Monday, July 31, 2017

Massachusetts Governor Signs Bill to Allow Recreational Pot

'Marijuana is already legal for recreational use in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia.' (photo: Getty Images)
'Marijuana is already legal for recreational use in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia.' (photo: Getty Images)

By Reid Wilson, The Hill
assachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has signed a new measure that sets in motion a nearly yearlong process to legalize marijuana for recreational use, after months of negotiations with the state legislature.

The law comes nine months after voters in Massachusetts and three other states approved ballot measures to allow recreational marijuana. The first recreational pot shops are set to open in July 2018.

“We appreciate the careful consideration the legislature took to balance input from lawmakers, educators, public safety officials and public health professionals, while honoring the will of the voters regarding the adult use of marijuana,” Baker said in a statement.

The new legislation makes significant changes to the initiative Bay State voters passed last year, increasing sales taxes on legal marijuana from 12 percent to 20 percent. The state will levy a 17 percent tax, while municipalities will issue their own 3 percent tax.

Massachusetts anticipates generating as much as $83 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales during the first year of legalization alone, the state Department of Revenue estimated earlier this year. Sales during the second year are expected to top out at more than $1 billion, generating tax revenue of up to $200 million.

Question 4 won approval from nearly 54 percent of Massachusetts voters last year. In a first-of-its-kind provision, local governments in cities and towns that voted against the ballot measure will be allowed to ban marijuana stores. In cities and towns where Question 4 passed, any bans on marijuana stores must be approved by voters.

Baker, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) and state Treasurer Deb Goldberg (D) must now appoint five members each to a state cannabis advisory board by Aug. 1. They have another month, until Sept. 1, to appoint members of the Cannabis Control Commission, the board tasked with writing rules and regulations for the legal marijuana industry.

The new law gives the commission until March to issue those regulations, covering everything from public advertising to cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sales of edible marijuana products.

Recreational pot shops may begin applying for licenses by April, and the first licenses will be issued in June, just weeks before the first stores are set to open.

Legal marijuana backers said they hope for a speedy regulatory process and an absence of further delays.

“We take elected officials at their word that there will be no more delays in implementation of the legal sales system,” said Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the Question 4 campaign.

The other three states that passed recreational marijuana laws last year have moved faster than Massachusetts to set up their own legal frameworks. Pot sales became legal in Nevada last month, just seven months after voters approved a ballot measure last year. California plans to allow its first recreational sales in January 2018, while the first pot shops in Maine will open in February.

Marijuana is already legal for recreational use in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lying Will Now Be Smoother and More Telegenic

Anthony Scaramucci. (photo: Getty Images)
Anthony Scaramucci. (photo: Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
30 July 17

here are two things I decline to do about the departure of Sean Spicer from behind his White House podium: 1) Care, and 2) Sympathize.

As to the first, it doesn't matter a damn to the country who the next marquee liar representing Camp Runamuck is. Any TV reporter who starts talking about how the "messaging" will now change under the watchful eye of Anthony Scaramucci is telling you that they think the administration's lying will now be smoother and more telegenic. The president will continue to be an unqualified, undereducated dolt. The policies, such as they are, will continue to be retrograde and cruel. Bob Mueller will shrug and get back to work until El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago fires him. The public face of this particular administration is doomed always to be more of a useless bobo than all the press secretaries who have come before. None of that will change.

(The new guy, Anthony Scaramucci, came out on Friday afternoon and said that Donald Trump had "some of the best political instincts in the world." Aces, all of them, all the way down.)

As to the second, we're already starting to hear folks talk about what a good guy Spicer is, and how he can get back to being the good guy he always was. The hell with that. Spicer took the Dolt's Shilling. On his first day on the gig, he willingly lied about the size of the inaugural crowd because the president*'s ego couldn't handle its actual size. He then repeated whatever nonsense he was told to repeat until he became a figure of fun and ridicule. And how are we supposed to believe he left because he was dissatisfied with the fact that he has a new supervisor? 

"I will lie and degrade the public discourse more than any living human being, but I cannot work with THAT MAN." (Sean Spicer's Last Lament, 2017.)

