Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shame On America Sunday: Corporate Tunnel & Sports Lovers.

This week, the health care crisis really hit home. On Friday night, my dad left a message for me asking me to call him as soon as I could. I wasn't able to return his call until Saturday afternoon, and before I could return his call, I had breakfast with the in-laws on Saturday morning.

During that breakfast, my mother-in-law relayed to me that she had recently received a bill for her "treatments," a procedure she gets every month at the hospital. The bill was for $750, for two months worth of treatments; the bill was her 20% of the cost of the monthly treatments, which she says "keep her alive."

After that breakfast, in the afternoon, when I called my dad back, I learned that he had just been diagnosed with, in his words, "corporate tunnel syndrome," a development that he believed stemmed from a wrist injury he suffered at work and the physical therapy he's been going through.

Both my mother-in-law and my dad asked me, specifically, to look into their situations because I'm a lawyer, and they were concerned; mother-in-law was concerned about how she and my father-in-law were going to afford to pay $375 per month, on top of their other bills, and thought that their insurance should be covering these charges. Dad was concerned about how he'd pay for his surgery to cure his "corporate tunnel" -- try as I might, I couldn't get him to call it carpal tunnel -- if worker's compensation didn't cover it. He wanted to know whether I thought maybe he should be hiring a lawyer to make sure it was covered.

Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care?

As I pondered that question this morning, I saw a clip of the McCain speech where he referenced Barack Obama's ideas on health care and taxation and said they were redistribution of wealth, and I heard, as a senior citizen who doesn't have to worry about things because he's rich, as that man-wh0-married-into-inherited wealth spoke about helping the poor, I heard boos.

So before you answer my question -- especially those of you who are about to scream "socialism," especially those of you who booed or were inclined to boo yesterday when Out-of-Touch John McCain, when protect-the-wealthy John McCain, when further-destroy-America John McCain, said the words "redistribute money," -- before you answer my question, consider this:

Seats for the New York Mets new stadium, CitiField -- you may recognize the cognomen "Citi" -- it's from Citigroup, a company that bought the naming rights to the stadium but which may continue losing money until 2010 and which either have been or will be bailed out using money that could have paid for health care -- seats at CitiField will sell for as much as $495 per ticket per game. But it's worth it, right, because they get the best sight lines and offer all-inclusive food and drink, so it's not like you're spending extra for your hot dogs, right?

Before you answer my original question, which was, again: Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care? consider this:

To buy tickets at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium, football fans will have to first fork over $150,000 for a "personal seat license," and then pay $340 per ticket per game.

To buy tickets to a Colts game, some people pay $235,000 to rent a "Super Suite," the key feature of which is that each suite has a 50 inch plasma TV, along with an individual TV screen for each seat -- so Colts fans pay $235,000 to go to the stadium and watch the game on TV.

To buy tickets to a Giants or Jets game in 2010, fans will pay $20,000 for a "personal seat license" giving them the right to buy a $700 ticket to the game.

To buy tickets to a baseball game in our nation's capital, where Continue-To-Destroy-America John McCain has practically lived his life, some Nationals' fans pay $400,000 per year to rent a "Washington Suite," which features a porch with a TV and the best views of the park.

It's not just the superrich, either. The average cost of a major league baseball ticket in 2008, was $25.40 across the league, according to ESPN, with teams averaging between $48.80 per ticket (the Red Sox) down to $15.96 per ticket for Arizona.

The Red Sox' attendance this year was 3,048,250. So Red Sox fans spent at least $148,754,600 (I say "at least" because those numbers don't include premium seating and corporate boxes) just on tickets. Just to get into Fenway Park and watch the game, Red Sox fans spent $148,754.600.

Arizona, the club with the lowest ticket price, drew 2,509,924 people this year. Arizona fans paid $40,058,387.04 just to get into their ballpark and watch their team play.

It may be worth it just to get in the door for some people -- ballparks and stadiums are increasingly nice and increasingly pricey. Three new stadiums are scheduled to open in 2009 -- CitiField, Cowboy Stadium, and Yankee Stadium. The combined cost of just those three new venues is $3.2 billion. Let's spell that out:

$3,200,000,000 is the combined cost just to build three new sports complexes that will debut in 2009.

