Martin Luther King’s Dream Of Jobs And Freedom

Martin Luther King Jr. outlined his dream 50 years ago this weekend. We made much of it happen. Let’s dream some more. Let’s dream about what we could do in the next 50 years.

Fifty years ago Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and famously told the country “I have a dream.” Fifty years later there is progress and there are setbacks. We no longer have segregation — separate schools and bathrooms and the rest. Many states finally allow everyone to marry the person they love, but at the same time many states are returning to apartheid-era restrictions of voting rights.

One huge part of the “Jobs and Freedom” Dream that still evades us is the goal of full employment or an income until a job becomes available.

On August 16, 1967 King delivered a speech titled, “Where Do We Go From Here?” addressing the need for everyone to have a job or an income,

…our emphasis must be twofold: We must create full employment, or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position, we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available. In 1879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote in Progress and Poverty:

The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves driven to their tasks either by the, that of a taskmaster or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who somehow find a form of work that brings a security for its own sake and a state of society where want is abolished.

A Country Based On A Dream

Our country was founded on the dream that We the People can do things for each other instead of depending on the rich and powerful to throw us scraps.

If you look at our Constitution you see that our country is supposed to be for We the People. And I mean just look at it, not read it. The only words you see from any distance are the words “We the People.” The Founders were making a point.

The Constitution told the world about a dream that “We the People” would build a country that protects and empowers us, where together we do things for the common good, to make our lives better. And for a while we did that.

We have lost sight of that dream. We no longer seem to recognize who our country is for. We no longer talk about the common good.

Who is our country for? Who is our economy for? Certainly a We the People economy would at the very least guarantee that We the People have jobs and an income until a job is available.

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If We Lower The Social Security Age To 55

millions of jobs would open up. The newly-employed would be paying taxes and would not be receiving Food Stamps, etc. More people employed would mean wages in general would rise, which would mean the economy would boom, tax revenue would rise, etc.

And if we lower the Medicare age to 55 all the new people in the program would cost MUCH less because people between 55 and 64 use far less health care services than people 65 and over. AND the people 55 and over are the most expensive people on private insurance, so the cost of private policies would go way down.

How to pay for this? This is about priorities. How do we pay over a trillion a year for military? How did we pay for Iraq? How did we pay for the bank bailouts? How do we pay for tax cuts for the rich? How do we pay for letting corporations stash money in tax havens to evade (defer) taxes? How do we pay for giving subsidies to oil companies?

Who is our economy and country FOR?

Republicans Moving From Obstruction To Outright Sabotage

During the first years of the Obama administration the Republican strategy was to obstruct efforts to improve the economy and crate more jobs. Then, at election time they went to the public saying, “Obama hasn’t made things better.” But now they are moving into outright sabotage of  things that government does for people, like the new health care law, with election plans to campaign on the failure of government to do things for people.

Public Not Aware Of Health Care Law

Most of the new health care law goes into effect next year, with the “exchanges” beginning at the end of this year. But the public has little, if any, understanding of what is coming and what it means to them.

An April Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking poll found that only 40% of the public even knows that the health care law has been upheld by the courts and not repealed by Congress. “Also about half the public says they do not have enough information about the health reform law to understand how it will impact their own family, a share that rises among the uninsured and low-income households.”

And less than 10% report hearing anything good about the new law.

Republicans Threaten Sports Leagues

The government is beginning (really, really late in the game) to try to get information to the public. Among other efforts, the Dept. of Health and Human Services had been talking to sports leagues about ways they can help educate the public. Republicans immediately moved to nip that in the bud.

TPM: GOP Leaders Warn Pro Sports Leagues Not To Promote Obamacare

Senate Republican leaders have sent letters warning six professional sports leagues not to provide the Obama administration any assistance in promoting Obamacare.

The letters, dated June 27, warn the chiefs of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Professional Golf Association and NASCAR that partnering with the administration to publicize the benefits of the health care law would damage their reputations.

It worked: CNN, NFL has ‘no plans’ to promote Obamacare.

The reason Republicans went after the sports leagues is because in a past public-information effort sports turned out to be a good way to get information out to the public. In 2007 the Boston Red Sox assisted then-Gov Romney in promoting the new Massachusetts health care law. This helped spread public knowledge and understanding of the new law.

