Trump Is Going After Health Care. Will Democrats Push Back?

Source:NY Times

Author:

Emphasis Mine

Where should Democrats head after their recent electoral rout? As it happens, coming fights about federally subsidized health insurance offer the party a golden opportunity to engage people far beyond its urban strongholds, in communities that will be hard hit by Republican plans to shrink Medicaid, privatize Medicare and eliminate the taxes that pay for Obamacare subsidies.

Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College, and Republicans maintained congressional majorities, because of overwhelming victories in small cities, outer suburbs and rural counties. Yet the president-elect and the Republicans are poised to deliver blows to the social fabric and economic underpinnings of those very communities. Along with Representative Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, congressional Republicans say they want to move quickly to revolutionize all types of federal health insurance spending, using special procedures that require only 51 votes in the Senate.

Congress will be asked not only to cut the taxes levied on businesses and the rich to finance Obamacare benefits for 20 to 30 million low and middle-income Americans; Republican leaders also plan to slash federal commitments to Medicaid, giving states the authority to shrink this health care program for the poor and elderly. And Republican House members, led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, seem determined to abolish traditional Medicare insurance for retirees and replace it with “premium vouchers” that would throw older Americans on the mercies of private insurance markets and require them to pay more for their care.

Trump voters will be especially hard hit if just part of this sweeping agenda comes to fruition.

Conservatives often point to poor blacks and Latinos as the primary beneficiaries of federal health insurance programs. But such rhetoric obscures the enormous importance of Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare subsidies to economically struggling white Americans living in small cities and rural areas. In Pennsylvania, where Mr. Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton with overwhelming support outside big cities, about 17 percent of residents are 65 or older, above the national average. Meanwhile, some 16 percent of Pennsylvanians benefit from Medicare, and 18 percent from Medicaid. With the bulk of Medicaid going to elderly and disabled residents, that program is the single largest federal subsidy flowing into the Keystone State.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also hit Pennsylvania hard. Under the act, some 468,000 low-income Pennsylvanians had gained Medicaid coverage by August 2016, and another 439,000 bought private coverage on the Obamacare marketplace, with more than three-fourths of those people getting tax credits averaging $251 per month. Health care is often sparse in nonurban areas, and the providers that do exist depend on federal insurance programs that help many patients pay for care. If radical Republican cutbacks in federal contributions to health insurance are enacted, Pennsylvania hospitals and health care businesses will lose vital revenues, leaving many lower-income and sick Pennsylvanians at risk of losing access to care.

This is the case in other states as well, meaning many rural and small-town Trump supporters may soon see that Make America Great Again means accelerating economic decline and social devastation. Mr. Trump shows little understanding of the intricate interplay of subsidies and rules in the health care system, and probably has no inkling that federal taxes collected from liberal states like California, Massachusetts and New York heavily subsidize vital health services, businesses and family benefits in the very places that voted heavily for him. In delegating plans for huge health care cutbacks to hard-right congressional Republicans, he will be hurting his own base. But will Mr. Trump suffer repercussions if the Republican Congress plows ahead? Its proposed changes are unpopular — including repealing the Affordable Care Act, which only one in four Americans support — and eliminating benefits usually arouses anger in the affected groups. But political punishment will not be automatic, because Democrats currently have little organized presence outside urban areas. Small cities and rural areas are overwhelmingly represented in Congress and state capitols by Republicans, who will do all they can to displace blame.

For the Democratic Party, the coming Republican assault on public health insurance represents a huge political opportunity. But to seize it, the party will have to beef up state committees and place a priority on activating volunteer supporters everywhere — getting people to write messages to local newspapers and social media sites, and reach out to hospitals, health care providers and nonprofits to beat the drums about losses the Republicans are inflicting. Even if Democrats cannot soon win outright majorities beyond their urban base, they must be actively involved in communities damaged by Mr. Trump’s false campaign promises.

Democrats cannot just defend Medicare; they must loudly point out that repealing Obamacare means eliminating the taxes that subsidize health care for low- and middle-income people. That huge and immediate tax cut for the rich would lead to the demise of subsidized health insurance for millions of less privileged Americans in rural, suburban and urban communities. Proclaiming this truth could help Democrats gain a new hearing from many Trump voters. But it remains to be seen whether the party can rise to the challenge of showing up everywhere.

See:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/opinion/trump-is-going-after-health-care-will-democrats-push-back.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_ty_20161221&nl=opinion-today&nlid=67843644&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

Moyers ; Winship: The Speech Hillary Should Give Before Trump Takes Office

America needs a watchdog, and Hillary needs to make the sales pitch.

Source: AlterNet

Authors: Moyers/Winship: BillMoyers.com

emphasis mine

Imagine that a day or two before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Hillary Clinton, as the candidate who received the greatest number of votes — and after a period of personal reflection and evaluation — addresses the nation.

My Fellow Americans:

On Friday, January 20th, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. As mandated by our Constitution, he received a majority of the votes in the Electoral College and thus for the next four years will be given the powers and responsibilities of our nation’s chief executive.

But I believe that I, too, have a mandate, one given to me by the 65 million of you who supported me over Donald Trump in the popular vote, some 2.6 million votes more than he received.

If we are to continue as a democracy, for the next four years and beyond, those voices cannot stay silent.

I urge every one of you who voted for me to help express that mandate and make sure our voices are heard. As each of them comes up for re-election, we will field candidates to run against Donald Trump and his friends in Congress and the statehouses, and we will run against them hard. But until then, let us prepare by joining together as a movement and creating the constituency of what will be, in effect, a shadow government — one that will serve to track and respond to every single bad action undertaken by the Trump administration and its monolithic Congress.

