Not Just Bad News, But Also Ridiculous

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - May 03, 2006

Like many of my generation, I’m a newspaper reader: both Honolulu dailies, The New York Times and Washington Post online, USA Today frequently. I read local news, national news, international news, sports, arts coverage, gossip, weather, a comic strip or two, and maybe an article a day from the business section.

Does newspaper reading make me a better person? No. A more informed citizen? Probably. Depressed and anxious? Definitely.

* Like last week’s front page stories regarding the four middle-aged Filipino women, farm workers, who died when they were thrown from the pickup truck in which they were riding. The driver of the truck swerved to avoid an oncoming car and collided head-on with a concrete mixing truck.

The accident took place on rural, two-lane Kunia Road, where so many other crashes have killed and maimed, destroying families and snuffing out young, middle-aged, and old without prejudice. The driver of the oncoming car did not stop. A car that fit the description was seen entering Schofield Barracks.

Much of the Kunia Road carnage over the years has involved military personnel. The officers in charge of that old and venerable installation should have acted much more decisively to warn, educate and discipline their young charges regarding the dangers of driving that country road.

* Or consider this headline last week from the front page of a national daily newspaper: “1 in 5 pay more in Medicare Rx plan.” Yep. Remember the budget-busting, barely comprehensible prescription-drug plan passed by Congress on the eve of the 2004 presidential election? Twenty percent of those who were supposed to benefit from the program are in fact paying more, sometimes life-threateningly more.

And they are the poorest among us - “most of the 6.4 million low-income people transferred from state Medicaid drug programs,” according to one report.

* Or this, provided by the Associated Press to a couple of papers I read: “The percentage of working-age Americans with moderate to middle incomes who lacked health insurance for at least part of the year rose to 41 percent in 2005, a dramatic increase from the 28 percent in 2001 without coverage.”

Isn’t that just grand? We’re not talking the nation’s impoverished here; we’re talking about “Americans with moderate to middle incomes.” Got that? The self-proclaimed greatest country on earth boasts 41 percent of those with moderate incomes unable to insure themselves against illness or injury. That news is enough to make you want to give up your youth and go straight to old age so that you can be covered by Medicare.

* Or how about this from last Thursday’s Star-Bulletin: “Legislators, governor clash on extent of tax cuts”? As the legislative session stumbles to a close, Gov. Linda Lingle continues to call - as she did on opening day - for $120 million in relief for Hawaii’s taxpayers.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature, however, say the state’s budget only has $30 million to $50 million to give.

“No,” says the Guv, “there’s enough for $120 million.”

“How can?” say House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Bobby Bunda. “You’ve requested $78 million in emergency spending. There’s not enough left.”

“Can,” says Linda.

“Can’t,” say Calvin and Bobby. Somehow, sometime, in all those days and nights and weeks since the session was gaveled to order and the governor gave her state-of-the-state, you would have thought these bright, bright people could have agreed on the math.

It’s almost enough to make a guy cancel his subscriptions.

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