Health Care as a Human Right – Medicare For All
We say to the private health insurance companies: whether you like it or not, the United States will join every other major country on earth and guarantee healthcare to all people as a right. All Americans are entitled to go to the doctor when they’re sick and not go bankrupt after staying in the hospital.
“Controlled” inflation is generally considered superior to recession (a fortiori depression) with steady growth in the GNP. But inflation, particularly in certain areas, also can inflict harm on many citizens (our focus is on the United States of America). Allocation of resources, caused by public policy (including taxes on individuals and corporations coupled markets with corporation influence (particularly pernicious with monopolies) so that the poor and working classes, are often adversely affected. Trump’s tariffs will increase inflation for many items including household essentials.
Those on fixed income, even with minor raises, suffer from inflation in general.American teachers, for example, have less real income over the last ten years when salaries are adjusted for inflation. Social Security has been diminished in many ways and does not provide a sufficient living income for its recipients. It is now taxed as income although the employee’s contribution (one-half) has already been taxed.
The age of “normal retirement” has been raised to the particular detriment of manual workers whose bodies have paid a physical toll. The payment is now delayed to the middle or the end of the month. Ronald Reagan had payments rounded down to the lower dollar. The increases do not reflect actual inflation (yet there are moves now to use lower formulas than current) and, of course, are in lower cash amounts for the recipients of lower amounts. (Since the financial crash in 2008, not-risky investments pay those dependent on savings and very low interest – CDs, money markets, saving accounts, and annuities – municipal bonds have disappeared.) Pensions promised, in effect delayed salary, in the private sector are often subject to substitution of claimed equivalent lump sum; unexpected reductions and extensive denials only possibly rectified by protracted litigation, terminations of plans (sometimes invoking the federal Pension Guarantee Fund) and assorted other difficulties.
Public sector pensions and associated fringe benefits, e.g. health insurance have often been reduced for later hires (New York has multiple tiers). Unemployment insurance has limited duration and amount. Workman’s Compensation not only often requires litigation for receipt but is limited with recipients generally unable to work in other secondary jobs as they once did (and often prevent private personal injury suits which would have resulted in substantially greater awards). “Welfare as you know it” was demolished by Clinton without reason although it was always inadequate to support women rearing children and those children. (The Supreme Court had already upheld the “Family Cap” which some States are now removing.) Food stamps have been decreased as are other benefits in what is absurdly called “the safety net.” All these exacerbate the negative effects of inflation on fixed income individuals.
The cost of necessities often rises faster than general increase in cost. In the background of housing exist the homeless. One source of this suffering group was initiated by Ronald Reagan who, not motivated by mistakes and deprivations in mental institutions, emptied mental health facilities in California to create a national trend. Some of the individuals were not able to function, particularly with no preparation, in the outside world. The needed provision for mental health community centers was not only not forthcoming but the existence of the ones available reduced and eliminated. Half way houses suffered similar treatment. Effective outreach to those in the streets (which are often preferable to them then “shelters” is minimum. In this time of mass incarceration with a Rhenquist led Supreme Court 1986 until his death in 2005 – focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation, we have not only the spectacle of prison horrors (e.g. solitary confinement, sometimes for many years “maximum security” jails, shackles, demeaning underpaid work, capital punishment etc.) specially featured by private prisons in the industrial prison complex, resulting in those released being unprepared for freedom and untrained for employment.
[The Associated Press reports that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has given the Smithsonian Institution the robe–the one with the ridiculous yellow stripes on the sleeves–that he wore while presiding over President Clinton’s impeachment trial in the Senate. Rehnquist valued the donation at $30,000, according to his 1999 financial disclosure form. How does he know the value? He had it appraised by Sotheby’s!
