1. Political Strategy for Future Elections
2. Providing Needed Health Care to Americans
While both are important, they are eclipsed completely by a far more important issue. President Obama described this issue as the single greatest threat to the United States and its economy:
Medicare, Medicaid, and the US economy (affecting both businesses and individuals) cannot survive more than a few years without a massive change that eliminates 20 to 30 percent of our gross national health care costs annually. The health care Reform Bill that emerged from the Senate, in fact, does exactly the opposite.
If the President signs this Bill, he will hand the authority to control the nation’s health care system over to Wall Street — where the premium pool is already invested. (You knew about that Wall Street profit stream and market juice, right?) The antitrust laws that affect the monopolizing, price-fixing, anti-competitive exploitation of the American people by the insurance/financial sector will be repealed permanently without recourse. There is no sunset. There are no performance criteria. High deductibles and co-pays will prevent many force-insured Americans from obtaining health care services. The insurance companies will become one of the most profitable investing sectors, after the defense industry…
…if the President signs the Bill.
In his speech before the nation on September 9, 2009, President Obama laid out his three criteria for health care reform strategy:
When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.
These are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The plan I’m announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:
1. It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance.
2. It will provide insurance to those who don’t.
3. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.
Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close.
The Senate Bill fails on the third and most important criteria because there is no price competition for the insurance companies. What this means is that health care costs will continue to soar (especially with mandates and subsidies). It means that the US cannot compete in the global marketplace because employers are tied to these crippling health care costs.
That is reality.
Capitalists who moan and groan about health care costs would find help in any universal plan. For years manufacturers like GM have spent more on health care than on steel, and retailers like Starbucks spend more money on health care than on coffee. Some capitalists, like Wilbur Ross, an investor in the steel and auto industries, realize that "Every country against which we compete has universal health care. That means we probably face a 15 percent cost disadvantage versus foreigners."
A single-payer plan would eliminate premiums for employers, which would be like a $600 billion a year tax break for them—the largest by far in history. So while single-payer would even benefit many capitalists, the prospect is irking to two of U.S. capitalism’s most powerful sectors: The drug industry and the health insurance industry.
If the President is serious about saving the nation and its economy — he will not sign this Bill. He has said he would sign a Health Care Bill only if this goal was met. Because the truth is — while it provides more health care, it also costs the economy more money and further destroys the competitiveness of American businesses.
I realize there may be political fallout. I realize that people are suffering. But I’m discussing economic reality here, which is the very thing that makes national health care possible.
In a 2008 article in Monthly Review, economist and sociologist David Singer wrote a prescient and flawlessly concise overview of the health care crisis Americans are facing. He explains that health insurance costs have been increasing three times faster than wages. However, the ratio of private industry employer spending on health care to profits was cut in half between 1986 and 2005.
Not only has the percentage of people covered by employer-based health care been decreasing, but percentage covered by government-provided health care has also been decreasing. In addition, among working-age adults who shopped for health insurance on their own over the last three years, 89 percent were rejected for health reasons or found it too expensive. Fewer and fewer Americans can afford to get well.
This is in the context of an overall deterioration of the economic well being of the working class. Wages and salaries now make up the smallest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960s.
The value of worker’s benefits no longer keeps pace with inflation. The median hourly wage declined 2 percent since 2003, after adjusting for inflation, even though productivity—the amount that an average worker produces in an hour—has risen steadily over the same period. In fact, wages have declined since 2000 while productivity has risen rapidly.
Looking back even further, productivity has risen to the extent that in 1950 a worker produced as much in one forty-hour week as she or he produced in just eleven hours in 2004. Wages rose continually from 1950 only until 1973. Since then they have stagnated, except for the rise between 1996 and 2000, during the technology boom.
Any astute economist knows that the only health care system that has the economy of scale that can achieve the goals of restoring the American economy while caring for its aging population (yes, we are among the most geriatric nations) — is the single payer system.
Because the insurance industry siphons approximately 30 percent of our health care dollars to pay for bloated overhead and profits, we have no other option but to remove it entirely from our health care system. It serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever. It is a blood-swollen tick on the neck of an ailing nation. Any half-way measure will bring rapid economic collapse.
Bill Moyers did a show about the single payer system very early on in the health care reform process. He sat down with Trudy Lieberman, director of the health and medical reporting program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and Marcia Angell, senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. In the end, they agreed that it would be best not to push for health care reform now, if Single Payer is not the plan — and they accurately predicted what the outcome would be if we tried to do so:
Of all the Moyers shows on health care reform, this one influenced me the most. If you don’t care to watch it now, I’ll let Dr. Singer’s words mirror their view:
Single-payer would be a first step toward parity with other developed capitalist countries, begin to dig this country out of this crisis, and help reveal how the class structure promotes profits instead of basic rights, such as health care. It is the only “universal health plan” that works economically, since its savings come from insurance company profits and administrative costs as well as drug company profits. Demanding its passage can be an organizing and educational tool that promotes a socialistic vision of how things could work. It has captured the imagination of enough people that it might even win in some local battles.
Single-payer will not win nationally as an isolated issue. The power and financial resources of the insurance and drug industries are likely to defeat even the proposals of the most mealy-mouthed of presidential candidates if they threaten one dollar of insurance and drug profits. Even if one of these recent proposals were to pass without compromise, it would be so costly and misguided that it would probably collapse from its own shortcomings.
But the role of profit and the reaction of profiteers can be used by a wider movement that brings to the fore broader issues that include the demand that health care be a right, not a privilege. For that movement to have breadth and strength it must put forth clearly what a socialist vision brings to health care and other social issues, as well as the shortcomings of compromises that are proposed by politicians from capitalist parties.
Obviously, the problems is not going to go away, with or without the current misguided Health Care Reform Bill. For-profit insurance based "reform" will see just as many people die due to the conflict of interest wherein profits increase when people are refused care. And they will be refused in a thousand different ways. Indeed, our health care crisis will merely spiral on, costs will rise, business will experience greater difficulty competing globally, and job loss will ensue.
(Think of the current abomination that was passed: Credit Card Reform. This Bill has further devastated the economy, crippled credit, and further impoverished the middle class since it was passed in March 2009. How much better off we would have been without it!)
My perspective on this — as an America watcher — is that the nation must be driven to a total collapse economically before reforms will ever be addressed seriously. And, at that point things will be fixed fast. On day one.
None of this "waiting around" until the next presidential term begins in 2014.
Essentially, crisis is the one advantage FDR had over Obama when they both took office under similar circumstances. For Roosevelt, the collapse was total at the time he was sworn in; the situation was beyond critical. For Obama, the economic collapse was just beginning. There is still no realization of our dire fiscal situation. There is no sense of urgency.