But public knowledge and understanding is to Republicans like garlic is to vampires. Increased public knowledge and understanding get in the way of their agenda.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Fix Budget Problems With Medicare-For-All

(Post title changed…)

Nate Silver has a much-discussed post today in the NY Times, What Is Driving Growth in Government Spending?. Silver goes over the numbers and writes,

To clarify: all of the major categories of government spending have been increasing relative to inflation. But essentially all of the increase in spending relative to economic growth, and the potential tax base, has come from entitlement programs, and about half of that has come from health care entitlements specifically.

The growth in health care expenditures, for better or worse, is not just a government problem: private spending on health care is increasing at broadly the same rates and is eating up a larger and larger share of economic activity. It’s an immensely complicated problem, but the arithmetic is simple: if we can’t slow the rate of growth in health care expenditures, we’ll either have to raise taxes, cut other government spending or continue to run huge deficits. Or we could hope to grow our way out of the problem, but health care expenditures may be impeding private-sector growth as well.

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Romney, Tobacco and Kids

Somehow no surprise: Mitt Romney’s Bain Helped Philip Morris Get U.S. High Schoolers Hooked On Cigarettes,

When Mitt Romney served as CEO of Bain & Co., his consulting firm helped tobacco giant Philip Morris develop a groundbreaking sales strategy that researchers say has been linked to an unprecedented spike in youth smoking.
… Philip Morris stunned Wall Street and tobacco experts by the slashing price on its flagship Marlboro brand by 40 cents a pack, to $1.80. It was a landmark day for the tobacco industry, one that became known as “Marlboro Friday” to public health experts.
… A year later, Philip Morris stock had fully recovered, and continued to make steady gains over the coming four years. Marlboro Friday ultimately proved to be the tobacco industry’s most successful effort to increase domestic profit in the face of heavier regulations.
The profit was the result of soaring sales that coincided with an unprecedented jump in smoking among high school- aged youth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, found that the portion of young people who had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous month rose nearly 20 percent from 1993 to 1997. Youth smoking increased in all categories from that occasional user to the regular user.

Obamacare Ignorance

How many misconceptions can you spot in this letter to the editor from July 2 Readers’ letters – San Jose Mercury News?

Roberts shouldn’t have imposed another tax
Thank you, Chief Justice John Roberts, for imposing another tax on the American populace. I have health insurance — it costs me the princely sum of over $1,300 a month. I have no choice (due to pre-existing conditions); but to pay the piper every month and am unable to qualify for any other health coverage.
I have to wonder what we, the taxpayers (and believe me, my husband and I pay taxes — in proportions that are sickening) are indirectly billed for your guaranteed and unfettered health care coverage. Please allow me to add, that neither my husband or I are employed. We have been “involuntarily” retired.
You crossed the line and you know it. Shame on you. And here I thought you were a solid and steady captain in the rocky Supreme Court waters.

This is what Republicans depend on. Everything this person has been led to believe is wrong. And the news media of course does nothing to help, they just report who is “winning” and “both sides are to blame.”
The cost of this person’t health insurance is about to go WAY down, possibly to zero since they are unemployed. She can’t get any other insurance because of a pre-existing condition, and that restriction is about to go away.
But she thinks that on top of what they pay now they are going to have to pay a huge tax.
The newspaper of course does nothing to provide readers with the correct information, they just publish the letter.

7 Ways Obama Lied About Your Health Coverage

President Obama promised that if you have health insurance now, it won’t change. Here are 7 ways he lied:
1) Under the new law your insurer can’t drop your coverage after you get sick. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.
2) Your children can continue to be insured under your plan until they are 26. (Click and read this.) This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.
3) New coverage is added, including preventative care like mammograms and colonoscopies with no “out of pocket” like charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance. This is a change in the insurance you already have. Obama lied.
4) If you pay for your own insurance and your income is below a certain level, you will receive subsidies to help pay for your insurance. Even if you earn four times the federal poverty rate, or currently about $93,000 for a family of four, you will have to pay no more than 9.5 percent of your income. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.
5) The law prohibits insurance companies from placing a “lifetime cap” on the amount of coverage you have. Many people were discovering that they reached this cap right when they needed insurance the most. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.
6) The cost of your insurance will be lower than it would be without this law. There are several ways the new law will lower the cost of your insurance. First, by requiring people to have insurance, people can’t “free load” by showing up at the emergency room without insurance. Currently when this happens hospitals charge more to everyone else. So the new law’s “mandate” stops the “free loaders” — the cause of these extra charges — from running up your insurance cost. Also, the new law’s “80/20 Rule” says insurers have to use 80% of their revenue for health care. This even means you might get a rebate. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.
7) Insurers won/’t be able to keep you from getting insurance or charge you more based on a pre-existing condition. This is a change in the coverage you already have. Obama lied.