In writing his new book about O’Connor called First, which will be published in 2019, biographer Evan Thomas discovered that Rehnquist proposed to O’Connor in the early 1950s, after he graduated early from Stanford. As NPR reported, the two dated briefly, and O’Connor—at the time called Sandra Day—later referred to him as a “study buddy” (mid-20th-century vernacular for “friend zone”). That spring, Rehnquist wrote O’Connor a letter saying that he wanted to talk about “important things.” He went on: “To be specific, Sandy, will you marry me this summer?” O’Connor turned her “study buddy” down and married John O’Connor in 1952.]
The mass incarceration (considerably based on theWar on Drugs I condemned is grotesque to the extent it is now drawing some legislative and local attention. The ex-prisoners (often not able to vote, now under scrutiny and challenges) have tarnished records, along often with little training for jobs so their employment possibilities and any “benefits” are increasingly inadequate in inflationary times.
Public or “affordable” housing in often not available for the homeless but for many with low incomes (the current Trump-Carson HUD management is focused not on badly needed maintenance and (job creating) construction but rather eviction, particularly of immigrants in “mixed residences”, etc. The original provision of high rises (over five floors) and clusters have produced predictable social chaos with youth not prepared for gainful employment in a dangerous environment. The lack of maintenance has often created unlivable conditions. This country faces a great need for proper public housing properly maintained and “affordable housing”.Those in need often have to choose between payments for necessities or the equally important shelter. Building properly constructed and place public housing would also create jobs.
Of general concern is the rapidly rising rents and purchase prices in many urban centers, both residential and commercial (creating many empty stores formerly housing small businesses because of tax advantages) – and commercial rent control, which although desirable seems politically unlikely and even utopian, in spite of the obscene unjustified wealth of developers and many large Realtors and real estate owners (and resulting political power). Residential rent controls, when available, are under constant attack (only 20, 000 rent control tenants are left in New York City and only one million apartments are rent “stabilized”) with raises every year, a special inflation. Its absence has led to the gentrification of Washington, D.C. to compare with very high rents in San Francisco, New York. etc. which results also in gentrification with only some preservation of all types of diversity. Proposals for requiring some “affordable” housing in new residential buildings are resisted but enforced in some Cities but never near the real quantity needed. Rents and purchase prices for apartments, condominiums, coops and houses are accelerating upwards.
The resulting “gentrification” produces, in a partial reversal of suburban and ex-urban preference, with many rich people moving into formerly middle class, working, and poor neighborhoods in many cities. The former residents are driven out from proximity to commercial and industrial centers (to the degree they survive) thereby entailing costly (and time consuming) commutes – a hidden housing and transportation inflation along with the increases in rents and purchases.
Trump with his reflexive reactionary administration and Congressional supporters changed the tax code with an obvious retaliation against States whose citizens voted heavily against his election so that he lost by about 3 million votes (See my article on Trump and Hitler ) . The limitation of the deduction for State Real Estate taxes to $10,000 punishes the many who pay much more (often in order to provide for better schools) creating an inflation in the actual cost of house ownership. Construction and maintenance, particularly for quality, are increasingly expensive.
Encouraged by Eisenhower and his Secretary of Agriculture, agribusiness has transformed food production to become its very dominant force. (This situation has also led to the monopolistic intrusion in farming of poisonous pesticides, soil destroying fertilizers, monocropping, and even great reduction of seed variety. The movie, a few years back, Food Inc.
A great deal of food has degenerated in quality and nutritional value.Fowl, swine, and beef are raised in inhumane settings. Chickens furnish a prime example. They have been bred (while confined with no movement possible) to grow much larger, particularly in the breast but shrunken in the legs so they can not walk with drumsticks much smaller – tasteless flesh purveyed with coatings for fast food. Champion layers of eggs used to produce about 250 a year. Now flocks produce eggs every day. Triple A eggs (and pullets) once were available. Double A is now almost unknown.
For many years the “Rutgers” tomato was standard (with some combinations like the Prichard crossed with Cooper’s Special.) Now there is a new variety designed for profusion, speed, and ease in machine (and maltreated migrants) harvesting. The result is no taste and less nutrition in their often partially white interiors. Berries, imported and domestic, with limited companies distributing. have suffered the same fate, often packaged so mold and rot are hidden.