Yeah, that'll fly.

I still think they should have let him meet the pope, though. That was unkind. 

One of the most remarkable events of my lifetime was the sudden explosion of democratic energy in Poland in the summer of 1980. Yes, it all began before St. Ronnie got elected. (During my alternative press days, I used to wear a Solidarnosc T-shirt when I played softball. Not a big deal, but I liked it.) This is why the events in Poland this week had some serious resonance around the shebeen. The new government there leans a bit too far in the direction of non-Communist authoritarianism for folks who still remember what life under actual Communist authoritarianism was like. And they're in the streets again. From CNN:

Tens of thousands of Poles gathered outside the presidential palace in Warsaw on Thursday evening, just hours after the lower house of Parliament passed a bill that would give the populist government the power to push all of the country's Supreme Court judges into retirement. The government-controlled upper house of Parliament could vote on the bill as soon as Friday. Videos shared on social media captured the moment when protesters assembled in the capital sang a resounding version of the national anthem, waving Polish and European Union flags. The public outcry over efforts by Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, or PiS, to curtail judiciary independence has flown largely under the radar amid recent high-profile visits from US President Donald Trump and the British royals.

Which brings to mind this interesting column from Tiger Beat On The Potomac. I agree with a lot of it. Many conservatives and Republicans have demonstrated a serious man-crush on Vladmir Putin and, yes, it does conflict with a great deal of conservative rhetoric over the past few decades. But I just can't get with this part.

What I never expected was that the Republican Party—which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union—would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin's Russia. My message for today's GOP is to paraphrase Barack Obama when he mocked Romney for saying precisely that: 2012 called—it wants its foreign policy back… How did the party of Ronald Reagan's moral clarity morph into that of Donald Trump's moral vacuity? Russia's intelligence operatives are among the world's best. I believe they made a keen study of the American political scene and realized that, during the Obama years, the conservative movement had become ripe for manipulation. Long gone was its principled opposition to the "evil empire."

History is not the friend of those assertions. Even back in the glory days of Ronald Reagan, conservatives and Republicans loved authoritarians. They just didn't like the Communist ones. They were fine with Pinochet, and the Somozas, and Rios Montt in Guatemala, and Galtieri in Argentina. The Shah was fine with us for decades, and so was Saddam Hussein, now that I think about it. Jeane Kirkpatrick, that splendid meathead who was proven wrong almost daily in the 1980s, most particularly in places like Poland, made her fortune drawing distinctions between Pinochet and Ho Chi Minh. And, for an awfully long time, this was a distressingly bipartisan phenomenon.

Pinochet's people committed an act of murderous terrorism within sight of the U.S. Capitol. The United States government continued to support him for 14 years. In 1980, the American-trained national guard in El Salvador raped and murdered four American nuns. Kirkpatrick intimated that the four nuns had been fighting with the guerrillas in the hills and Alexander Haig speculated that they had died in a running gun battle. I don't recall a great deal of outrage from the ascendant American Right about either the crime or the slander of the murdered women.

In fact, President Jimmy Carter shut off military aid to the El Salvador government, a policy that Reagan reversed almost as soon as he got in the door. Carter was roundly ridiculed by that ascendant Right for making human rights an essential part of his foreign policy, even though his commitment to that principle was admittedly spotty. (The Democrats developed something of a conscience on the issue that never sprung up in the Reagan administration.) Putin has a lot more in common with Pinochet and Galtieri than he does with Andropov or Khrushchev, even though he works in the same office space. If we're all on the same page regarding authoritarian governments oppressing the democratic rights of their citizens now, I rejoice.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Shocker: Trump dreamed up transgender ban all on his own, Joint Chiefs blindsided, Mattis appalled

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 25:  U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Rose Garden at the White House July 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump began the news conference by announcing that Senate Republicans had passed a procedural vote on repealing Obamacare.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

This is the commander in chief of our military, folks, where transgender service members are currently deployed overseas with the units they serve in depending on them to perform critical tasks. Everyone has to believe that everyone else has their back and vice versa. And then there’s the Don, stewing in the safety of the Oval Office about a legislative snag that might tank billions in taxpayer funding for his precious border wall that everyone knows is a boondoggle anyway.

