The Corpus Callosum

Screwed

href="http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/2006/10/poverty_and_nature.php">Hedwig’s
recent post got me to thinking.  

Poverty, Nature and Progress

Category: Cultural Observation • Environment • Ethics
• Politics
Posted on: October 15, 2006 1:56 PM, by “GrrlScientist”

Wealth accumulated by First World countries is largely based on riches
taken from Third World countries. For example, the destruction of
India’s textile industry, the takeover of the spice trade, the genocide
of native American tribes, and African slavery all served to fuel the
Industrial Revolution. Below the fold is an interesting article that
discusses the links between the accumulation of wealth concomitant with
the over-exploitation of nature and how they cause poverty.

She provides annotations to excerpts from an article in Ode,
about one of the origins of wealth.  Bottom line: one of the
most effective ways to get wealth, and the method perhaps most commonly
employed, is to steal it.   Todays article about the CEO of href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/16/business/16united.html?ex=1318651200&en=dffaa0b53ea3c818&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss">United
Health who got something like a half-billion
dollars from illegal stock options is a good case in point.
 (That’s our health care dollars — down the corporate waste
hole.)

The reason Hedwig’s article got me thinking, though, is that just last
night I watched Thom
Hartmann
on href="http://www.booktv.org/feature/index.asp?segid=7408&schedID=454">C-Span
Book TV (Yes, I do have a TV).  He was talking about
his book, Screwed:
the Undeclared War Against the Middle Class
.


Hartmann covers the same topics as Vandana Shiva does in her Ode
article.  However, he does it with much more detail.
 I found the discussion to be both interesting and irritating.
 Interesting, because of the depth of historical context he
provides; irritating, because I think he is correct in his premise.
 

His premise is that the rogue subset of the Republican Party has been
successful in pressing an agenda of policy changes that increase the
wealth gap in the USA.  

I understand that Hartmann’s message is different from Shiva’s message.
 Shiva is concerned primarily about Third-world poverty.
 Hartmann is concerned about economic policy in the USA.
 Still, the topic is similar, because both authors address a
fundamental question of fairness.  

But this is not just a question of economic fairness.  The
good ol’ boy, Dr. William W. McGuire, who skimmed $457,051,736 out of
our health care dollars, not only stole the money, he did harm to our
health care system.  People die because of
that kind of corruption.  Dr. McGuire should not be on trial
for some kind of white collar crime; he should be on trial for murder.

Oh, and how about this (from the NYT article linked above):

Stephen J. Hemsley, who has been Dr.
McGuire’s top lieutenant, will lose a sizable portion of his
options, the company said.

“Mr. Hemsley has voluntarily agreed to reprice all options
awarded through 2002 to the annual high share price for each year, and
to take any other appropriate action to eliminate any possible
financial benefit from options-related issues,” UnitedHealth
said. Other senior UnitedHealth executives, including Dr. McGuire and
the resigning general counsel, David J. Lubben, will take similar
actions, the company said.

I’ll be happy with that, when he brings back to life the people who
died, because the money went for yachts and not patient care.

Hartmann was right.  We’re screwed.  

Comments

  1. #1 natural cynic
    October 17, 2006

    So, contrary to Shiva’s thesis, much more of the stealing has occurred at home.

  2. #2 Joseph j7uy5
    October 17, 2006

    Hartmann traces the origin of wealth throughout history, or at least back though the Middle Ages. He does that to place the current situation into historical context. He focuses on the current state of affairs, which is the shifting of wealth from the middle class to the upper class.

    One of the points he makes, is that most societies have not had a middle class. He wants us to understand that we cannot take the existence of a middle class for granted. It can disappear. In fact, he argues that it takes a concerted set of policy initiatives to make a middle class sustainable.

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