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

Healthcare Jujitsu

But with a bit of political jujitsu, the President could turn any such defeat into a victory for a single-payer healthcare system – Medicare for all. compared to private insurance, Medicare is a great deal. Its administrative costs are only around 3 percent, while the administrative costs of private insurers eat up 30 to 40 percent of premiums. Medicare’s costs are even below the 5 percent to 10 percent administrative costs borne by large companies that self-insure, and under the 11 percent costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.

From: Robert Reich’s blog

By: Robert Reich

“Not surprisingly, today’s debut Supreme Court argument over the so-called “individual mandate” requiring everyone to buy health insurance revolved around epistemological niceties such as the meaning of a “tax,” and the question of whether the issue is ripe for review.

Behind this judicial foreplay is the brute political fact that if the Court decides the individual mandate is an unconstitutional extension of federal authority, the entire law starts unraveling.

But with a bit of political jujitsu, the President could turn any such defeat into a victory for a single-payer healthcare systemMedicare for all.

Here’s how.

The dilemma at the heart of the new law is that it continues to depend on private health insurers, who have to make a profit or at least pay all their costs including marketing and advertising.

Yet the only way private insurers can afford to cover everyone with pre-existing health problems, as the new law requires, is to have every American buy health insurance – including young and healthier people who are unlikely to rack up large healthcare costs.

This dilemma is the product of political compromise. You’ll remember the Administration couldn’t get the votes for a single-payer system such as Medicare for all. It hardly tried. Not a single Republican would even agree to a bill giving Americans the option of buying into it.

But don’t expect the Supreme Court to address this dilemma. It lies buried under an avalanche of constitutional argument.

Those who are defending the law in Court say the federal government has authority to compel Americans to buy health insurance under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives Washington the power to regulate interstate commerce. They argue our sprawling health insurance system surely extends beyond an individual state.

Those who are opposing the law say a requirement that individuals contract with private insurance companies isn’t regulation of interstate commerce. It’s coercion of individuals.

Unhappily for Obama and the Democrats, most Americans don’t seem to like the individual mandate very much anyway. Many on the political right believe it a threat to individual liberty. Many on the left object to being required to buy something from a private company.

The President and the Democrats could have avoided this dilemma in the first place if they’d insisted on Medicare for all, or at least a public option.

After all, Social Security and Medicare require every working American to “buy” them. The purchase happens automatically in the form of a deduction from everyone’s paychecks. But because Social Security and Medicare are government programs financed by payroll taxes they don’t feel like mandatory purchases.

Americans don’t mind mandates in the form of payroll taxes for Social Security or Medicare. In fact, both programs are so popular even conservative Republicans were heard to shout “don’t take away my Medicare!” at rallies opposed to the new health care law.

There’s no question payroll taxes are constitutional, because there’s no doubt that the federal government can tax people in order to finance particular public benefits. But requiring citizens to buy something from a private company is different because private companies aren’t directly accountable to the public. They’re accountable to their owners and their purpose is to maximize profits. What if they monopolize the market and charge humongous premiums? (Some already seem to be doing this.)

Even if private health insurers are organized as not-for-profits, there’s still a problem of public accountability. What’s to prevent top executives from being paid small fortunes? (In more than a few cases this is already happening.)

Moreover, compared to private insurance, Medicare is a great deal. Its administrative costs are only around 3 percent, while the administrative costs of private insurers eat up 30 to 40 percent of premiums. Medicare’s costs are even below the 5 percent to 10 percent administrative costs borne by large companies that self-insure, and under the 11 percent costs of private plans under Medicare Advantage, the current private-insurance option under Medicare.

So why not Medicare for all?

Because Republicans have mastered the art of political jujitsu. Their strategy has been to demonize government and seek to privatize everything that might otherwise be a public program financed by tax dollars (see Paul Ryan’s plan for turning Medicare into vouchers). Then they go to court and argue that any mandatory purchase is unconstitutional because it exceeds the government’s authority.

Obama and the Democrats should do the reverse. If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate in the new health law, private insurers will swarm Capitol Hill demanding that the law be amended to remove the requirement that they cover people with pre-existing conditions.

When this happens, Obama and the Democrats should say they’re willing to remove that requirement – but only if Medicare is available to all, financed by payroll taxes.

If they did this the public will be behind them – as will the Supreme Court.”


Robert Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including “The Work of Nations,” “Locked in the Cabinet,” “Supercapitalism” and his latest book, “AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America’s Future.” His ‘Marketplace’ commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/272-39/10655-healthcare-jujitsu