So the Don picks up his phone and fires off a policy-on-the-fly tweet storm claiming that “after consultation with my Generals and military experts,” transgender Americans wouldn’t be allowed to “serve in any capacity.” Except, the leaders of the respective branches were entirely blindsided …

Huh. It seemed so rock solid. Not so much, writes the New York Times ...
Mr. Mattis, who was on vacation, was silent on the new policy. People close to the defense secretary said he was appalled that Mr. Trump chose to unveil his decision in tweets, in part because of the message they sent to transgender active-duty service members, including those deployed overseas, that they were suddenly no longer welcome. [...]

Mr. Mattis had worked behind the scenes to keep such language out of legislation, quietly lobbying Republican lawmakers not to attach the prohibitions, according to congressional and defense officials.
Hmm, wonder why Congressional Republicans were so worried about that whopping $8.4 million that might be spent on medical care for transgender people who are risking their lives for our country?
Mr. Trump and Republican lawmakers had come under pressure from Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian conservative group, and an ally of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Perkins opposed the bill over spending on transgender medical costs and lobbied lawmakers to do the same.

“Grant repentance to President Trump and Secretary Mattis for even considering to keep this wicked policy in place,” the Family Research Council said in one of its daily prayers last week. “Grant them understanding, courage and willpower to stand up to the forces of darkness that gave birth to it and wholly to repeal it.”

Opponents of allowing openly transgender service members had raised a number of concerns, including what they said was the questionable psychological fitness of those troops.
How about this: We have a number of concerns about the psychological fitness of the commander in chief. Good thing right-wing extremist Tony Perkins is now calling the shots on military policy for troops presently serving overseas, some of them combat zones. As for the fitness of trans service members:

Lt. Commander Blake Dremann, a Navy supply corps officer who is transgender, said he found out his job was in danger when he turned on CNN on Wednesday morning. Commander Dremann came out as transgender to his commanders in 2015, and said they had been supportive of him.

He refused to criticize Mr. Trump — “we don’t criticize our commander in chief,” he said — but said the policy shift “is singling out a specific population in the military, who had been assured we were doing everything appropriate to continue our honorable service.”
Mr. Dremann has more grace, honor, courage, and common sense in the tip of his pinky finger than Trump is even capable of comprehending let alone possessing.

Every day, Trump puts on a new master class in how a bottom feeder can drag one of the greatest countries in modern history down to the dregs of the earth. It’s just a question of which way he’ll do it on any given day.

As for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, she lied through her teeth during Wednesday’s press briefing, repeatedly claiming that the new policy was "based on a military decision” in “consultation” with the national security team (which apparently didn’t include the Joint Chiefs of Staff). But don’t worry, as a “person of faith” God is her “one perfect role model.” So all is forgiven. Blessed be.

Friday, July 28, 2017

An American Tragedy: Healthcare for Profit

A health care rally. (photo: Health Care for All)
A health care rally. (photo: Health Care for All)

By Ellen Cantarow, Reader Supported News

A review of Dr. John Geyman’s Crisis in US Health Care: Corporate Power vs The Common Good (Copernicus Healthcare: Washington, 2017, 377 pp.)

ere are some statistics about the US’s ruinous system of health care that you’ll find appalling, though probably not surprising. Page numbers come from the book I’m reviewing here:
  • The combined annual cost of insurance and health care is $25,000 for a family of four, while one year’s worth of cancer drugs exceeds $200,000, forcing patients to choose between bankruptcy and treatment. [262]

  • Health care makes up a seventh of America’s national income, despite which, 50,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance, according to findings in 2012 by Harvard researchers and the US Census Bureau. [98]

  • Tens of millions of uninsured or underinsured Americans include “5.9 million uninsured mothers, one in five of whom are likely to have the greatest physical and mental health care needs.” The “underinsured” are 31 million people who have insurance but can’t get care when they need it. Even the insured get “surprise bills for services they thought would be covered.” [261]

  • In 2014 over a half-million Americans paid more than $50,000 each for medicine, up by 63% from 2013, having been prescribed high-cost “specialty” drugs. [81]  In that year the cost for a bottle of 500 tablets of the common antibiotic Doxycycline, soared from $20 to $1849 in just six months. [80] The contrast with other countries is immense; Herceptin, a breast cancer drug, costs 30 percent less in England and 28 percent less in Norway than it does in the US. [81]

  • Costs vary from region to region and even from hospital to hospital. In California, an uncomplicated Caesarian section ranges from $8,312 to $70,908, while in the early 1960s it cost $300 and included pre- and post-natal care. [79]
These statistics are drawn from Dr. John Geyman’s Crisis in US Health Care: Corporate Power vs The Common Good. A founding member of Physicians for a National Health Plan, Geyman charts “60 years of ‘enormous changes,’ 1956-2016,” the period of his primary care practice in rural and urban regions. A former conservative who turned progressive as he learned about America’s health-care enormities, Geyman says our health care predicament is rooted in “a confrontation between profit-seeking corporate stakeholders and the common good,” and while he doesn’t use the c-word, the book is a thoroughly convincing indictment of capitalism in its effects on our nation’s health.

In the US, access and choice are restricted by one’s insurance status and ability to pay, not by medical need [258]. American health care, says Geyman, is “dysfunctional,” “broken,” and “at a crisis point.”

The book explores the corporatization of health care – its increasing privatization and lack of accountability; soaring costs; decreased access and quality of care; the criminalizing of mental health; the shift from altruism to self-interest as the dominant medical ethic; the adverse influence of specialization on continuity of care; the malign influence of religion on medicine; the eclipse of prevention and public health by a focus on disease treatment; and the decline of physicians’ professionalism and autonomy.

A great part of that decline owes to the fact that over 60 percent of American doctors work for large hospital systems that squeeze doctors to “produce.” For instance, consolidation spawns “productivity-based contracts” that reward doctors “for ordering more expensive tests and providing a higher volume of services.” [81]

A penultimate section traces Geyman’s own medical education and practice. In the closing section of the book, with suggestions for graduated tax rates on Americans, he proposes national health care, by contrast with expanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or adopting a Republican “reform.”

The ACA comes in for much criticism. It “was supposed to contain health care costs and make them more affordable. It has been a complete failure in that regard, partly due to its lack of price controls and partly because it has fueled a new merger frenzy among corporate giants in the medical-industrial complex.” [15] Much of the population under the ACA “finds care unaffordable, and forgoes necessary care with poor outcomes that would be prevented under a system of universal coverage.” [305]

I was particularly interested in Geyman’s remarks about Medicare, since this past winter I learned that without my permission my health insurance had been changed from traditional Medicare to something called “Medicare Advantage.” Suddenly my coverage for all sorts of things was questioned and payments were denied. Repeated calls to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey, which had been my husband’s employer, disclosed that the Garden State had made the change; I was told I should have gotten a form in the mail asking me if I agreed to the change – I hadn’t.

“Many patients on traditional Medicare are now surprised to find themselves automatically enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans,” writes Geyman. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “secretly allowed these plans to enroll traditional Medicare patients without requiring them to opt in.” It turns out that private Medicare plans are riddled with “poor service ... with inadequate physician networks, long waits for care, and denials of many treatments, as insurers pocket new profits.”[22]

Like Geyman, I recall I time when the relationship between doctor and patient was sacrosanct and long-lasting, so I also found his fifth chapter, with its discussion of the decline of primary care in the US, arresting. In 2008 the World Health Organization (WHO), defined primary care as the basis for a strong health care system, and enumerated essential features of such a program. They include accessibility with no out-of-pocket expenses, focus on a person (not a disease) over time, and a broad range of services. “[C]ountries with ... strong ... primary care have better outcomes at low cost,” according to the WHO. [70] Yet while the US desperately needs more primary care physicians, Title VII funds that support primary care training plummeted between 1977 and 2009.[64]

I am immensely lucky to have a primary care doctor who has dissociated himself from any hospital. He scheduled two initial interviews of forty-five minutes, and he usually spends a half-hour to forty-five minutes talking with me about medical problems that have arisen as I have aged. I find it abhorrent that he is the exception to the American rule, and I’m gratified to find both agreement and documentation for this, as for everything Geyman presents in this must-read for patients and their physicians. One editorial caveat: the book is riddled with acronyms, sometimes frustratingly lacking initial definitions. 

