health, but maximising the profits of the company. And that was primarily the reason, in my opinion, why AstraZeneca updated the interpretation of the results of its clinical trials. By 24 November, the media headlines were reporting that AstraZeneca’s vaccine was 90 percent effective. The previously mentioned ‘70 percent’ – and ‘62 per cent’ in some circumstances – had been dropped.

closer view of the AstraZeneca reports showed that the ‘70 percent’ was obtained as the ‘average’ of two different doses regimes – one with 62 percent effectiveness, from samples in Brazil; one with 90 percent from the UK sample. Neither data details on the trials, nor peer reviewed reports, are available. In addition, it has now became established that the 90 percent efficacy UK sample was obtained with only younger subjects.

In a statement released by the company, Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, declared: “Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90 percent effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated…”

Aside from the aggravating fact that the ‘90 percent’ result was arrived at via a mistake in dosage caused by a manufacturing error by AstraZeneca, the question is, who is then going to buy the ‘62 percent’ dosing regimen vaccine? Or, as Anthony Fauci, the Director of US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, put it“What are you going to do with the 70 percent when you’ve got two [vaccines] that are 95 percent?”

Fauci was referring to the Pfizer vaccine and one from Moderna, but an equally effective product, with demonstrated 95 percent effectiveness, is the pioneer Sputnik V one developed by the Gamaleya Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow.

According to The Telegraph, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is in talks with the Russian research institution that worked on Sputnik V “concerning its potential application for Emergency Use Listing”. It is already being trialled in Hungary.

The Sputnik V has a vaccine efficacy of over 95 percent, 42 days after the first dose. On day 28 after the first dose it achieves 91.4 percent efficacy. Clinical trial protocols indicate that over 18,000 volunteers had received the first and second doses of the vaccine.

Comparing the Swedish/British AstraZeneca vaccine with the Russian Sputnik V, substantial differences can be observed in their composition and in their targeting, which may explain the different degrees of effectiveness they have in humans.

The AstraZeneca program works out an adenovirus, chimpanzee-originated, whose DNA genetic payload has been detached, then replaced with a DNA to produce the SARS-CoV-2 virus protein. There have been suggestions in the scientific community that the first shot may hamper the immunity capability.

Instead, Sputnik V uses two different human adenovirus vectors. It is a two-stage dose, using firstly an Ad26-spike vaccine, and 21 days later a booster with an Ad5 spike. The two different adenovirus are to prevent hampering the second shot, which would happen if the same vector is used in the schema.

As Dr Fauci explained, in the AstraZeneca schema “the smaller initial dose [the priming] may “tickle” the immune system enough to generate T cells, but not trigger development of antibodies that might work to suppress the response to the booster shot.”

AstraZeneca’s international marketing of its vaccine suggested that its price would be much lower than its competitors. To me, it sounds like a neo-colonialist challenge directed to countries with poorer economies: trade effectiveness for affordability. Richer countries will opt for quality, regardless of price.

There is another decisive factor why the Sputnik V vaccine should actually be considered by poorer countries. This is the fact that the Russian vaccine can be transported and stored in a standard cold chain, without the need for ultra-low temperatures (such as around minus 80° C as in the case of Pfizer). This would avoid the investment in large and expensive ‘cold farms’, that these poorer countries would have difficulty in implementing. As Charlotte Houldcroft, a University of Cambridge virologist, stated“Sputnik V…needs a standard cold chain to be rolled out rather than an ultracold chain like the RNA vaccines, and that’s a big plus.”

Furthermore, my scientific epidemiological confidence in Sputnik V is demonstrated by the fact that I am trying, from Italy, to acquire – with my own private funds –740 dosing units to donate to the elderly population of one commune in Bergamo, San Giovanni Bianco, that has been one epicentre of the pandemic. Yes, the administration of the vaccine would first have to be approved by the Italian health authorities. But assuming it is, perhaps other local initiatives would, or should, do the same to protect their elderly population at risk.