Some of the money is private, some is public -- but wherever the money theoretically comes from, it actually comes from the pockets of sports fans, because none of those teams (the Mets, the Yankees, and the Cowboys) are losing money and none intend to lose money. If the money to build the stadium is public money (as it was for Miller Park in Milwaukee, where the poor paid a disproportionate share of building a ballpark they can't afford to get into) it comes directly from you and me and everyone else; if the money is private, it comes indirectly from people who buy Romo jerseys and Yankee caps; corporations do not spend money or make money; they redistribute money from you as you buy products to people who run or own the corporation.

People will say that it is all right that we spend that money on sports, and they will say that because they'll say it's private money -- people choosing to buy a Jeter jersey -- or that the public money is well-spent because it creates jobs. (I'll talk another day about the jobs such spending creates, but not today.)

But it's not; it's not okay, because at the same time as people are doing what they want with their money, they are selfishly hoarding more than they need and selfishly resisting using a tiny portion of their money for the common good. At the same time as people are spending $700 to see a stupid ball game, they are booing Barack Obama when he suggests that the rich could spare some money so that the poor can get health care. And that's not okay. It's not okay for any American to spend $700 on a ball game, or even $50 on a ball game, but not want to help the poor.

It's not okay to have a country that thinks it's great to spend billions on ballparks and might elect Continue America's Destruction John McCain so that he can take away insurance coverage from people and which boos the proposition that the rich can help the poor. It's not okay because we can do better.

I'm going to rephrase my question and ask it one more time:

Why, in the richest, most powerful country in the world, in a country where we can spent three billion dollars to make sure that people can watch a game comfortably, do senior citizens think they have to hire a lawyer to force their insurers to pay for necessary medical care?

Shame on you, America. Shame on you for booing the idea that the rich can help the poor, shame on you for making senior citizens worry about whether they can afford to live without pain, and shame on you for even considering voting for McCain.

The Fix: Increase the highest marginal tax rate to above 50% -- the rich can afford it, and the odds are you're not rich; when you get to be rich, you'll have an obligation, like the rich are obliged now, to pay your fair share of taxes. Pass real health care reform by providing a national health insurance policy that anyone can buy, a policy that has no lifetime caps on payments, and that provides an increasing premium and copay as the policyholder's income increases; those making at or near the poverty level would pay nothing; those who buy into the coverage but who earn more would pay more for it. In addition, require all insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, which would help make insurance coverage more competitive by letting those with pre-existing conditions switch carriers.

What You Can Do Until The Fix Is In: Don't vote for McCain. Seriously. Unless you are John McCain, or are extremely wealthy, voting for McCain is insanely against your interests. And if you are extremely wealthy, it's still against your interests because what will you do when the economy falls apart further under a McCain/Palin administration? Also, everytime you buy sports memorabilia, sports gear, or go see a game in person, take a dollar and donate it to charity. Here are two to start with:

Christ House: Located in Washington D.C.-- maybe even within site of the Nationals Park, but probably without the great sight lines available to season ticket holders-- Christ House's mission is to provide medical care to the homeless. Their administrator earns only $39,580 per year for salary, using the money it's raised to help over 3,600 homeless people in its 23 years of existence. Learn more about Christ House and find out how to donate.

The Humanitarian Service Project raises money to help seniors and kids through the troubles that poverty causes. Their programs include the "Christmas Offering," which gives four weeks of food to more than a hundred families every year -- plus gives away 12 tons of Christmas gifts to poor families. They also have the "Senior Citizen Project," which presently helps 115 senior citizens in need by delivering nutritious food each month, along with toiletries and other needed items, and helps them get "wish list" items like microwaves, TVs, and wheelchairs.

So how about that? You could buy that Romo jersey, and then send a couple of bucks to the Humanitarian Service Project so that a senior citizen could watch Romo play, too. And have a meal. Let's not forget that. They could watch Romo play and get a meal.

Find out more about the Humanitarian Service Project, and how to help.

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