Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 28, 2009



ABC News
- The country is finally starting to see some positive signs in the housing market. But don't tell that to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner . . . Geithner Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner bought this home in 2004 for $1.602 million. . .

After leaving the tony New York City suburb of Mamaroneck to take his new post in Washington, D.C., Geithner put his five-bedroom Tudor home on the market for $1.635 million.

That was in February. By May, he cut the price $60,000 but still got no takers. A few weeks later, May 21, the home in New York's Westchester County was reportedly rented for $7,500 a month. . . .

- The annual rate of US new home sales jumped 11% in June, government figures have shown, a further indication that the housing sector is over the worst. . . June's sales figure was the strongest pace seen since November 2008. However, the median sale price was $206,200, down 5.8% from May and 12% lower than a year ago.

LA Times - From 2001 through 2008, more than 8,000 condominium units were built in downtown San Diego. That's double the number of downtown units constructed over the same period in Los Angeles, a city three times its size. So while sales of urban high-rise units are convulsing elsewhere, nowhere is the collapse more dramatic than in downtown San Diego. . .

At the height of the frenzy, hopeful purchasers queued up outside sales offices to plunk down deposits. There were occasional arguments over who was first in line. No one wanted to miss out with condo values riding an elevator to the sky.

Near the peak, in May 2004, median resale prices of downtown condos hit $647,500, a 56% increase in just three years, according to San Diego research firm MDA Data Quick.

Irrational exuberance has long since given way to buyer's remorse. Median resale prices for downtown units stood at $370,000 in June. . .

Downtown San Diego, a 2.2-square-mile area, is now awash in condos. About 400 new and occupied ones are listed for sale, and more than 450 are in some stage of foreclosure and will eventually be put on the market. An additional 1,000 units that were under construction when the market soured are slated to be completed this year, adding to the glut and putting further downward pressure on prices.


Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, Progressive Media Project
- 0nce Congress finishes mandating that we all buy private health insurance, it can move on to requiring Americans to purchase other defective products.

A Ford Pinto in every garage?

Lead-painted toys for every child?

Melamine-laced chow for every puppy?

Private health insurance doesn't work.

Even middle-class families with supposedly good coverage are just one serious illness away from financial ruin.

Illness and medical bills contribute to 62 percent of personal bankruptcies - a 50 percent increase since 2001. And three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had insurance, at least when they first got sick.

Coverage that families bought in good faith failed to protect them. Some were bankrupted by co-payments, deductibles, and loopholes. Others got too sick to work, leaving them unemployed and uninsured.

Now Congress plans to make it a federal offence not to purchase such faulty insurance.

On top of that, it's threatening to tax workers' health benefits to meet the costs of simultaneously covering the poor and keeping private insurers in business.

President Obama's plan would finance reform by draining funds from hospitals that serve the neediest patients. His other funding plans aren't harmful, just illusory. He's gotten unenforceable pledges from hospitals, insurers and the American Medical Association to rein in costs, a replay of promises they made (and broke) to Presidents Nixon and Carter. And Obama trumpets savings from computerized medical records and better care management, savings the Congressional Budget Office has dismissed as wishful thinking.

The president's health plan can't make universal, comprehensive coverage affordable.

Only single-payer health reform - Medicare for All - can achieve that goal.

Single-payer national health care could realize about $400 billion in savings annually - enough to cover the uninsured and to upgrade coverage for all Americans. But the vast majority of these savings aren't available unless we go all the way to single payer.

A public plan option might cut into private insurers' profits. That's why they hate it. But their profits - roughly $10 billion annually - are dwarfed by the money they waste in search of profit. They spend vast sums for marketing (to attract the healthy); demarketing (to avoid the sick); billing their ever-shifting roster of enrollees; fighting with providers over bills; and lobbying politicians. And doctors and hospitals spend billions more meeting insurers' demands for documentation.

A single-payer plan would eliminate most insurance overhead, as well as these other paperwork expenses. Hospitals could be paid like a fire department, receiving a single monthly check for their entire budget. Physicians' billing could be similarly simplified.

With a public insurance option, by contrast, hospitals and doctors would still need elaborate billing and cost-tracking systems. And overhead for even the most efficient competitive public option would be far higher than for traditional Medicare, which is efficient precisely because it doesn't compete. It automatically enrolls seniors at 65 and deducts their premiums through the social security system, contracts with any willing provider, and does no marketing.

Health insurers compete by not paying for care: by seeking out the healthy and avoiding the sick; by denying payment and shifting costs onto patients; and by lobbying for unfair public subsidies (as under the Medicare HMO program). A kinder, gentler public plan that failed to emulate these behaviors would soon be saddled with the sickest, costliest patients and the highest payouts, driving premiums to uncompetitive levels. To compete successfully, a public plan would have to copy private plans.

Decades of experience teach that private insurers cannot control costs or provide families with the coverage they need. And a government-run clone of private insurers cannot fix these flaws.

Washington Times - The health care reform plan proposed by House Democrats would create at least a dozen new federal programs, boards and task forces, contributing to the proposal's hefty price tag that has drawn criticism from Congress' official scorekeeper.

Democrats say the bureaucratic infrastructure is necessary to administer the expansion of health care benefits to the tens of millions of uninsured Americans while creating more competition for private insurers to drive down out-of-control costs.

The health care reform bill, which is expected to cost roughly $1 trillion over 10 years, would create a public health insurance plan and a health insurance "exchange," a clearinghouse where consumers will be able to shop for public or private coverage. The programs will require a massive undertaking by the federal government that analysts say likely will take years to fully implement. . .

At least three boards will be set up to advise the health and human services secretary on policy. The Health Benefits Advisory Committee, for instance, will recommend the basic requirements of insurance plans. All Americans would be required to carry at least basic coverage under the bill, with exceptions for the poor



Telegraph, UK - Under the Government scheme, members of "Shameless" families are given intensive 24-hour supervision to make sure children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals. Parents are also given help to stop them leading dysfunctional lives and to combat drug or alcohol addiction. Ministers hope expanding the scheme will reduce the number of youngster who become drawn into lives of crime because of their chaotic family lives. The projects are operating in around half of all council areas, but Children's Secretary Ed Balls said he wanted every local authority to fund them.. . . "There should be Family Intervention Projects in every local authority area because every area has families that need that support."


A fight over books depicting sex and homosexuality has riled up a small Wisconsin city, cost some library board members their positions and prompted a call for a public book burning. The battle has stirred much of West Bend, a city of roughly 30,000 people about 35 miles north of Milwaukee. Residents have sparred for months on blogs, airwaves and at meetings, including one where a man told the city's library director he should be tarred and feathered. The row even spread to this year's Fourth of July parade, which included a float featuring a washing machine and a sign that read "keep our library clean.". . .


Anonymous Mairead said...

I can remember growing up with my mother being "supervised" by a series of ever-changing social workers.

The reason wasn't anything more disreputable than poverty (both my parents became disabled early on). But poverty was evidently disreputable enough, rendering my mum unfit for unsupervised living. I don't know whether she was labelled "Shameless", though.

The supervision did nothing for our poverty, of course, but it did provide jobs to various members of the supervising bureaucracy, which was doubtless the main real goal.

And, I daresay unintentionally, it created in me a abiding hatred of the greedy, uncaring, psychopathic elites who think it their right to make awful situations worse by punishing people for simple bad luck.

July 28, 2009 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re "keep our library clean.", it is the treatment of pleasurable sex as unclean that fosters perversion. If sex is sin, how can everything else human not be?

i like my body when it is with your

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i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh ... And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

ee cummings

July 29, 2009 12:56 PM  

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