Therefore

So President Obama lied when he said that if you already have health coverage you don’t have to worry about changes! Therefore we need to get rid of the law so insurers can cut you off after you get sick, charge you for preventative care, cut your children off from having insurance, keep you from getting insurance if you have a pre-existing condition, place a lifetime “cap” on your coverage and make you pay more! It’s time to put some teeth into “let him die!”
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Health Care

m4s0n501

I’m curious what could lead anyone to think the Supreme Court isn’t going to strike down the health care law, probably with the usual 5-4?
Seriously, we know Thomas will vote to strike it down, because his wife is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by its opponents. That one is a given, and has nothing to do with the Constitution, law or ethics.
We know Roberts, Scalia and Alito will vote to strike it down because they come out of the conservative movement, and the conservative movement sees killing it as a strategic step against Obama. That one is also a given, and also has nothing to do with the Constitution, law or ethics.
So on the right side of the court it comes down to Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan. He will vote to strike it down.
But don’t bet that the “liberal” minority will vote to keep this law. Many non-right-wingers might be boxed into reflexively hoping the court upholds this law, but don’t forget what this law does. This law orders all of us to purchase insurance from the giant insurance near-monopolies. It was the “corporate/centrist” solution to keeping us from getting Medicare-For-All, and preserving private corporate health insurance. We shouldn’t be hoping the “liberals” vote to confirm that is OK.
Private health care has been proven to not work without the government ordering us to buy it. So if the Court strikes down the law, the only alternative left is Medicare-For-All. Hope for that.

Cuts and Consequences – How Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy

Is smaller government really better for the economy? Conservatives chant that taxes and government “take money out of the economy” and we need to “cut and grow,” meaning if government spending is cut way back the economy will grow as a result. Europe’s conservatives are also forcing cuts in the things their governments do for regular people, claiming “austerity” will bring “confidence” that grows their economies. How is this experiment working out? What are we learning about the effect on the larger economy when government is cut?
What Does Government Do?
Almost everything the government does is because it needs to be done. We need roads, bridges, schools & colleges, dams, courts, police & fire departments, water management, etc. (We can discuss the need for military spending another time.)
These are all needed and contribute to the functioning of the economy. So if government is cut back and doesn’t do something that is needed, then how does it get done? Or does it just not get done? Either way, the real question we should be asking is what is the effect on the larger economy when our government cuts back on or stops doing needed things? If you save the “government” a bit of money but cost the economy a lot of money, are you saving money? Or are cuts in government really just shifting and even increasing the costs in the larger economy of doing these things?
Who Is Our Government For?
In the United States, our Constitution says that government is supposed to be of, by and for We, the People. The country was established after the colonists rebelled against the aristocracy of England — a few people who had all of the wealth and power and would not let the colonists have a say in how things were run and who would benefit. So they fought the Revolutionary War and established a country where “We, the People” all have an equal say, and to “promote the general welfare.” In other words, a country that aspires to be of, by and for the good of all of us.
So cutting back on government means cutting back on We, the People doing things for the good of all of us. It means cutting back on the things we have a say over. It means relinquishing the wealth and power that we hold in common to … well, just where does our common wealth and power go if our government is cut back?
Medicare, For Example
Republicans say we need to cut back on what the government spends on Medicare. But if you cut Medicare the health problems of elderly people and the larger problem of fast-rising health care costs in the larger economy don’t disappear. In fact, both problems just get worse.
The “Ryan Budget” that Congressional Republicans voted to approve actually converts Medicare into a program that gives seniors a voucher that pays for part of a private medical insurance policy that seniors have to shop for. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Cost of Medicare Equivalent Insurance Skyrockets under Ryan Plan, took a look at that plan and explains what happens to the cost of health care. Summary: it shifts the costs to us, except each of us ends up paying as much as seven times as much as the same care costs under Medicare. From the CEPR explanation:

[The Republican] plan to revamp Medicare has been described as shifting costs from the government to beneficiaries. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), however, shows that the [Republican] proposal will increase health care costs for seniors by more than seven dollars for every dollar it saves the government, a point missing from much of the debate over the plan.
… In addition to comparing the costs of Medicare to the government under the current system and under the [Republican] plan, the authors also show the effects of raising the age of Medicare eligibility. The paper also demonstrates that while [the Republican plan] shifts $4.9 trillion in health care costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries, this number is dwarfed by a $34 trillion increase in overall costs to beneficiaries that is projected …

Repeat, the Republican plan to cut Medicare would cost the larger economy seven times as much as it cuts government spending.
Social Security, For Example
Conservatives have been trying to cut or gut Social Security for decades. While this might mean government has to pay out less of what is owed to seniors, such cuts would have a negative effect on the larger economy.
Social Security allows working people to retire with at least a minimal income. If this is cut many could not retire for many more years (if ever), which would increase the unemployment rate because their jobs would not open up. The same is true as the retirement age is increased – fewer job openings. If it is cut, the spending (on cat food) at local grocery stores and other necessities is reduced by the same amount. And the effect on children of retirees is increased, if they contribute to make up the difference.
This is why cutting Social Security or raising the retirement age only shifts costs onto the larger economy, dragging it down (and cruelly hurting our elderly).
Cutting Disease Control, For Example
One of the clearest examples of the way government helps us all, rich and poor, is the government’s Center for Disease Control (CDC). One of the jobs of the CDC is to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. If an epidemic is spreading and killing people it doesn’t matter if those people are rich or poor. And if a serious outbreak spreads this can damage the economy as people are too sick to, or decide not to show up for work. So of course cutting back the budget of the CDC could cause damage to the economy in any given year and is certain to cause damage eventually. (The CDC budget was cut back 11% last year.)
Budget Cuts Hurt The Economy
The above are only a few examples.
A government budget cut is like a huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does — or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the cost or the need for those things, they just shift those costs onto the larger economy. But because these shifts attack the economy-of-scale, transparency, integrity and public-good management that government provides, they almost always increase the costs and harms to the larger economy.

  • As government health care is cut (or not provided in the first place) each of us must take on those costs on our own, and as demonstrated, pay up to seven times what the same care would/could have cost.
  • As infrastructure maintenance and modernization is cut, our economy becomes less competitive, unemployment increases and our wages and spending power fall.
  • As spending on education is cut, our costs of educating ourselves and our kids increase. College costs soar. And the overall education level of our people will decrease, making our country less competitive in the world.
  • As environmental regulation and enforcement is cut the costs of the resulting health problems and cleanups increase and our quality-of-life will decrease.
  • As enforcement of labor laws is cut, our wages and protections fall.
  • As etc. is cut, the costs of etc. are shifted to the larger economy, and the total costs of accomplishing etc. actually increase.

As budgets are cut, the costs are increased and shifted to the larger economy.
Austerity In Europe
Several countries in Europe are severely cutting budgets. The result is that the economies in those countries are slowing. Reuters: Euro zone’s slump in late 2011 points to recession.

A collapse in household spending, exports and manufacturing sucked the life out of the euro zone’s economy in the final months of 2011, the EU said on Tuesday, showing the scope of the downturn that looks set to become a fully fledged recession.
… The European Commission forecasts a recession of the same magnitude this year. That would be the euro zone’s second contraction in just three years as the bloc’s debt crisis drags on a region that generates around 16 percent of the world’s economic output.
[. . .] The battle between austerity and growth was already evident in the fourth quarter. Euro zone government expenditure fell 0.2 percent, while industry contracted 2 percent and imports were down 1.2 percent, making for some of the worst readings since the world was dragged into the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