One other element worth mentioning regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine is the problematic topic of safety, which I discussed when interviewed recently on RT television.

During the clinical trials, there were issues which – to the best of my knowledge – have not been fully clarified. For example, in the preclinical phase, where rhesus macaque monkeys were used, it was not shown that sufficient protection against infections was provided. In the combined 2 and 3 trials, blood monitoring was recorded in one out of ten of participants: in 46 percent of these a transient decrease of the white blood cells (neutrophils) was observed. And most concerning was a case, possibly two, of transverse myelitis, inflammation of the spinal cord.

In conclusion, it’s also worth saying that considering the ever-growing number of Covid-19 deaths and new infections – and the scarcity of health care resources in many parts of the world – it’s unforgivable that Western pharmaceutical corporates have not coordinated research efforts to provide the world with a safe, affordable vaccine in the spirit of human rights for all.

Landmark legal ruling finds that Covid tests are not fit for purpose. So what do the MSM do? They ignore it

Landmark legal ruling finds that Covid tests are not fit for purpose. So what do the MSM do? They ignore it
Four German holidaymakers who were illegally quarantined in Portugal after one was judged to be positive for Covid-19 have won their case, in a verdict that condemns the widely-used PCR test as being up to 97-percent unreliable.

Earlier this month, Portuguese judges upheld a decision from a lower court that found the forced quarantine of four holidaymakers to be unlawful. The case centred on the reliability (or lack thereof) of Covid-19 PCR tests.

The verdict, delivered on November 11, followed an appeal against a writ of habeas corpus filed by four Germans against the Azores Regional Health Authority. This body had been appealing a ruling from a lower court which had found in favour of the tourists, who claimed that they were illegally confined to a hotel without their consent. The tourists were ordered to stay in the hotel over the summer after one of them tested positive for coronavirus in a PCR test – the other three were labelled close contacts and therefore made to quarantine as well.

Unreliable, with a strong chance of false positives

The deliberation of the Lisbon Appeal Court is comprehensive and fascinating. It ruled that the Azores Regional Health Authority had violated both Portuguese and international law by confining the Germans to the hotel. The judges also said that only a doctor can “diagnose” someone with a disease, and were critical of the fact that they were apparently never assessed by one.

They were also scathing about the reliability of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, the most commonly used check for Covid.

The conclusion of their 34-page ruling included the following: “In view of current scientific evidence, this test shows itself to be unable to determine beyond reasonable doubt that such positivity corresponds, in fact, to the infection of a person by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”  

In the eyes of this court, then, a positive test does not correspond to a Covid case. The two most important reasons for this, said the judges, are that, “the test’s reliability depends on the number of cycles used’’ and that “the test’s reliability depends on the viral load present.’’ In other words, there are simply too many unknowns surrounding PCR testing.

Tested positive? There could be as little as a 3% chance it’s correct

This is not the first challenge to the credibility of PCR tests. Many people will be aware that their results have a lot to do with the number of amplifications that are performed, or the ‘cycle threshold.’ This number in most American and European labs is 35–40 cycles, but experts have claimed that even 35 cycles is far too many, and that a more reasonable protocol would call for 25–30 cycles. (Each cycle exponentially increases the amount of viral DNA in the sample).

Earlier this year, data from three US states – New York, Nevada and Massachusetts – showed that when the amount of the virus found in a person was taken into account, up to 90 percent of people who tested positive could actually have been negative, as they may have been carrying only tiny amounts of the virus.

The Portuguese judges cited a study conducted by “some of the leading European and world specialists,” which was published by Oxford Academic at the end of September. It showed that if someone tested positive for Covid at a cycle threshold of 35 or higher, the chances of that person actually being infected is less than three percent, and that “the probability of… receiving a false positive is 97% or higher.”

