Oil is the problem

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Were it not for oil, the United States would have almost no strategic interest in a Middle East torn apart by war and breeding terrorism for generations. Our nefarious modern history in Iran starts with the US overthrowing a democratically-elected government in the 1950s to protect oil interests. We continue to increase troop levels in Saudi Arabia, which is what inspired Al Qaeda in the first place, in order to protect what we perceive to be our oil assets. Our unholy alliance with the Saudi royal family feeds the proxy war with Iran in Yemen. It’s all connected to oil.

The good news is that we can extract ourselves from the quicksands of the region by continuing to build America’s domestic energy supply. The US is now a net exporter of energy thanks to biofuels and new oil extraction technologies. This should be used as a bridge to a new energy future that combats climate change and eliminates oil from the equation.

If we spent a fraction of the money we throw at trying to control the Persian Gulf on developing sustainable biofuels, we could walk away from the Middle East. Or, we could engage constructively with the region if oil were not the entire context of our presence. Our money is being used to buy oil that props up a worldwide war machine and cultivates terrorism.

If President Trump really wants to put the hurt on Iran for sponsoring terrorism he should be ramping up ethanol production and pursuing every strategy possible to get to a net-zero-carbon energy system — from solar to wind and a transition to new sustainable biofuels. But Trump has thrown a wet blanket on the biofuels industry and scoffs at the idea of climate change. The climate crisis, too, is feeding much of the unrest amid drought and food shortages from Syria to Sudan.

Bombing a general does not solve our problems in Iran, Iraq, Syria or Saudi Arabia. Getting us off oil will. Iran and Saudi Arabia cannot project power in the region without petroleum revenue — that is what pays for our bombs killing children in Yemen. And, the world cannot sustain current oil consumption as the world burns from California to Australia. We wish we could say that we are making progress. We won’t with Trump in the White House, for certain.

Medicaid disaster

The Iowa Medicaid program has been a wreck since the day it was taken private by Gov. Terry Branstad. It has cost the state treasury at least an additional $100 million per year over state administration of the program. Last week, the Department of Human Services said it is withholding $44 million in payments to Iowa Total Care, one of two Medicaid insurance administrators in the state, because it has not paid about 100,000 claims for health-care providers.

Gov. Kim Reynolds sticks by the program but said that non-payment of claims is unacceptable. We are not sure how depriving the insurer of $44 million will help get those bills paid. The result could be that Iowa Total Care pulls out as two other insurers did because the business model doesn’t work. That would leave Iowa with just one Medicaid provider. We might as well return to state administration, because the competition that privatization was supposed to create could not materialize because the plan is flawed. There simply isn’t enough money in the system to take care of the elderly, nursing homes, rural hospitals and disabled — plus deliver a profit to the insurance administrator sufficient to satisfy its investors.

The state provided better service to patients and providers at a lower cost. Which argues for single-payer universal health care. (We would add that property taxes for mental health services are set to rise steeply, another argument for universal health care.) Every Democratic presidential candidate supports a public option, but only John Delaney, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren support universal health coverage with no deductibles, copays or premiums. Until one of them gets elected, Iowa will continue to shame itself by not caring for its most vulnerable.

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