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September 30, 2005 | Page 8

Condemned to debt for life
Stopping the vigilantes

Priced out of health care

IN ITS annual report, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research Educational Trust exposed what we are all feeling in our wallets. On average, annual health care premiums have gone up 73 percent in the last five years.

If you include employer contributions to premiums, on average, a family of four pays some $10,880 in wages per year for health insurance. The average medical plan for a family of four now costs more than what a minimum-wage worker earns before taxes!

This came as little surprise to my coworker, who showed me the Los Angeles Times article that our local daily had picked up, highlighting the study's findings. We were just forced to swallow a 37 percent hike in our health care premiums at Amherst Regional School District. Of course, our district's administrators didn't bring up the town's supposed health care crisis until we had agreed to a contract that left little to be desired.

The Kaiser study reported that the average worker has had to pay over $1,000 more for health care in a span of just the last three years. Many of my brothers and sisters with family health care are going to be faced with that figure this year alone. With rising gas prices and costly heating bills staring at us as winter approaches, our measly raise will do little to bring us comfort.

The thirst for a national health care plan has never been greater. However, such a plan will not come down from the mountaintops. The fight for such a plan will be born from the fight to stand up to current attacks.

Workers have never been handed anything on a silver platter. We need to organize ourselves to put pressure on the "new labor movement" to stand up to the current attacks and stand in solidarity against this disgusting health care system that leaves many of us behind.
James York, AFSCME Local 1725, Northampton, Mass.

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Condemned to debt for life

ON APRIL 20, 2005, George W. Bush signed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act into law. With the sadistic sense of humor that Congress enjoys, protection of the consumer is nowhere to be seen.

Indeed, the only abuse of bankruptcy is that given to the credit card companies, which purchased the legislation with bribery. The bill adds $3 billion to the $31.6 billion profit that these companies made after expenses in 2004.

Half of those who file for bankruptcy do so because of medical bills, usually connected with the terminal illness of a loved one. Despite their stand on the Terry Schiavo affair, it appears that Bush and his Republicans wish to add more grief to those with loved ones who can no longer work and will die without medical support. It's $3 billion more bucks in the pockets of their pals.

The bill severely limits the use of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which acquits all debts. Seventy-two percent of the bankruptcies filed in 2004 were of this type. When filing under Chapter 13, the court imposes a payment plan. Sixty percent of those who felt guilty enough to try this have proven unable to comply. This results in garnishment of wages, repossessions, foreclosures and, if child support is involved, prison.

Chapter 7 will now be permitted only after a judge imposes a means test to prove a person cannot pay back 25 percent of the debt. If that is satisfied, they must also earn less than the state's median income. Finally, they must prove that they cannot pay at least $100 per month for five years. Failing any of these tests forces the debtor into Chapter 13, and paying everything back--whether impoverished or not--for the rest of their lives.

Skipping Christmas before might have been wise. Now, it's obligatory.
Richard Geffken, Sumter Correctional Institution, Bushnell, Fla.

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Stopping the vigilantes

I, LIKE you, have a deep distain for the "Minutemen."

Here is my question: Most of the land they occupy is apparently leased state land. To have a militia on these lands is in violation of state land leases. Also, impersonating a law enforcement officer and organizing militias on state land is a felony.

They are illegally detaining immigrants, as they did not actually catch them in the act of crossing. Therefore, what gives them the right to detain them? Trespassing on state land means mining, grazing or cutting timber--not walking.

Looks like these vigilantes need a lawsuit slapped on them. I see pictures on the Internet of brutal beatings inflicted on immigrants. Under the new anti-terrorist law, anyone committing or threatening acts of violence against civilians for the purpose of changing government policy is committing an act of terrorism. Minutemen should be charged, jailed and sued.
Kay Lopez, from the Internet

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