While the judges in this case admitted that the cycle threshold used in Portuguese labs was unknown, they took this as further proof that the detention of the tourists was unlawful. The implication was that the results could not be trusted. Because of this uncertainty, they stated that there was “no way this court would ever be able to determine” whether the tourist who tested positive was indeed a carrier of the virus, or whether the others had been exposed to it.

Sshhh – don’t tell anyone

It is a sad indictment of our mainstream media that such a landmark ruling, of such obvious and pressing international importance, has been roundly ignored. If one were making (flimsy) excuses for them, one could say that the case escaped the notice of most science editors because it has been published in Portuguese. But there is a full English translation of the appeal, and alternative media managed to pick it up.

And it isn’t as if Portugal is some remote, mysterious nation where news is unreliable or whose judges are suspect – this is a western EU country with a large population and a similar legal system to many other parts of Europe. And it is not the only country whose institutions are clashing with received wisdom on Covid. Finland’s national health authority has disputed the WHO’s recommendation to test as many people as possible for coronavirus, saying it would be a waste of taxpayer’s money, while poorer South East Asian countries are holding off on ordering vaccines, citing an improper use of finite resources.

Testing, especially PCR testing, is the basis for the entire house of cards of Covid restrictions that are wreaking havoc worldwide. From testing comes case numbers. From case numbers come the ‘R number,’ the rate at which a carrier infects others. From the ‘dreaded’ R number comes the lockdowns and the restrictions, such as England’s new and baffling tiered restrictions that come into force next week.

The daily barrage of statistics is familiar to us all by this point, but as time goes on the evidence that something may be deeply amiss with the whole foundation of our reaction to this pandemic – the testing regime – continues to mount.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Britain’s Class War on Children

 

Britain’s Class War on Children

 

A British family from the film Smashing Kids, 1975. Photo by John Garrett.

When I first reported on child poverty in Britain, I was struck by the faces of children I spoke to, especially the eyes. They were different: watchful, fearful.

In Hackney, in 1975, I filmed Irene Brunsden’s family. Irene told me she gave her two-year-old a plate of cornflakes. “She doesn’t tell me she’s hungry, she just moans. When she moans, I know something is wrong.”

“How much money do you have in the house? I asked.

“Five pence,” she replied.

Irene said she might have to take up prostitution, “for the baby’s sake”. Her husband Jim, a truck driver who was unable to work because of illness, was next to her. It was as if they shared a private grief.

This is what poverty does. In my experience, its damage is like the damage of war; it can last a lifetime, spread to loved ones and contaminate the next generation. It stunts children, brings on a host of diseases and, as unemployed Harry Hopwood in Liverpool told me, “it’s like being in prison”.

This prison has invisible walls. When I asked Harry’s young daughter if she ever thought that one day she would live a life like better-off children, she said unhesitatingly: “No”.

What has changed 45 years later?  At least one member of an impoverished family is likely to have a job — a job that denies them a living wage. Incredibly, although poverty is more disguised, countless British children still go to bed hungry and are ruthlessly denied opportunities..

What has not changed is that poverty is the result of a disease that is still virulent yet rarely spoken about – class.

Study after study shows that the people who suffer and die early from the diseases of poverty brought on by a poor diet, sub-standard housing and the priorities of the political elite and its hostile “welfare” officials — are working people. In 2020, one in three preschool British children suffers like this.

In making my recent film, The Dirty War on the NHS, it was clear to me that the savage cutbacks to the NHS and its privatisation by the Blair, Cameron, May and Johnson governments had devastated the vulnerable, including many NHS workers and their families. I interviewed one low-paid NHS worker who could not afford her rent and was forced, to sleep in churches or on the streets.

At a foodbank in central London, I watched young mothers looking nervously around as they hurried away with old Tesco bags of food and washing powder and tampons they could no longer afford, their young children holding on to them. It is no exaggeration that at times I felt I was walking in the footprints of Dickens.