The austerity experiment is making the case: cutting government budgets just shifts costs and hurts the larger economy.
Who Benefits From Cuts?
Governments dance with the ones that brung ‘em. Whoever controls government is naturally going to direct government to benefit them – and only them. We-the-People democracies do things for We, the People; plutocracies do things for plutocrats. So when, as now, plutocrats are running government, you will get a government that only does things that benefit plutocrats. And when We, the People were running government, we did things that benefit We, the People — all of us.
The plutocrats now demanding government budget cuts obviously understand that this will result in slowing economies, but don’t care — they are already fabulously wealthy. What they want is reduced taxes and increased power. They say that cuts will bring growth, in order to persuade people to accept cuts. Blocking governments from providing things that don’t directly benefit them and only them is a means to that end. And cutting government cuts government’s ability to reign them in.
What We, the People Want
When We, the People are running government we insist that government increases overall prosperity. We demand laws and regulations that bring us good wages, benefits and safe working conditions. We demand good public schools & colleges, parks, safety and opportunities for our smaller businesses to fairly compete. We insist on a clean environment, consumer protections, regulations on business behavior, rules against monopolies and (after learning the hard way) rules that keep banks from taking risks that threaten the economy. And we want controls and limits on the use of wealth and power by the 1%ers.
Plutocrats — the 1%ers — of course see all of these protections of regular people as hindering their power and ability to make as much for themselves as they can grab. Plutocrats just don’t see how public parks benefit them. They just don’t see why they should have to pay for public schools. What good do public schools do them, today? Plutocrats don’t see why it should be anyone else’s problem if old people don’t have health care — health care for seniors certainly isn’t their problem.
They explain that things for anyone other than themselves and their interests just “wastes money.” Things for regular people are not their problem. And when plutocrats run government, it isn’t their problem.
The fact is a public park “costs money.” Schools and infrastructure are just more “government spending.” Things like that just “redistribute income” because taxes on the income of plutocrats is used to build that park or school that anyone can use. The basic message of the plutocrat is, “Why should I pay for anything that benefits you?”
You and I might argue that this kind of austerity, cutting schools, Medicare, infrastructure, etc. slows the larger economy, hurting the plutocrats, too. But that doesn’t hurt the ones who are already rich, which is the definition of plutocrat. It puts more in their pockets, today, by lowering their taxes. They want out of taxes and they don’t want government (We, the People) interfering with their power.
What We, The People Need
Democracies where We, the People make decisions demand things that are good for regular people and their small businesses: pensions, health care, modernized infrastructure, good schools & colleges, child care, regulations on the behavior of giant corporations… This is why strong democracies have proven to be more prosperous for regular people and for longer than other forms of government that leave people on their own against the wealthy and powerful and drive all of the income and wealth to a few at the top. This is why so many regular working people in our country were so much more prosperous in the decades before the plutocratic 1%-favoring policies of Reagan steered us toward plutocracy.
Understand what is going on here. Demands for budget cuts and austerity are really about shifting from democracy to a system where regular people — the 99% — are on their own, up against the wealthy and powerful. This is about shifting from a system where regular people can be prosperous together, to a system where a few — the 1% — have all the wealth and power.
We, the People need democracy restored. We need to be in charge again, before the economy can improve.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Single-Payer Supporters Urge Supreme Court To Strike Down Mandate

Fifty Medical Doctors for Single Payer Urge Supreme Court to Strike Down Individual Mandate,

Fifty medical doctors who favor a single payer health insurance system today urged the US Supreme Court to strike down the individual mandate.
In a brief filed with the Court, the fifty doctors and two non-profit groups – Single Payer Action and It’s Our Economy – said that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate is unconstitutional.
The individual mandate is the provision of the ACA that requires Americans to purchase health insurance from private insurance companies if they do not otherwise have coverage.
… “It is not necessary to force Americans to buy private health insurance to achieve universal coverage,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. “There is a proven alternative that Congress didn’t seriously consider, and that alternative is a single payer national health insurance system.”

We went into this trying to find a way to do something about the terrible, corrupt monopoly insurance companies, lying, cheating, scamming, denying coverage after you got sick, overcharging, bankrupting people, etc. etc. etc… and we came out of it ordered to buy insurance from those companies.
Except I can’t understand why they insist on calling this “single payer” which sounds to most people like it means you are going to have to pay for all your health care yourself. “Medicare For All” is a much better way to explain it.