A companion book could be Elisabeth Rosenthal’s An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back. She is a New York Times reporter as well as a physician, and her style is engaging, even while her book is just as dense as Geyman’s – not your on-the-beach weekend reading, but an education in itself.

Looking for the most bitter, moronic take on the failed health care vote? Fox News didn't disappoint

Fox and Friends hosts
We won't let you down

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 04:  U.S. President Donald Trump (C) congratulates House Republicans after they passed legislation aimed at repealing and replacing ObamaCare, during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House, on May 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. The House bill would still need to be passed by the Senate before it could be signed into law. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Remember this?
If you were looking for the most bitter, most callous, hottest moronic take on the failed health care vote, then look no further! Fox News is here for you. Apparently unable to remember the spectacle of Donald Trump throwing a kegger in the Rose Garden for the Republican House members when they passed the original abomination of a bill, the hosts of Fox & Friends were bigly upset when Sen. Elizabeth Warren had the nerve to go outside of the Capitol building after the vote to talk with the gathered crowd and take a few selfies. 

As the Fox & Friends crew watched the footage of Warren with supporters, host Brian Kilmeade offered up the most moronic take (by a mile), “Congratulations! The healthy people are now paying for the sick people.”

Breaking news! That’s how insurance works! Do you think it would ever occur to Brian Kilmeade that most people are perfectly healthy … until they aren’t?

Hilariously, it took a while to find this clip because Fox & Friends spent much of the show blaming big, bad New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza for tricking new-to-politics businessman Anthony Scaramucci, the White House’s new  communications director, into running his big mouth. They largely glossed over the Republicans’ epic fail last night, but when they did address it, they spent most of the segment complaining about reaction from Democrats.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

George Takei Calls Trump Exactly What He Is

George Takei, you have the conn.
Following President Trump's tweetstorm banning transgenders from the military, actor George Takei responded:

George Takei @GeorgeTakei
"History shall record that you are not only the stupidest, most incompetent president ever, but also the cruelest and pettiest," Takei, an outspoken Trump critic, tweeted shortly after Trump's decision came down.

As David Remnick writing for the New Yorker, explains, Trump's motivation for this ban-- to divert attention from his scandals--aptly demonstrates what a low-life he really is:
Let’s begin with the retrograde cruelty. There are thousands of transgender people already serving among the 1.3 million active-duty members of the military. These are people who have volunteered their service and have potentially put their lives on the line, and yet their President, who managed to come up with a flimsy doctor’s note back in the day, denies them their dignity, their equality. He will not “accept or allow” them in the military. Imagine the scale of this insult.
However, today’s outrage—they seem to come at least once daily—is not merely one that reflects on Trump’s low character. It also reveals yet another layer of his political cynicism, and his willingness to use any tactical means available to try to emerge whole from his current predicament.
The President is in the midst of a colossal scandal, and the country, to an increasing measure, knows it. It’s not merely a matter of poor popularity polls. A sizable portion of the country wants to be rid of him and suspects he is unworthy of his office.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

McCain stood at the podium and said he would vote 'no' on the bill as it stands—guess how he voted

