Three Reasons Why It’s Better for the Economy if the Super-Committee Fails to Get a Deal

By Robert Creamer, HuffPost

“Last Thursday’s Washington Post headline blared: “Debt panel’s lack of progress raises alarm on Hill.”

In fact it is far better for everyday Americans if the so-called Super Committee fails entirely to get a deal.

The overarching reason is simple: any deal they are likely to strike will make life worse for everyday Americans — and worsen our prospects for long-term economic growth.

Of course that’s not the view of many denizens of the Capitol who are still obsessed by the notion that it is critical for the Congress to produce a “compromise” that raises revenue and cuts “entitlements.” There are three reasons why these people are wrong:

1). Any deal would likely slash the income of many everyday Americans. You could design a plan to substantially reduce the deficit without big cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. My wife, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who served on President Obama’s Fiscal Commission, designed just such a proposal last year. And, of course, Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit in the first place.

Unfortunately, however, in order to get Republican support any large-scale deal in the Super Committee would almost certainly require big cuts in either Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid — or all of them. Substantial cuts in any of these programs will make life harder for everyday Americans and reduce the likelihood of long-term economic growth.

Without a “deal” in the Super Committee, the current budget plan does not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and that’s a good thing.

According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly Social Security check now averages the princely sum of $1,082 — or about $13,000 per year. Next year, for the first time since 2009, payments will increase by $39 per month to offset inflation, but $18 a month of that increase will go right back out the door in the form of Medicare premium increases.

Already under current law, Medicare Part B premiums, that cover services like doctors, outpatient care and home health services, must be set annually to cover 25% of program costs. And remember that Medicare recipients aren’t getting an “entitlement” — they are getting an earned benefit that they paid for throughout their working lives. The same, of course, is true of Social Security.

Mean while, Medicaid is the principle means of assuring that America actually begins to provide health care for all — including nursing home and home care.

The problem with medical care costs isn’t that “greedy” seniors and others are gobbling up too much care. The problem is that the costs of providing care are going up too fast. In fact, the per capita costs of providing health care in America is 50% higher than anywhere else on earth, and the World Health Organization only ranks health care outcomes as 37th, in the world.

Medicare is actually the most efficient means in the American economy for providing health care. Any action by the “Super Committee” that reduces the percentage of Americans on Medicare — say, by raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67 — would cost the American economy.

  • According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, if such a proposal were operational in 2014 it would raise total health care spending in America by $5.7 billion per year.
  • This is so because, while it would save the Federal government a net of about $5.7 billion ($24 billion savings in Medicare payments largely offset by $18 billion of increased Medicaid payments and subsidies to low-income participants in exchanges), it would also generate an additional $11.4 billion in higher health care costs for individuals, employers and states — resulting in a net cost to the economy of $5.7 billion.

The one thing you could do to cut Medicare costs without hurting ordinary families or the economy as a whole is to require Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices the same way the Veterans Administration does today. That would cut hundreds of billions in costs to the government over the next ten years, but don’t expect the Republicans to include that as an acceptable cut in “entitlements” as part of a Super Committee deal.

Of course, America has no business cutting the income of seniors who get $13,000 a year in Social Security payments regardless of anything else that is in a deal. The deficit problem should be fixed by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share and by jobs plans that put America back on a path of sustained economic growth. And we have no business reducing access to health care for everyday people so that CEO‘s can fly around in their corporate jets, oil companies can keep their tax breaks, or Wall Street hot shots — who we all bailed out just three years ago — can pack in their huge bonuses.

Even if a Super Committee proposal includes increases in revenue to the government from millionaires and billionaires, that is not reason that normal people — whose real incomes have dropped over the last decade — should also be called upon to “share in the sacrifice.”

The problem isn’t that everyday Americans are gorging themselves on excesses that “America can’t afford.” The problem is that Wall Street, the financial sector and the 1% have gobbled up all of the increases in economic growth that the country has produced over the last two decades.

That has meant that the standard of living for normal people has been stagnant. But just as problematic, it has lead to a stagnant economic growth. Since the incomes of everyday people haven’t increased at the same rate as increased worker productivity, there simply haven’t been enough new customers to buy the new products and services that American businesses produce. That is the formula for recession and depression. And that’s just what happened.

American corporations are sitting on two trillion dollars of cash. The reason they aren’t hiring has nothing to do with the need for more tax breaks. What stops them isn’t lack of “confidence,” it’s a lack of customers.

For decades the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has preached the need for fiscal constraint and austerity. According to the Washington Post, now even the IMF is warning that, “austerity may trigger a new recession, and is urging countries to look for ways to boost growth.”

If you want to lay a foundation for long-term economic growth in America, the last thing you would do is reduce the income going to ordinary Americans — even over the long run. That’s not the problem — just the opposite. We do not need ordinary people to “share in the sacrifice.” We need policies that will increase the share of income going to ordinary people and reduce the exploding inequality between the 99% and the 1%.

Any deal in the Super Committee will almost certainly do just the opposite.

2.). The worst effects of sequestration could be solved without a “grand bargain”. The one big downside of a failure of the Super-Committee to act would be the level of discretionary spending cuts that would be required through the resulting sequestration. This is particularly true of cuts in education funding.

The budget deal that was struck in order to prevent Republicans from plunging America into default last summer requires an additional $1.2 trillion reduction in the deficit over the next ten years. If the Super Committee fails to agree on the distribution of these cuts, they will automatically be spread over defense and non-defense segments of the budget beginning in 2013. But there would be no cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Congress would have the ability to adjust these sequestration requirements between now and 2013, regardless. But the “fast track” authority that would require up or down votes on a proposal from the “Super Committee” would expire if the Committee cannot reach agreement by November 23rd.

The best solution to the problem of big cuts in discretionary spending would be to put together a smaller deal to raise some revenue and reduce cuts in discretionary and – if necessary — military spending — after the mandate of the Super Committee has expired.

The Congress will have a year to help solve this problem, and the pressure to ameliorate some of the cuts in military spending that have so far proved ineffective at forcing Republicans to consider big revenue increase, may be more persuasive when it comes to smaller increases as the actual date of sequestration (2013) draws near.

Of course it’s possible that the Super Committee itself could come with a small-bore deal of this sort, simply to avoid the full force of sequestration. But that would be very different than a $1.2 trillion dollar package that includes cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Progressives should avoid cuts to these programs at all costs, because any cuts that sliced Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits would require changes in the structure of the programs themselves that would last forever. Cuts in discretionary spending — as bad as they might be — are one-time events and do not fundamentally change the structure of the American social contract.

3). There is no reason for Congress to fear that its failure to act on a “Super Committee” agreement will have massive adverse consequences on “market confidence,” since the level of the deficit will not be affected. That has already been set — with a mandate for a $1.2 trillion cut. The Wall Street gang and the ratings agencies might sputter something about government dysfunction for a day or two. But the fundamentals will not be affected, since the level of government borrowing won’t be affected by whether or not there is a deal.

It’s also worth noting that even after Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. debt because of the process leading up to the debt ceiling deal, it had no effect on the interest rates the government is paying for bonds. In fact those interest rates dropped to record lows. U.S. government debt remains the safest investment in the world, no matter what S&P did, and the market reflected that indisputable fact.

In other words then, Congress does not have its back against the wall like it did during the debt ceiling “hostage” crisis. When it came to the debt-ceiling deadline, failure was not an option. In the case of the “Super Committee” failure to come to an agreement is a very real option — in fact, it’s the best option.

There are some in Congress — most notably in the Senate — who truly believe that what the country needs is a “grand bargain” that cuts the deficit by making ordinary people “share in the sacrifice” even if millionaires and billionaires are asked to share some as well.

Hopefully those who are working for such bargain will be thwarted by two important political realities.

First, that cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are politically toxic. People get really angry when you take away something they have earned.

Second, the Republican’s stubborn unwillingness to give an ounce of new revenue from the pockets of millionaires and billionaires – who, after all, are the true core constituency of the Republican Party.

This time a little “gridlock” may be a good thing.”

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.

Emphasis Mine

see: /robert-creamer/three-reasons-why-its-bet_b_1030166.html

We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

“I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Written in 2004.

How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk?

By GARRISON KEILLOR

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, shriekChristians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shreiking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy—the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the “end of innocence,” or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

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Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion, now in its 34th year on the air and a syndicated newspaper columnist.

Emphasis Mine.

see:http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/72-72/7193-were-not-in-lake-wobegon-anymore

Americans Don’t Realize Just How Badly We’re Getting Screwed by the Top 0.1 Percent Hoarding the Country’s Wealth

With an unprecedented sum of wealth held within the top one-tenth of one percent of the US population, we now have the most severe inequality of wealth in US history.

N.B.: An oft disdained 19th century philosopher would hardly be surprised!

From AmpedStaus  – via AlterNet – by David Degraw

“With an unprecedented sum of wealth, tens of trillions of dollars, held within the top one-tenth of one percent of the US population, we now have the most severe inequality of wealth in US history. Not even the robber barons of the Gilded Age were as greedy as the modern-day economic elite.

As American philosopher John Dewey said, “There is no such thing as the liberty or effective power of an individual, group, or class, except in relation to the liberties, the effective powers, of other individuals, groups or classes.”

In my report, The Economic Elite vs. the People, I reported on the strategic withholding of wealth from 99 percent of the US population over the past generation. Since the mid-1970s, worker production and wealth creation has exploded. As the statistics throughout this report prove, the dramatic increase in wealth has been almost entirely absorbed by the economic top one-tenth of one percent of the population, with most of it going to the top one-hundredth of one percent.

If you are wondering why a critical mass of people desperately struggling to make ends meet are still not fighting back with overwhelming force and running the mega-wealthy aristocrats out of town, let’s consider two significant factors:

1) People are so busy trying to maintain their current standard of living that their energies are consumed by holding onto the little they have left.

2) People have very little understanding of how much wealth has been consolidated within the top economic one-tenth of one percent.

Considering the first factor, it is obvious that people have become beaten down psychologically and financially. A report in the Guardian titled, “Anxiety keeps the super-rich safe from middle-class rage,” suggests that people are so desperate to hold onto what they have that they are too busy looking down to look up: “As psychologists will tell you, fear of loss is more powerful than the prospect of gain. The struggling middle classes look down more anxiously than they look up, particularly in recession and sluggish recovery.”

Considering the second factor, people do not understand how much wealth has been withheld from them. The average person has never personally experienced or seen the excessive wealth and luxury that the mega-rich live in. Wealth inequality has grown so extreme and the wealthy have become so far removed from average society, it is as if the rich exist in some outer stratosphere beyond the comprehension of the average person. As the Guardian report states:

“… having little daily contact with the rich and little knowledge of how they lived, they simply didn’t think about inequality much, or regard the wealthy as direct competitors for resources. As the sociologist Garry Runciman observed: ‘Envy is a difficult emotion to sustain across a broad social distance.’… Even now most underestimate the rewards of bankers and executives. Top pay has reached such levels that, rather like interstellar distances, what the figures mean is hard to grasp.”

In fact, the average American vastly underestimates our nation’s severe wealth disparity. This survey, featured in the NY Times, reveals that Americans think our society is far more equal than it actually is:

“In a recent survey of Americans, my colleague Dan Ariely and I found that Americans drastically underestimated the level of wealth inequality in the United States. While recent data indicates that the richest 20 percent of Americans own 84 percent of all wealth, people estimated that this group owned just 59 percent – believing that total wealth in this country is far more evenly divided among poorer Americans.

What’s more, when we asked them how they thought wealth should be distributed, they told us they wanted an even more equitable distribution, with the richest 20 percent owning just 32 percent of the wealth. This was true of Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor – all groups we surveyed approved of some inequality, but their ideal was far more equal than the current level.”

This chart shows the survey’s results:

The overwhelming majority of the US population is unaware of the vast wealth at hand. An entire generation of unprecedented wealth creation has been concealed from 99 percent of the population for over 35 years. Having never personally experienced this wealth, the average American cannot comprehend what is possible if even a fraction of the money was used for the betterment of society.

Given modern technology and wealth, American citizens should not be living in poverty. The statistics demonstrate that we now live in a neo-feudal society. In comparison to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of the population, who are sitting on top of tens of trillions of dollars in wealth, we are essentially propagandized peasants.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are struggling to get by, while tens of trillions of dollars are consolidated within a small fraction of the population, is a crime against humanity.

The next time you are stressed out, struggling to make ends meet and pay off your debts, just think about the trillions of dollars sitting in the obscenely bloated pockets of the financial elites. I still cling to the hope that once enough people become aware of this fact, we can have the non-violent revolution we so urgently need. Until then, the rich get richer as a critical mass with increasingly dire economic prospects desperately struggles to make ends meet.

emphasis mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152010/americans_don%27t_realize_just_how_badly_we%27re_getting_screwed_by_the_top_0.1_percent_hoarding_the_country%27s_wealth?page=entire

The Ideological Crisis of Western Capitalism

A decade ago, in the midst of an economic boom, the US faced a surplus so large that it threatened to eliminate the national debt. Unaffordable tax cuts and wars, a major recession, and soaring health-care costs – fueled in part by the commitment of George W. Bush’s administration to giving drug companies free rein in setting prices, even with government money at stake – quickly transformed a huge surplus into record peacetime deficits.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Project Syndicate From Truthout

“Just a few years ago, a powerful ideology – the belief in free and unfettered markets – brought the world to the brink of ruin. Even in its hey-day, from the early 1980’s until 2007, American-style deregulated capitalism brought greater material well-being only to the very richest in the richest country of the world. Indeed, over the course of this ideology’s 30-year ascendance, most Americans saw their incomes decline or stagnate year after year.

Moreover, output growth in the United States was not economically sustainable. With so much of US national income going to so few, growth could continue only through consumption financed by a mounting pile of debt.

I was among those who hoped that, somehow, the financial crisis would teach Americans (and others) a lesson about the need for greater equality, stronger regulation, and a better balance between the market and government. Alas, that has not been the case. On the contrary, a resurgence of right-wing economics, driven, as always, by ideology and special interests, once again threatens the global economy – or at least the economies of Europe and America, where these ideas continue to flourish.

In the US, this right-wing resurgence, whose adherents evidently seek to repeal the basic laws of math and economics, is threatening to force a default on the national debt. If Congress mandates expenditures that exceed revenues, there will be a deficit, and that deficit has to be financed. Rather than carefully balancing the benefits of each government expenditure program with the costs of raising taxes to finance those benefits, the right seeks to use a sledgehammer – not allowing the national debt to increase forces expenditures to be limited to taxes.

This leaves open the question of which expenditures get priority – and if expenditures to pay interest on the national debt do not, a default is inevitable. Moreover, to cut back expenditures now, in the midst of an ongoing crisis brought on by free-market ideology, would inevitably simply prolong the downturn.

A decade ago, in the midst of an economic boom, the US faced a surplus so large that it threatened to eliminate the national debt. Unaffordable tax cuts and wars, a major recession, and soaring health-care costs – fueled in part by the commitment of George W. Bush’s administration to giving drug companies free rein in setting prices, even with government money at stake – quickly transformed a huge surplus into record peacetime deficits.

The remedies to the US deficit follow immediately from this diagnosis: put America back to work by stimulating the economy; end the mindless wars; rein in military and drug costs; and raise taxes, at least on the very rich. But the right will have none of this, and instead is pushing for even more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, together with expenditure cuts in investments and social protection that put the future of the US economy in peril and that shred what remains of the social contract. Meanwhile, the US financial sector has been lobbying hard to free itself of regulations, so that it can return to its previous, disastrously carefree, ways.

Help fight ignorance. Click here for daily Truthout email updates.

But matters are little better in Europe. As Greece and others face crises, the medicine du jour is simply timeworn austerity packages and privatization, which will merely leave the countries that embrace them poorer and more vulnerable. This medicine failed in East Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere, and it will fail in Europe this time around, too. Indeed, it has already failed in Ireland, Latvia, and Greece.

There is an alternative: an economic-growth strategy supported by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Growth would restore confidence that Greece could repay its debts, causing interest rates to fall and leaving more fiscal room for further growth-enhancing investments. Growth itself increases tax revenues and reduces the need for social expenditures, such as unemployment benefits. And the confidence that this engenders leads to still further growth.

Regrettably, the financial markets and right-wing economists have gotten the problem exactly backwards: they believe that austerity produces confidence, and that confidence will produce growth. But austerity undermines growth, worsening the government’s fiscal position, or at least yielding less improvement than austerity’s advocates promise. On both counts, confidence is undermined, and a downward spiral is set in motion.

Do we really need another costly experiment with ideas that have failed repeatedly? We shouldn’t, but increasingly it appears that we will have to endure another one nonetheless. A failure of either Europe or the US to return to robust growth would be bad for the global economy. A failure in both would be disastrous – even if the major emerging-market countries have attained self-sustaining growth. Unfortunately, unless wiser heads prevail, that is the way the world is heading.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.truth-out.org/ideological-crisis-western-capitalism/1310127895

Siding With the Billionaires: How the Right Is Waging a Class War Against All But the Wealthiest Americans

the Right’s default position is to side with the billionaires – and to show little or no regard for the fate of anyone else, whether NFL players or sick senior citizens.

From Alternet:

If American football fans end up facing a fall without NFL games, they probably won’t blame George W. Bush and other Republican presidents for packing the federal courts with right-wing judges, but it was two Bush appointees who reversed a District Court ruling that would have ended the lockout of players.

The Appeals Court judgment encouraged the NFL’s hardline billionaire owners to resist making the kinds of compromises that a few less intransigent owners recognize could easily resolve the impasse.

Now, the hardliners simply assume that Republican judges will keep siding with the NFL owners and thus enable them to beat down the players, eventually assuring the billionaire owners a bigger piece of the revenue pie – even if that means losing some or all of the 2011 season.

What many average Americans, especially white guys, don’t seem to understand is that whatever the populist-styled rhetoric of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, the Right’s default position is to side with the billionaires – and to show little or no regard for the fate of anyone else, whether NFL players or sick senior citizens.

Still, one must give the Right credit for having worked hard refining how to phrase its arguments. Right-wingers even have turned the term “class warfare” against the Left by shouting the phrase in a mocking fashion whenever anyone tries to blunt the “class warfare” that the billionaires have been waging against the middle class and the poor for decades.

On right-wing TV and talk radio across the country, there are tag teams of macho men pretending that ”class warfare” exists only in the fevered imagination of the Left. But billionaire investor Warren Buffett has acknowledged the truth: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

The right-wing propagandists further earn their keep by disparaging science as “elitist.” So, even as the dire predictions from climate-change experts that global warming will generate more extreme weather seem to be coming true, many Americans who have listened to the “climate-change-deniers” for years still reject the scientific warnings.

While no single weather event can be connected to the broader trend of climate change, the warnings about what might happen when the earth’s atmosphere heats up and absorbs more moisture seem to be applicable to the historic flooding in some parts of the world, droughts in others, and the outbreak of particularly violent storms.

Heat and moisture are especially dangerous ingredients for hurricanes and tornadoes.

Ironically, the parts of the United States hardest hit by this severe weather are those represented predominately by Republicans who have been at the forefront of obstructing government efforts to address the global-warming crisis.

Flooding, hurricanes and tornadoes have inflicted horrendous damage on Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri and Oklahoma – all part of the Republican base.

God’s Punishment?

If televangelist Pat Robertson were a left-winger instead of a right-winger, he might be saying that God is punishing these “red states” for doubting the science of global warming.

However, even as the U.S. news obsesses over the violent weather, mainstream media stars have steered clear of whether global warming might be a factor. It’s as if they know that they’d only be inviting career-damaging attacks from the Right if they did anything to connect the dots.

The Right also is not eager to explain how these catastrophes will require emergency funding and rebuilding assistance from the federal government. After all, you don’t want Republican voters to understand that sometimes “self-reliance” alone doesn’t cut it; sometimes, we all need helpand the government must be part of that assistance.

In the case of the killer tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, House Republicans, without a hint of irony, are extracting the funds for disaster relief from green energy programs, which remain a favorite GOP target since many Republicans still insist there is no such thing as global warming.

At both state and national levels, Republican leaders have lined up behind climate-change deniers, with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty just the latest GOP presidential hopeful to apologize for his past support of a cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing global-warming gases.

Any serious move toward alternative energies would, of course, be costly to the giant oil companies and their billionaire owners, like David Koch of Koch Industries who has spent millions of dollars funding right-wing organizations, such as the Tea Party. The Right’s media/political operatives know better than to bite the hand that feeds them.

GOP orthodoxy also disdains tax increases on the rich or even elimination of tax breaks for the oil industry. The Republican insistence on low tax rates for the wealthy, in turn, has forced consideration of other policy proposals to achieve savings from services for average Americans.

That is why congressional Republicans have targeted Medicare with a plan that would end the current health program for the elderly and replace it with a scheme that would give subsidies to senior citizens who would then have to sign up for health insurance from private industry, which has proven itself far less efficient in providing health care than the government.

The GOP budget, drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would impose the Medicare changes on seniors beginning in 10 years.

Most attention on the Ryan plan has focused on estimates that it would cost the average senior citizen more than $6,000 extra per year, but the proposal also has the effect of privatizing Medicare, meaning that the government would make direct “premium support” payments to profit-making insurance companies whose interest is in maximizing profits, not providing the best possible care for old people.

While the Ryan plan would achieve budget “savings” by shifting the burden of health-care costs onto the elderly, Ryan’s budget also would lower tax ratesfor the wealthiest Americans even more, from 35 percent to 25 percent. Partly because of that tax cut, Ryan’s budget would still not be balanced for almost three decades.

Class Warfare

Thus, the battle lines of America’s “class warfare” are getting more sharply drawn. The conflict is now over the Right’s determination to concentrate even more money and power in the hands of the rich by hobbling any government capability to protect the people’s general welfare.

If the Right wins, individual Americans will be left essentially defenseless in the face of unbridled corporate power.

Ryan’s Medicare plan may be just the most striking example because it envisions sick old people trying to pick their way through a thicket of private insurance plans with all their confusing language designed to create excuses for denying coverage. It is not an exaggeration to say that Ryan’s tight-fisted Medicare plan could consign millions of Americans to a premature death.

The Right’s priorities hit home at a town hall meeting held by Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Georgia, when he chastised one of his constituents who worried that Ryan’s plan would leave Americans like her, whose employer doesn’t extend health benefits to retirees, out of luck.

“Hear yourself, ma’am. Hear yourself,” Woodall lectured the woman. “You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, ‘When do I decide I’m going to take care of me?’”

However, another constituent noted that Woodall accepted government-paid-for health insurance for himself.

“You are not obligated to take that if you don’t want to,” the woman said. “Why aren’t you going out on the free market in the state where you’re a resident and buy your own health care? Be an example. …

“Go and get it in a single-subscriber plan, like you want everybody else to have, because you want to end employer-sponsored health plans and government-sponsored health plans. … Decline the government health plan and go to Blue Cross/Blue Shield or whoever, and get one for yourself and see how tough it is.”

Woodall answered that he was taking his government health insurance “because it’s free. It’s because it’s free.”

Self-reliance, it seems, is easier to preach to others than to practice yourself.

Woodall’s explanation recalled the hypocrisy of free-market heroine Ayn Rand, whom Rep. Ryan has cited as his political inspiration. In her influential writings, Rand ranted against social programs that enabled the “parasites” among the middle-class and the poor to sap the strength from the admirable rich, but she secretly accepted the benefits of Medicare after she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

A two-pack-a-day smoker, Rand had denied the medical science about the dangers of cigarettes, much as her acolytes today reject the science of global warming. However, when she developed lung cancer, she connived to have Evva Pryor, an employee of Rand’s law firm, arrange Social Security and Medicare benefits for Ann O’Connor, Ayn Rand using her husband’s last name.

In 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, Scott McConnell, founder of the Ayn Rand Institute’s media department, quoted Pryor as saying: “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out.”

So, when push came to shove, even Ayn Rand wasn’t above getting help from the “despised government.” However, her followers, including Rep. Ryan, now want to strip those guaranteed benefits from other Americans of more modest means than Ayn Rand.

It seems it’s okay for average Americans to be wiped out.

Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy

While the Right’s penchant for hypocrisy is well-known (note how many Republicans involved in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton had their own extra-marital affairs), the bigger mystery is why so many average-guy Americans volunteer to fight for the rich in the trenches of the Right’s class warfare.

Clearly, the Right’s propaganda with its endless repetition is very effective, especially given the failure of the American Left to invest significantly in a competing message machine. The Right also has adopted the tone of populism, albeit in support of a well-to-do economic elite.

Yet, perhaps most importantly, the Right has stuck with its battle plan for rallying a significant percentage of middle-class Americans against their own interests.

Four decades ago, President Richard Nixon and his subordinates won elections by demonizing “hippies,” “welfare queens” and the “liberal media.”

Then, in the late 1970s, a tripartite coalition took shape consisting of the Republican Establishment, neoconservatives and the leaders of the Christian Right. Each group had its priorities.

The rich Republicans wanted deep tax cuts and less business regulation; the neocons wanted big increases in military spending and a freer hand to wage wars; and the Christian Right agreed to supply political foot soldiers in exchange for concessions on social issues, such as abortion and gay rights. Ultimately, each part of the coalition got a chunk of what it wanted.

From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, the rich got their taxes slashed, saw regulations rolled back and gained a larger share of the nation’s wealth and political power. The neocons got massive military spending and the chance to dispatch U.S. soldiers to kill Israel’s Muslim enemies. The Christian Right got help in restricting abortions and punishing gays.

But what did the American middle-class get?

Over those three decades, the middle-class has stagnated or slipped backward. Labor unions were busted; jobs were shipped overseas; personal debt soared; education grew more expensive, along with medical care. People were working harder and longer – for less. Or they couldn’t find jobs at all.

With today’s Tea Party and the Ryan budget, the Right’s coalition is staying on the offensive. If the House budget were passed in total, tax rates for the rich would be reduced another 10 percentage points; military spending would remain high to please the neocons (who foresee a possible war with Iran); and Planned Parenthood and other pet targets of the Christian Right would be zeroed out.

Yet, with the proposed elimination of traditional Medicare, the Ryan budget has lifted the curtain on what the Right’s “free market” has in mind for most average Americans, who could expect to find their lives not only more brutish but shorter.

The real-life-and-death consequences of the Right’s tax cuts, military spending and culture wars are finally coming into focus. If you’re not rich – and can’t afford to pick up the higher tab on health care – you’re likely to die younger. Or your kids might have to dig into their pockets to help you out.

Less extreme but still troubling, another consequence of the Right’s remarkable success over the past three decades might become apparent on your TV screens this fall.

Thanks to all those right-wing judges packed onto federal appeals courts by Reagan and the two Bushes, American football fans might not have the NFL to watch.

The NFL’s lockout of its players seemed to be ending several weeks ago when a lower-court judge ruled against the billionaire owners, but the NFL’s lawyers confidently filed an appeal to a three-judge panel on the Eighth Circuit, knowing that they would surely get one dominated by Republican judges.

They did. Steven Colloton and Duane Benton, two Republicans appointed by George W. Bush, constituted the majority on the panel and reflexively sided with the NFL’s owners.

The ruling should have surprised no one. After all, the Right’s default position is almost always to side with the billionaires.

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com

emphasis mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151138/siding_with_the_billionaires%3A_how_the_right_is_waging_a_class_war_against_all_but_the_wealthiest_americans?akid=7039.123424.rXHQHd&rd=1&t=5

Thought Police: How the Tea Party’s Assault on Dissenting Thought Has Trapped the GOP

From Alternet, by Paul Waldman,in the American Prospect

(N.B.: This is good news for progressivism in 2012.  It is early, but it is clear the Tea Party mind set is here for a while…)

The Right has always policed dissenting thought in its ranks. But in the past few years the Tea Party has upped the ante.
May 24, 2011  |
Newt Gingrich probably thought he was being smart when a week ago he publicly rejected the budget plan put forward by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. After all, Ryan’s idea to change Medicare into a voucher program is profoundly unpopular, particularly with the seniors now enjoying the program’s benefits. So when Gingrich went on Meet the Press and responded to a question about the Ryan Medicare plan by saying, “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” it probably felt politically shrewd. He could distance himself from an unpopular idea and position himself not as the partisan bomb-thrower people used to consider him but as the innovative, post-partisanthinker he fancies himself to be.

It might have been a reasonable strategy — in a different era. But in 2011, identity defines politics more than ever. Gingrich’s mistake was his failure to understand that particularly at this stage of the race, no question is more important for a presidential candidate to answer than this: Are you one of us?

This question is crucial for both progressives and conservatives. Politics in America is deeply tribal and always has been. But in today’s political world, the right has a more highly developed system of policingits ideological borders. And since only Republicans have a primary race this election, that system is operating more swiftly, efficiently, and effectively than anything the left could dream of.

What the right has — as Gingrich discovered last week to his chagrin — is a ruthless identity border patrol, with agents spread throughout the political system. Step over any one of a number of lines, even lines that didn’t exist just weeks ago, and those agents will inform you, with all the subtlety of a truncheon to the kneecaps, that you are no longer within the conservative nation. “For Republicans running for president in 2012, there’s a new political reality: Support Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan — or else,”wrote the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. “Newt Gingrich learned that lesson the hard way.” And did he ever. “A candidate who is timid on entitlement reforms is not qualified to be president,” wrote Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, a group that trains and organizes Tea Partiers, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “He’s done,” Charles Krauthammedeclared on Fox News. “He didn’t have a big chance from the beginning, but now it’s over.” Republicans in Congress lined up to condemn the former speaker, who, it must be said, already had more than a few enemies on the right and handed Democrats a juicy video clip they’ll be sure to use in future ads (“Even Newt Gingrich called the Ryan plan ‘right-wing social engineering'”).

As much as liberals like to imagine the right as a hierarchically organized, smoothly humming machine, the truth is that their system is diffuse, much more like a school of fish than one giant shark. A variety of players influence the school’s course: politicians, media figures, activists, and advocates. It isn’t a conspiracy in which orders are delivered from above. If there really were a conspiracy, it would be headed by someone with enough sense to say, “This Medicare plan is really risky. Let’s not make it a litmus test.”

But no one has that ability, particularly in a party that is still both in thrall to and terrified of the Tea Party. After mounting successful primary challenges against sitting Republicans in 2010, the Tea Party has settled comfortably into its role as the vanguard of the Republican identity border patrol, deciding who is and who isn’t a conservative in good standing. Some Tea Party challenges for 2012 are already materializing (Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, respected on both sides of the aisle after 35 years in office, is likely to be booted by his Tea Party opponent), while even hard-right conservatives like Orrin Hatch are forced to abase themselves before the border patrol agents to demonstrate their bona fides.

The candidates seeking the presidency know that their standing as true conservatives is always at risk, that the gaze of the border patrol agents could fall on them at any moment. A few years ago, support for an individual health-insurance mandate and a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions were reasonable conservative positions; today, having ever entertained those ideas will get you branded as something other than a real conservative. This leaves the GOP presidential candidates in a bind because most of them embraced one or both in the past; now they have to sink to their knees and beg for forgiveness. In the case of the Ryan plan, something that didn’t exist just a few weeks ago has to some become nearly as central to conservative identity as opposition to abortion or taxes. For his criticism, Gingrich found it necessary to go on a humiliating contrition tour, first calling Ryan to apologize, then appearing on Rush Limbaugh’s program to make the bizarre assertion that he wasn’t even talking about the Ryan budget on Meet the Press, that he would have voted for it, and that he and Paul Ryan are buddies.

The other candidates are doing their best to assure conservatives that they’re on board, while simultaneously trying to avoid the political stain. Jon Huntsman saidhe would have voted for the Ryan plan. Mitt Romney tied himself in a knot about it, saying, “The Ryan plan and my plan are on the same page, we have the same objectives,” while leaving himself an out: “My plan is different than his, it’s not identical. But I applaud the fact that he put forward a plan.” Tim Pawlenty too has been careful to avoid criticizing Ryan’s plan, though he promises to deliver one of his own soon.

The candidates have little choice but to tread gingerly, because at this early stage of the presidential race, most of the people they encounter are party activists who have deputized themselves in the identity border patrol. Going from living room to VFW hall in Iowa eight months before the caucuses, they won’t be talking to independent voters. They will be courting partisans who care deeply about questions of identity. In some primary elections, the discussion among partisans might concern electability, or experience, or competence. But not this year. After constructing their opposition to Barack Obama around the idea that the president isn’t really American — either literally a foreigner or practically one by virtue of philosophy and record — today’s Republicans are acutely tuned to detect any whiff of heresy and concerned most deeply with which candidate lives deepest within the heart of their tribe.

There are plenty of activists on the left who would like nothing more than to have the same power the right’s base has. But they don’t. None of the components of the liberal base — union members, minorities, non-Christians (those of other faiths and the secular), urbanites, single people — inspires even a shadow of the fear in Democratic elites that the Tea Party, the Christian right, or gun advocates produce in the Republican elite. Nor do progressive media figures have anything comparable to the power within their movement that someone like Rush Limbaugh has (try to imagine Democratic leaders being forced to make groveling apologies to Rachel Maddow for criticizing her, the way Republican leaders have when they stepped out of line and criticized Limbaugh). That fear is evidence of the multiple veto points within the conservative system, the fact that many people have the power to make life miserable for Republicans who don’t stay within the borders.

Identity lies at the core of politics, no matter what your ideology. It’s the reason candidates portray themselves as coming from humble beginnings and feeling at home among regular folks or say they have “[insert our state name here] values” and their opponent doesn’t. It underlies all the key political divides we have — North versus South, urban versus rural, the “heartland” versus the coasts. It is behind every attack on the “elite,” whether from the left or the right and whether offered honestly or not. It’s written all through human history, from the first moment a hominid tribe decided that there were others of their kind who were outsiders and could not be trusted.

And Newt Gingrich knows it as well as anyone. When he said that Barack Obama “is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together” who the president is, he was just the latest version of the homo erectus grunting to his tribesmen that his rival has been seen visiting that cave on the other side of the valley and therefore must be slain lest the tribe be contaminated. But he failed to pay close enough attention to where the borders of identity had moved, and he paid the price. It will not be the last time in this election cycle that a candidate’s identity as a member of the tribe is challenged.

Emphasis mine.

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151071/thought_police%3A_how_the_tea_party%27s_assault_on_dissenting_thought_has_trapped_the_gop?akid=7010.123424.rCB3yY&rd=1&t=2

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

The House voting to ‘repeal’ the health care insurance reform laws.  Since this shameless pandering to some of their base will have no legislative impact, we can keep the benefits we have already gained, including adding sons and daughters of up to age 26 to our family plans, free check-ups and diagnostic procedures, and help for those in the Medicare Part D coverage gap.

Republicans vs. Medicare

And if Democrats don’t get their act together and push the almost-completed reform across the goal line, this breathtaking act of staggering hypocrisy will succeed.

Krugman, NY Times:

Don’t cut Medicare. The reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong.” So declared Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, in a recent op-ed article written with John Goodman, the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis. And irony died.

Now, Mr. Gingrich was just repeating the current party line. Furious denunciations of any effort to seek cost savings in Medicare — death panels! — have been central to Republican efforts to demonize health reform. What’s amazing, however, is that they’re getting away with it.

Why is this amazing? It’s not just the fact that Republicans are now posing as staunch defenders of a program they have hated ever since the days when Ronald Reagan warned that Medicare would destroy America’s freedom. Nor is it even the fact that, as House speaker, Mr. Gingrich personally tried to ram through deep cuts in Medicare — and, in 1995, went so far as to shut down the federal government in an attempt to bully Bill Clinton into accepting those cuts.

After all, you could explain this about-face by supposing that Republicans have had a change of heart, that they have finally realized just how much good Medicare does. And if you believe that, I’ve got some mortgage-backed securities you might want to buy.

No, what’s truly mind-boggling is this: Even as Republicans denounce modest proposals to rein in Medicare’s rising costs, they are, themselves, seeking to dismantle the whole program. And the process of dismantling would begin with spending cuts of about $650 billion over the next decade. Math is hard, but I do believe that’s more than the roughly $400 billion (not $500 billion) in Medicare savings projected for the Democratic health bills.

What I’m talking about here is the “Roadmap for America’s Future,” the budget plan recently released by Representative Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee. Other leading Republicans have been bobbing and weaving on the official status of this proposal, but it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s vision does, in fact, represent what the G.O.P. would try to do if it returns to power.

The broad picture that emerges from the “roadmap” is of an economic agenda that hasn’t changed one iota in response to the economic failures of the Bush years. In particular, Mr. Ryan offers a plan for Social Security privatization that is basically identical to the Bush proposals of five years ago.

But what’s really worth noting, given the way the G.O.P. has campaigned against health care reform, is what Mr. Ryan proposes doing with and to Medicare.

In the Ryan proposal, nobody currently under the age of 55 would be covered by Medicare as it now exists. Instead, people would receive vouchers and be told to buy their own insurance. And even this new, privatized version of Medicare would erode over time because the value of these vouchers would almost surely lag ever further behind the actual cost of health insurance. By the time Americans now in their 20s or 30s reached the age of eligibility, there wouldn’t be much of a Medicare program left.

But what about those who already are covered by Medicare, or will enter the program over the next decade? You’re safe, says the roadmap; you’ll still be eligible for traditional Medicare. Except, that is, for the fact that the plan “strengthens the current program with changes such as income-relating drug benefit premiums to ensure long-term sustainability.”

If this sounds like deliberately confusing gobbledygook, that’s because it is. Fortunately, the Congressional Budget Office, which has done an evaluation of the roadmap, offers a translation: “Some higher-income enrollees would pay higher premiums, and some program payments would be reduced.” In short, there would be Medicare cuts.

And it’s possible to back out the size of those cuts from the budget office analysis, which compares the Ryan proposal with a “baseline” representing current policy. As I’ve already said, the total over the next decade comes to about $650 billion — substantially bigger than the Medicare savings in the Democratic bills.

The bottom line, then, is that the crusade against health reform has relied, crucially, on utter hypocrisy: Republicans who hate Medicare, tried to slash Medicare in the past, and still aim to dismantle the program over time, have been scoring political points by denouncing proposals for modest cost savings — savings that are substantially smaller than the spending cuts buried in their own proposals.

And if Democrats don’t get their act together and push the almost-completed reform across the goal line, this breathtaking act of staggering hypocrisy will succeed.

see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/opinion/12krugman.html?em

On The Bill: Politics is the Art of the Possible

Politics is the Art of the Possible

Krugman, 25 Dec 2009, the New York Times:

“…”…the legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday and will probably, in a slightly modified version, soon become law will make America a much better country.

So why are so many people complaining? There are three main groups of critics.

First, there’s the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people — a lunatic fringe that is no longer a fringe but has moved into the heart of the Republican Party

A second strand of opposition comes from what I think of as the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit, and which — in the judgment of leading health economists — does far more to control costs than anyone has attempted in the past.what really motivates them is “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is receiving social insurance.”

Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill’s limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

The truth is that there isn’t a Congressional majority in favor of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan. But given the way the Senate rules work, it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that fact, combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.

If progressives want more, they’ll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They’ll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks — I’d especially like to move the start date up from 2014, if that’s at all possible — is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.

And for all its flaws and limitations, it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.  (N.B.: This is what I call a ‘beachhead’.)

Many people deserve credit for this moment. What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal health care as a core principle during the Democratic primaries of 2007-2008 — an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. (For what it’s worth, the reform that’s being passed is closer to Hillary Clinton’s plan than to President Obama’s). This made health reform a must-win for the next president. And it’s actually happening.

So progressives shouldn’t stop complaining, but they should congratulate themselves on what is, in the end, a big win for them — and for America.”

(Emphasis mine)

see: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/opinion/25krugman.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1261753212-RwiQATMIBUa+By+dIKRN/A

Government Health Insurance

Paul Krugman, in the NY Times: At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”

It’s a funny story — but it illustrates the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation. It’s not just that many Americans don’t understand what President Obama is proposing; many people don’t understand the way American health care works right now. They don’t understand, in particular, that getting the government involved in health care wouldn’t be a radical step: the government is already deeply involved, even in private insurance.

And that government involvement is the only reason our system works at all.

The key thing you need to know about health care is that it depends crucially on insurance. You don’t know when or whether you’ll need treatment — but if you do, treatment can be extremely expensive, well beyond what most people can pay out of pocket. Triple coronary bypasses, not routine doctor’s visits, are where the real money is, so insurance is essential.

Yet private markets for health insurance, left to their own devices, work very badly: insurers deny as many claims as possible, and they also try to avoid covering people who are likely to need care. Horror stories are legion: the insurance company that refused to pay for urgently needed cancer surgery because of questions about the patient’s acne treatment; the healthy young woman denied coverage because she briefly saw a psychologist after breaking up with her boyfriend…most Americans do have health insurance, and are reasonably satisfied with it. How is that possible, when insurance markets work so badly? The answer is government intervention…So here’s the bottom line: if you currently have decent health insurance, thank the government..

Right-wing opponents of reform would have you believe that President Obama is a wild-eyed socialist, attacking the free market. But unregulated markets don’t work for health care — never have, never will. To the extent we have a working health care system at all right now it’s only because the government covers the elderly, while a combination of regulation and tax subsidies makes it possible for many, but not all, nonelderly Americans to get decent private coverage.

Now Mr. Obama basically proposes using additional regulation and subsidies to make decent insurance available to all of us. That’s not radical; it’s as American as, well, Medicare.

see: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/opinion/31krugman.html?scp=6&sq=krugman&st=cse