This shadow government will forthrightly express its opposition to such actions and not only call them out as the damaging policy they are, but also offer constructive alternatives that we believe will serve and advance the proper agenda for our nation. No proposal or executive action will go unanswered. We’ll even voice support if it’s warranted — but I fear so far there is little evidence that will be the case.

Historically, this follows the British tradition of a shadow government created by the party in opposition that monitors the ruling party and creates greater transparency, encouraging an honest dialogue based on facts and a thorough knowledge of history and policy. Our shadow government will reflect the experience and knowledge of a core group of men and women who understand how policy is made in Washington, but it will also call on the wisdom and experience of elected mayors, state legislators, public servants, activists and organizers who know the needs of our municipalities, counties and states across the country.

I propose that for every Cabinet officer named by Donald Trump and confirmed by the United States Senate, we in the opposition will have a shadow cabinet member who will monitor the work of that department and comment as needed.

Consider one example: President-elect Trump has named Tom Price, a US Representative from Georgia, to be secretary of health and human services. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which now offers health coverage to more than 20 million Americans who have never had it before. Whomever we select as our shadow secretary of health and human services will speak out against repeal — but should Secretary Price recognize reality once he is confirmed and offer changes or alternatives that make sense and do the most good for the people, the shadow secretary will voice support.

What’s more, our opposition will be vocal against any attempt to privatize Medicare, which some leaders of Donald Trump’s party have announced as a major and immediate goal. As a general principle, the shadow secretary would urge that the United States move closer to a single-payer system, a Medicare-for-all health care like those in so many other countries that would be more equitable, save lives and create a healthier, more prosperous society. Does this run contradictory to what I supported during my campaign? Yes, it does. I was on the wrong side of the issue. Most of us are familiar with St. Augustine’s observation that it is human to err; few are aware that he went on to say: “It is devilish to remain willfully in error.”

Our shadow secretary of state and secretary of defense will support America’s interests abroad, remain true to our long-term relationships with NATO members and other allies, and constantly work toward peace. While protecting ourselves from terror, we will continue to be a nation of immigrants that welcomes those who come to us in genuine pursuit of liberty and a fresh start.

Nor will the dog whistles of hatred and prejudice that haunted the campaign and the weeks after go unchallenged. Our shadow department of justice will continue the fight for civil rights and voting rights that the incoming administration threatens to suspend. We will not let discrimination destroy our country.

We will have a shadow secretary of the treasury, a shadow secretary of health and human services, secretary of education and secretary of veterans’ affairs. Each and every Cabinet-level post will have its equivalent, as will the heads of many of the top regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

A shadow version of the Securities and Exchange Commission will speak out against attempts to return Wall Street to the reckless days of speculation and behavior that led up to the terrible financial crash of 2007-08 and the recession that followed. President Obama inherited both and worked hard to lead the recovery. Thanks to the policies of the last several years, President-elect Trump will inherit a thriving economy very different from the one the Republicans left behind in 2004 — and very different from the one he described during his presidential campaign. But I have said to my own friends on Wall Street, whom I came to know as constituents and donors when I served two terms in the Senate, that I now firmly believe that “business as usual” will no longer do. A United States of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase is untenable if prosperity is to reach Main Street instead of hitting a dead end on Wall Street.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is DOA. As candidates, Donald Trump and I agreed on that. Our shadow US trade representative will favor international agreements that continue the flow of goods and services among nations but preserve jobs while generating new ones and protecting our interests. Further, we will monitor transactions like the recent Trump-Pence deal with Carrier, which keeps several hundred jobs in Indiana while still losing hundreds of others to Mexico in exchange for the kind of tax breaks that Donald Trump denounced during his campaign. We’ll tell the truth behind the propaganda and the optics, and work instead toward a healthy, thriving atmosphere for economic growth.

A shadow Federal Communications Commission will oppose media consolidation and resist attempts by a Trump-era FCC to overturn the net neutrality rulings that protect a free and open internet. And a shadow Environmental Protection Agency will make sure that any attempts to pollute clean air and water, to pay off industry with deregulation, will be unable to hide in the shadows away from the public eye.

You get the idea. In doing all of this, we hope to bolster the system of checks and balances essential to our republic — a system that already is being battered by an onslaught of irrational, authoritarian impulses. In the face of the fake news epidemic that infects social media, we’ll make freely available to the press and the public facts and data essential to the functioning of a representative government in which all viewpoints are fairly heard.

We will call out the continuing scourge of money in politics.  Every one of us in politics knows that even as we seek the votes of everyday Americans during our campaigns, once elected it is the big donors who get our ear. I am especially disturbed that President-elect Trump has named as his White House counsel Donald McGahn, a man who has eviscerated campaign finance reform in our nation. We also note that many of his Cabinet choices, including Secretary of the Treasury-designate Steve Mnuchin and Secretary of Education-designate Betsy DeVos have donated or bundled millions for Donald Trump and the Republican PartyAs the Center for Responsive Politics has noted, Ms. De Vos and her family have  given “at least $20.2 million to Republican candidates, party committees, PACs and super PACs” — some of it to senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will vote on her confirmation.

