OPINIONATRIX…because my opinions dominate











{October 9, 2008}   Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Much talk has been made lately about how little the 700 billion dollar bailout seems to be doing for the economy.  The stock market continues to fall, the Asian markets seem to be following suit, and many are wondering what will come next.  The bill that was supposed to save us seems to be a dud.

It is easy to write of the bailout package as unfair, ineffective and ladled with “pork,” but every cloud has a silver lining and this is no exception.  I’m sure you’ve heard about all the ‘”pork” that was added to this bill – and it’s true there were a lot of sweeteners thrown in to get it passed.  However, not all of that “pork” was as inconsequential as one might believe.  Tucked into the baliout package was a Mental Health Parity act – something that advocates have been trying to push through congress for over a decade.

This is so undeniably important.  Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness and addiction.  Hopefully mental health parity will make it easier for those people to get the help they need.

Under the bill, which goes into effect in 2010, group insurance plans that cover mental illness already must now equalize its value with medical and surgical coverage. The number of covered visits, the cost of copays, and the total value of treatment covered each year would have to be on par.       -webMD

Getting insurance to pay for anything is a hassle these days, but for more abstract issues such as addiction, depression, eating disorders and other mental health problems it is double the stress.  Insurance companies will try anything to get out of paying for treatment. They argue that mental health issues aren’t biologically based, that intensive treatment isn’t necessary or that one is not “sick” enough to merit coverage.  For example, if one is merely depressed they might not qualify for coverage because they aren’t suicidal.  The current mental health coverage isn’t proactive, it’s reactive – if that. It’s about time congress acted on this!

I would challenge anyone out there to find someone whose life has not been touched by mental health issues.  These day’s we are pushing ourselves harder and harder, and life’s stresses are becoming more and more elevated.  As someone who has benefited from speaking with a therapist, I firmly believe this type of treatment should be covered and available to anyone who wants it.  It isn’t a matter of being “crazy,” it’s a matter of being aware enough to stay healthy.  While I do not take medication, I know countless people who do and think that prozac is just as important as lipitor and both should be covered equally by insurance companies.

The health system in this country is in need of a serious overhaul.  There are too many people out there without any coverage whatsoever, and we need to change that.  No one should die from an illness simply because they cannot afford to go to a doctor.  It is basic human decency for a country to provide its citizens with basic needs.  The Mental Health Parity Act is a step in the right direction, but it is only a baby step.  We need to focus on the important things.  My mother has always told me: “the most valuable thing you have is your health,” and we need to make our government understand that.  For ten years activists have been lobbying for Mental Health Parity, and finally action has been taken.  We now need to move on to the next thing: health insurance for anyone who wants it.

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This week congress got up and congratulated themselves for passing a 700 billion dollar “rescue plan” that will help to stop the hemorrhaging of our economy.  Why are they congratulating themselves!? Isn’t getting together and voting on bills to help our country the very description of their job?  They should have been apologizing. The American people deserve an “I’m sorry our leadership failed. Had we done an effective job, it never would have come to this in the first place.”

While I am not one for rewarding Wall Street ‘fat cats’ for their downright greed and immoral behavior, there is no one who can effectively argue that government shouldn’t have stepped in.  For better or worse, our economy runs on credit, and without this bill it would have dried up.  Already, it is harder to get loans and mortgages than it was 6 months ago.  Employers use credit to to pay their employees, business’s use it to run day-to-day operations, and average people use it to buy essential needs like gas, food and clothing.  Credit running dry in this country would bring the economy to a screeching halt.  We cannot afford – both literally and figuratively – for that to happen.

Thankfully, congress added some things to make this bill more appealing than the original proposal from Henry Paulson.  Paulson basically wanted a blank check with no oversight at all.  Obviously that wasn’t going to fly, but the current bill is not all roses either.  There is no relief for those in foreclosure written into this bill which is why it changed from a “bailout” to a “rescue plan.”  Congress is not “bailing out” those who bought homes they couldn’t afford.  Paradoxically, it seems to me that they are very much bailing out Wall Street, so to me this still seems a lot like a “bailout.”  The bill is also stuffed with pork

Tucked into pages 262 and 263 of the bill, for example, are provisions that will aid the manufacturers of “certain wooden arrows designed for use by children.” The bill will exempt the arrows from an excise tax of 39 cents. There are also tax breaks for race-track owners, for rum imported from Puerto Rico, for worsted wool makers, Hollywood film and television production companies and on and on.

However, it does give congress oversight, and it ends the golden parachutes to CEO executives.  Thank g-d for that!  I cannot believe these CEO’s who ran their business’s to the ground, destroying tons of lives in the process and yet walked away with millions. And surprisingly, it happened time and time again. Hopefully, this bill will put a stop to that.  Still though, while intellectually I realize the necessity of the legislation, I cannot help but feel that the little guy is still drowning while Wall Street has been given a life raft.  I am not an economist, nor do I have extensive financial knowledge.  I am just a regular American citizen, worried about paying the bills and restoring some faith in our economy.

So, congress passed a bill, but this is far from over.  Whoever is elected President this November will have a lot to deal with.  Many of the promises made by both candidates will have to be shelved until this crisis has been overcome.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we are looking at a major recession coupled with declining home values.  As a nation, I am fairly confident that we can dig ourselves out of this – we did it after the Great Depression and again after the Savings and Loan Crisis.  But it wont be fast, and it wont be easy.



et cetera