Category Archives: American History

GOP Tax Reform: Say Goodbye to the Middle Class

As a student of American Social history, I am acutely aware that for much of the 241 years of the Republic, the majority of the American people were not what we today would call “Middle Class.”

In fact, they were cash poor, dirt farmers, tradesmen, owning very little except what they could carry on a horse, mule, or in a wagon as they migrated west in search of better opportunities.

Until the New Deal, the Middle Class as we know it did not exist in such great numbers. True, there was a middle class in the cities and towns of the East Coast and Midwest, but most of them were descendants of immigrants from the 17th and 18th centuries, and rose steadily into the middle class as the nation’s economy shifted from a mercantile to an industrial economy in the first half of the 19th century.

Consider the following quotes from three US presidents regarding the power of money and corporations. You will notice that none of them are wild-eyed radicals in the least.

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Thomas Jefferson

“Mischief springs from the power which the moneyed interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control, from the multitude of corporations with exclusive privileges… which are employed altogether for their benefit.”

Andrew Jackson

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong it’s reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

Abraham Lincoln

So it is no surprise that the Republican Party is ramming down the throats of the American middle class, a tax reform bill that will effectively wipe out the remaining members of the middle class, and redistribute the wealth to those making over $75,000 and those at the very top, the oft-mentioned 1%.

My fellow blogger, and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for County Legislator in upstate New York, Joe Paduda, wrote a very potent analysis of the GOP tax scam legislation. Yes, I did call it a scam, but that is not my word. Others have used it in the past few days in an effort to derail and stop it from passing.

Besides destroying the middle class, it will as Joe points out, bankrupt the health care system. Then we will have to go all the way to a single-payer system just to get the whole thing working again.

Here is Joe’s piece in its entirety:

The tax bill’s impact on healthcare or; If you like your cancer care, you can’t keep it.

        

The GOP “tax reform” bill will directly and significantly affect healthcare. Here’s how.

It removes the individual mandate, but still requires insurers to cover anyone who applies for insurance. So, millions will drop coverage knowing they can sign up if they get sick.

How does that make any sense?

Here’s the high-level impact of the “tax bill that is really a healthcare bill”:

The net – healthcare providers are going to get hammered, and they’re going to look to insured patients to cover their costs.

The real net – The folks most hurt by this are those in deep-red areas where there is little choice in healthcare plans, lots of struggling rural hospitals, and no other safety net.  Alaskans, Nebraskans, Iowans, Wyoming residents are among those who are going to lose access to healthcare – and lose health care providers.

Here are the details.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, “repeal would save the federal government $338 billion between 2018 and 2027, resulting from lower federal costs for premium tax credits and Medicaid. By 2027, 13 million fewer people will have health insurance, either because they decide against buying coverage or can no longer afford it.”

Most of those who drop coverage will be healthier than average, forcing insurers in the individual market to raise prices to cover care for a sicker population. This is how “death spirals” start, an event we’ve seen dozens of times in state markets, and one that is inevitable without a mandate and subsidies.

For example, older Americans would see higher increases than younger folks. Here’s how much your premiums would increase if you are in the individual marketplace.

So, what’s the impact on you?

Those 13 million who drop insurance, which include older, poorer, sicker people, will need coverage – and they’ll get it from at most expensive and least effective place – your local ER. Which you will pay for in part due to cost-shifting.

ACA provided a huge increase in funding for emergency care services – folks who didn’t have coverage before were able to get insurance from Medicaid or private insurers, insurance that paid for their emergency care.

From The Hill:

[after ACA passage] there were 41 percent fewer uninsured drug overdoses, 25 percent fewer uninsured heart attacks, and over 32 percent fewer uninsured appendectomies in 2015 compared to 2013. The total percent reduction in inpatient uninsured hospitalizations across all conditions was 28 percent lower in 2015 than in 2013. Between 2013 and 2015, Arizona saw a 25 percent reduction in state uninsured hospitalizations, Nevada a 75 percent reduction, Tennessee a 17 percent drop, and West Virginia an 86 percent decline.

If the GOP “tax bill” passes, hospital and health system charges to insureds (yes, you work comp payer) are going to increase – and/or those hospitals and health systems will go bankrupt.

What does this mean?

