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More Entitlements, Less Deficits?

Graphic "When Greece falls" presente...

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Today Ezra Klein posted an interesting piece about the Euro crisis that confirms what I have thought for some time.

You may have heard the standard right-wing talking point that the current economic woes in Europe are directly tied to entitlements. Conservatives made a similar claim about the US deficit, which is why we’ve been talking about that side of the equation instead of higher taxes until recently (thank you OWS).

Both claims, of course stretch the truth — a lot.

The economic downturn (due to the subprime mortgage disaster) and tax cuts for the wealthy are the prime factors in the US deficit.

Entitlements are also not the boogeyman in the European crisis.

Klein’s piece, “A larger welfare state can mean a lower deficit” highlights the case of Germany, which has a hefty welfare state — but didn’t suffer from any of the problems faced by Greece and other Euro-zone countries:

Take Germany. They have a pretty big welfare state: pensions, health care, paid vacations, unemployment benefits equal to two-thirds of one’s income. Indeed, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development keeps track of social spending — unemployment, old-age pensions, health care, etc — as a percentage of GDP. In 2007, Germany spent 25.2 percent of their GDP on such things. Greece spent 21.3 percent on social policies. Yet Greece is in crisis, and Germany is fine.

In fact, the reality is that a single-payer healthcare system — like the one in Canada — controls costs and actually reduces the deficit.

As recently as 1965, the cost of those two systems competed neck-and-neck. That year, Canada spent 5.9 percent of its GDP on health care. The United States spent 5.7 percent. But around that time, Canada was transitioning to its current single-payer system. Over the next four decades, the growth of health-care costs slowed in Canada while it accelerated in the United States. By 2009, Canada was spending 11 percent of its GDP on health care — and covering everyone. The United States was spending 17.4 percent of its GDP and leaving 45 million uninsured. In dollar terms, we’re spending $3,600 more per person, per year, than Canada.

I’m not an economist, but there seems to be some consensus in the articles that I have read that what Klein states is true.

I have seen no convincing evidence that European woes are principally caused by entitlement spending.

In fact, Klein makes a good argument that a strong healthcare system could act as a bulwark against deficit:

If the United States had Canada’s health-care system, and Canada’s per capita health-care costs, we would have a much “larger” welfare state, but we wouldn’t have a deficit problem. Assuming we weren’t spending that money elsewhere, we wouldn’t even have a deficit. Likewise, if any country in the euro zone maintained the United States’s health-care system and our health-care spending, it would have a smaller welfare state, but it would be sagging beneath a debt burden far more onerous than anything anyone in Europe is facing today.

-Chris

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December 8, 2011 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Economics, GOP, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Politics, Republicans, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changing Her Mind On Obamacare

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

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Her name is Spike Dolomite Ward, and she has written an apology to Obama about her previous stance on health care reform:

‘Obamacare To The Rescue

Ward is a 49-year old self-employed mother who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She could not afford health insurance:

Fortunately for me, I’ve been saved by the federal government’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It’s part of President Obama’s healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months. The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies.) It’s not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it’s a start, and for me it’s been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.

It’s amazing what it takes for people to cut through the nonsense notion that America has the best healthcare system in the world.

There’s much to fault with the existing healthcare reform, but there are also a great many provisions that are essential and help a great many people.

-Chris

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Health Care, Health Care Reform, Obama, Politics | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let Them Try To Repeal Healthcare Reform

Supporter of a single-payer health care plan d...

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Gene Lyons has a post up at Salon that captures what I have been thinking about the upcoming mid-terms and the “Obamacare” scare tactics.

In “Don’t be fooled by the GOP’s sick healthcare rhetoric” Lyons makes some good points about the right’s plan to run on a distortion of Democratic accomplishments.

For example:

Is there anybody capable of filling out Form 1040 EZ who buys this latest Republican fantasy? Alas, yes. A clamorous minority remains captive to the GOP’s decades-long War on Arithmetic. The more dramatically “conservative” economic dogma fails — there’s nothing conservative about believing in magic — the greater their cultlike need to believe it.

But Lyons makes an important observation in the next graph:

Obamacare’s problems, however, are somewhat of the White House’s own making. Polls have shown that while the law’s unpopular in the abstract, its constituent parts earn wide approval. That’s partly because GOP propaganda, “government takeover,” “death panels,” etc., scared low-information voters; partly because the bill’s so complex that few really understand how it works.

It is simply not a believable argument that Republicans are going to repeal Healthcare Reform. The logistics aren’t there for them to win a veto-proof majority, and if the Democrats would merely make the Republicans answer exactly what popular provision they would like to cut (or, not answer, as the case may be) there is little chance this meme will remain potent.

The article also outlines exactly what is wrong with the Republican position. They treat healthcare as a commodity, and of necessity eliminate people who have preexisting conditions from having access to treatment. To save money.

“Obamacare” addresses this by mandating insurance to increase the pool, and lower the costs for everyone.

The Republican plan tackles costs by — oh, wait. They don’t have one. Except for the red herring of tort reform (which does not lower costs in any way according to studies in states where it has been enacted).

In any case, the county isn’t going to go backward.

Lyons cites a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study that shows that 4 in 10 respondents don’t think there is enough reform in the legislation.

In order to tackle the nation’s problems, we need a serious discussion about how to fix things and be honest about what sacrifices we need to make.

