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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

A Credible Threat: Current American Health Care

The top ten causes of death in the Unites States for 2004 were heart disease, with 654,092 reported deaths; cancer, with 550,270; stroke, with 150,147; chronic lower respiratory disease, with 123,884; accidents, with 108,694; diabetes, with 72,815; Alzheimer’s disease, with 65,829; influenza and pneumonia, with 61,472; kidney disease, with 42,762; and septicemia, with 33,464. Of the 108,694 accidental deaths, 46,933 were caused by motor vehicle traffic, 19,250 by unintentional poisoning, and 18,535 by unintentional falls. These figures are typical and representative of what one could expect from year to year. So where exactly does terrorism fit into this picture?

Between 1961 and 2003 the U.S. Department of State identifies 3,296 private U.S. citizen deaths resulting from terrorist incidents. The September 11th attacks represent 3,025 of the total and the Oklahoma City bombing 166. With such low death rates, the odds of a private U.S. citizen dieing by terrorist attack are approximately one in 9.3 million. Yet despite such diminutive possibilities, our government presently operates as though terrorism is the greatest and only threat our citizens face. I am in no way implying terrorism is not a threat — it is, and it must be addressed. I merely suggest we put terrorism prospects and other dangers facing the American people into some sort of sane and logical context.

During a recent Republican presidential debate in Iowa, Rudy Giuliani criticized Democratic candidates for not ever using the term “Islamic terrorism” in any of their past debates. Disregarding for a moment that his claim is misleading and that Islamic terrorism has been brought up by candidates multiple times, the suggestion is that Democratic candidates are weak on terrorism and ignorant of the threat it poses. However, consideration of yearly death statistics clearly shows that Republicans are the ones failing to understand the real and substantiated threats to the lives of private U.S. citizens.

According to CDC statistics, 9 of the top 10 causes of death are health-related. Thus, pushing for improving access to our health care system is perhaps one of the most significant ways one could secure and improve the lives of private U.S. citizens. Reducing the number of deaths from heart disease in a year by just 1 percent would be equivalent to preventing twice the number of deaths as resulted from 9/11.

In addition, cancer screening and early detection are already proven ways of saving lives. For example, reports have shown that early detection of prostate cancer through screening has resulted in age-adjusted mortality rates dropping by an average of 13%, representing approximately 4,000 saved lives per year. Figures such as this could be further improved if more people had access to the various cancer screening methods presently available.

Instead of ensuring that every American has access to adequate health care, Republicans prefer we spend our country's wealth and resources chasing rabbits down foreign holes. Democratic candidates are well aware of the threats to this country, both violent and political. They understand context, nuance, and the complex nature of the world in which we live. It will take a Democratic president to pull us from the Bush-made hole we now find ourselves trapped in. Homeland security is much more than preventing terrorist attacks. It requires thoughtfulness, perspective, and a little sanity.

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