America Needs A Healthcare System Built For Care, Not Profit

As well as making Americans healthier, Medicare for All would change our understanding of what we can and should demand of our society.
01/17/2018 07:20 am ET Updated 1 day ago
Protesters gathered outside the New York Stock Exchange in December chanting “Kill the Bill. Don’t Kill Us!” in response to concerns over the Republican tax bill, including potential deep cuts to Medicare.

The United States pays about three times per capita what the average developed nation pays for healthcare, yet of those countries we have one of the lowest life expectancies, the highest maternal and infant mortality rates, and an astonishingly high number of deaths from preventable diseases.
In addition, nearly 30 million people are uninsured, another 30 million are underinsured, and the rest of us bear increasingly thin benefits with unaffordable premiums, deductibles, and copays.
So how is it that we pay so much for healthcare when our health outcomes are so abysmal and our health coverage so inadequate?
The problem is simple: our employer-based, multi-payer healthcare system is built for profit, not for care. While complaining about Obamacare, health insurance companies are enjoying record profits, their CEOs are making $20 million per year on average, and their administrative overhead is obscene – approximately 18 percent, according to their own numbers, as opposed to Medicare’s 2 percent (if you include Medicare’s private plans – so-called Medicare Advantage – that number jumps to 6.4 percent, evidence of a clear link between privatization and administrative bloat). All this, again, while healthcare quality is declining across the board.
This situation is unacceptable and it’s no surprise that, according to multiple polls, a majority of Americans support a single-payer healthcare system like the one proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders in his Medicare for All Act of 2017.
This bill, co-sponsored by a bevy of Democratic presidential hopefuls, would establish a single, public, universal health insurance system, managed by the federal government, where everyone, regardless of their employment or immigration status, is insured. Making the federal government the “single payer” of claims, thereby eliminating the profit motive in insurance, would allow us to control healthcare costs and devote more money to actually improving care.
It’s easy to look at the statistics on the state of the nation’s health, as well as growing Democratic Party support, and think that Medicare for All is so sensible and so popular that it’s a sure thing should the “blue wave” of 2020 wash over us, but this is far from the case.
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The Democrats who have jumped on this bandwagon have only done so because they are worried about alienating the Sanders base, but the party has historically maligned single-payer. However, under pressure from their corporate donors, many current co-sponsors of Medicare for All would likely abandon or severely water down the legislation if they thought they could get away with it.
In truth, neither party is going to support socializing a major industry – one that accounts for more than one sixth of U.S. GDP – without mass political pressure from their constituents. And as Medicare for All inches closer to becoming a reality, the existing healthcare industry will undoubtedly launch a massive propaganda campaign that aims to divide that constituency.
That such a necessary and popular reform is set to attract such vociferous opposition also highlights how the campaign for Medicare for All is part of a much larger political project. It represents a unique opportunity for a newly reconstituted American left to re-engage ordinary working Americans across the country.
In other words, fighting to win single-payer healthcare is a chance to mass organize and unite the 13 million Sanders voters and many more universal healthcare supporters into a force capable of challenging the enormous power of the political and business elite – in this case in the form of private health insurance companies. And once that base has a major victory under its belt, it can be mobilized to demand other transformative reforms.
This is because the realization of Medicare for All, in addition to making Americans much healthier and less anxious about healthcare costs, would change our understanding of what we can and should demand of our society.
Forty years of tax cuts for the rich and benefits cuts for the rest have made many people feel like the unforgiving, lift-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps world we currently live in is the only one there is. But the experience of walking into a doctor’s office and receiving needed care free at the point of service, after having eliminated an exploitative and inhuman health insurance industry, would introduce a new feeling of political possibility.
It would also create a sense of shared struggle and purpose as the realization of Medicare for All would, for the first time in the history of the United States, establish a universal social program, one that is for every person regardless of age or income bracket, race or gender. It’s an inherently unifying program, and just as much as it would be the fruit of political solidarity, so too would it contribute to a greater sense of social and class solidarity.
Like the NHS in Britain, Medicare for All could be a touchstone for how people view other sectors such as education, transportation, utilities, and housing. And like Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, the left in America can point to the example of a nationalized healthcare system to get people to fight the ruling class with a very simple message: these things are ours, and we’re going to take them back.
Benjamin Y. Fong and Dustin Guastella are organizers with the Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All campaign.
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The World Has Officially Lost Confidence In U.S. Leadership Under Trump

Even George W. Bush was more popular.
By Alana Horowitz Satlin
Global views on U.S. leadership have plummeted since President Donald Trump took office, according to a Gallup poll.
The poll, released Thursday, shows that only 30 percent of the public approves of U.S. leadership, down from 48 percent in 2016. At the same time, 43 percent of people expressed a negative opinion of the U.S. leadership, up from 28 percent in 2016.
The previous record for lowest global approval rating came in 2007― the first year Gallup did the polling ― during the end of George W. Bush’s administration, amid the global financial crisis. The results are based on phone and in-person interviews with approximately 1,000 people in more than 130 countries.
Meanwhile, approval of China’s leadership was at 31 percent. Yes, you heard that right ― about as many people trust China, with an abysmal record on human rights and press freedom, as the U.S.
Declining public opinion on U.S. leadership follows months of spats between Trump and several key allies, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. In contrast, he’s cozied up to controversial leaders, like Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Trump’s America First agenda ― and his more isolated stances on trade, immigration and climate change ― also has damaged the U.S. reputation abroad, Gallup said. Trump’s decision last year to pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris climate pact was especially unpopular, with politicians and business leaders worldwide resoundingly denouncing the move.
French President Emanuel Macron in December underscored the gaps in confidence by awarding more than a dozen U.S.-based scientists millions of dollars in funding for climate research.
“We will be there to replace” the U.S. on funding of climate science, Macron said during a major climate meeting where Trump was not invited.

