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Why We Need A Single Payer Healthcare System Over The ACA

Many people have issues with the way that the Affordable Care Act has been unrolled. There are many issues with the federal website.  Even with all of that people are still signing up as fast as they can.

People constantly attack me on Facebook and Twitter about the ACA.  They want to repeal it because it will cost us to much money, or because lazy people should not have healthcare.  My answer is always the same, ‘the ACA is not perfect, it is a major step in the right direction’.   The best thing we could do is move to a single payer healthcare system.   We could stop arguing about who is covered and who is not, a start helping our fellow Americans.

Below is an editorial from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on why a single payer system is better than the ACA.  The editorial was published on September 30th, the day before the federal exchanges went into effect.

A single-payer system, like Medicare, is the cure for America’s ailing healthcare

Obamacare’s reforms are a welcome but small step. To give all Americans healthcare as a right, we need a fair, efficient solution.

I start my approach to healthcare from two very basic premises. First, healthcare must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the healthcare they need regardless of their income. Second, we must create a national healthcare system that provides quality healthcare for all in the most cost-effective way possible.

Tragically, the United States is failing in both areas.

It is unconscionable that in one of the most advanced nations in the world, there are nearly 50 million people who lack health insurance and millions more who have burdensome co-payments and deductibles. In fact, some 45,000 Americans die each year because they do not get to a doctor when they should. In terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and other health outcomes, the United States lags behind almost every other advanced country.

Despite this unimpressive record, the US spends almost twice as muchper person on healthcare as any other nation. As a result of an incredibly wasteful, bureaucratic, profit-making and complicated system, the US spends 17% of its gross domestic product – approximately $2.7tn annually– on healthcare. While insurance companies, drug companies, private hospitals and medical equipment suppliers make huge profits, Americans spend more and get less for their healthcare dollars.

What should the US be doing to improve this abysmal situation?

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a start. It prevents insurance companies from denying patients coverage for pre-existing conditions, allows people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance, sets minimum standards for what insurance must cover and helps lower-income Americans afford health insurance. When the marketplace exchanges open for enrollment on Tuesday, many Americans will find the premiums will be lower than the ones they’re paying now. Others will find the coverage is much more comprehensive than their current plans.

Most importantly, another 20 million Americans will receive health insurance. This is a modest step forward. But if we are serious about providing quality care for all, much more needs to be done.

The only long-term solution to America’s healthcare crisis is a single-payer national healthcare program.

The good news is that, in fact, a large-scale single-payer system already exists in the United States and its enrollees love it. It is called Medicare. Open to all Americans over 65 years of age, the program has been a resounding success since its introduction 48 years ago. Medicare should be expanded to cover all Americans.

Such a single-payer system would address one of the major deficiencies in the current system: the huge amount of money wasted on billing and administration. Hospitals and independent medical practices routinely employ more billing specialists than doctors – and that’s not the end of it. Patients and their families spend an enormous amount of time and effort arguing with insurance companies and bill collectors over what is covered and what they owe. Drug companies and hospitals spend billions advertising their products and services.

Creating a simple system with one payer, covering all Americans, would result in an enormous reduction in administrative expenses. We would be spending our money on healthcare and disease prevention, not on paper-pushing and debt collection.

Further, a single-payer system will expand employment opportunities and lift a financial weight off of businesses encumbered by employee health expenses. Many Americans remain at their current jobs because of the decent health insurance provided by their employer. Without the worry of losing benefits, those Americans will be free to explore other, more productive opportunities as they desire. For business owners, lifting the burden of employee healthcare expenditures will free them to invest in growing their businesses.

Congressman Jim McDermott and I have introduced the American Health Security Act. Our bill will provide every American with healthcare coverage and services through a state-administered, single-payer program, including dental and mental health coverage and low-cost prescription drugs. It would require the government to develop national policies and guidelines, as well as minimum national criteria, while giving each state the flexibility to adapt the program as needed. It would also completely overhaul the health coverage system, creating a single federal payer of state-administered health plans.

The American people understand that our current healthcare system is not working. But the time is long overdue for them to understand that there is something fundamentally wrong when the US remains the only country in the industrialized world that does not guarantee healthcare to all its people.

Healthcare is a right and we must ensure provision of that right for Americans. A single-payer system will be good for the average American, good for businesses, good for workers and good for our overall economy.

US House Got the Message: Job-Creating Infrastructure Investments Are Bipartisan

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on passage of H.R.3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), by a vote of 417-3:

“The House of Representatives took a big step forward last night when it passed WRRDA by more than 400 votes, bringing us closer to enacting the first water resources jobs bill since 2007.