Boris Johnson has claimed that 400,000 fewer children are living in poverty since 2010 when the Conservatives came to power. This is a lie, as the Children’s Commissioner has confirmed. In fact, more than 600,000 children have fallen into poverty since 2012; the total is expected to exceed 5 million. This, few dare say, is a class war on children.

Old Etonian Johnson is may be a caricature of the born-to-rule class; but his “elite” is not the only one. All the parties in Parliament, notably if not especially Labour – like much of the bureaucracy and most of the media — have scant if any connection to the “streets”: to the world of the poor: of the “gig economy”: of battling a system of Universal Credit that can leave you without a penny and in despair.

Last week, the prime minister and his “elite” showed where their priorities lay. In the face of the greatest health crisis in living memory when Britain has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe and poverty is accelerating as the result of a punitive “austerity” policy, he announced £16.5 billion for “defence”. This makes Britain, whose military bases cover the world, the highest military spender in Europe.

And the enemy? The real one is poverty and those who impose it and perpetuate it.

John Pilger’s 1975 film, Smashing Kids, can be viewed at Smashing Kids.

This is an abridged version of an article published by the London Daily Mirror.

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com

Leader of S Korea ‘sextortion’ ring jailed for 40 years

Source

http://www.aljazeera.com

26 Nov 2020

discovery in March of the Nth Room, which operated on the encrypted Telegram platform, shocked the country.

Cho Ju-bin, who was arrested in March over the Nth Room 'sextortion' ring has been jailed for 40 years [File: Yonhap/Reuters]
Cho Ju-bin, who was arrested in March over the Nth Room ‘sextortion’ ring has been jailed for 40 years [File: Yonhap/Reuters]

A Seoul court on Thursday sentenced the ringleader of the Nth Room – one of the biggest online sex trafficking rings ever discovered in South Korea – to 40 years in prison, falling short of the life sentence demanded by prosecutors.

The Seoul Central District Court found Cho Ju-bin guilty of violating laws to protect minors from sexual abuse and of operating a criminal ring to make profits by producing and selling abusive videos, the Yonhap news agency reported.

“The accused has widely distributed sexually abusive content that he created by luring and threatening many victims,” the court said.

The Nth Room ran on the encrypted messaging service Telegram and the perpetrators used private information – sometimes collected illegally from local government offices – to blackmail dozens of women and children into performing sexually explicit acts on camera, with thousands of users paying cryptocurrency to watch.

At least 74 women, including 16 teenagers, were ensnared in what authorities called “virtual enslavement” between May 2019 and February 2020.

The discovery of the ring sparked a national outcry, with millions of Koreans signing petitions urging authorities to release Cho’s identity and investigate not only the ringleaders but also those who participated in the network, paying as much as 1.5 million won ($1,360) to view the abusive videos and images.

The punishment fell short of a life sentence sought by prosecutors last month who cited irreparable damage done to his victims. One of the victims said in a petition that Cho and his co-conspirators were evil and deserved to be jailed for 2,000 years.

Police have said at least 124 suspects have been arrested and 18 operators of chat rooms on Telegram and other social media, including Cho, imprisoned following investigations into similar sexual crimes that have been under way since late last year.

In April, the National Assembly passed a string of laws to make digital sex crimes easier to prosecute. Under the new law, those who possess, buy, store or watch illegally filmed sexual content can be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison or 30 million won ($24,660). Before the new legislation was enacted, it was not illegal to possess such content.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Cyber-Espionage: US Security Agency Accused of Spying on European Private Companies

Of course, the exceptional Americans in the White House will have us believe that Huawei is the problem. Hypocrites.

A new cyber espionage scandal involving American intelligence agencies is being revealed – this time in Europe. Government ministries and Danish private companies were targets of US espionage, according to a recent report by an anonymous informer. The US National Security Agency (NSA) appears to have used top-secret schemes to allegedly spy on Danish and other Scandinavian ministries and private companies. Details of such activities were revealed in a recent Danish Radio’s article, in which the alleged anonymous informer is referred to as an agent of the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, FE). Operations would have started around 2015.