Eventually, some form of single payer will have to be enacted. It presents the most cost controls, the least complex administration and the most benefits.

If the Democrats were smart, they would run on trying to pass that. The tide is turning.

-Chris

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Democrats, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Politics, Republicans, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pledge of Lies

So, the Republicans haven’t learned a thing since their “Contract With America” was revealed for the utter fraud that it was.

Their new “Pledge To America” is rife with distortions and what FactCheck.org politely refers to as “dubious claims”:

“Fact Checking ‘The Pledge'”

The report starts with a damning summary that takes “The Pledge” apart — revealing it for the cheap publicity stunt that it is.

For example:

  • It declares that “the only parts of the economy expanding are government and our national debt.” Not true. So far this year government employment has declined slightly, while private sector employment has increased by 763,000 jobs.
  • It says that “jobless claims continue to soar,” when in fact they are down eight percent from their worst levels.
  • It repeats a bogus assertion that the Internal Revenue Service may need to expand by 16,500 positions, an inflated estimate based on false assumptions and guesswork.
  • It claims the stimulus bill is costing $1 trillion, considerably more than the $814 billion, 10-year price tag currently estimated by nonpartisan congressional budget experts.
  • It says Obama’s tax proposals would raise taxes on “roughly half the small business income in America,” an exaggeration. Much of the income the GOP is counting actually comes from big businesses making over $50 million a year.

On healthcare, the stimulus bill, the economy, taxes and small business, the GOP pledge presents a fiction.

What is important to remember is this tidbit:

Fact: It’s true that the economy lost nearly 8.4 million jobs from the peak of employment in December, 2007 to the bottom of the job slump in December of last year. More than half (4.4 million) were lost before Obama took office. The economy has regained 723,000 jobs since hitting bottom, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, the economy is turning around after being driven into the ground during the last administration.

Look at the record. That’s what things like this “pledge” purport to do. As as you can see, the Republicans have to make things up and want don’t want accountability for what they did.

Don’t let them get away with it.

-Chris

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Obama, Politics, Republicans, Stimulus, Tax Debate | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Nation Working Together Rally on Saturday

Washington dc

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The One Nation Working Together Rally is happening this Saturday in Washington, DC.

Smaller events will be held throughout the country on various dates.

Check the Website for more information.

-Chris

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Deficit, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Immigration, Politics, Religion, Republicans, Stimulus, Tax Debate | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wealth Distribution Perspective

Rich People Live Here

Image by amanda farah via Flickr

A site appropriately named Too Much posted an eye-opening article over the weekend called “How Billionaires Could Race To Our Rescue”.

To give an idea of what has happened to all the money in this country since the Reagan era:

The ten richest Americans on the new Forbes list carry, all by themselves, a combined net worth of $270 billion, more than the inflation-adjusted net worth of the entire initial Forbes list back in 1982.

The article also contains this staggering nugget:

A 15 percent “wealth tax” on all personal assets over $1 billion would this year raise $145.5 billion, more than enough to cover the entire $140 billion budget shortfall America’s 50 states are facing in the current fiscal year.

This is a beautiful idea…that is ridiculous in its naiveté. These billionaires obtained their exorbitant wealth through things other than generosity and civic-mindedness.

To be fair, there are those who are wealthy who have the idea of giving back to the country.

In response to “Ferris Bueller” punchline Ben Stein’s televised whine about the horrible injustice of ending the tax cuts for the very rich, Linda McGibney had a great piece on the same CBS Sunday Morning show a week later.

In part, her response is:

Mr. Stein, there are Americans who qualify for this tax increase under the proposed plan who don’t feel “punished” by it. We feel it is our duty in hard times to help the rest of America…

And:

I have always understood that the “haves” were greedy. This is the first time I’ve heard one of them express it out loud so openly.

But the idea of waiting for the wealthy to bail America out because of their innate sense of patriotism is folly.

Part of the problem the Democrats face is their own inability to articulate the issue in historical context.

The tiny minority of rich people in this country are wealthier than they have ever been. Everyone else is a lot poorer. The gap widens by the minute. This happened because of tax and economic policies that allowed the rich to send jobs overseas, and allowed the wealthy (who wrote the policies in the first place) to pay less and less in taxes.

Starting with Ronald Reagan, the tax burden was lowered until disaster struck. Reagan skipped out of town, leaving George Bush Sr. to clean up the mess (and to responsibly break his “no new taxes” pledge).

Clinton had some luck restoring balance, and surpluses resulted. The wealthy were still rolling in dough, and the middle class was stronger during the Clinton years.

Then Bush took over. His policies were an economic disaster by any measure.

But the super rich will not countenance a return to the modest taxes of the Clinton years.

From their limousines and multimillion dollar homes, they view the programs that help working Americans as “government waste”.

They want to take away education, Social Security, health care and other services from the rest of us.

So they can keep more of their money.

For decades the wealthy right has decried the spectre of “class warfare” at the mere mention that they should, perhaps, pay their fair share.

Maybe it’s time to show them what class warfare really looks like.

After all, we outnumber them.

Update: This guy running for Robert Byrd’s West Virginia Senate seat is the poster child of the unpatriotic wealthy.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

-Chris

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Debt, Deficit, Democrats, Health Care, Health Care Reform, History, Politics, Republicans, Tax Debate, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment