News Release Archive - 1998

Analysts Decry Inaction by Congress on HMO Reform

WASHINGTON — The failure of Congress to pass legislation on health care reform before adjournment has angered many Americans. A number of doctors and health care analysts are available for interviews about Congressional inaction on a patient bill of rights to address problems with HMOs. Some of these specialists regard such a bill of rights as a necessary step, while others see it as a distraction that does not address the real crisis in the U.S. health care system.

EDIE RASELL
Rasell, a doctor and an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, said: “The protections considered by Congress were designed to stop real abuses that have occurred — not just to prevent some theoretical problems that might happen. For Americans to be confident of receiving high quality care in HMOs, a new form of health care to most people, they must be sure they will be protected from these abuses.”

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER
Woolhandler, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, said: “Patient protection laws are little more than a placebo for health care’s problems: 16 percent of Americans medically uninsured, HMOs bribing and threatening doctors to get us to deny care to our patients, $100 billion wasted each year on excess health care paperwork. Double-digit cost increases are again expected. We need non-profit national health insurance.”
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TOM BODENHEIMER
A practicing physician, clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and co-author of Understanding Health Policy (1998), Bodenheimer said: “The government should ban for-profit HMOs. Non-profit HMOs have some problems, but they perform better than for-profit HMOs in general. Non-profits spend around 10 percent on administration while for-profits spend closer to 20 percent on administration and profit. That’s an enormous amount of our health care dollar that’s not going to direct health care services.”

BRUCE LIVINGSTON
Livingston, Executive Director of Health Access, which has helped lead the drive for a patient bill of rights in California, said: “There has been substantial bipartisan progress in passing a patient bill of rights in some states. This is to protect the doctor-patient relationship in ways that were not necessary with fee-for-service insurance. But some of the federal bills would actually undo that progress. The Gingrich bill would actually be a step back, since it exempts some health plans from tougher state regulations on a host of consumer protections. For example, Texas allows people to sue their HMO, and the Gingrich bill would prevent that.”
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For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan (541) 484-9167.

Social Security: Would Privatization Help Minorities?

WASHINGTON — A range of organizations today criticized rosy claims about Social Security privatization for Latinos and African Americans. At a presentation in Washington organized by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the widely cited Heritage Foundation was faulted for “technical errors” and “gross inaccuracies” in its claims that racial minorities would fare better if Social Security were privatized.

Kilolo Kijakazi, a senior analyst at the Center, presented her findings in a report released today titled, “African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Social Security: The Shortcomings of the Heritage Foundation Reports.” She noted that Heritage ignored Social Security disability and survivors’ benefits in their estimates. But she pointed out that “nearly half of all African Americans who receive Social Security benefits receive such benefits, while only about a quarter of white beneficiaries do.”

In fact, said Kijakazi, a study based on more sound methods than Heritage’s indicates that African Americans get a “higher rate of return than the general population from Social Security.” If Heritage’s proposals were followed, she said, “the real winners would be the financial companies that stand to gain enormous amounts.”

The executive director of the Center, Robert Greenstein, highlighted recent findings about Heritage’s claims by the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Actuary — which concluded that Heritage “grossly underestimates the expected rates of return from Social Security benefits” for the overall population and especially for African Americans.

Julian Bond, chair of the NAACP, stressed that Social Security has been an important program in benefitting African Americans directly, without any local authority over them. “People of color must pay more attention to the growing push to privatize Social Security,” said Bond, who noted that some of the groups pushing for privatization have opposed civil rights legislation.

Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza, stressed that any current surplus should be used to invest in people. He noted that while Latinos will make up nearly one of five workers in 2030 — when the last of the baby boomers will reach 65 — Latinos are among the least educated groups in the population, and thus will not be able to contribute as much to Social Security as they otherwise could.

For further information, contact:

KILOLO KIJAKAZI
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
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RAUL YZAGUIRRE
National Council of La Raza
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For background information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020.

