Category Archives: libertarianism

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.

 

Another Fine Mess

Republican politicians are the Stan Laurel of American politics. For those not familiar with the famous comedy team of Laurel and Hardy from the first half of the 20th century, Stan Laurel was the one who always got the boys into what Oliver Hardy called, “another fine mess.”

laurel-hardy

Stan Laurel is the one on the left.

I call the GOP the Stan Laurel of politics because after three expensive wars that have drained our economy, and the financial meltdown they left the outgoing administration, they now want to repeal the Affordable Care ACT (ACA), more commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

Some genius on Facebook recently said that he wanted them to repeal Obamacare because he was getting his insurance from the Affordable Care Act. His friends took him to task for not knowing that it is one and the same.

But the embodiment of Stan Laurel in the Republican Party should be Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. For those unsure of who he is, here is his picture.

ryanrand

He’s on the left. The person to his right is his idol, Ayn Rand (throw in Rand Paul and you get ‘Ayn Rand Paul Ryan Ayn Rand, moving one name and some letters and dropping others). Paul Ryan, among other things, wants to eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the ACA as well. I am sure unemployment and work comp are also on his agenda.

The only books on economics Ryan has ever read are “Atlas Shrugged” and the “The Fountainhead.” Works of fiction, just like his party’s proposal to repeal and replace the ACA. Replace with what? Before it was called “Obamacare” it was called, “Romneycare”, as it was the plan Mitt Romney and Ted Kennedy enacted in Massachusetts. [It should be noted that Rand towards the end of her life, lived on Welfare and Social Security; so much for rugged individualism]

So, this is really a Republican idea that they want to repeal, but don’t know what to replace it with, or even if they will replace it. They certain will, from all I have seen and heard, blow a hole in our budget if they do repeal and replace it with something worse. Another fine mess, GOP!

Here’s another picture of Paul Ryan, next to his long-lost sibling, Alfred E. Newman.

separated-at-birth

A striking resemblance, don’t you think?

Fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, has been chronicling an “ACA Deathwatch” and what repeal means.

So, if you don’t believe me when I say the GOP will get us into another fine mess, listen to Joe. And be aware that there are alternatives to the disaster that awaits us if they do repeal the ACA, but ignore them at your peril.

The Technological Revolution and Health Care: On the Same Track?

Yesterday, I ran across an interview on Truthout.com by Mark Karlin. Mr. Karlin was interviewing the two authors of a new book, People Get Ready, by Robert W. Mc Chesney and John Nichols.

Mr. Karlin’s first question, answered by Mr. Mc Chesney, intrigued me and got me thinking of what is happening in workers’ comp, as well as what is happening in health care.

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, automation and artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on the future of workers’ comp, and this is emphasized in Mc Chesney and Nichols’ book. There have been other books and articles recently on the subject, so this is nothing new.

But what got me thinking is that Mr. Karlin addressed the main question the book raises — namely that the conventional wisdom has always been that the more advanced technology becomes, the more beneficial it will be for humans.

Mr. Mc Chesney responded that convention wisdom said that new technologies will disrupt and eliminate many jobs and industries, and that they would be replaced by newer industries and better jobs.

Mc Chesney also said that they argue the idea that technology will create a new job to replace an old one is no longer operative; nor that the new job will be better than the old one.

According to Mr. Mc Chesney:

Capitalism is in a period of prolonged and arguably indefinite stagnation. There is immense unemployment and underemployment of workers, which we document in the book, taken from entirely uncontroversial data sources. There is downward pressure on wages and working conditions, which results is growing and grotesque inequality. Workers have less security and are far more precarious today than they were a generation ago; for workers under the age of 30, it is a nightmare compared to what I experienced in the 1970s.”

Likewise, Mr. Mc Chesney, continued:

there is an immense amount of “unemployed” capital; i.e. wealthy individuals and US corporations are holding around $2 trillion in cash for which they cannot find attractive investments. There is simply insufficient consumer demand for firms to risk additional capital investment. The only place that demand can come from is by shifting money from the rich to the poor and/or by aggressively increasing government spending, and those options are politically off-limits, except to jack up military spending, which is already absurdly and obscenely high.

Contemporary capitalism is increasingly seeing profits generated, he adds, not by its fairy tales of entrepreneurs creating new jobs satisfying consumer needs, (remember Mitt Romney’s ‘job creator’ line of bs?) — but by monopolies, corruption and by privatizing public services.