Among many pieces of information, the report denounced illegal activities promoted by American intelligence in collaboration with various sectors of Danish intelligence itself, which were conspiring against the interests of their own country by draining information from Danish internet cables and passing it on to external agents. Among several other illegal operations, the report also revealed the espionage against the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economy of Denmark, as well as neighbouring and allied countries, such as Norway and Sweden, indicating that the limit of such activities is much higher than mere surveillance over Denmark, expanding across a major part of the European continent. According to information contained in the report, the NSA obtained access to fiber optic cables and a data center on the island of Amager, in the south of Copenhagen. From then on, data traffic from the Netherlands, Norway, France and Germany, and political institutions in Denmark were constantly monitored, remaining under full surveillance by American agents.

In addition, it was mentioned that the NSA wanted to obtain more information about the activities of private companies in the defence and military industry, especially Terma, a major Danish company based in Aarhus that stands out internationally in the aerospace industry. According to information in the report, the American interest would have arisen from the moment that the Danish State decided to buy multibillion-dollar fighters to replace its F-16 fleet. At the beginning of the negotiations, Terma and the Swedish company Saab were disputing for a prominent position before the Danish government, but after many debates and long controversies, the government’s choice was to purchase a new fleet of dozens of American F-35 fighters. Apparently, constant surveillance and data-stealing were key points for Washington to take advantage of European companies during the negotiations.

The anonymous informant said he had tried to warn of the dangers of espionage on several previous occasions but was only successful when he turned to the Danish Defense Intelligence Service supervisor, whom he accused of having failed to follow or investigate the various espionage reports. On a later occasion, the current Danish defence minister, Trine Bramsen, announced the resignation of five high-ranking agents of the national secret service. So far, the information is not clear due to all the precautions that encompass such issues, but everything indicates that the dismissals occurred due to the spying allegations – however, these were carried out at a late time, indicating a long delay in acting against the internal sabotage.

In fact, espionage against European private companies is absolutely harmful to the interests of these nations, being an activity as dangerous as the espionage of official government agencies – which has also been occurring frequently. The authorities that were supposed to guarantee the security of Danish companies helped to undermine the country’s interests as they were ineffective in combating data theft schemes and enabled, among other things, commercial advantages for Washington in negotiations that prioritized the Danish private market. Still, it is necessary to take into account that during the leak of confidential information by anonymous informants it is very common that only a portion of the real information is revealed, exposing an “outer layer” of the content, but preserving the silence about more compromising data. This leads us to speculate to what extent American espionage is actually at work in Europe – certainly, the information contained in the anonymous informant’s report is only a small part of what is actually known on the subject.

The case has already begun to generate outrage in neighboring countries. Norwegian lawmaker Freddy Ovstegard said he believes Norway is also being spied on by the US, considering that this is a common practice of Washington with its own allied countries. The tendency is for these reactions to spread more and more and for a wave of aversion to Washington and its surveillance and espionage policies to grow across the European continent. A possible scenario is the gradual separation between the US and the EU, considering that the issue directly affects the interests of multibillionaire private companies, going far beyond the relations between states. If such companies fail to cooperate with the governments of their own countries and start selling military equipment to enemy nations, the result will be absolutely catastrophic – Europeans will certainly try to avoid this.

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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Featured image is from InfoBrics

To move on from Trump, America must rebuild its capacity to care for its people

theconversation.com
  1. Associate Professor of History and Chair, History and Classical Studies, McGill University

Donald Trump lost. Period.

Yet he still won strong majorities in the South and Mountain West while dominating once more with white evangelicals. As in 2016, he cleaned up in places like southwestern Pennsylvania, where factory jobs are long gone, and in upscale zip codes like St. Johns County in Florida, where you can play 18 holes and then sip martinis on the beach.