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 09:  Sen. John McCain (L) (R-AZ) speaks with members of the Republican leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) about the Defense Authorization Bill following caucus luncheons at the U.S. Capitol June 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Senate is expected to begin voting on the Defense Authorization bill later this afternoon.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Remember all the way back to Tuesday afternoon, when John McCain gave a rousing speech about the glories of bipartisanship and regular order? Sure, McCain had just come across the country to vote for a bill advanced though the most partisan, most aberrant process in the history of the Senate. But there he was, to reassure you that, despite just scoring the winning goal for team Trump/McConnell, he was just so … mavericky. You know. Like this.
"I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It's a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state's governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it.”
Emphasis damn well added. And then, six hours after McCain made this statement, the bill came up for a vote. The bill failed, with a final vote of 57—43. The usual selection of “moderates” were joined by the kill ‘em faster conservatives, with Susan Collins, Tom Cotton, Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, Dean Heller, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, and Rand Paul all voting against. But who is not in that list … Hmm.

There’s John McCain, voting “Yes” as Trump and McConnell demanded just a few hours after he told all of America he would vote no.

So all that “try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides?” I’m sure saying those words was Good for John McCain. But John McCain’s word? Not good.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tall order, but a necessary step in returning Democratic Party to the people

Activists at the Iowa CCI annual convention. (photo: Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register)
Activists at the Iowa CCI annual convention. (photo: Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register)

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

25 July 17

can already hear some of my establishment Democrat friends saying that the People’s Platform being pushed by progressive groups is unachievable. Of course in this Congress they are right. So, what if the Democrats were to push an agenda that is achievable in this Congress? What would that look like? It would be a blank piece of paper, since the GOP Congress will not let the Democratic Party get credit for any legislation, even if it fits in with their right-wing agenda.

That is why the “Summer of Progress” campaign launched by many progressives is so important. It’s time to create a platform that defines the Democratic Party as the people’s party again. Of course Improved Medicare for All will not even get a vote in Paul Ryan’s house, but it’s time for all Democrats to co-sponsor the bill, and those who don’t should prepare for a primary next year.

The People’s Platform is about more than healthcare. At you will find bills that progressive organizations are demanding House Democrats sign onto as co-sponsors. Those bills are:

  1. Medicare for All: H.R. 676 – Medicare For All Act

  2. Free College Tuition: H.R. 1880 – College for All Act of 2017

  3. Worker Rights: H.R.15 – Raise the Wage Act

  4. Women’s Rights: H.R.771 – Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017

  5. Voting Rights: H.R. 2840 – Automatic Voter Registration Act

  6. Environmental Justice: Climate Change Bill – Renewable Energy

  7. Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights: H.R.3543 – Justice Is Not for Sale Act of 2017

  8. Taxing Wall Street: H.R. 1144 – Inclusive Prosperity Act

It is a bold agenda. It has to be, to breathe new life into the Democratic Party. My establishment Democratic friends will say that Hillary got 3 million more votes than Trump. They are right, but it was also nearly 4 million votes less than Barack Obama received in 2008 and less than Obama got in 2012.

Last summer Democrats passed the most progressive platform in its history. This summer it is time to bring that platform to life and make it mean something.

The groups that have signed onto this campaign are: Our Revolution, Democratic Socialists of America, Democracy for America, Progressive Democrats of America, #AllofUs, Common Defense, National Nurses United, Working Families Party, Millennials for Revolution, Women’s March, Labor for Our Revolution, People for Bernie, Good Jobs Nation, Young Progressives Demanding Action, Healthcare Now, Brand New Congress, Justice Democrats, Food & Water Action, and Fight for 15.

Today, the groups will deliver over 100,000 signatures in support of the People’s Platform to the Democratic National Committee after a Capitol Hill press conference that will include progressive members of Congress.

Throughout the rest of the summer, the coalition will hold actions and lobby members of Congress to take positions on the eight bills, culminating in a scorecard that will show which members of Congress support the People’s Platform and which members might just need a primary challenge in 2018 and beyond.

The statement on the campaign’s website reads:

Resisting the Trump administration and Republican Congressional agenda is only part of how we can move our country forward. Now is the time for Democrats to campaign on a bold agenda and fight to create an America that works for everyone. If Democrats want to win in 2018 and take our country back from the billionaire class and Republicans, they need to start by supporting legislation that speaks to the real concerns facing the American people. We’re fighting for a Congress that will put people before profits to create an America where everyone, regardless of the age, race, gender or economic status has access to health care, free college tuition, a livable planet, and a job that pays a living wage.
The Democratic Party Platform makes it clear that Democrats must fight for these issues as a party. We’re asking all House Democrats to commit to supporting our #People’s Platform bills by signing on as a co-sponsor when Congress comes back in session in September.