“Surplus” and Poverty in America

WASHINGTON — While President Clinton announces budget surplus figures today, some economists and poverty specialists are challenging the idea that poverty is receding as a national problem. Among those available for comment are:

ANURADHA MITTAL
Policy Director at the Institute for Food and Development Policy – Food First, Mittal said: “Extreme poverty is growing fastest among young children. The United States already has the highest child poverty rate in the industrialized world.”
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DIANA PEARCE
Professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Washington in Seattle, Pearce said: “What is happening at the median hides what is happening at the ends of the distribution.” Particularly for women-maintained families, poverty is increasing. “Now, 54.5 percent of poor families are maintained by women alone.”

CHUCK SHEKETOF
Executive Director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, Sheketoff questioned the decline in the Census Bureau’s poverty rate announced last week. “We did not have a decline in the number of people in poverty (35.6 million), only the poverty rate — and only slightly — from 13.7 to 13.3 percent. Meanwhile, you’re seeing big declines in welfare caseloads. We are seeing basically the same number of poor people with less of a safety net.”
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FRANCES FOX PIVEN
Piven is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. Her books include The Breaking of the American Social Compact. Piven noted that while the 13.3 percent poverty figure continues a drop of the last few years, “the poverty rate was a little over 11 percent in the mid-1970s. We are still far away from where we should be. Moreover, this 13.3 percent is at the peak of a boom that is just now slowing down… Nor do these figures show the full effects of the welfare reform legislation passed two years ago. Welfare time limits have yet to take effect. In the meantime, some of the people who have gotten off welfare have gotten jobs, and that’s good, but some have gone deeper into poverty.”

GWENDOLYN MINK
Mink, professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz and author of Welfare’s End, said: “The poverty level for a family of three is very, very low — $13,650 per year. A living wage, by comparison, would pay $25,907 per year. That’s a huge gap… Most stunning about the new poverty statistics is how disproportionately meager has been poor people’s share of the recent prosperity.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.

Presidential Lying: The Sordid Details

Many critics of President Clinton contend that his record of deception has uniquely disgraced the office of the presidency. But historian Howard Zinn, the author of the best-selling A People’s History of the United States, says: “There is a long history of presidents who have lied to us and deceived us, about governmental actions that led to the deaths of thousands, even millions of people.” Here are a few of the examples cited by Zinn:

  • President Truman “described Hiroshima — just devastated by a U.S.-dropped atomic bomb — as ‘an important Japanese army base.’ More than 100,000 civilians — men, women and children — in a city of 350,000 died there. Truman lied about our war in Korea. He said that we were fighting for democracy, but we were protecting South Korea — a military dictatorship. More than 50,000 Americans died. And perhaps 2 million Koreans.”
  • President Eisenhower “lied about our spy flights over the Soviet Union, even after one flier on such a mission was shot down. He deceived the nation and the world about the U.S. involvement in the 1954 coup that overthrew a democratic government in Guatemala. That coup put in place a succession of military juntas that then took tens of thousands of lives.”
  • President Kennedy “lied to the nation about U.S. involvement in the fatal 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, telling a press conference: ‘I can assure you that the United States has no intention of using force to overthrow the Castro regime.'”
  • Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon “all lied to the nation about what was happening in Vietnam. Johnson and Nixon both lied when they claimed only military targets were bombed in the war. And Nixon kept secret from the nation the bombing of Cambodia.”
  • President Reagan “lied to the nation about his covert and illegal support of the contras in Nicaragua during the 1980s. He lied about the importance of Grenada in order to justify the 1983 American invasion of that little island.”
  • President Bush “lied about the reasons for invading Panama in 1989, saying it was to stop the drug trade; in fact, the drug trade has flourished [since then]. And he deceived the nation about his real interest in the Persian Gulf.””And what of Clinton’s deceptions — not about sexual activities — but about matters of life and death? Politicians and journalists who are indignant that he lied about sex with ‘that woman’ were silent when he deceived the nation about the need to bomb a ‘nerve gas plant’ in the Sudan. His administration could not produce convincing evidence that the plant was anything but what the Sudanese government said it was — a plant that produced medicines.”