But the most striking part of Trump’s showing was his strength in places where the pandemic is raging. According to an analysis by National Public Radio, nearly seven in 10 counties with high COVID-19 death rates backed Trump more strongly this year than they did in 2016.

Those votes speaks volumes about what Americans have come to expect — or not to expect — from their government.

‘Salus Populi’

The government’s responsibility for public safety and well-being — Salus Populi, in its original Latin — is among the most venerable ideas of the western political tradition. America is no exception.

Most of the state-level constitutions written during the American Revolution described the “happiness and safety” of the people, no less than their freedom, as the governments’ primary concern. The Federal Constitution of 1787 also named “general welfare” as one of its main goals. And why not? The very word, republic, means the “public thing.”

Throughout the 19th century, courts and legislatures cited Salus Populi as the supreme law of the land, something that overruled the private interests of the greedy or careless. As a Massachusetts judge summarized while defending regulations on food markets in the 1840s, the public had “a right to control [those markets], as best to promote the welfare of all citizens.”

These weren’t just words. City ordinances actually prevented merchants from selling spoiled meat. Town governments repeatedly enforced quarantines. Judges routinely ordered the destruction of buildings that contained flammable materials.

To be sure, 19th-century America also had a libertarian streak. Amid the social upheavals of industrialization and urbanization, various anti-government and hyper-individualistic ideas grew into predatory ideologies such as social Darwinism.

By the early 20th century, however, the federal government had assumed responsibility for basic hygiene in the nation’s food and water supplies. During the New Deal in the 1930s, the government devised Social Security for retirees and invested in everything from highways and bridges to hospitals.

Governments of all levels fought the polio outbreaks of the early post-war years, and both public and private donors enabled Jonas Salk’s wondrous polio vaccine in 1955.

The private revolution

Everything changed in the U.S. with the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language,” the affable Reagan chortled, “are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” In his America, the only role for government was to punish evildoers and promote dog-eat-dog capitalism in the name of “freedom.”

The Gipper, as Reagan was nicknamed (after a movie role), delivered these right-wing economic dogmas with a B-actor’s smile, initiating a 40-year assault on Salus Populi.

The U.S. politics of care changed under Ronald Reagan shown here on Nov. 3, 1980, with former president Gerald Ford and his running mate, George H.W. Bush in Peoria, Ill. (AP Photo)

This has worked out very well for the wealthy. High net-worth individuals saw their income taxes plummet under Reagan and again under George W. Bush. They reinvested the windfall in capital markets liberalized by Bill Clinton. Especially since the Great Recession of 2008, the super wealthy have pulled away from everyone else, with the richest five per cent of U.S. families increasing their net worth by an astonishing 88 per cent.

No wonder people making over $100,000 swung strongly two weeks ago to Trump, a shady billionaire who nonetheless delivered another tax cut in 2017. The puzzle is why so many working people seem to support an economic project that often harms working people.

Perhaps the question presupposes a level of choice that most people don’t have. In a world of closing factories and shrinking unions, employees are in no position to demand better job security. Flooded by well-crafted slogans about the evils of government, voters have little hope for competent leaders, to say nothing of caring ones.

Indeed, the most obvious choice within the privatized hellscape of contemporary America is to hang on to what you’ve got, the public be damned.

Fellow citizens

If no one will help you in times of need, why vote for someone who pretends otherwise? If everyone is out for himself, why not admire a snake-oil tycoon like Donald Trump? In Trump’s America, the deaths of so many fellow citizens simply “is what it is.”

The only way to fight these dismal convictions is to create tangible evidence to the contrary. Building more hospitals would be a good place to start. More than 150 of these have closed in rural areas of the U.S. since 2015.

Strengthening Social Security and the Affordable Care Act should also be priorities. Mandating better nutritional content for school cafeterias and enforcing fair labour practices would also work.

Act first, talk later. Then perhaps Americans like me can once again see each other as part of a civil and coherent society, as proud members of a decent and well-run republic.

Understanding the sinister agenda being forced upon us