It means we of the middle class had a very good run, but the ruling class has spoken, and they want us to disappear, or at least shrink to the point that we become unimportant to their pursuit of greater wealth. Why else would the donor class of the Republican Party, the Koch Brothers, the Mercer family, Sheldon Adelson, and the rest of their donors threaten members of Congress with no more funds for their re-election if they fail to pass this bill?

There is a word for that, it’s called Extortion. And we are the sacrificial lambs.

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One More Thing on Health Reform

Could not ignore Joe Paduda’s first post this morning, which is also covered on the Health Wonk Review blog.

He lays out in great detail who would be affected by passage of this zombie legislation, and who would come out ahead,

It’s enough to make you sick, that such people exist who will take away health care from the very people who put them in office, and don’t care that many of them will die because they can no longer get health care.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel went on his show the other night and confessed to the entire country about his newborn son’s heart disease. What was the response from the Nazi right? Attacks.

Why do these people continue to vote against their own economic interests? There are many reasons for this. The first one is simply, they don’t believe Democrats. And why? Because for far too long, Democrats have engaged in Identity Politics, and have ignored the heartland.

Second, the Democrats have generally avoided campaigning in, or developing their local or state parties in those states most likely to vote Republican, but would benefit from Democratic policies in education, job creation, health care, etc.

Third, Republicans have done a great job of convincing people of an “us versus them” mentality. Republicans sound like “us”, act like “us”, enjoy the same activities as “us”, where “they” do not. You hear the words, “elite”, or “elitist” thrown around, as was done yesterday in response to Kimmel’s plea by an alt-rightist.

Forth, Republicans know how to frame an argument by using simple words and phrases, where Democrats go into long, drawn out lectures on policy. They talk to Americans as if every American has a college degree in political science or sociology. Yex, polls do so that many Americans agree with Democratic policies, but we know that polls are not always accurate.

The last election proved that.

Lastly, the Democrats have been late to the party as to what is happening to working people, both blue collar and white collar workers. In fact, the Republicans know all too well what is happening, as they are responsible for the prolongation of their misery, and will do nothing to stop what is about to happen when jobs are replaced by automation.

Universal Basic Income (UBI)? Not from this crowd of neo-fascist, libertaritards. (Take that, Rush Limbaugh!) Want some more Oxycodone?

As we are witnessing day by day, the US is going backwards. All the way back to the 19th century, the very century the GOP is most comfortable with, because that is when they had complete control of the entire government, and their friends in industry were getting richer and richer, and there were no government programs or laws protecting workers and the poor.

So if this zombie health care law gets passed, look out…there will be more zombies where that came from.

Disaster Averted

Yesterday’s crushing defeat of the so-called “American Health Care Act” or AHCA, signals the end of the seven-year long attempt by the Republican Party to legislatively kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Yet, as was pointed out on one cable news network last night, it won’t stop the health insurance industry from getting the Republicans in Congress to kill parts of the law slowly by eliminating the taxes that go to pay for the coverage.

Call it “genocide by stealth”, since millions of Americans will die, as per the Congressional Budget Office (CBO’s) scoring of AHCA. If they can’t kill the law outright, the so-called “Freedom Caucus”, actually the Congressional version of the Tea Party, will kill it slowly.

Why do you think they keep saying it is a disaster and it is crumbling? It’s because they are dead set against anyone getting health care unless someone else can make a profit from selling a policy.

Then there is the other question, the one usually raised by liberals and progressives, especially those who supported Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders last year in the primaries, as to why we are the only Western country without universal coverage.

The answer is complex, but not complicated (“who knew health care was so complicated?). First, everything the government of the US has ever implemented for the benefit of people has had to pass muster with the Constitution. It either has to be covered by the Constitution directly, or implied through the taxing mechanism.

Second, the Founding Fathers never mentioned or promoted the right to health care, as the prevailing political and social philosophy of the day was concerned with freedom, liberty, and private property. It has been unclear what, if anything, was meant by the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, let alone, the phrase, “promote the general welfare.”

Why they never mentioned health care and why other nations have it, is due to the fact that the US was founded during the first half of the period historians call, “the Enlightenment”, when the right to private property, liberty, and freedom were the topics of discussion on both sides of the Atlantic. Basically, the difference between Classical Liberalism (Conservatism) and Modern Liberalism (Liberalism) is between negative rights (the right not to be killed) versus positive rights (the right to a job, education, housing, health care, etc.)