Some popular fish are now “farmed”, consider the Franken salmon developed. It is impossible to ignore the devastating damage ecologically and environmentally (including the danger of specially bred fishes mixing with the natural ones). Fresh fish have been particularly eliminated by pollution, oil spills, water diversion, and dams. Richard Nixon once mistakenly urged people to buy fish instead of meat as fish was already more expensive. Desirable as fresh fish is for health, it is now priced notably higher than other protein sources widely available.
The list goes on. What is the consequence?
If one wants food with flavor and nutrition, one has to go to special sources. (The purchaser should not be fooled by the slapping of “organic” on the labels since there is no legal standard. Extra virgin olive oil entails pressing without breaking the grapes’ skin – but similarly the label is slapped on without justification.) To buy from special sources means to pay more, often a multiple of what is available in standard stores. This requirement means a real inflation in the cost of desirable food.
According to exit polls, health was the number one concern for voters in the 2018 election. Insurance and care costs have greatly increased. Even though every income earner pays into Medicare (with a limit on increasing premiums for those receiving over $225,000), it costs close to $300 a month to use as insurance. The needed “supplemental health insurance” (without long term care usually) costs about the same.
The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) based on the right wing Heritage Foundation’s plan does nothing to control the highly profitable and powerful insurance industry. Premiums are therefore high.
Nonetheless, it managed to cover many individuals for whom insurance was not possible (e.g. the broadly defined “prior condition” exclusion which includes pregnancy). John McCain, lauded a hero, for his necessary vote to save that Act, then voted to exclude the “mandate” to enroll.
It was that linchpin, considering it as a tax, which led Chief Justice Roberts to forge a 5 vote majority to save the increased coverage. Without that provision, the Court may not uphold the law thereby casting an estimated over 20 million off any insurance to pay for health care.
As it is, many famed specialists, and others, do not take Medicare (many more Medicaid) and insurance often only covers small amount. This inflation excludes many possible patients. Medical costs now include not only many care providers (often stopped early when still needed for recovering people’s assistance and rehabilitation) but expensive machinery and tests. Rehabilitation is expensive with a 30 visit limit for Medicare. Many hospitals have closed, particularly in rural areas, limiting access and increasing transportation costs (particularly ambulances.
Nursing home costs are so high, people divorce to be eligible for Medicaid, set up (paying lawyers) Special Needs trusts, or spend all their savings to become eligible, a suffering subset.
Drug prices are a well known scandal.
George W, Bush established Part D payments for drug companies to increase their market with no funding source.
Medicare does not negotiate prices of drugs so they pay twice what the Veteran’s Health Plan negotiates.
Some drug prices have escalated thousands of percent when a company so decides, including life saving drugs.
Many will have to sacrifice on essentials to pay for expensive drugs; some, who can’t afford them, will suffer and die. Deadly separate inflation.
Many drugs are developed by government research. Drug companies (uniquely in the world able to advertise on television) spend as much on advertisement as they do on research as part of the costs to consumers.
The research developing drugs is often paid, in full or part, by the Federal Government but then sold with great profit by drug, manufacturers.
When I went to Yale to graduate in 1960, tuition, room and board were $2,000.
With scholarships and student work, work on vacations (much easier to obtain, in menial and manual) I lived comfortably with money for socialization and recreation. I left Chicago and Yale schools while enjoying a similar life style with only $5000 in loans which I was able to pay off in under two years.
The contrast with today is striking. The cost is 40 times more (with many administrators and buildings provided.) Startling increase.
Attendance at the best Public schools often require moving to special areas with higher costs including taxes. To get into specialized schools, parents pay fortunes for tutoring, etc. Private schools have costs similar to colleges. For the “best” schools donations and activities are often required (impossible for the poor.) (In New York, the welcome trend is to free State colleges, dependent on income. and NYU medical school for free.) Charter schools, a bad privatization, and “home” schooling are often inadequate, bad, and undermine the great American history of providing public education.
Computers (with all their negative effects on reading, writing, communicating, concentrating, and posture caused in part by being subject to randomness, no uniformity in systems and software as well as unnecessary changes) are required for students (note effect of class and cultural orientation.) Schools now have them with costly internet and their provision is one public project. A new cost. The necessity for education costs can create a real burden except for the “better off”..
I discussed transportation in my article on this website of the desirability of free transportation. With tolls, fuel, parking, “congestion prices” (currently debated in Washington, D.C. half implemented in New York. D.C and price of purchase, purchases owning a car has become more expensive for those dependent on them (a necessity in many rural areas.). In this connection, whereas bikes are an excellent means of transport in place like Amsterdam, in New York, the bike lanes (and parking for revenue) reduces the room for cars by a half, while bike riders, ride the wrong way, in the street, on the sidewalks, and weaving (some are people delivering goods spurred on by need for money) with no identification, warning systems and now often illegally very fast powered by electricity – all laws and safety concerns not being subject to police action while endangering money. The resulting traffic jams produce much noise and pollution while decreasing efficiency in moving around. Chicago, St. Louis and other American cities have subways and rails to the airports; New York only has a “skyline” from Brooklyn for one airport (with a local bus with limited pick up on West Side) to another, and nothing of this nature for the third, forcing flyers to use motor vehicles creating more congestion.
Of particular note for car owners, is unibody exteriors and computer controls so repairs can no longer be done by the owner but require special equipment – so that that cost has accelerated specialty. Of course, given complication and randomness (and unnecessary features now considered, in this country, requirements, such as buttons for windows, automatic shifting) and the mania for SUVs, costs for car ownership has increased considerably more than it should have. Commuter costs (invoked above and often required more for “lower classes.”) have escalated more then many other costs. Public transportation, used by workers and the non-wealthy) has often gone up considerably and declined disastrously as part of the great decay of the infra structure including roads, bridges, and tunnels now dangerous.
Entertainment and recreation are not considered necessities. Yet they are a component of a rich fulfilling life.
Once again, the escalation of prices is remarkable, particularly recently. Movies are much more expensive. The theater has gone up considerably (even discount services). Some “hits” like Hamilton sell seats at $350 (most Broadway productions have extra expensive select seats in the orchestra.) The Metropolitan Opera in New York starts the Orchestra at $350 and seats in the second balcony for $150. Museums and parks charge much more even some which used to be free. Consider also National Parks- also now being irreversibly destroyed by Trump – some for oil extraction with bad environmental consequences.
David Zinn has demonstrated the rip off of the public to build new Sports stadiums for teams with ultra-rich owners which just move the entertainment dollar around rather than create new revenue.
They now are like shopping malls (and some indoor arena like dance floors with excessive noise and flashing lights.) Cheap seat areas are now replaced by enclosed “sky boxes”, like fancy hotel suites, for multi-millionaires and billionaires. Once a simple cheap excursion for a family, not only are ticket prices way up, but children are assaulted with temptations of all sorts while food is now not just a cheap snack but expensive bites or more, some offering expensive liquor and beer at $15! For a family, even avoiding the mall, unable to bring their food and drink in as they used to be able, the experience is more akin to an amusement park than cheap family spectating. <more>
Many maintain that with television and these costs, the three most popular American sports have degenerated (as well as expanded so that teams and players are much harder to follow.
Fundamentals in baseball, such as sliding, bunting, base running have disappeared so that games feature home runs (with lower pitching mounds, juiced balls, closer fences and sometimes high altitudes) and strike outs (by those seeking home runs, particularly; basketball has three point shots and dunks (often preceded by non-called “traveling”) with a decrease in ball handling, passing, and running; football features 300 pounders (and up) straining against each other with a plethora of passing,- perhaps retired Suma wrestlers should be used for “goal line” stands. Football’s “prevent defense” predictably leads to touchdowns, extending the time of game greatly (“2 minutes” take up to an half hour allowing for many more commercials.)
