Monday, February 28, 2011

Health Care or Health Scam?

In a 4/27 meeting at Atlanta Friends Meeting House, organized by Healthcare Now, Philadelphian Katie Robbins spoke and led a spirited discussion on the state of organizing for Single-Payer healthcare. Vermont is in the lead nation-wide, a bill there being very close to passage but without a funding mechanism as yet. California has twice passed a single payer bill, twice vetoed by former Governor Schwarzcoph… or is that Schwarzenegger? With a new Governor, Jerry Brown, there could be hope in California, though Brown may have succumbed to the lure of born-again fiscal conservativism since his last term.

Katie introduced the acronym PISD (private insurance-induced stress disorder) offering the antidote, National Health Insurance. The situation is one of crisis to which Republicans offer denial and the Democrats tend to go along with their timid party head in the white house. House Bill 676 would expand and improve medicare, improving by eliminating co-pays, deductibles and expanding by eliminating the millions of uninsured by lowering the age requirements to minus 9 months – medicare for all, in a word. Since the situation is in crisis and systemic and what has become known as Obama-care, though bringing some improvements, is ultimately inadequate, we will have this debate again and it is important to have in place some single payer models, hopefully Vermont and/or California, for that discussion, though of course the Canadian, Western European and Australian models didn’t help on the first go-around.

Activist nurses and doctors, responding to the shut-out of single payer advocates in finance committee testimony, forced a small opening by their disruption of the meetings. This small opening still left the insurance industry dominating the debate and resulted in the tepid Obama-care.

HR 676, the United States National Healthcare Act, would basically put the insurance companies out of business. It is estimated that administration costs under the private system is 30% whereas medicare administrative cost is 3%. The nations with single payer also have low admin costs. Estimated saving for this bill are around $400 billion. Funding sources are obviously the bloated military budget, especially Iraq/Afghanistan, and the cap on social security tax which sits at $106,000, for no apparent reason other than that ideologues opposed to social security and medicare want it that way. Katie points out that single payer is a financing mechanism as well as a way to democratize health care. This last point probably helps to explain corporate opposition. It strikes many as strange that corporations oppose single payer since they would experience significant cost saving when no longer responsible for their worker’s health insurance. Being top-down tyrannies, apparently they feel threatened by any form of democracy.

Despite polls that show a healthy majority favor it, despite the cost-savings and improved health effects, single payer has been off the table since the discussion began, considered not politically viable. This says something about our democracy when a policy favored by the majority is considered not viable. It suggests that forces other than the people are who count – but we already knew this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Classy Catering

The billionaires and other wealthy ideologues who fund right wing think tanks, Carl Rove, the Tea Party etc; seem to be experimenting, curious as to how far they can push their agenda before encountering real opposition. Not so long ago I would have ventured that they would envy dictators their free hand. There might be a little nervousness these days in U.S. country clubs, given Egyptian developments, though it may be reasoned that, what with owning the media where the majority of people get their information, and funding (owning) most politicians of both parties there seems little reason for alarm. Even if all else fails they’ve still got the police and military, right? The governor of Wisconsin has threatened to call out the National Guard to quell resistance to his anti-worker policies. Perhaps he should consider the Egyptian military response to similar demands and also the fact that most national guard troops are themselves workers.

Greed is said to explain why billionaires want more money and the same can probably be said for why capitalists pretty much running and owning everything attempt to cut back on what little workers have managed to garner. But I suppose it’s a long-term project. When the capitalist class saw, to its dismay, that it couldn’t completely stop workers from successfully organizing in the early twentieth century, it attempted to undermine the movement by negotiating with more “moderate” unions, buying them off, inviting the leadership to the golf course etc; all the while biding its time until a counter attack could be launched. Reagan’s ascendancy marked that moment and it has been downhill for workers ever since but greed may yet unravel that victory as the people of Wisconsin stand up in a very tardy but hopeful opposition.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Manic Logic

Distilling William Greider’s dense, 573 page book, One World, Ready or Not down into a few words: we live in an economy that requires that we chase money, one way or the other. Those most successful in this chase get to make the rules, or at least they use their considerable influence to arrange things so that they and theirs remain on top of this game.

The compulsory climb seems to be entirely captivating but it unfortunately occurs to very few of those achieving the peaks that a rule change toward sharing and equality could end massive suffering. Those who lack elementary needs - food, clean water, shelter - are compelled to join the chase or perish, and those whose every physical need is not only met but delivered by hordes of obsequious servants, act as though their lives too are at risk should they abandon the quest or call for change. In nations where endless competitive striving has been softened by a safety net of hard-won worker and citizen rights, The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (Greider’s sub-title) relentlessly forces roll-back.

Greider provides depressing examples of the bloody hand of the Free Market repressing workers and despoiling environment across the globe where even reluctant CEOs of major corporations are caught in a desperate race to the bottom in terms of wages (not theirs of course though their company’s survival is in the balance) and environmental protection. Corporations pursue the lowest paid, most subservient workers and compliant governments in a competitive, mobile frenzy that will clearly end in a glut of products with no one left to buy them in a despoiled environment in which no one could, or would want to, live. Democracy and national sovereignty are devoured in this rapacious gluttony, despite flowery rhetoric aligning capitalism with “freedom”, delivered by deluded zealots and their media minions. Yet Democracy is the only avenue of escape from this escalating mania for we are perfectly capable of changing the rules. The means to that shift lies in an old slogan (understanding that we are all workers), “Workers of the world, Unite!”

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Shrewdest of Bargainers

Some pundits explain away U.S. installation and/or support for heinous criminal dictators all over the planet as just the goofy bumbling of well-meaning good ol’ boys. Others recognize that the policies are deliberately crafted decisions meant to further U.S. (read corporate) interests.

Just so, some consider Obama a poor and na├»ve bargainer outmaneuvered by right wing republicans and bankers. Continuing the parallel, others suggest that when Obama gives up the public option, medicare for all, in exchange for a watered down health plan that primarily benefits insurance companies, when he grants more or less permanent tax cuts for the rich and throws the unemployed a meager temporary extension of unemployment payments, when he protects Israeli disregard for basic human rights and expansion while lecturing Venezuela about democracy, when he decides to “look forward”, ignoring high crimes and misdemeanors of the previous administration and sends his FBI to harass and intimidate peace workers… with such a consistent record one could be forgiven for suspecting that, far from bungling, these policies reflect the real world values of a paid up member of the class that rules.