    For more information, contact:

    Howard Zinn
    Sam Husseini
    Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.

Impeachment in Perspective

WASHINGTON — As the nation considers the future of the Clinton presidency, some legal scholars and policy analysts are putting the Starr report in a broader context of governmental wrongdoing. Among those available for comment:

FRANCIS BOYLE
Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, Boyle said: “The impeachment clause is meant to deal with crimes against the state, subverting the Republic. Starr has not yet presented evidence of such a threat to the Republic. This is not to say that there is no reason to impeach Clinton. There are grounds for impeachment — for example, the illegal bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan, which violated both domestic and international law, including the U.S. Constitution.” Boyle added: “Our system of government was in jeopardy in the Reagan Iran-Contra scandal.” The White House had “basically set up an underground government. But no one really made an effort to impeach Reagan over that — though documents show that Reagan and his people were concerned about impeachment.”

PETER KORNBLUH
Kornbluh is a Senior Analyst at the National Security Archive, a public-interest foreign policy documentation center and the leading repository of information on the Iran-Contra scandal. “Iran-Contra was really about high crimes and misdemeanors of a constitutional nature, while this is about personal lives,” said Kornbluh. “The Iran-Contra investigation was done by the book. Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel for Iran-Contra, showed each portion of the report dealing with each individual to that person and they had the opportunity to respond; their response was included in the report itself. Several went to court trying to block the report from coming out. The press coverage of the Walsh report, which had much more substance, was minimal. Recall that Bush gave pardons to Caspar Weinberger and others involved in Iran-Contra just as he was leaving office. Some people are asking: ‘What do you tell your children about what Clinton is accused of?’ Well, what do you tell them about My Lai, about the U.S.-backed coup in Chile, about the massacres in El Salvador?”

JULES LOBEL
A Professor of Constitutional and International Law at the University of Pittsburgh who has litigated cases involving government misconduct for the Center for Constitutional Rights, Lobel said: “What Clinton is being charged with by Starr is not impeachable. We have to look at the larger problem of government lying, from Reagan to Bush to Clinton. We have gotten used to the government lying to and disinforming us. Most recently, they lied on the Sudan bombing. They said they had compelling evidence that did not pan out. The larger problem is government morality in how it treats the people. For example, what are the moral implications of cutting off welfare?”

For more information, contact Sam Husseini at the Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.

Friday Marks Quarter-Century Anniversary of Coup in Chile

WASHINGTON — On Sept. 11, 1973, a military coup brought down Chile’s democratically elected government. Twenty-five years later, a prominent U.S. think tank is touting a former high official in the Chilean dictatorship as a visionary for privatization of Social Security in the United States.

At the Washington-based Cato Institute, Jose Pinera — who was Chile’s Minister of Labor and Social Security from 1978 to 1980 — now chairs the think tank’s Project on Social Security Privatization.

“Pinera was the Pinochet dictatorship’s labor minister at a time when the country’s trade union movement was enduring one of its worst periods of repression — and when workers were seeing the dismantling of their rights, including the ability to engage in collective bargaining, to strike, to join federations, or to have a reliable financial base,” said Larry Birns, a former public affairs officer for the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America in Santiago, Chile.

Birns added: “Pinera was a vital cog in the Pinochet dictatorship’s ability to implement a draconian labor code. It is simply scandalous for the Cato Institute to have him as co-chair of its Social Security privatization effort. This is an example of crime without punishment and reflects the conservative organization’s contempt for the suffering imposed on Chile’s population during the Pinochet era.”

After the 1973 coup, Chile privatized its pension system. In recent years, officials at the Cato Institute and other advocates of privatizing Social Security in the United States have cited Chile as a model.

Human rights groups documented numerous instances of political imprisonment, torture and murder during the Chilean dictatorship, which lasted through the end of the 1980s.

For more information, contact:

LARRY BIRNS
Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

CLAUDIO DURAN
A former political prisoner in Chile during the Pinochet regime and currently a Ph.D candidate at Stanford University.