Alana Horowitz Satlin
Senior Editor of Breaking News, HuffPost

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Mueller reportedly investigating whether Russia funneled money through the NRA to elect Trump

McClatchy report says Robert Mueller’s investigation examining whether Kremlin funneled 2016 election funds through the gun group.
Josh Israel Jan 18, 2018, 9:15 am
Deputy governor of the Russian central bank, Alexander Torshin, at a 2016 National Rifle Association event. CREDIT: Screenshot of Torshin’s tweet
Robert Mueller’s investigation is probing whether a key Kremlin figure with close ties with the National Rifle Association may have illegally funneled money through the gun-rights group to influence the 2016 election, according to a new McClatchy report.

In November 2016, ThinkProgress examined the NRA’s strange relationship with the leadership of Right to Bear Arms, a Moscow-based pro-gun organization run by a twenty-something activist named Maria Butina and her close friend and boss, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank, Alexander Torshin.

Why has the NRA been cozying up to Russia?
The Right to Bear Arms in Moscow enjoys a close relationship with America’s leading gun-rights group.
Although the NRA promotes gun rights as a defense against tyranny, it had surprisingly close ties to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.  Torshin, who is an NRA Life Member, had attended multiple NRA national conventions in the United States and NRA board member and former national president David Keene, NRA First Vice President Pete Brownell, NRA funder Dr. Arnold Goldschlager and his daughter, NRA Women’s Leadership Forum executive committee member Hilary Goldschalger; Outdoor Life channel head Jim Liberatore, and former Milwaukee County Sheriff and NRA supporter David A. Clarke all braved the biting Moscow winter to attend 2015 event hosted by The Right to Bear Arms.

CREDIT: Right To Bear Arms Facebook Page
While many national conservative organizations in 2016 largely eschewed direct support for Donald Trump and focused their efforts on down-ballot races, more than any other national organization, the NRA went all-in to elect Trump. The group spent at least $30 million in “independent expenditures” to support him and to attack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and did not disclose its donors.

McClatchy reported on Thursday that multiple sources say the FBI’s counterintelligence investigators are now examining whether Torshin, who has been accused by Spanish authorities of money laundering, may have provided some of those funds. Federal law prohibits foreign governments and citizens from spending money to influence federal elections. A spokesman for Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, declined to comment to McClatchy on the report.

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What Democrats won’t tell you about the GOP tax cut and California’s lost tax breaks

By George Runner

Special to The Bee
January 17, 2018 02:00 PM

Updated 6 hours 36 minutes ago
In an effort to keep up with their self-described “resistance” movement, California Democrats are engaged in a full-fledged attack against recently enacted federal tax reform legislation that provides tax cuts for most Americans and Californians.

Ironically, these same Democrats who claim to be focused on the poor and needy are engaged in nonstop howling over two provisions of the new tax law:

A cap of $750,000 on mortgage interest deductions, and
A $10,000 limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT).
In other words, they’re complaining the new tax law doesn’t do even more to help the wealthy – who also happen to be their constituents. In Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district, the average home is worth a million bucks. In Rep. Ted Lieu’s West Los Angeles district – the second wealthiest in the nation – home prices are even higher.

Sure, if you can afford to live in an affluent area of the state such as the Bay Area, where the median home price has skyrocketed above $900,000, there’s a possibility you could be left with a higher tax bill.

The current state of affairs of California may elicit some sympathy, but let’s not get silly.
However, if you live in poorer areas of the state such as the Central Valley or an inner city, chances are you probably won’t come close to needing to write off astronomical amounts of mortgage interest.

As a matter of fact, the median home price for the rest of the state rests well below elite coastal areas like the Bay Area. Average inland home prices are typically in the mid $300,000s or lower.

Further, the mortgage interest deduction is a non-issue for the nearly half of Californians who don’t own homes and are forced to pay the highest rents in the nation.

What about the state and local tax limits you ask?

According to research done by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the average state and local income tax deduction taken by Californians amounts to roughly $12,600. True, it’s conceivable some residents of the state could see a modest tax increase.

Yet, information from the Tax Policy Center shows that most people who take advantage of the SALT deductions earn $100,000 or more. And available census data show the median salary for California residents is well below that number, so it makes you wonder whom the Democrats are really fighting for.

Either way, there are plenty of other deductions in the new tax code that could offset potential tax increases, such as an overall 2 to 3 percent reduction in marginal tax rates, a doubling of the standard deduction for married couples from $12,000 to $24,000, and a doubling of the child tax credit. For many Californians, calculating taxes will be simpler because they will no longer need to go through the hassle of itemizing.

Furthermore, the Tax Foundation estimates the tax changes will create more than 38,000 new California jobs.

But, the Democrats won’t tell you about that.

As I’ve written before, changes at the federal level should inspire state politicians to create a tax code that would benefit all Californians. Instead, some lawmakers are coming up with cockamamie schemes that look like tax evasion, such as turning state income tax payments into charitable contributions in order to benefit their wealthy constituents.

The current state of affairs of California may elicit some sympathy, but let’s not get silly. Lawmakers and the media should tell the whole truth about the impact of tax reform, including how it will help the less fortunate among us.

 

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