Sadly American horse racing 23 DEAD HORSES Santa Anita Track had badly declined (longer seasons and gambling have contributed to this decline). The “sport of kings” attracted many far from rich, offering way better odds than lotteries, and somewhat better than casinos. Money now is made on stud fees. not racing, so stand out colts are retired sometimes after three years and certainly after four. Ironically, breeding does not work out with a few cheap horses winning and the most expensive colts and fillies failing. Bold Rules was a very good sire of sprinters. Yet his son Secretariat, maybe the greatest racer of all time, was better the longer the course, as demonstrated in the Belmont. He, in turn, was a complete failure at stud. Horses here are now bred and trained only for sprints (no more steeple chases) which becomes boring. Horses, possibly as a result, seem to be breaking down (while running with chemicals infused) considerably more often in American racetracks. Greyhound racing has been banned as inhumane…suggesting that possibility in this country.
There are now a plethora of television channels.
No one could watch them all. Most watch only a few. There are many devices on which to watch the presentations. On most, the commercials are mind numbing in quantity and quality (particularly at the end of football and basketball games). For home television, cable TV is required for many in the cities because of the big buildings and for most for the preferred channels. Originally offered for about $9 a month, basic cable costs often around $150 plus any specialized channels for entertainment or some foreign language. It often offers the main entertainment for poor and working people – and for the mobility limited.
Eating out is often almost required for entertainment.
Restaurants (in part because of rising rents) are now much more expensive than a decade ago. (The famous fancy ones range in the multiples of $100 for each person (up to $700) before costly special water, wine (way up), and/or drinks.) Pity the poor people who must drive in, park, eat, pay for a baby sitter, just to go to the theater or movie.
Special treats for home consumption are for the wealthy alone.
Real caviar (particularly if environmentally acceptable) costs more than a normal household spends on food for a week.
Jewish delicatessen (Sable once the “poor man’s sturgeon” – now costs as much as sturgeon due to Japanese demand – which is also a factor in the extraordinary cost of some fine fresh fish) there is no longer “appetizing” but “gourmet”.
Many other “luxury” items are exclusive territory for the wealthy. Wine has become notably expensive. (The Chinese are reputed to have bought up a large number of French wines). Even though many countries and American locales now produce wine, its inflationary costs rise (with extra increases in bars, restaurants, etc.) I do not invoke the fancy extravagant whiskeys, tequilas, and vodkas (most identical in flavor and just prestige priced) as they basically represent indulgence and “conspicuous consumption.” Much consumable now is the province only of the rich.
Maybe golf clubs’ costs have just matched regular inflation having traditionally been for rich white men to play, drink, and consummate business deals. Trump has said golf is for the rich to play with the rich. (His malignant megalomania reaches revelatory heights in cheating there see Reilly, The Commander in Cheat a golfer’s attack on Trump, or at least on the way Trump plays the game, a game Reilly reveres as revealing of character. Recently, however, the terrific charismatic Tiger Woods has led to greatly increased popularity for the public (with integration in clubs, possibly connected.).
Here lies a research project. Consider what is destroyed to create a golf course (years required for some tournaments’ preparation once built), what it costs for water, planting, fertilizing, pesticides – particularly how they destroy the environment (including flying creature migrations) and contribute to pollution and global warming. The result of such research for environmental harm may produce figures that are dismaying…at the least. Inflation may be an indirect result (even without costs for spectators to attend and watch on television.) Trump golf course partially destroys Site of Special Scientific Interest
Allocation of Resources
Offers the Major Key
These inequalities augmented
by selective inflation
can be remedied
The vast majorities of remedies are quite feasible politically. We have suggested, implicitly or explicitly, some obvious ones above. Some of the above accounts of inflationary problems, correlated with disparate treatment based on wealth, indicate the needed solutions while we now suggest other partial systematic solutions.