Our shadow government will support the reversal of Citizens United and other court decisions that have flooded politics with rich people’s money. During the recent campaign, I called over and again for reversing Citizens United, and I realize now that my own fundraising among the wealthy compromised my position. Again, I was on the wrong side. Sen. Bernie Sanders was on the right side. He showed all of us that you can mount an effective national campaign with small donations from millions of American citizens. That’s the way we must go. Our shadow government will be dedicated to ending the buying of America by the superrich.

The Washington swamp that Donald Trump has pledged to empty obviously will not be “drained,” given his myriad conflicts of interest, the “kitchen cabinet” of corporate CEOs he has chosen to advise him, and his support of the same old revolving door between corporate America and government. Our shadow government will call out those who spin through that door — including members of Congress from both parties, who pass through it at dizzying speeds to join lobby and legal firms that use their influence to line their pockets and swell the profits of the corporations that hire them.

It’s time to end the crony capitalism that backslaps and pays off its pals as it kicks the working class to the curb. No more bribes in the form of tax cuts for big business. No more backdoor deals — or threats — that briefly generate jobs or only temporarily keep them in America.

Again, I know that some of you are saying that Hillary Clinton has been guilty of many of these things, too. And again I say, to a great degree, yes, it’s true. You know the words of the great American poet Walt Whitman: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself.” But I want to go deeper than that, and say that when you lose a campaign for the presidency, despite receiving millions more votes than your opponent, you ask yourself: “Where did I go wrong? How was I tone deaf? Why couldn’t I reach the people who doubted me and convince them I was on their side?” I see clearly now that I simply didn’t understand or appreciate the full extent of people’s frustration with how lopsided our political system is in favor of privilege, or how the inequality in our economy has devastated their own lives and their children’s futures. It is the greatest mistake of my political career.

I’d like to think I have learned from this last campaign how and why my party and our nation have gone wrong. It’s the painful lesson of my long career in public service, and I now take to heart the words of historian Mark Mazower, who has said: “The political class has a very impoverished historical memory and as a result it has a very limited imagination. It is by and large made up of people who do not see themselves in politics in order to effect sweeping change and so they tend to operate very incrementally and very technocratically. They’re very suspicious of vision and as a result what fills their brains is party calculation – which of course always occupies politicians but in the past coexisted with bigger things.”

This must end. Our shadow government will be devoted to the vision of bigger things and a better America for all. All of you will be able check our progress. And we will regularly hold hearings around the country to listen to what you have to say, especially in the regions where so much economic hardship and personal loss have resulted in millions of voters sending up a cry for change, no matter the messenger.

In the immediate days to come, we will hammer out the details on how best to choose and organize this watchdog government. I hope you will join with me and offer your thoughts as we identify those who carefully will watch the Donald Trump presidency and report to you his missteps, excesses — and when called for, his successes.

Our eyes are upon you, Donald Trump. As we work to protect and better our country, you will hear from us, loud and clear. We will not be complacent and we will not allow the trampling of our republic to go unchallenged.

Thank you. May God bless — and save — America.

(N.B.: no supernatural powers are in play: we must save ourselves!)

Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com.

Michael Winship is the president of the Writers Guild of America, East and senior writer of BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship.

see:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/hillary-clinton-inaugural-address?akid=14969.123424.EW___0&rd=1&src=newsletter1068417&t=4

Obamacare is helping a lot of people. Not everyone thinks that’s good news.

Source: WAPO

Author: Paul Waldman

Emphasis Mine

In politics there are some issues where liberals and conservatives share the same goal, but disagree about how to achieve it — we all want to have as little crime as possible, for instance, but there are different ideas about how to accomplish that. Then there are issues where the two groups have different goals — liberals want to preserve women’s reproductive rights, and conservatives don’t. And sometimes, there are issues we think fall in the first category, but actually belong in the second.

Health care may just be that kind of issue, where we talk as though we all have the same fundamental goals, but we actually don’t. There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today on a major success of the Affordable Care Act that demonstrates why we’ll never stop arguing about it. Here’s how it begins:

The first full year of the Affordable Care Act brought historic increases in coverage for low-wage workers and others who have long been left out of the health care system, a New York Times analysis has found. Immigrants of all backgrounds — including more than a million legal residents who are not citizens — had the sharpest rise in coverage rates.

Hispanics, a coveted group of voters this election year, accounted for nearly a third of the increase in adults with insurance. That was the single largest share of any racial or ethnic group, far greater than their 17 percent share of the population. Low-wage workers, who did not have enough clout in the labor market to demand insurance, saw sharp increases. Coverage rates jumped for cooks, dishwashers, waiters, as well as for hairdressers and cashiers. Minorities, who disproportionately worked in low-wage jobs, had large gains.

Before we go farther, we should remember that the ACA is a complex piece of legislation that affects every area of American health care, but for now we’re going to talk just about insurance coverage. When liberals see a report like this one, they say, that’s terrific — some of the most vulnerable people in America, and those who had the hardest time getting covered before, now have health insurance. They offer this as practical evidence of the law’s success.

But conservatives (not all conservatives, but many of them) don’t see that as a success at all. If the government is helping an immigrant who washes dishes for a living get health coverage, then to them that means means that government is redistributing tax money from deserving people to undeserving people. The two groups look at the same practical effect, and interpret it in opposite ways.

That isn’t to say that the ACA didn’t give benefits to everyone, because it did. Millions of middle-class and even upper-class people were hurt by the fact that insurance companies used to be able to deny you coverage if you had a pre-existing condition, but the ACA outlawed that. And if the payment reforms in the law bring down overall health spending, we all benefit. But the most visible and dramatic parts of the law relate to the tens of millions of Americans who used to be without health coverage but now have it.

