Friday, March 26, 2010

A Great Week for America's Consumers

by Thomas Hinton

Three important events took place this week which will reshape the lives of millions of Americans and, perhaps, give hope to a billion Chinese.

1. Healthcare Reform. It’s been nearly a week since President Obama signed the historic Healthcare Reform legislation and the sky has yet to collapse on us. From all the hysteria and political rhetoric hurled by opponents to this mega-legislation, I was concerned the world would end as the president signed the new law. It didn't.

The healthcare debate is a keen example of what happens when politicians place the needs of special interests ahead of their constituents. They lose focus of their obligation to represent Americans and make absurd claims that have no basis. In the process, they lose credibility. This is what happened last week to the entire Republican congressional delegation when not one Republican in the House or Senate supported the passage of this monumental healthcare reform legislation. Of course, as consumers began to realize the benefits of the healthcare legislation, some Republicans will blatantly lie and claim they supported it. But, the average consumer knows better. Consumers will remember those elected representatives who had the courage to vote "yes" and, hopefully, reward the party of “Can Do” on Election Day.

Now, millions of Americans, who have been victimized by the unscrupulous and greed-driven health insurance industry, will have the opportunity to obtain affordable healthcare insurance and not go bankrupt if they become seriously ill.

While the new legislation is far from perfect, it’s a good start. Consumers have finally been heard after more than 60 years of repressive practices by the self-serving healthcare insurance industry. As the new legislation takes shape, the abuse of middle-class Americans by medical piranhas and health insurance companies will gradually end. This is good news for all Americans -- even those who vigorously opposed the healthcare reform bill. For, they shall also reap its benefits.

College Funding: Another positive benefit of the healthcare legislation is the financial-aid portion of the bill that shifts student loans from private lenders such as Sallie Mae and banks to the federal government. This will save $61 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and make more money available to struggling middle-class families who are trying to find ways to pay for college. Also, the bill will eliminate outsourcing of loan-servicing jobs to foreign countries by requiring all student-aid workers to be in the United States. Once again, Democrats in Congress are entitled to all the credit for helping middle-class Americans deal with the mounting cost of college. Not one Republican supported this legislation to help middle-class families afford college. What in the world were they thinking? Are the Republicans that far out of touch with middle-class Americans? I guess so.

2. Google Stands-up to China. Integrity matters. Finally, there’s an American company that has told the Chinese communist government where to go! Thank you, Google for putting ethics, integrity and freedom of speech ahead of profits by sending a strong message to the Chinese communist bullies that you aren’t going to play by their repressive rules. Now that Google has cracked the Great Firewall of China, it’s time for other companies to support the Google Revolution by telling the Chinese government they cannot censor ideas, rewrite historical events like Tienanmen Square, control births or suppress free speech.

Let’s not forget how quickly the Berlin Wall came down after President Reagan rallied world opposition during his speech in Berlin and challenged Russia to "tear down this wall." American companies and their global partners should rally round Google and send a united message to the Chinese extremists that free-thinking people are not going to play their crooked game. Imagine the potential market under a reformed China! Imagine how much business can be had if the handcuffs of freedom are removed from the Chinese people. They, too, deserve a chance to enjoy the basic freedoms of speech, thought, dissent and democracy.

While Google has taken the first step in this economic war against the Chinese oppressors, American consumers can support this effort by boycotting Chinese goods for 30 days. If just half of America’s consumers refused to buy anything made in China (which is a lot of stuff) for 30 days, it would send a strong message to the Chinese government’s repressive leaders and fuel the fires of freedom for a billion people. This means companies like Wal-Mart would have to put ethics and human rights ahead of profits. Unfortunately, I'm not holding my breath because greed runs deep in corporate America.

3. Mortgage Relief is Coming. Finally, the third significant issue is meaningful mortgage relief. The Obama Administration has realized that its well-intentioned mortgage relief program introduced last year was worthless. Banks and other lenders got richer while under-water homeowners slipped further into debt because the mortgage bailout was a sham. Now, new rules designed to provide meaningful relief to homeowners and prevent foreclosures are being introduced and these new guidelines will force banks to forgive some debt and reassess the current market value of homes so that mortgage payments can be lowered.

This makes sense for everyone. While some mortgage holders and lenders will experience a loss on certain properties, neighborhoods will be preserved and families can stay in their homes. As the economy recovers, more people will find jobs and, in turn, be able to start making a reasonable mortgage payment.

All in all it was a great week for American consumers!

About the Author.
Thomas Hinton is president of the American Consumer Council, a non-profit consumer education organization with over 92,000 members in 45 states. He can be reached at:

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