Canada gained its limited independence from Britain nearly a hundred years after we did, and therefore was influenced by the philosophy of the second half of the Enlightenment, which stressed involvement by government in the economy.

The only time the Founders cared about providing some kind of health care plan was directed towards a particular group of citizens in the late eighteenth century, as I wrote about in this post.

What is now called the Public Health Service began as a government-sponsored, health plan for merchant sailors on ships entering and leaving US ports and on inland waterways. It was never challenged in the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, nor was it ever attacked by members of the opposition party. In fact, it was supported by both Federalists and Anti-Federalist politicians of the day.

The third reason why we don’t have universal, single-payer is because the government allowed employers to provide coverage during WWII to attract women into the workplace when the men went overseas. The UK is often cited as an example for single-payer, but what most supporters of this type of plan do not realize is that because of the devastation the UK suffered at the hands of German bombs, their health care system needed to be re-built from scratch, so the government stepped in with the NHS. Even Churchill supported it.

Fourth, we have always provided health care to certain at risk groups like the poor (Medicaid), the elderly (Medicare), and to children (CHIP), as well as to former service persons and their families (Tricare), etc. Perhaps the way to begin to get universal coverage is to merge all of these programs into one, then expand it to cover everyone else.

But for the time being, a major disaster was averted, but we should not think this is the end of the debate, nor is there victory. The battle lines are drawn, and the enemy is not surrendering. This is not a time for congratulation, but for vigilance and resolve.

 

I’m Back

To quote Michael Corleone, in the Godfather, Part III, “just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” To blogging again, that is; not joining the Mob.

There is so much to catch up on in my absence, that I decided to apprise you, my loyal readers, of a subject I discussed earlier this year, the proposed Amendment 69 in the state of Colorado.

To refresh your memories, Amendment 69 (couldn’t they come up with another number?), also called “ColoradoCare”, was an attempt to create a single-payer system in the Rockies.

My previous three posts, “Colorado Gets Real on Workers’ Comp and Health Care”, “Colorado “Single Payer” in Health Care Industry’s Sights”, and “A Little Disruption is a Good Thing” outlined the plan for single-payer, the opposition to single-payer from the health care industry, and how it would be a good thing to have some disruption, especially in workers’ comp.

My writing on the subject also got the notice of a fellow writer, Katie Kuehner-Hebert, of Workers Comp Forum, a sister publication of Risk & Insurance magazine. Her article discussed whether the proposed amendment would be helpful or harmful for workers’ comp payers.

Last month, the voters in Colorado defeated the measure by a wide margin. On election night, at 8:30 p.m., with nearly 1.8 million votes counted across the state, the amendment was trailing 79.6% to 20.4%. Vote totals at 7 a.m., the next morning, with 86 percent of the vote counted, the measure continued trailing at roughly the same percentage or 1,833,879 to 467,424.

As reported in the Denver Post by John Ingold, throughout the campaign, the measure had polled better with Democrats than Republicans, and even in left-leaning Denver, the amendment lost by 2-to-1.

What does the defeat of the single-payer measure mean for the future of health care and possibly workers’ comp?

It means that until there is a nation-wide push for single-payer, state-specific measures such as Amendment 69 will either go down to defeat, or be scraped altogether, as happened in Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont. Amendment 69 was an attempt to get there, but as I followed up some weeks later, it was targeted by the health care industry, and never had a chance.

That brings me to my next topic. The recent political campaign that witnessed a misogynistic, egomaniacal, sexist, racist, Corporatist/Fascist bully and demagogue elected president, and a Congress of like-minded semi-demagogues.

Now this capitalist clown is appointing men to his cabinet who stand in opposition to many things the American people believe in, and one man, Representative Tom Price, R-GA , an ardent opponent of the ACA, is to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the department which oversees the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who makes the rules for the health care law and the other medical insurance programs of the government.

Folks, that’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Sooner or later, the chickens are going to be devoured, except it won’t be dead chickens lying around, but millions of Americans who will lose their health care newly won, and who may die because of it.

We still don’t know what will happen to the ACA after January 20th, because that man refuses to release his tax returns, refuses to commit to anything and goes off on tirades on Twitter to anyone who gets in his way. But I believe that this idiot and Congress will take away not only health care for millions, but eliminate Medicare and Medicaid, which is what Speaker Paul Ryan wants to do, but may be forced to back down once opposition gets wind of it.