This is why Republicans continue to call the ACA a “disaster” and a “catastrophe” despite the good it has done. Liberals hoped that once the law was implemented and its practical effects became clear, the law would become hugely popular. Instead, views of the law divide closely on ideology and partisanship, and that hasn’t changed and won’t change.

That’s because there’s a fundamental clash of values at work, which means that liberals and conservatives will always judge it according to different standards. Because the law did a large amount to bring coverage to those who couldn’t afford it (through both the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies), and because it included a raft of new regulations meant to solve a variety of problems within the health care system, conservatives will always oppose it, whether it succeeds on its own terms or not. To doctrinaire conservatives, a government regulation that accomplishes what it sets out to isn’t a success at all; it’s a moral failure by definition. That’s why liberals will never convince them to support the ACA by pointing to its practical successes.

That isn’t to say that conservatives don’t make practical arguments against the ACA, because they do. But they’re mostly window dressing placed atop their moral objections to government involvement in health care. So yes, they predicted that Obamacare would destroy the economy, and cost millions of jobs, and lead to fewer people with health coverage, and balloon health care spending, and make premiums skyrocket. When they turned out to be wrong about all these things, conservatives didn’t say, “Well gee, I guess this law was a pretty good idea after all.” Because the fundamental moral objection remains, whatever the practical impact.

You can see it in the decision to accept or reject the law’s expansion of Medicaid. The federal government offered states a huge pot of free money to provide coverage to their poor citizens, and though some conservative governors tried to argue that it would be too expensive, those arguments were laughably weak. As one independent analysis after another has shown — from groups like the Rand Corporation, not exactly a bunch of lefties — taking the expansion leads to healthier state finances and better economic growth, on top of helping your state’s constituents. But for many governors, insuring poor people isn’t a moral good at all; just the opposite, in fact. So they were even willing to incur economic damage in order to avoid it (and to give Barack Obama the finger, of course).

Where this all leaves us is that the ACA will never become something we agree on, no matter what it does or doesn’t do in the real world. But even that’s not the whole story, because there are political factors at work. Smart Republicans understand that with each passing year, the law becomes more and more entrenched and harder to unwind, no matter how much they hate it. It’s one thing to keep people from getting insurance, but it’s something quite different, and far more politically dangerous, to take away insurance people already have — and if they really repealed the law, that’s what they would be doing, not just to a few people but to 20 million or so.

That’s why Republicans have so much trouble coming up with their “repeal and replace” plan. It’s not because there aren’t conservative health care wonks who could give them an outline. It’s because any real repeal would be so spectacularly disruptive to the system that it would a political nightmare. Just today there’s an article in The Hill on the efforts of the Republican task force charged with producing the new repeal-and-replace legislation, under the title, “GOP group promises ObamaCare replacement plan — soon.” If you’ve been following this issue, you know that title is a joke. As the piece says:

Coming up with a plan to replace ObamaCare has been an aim for the Republican Party for so long that it’s become a laugh line even in conservative circles. Despite voting more than 50 times in the House to repeal the law, the GOP has not once voted on legislation to take its place.

But every couple of months, they say that they’ll be releasing their plan any day now.

If Republicans actually took the White House and held Congress, my guess is that they’d pass something they called “repeal and replace” but which would leave the ACA largely intact. Just as they propose to privatize Medicare but rush to tell seniors who love it that their own coverage wouldn’t be affected, it would be some kind of time-delayed change that would avoid kicking people who now have insurance off their coverage. And if Hillary Clinton gets elected in the fall, it’ll be another four or eight years before they could even try this. No matter what happens between now and then, conservatives won’t ever decide that the ACA has worked out well, whether it actually did what it was designed to do or not. As far as they’re concerned, the design itself was the problem. But they may decide, as they did with Medicare, that doing away with it isn’t worth the bother — at least not worth bothering to to try all that hard.

Paul Waldman is a contributor to The Plum Line blog, and a senior writer at The American Prospect.

See:https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/04/18/obamacare-is-helping-a-lot-of-people-not-everyone-thinks-thats-good-news/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_popns

How the Wall Street Journal’s Attempt to Take Down Bernie Sanders Backfired

Source: AlterNet

Author: Tom Hartmann

Emphasis Mine

Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton in early primary states, and he’s gaining on her in national polls. Major media outlets are starting to treat Senator Sanders seriously, but not necessarily with complete honesty. Take for example Laura Meckler’s article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. It was provocatively titled “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion.”

The article starts off by dismissing Sanders’s campaign as a long-shot, and then goes on to call his proposals “the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.” 

“In all” Meckler writes, “he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade… a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause.”

That estimate may give conservatives and corporate Democrats pause, but the whole article should give any reader who can do simple arithmetic pause. One red flag is that the click-bait headline makes it seem like the piece is talking about a one- or maybe two-term estimate of what Bernie’s budgets might look like. Or even more extreme; that just getting his proposals off the ground would take $18 trillion.

But the reality is that we’re only looking at $1.8 trillion a year under Bernie’s sweeping proposals. But that’s just a little editorial sleight of hand to drive traffic to their site right? Well, not quite.

You see, the Wall Street Journal piece cited research by Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And there was just one small problem with their interpretation of his research. They blatantly omitted his conclusion.

But in the age of information, major newspapers are rightfully under more scrutiny than ever. Professor Friedman saw the Wall Street Journal’s piece and responded in the Huffington Post with “An Open Letter to the Wall Street Journal on Its Bernie Sanders Hit Piece.”

He writes that the Journal wasn’t completely wrong: the program would involve spending $15 trillion over a decade. But they left out the key detail: it would actually save the country a total $5 trillion over those 10 years. We’d see those savings in reduced administrative waste, lower pharmaceutical and device prices, and by decreasing the rate of medical inflation.

Because the simple fact is: We, as a people, are going to spend that $15 trillion on health care anyway. The difference is that under the current model, we pay that money to private insurance companies. And those private companies have much higher levels of administrative costs, fraud and general waste than Medicare does. Another difference is that the government would be negotiating drug prices, making drugs more affordable for everyone.

And who would see that $5 trillion in savings? Businesses for one. Along with state and local governments. Because they wouldn’t have to pay for their employees’ insurance — who’d be covered by Medicare for All.

And individuals, like you and me, wouldn’t have to worry about co-payments and deductibles. Or worse, finding that the “affordable plan” that we choose doesn’t cover a necessary procedure.

You see, as Bruh1 points out over at DailyKos, the Wall Street Journal presented government spending in a fundamentally dishonest way. Because what we spend can’t be separated from what we’d save by going with different policies.

Take Bruh1’s example of shopping for a car: “You don’t buy a car by saying ‘well it would cost me 10,000 here, but the same car would cost me 7,000 there, so the price tag on the 7,000 car is too expensive.’ You say ‘it saves me 3,000 to buy from the other guy.”

And that’s the point — it’s not $15 trillion that Bernie’s plan would cost the country, because we as a people will spend that amount, and more, on health-care costs anyway.

It’s $5 trillion that we the people will save with Bernie’s plan — and get back — by adopting an efficient and affordable single-payer health-care for all system. And that would be good for everyone, and the economy as a whole.

Unfortunately the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of Bernie’s proposals isn’t just another routine example of shoddy corporate journalism. It’s an example of how the corporate media tries to discredit and discard anyone who they can’t control. And that’s not just bad news for our political process. It’s also bad news for the Fourth Estate, which really should at least try to be honest in its critique of policy issues.

Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is “The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America — and What We Can Do to Stop It.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/how-wall-street-journals-attempt-take-down-bernie-sanders-backfired?akid=13505.123424.D73aju&rd=1&src=newsletter1042811&t=8

10 Ways to Make The U.S. Economy Work for Everyone, By Bernie Sanders

A forthcoming book compiles Bernie’s words and solutions

source: Chelsea Green  Publishing  via AlterNet

Author:Jonathan Tasini

Emphasis Mine

(This article is excerpted from The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America by Jonathan Tasini (Chelsea Green Publishing, September 2015) and is published here with permission of the publisher. The book will be available nationwide on September 8th, which is Sanders’ birthday. For more information.)

“What a lot of people are feeling [about Sanders] is that there is somebody speaking to their issues. I think that’s why you’re seeing so many people come out. People are sick and tired of corporate America, both Republican and Democrat.”

—Troy Jackson, a logger from Allagash and former majority leader of the Maine Senate

Everyone cares about how the government spends its money, especially people who embrace the idea that smart, progressive government is a force for good. From the time he was watching taxpayer money as mayor of Burlington right up through his service in the House and Senate, Bernie has always looked for the proper balance between, on the one hand, strong, effective programs that look out for the people and, on the other, financing those programs by asking people who earn more to pay their fair share.

Even before his current campaign for the White House, Bernie thought through, in ten easy steps, a plan to meet human needs by raising hundreds of billions of dollars from the wealthy and corporations, and by reducing wasteful spending. Not a single dime from the list below would come from working people. —J.T.

Ten Fair Ways to Reduce the Deficit and Create Jobs

At a time when we are experiencing more wealth and income inequality than at any time since the 1920s, and when Wall Street and large corporations are enjoying record breaking profits, I believe that we should be asking the very wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. That way, we will not only lower the deficit but we will bring in enough revenue to invest in our economy and create the millions of new jobs we desperately need.

From both a moral and economic perspective, we must not balance the budget on the elderly, the children, the sick, working families, and the most vulnerable.

Here are 10 examples of how we can raise revenue and reduce spending in a fair way.

1. Stop corporations from using offshore tax havens to avoid U.S. taxes. Each and every year, the United States loses an estimated $100 billion in tax revenues due to offshore tax abuses by the wealthy and large corporations. The situation has become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.

The wealthy and large corporations should not be allowed to avoid paying taxes by setting up tax shelters in Panama, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas or other tax haven countries. The first bill that I introduced in the Senate (the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act) would raise more than $580 billion over the next decade by eliminating the most egregious corporate offshore tax haven abuses.

2. Establish a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street speculators. Both the economic crisis and the deficit crisis are a direct result of the greed and recklessness on Wall Street. Creating a speculation fee of just 0.03 percent on the sale of credit default swaps, derivatives, options, futures, and large amounts of stock would reduce gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the job-creating productive economy, and reduce the deficit by $352 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

3. End tax breaks and subsidies for big oil, gas and coal companies. If we ended tax breaks and subsidies for big oil, gas, and coal companies, we could reduce the deficit by more than $113 billion over the next ten years. The five largest oil companies in the United States have made over $1 trillion in profits over the past decade. ExxonMobil is now the most profitable corporation in the world. Large, profitable fossil fuel companies do not need a tax break.