“The margin by which this bill passed shows that with strong leadership and a willingness to stare down those incapable of ever admitting there is a role for strategic public investments, it is possible to pass bipartisan jobs-creating transportation legislation. The benefits to America’s competitiveness and economy from improvements to our ports, harbors and waterways overcame intense opposition from extremist organizations that through their opposition to WRRDA were essentially making the case for America’s retreat from the global economy. Fortunately they lost and our economy won.

“We hope this bipartisan approach to port and maritime funding reforms will carry forward to other important transportation measures including the broken and unreliable way we invest in aviation, public transit and highways, and Amtrak.

“We thank House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) and subcommittee leaders for driving this jobs bill home. We look forward to working with them to reconcile House-Senate differences in WRRDA so that a final bill can get to the President’s desk without delay and we can get to work expanding and modernizing our nation’s aging port and maritime infrastructure.”

When can we stop adding teachers’ names to this list?

Sunrise over Shiloh National Cemetery

To the family of Michael Landsberry… and to all teachers across the United States…

Our hearts are with you tonight.  We grieve with you.  We long for the day when our nation’s schools can truly be “the safe sanctuaries our children need to learn and grow.”

It has been barely 10 months since Sandy Hook.  Since then, almost 28,000 Americans — including hundreds of children — have been killed by guns.

We are heartbroken that another teacher’s name has been added to that tally.

 

The real story behind Congressional dysfunction

Take five minutes and watch…

Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen explains how Speaker Boehner bends to the will of the Tea Party Caucus — and keeps the House from voting on bills that would pass, if members were just allowed to vote.

Just one example:

If the Speaker of the House brought up the comprehensive immigration bill – that has already passed the Senate – if he brought that up for a vote in the House today, it would pass.  We could have it on the President’s desk by this afternoon.

 

Shea-Porter Urges Speaker Boehner to Stop Playing Games with U.S. Default

CSP Official PhotoWASHINGTON, DC – Building on her efforts to end the government shutdown and put Americans back to work, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today called on Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to stop threatening default, end the government shutdown, and work across the aisle on a bipartisan budget that grows the economy and creates jobs.

In two days, the United States is slated to exhaust its borrowing authority, resulting in self-inflicted wounds that could cripple economic growth, create uncertainty for families and businesses, and drive the country back into recession. Increasing the debt limit does not authorize new spending nor does it increase the deficit. It simply allows the Treasury Department to pay the bills Congress has already incurred.

“Instead of taking our country to the brink of default, Washington Republicans should reopen the government and ensure America pays its bills on time so we can negotiate a bipartisan budget and focus on growing the economy,” Shea-Porter said. “For Speaker Boehner to allow the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party to put its ideology ahead of the health of the U.S. economy and financial security of New Hampshire families is irresponsible and unacceptable.”

In recent days, Senate Democratic and Republican lawmakers have held multiple meetings over a bipartisan approach to ending the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling. To date, House Republican leaders have refused to bring a bipartisan funding bill up for a vote. Today, Speaker Boehner discussed introducing legislation that would only raise the debt ceiling if parts of the Affordable Care Act were repealed or delayed, such as removing requirements that employer-offered health insurance cover birth control and other forms of contraception.

“These partisan politics are exactly what Granite Staters hate about Washington,” Shea-Porter said. “This shutdown has now dragged on for two weeks, and that’s two weeks too many. It’s time to re-open our government, pay our nation’s bills, and work together to create jobs.”

Economists and politicians have widely agreed that failure to raise the debt ceiling will have significant negative consequences on the U.S. economy.

President Ronald Reagan: “The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate.”

Judd Gregg, Former Republican Senator from New Hampshire: “Defaulting on the nation’s obligations, which is the alternative to not increasing the debt ceiling, is not an option either substantively or politically. A default would lead to some level of chaos in the debt markets, which would lead to a significant contraction in economic activity, which would lead to job losses, which would lead to higher spending by the federal government and lower tax revenues, which would lead to more debt.   It understates things to say merely this is not a smart position to put forward. It is a terrible policy that would produce immense economic disruption and very difficult times for people on Main Street.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce:  “The U.S. Chamber respectfully urges the House of Representatives to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner and thus eliminate any question of threat to the full faith and credit of the United States government.” [letter to Congress, 9/18/13]

Ben Bernanke, Chairman Federal Reserve Bank: “A government shutdown, and perhaps even more so a failure to raise the debt limit, could have very serious consequences for the financial markets and for the economy.”

Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics: “It will be devastating to the economy… Consumer confidence will sharply decline, investor confidence, business confidence. Businesses will stop hiring, consumers will stop spending, the stock market will fall significantly in value, borrowing costs for businesses and households will rise.”

Bloomberg Editorial Board: “A default could trigger a global crash.”

Steve Bell, Senior Director for Economic Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center: “I don’t know any serious person who doesn’t think this will be cataclysmic.”

Washington Post: “[A] debt-ceiling breach would push the economy into a free fall…The Obama administration will have to decide whether to delay — or possibly suspend — tens of billions of dollars in Social Security checks, food stamps and unemployment benefits if negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling are not resolved this week, experts say, one of the many difficult choices officials will have to make at a time when the government will essentially be running on fumes.”

New York Times Editorial Board: “The Republican-induced government shutdown and the party’s threats to create another crisis next week over the debt ceiling are causing harm internationally as well as at home. They are undermining American leadership in Asia, impeding the functioning of the national security machinery, upsetting global markets and raising questions about the political dysfunction of a country that has long been the world’s democratic standard-bearer.”

 

Kuster Signs Petition to End Government Shutdown

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) announced that she has signed a petition that would force a vote on a bipartisan bill to end the government shutdown and restore important services to Granite State families and businesses. In recent weeks, Speaker Boehner has repeatedly refused to bring this bill to a simple vote even though it enjoys bipartisan support from a majority of Congress.

“Nearly two weeks into this damaging shutdown that’s hurting Granite State families and businesses, it’s time for a simple vote to reopen the government,” Kuster said. “We need to put an end to the gamesmanship, reopen the government, and move on so that we can focus on creating jobs and opportunity for middle class families.”

The special congressional procedure, known as a discharge petition, allows a majority of members to force an up or down vote on a bill to reopen the government. This petition only needs a majority of House members to sign on and does not require any action by the Republican leadership.

In an op ed earlier this week, Kuster called on Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on this measure so that Congress can move on and start working together to reduce the deficit, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class.

Does The Government Shutdown Mean “The End of the World”? The Radical Religious Right Thinks So

The End of the World Is Nigh

Ok, so maybe the government shutdown IS “the end of the world.”  At least as far as some Tea Party leaders are concerned.

Yes, seriously.  No, this is not a joke.

This eye-opening analysis comes from Rev. Morgan Guyton, a pastor in Louisiana:

I wanted to do some research into the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz, the standard-bearer of the Tea Party Republicans behind the shutdown… It turns out that Ted’s father, Rafael Cruz, is a pastor with Texas charismatic ministry Purifying Fire International who has been campaigning against Obamacare the last several months. He has a distinct theological vision for what America is supposed to look like: Christian dominionism.

Here’s Christian Zionist charismatic pastor Larry Huch, a year ago, when he was introducing Sen. Cruz’s father as a guest preacher at Huch’s “New Beginnings” megachurch:

But here’s the exciting thing… The rabbinical teaching is… that in a few weeks begins that year 2012 and that this will begin what we call the end-time transfer of wealth.  …It’s said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it and deciding in the next three and a half years who will be his bankers. And the ones that say here I am Lord, you can trust me, we will become so blessed that we will usher in the coming of the messiah.

Here’s how the Rev. Guyton distills the current state of Cruz’s theology:

The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian ‘kings’ who will accomplish the ‘end time transfer of wealth.’ Then ‘God’s bankers’ will usher in the ‘coming of the messiah.’ The government is being shut down so that God’s bankers can bring Jesus back.

—–

OK, take a minute to breathe here.  Remember that most Christians (including, particularly, Rev. Guyton) don’t believe that bankers can bring Jesus back.  (Most Christians take a very different message from the Bible.  Remember my post “The Republicans Make an Offer on Sequestration”?)

But it’s a very enlightening perspective on the current federal crisis.

—–

Prepared for even more enlightenment?  Read Rev. Guyton’s post on “The God of No Compromise and the Government Shutdown.”

[For evangelicals], the word ‘compromise’ has always been a bad word. It means to allow non-Christian values and influences to corrupt your devotion to Biblical truth.  … a stormtrooper evangelical Republican must categorically reject any idea that is generated by a Democrat because accepting it would amount to a compromise of worldview.

This need to “categorically reject” Democratic ideas helps explain why the right-wing Heritage Foundation so adamantly opposes Obamacare.  If you’re a policy geek, you might remember that the Heritage Foundation actually proposed the individual mandate, back in 1989.  But now that’s a Democratic policy… Sen. Cruz believes it’s a reason to shut down the government.

