Tag Archives: Nicholas Kristof

Who are we really? Part I

Today, Nicholas Kristof suggests we indulge in a feel-good fantasy when we describe who we are. He starts with a quiz – identify the country:

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country . . . Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t even imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution.  . . .citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan. . .

This sounds like where today’s Republican Party want to take us.

. . . as America has become more unequal, as we cut off government lifelines to the neediest Americans, as half of states plan to cut spending on higher education this year, let’s be clear about our direction . . .

And they can carry a t-u-n-e !

“The U.S. military now has more people in its marching bands than the State Department has in its foreign service . . .”

From Nicholas Kristof’s column in today’s NY Times on the absurd, bloated, other worldly-sized US military. 

Most of us know that we spend more on our military than pretty much the entire rest of the world combined, but did you know:

• The United States maintains troops at more than 560 bases and other sites abroad . . .

• The intelligence community is so vast that more people have “top secret” clearance than live in Washington, D.C.

• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined.

Another reason why

Nicholas Kristof’s column in today’s NY Times describes in a few words,the devastating experience of friends of his, whose insurer cut them off in the midst of cancer treatment for the wife.

“The policy allowed it to cut Jan off because she suffered from a “chronic condition.” It stopped paying her bills in January, Zack [the husband] says.

I reached Sophie Walker, the group head of claims for InterGlobal. She said she couldn’t talk about an individual case. But she explained in an e-mail message that with a “chronic condition” the policies can have a much lower limit, $85,000, on lifetime claims. That’s the limit that Jan ran into in January, Zack says.

Then Ms. Walker gave me the company’s definition of “chronic” (you couldn’t make this up):

“Chronic means a medical condition which has at least one of the following characteristics: has no known cure; is likely to recur; requires palliative treatment; needs prolonged monitoring/ treatment; is permanent; requires specialist training/rehabilitation; is caused by changes to the body that cannot be reversed.”

That sounds like a spoof from “The Daily Show.” To translate: We’ll pay for care unless you get sick with just about anything that might be expensive. Then we’ll cut you off at the knees.

I asked InterGlobal if this was an accurate translation. I noted that by its definition, cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, tennis elbow and even athlete’s foot seemed to be “chronic.” I also asked InterGlobal to name any serious disease that it did not consider “chronic.”

The next e-mail message came back from the company’s chief executive, Stephen Hartigan, who sent his “kind regards” but added that because he was “disappointed” at the tone of my inquiries, the company would have no further comment.