TERESA GHILARDUCCI
Associate professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame who has studied the privatization of Chile’s pension system.

SAUL LANDAU
Scholar and documentary filmmaker who has written widely on Chile.

JOHN B. WILLIAMSON
Professor of sociology at Boston College who has done extensive research on Chile’s pension system.

SAM HUSSEINI
Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.

25 Years After Coup, is Chile a Model for Social Security?

Special Citation Will Be Presented Thursday in Washington

WASHINGTON — Twenty-five years after a military junta seized power in Chile, a special presentation in Washington on Thursday will focus attention on a prominent U.S. think tank that touts a former high official in the Chilean dictatorship as a visionary for privatization of Social Security in the United States.

The current co-chair of the Cato Institute’s Project on Social Security Privatization, Jose Pinera, was Chile’s Minister of Labor and Social Security from 1978 to 1980. According to Cato, Pinera “was the architect of that country’s successful pension reform.” After a coup toppled Chile’s democratically elected government on Sept. 11, 1973, Chile privatized its pension system. Now, some U.S. advocates of privatizing Social Security cite Chile as a model.

A news conference on Thursday, Sept. 10 (at 11 a.m. in front of the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., in Washington) will present a special citation to the Cato Institute for its embrace of Pinera in view of his role in Chile’s dictatorship.

In the aftermath of the coup, led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, “Chile’s institutions were destroyed, including the Congress, the press and trade unions,” recalls Saul Landau, a scholar and documentary filmmaker. “Troops burned books deemed subversive. The junta began a systematic terror campaign, arresting, torturing and murdering thousands of ‘suspected subversives.’ A Chilean government agency estimates that the reign of terror between 1973 and 1990 resulted in the deaths of some 2,300 Chileans.”

As for the privatization of Chile’s pension system, “the 25-year Chile experiment provides good warnings for the U.S. debate,” says Teresa Ghilarducci, an associate professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame who has studied Chile’s pension reform. “Only half of Chilean workers are covered,” she notes, and “employers don’t pay a penny.”

John B. Williamson, a professor of sociology at Boston College who has done extensive research on Chile’s pension system, says that glowing reports about privatization in Chile “have emphasized the positive without adequate attention to the downside. What we are not hearing much about is what happens to these retirement accounts when there is a sharp contraction in the stock market of the sort that many emerging nations have recently been experiencing.” He adds that “Chile has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world, and privatization is increasing not decreasing the level of that inequality.”

Among those available for interviews are:

TERESA GHILARDUCCI
SAUL LANDAU
JOHN B. WILLIAMSON
For more information, contact Sam Husseini at the Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.

Interviews Available: 25th Anniversary of Momentous Coup in Chile

Sept. 11 Will Mark Quarter Century Since Military Takeover

Twenty-five years ago — on Sept. 11, 1973 — the military seized power in Chile. President Salvador Allende died in the bloody coup, which ushered in more than a decade and a half of dictatorship under Gen. Augusto Pinochet. In 1989, Chile returned to a democratic system with a civilian government.

The upcoming quarter-century anniversary provides an opportunity to examine the realities of recent Chilean history as well as key economic issues that currently loom large in Chile and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.

During the past two decades, Chile has led the way for privatization of pensions and other programs that were formerly government services. Some advocates of privatizing Social Security in the United States now cite Chile as a model.

The following researchers can be contacted directly for interviews on the economics and politics of Chile, past and present:

TERESA GHILARDUCCI
Teresa Ghilarducci is an associate professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame. She has written about the economics of pension reform in Chile.

FERNANDO LEIVA
Fernando Leiva is co-author of Democracy and Poverty in Chile: The Limits to Electoral Politics.

KATHLEEN VICKERY
Kathleen Vickery is a longtime researcher on politics and human rights in Chile, where she lived from 1989 to 1995. Vickery recently returned to her home in California after a three-week visit to Chile this summer.

JOHN B. WILLIAMSON
A professor of sociology at Boston College and author of several books on economic security, John Williamson is an expert on privatization in Chile and its lessons for Social Security in the United States.