It also helps explain why – no matter how hard President Obama may try to “compromise” – his attempts to “meet in the middle” are always going to be rejected.  Read “Translating from TeaPartyese: What ‘negotiate’ really means.”

“Let Them Eat Cat Food”: The Truth Behind The GOP’s Ten Year Push To Cut Social Security

marie antoinetteAs the latest GOP-caused national crisis begins to coalesce around the Tea Party’s demand for Social Security cuts… here are some facts worth remembering:

  1. Even though President Obama included chained-CPI in his FY14 budget proposal, it wasn’t his ideaChained-CPI – which incrementally reduces Social Security benefits – was first proposed in 2003 by then-Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan as a way of cutting the federal budget deficit.  (Read Greenspan’s testimony to Congress here.)
  2. Almost exactly a year later, Greenspan was back before Congress, arguing that “Congress should make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent and cover the $1 trillion price by trimming future benefits in Social Security and other entitlement programs.”
  3. The American public has never supported the Bush tax cuts. Just months after the first round of tax cuts was passed, in 2001, a Washington Post poll found that 57% of Americans wanted to roll back the tax cuts in order to preserve the federal budget surplus. (Yes, we had a surplus, back then.)
  4. The Bush tax cuts primarily benefited the folks at the top of the food chain.  The top 1% received more tax benefits than the bottom 80% of taxpayers combined.
  5. Even Bush’s own economists disavowed the idea that lower taxes improve the economy.  Back in 2006: “Even under favorable assumptions, making the tax cuts permanent would have a barely perceptible impact on the economy.  Under more realistic assumptions…the tax cuts could even hurt the economy.”

So here we are, 12 years after the public said “repeal the tax cuts”… 10 years after Greenspan suggested using chained-CPI to reduce the budget deficit… nine years after Greenspan explicitly told Congress to choose between tax cuts and Social Security… seven years after Bush economists reported that his tax cuts would likely hurt the economy…

..and there’s a faction of the Congress insisting on even more tax cuts… and Social Security cuts… or they’re going to blow the economy to smithereens.

As you’re watching events unfold in Washington, over the next few weeks, remember this fact, too:

By 2010, even Alan Greenspan thought the Bush tax cuts should go away.

—–

Got the aspirin bottle handy?

In his 2003 testimony to Congress, Greenspan also suggested a third path: increased immigration.  “Short of a major increase in immigration, economic growth cannot be safely counted upon to eliminate deficits and the difficult choices that will be required to restore fiscal discipline.”

(But it turns out that that same small faction in Congress doesn’t like immigrants, either.)

—–

Don’t know what the chained-CPI brouhaha is all about?  Read the latest report from the National Committee for the Preservation of Social Security and Medicare here.

Here’s how I look at it:

Chained-CPI is a vivid example of the “race to the bottom” that unions have been trying to stop for years.  It assumes that when personal finances are tight, consumers will alter their purchasing behavior and buy cheaper products.  Then, since they’re spending less, Congress figures they’ll need less money in Social Security benefits.

It’s the image of a senior citizen, trying to make ends meet, who gives up buying beef because she can only afford chicken… and then her Social Security benefit drops, so she gives up chicken and buys tuna… but with the next benefit drop, she can’t afford tuna anymore.

It’s the cat food thing.

(And BTW… given that about 12% of our nation’s jobs are in retail… I gotta wonder about the idea of “solving” a federal fiscal crisis by slowly strangling consumer spending.)

“GOP VALUES” — How The GOP Shows Favoritism to Unearned Income over Hard Work

Something else I don’t understand about Republican dogma…

GOP rhetoric seems to idealize the virtues of hard work:  “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “Just get a job.”  “Quit freeloading.” It’s like they actually believe the Horatio Alger myth.

But look at our federal tax structure, and the changes Republicans have forced through since Ronald Reagan.   There is no reward for hard work.  Instead, our current tax system is tilted strongly in favor of those who already have money.  Investment income — unearned income — is now taxed at about half the rate of wage income.

Flashback to the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis: “Even an architect of the Bush tax cuts, economist Glenn Hubbard, tells Rolling Stone that there should have been a ‘revenue contribution’ to the debt-ceiling deal, ‘structured to fall mainly on the well-to-do.’ Instead, the GOP strong-armed America into sacrificing $1 trillion in vital government services – including education, health care and defense – all to safeguard tax breaks for oil companies, yacht owners and hedge-fund managers. The party’s leaders were triumphant: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell even bragged that America’s creditworthiness had been a ‘hostage that’s worth ransoming.’ ”

Now, let’s look at the impact that this VERY ODD tax preference has had on the US economy.

