Saturday, February 21, 2009

The War Economy, the MLA, and My Brother Who Has Parkinson’s

In the late 1970s I was involved in the anti-nuclear movement, wanting to work to reduce military budgets after the Vietnam War was over. I read Seymour Melman who predicted in that huge military budgets of what Melman called The Permanent War Economy would bankrupt the two Superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. Melman predicted that the two Superpowers, putting most of their resources in military hardware, would have declining education and health services until they bankrupted themselves. Few people in the Superpowers were listening to Melman and his small groups of followers in 1980.

In the late 1980s the Soviet Union had declining health for its population, was bankrupt, and finally collapsed, with whole provinces spinning off into independent states. Melman’s prophecies about Superpower #1 going bankrupt was right.

In 1980 the United States began the 1980 Regan military buildup and has had ever increasing military budgets along with declining wages and declining health care. I’ve very concerned with health care since my brother got Parkinson’s in 1998. At that time the United States was at peace; Congress had allocated for the first time $100 million for research in Parkinson’s. Researchers told my brother with five-ten years there would be big breakthroughs in Parkinson’s treatment or even a cure. In 2003 the Iraq War stated. I knew immediately that the money wouldn’t be spent on research and that there would be no big breakthroughs in treatment in this disease.

December 2003 my brother, a dedicated father who lived ½ time with his 10-year old daughter, was given by a Safeway pharmacist a wrong medication, overdosed, and nearly died. First, he went to the hospital in rural California which misdiagnosed him twice. Locals make jokes that you go to this hospital to die. He survived because he was helicoptered 50 miles away to the nearest trauma center.

I flew up to visit him in the hospital, and then went to the MLA convention in San Diego. I am member of the Radical Caucus of the Modern Language Association, the largest association of professors in languages—English and other languages. Pat Keeton and I were going to present to the MLA Delegates Assembly our Radical Caucus resolution: the MLA should come out against the Iraq War and ask the money spent not on war but instead on health and education.

Before you present a resolution the MLA, you document it. Keeton and I presented 60 pp of documentation showing decline of public spending of higher education from 1980-2003 (13% decline in state spending on higher education; 1% decline in federal spending = 14% in spending). We also showed statistics on U.S. health as measured by infant mortality and how long men and women live comparing the U.S. versus other countries. In 2003 U.S. has worse health statistics than any other industrialized nation . We were about the same in our health statistics as Costa Rica.

I show up at the MLA to help argue for our resolution. The Delegates Assembly, the Congress of the MLA, approves our anti-war resolution. Hurrah. A few months later the Executive Committee of the MLA throws out the resolution. They say our documentation hadn’t proven that the Iraq War spending caused cuts in health and education spending. They said that such a resolution was not sanctioned by the MLA Constitution and was out of bounds.

My brothers out of the rehab hospital, gets out of a board and care and struggles on insufficient funds to take care of himself, but is never able to live again ½ time with his daughter. He gets pneumonia in winter 2007. He goes to the small rural hospital which was unable to diagnose pneumonia and is again saved because he was helicoptered out to the nearest city hospital. He gets pneumonia in summer 2008 and nearly dies. He makes it through both times. In fall 2008 Joseph Stiglitz, Noble Laureate economist, publishes a book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict saying the spending on the Iraq War is ruining our economy, There have been no breakthroughs in Parkinson’s research—I was right about that. Many Parkinson’s patients die from pneumonia.

Now it’s not just some marginalized peaceniks saying this but a leading U.S. economist. Now 50 million U.S. citizens have no health insurance and another 50 million had such inadequate insurance that they forego getting treatment regularly. That’s 1 in 3 Americans lack health insurance and adequate health care. Most rural health care is pathetic. Melman was right in 1980! Oh yeah, Melman thinks deindustrialization of the United States along with our Permanent War Economy has helped bankrupt our country. Our Permanent War Economy has led the U.S. to bankruptcy and led to suffering from disease of our citizens and our death for many.

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