Finally, Mr. Mc Chesney states that:

Capitalism as we know it is a very bad fit for the technological revolution we are beginning to experience. We desperately need a new economy, one that is not capitalistic — based on the mindless and endless pursuit of maximum profit — or one where capitalism has been radically reformed, more than ever before in its history. It is the central political challenge of our times.

They are not the only ones arguing for such reform or revolution, Senator Sanders notwithstanding. In previous posts, I have mentioned the biopsychosocial theory, Spiral Dynamics, and the book by Said W. Dawlabani, MEMEnomics The Next-Generation Economic System.

Other authors such as Richard Wolff, and Robert Reich have written books about this subject, and like Mc Chesney and Nichols have reached similar conclusions. Yet, Dawlabani, accessing the Spiral Dynamics model, goes much deeper into why we got here and what we need to do to get out of it.

Such a future version of capitalism has been called by many different names that I have come across in the past decade or so. Natural Capitalism, conscious capitalism, and so on, to name a few. But the main point is as Mc Chesney and Nichols points out in their book, the technological revolution, rather than liberating humans and making our lives better, as Mc Chesney says in the interview, may have the perverse effect of reinforcing its stagnating tendency.

An issue related to automation and artificial intelligence and its impact on the future of work, is if we are all replaced by machines and software, how will people be able to live? How will the goods and services produced by automation be sold, and to whom? Only those who are fortunate to have employment in jobs that machines cannot do? Or will we have to go back to a time when money was only the purview of those who had it?

The answer to these questions have also been raised by those in the tech world, and one suggestion they have come up with is a national basic income (NBI), and naturally has already been shot down as a bad idea by those on the Right. I guess they really want people to be poor.

But this idea should be kept on the back burner for now, as given the political climate in this country, that idea will be dead on arrival. Yet, while many have acknowledged what Mc Chesney, Nichols and others have said is happening, the other side — namely the current Speaker of the House and others in his party, have doubled down on their stubborn adherence to the rantings of a two-bit novelist, Ayn Rand and Ayn Randism.

Which brings me to the other point I wish to discuss, and that bears on what happens in the overall economy at large.

If automation and artificial intelligence will lead to elimination of many, if not all jobs, and if that will require a new economy as Mc Chesney and Nichols, and others have argued, what does that mean for the health care industry that seems to be going in the opposite direction?

Even before the enactment of the ACA, health care has become more centralized, bureaucratic, consolidated and more profit-driven than ever. The ACA in many ways has accelerated this process, and the direction it is headed is towards a more consumer-driven form of health care, and one where large hospital systems have integrated physicians and insurance services into their business plan.

The move among some physicians and physician practices towards concierge medicine, also is a sign that health care is moving towards a more capitalistic health care, in that it creates two classes — those who can afford concierge medicine, and those who cannot.

The transition to a new economy will not happen overnight, and may not happen for some time, especially if the forces aligned against it remain strongly opposed to reform. But if the health care system collapses, as I mentioned previously in articles last week, then along with the stagnation of capitalism generally, there will be an opportunity to move in that direction in health care as well.

Calling for ‘Medicare for All’ now with firm opposition to anything that spends government money or has a social benefit other than producing profit for a few, is only a waste of time and a con job.

There are only two ways an economic system and its attendant political system changes; by revolution or evolution. One is violent and bloody, the other happens because the old is replaced by the new so seamlessly that no one gets too emotional when it happens. An election does not do that, especially when the opposition is headed toward fascism.

That issue is for another time and place, and the rest of Mc Chesney and Nichols’ book discusses the current presidential campaign. I wanted to discuss the dichotomy between where capitalism is headed and where health care is headed, and at some point, health care will have to fall in line with the new capitalism.


I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp.

I am also looking for a partner who shares my vision of global health care for injured workers.

I am also willing to work with any health care provider, medical tourism facilitator or facility to help you take advantage of a market segment treating workers injured on the job. Workers’ compensation is going through dramatic changes, and may one day be folded into general health care. Injured workers needing surgery for compensable injuries will need to seek alternatives that provide quality medical care at lower cost to their employers. Caribbean and Latin America region preferred.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com.

Will accept invitations to speak or attend conferences.

Connect with me on LinkedIn, check out my website, FutureComp Consulting, and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com.

Transforming Workers’ Blog is now viewed all over the world in 250 countries and political entities. I have published nearly 300 articles, many of them re-published in newsletters and other blogs.

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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.