What happens, when our tax system rewards investment income, rather than actual work?

  1. Private equity “investors” use acquired corporations to borrow money – and then use that borrowed money to pay themselves dividends.  “Investment”?  Not hardly.  The acquired corporations go belly-up when they can’t pay pack the debt, leaving hundreds (or thousands) of workers unemployed.  Read “What Mitt Romney Taught Us about America’s Economy.”
  2. CEOs take more compensation as dividends, rather than wages.  Even accounting for inflation, top-tier taxpayers took home six times more dividends in 2009 than in 1992.  “But each dollar paid to the CEO in dividends costs the company (and the economy) a whole lot of money that could have been reinvested. Going back to Fred Smith as an example, his 15 million shares in the company represent only a fraction of the outstanding stock. For Mr. Smith to receive $8.5 million in dividends, personally, the company has to pay out well over $100 million in total dividends – money that could have been invested in new hires, or new planes, or new facilities (or improved employee benefits).”
  3. Some of those CEOs “invest” that money in politics.  And the cycle repeats itself.

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”??!? Bootstraps are getting very hard to find, these days.

(But please don’t shop for them at Walmart.  The corporation’s “Lowest Prices” policy has had a devastating effect on the US economy.  “Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.”   Meanwhile, Walton family members – who receive about half of all dividends paid by Walmart – are doing just fine.)

GOP House Members still fighting? Gonna be costly.

No, it’s not de ja vu. It’s just that… so much of it is still exactly on-point.  Wish it wasn’t, but it is. So, with very few updates, here’s a repeat of my post from February 6, 2013:

————————

Last person leaving, please dock the doorsHoping for bipartisan cooperation, now that the election is over? Think again.

The weekend before the inauguration, Republicans gathered in Williamsburg to discuss strategies for “fighting” the President. Just a week later, former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was telling a gathering of conservatives that “Republicans control both the House and most of the statehouses. So we have to oppose the president and the Senate on some fronts—and engage them on others…”

Does that sound like cooperation to you?

Looks like it’s going to be an interesting next few months. Two dates to mark on your calendar:

On March 1st, the sequestration cuts are scheduled to go went into effect. Cutting government services through these automatic, across-the-board cuts is expected to send the economy back into recession. One example: according to a study commissioned by the airline industry, the FAA’s share of the sequestration cuts is about $1 billion a year. That cut would reduce the nation’s air traffic between 5% and 10%, and the country would lose between 66,000 and 132,000 jobs related to air transportation. The irony? The economic losses would cause tax revenues to drop by as much as $1 billion a year. (Hmmn… $1 billion in tax revenues lost because of a $1 billion spending cut. Not a whole lot of deficit-reduction going on, is there?)  After members of Congress were inconvenienced by airport delays, the FAA was granted special treatment under the sequestration act.  Recent estimates of the economic costs of sequestration include:  1.6 million jobs and 1.2% of GDP.

On March 27th  September 30th, the “continuing resolution” that funded federal government expired. That means a possible “government shutdown”. According to Politico, a majority of GOP House members “are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner ‘may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,’ said a top GOP leadership adviser.”

What happens if the government shuts down? Federal employees who are deemed “essential” are still required to go to work – they just don’t get paid until after Congress approves a bill to pay them. The last time there was a significant government shutdown, almost a half-million federal employees were required to work without pay for three weeks.

The economic damage went far beyond the family finances of federal employees. The crisis also caused 11 states to suspend unemployment insurance, due to lack of federal funds. Veterans’ services were suddenly unavailable (including counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and pension and education payments). The crisis affected the oil industry, leaving more than 10,000 barrels a day untapped while companies waited for federal reviews. The tourism industry suffered millions of dollars in losses each day of the shutdown, because passports and visas were not processed. The housing industry suffered when $800 million worth of mortgage loans were delayed. The crisis halted cleanup of 609 toxic waste sites. It left hundreds of thousands of children in limbo, waiting for foster care or adoption.

And that was only a partial government shutdown. Most of the government still had funding, during that shutdown. (Just imagine what may happen on March 27th! now!)

There’s a moral here, folks. Government services are integral to our nation’s economy.

Is there any hope that Congress could learn that lesson, in the next month or so? Or is the GOP going to insist on doing economic damage, “just to get it out of their system”?

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