The Ragpicker God

Expanded from the 6-12-2005 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune.
Edited for the 6-17-2005 Comstock Chronicle

Updated 8-5-2007, 9-21-2007

"Halfway through the twentieth century, the historian Richard Hofstadter, in his book 'The American Political Tradition,' examined our important national leaders, from Jefferson and Jackson to Herbert Hoover and the two Roosevelts — Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. Hofstadter concluded that 'the range of vision embraced by the primary contestants in the major parties has always been bounded by the horizons of property and enterprise….They have accepted the economic virtues of capitalist culture as necessary qualities of man….That culture has been intensely nationalistic….'

"Coming to the end of the century, observing its last twenty-five years, we have seen exactly that limited vision Hofstadter talked about — a capitalistic encouragement of enormous fortunes alongside desperate poverty, a nationalistic acceptance of war and preparations for war. Governmental power swung from Republicans to Democrats and back again, but neither party showed itself capable of going beyond that vision."

So began the chapter entitled "Carter-Reagan-Bush: The Bipartisan Consensus" in historian Howard Zinn's monumental "A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present." [1]

The disparity of wealth in this country has gotten so huge that mere millionaires now reside on the other side of the tracks among us rabble. Billionaire wealth increases at an increasing rate while the rest eat cake by comparison.

After 140 years, the south has finally won the Civil War. A recent report stated that about 50,000 people live in conditions of slavery in the United States today. [2]

Last week, I saw a ragpicker energetically going through a dumpster in front of an office complex, gleaning cans and whatever else he could find to survive. A tall, thin man in a frayed flannel shirt, he threw stuff into a shopping cart festooned with plastic bags. Seagulls, sensing some freebies, circled above and gathered on the asphalt before him as though he were some god throwing down manna or cake from heaven.

Such is America 2005, the richest nation in the history of the world.

Since Richard Nixon, we have endured an unbroken succession of administrations described by Zinn. The conservative Republican blackguard Nixon is rightly called the last liberal president. He signed both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency into existence. Back then, labor still had some clout. Unions have been fighting for their collective lives ever since. Your paycheck reflects the downtrend.

Big Business is assassinating the American Dream. Right-wing ideologues detest any government program that works, hence their targeting of both Medicare and Social Security for privatization and eventual destruction.

61 Years Ago Today

ON JUNE 12, 1944, the Washoe County General Hospital board of trustees approved a $1,250,500 postwar expansion of the hospital and submitted it to the county commission.

—Poor Denny's Almanac

8-5-2007: The Empire Strikes Back

It's happening right here in River City. Last week, the corporate welfare queens who run Washoe Medical Center and Washoe Health System announced that their in-house insurance plan, Hometown Health, will begin offering medical savings accounts. I warned about this scam on May 3, 1998 and previously on April 21, 1996.

"The Republican right wants to privatize (Medicare) a little piece at a time. They started with something called the medical savings account, a scheme to skim the healthiest out of Medicare, forcing the system to collapse on the sicker and needier. (See
'Medikill' in the January-February 1996 edition of Mother Jones.)

"The father of the medical savings account is one J. Patrick Rooney, boss of the mis named Golden Rule Insurance Company of Indiana….Mr. Rooney was the keynote speaker at last month's Nevada Republican state convention in Gomorrah South. A Reno hate radio station broadcasted from the GOP conclave and featured Rooney as an honored guest," I wrote seven years ago.

It is consistent with Washoe Med's pedigree to foster a program to send Medicare into a death spiral. I long ago documented how the current ownership stole the hospital from the county through a combination of political grease and scare tactics worthy of Dubya's selling of the Iraq war. The Washoe County Grand Jury agreed. [3, 4, 5]

A medical savings account is anti-insurance. It gives sick people a cash incentive to not seek medical care. You get paid to let your kid's tooth rot. I forecast a bull market in faith healing as this cancer propagates. You will find complete information on how it works linked to the web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com. Spread the word.

PANSY ALERT. Rude, obnoxious and borderline murderous former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, D-Georgia, may have hit the nail on the head when he titled his book about the Democrats "A National Party No More."

I couldn't believe the wussy words of appeasement coming out the mouths of the likes of 2004 Donkeyite vice-presidential nominee John Edwards criticizing Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean for kicking the opposition in the cojones. The most frequent criticism is that Dean is offending members of the Republican Party. Well, duh! That's his freakin' job. [6]

When will these pussycats learn that hardbitten baseball manager Lippy Leo Durocher was right, nice guys finish last. My only problem with Howard Dean is that he's not kicking ass often enough.

People respect fighters, not followers.

Nobody beats Karl Rove with daisies and cupcakes. Dean should be praised, not panned.

HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY. Get yourself a copy of the Wednesday, June 15, Sparks Tribune and keep it in a safe place. It will become a collectors item. The Sparks Centennial Edition, which will go to every household in the Rail City, has a surprise for you – something which hasn't seen the light of day in 100 years. Hint: look for the union label.

Be well. Raise hell.


(1) Zinn, Howard; "A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present;" originally published in 1980 and revised in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2003; Harper Collins Perennial Classics edition 2003; page 563.

(2) Bristol, Emmily; "American Slave Trade: Business is booming in the dark work of human trafficking. The new hotbed: Las Vegas;" Las Vegas CityLife, April 14, 2005; page 20.

      Shafer, Jack; "Sex Slaves, Revisited — Looking back at the New York Times Magazine piece 16 months later," Slate, June 7, 2005.

In the aboventitled article, Mr. Shafer states that the U.S. number of 50,000 is several years old and recent estimates have been lower. Such statistics appear to contain a lot of best-guess factor, understandable given that slave overlords generally don't report to the U.S. Dept. of Labor on a regular basis.

(3) "Washoe Med: Get Rich Quick at No Money Down;" Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 5 November 1995 et seq.

(4) "He who ignores the doofusses is bound to become one;" Barbwire by Barbano; Daily Sparks Tribune, 8-5-2001; Carson City Nevada Appeal, 8-8-2001.

(5) NevadaLabor.com Health Care War Room

(6) MUCH ADO ABOUT NADA? John Edwards says his remarks about Dean were misunderstood.

...and more ammo

"Against Discouragement" In 1963, because of his civil rights activities, Dr. Howard Zinn was fired from Spelman College of Atlanta, Ga., where he chaired the history department. This year, he was invited back to give the commencement address. Here is the text of that speech delivered on May 15, 2005.

The Enemy Within

Lemming Cliff Notes

NevadaLabor.com | U-News | Bulletins + Almanac
Casinos Out of Politics (COP) | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors
| BallotBoxing.US
DoctorLawyerWatch.com | Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
Barbwire Nevada Corporate Welfare Archive
War Rooms: Cabbies, Cabela's, Cable TV, Cancer Kids, Energy, Health Care, Resurge.TV, Starbucks, Wal-Mart
Search this site | In Search Of...


Copyright © 1995, 1998, 2005, 2007 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors
Comments and suggestions appreciated. Sign up for news and bulletins.