When, and if, there is a new Administration, all the regulations removed can be listed, examined, and restored. (Also too withdrawal from Treaties, foreign non-military engagement, subsidies (e.g. high speed rail – See California) and “sanctions” against selected countries which deprive the people of real needs but do not succeed in “regime change.” (Consider invasions which failed from MacArthur’s foray into North Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and disastrous effects in Libya.). Privatization and contracting out can be eliminated or greatly reduced for governmental justifiable actions. Obviously adding profits to cost does not increase efficiency but only expense. (Compare The Tennessee Valley project with military subcontracts, public housing maintenance by contract and subcontract, street repairs with safety installations, etc.).
The tax code cries for revision and return to its formerly progressive nature (with simplification and elimination of loopholes for corporations and the wealthy) – same for Medicare if continued.
Putting a cap on what heirs could inherit and a low limit on taxes starting over a million or so.
Decreasing the military industrial complex (e.g. no one can calculate great cost of Destroyers – we have six, no other country more than one; the budget is great than the next four-six countries combined, not to mention the nuclear armaments, etc.) the industrial prison complex, and, I have suggested, abolishing the “War and Drugs” and changing the CIA can add to disposable funds (At some later date, scrutiny of the FBI will be desirable).
In the Meantime . . .
We have the Political Precedents
A combination of FDR’s New Deal (although lacking the rights he later proposed) in all aspects (most now eroded badly), the Great Society, supported by the accompanying Civil Rights legislation inching toward Reconstruction (with community based practical education including help with housing, nutrition, real provision of free unfettered Legal Services, Vista, Peace Corps job training, particularly for new opportunities in a changing employment world, etc.,
Bracero programs properly administered for seasonal foreign migrant workers, etc.) now mainly abolished would answer close to all the support required for the oppressed, poor, working and middle class (with the additions of adequate food stamps -SNAP, etc. if still needed)
Anti-trust law enforced with full vigor will help destroy monopolies which adversely affect costs, environment, working people, and consumers.
Restoring the bankruptcy provisions for credit cards and student loanswould help countless individuals struggling under debt…and other improvements (cancelling all student debt is another possibility for student indebtedness.)
A universal free health care system, including but not limited to drugs, equipment, and living facilities for the sufficiently disabled have been achieved in Europe and Scandinavia with varying degrees of success. Some social agencies such as Family Court, institutional care, home health assistance, community mental health, universal injections to prevent diseases such as polio, chicken pox, typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus. measles etc., may still need special attention and adequate funding (particularly if “free”). Urged therefore is the justice in the universality of adequate, efficient, prompt, and advanced medical care – not dependent on expensive insurance.(life expectancy will still be greatly effected by water, air, nutrition and other necessities – some studies show the life expectancy of the “rich” is about 15 years more than the “poor.”)
Given the current context, repealing the Taft Hartley law and supporting unions would help.
Community banks (not monopolistic “too big to fail”), coops of all sorts, and even DeLeonist worker run production industries, support for family farms. may be flavored with utopianism but would augment the great improvements by achieved by restoring old politically approved programs and the proper allocation of resources. The aspirations announced in the Green New Deal include some of these proposals while emphasizing the frightening global challenge of destruction of resources, live and inanimate, extreme weather, (suggesting we consider over population.)
Maybe inflation may be expected, but specific greater inflation creates a greater distance in the deplorable, unnecessary, disgusting income and financial gap with the infamous 1% -often based on preferential treatment and financial structures (often themselves insecure.)The rapidly rising costs for necessities (and what may give some surcease in pleasure) for the poor and unprivileged produces a special, unique, and a disgrace in a world of great wealth disparity especially in our rich country).
The solutions are available.
Can they be implemented over corruption, propaganda (including mass media) and evil people in power?
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