4. Establish a Progressive Estate Tax. If we established a progressive estate tax on inherited wealth of more than $3.5 million, we could raise more than $300 billion over 10 years. [I] introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act that would reduce the deficit in a fair way while ensuring that 99.7 percent of Americans would never pay a penny in estate taxes.

5. Tax capital gains and dividends the same as work. Taxing capital gains and dividends the same way that we tax work would raise more than $500 billion over the next decade. Warren Buffett has often said that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. The reason for this is that the wealthy obtain most of their income from capital gains and dividends, which is taxed at a much lower rate than work. Right now, the top marginal income tax for working is 39.6%, but the top tax rate on corporate dividends and capital gains is only 23.9%.

6. Repeal all of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax breaks for the top two percent. In January, Congress finally repealed the Bush tax breaks for the top one percent—households making more than $450,000 a year. But the Bush tax breaks have been continued for the top two percent—households with incomes between $250,000 and $450,000 a year. Repealing the Bush tax breaks for all of the top two percent would reduce the deficit by about $400 billion over the next decade. After President Clinton increased taxes on the top two percent, the economy added over 22 million jobs. After President Bush reduced taxes for the rich, the economy lost over 600,000 private sector jobs.

7. Eliminate the cap on taxable income that goes into the Social Security Trust Fund. If we are serious about making sure that Social Security can pay all of the benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 50 to 75 years, we don’t do that by cutting benefits, we do that by scrapping the cap on taxable income so that a millionaire and a billionaire pay the same percentage of their income into Social Security as someone making $40,000 or $50,000 a year. Right now, someone who earns $113,700 a year pays the same amount of money in Social Security taxes as a billionaire. This makes no sense. Applying the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000 would ensure that Social Security remains solvent for the next 50 years. This plan would only impact the wealthiest 1.3 percent of wage earners; 98.7 percent of wage earners in the United States would not see their taxes go up by one dime.

8. Establish a currency manipulation fee on China and other countries. As almost everyone knows, China is manipulating its currency, giving it an unfair trade advantage over the United States and destroying decent paying manufacturing jobs in the process. If we imposed a currency manipulation fee on China and other currency manipulators, the Economic Policy Institute has estimated that we could raise $500 billion over 10 years and create 1 million jobs in the process.

9. Reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon, which now consumes over half of our discretionary budget. Much of the huge spending at the Pentagon is devoted to spending money on Cold War weapons programs to fight a Soviet Union that no longer exists. Lawrence Korb, an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, has estimated that we could achieve significant savings of around $100 billion a year at the Pentagon while still ensuring that the United States has the strongest and most powerful military in the world.

10. Require Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry. Requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices, similarly to what the VA currently does, would save more than $240 billion over 10 years.

Bernie Facts:

• Bernie is a longtime critic of wasteful Pentagon spending and is pushing to save taxpayer money by cutting tens of billions of dollars from the military budget.

• Bernie has been perhaps the Senate’s most passionate voice for making sure corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes. The leading organizational advocate for fair taxes, Citizens for Tax Justice, says that in many cases Bernie “has been the lone voice in the Senate fighting for legislation that would ensure that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.”

• As part of his advocacy for a sane health care system, Bernie wants to enable Medicare to negotiate lower prices for drugs—which would save the country tens of billions of dollars.

is the National Writers Union president. For more information about the National Writer’s Union or its collective- licensing agency, Publication Rights Clearinghouse, visit .

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/10-ways-make-us-economy-work-everyone-bernie-sanders?akid=13360.123424.5LRQLA&rd=1&src=newsletter1040491&t=3

Bernie Sanders: We Need Medicare for All, Not Cutbacks That Will Kill Our Seniors

The 50th anniversary of Medicare is a reminder that this program needs to be stronger to meet today’s challenges.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Sarah Burris

Emphasis Mine

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Maryland Representative Donna Edwards joined the rally celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare in Washington, D.C. this Thursday with several hundred nurses, health care workers, and labor allies.

Senator Sanders touted the success of the Medicare program and the millions of seniors and disabled patients it has helped. “Before Medicare, If you were poor and old or sick, you had no options, you died or you suffered,” he said.

The familiar Sanders crusade to fix financial inequalities is a key reason Sanders says he supports a single-payer system and promised to announce legislation within the next year. “We need to expand Medicare to cover every man, woman, and child,” he told the cheering crowd. “Every year, thousands die just because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. No one should go into the hospital and have to file for bankruptcy when they come out.” The Sanders plan, he said, will provide healthcare through the most “cost effective way, and that is a Medicare for all.”

Recent suggestions from Republican Party presidential candidate Jeb Bush that Medicare should be phased out has lead to linguistic punches from many progressive thinkers including economist Paul Krugman, who wrote this week “It’s the very idea of the government providing a universal safety net that they hate, and they hate it even more when such programs are successful.”

Senator Sanders told The Hill Bush’s comments are an example of how far right the Republican Party has become when their so-called moderate candidate is advocating “phasing out” Medicare.  

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Medicare, it is important that we defend this enormously important program rather than talk about ending it,” Sanders continued. “Medicare provides health care to 51 million American seniors and people with disabilities and has saved the lives of countless Americans. Further, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the finances of Medicare have been significantly improved and it is now fully funded for the next 15 years through 2030. Our goal as a nation should be to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all Americans, not end a highly-successful program which protects seniors and the disabled.”

Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) followed Senator Sanders speech with a powerful story about her grandfather who died at an early age forcing her grandmother to scrape together money to cover her healthcare costs.

“My grandmother lived much of her life before Medicare,” Edwards told AlterNet in a statement “I know how much she and our family struggled to pay medical bills. Thanks to Medicare, Americans like my grandmother can see their doctor and not go broke paying medical bills. This is why I continue to fight to protect Medicare and ensure that all Americans can lead healthy and productive lives.”

“After 50 years, we have a lot of experience with Medicare,” National Nurses United co-President Jean Ross, RN, said in a statement. “Enough time to see that it works, has kept tens of millions of Americans out of poverty, and remains enormously popular.”  The coalition of nurses and other health care professionals have organized a day of actions including lobbying legislators in Washington to encourage expanding Medicare for all. Other cities including Boston, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Portland, Maine, St. Paul, and Lakewood, Ohio will be holding rallies, town hall meetings, parties, picnics and barbecues where nurses and other health care workers can celebrate the success of Medicare and talk about ways to expand the program to cover more people. The coalition of nurses and other health care professionals have organized a day of actions including lobbying legislators in Washington to encourage expanding Medicare for all. Other cities including Boston, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Portland, Maine, St. Paul, and Lakewood, Ohio will be holding rallies, town hall meetings, parties, picnics and barbecues where nurses and other health care workers can celebrate the success of Medicare and talk about ways to expand the program to cover more people.

See: http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/bernie-sanders-draws-line-sand-we-need-medicare-all-not-cutbacks-will-kill-our?akid=13344.123424._gla7O&rd=1&src=newsletter1040172&t=3

10 Brutal Ways the American Safety Net Is Being Shredded

http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-brutal-ways-american-safety-net-being-shredded?akid=13331.123424.rqA_Q7&rd=1&src=newsletter1039872&t=1

Source: alterNet

Author: Alex Henderson

Emphasis Mine

On the 80th anniversary of the Social Security Act of 1935, which established the social security system in the United States, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal is on life support as the American middle class continues to be squeezed and millions of Americans struggle with poverty.

1. Income Inequality Is Going from Bad to Worse

FDR firmly believed that capitalism cannot function well without a strong middle class, and even auto magnate Henry Ford agreed with him: Ford famously said that American workers needed to be paid a decent wage in order to be able to afford his products. And during the post-FDR America of the 1950s and 1960s, having a robust middle class was great for a variety of businesses. But in 2015—with the gains of the New Deal having been imperiled by everything from union busting to the outsourcing of millions of American jobs—income inequality in the U.S. is a huge problem. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released a report on income inequality among OECD members and found that the U.S. was among the worst offenders. The U.S., Mexico and Turkey had some of highest income inequality of OECD countries, while Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland and Belgium fared much better. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría commented that “high inequality is bad for growth,” and he’s absolutely right.

2. Republicans Yearn for Social Security Privatization

Although President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Republican, he supported elements of the New Deal and saw the need for a strong social safety net: in fact, Eisenhower expanded social security, and in 1954, he bluntly asserted that any oligarchs who would “attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor law and farm programs” were “stupid.” But in the 21st century, Republicans have been going after social security with a vengeance. The privatization of social security was proposed by President George W. Bush in 2004, and far-right Republicans, the Tea Party and wingnut lobbying groups like the Club for Growth have been doubling down on the idea of privatizing social security. GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush called for social security privatization at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire in June, and he also favors raising the social security retirement age to 69 or 70, which would be especially bad for blue-collar workers who have spent decades in physically demanding jobs.

3. The 1% Continue to Dodge Taxes

FDR had no problem asking the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes: the U.S.’ top marginal tax rate rose to 94% in the early 1940s, when the country entered World War II. Taxes for the ultra-rich didn’t go down much under Republican Eisenhower, who lowered the top tax rate to 91% in the 1950s—and after that rate decreased to 28% under President Reagan, it rose to 39.6% under President Clinton and decreased to 35% under President George W. Bush. Looking at the last 80 years of tax history, one sees a clear pattern: the American middle class does much better when the 1% pay their fair share of taxes. And even though the Tea Party tries to paint Barack Obama as a soak-the-rich president, their assertion is laughable because Obama extended the Bush tax cuts and hasn’t been nearly as forceful as FDR or Eisenhower when it comes to taxing the 1%.

4. The Minimum Wage Is Much Too Low

One of the important elements of the New Deal was FDR’s strong belief in a national minimum wage. FDR began to push for a federal minimum wage after taking office in January 1933, saying, “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of a decent living.” And Congress enacted one in 1938, when the U.S.’ first federal minimum wage was set at 25 cents per hour. But in recent years, the federal minimum wage (which was raised to $7.25 an hour in 2009) has not kept up with inflation. Economist Robert Reich has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which he sees as a crucial part of economic recovery. And in some cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle, city councils have raised their local minimum wages to that amount. But at the federal level, an increase to even $10.10 an hour (President Obama’s proposal) is a steep uphill climb when both houses of Congress are dominated by far-right Republicans who hate the poor with a passion.

The U.S. desperately needed a New Deal 3.0 after the crash of September 2008 and a program of aggressive reforms. Instead, most of the welfare that followed the Panic of 2008 has been corporate welfare rather than programs to help America’s embattled poor and middle class. Overall, the U.S. has been moving away from the New Deal when it should be reinvigorating it. Below are 10 ways in which the New Deal (and by extension, LBJ’s Great Society) continues to be under attack in the United States.

