News Release

Universal Healthcare, Police Brutality, Marijuana Policy

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D.
Associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, Woolhandler is co-author of a just-released study, “Paying for National Health Insurance — And Not Getting It.” She said today: “We pay the world’s highest health-care taxes. But much of the money is squandered. The wealthy get tax breaks. And HMOs and drug companies pocket billions in profits at the taxpayers’ expense. But politicians claim we can’t afford universal coverage. Every other developed nation has national health insurance. We already pay for it, but we don’t get it…. Government expenditures accounted for 59.8 percent of total U.S. health-care costs in 1999. At $2,604 per capita, government spending was the highest of any nation — including those with national health insurance. Indeed, government health spending in the U.S. exceeded total health spending (government plus private) in every other country except Switzerland.”
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NKECHI TAIFA
Senior policy analyst with the Open Society Institute on legal affairs, Taifa said today: “A variety of factors contribute to the quandary of police brutality; among them, unfettered police discretion, the infamous ‘code of silence,’ inadequate disciplinary measures, and police corruption. The abuse of discretion is evident by the disproportionate number of people of color arrested, assaulted, and terrorized by police, which often occurs as police administer ‘street justice,’ a phenomenon when police serve as judge, jury and executioner, inflicting judgment and punishment when they feel ignored, provoked, or have to give chase. This street justice is exacerbated by an organizational feature seemingly unique to police structure — as one goes down the police hierarchy, discretion increases. A halt needs to be placed on this abuse of discretion, through the institution of sufficient discipline, quashing of the code of silence, and independent civilian oversight. Finally, the issue of police corruption needs to be seriously addressed, as direct links have been found between police brutality and corruption.”
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MARC MAUER
Assistant director of The Sentencing Project and co-editor of the just-released book Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment, Mauer said today: “The recent move to decriminalize marijuana possession in England once again demonstrates that much of the industrialized world is far ahead of the U.S. in developing rational drug policies. Nearly half of the 1.5 million drug arrests annually in the U.S. are for marijuana, and of these, 88 percent are for possession. This massive commitment of resources, along with two decades of harsher sentencing policies developed in the name of the ‘war on drugs,’ has contributed to the unprecedented growth in the inmate population, one quarter of which is composed of drug offenders. Not only have these policies distracted attention and resources from more constructive approaches to drug abuse, but they have created massive racial disparities in enforcement and imprisonment, with four of every five drug offender inmates being African American or Hispanic.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167