For more information, contact Sam Husseini at the Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.

Analysts Available on Russia

Interviews are available with these specialists on Russia and the International Monetary Fund:

DAVID KOTZ
Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and coauthor of Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet System (Routledge, 1997), Kotz said: “The dominant theme that the problems in Russia are due to not having the courage to follow the IMF advice is almost the opposite of the facts. Russia has followed the IMF more closely than anyone could have expected. The result is that the people have been impoverished. Now, the IMF is demanding more of the same. (Imagine if in 1933 someone had said that the solution to the U.S.’s problems was to cut government spending, increase taxes, and tighten up on credit.) What’s needed is increased public investment in infrastructure and government support of productive industry. While Russia has just defaulted on creditors, they’ve been defaulting on their debt to their workers for years — 35 to 40 percent are not being paid at all, and another 30 percent are paid late. The Yeltsin regime is dependent for its existence not only on the IMF, but on the financial barons who have been allowed to steal so much of what is valuable in Russia in the chaos that these policies have caused. Yeltsin has allowed massive corruption and organized criminal activity.”

FRED WEIR
Coauthor with Kotz of Revolution from Above, Weir is a journalist who has lived in Moscow for 10 years and has written for Canadian Press, In These Times and Moscow Times.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL
Editor of The Nation and co-editor with Stephen Cohen of Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev’s Reformers.
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DAVID JOHNSON
Research Director for the Center for Defense Information and editor of CDI Russia Weekly.
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MARK WEISBROT
Research Director for the Preamble Center and a specialist on the IMF who has followed events in Russia.
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CAROL WELCH
Policy Analyst specializing in the IMF for Friends of the Earth.

DEAN BAKER
An economist for the Economic Policy Institute.
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DAVID BACON
Associate editor of Pacific News Service who has written extensively on the impact of reforms on Russian workers and unions.
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For more information, contact Sam Husseini at the Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.

How Does President Clinton Treat (Poor) Women?

Whatever the truth about President Clinton’s private life may be, many supporters assert that his public policies have been beneficial to American women. But some scholars are pointing to evidence that Clinton administration policies have actually been very harmful to women with scant economic resources.

“In one broad stroke, his major legislative initiative — welfare reform — rolled back the rights of all mothers who find themselves in need of economic assistance,” says Gwendolyn Mink, a professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The welfare law, signed by Clinton two years ago in late August, includes tough provisions for establishing paternity and requiring child support. Mink notes that “these requirements compel mothers to answer the government’s questions about their sex lives.”

Mink adds: “So poor unmarried mothers must tell judges or welfare officials the names of the men they have slept with. In judicial proceedings they also have had to tell how often, where and when. If they refuse, they can be denied food stamps or Medicaid or welfare. But where are the defenders of their privacy? Don’t their rights count?”

Mimi Abramovitz, professor of social policy at the School of Social Work at Hunter College, comments: “The President’s wide-ranging social policies are playing real havoc with the lives of poor women. The work requirements of his heralded welfare reform bill have thrown large numbers of women to the wolves — including the governors who want to save tax dollars by spending less on the poor and employers who want to increase their profits by employing cheap labor… Women also represent the overwhelming majority of those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, food stamps and public housing benefits. All of these programs have been axed to the bone.”

Ann Withorn, professor of social policy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, says that Clinton signed a welfare law “full of seductive lies and false promises.” Among those deceptions are the claims that “living wage jobs exist for all single moms” and that “the folks who have been disappeared off the welfare rolls recently are all better off, and have not gone back to dangerous men or other far worse situations for them and their kids.”

For interviews, please contact:

MIMI ABRAMOVITZ
Abramovitz’s books include Regulating the Lives of Women and Under Attack, Fighting Back: Women and Welfare in the United States.

GWENDOLYN MINK
Mink is author of the 1998 book Welfare’s End.

ANN WITHORN
Withorn is co-editor of For Crying Out Loud: Women’s Poverty in the U.S.

For more information, contact Sam Husseini at the Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.