Oct 142009
Authors: M. Alex Stephens

Last week, I wrote an inflammatory column decrying specific wrongs I perceive in our society, pointing the finger of blame on the conservatives for hypocritically supporting policies that tend to exchange human life for monetary gain.

Most of us would agree that when someone calls you out in a public forum, the best response is to let it be. However, when one of my peers attacked the legitimacy of my argument by accusing me of fabricating statistics instead of rebutting my main argument, I was regrettably forced to elaborate upon them.

While I’m disappointed that I’ve been wrongly accused of disrespecting the reader and my fellow writers, part of me is glad that I have an excuse to further elucidate on this controversial topic.

First, where did I come up with the statistic that 45,000 Americans die annually from lack of health insurance? That number came from a Harvard study titled, “Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults,” which was released in mid-September 2009 and appeared in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study used data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the death rates of uninsured Americans compared with insured Americans. The study’s lead author, Andrew Wilper, said, “The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors and baseline health.”

Levels of education, income and many other factors including smoking, drinking and obesity were taken into account as well. The death rate was substantially higher than the Institute of Medicine’s earlier 2002 study, which originally tagged 18,000 deaths annually.

Why is there such a difference between the 2002 study and the 2009 study? Many analysts believe the rising cost of health care is to blame; others say that the widening gap between quality of health care for those that have it and those that don’t is the source.

Ultimately, whether 18,000 or 45,000 Americans perish is not the point — what matters is that the deaths could be prevented by introducing some new variable to upset the health care industry’s equation.

Secondly, where did I find the statistic that 4,500 Americans and 750,000 innocents have died since the invasion of Iraq? Although hard numbers are changing constantly, most soldier body counts put the American casualty total nearly 4,500. The Iraqi and Afghani civilian death count gets much trickier to pin down.

As many have commented, the 750,000 number seems outlandish. While certainly high, this does not make it implausible. Back in 2006, a John Hopkins University survey was released that pegged the death toll at 660,000 after an earlier study placed it at 100,000 in 2004. JustForeignPolicy.org claims 1.4 million have been killed. Since there is no reliable, exact number between the two extremes, 750,000 became a reasonable compromise.

Again, whether 100,000 or a million, the number isn’t the point. My point is that the war’s instigators, such as Dick Cheney, do not care, nor have they ever cared, about how many must die to pursue their agenda. The Project for the New American Century published a disturbing 90-page report in 1998 title, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.”

Essentially, the report is a blueprint for the many things that have since come to pass — an attack on America followed by invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In it, Dick Cheney himself describes the need for a “new Pearl Harbor” event catalyst to instigate regime change in Iraq. Google it and read for yourself.

Yes, I’m emotionally attached to the subject of conservative policies, and yes, I am very angry. However, I believe it’s fallacious to confuse my anger with “steadfast faulty reasoning,” my information with ignorance and my call for social change as anti-American.

M. Alex Stephens is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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