It is a tall order, but a necessary step in returning the Democratic Party to the people. The goal is to one day be able to say again that the Democratic Party puts people before profit.

Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador's slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush's first stolen election. Scott moved to Des Moines in 2015 to cover the Iowa Caucus.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Universal health care would save $17 trillion

Demonstrators protest changes to the Affordable Care Act on June 22, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.
$32 trillion. You may have seen this number in corporate media coverage and Republican propaganda. It’s the estimated cost of universal health care over a 10-year period.

It’s a big number—a big, scary number. So hacks like the editorial board at The Washington Post use it to scare people with titles like “Single-payer health care would have an astonishingly high price tag.”

Not just high—astonishingly high.

Of course what the editorial board of The Washington Post leaves out (though you think they’d know better) is any comparison to what we’re currently spending.

Compared to what we’re currently spending, universal health care or single-payer health care would save us $17 trillion over 10 years.

In order to demonstrate this, we just need a couple of numbers. The first number is how much we currently spend on health care per year.

National Healthcare Expenditure (NHE)
This is a number called the National Healthcare Expenditure (NHE). NHE measures everything we spend on health care — both public and private. In 2015, the NHE was $3.2 trillion or $9,990 per person per year.

That $9,990 per person makes us the most expensive healthcare system in the world. It was this way before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well. In 2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) calculated the average worldwide healthcare spend per person at $3,453.

Back to our number: $3.2 trillion in 2015. It increased to $3.4 trillion in 2016.

Growth rate
As you can see, the amount of spending per year doesn’t stay the same. It grows on a yearly basis. So the second number we need is the growth rate.

According to the study titled “National Healthcare Expenditures, 2016-2025: Price Increases, Aging Push Sector to 20 Percent of Economy,” health care costs in the United States are estimated to grow at an average annual rate of 5.6 percent from 2016 to 2025.

If we apply this growth rate over 10 years, and add up the costs, our current healthcare system will cost $49 trillion.

$49 trillion (current system) — $32 trillion (single payer) = $17 trillion in savings.

Over a 10-year period, universal health care or a single-payer system would save $17 trillion.

Yes, you read that right … universal health care would cost $17 trillion less over 10 years. A universal health care system would save us $1.7 trillion a year.

What’s the problem then?

The problem is that certain industries have very powerful lobbies. And these industries spend a lot of money on advertising to make sure that additional $17 trillion goes to them.

The corporate special interest group Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEE), a group that helped make Milton Friedman a name people recognize, used the exact same numbers we’ve been discussing to write “Bernie-Care Would Cost $32 Trillion, Twice What Sanders Claimed.”

You’re not going to believe this, but nowhere in the article do they mention that it would also save us $17 trillion over our current system. Instead they focus on how federal spending would increase.

Changes in 2017 compared to changes in 2017-2026 from a single payer healthcare plan outlined by Senator Sanders.
Excerpt from the Urban Institute’s analysis of Bernie Sanders’ single payer plan. The first column is an estimate for 2017, the second for 2017-2026. Over 10 years roughly $22 trillion of private spending moves to public spending. 
You know why federal spending would increase? Because we wouldn’t be paying for insurance out of our own pockets. The reason for the increase is simply that private spending moves to public spending. As illustrated in the excerpt from the Urban Institute’s analysis of universal health care, roughly $22 trillion of private spending on health care moves to public spending. Overall, however, we’d spend $17 trillion less over 10 years and we could insure everyone.

The next time someone tells you we need to reform health care, show them how we could easily save $17 trillion if we just did what every other developed country in the world does when it comes to health care. 

David Akadjian is the author of  The Little Book of Revolution: A Distributive Strategy for Democracy (also available as an ebook).