Either way, health care in this country will get worse, not better.

That moron soon to occupy the White House has even nominated the CEO of a fast food chain to be Secretary of Labor. This guy, Andy Pudzer (or is it Putzer?, or just plain Putz?) wants to replace fast food workers with robots. Methinks he is one.

True, by 2025, it is predicted that 50% of all occupations will be replaced by automation, but the reason Pudzer wants to replace fast food workers with robots is so that the companies won’t have to pay living wages of $15 an hour to their workers.

I guess this putz would like to see workers thrown out into the street, especially younger minority workers who generally take these jobs to give themselves some work experience, and older workers left out of the changing economy.

You know what 50% less workers mean for workers’ comp? 50% less claims adjusters, physical therapists, durable medical equipment companies, pharmacy benefit management personnel, etc.

It also means that there will be more unease, anger, and maybe even violence. The kind of violence that has been avoided for decades, and that was predicted more than one hundred and fifty years ago by a certain German writer. And what if that 50% goes to 75%? What then?

One idea is to give these permanently unemployed a universal basic income (UBI), but with this Congress, that too will not happen.

There is an old Chinese curse that is appropriate now: “May you live in interesting times.” Interesting, possibly; dangerous, most definitely.

Colorado “Single Payer” in Health Care Industry’s Sights

Earlier this month, I wrote that Colorado was introducing a ballot initiative for single payer.

As reported today by Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Plan, and published on Friday in The Intercept, business interests in Colorado and many of the largest lobbying groups around the country and in the state are raising funds to defeat Amendment 69, the single-payer ballot question going before voters this November.

One organization leading the move to defeat this amendment is the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, a national trade group.

As quoted in the article by the author, Lee Fang, “The council urges Coloradans to protect employer-provided insurance and oppose Proposition 69.

The group has dispatched Steptoe & Johnson, a lobbying firm to analyze the bill.

Other lobbying groups that represent major for-profit health care interests in Colorado, including hospitals and insurance brokers, Fang writes, are similarly mobilizing against Amendment 69.

The Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry, a trade group led in part by HCA HealthOne, a subsidiary of HCA, one of the largest private hospital chains in the country is soliciting funds to defeat single payer. The business coalition to defeat the measure also includes the state’s largest association of health insurance brokers, Fang reported.

Dr. McCanne wrote in response to the Fang article that, “In the meantime, the opponents know that their task does not involve educating the public on the facts. They do not have to engage the other side in a information battle over the truth. They merely have to appeal to the passion of the voters. Simple rhetorical soundbites are usually enough to convince the voters that they do not have to waste their time studying some complicated government scheme in order to know how to vote on it. Just look at some of the rhetoric of the opposition group, Coloradans for Coloradans: “doubling the state budget,” “diminishing accessibility and quality,” and “creating an unaccountable, massive bureaucracy.” Who would support that? No need to try to find out the truth.”

What does this really mean?

It means this: that until the whole US health care system collapses of its own weight, inefficiencies, complexities, absurdities, bureaucracy, and stupidity, that no matter who runs for president promising free health care for all, it won’t happen.

Talking in generalities, wishing and hoping that a mass movement (or political revolution) will change things, is only magical thinking and pixie dust. Given the political polarization of the US electorate, and the lack of thinking on the part of those who are supporting the GOP candidates for president and for Congress, single payer nationwide or statewide will not happen until every single American cannot get any health care coverage.

How did the UK get single payer? Thank the Luftwaffe for destroying the British health care system before WWII. Don’t believe me? Just read what Winston Churchill said (Conservative Party – like our Republicans, only smarter):

Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country irrespective of means, age, sex or occupation shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.”

How did Germany get a kind of single payer system? Otto von Bismarck. And sixty years later, when the most conservative government Germany ever had came to power, not even a paperhanging, SOB with a Charlie Chaplin moustache could undo it.

Why can’t we have single payer? Read Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Any mention of health care or health insurance? No, because they were more concerned with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” however they defined that in the eighteenth century.

Freedom was another thing they were concerned with, such as the freedom to have what is yours remain yours, so that the government can’t take it to spend on such extravagant luxuries as health care and education for all.