5. Infrastructure Continues to Deteriorate

The New Deal was great for the U.S.’ infrastructure thanks to programs that built or strengthened everything from roads to water and electric systems to municipal power plants. But in recent years, the American infrastructure has been seriously decaying—and a major wake-up call came on May 12, when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia and eight passengers were killed. But the nation’s railways are only one of the ways in which the U.S.’ infrastructure has deteriorated. According to Ray LaHood (former secretary of transportation for the Obama Administration), 70,000 bridges in the U.S. are now structurally deficient. That is in addition to all the roads that are in desperate need of repair. And when it comes to high-speed rail travel, the U.S. lags way behind Europe (where one can get from London to Brussels in just under two hours or from Madrid to Barcelona in less than three hours).

6. Union Representation Has Reached Historic Lows 

One of the most important pieces of New Deal-era legislation was the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, a.k.a. the Wagner Act, which did a lot to advance labor unions in the U.S.: by the mid-1950s, around 35% of America’s labor force was unionized. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a mere 11.1% of salaried U.S. workers (factoring in both the public and private sectors) were union members in 2014. Among private-sector workers, the number was a paltry 6.6%. And the decline of unions has been encouraged bad working conditions: according to the Economic Policy Institute, executives at large companies earned, on average, 296 times as much as their average workers in 2013 compared to only 20 times as much in 1965. But as much as labor unions have declined in the U.S., Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (a GOP presidential hopeful for 2016) and his fellow Republicans would like to see them decline even more. Walker recently set a disturbing precedent in that state when he supported anti-union legislation that prohibits private-sector unions from requiring members to pay union dues; Walker has, in essence, made Wisconsin a northern “right to work” state. And it’s safe to say that Walker, based on his actions in Wisconsin, would be among the most anti-union presidents in U.S. history.

7. “Too Big to Fail” Is Bigger Than Ever

Unlike many of today’s extreme-right Republicans and neoliberal corporatist Democrats, FDR was not afraid of offending the banking sector. FDR said of the banksters of the 1930s, “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.” One of the New Deal achievements that banksters detested was the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which mandated a strict separation of commercial and investment banking and was designed to prevent another major Wall Street calamity like the crash of 1929. Glass-Steagall served the U.S. well for many years: although there were some tough recessions in the mid-1970s, early 1980s and early 1990s, none of them cut as deep as the Great Depression. But the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 was a major blow to the New Deal and paved the way for the crash of September 2008, clearly the most devastating financial event in the U.S. since 1929. Unfortunately, there was no real banking reform after the 2008 calamity, and as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders points out, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo are now “80% larger” than they were in 2007. Critics of the banking sector propose bringing back Glass-Steagall, including Reich (who warns that another major Wall Street crash “is not unlikely”) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And Sanders has proposed New Deal-like legislation that would break up the U.S.’ largest banks.

8. Medicare, An Expansion of the New Deal, Is a Major GOP Target

Medicare, which established a single-payer health care system for Americans 65 and older, was not part of the New Deal per se: Medicare came into being in 1965 as part of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society (which was very much an extension of the New Deal). And the program proved to be so popular that even Republican President Richard Nixon (who was considered an arch-conservative in his day) expanded Medicare in both 1969 and 1972. But these days, far-right GOP wingnuts in the House of Representatives—especially Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—have repeatedly called for drastic Medicare cuts and for replacing traditional Medicare with a privatized voucher program. In June, a variety of pro-Medicare groups (including the Alliance for Retired Americans and the Medicare Rights Center) sent a joint letter to the House criticizing representatives who wanted to cut $700 million from the Medicare program.

9. Home Ownership Is Becoming Increasingly Difficult for Many Americans, and the Rent Is Too Damn High

Before the New Deal, five-year or 10-year mortgages were the norm in the U.S., and were unaffordable for most Americans. But FDR saw home ownership as a crucial part of building a strong middle class: between the Federal Housing Administration, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and the introduction of 30-year fixed-rate mortgages—all of which came about under FDR—home ownership in the U.S. gradually increased. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, home ownership in the U.S. went from 45% in 1920 and 47% in 1930 to 55% in 1950, 61% in 1960 and 62% in 1970. But the Crash of 2008 has been terrible for American homeowners, resulting in countless foreclosures, and banksters have been allowed to acquire and rent out many foreclosed homes. The private equity firm Blackstone Group had, as of late 2013, bought almost 40,000 homes in the U.S. in order to rent them. To make matters worse, all those post-2008 foreclosures have caused rents to skyrocket all over the country. And the more one pays in rent, the harder it is to save for a down payment on a home. To quote Jimmy McMillan, the rent is too damn high.

10. Wingnut Attacks on Food Stamps Never End

The American food stamps program started on a pilot basis under FDR’s secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, in 1939 but became permanent when LBJ signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 into law as part of his Great Society. In recent years, the U.S.’ economic decline has been so painful that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of Americans poor enough to quality for food stamps was 46.2 million in 2014 compared to only 17 million in 2000. Food stamps, as envisioned under the New Deal and the Great Society, are designed to be a stepping stone for the poor—and the benefits (which presently average $127.91 per month per person, according to USDA figures) are hardly lavish. But that has not prevented Republicans in Congress from repeatedly proposing dramatic food stamp cuts during the Great Recession. And in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to punish and shame food stamp recipients by subjecting them to drug-testing.

Alex Henderson’s work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/10-brutal-ways-american-safety-net-being-shredded?akid=13331.123424.rqA_Q7&rd=1&src=newsletter1039872&t=1