But as I wrote back in 2013, the founders did create a tax-based health plan for merchant sailors because it was affecting our national economy and trade. But it was only for a select population group, as was Medicare and Medicaid and SHIP, and Tricare last century.

But the health plan for sailors was never challenged in the courts, nor was it ever a part of any political campaign for the Presidency to be repealed; however, that is not stopping the GOP and their allies from doing the same thing to the ACA, or to any proposal for single payer.

The US is, as that paperhanging SOB is quoted as saying before he took cyanide and shot himself, “the ultra-capitalists”, and therefore, the free market and the profit motive wins out.

You want single payer, Bernie? Start learning the words to “The Internationale”.

 

What’s At Stake for Workers Should the GOP Win in November

LynchRyan published today an excellent article in WorkersCompInsider.com about what life was like for American workers in 1915.

The article, by Julie Ferguson, discusses a report published by the Monthly Labor Review, to commemorate their centennial.

The report chronicles the news of the day for 1915, and discusses the demographics of the day, as well as providing a portrait of daily life in the US of 1915.

Then the report describes some not so pleasant and mundane issues, such as workplace injuries whereby a woman lost her arm and continued to work because back then there was no workers’ comp laws, and as the follow excerpt says, she either could lose her job or assume the risk. Here is the excerpt:

Theodore Roosevelt, arguing in favor of workers’ compensation (then known as workmen’s compensation) laws in 1913, offered the story of an injured worker that summed up the legal recourse available for workplace injuries at the time. A woman’s arm was ripped off by the uncovered gears of a grinding machine. She had complained earlier to her employer that state law required the gears be covered. Her employer responded that she could either do her job or leave. Under the prevailing common-law rules of negligence, because she continued working she had assumed the risk of the dangerous condition and was not entitled to compensation for her injury.

Unfortunately, many Americans are convinced that the best days this country ever had was before Theodore Roosevelt became President. Grover Norquist, the author of the anti-tax pledge GOP Senators, Congressmen and other officials took some years back, said that he wanted to take the country back before Roosevelt, before the “Socialists” took over.

The Koch Brothers and men like Art Pope in NC believe in the right of businesses to do anything they want, and have been responsible for advocating such things as opt-out legislation and even attacks on the exclusive remedy clause of workers’ comp laws.

Yet, as I wrote the other day in “Trends and Issues In Workers’ Comp 2016“, the Koch Brothers drew up a bill defending exclusive remedy so that businesses would be spared the prospect of tort liability.

But I suspect that there are many others who do not share the Koch Brothers view of exclusive remedy, and do seek to overturn it so that we go back to the bad old days of 1915.

One other excerpt from the report discusses workplace safety, and what steps were taken back then to address them. Pay close attention to the name, Frances Perkins, not only was she the first woman cabinet member (FDR), she was also the first Secretary of Labor, as the excerpt states.

Although working in mines was notoriously dangerous, mill work could also be quite hazardous. BLS reported about 23,000 industrial deaths in 1913 among a workforce of 38 million, equivalent to a rate of 61 deaths per 100,000 workers. In contrast, the most recent data on overall occupational fatalities show a rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers. Regarding on-the-job safety, Green notes, “There was virtually no regulation, no insurance, and no company fear of a lawsuit when someone was injured or killed.” Frances Perkins, who went on to become the first Secretary of Labor (1933–45), lobbied for better working conditions and hours in 1910 as head of the New York Consumers League. After witnessing the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which caused the death of 146 mainly young, immigrant female garment workers in New York’s Greenwich Village, Perkins left her job to become the head of the Committee on Public Safety, where she became an even stronger advocate for workplace safety. From 1911 to 1913, the New York State legislature passed 60 new safety laws recommended by the committee. Workplaces have become safer, and technology has been used in place of workers for some especially dangerous tasks.

So lest you think that the Donald will make America great again, that Cruz can be trusted, that Marco is the real deal, or whatever the hell his slogan is, none of them care about the American worker, none of them care what happens to them and none of them will be able to stop their fellow Republicans from carrying out Norquist’s commandment to take the country back.

Unfortunately, it is not 1915 they want to go back to, but before 1901, the year that “Socialist” Roosevelt became president. They want to repeal the 20th century. That’s what’s at stake.