Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Gateway to Single-Payer for All Is Finally Within Reach

With the utterly embarassing and monumental failure of the Trumpcare/Ryancare bill occuring in tandem with increasing awareness of both the real and imagined flaws of Obamacare (even though it is not actually imploding OR exploding), we now have a very limited "Overton Window" of opportunity for true progressives such as Bernie Sanders to push through an idea that will be a gateway to single-payer healthcare for all.  And that idea is to simply lower the eligibility age for Medicare, effectively creating a public option that will put a ceiling on private insurance costs due to competition while also relieving insurance companies of the cost having to cover older Americans, further bending the cost curve downwards.
While we at the TSAP ultimately prefer a full-fledged single-payer system for all, this idea is a great steppingstone towards that goal.  First, lower the age to 62, then 55, then 50, and before you know it, the age limit will be lowered to zero, covering everyone if they so choose to participate, while (at first) leaving the rest of Obamacare intact.  Combine that with allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada as well as having the government negotiate lower drug prices over here via monopsony power, and the current private, for-profit sick-care racket will soon be history.  Then Medicare and Medicaid can be combined, and we will truly have single-payer for all, similar to Canada and most other industrialized nations.  And poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans support single-payer.

Ironically, Trump himself originally went on the record as having supported single-payer healthcare back in 2000.  Perhaps We the People ought to keep reminding him of that fact, and hound him about it until he finally returns to that idea, before he wipes the egg off of his face from his recent defeat.

Anything less would be uncivilized.  Believe me. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Ruh Roh. Trumpcare/Ryancare Just Failed, BIGLY. Believe me.

Looks like Mr. "Art of the Deal" couldn't even negotiate his way out of a paper bag. That is, he couldn't get Obamacare repealed and replaced even with both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans.  Yes, really.

On March 24, 2017, exactly seven years after Obamacare passed in 2010, Trump gave Congressional Republicans an ultimatum.  Either vote on the Trumpcare bill today, or he will take his marbles and go home, and forget about repealing Obamacare at all for a while at least.  And it backfired, bigly.  Thing is, the last-minute changes made to the bill to appease the arch-conservative Republicans, which actually made it even WORSE, would have ended up alienating too many moderates, and thus they still didn't have enough votes to pass it.  Thus, to avoid further embarassment, Trump and the Republicans decided to kill the bill before it was brought to the floor for the vote, pulling the bill indefinitely while they focus on othet priorities.  And now both Trump and the Republicans have egg on their faces.  Bigly.  Believe me.

Meanwhile, the Russia scandal isn't going away anytime soon, nor are any of his other numerous scandals.  Even Wall Street is apparently getting impatient with him.  The honeymoon is officially over, and it really doesn't look good for him.  Sad.

Friday, March 10, 2017

And So We Learn What the Republican Alternative to Obamacare Really Is

In case you missed it, the Republican replacement for Obamacare is basically Obamacare-Lite, which is a giveaway to the rich and the insurance industry, who will see gratuitous tax cuts, but not so much for We the People, who will see less healthcare coverage overall.  Officially called the American Health Care Act, this bill does the following, among other things:
  • Replaces the unpopular individual mandate with a "continuous-coverage" provision that allows insurers to impose a 30% surcharge on customers with more than a 63 day gap in coverage
  • Replaces the income-based and price-based tax credits with (weaker) flat tax credits that vary only with age of the customers
  • Phases out the Medicaid expansion after 2020, pissing off both Democrats and Republicans in the process
  • Jettisons the employer mandate (a relatively minor component of Obamacare)
  • Removes the Obamacare taxes (that fell primarily on the wealthy)
  • Scraps the tax deduction cap on executive pay for health insurance companies
  • And of course, defunds Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the funds really go to birth control, STD tests, and cancer screenings.
Outside of Trump loyalists, generally the only people who really support the bill are the greedy insurance industry.  The American Medical Association and many others have come out against it, given that it will most likely reduce coverage and increase costs across the board.  Ironically, some of those most hurt will be Trump's white working-class supporters, especially in the red states.  In other words, it is at best a solution in search of a problem, if not a new problem in itself.  At worst, it's classic Trumpian chaos manufacture.

There is some nuance that we should note, however.  The very fact that the insurance industry is not worried about an impending "death spiral" should the bill pass is a good indication that we shouldn't worry about that either.  If there is in fact one, it would likely be a result of weakening the subsidies and other aspects of Obamacare, not a result of replacing the individual mandate with the surcharge for not maintaining continuous coverage.  The effectiveness of that provision, for all its flaws, is likely equivalent to that of the mandate it replaces, thus largely preserving that particular "leg" of the "three-legged stool".  The TSAP does support that particular change to the law, even though we oppose the rest of the Republican bill for the most part.

The TSAP, as you know, supports single-payer healthcare for all as the only real alternative.  We also support a public option as a steppingstone to this ultimate goal.  But as long as those are not on the table, we do not believe that we should rip out the heart and soul of Obamacare as the Republicans are trying to do, as that will result in disaster and chaos, doing far more harm than good.  We do support making any incremental improvements in the meantime, however, so long as they do not lead to a significant number of Americans losing health coverage, especially for the most vulnerable members of society.  Every Republican alternative to date, including this one, has failed to meet this standard, and thus we will oppose it.  Because people literally die as a result of losing their healthcare.

One thing is for sure.  This replacement should indeed be called Trumpcare, or perhaps Ryancare.  That way, they get to OWN it.  BIGLY.  Believe me. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

One Weird Trick, Part Deux

It just so happens that the very next day after we posted our "One Weird Trick to Rescue Economy" article, the highly progressive former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kuchinich posted an article of his own at The Nation.  Titled "Our Political Economy Is Designed to Create Poverty and Inequality", the article discusses how the economy is currently rigged in favor of the top 1% (especially the top 0.01%) at the expense of the ever-growing poor and ever-shrinking middle class.  This rigging is done through the tax code, obviously, but also through more subtle machinations such as the privatization racket (where formerly public services and utilities are privatized, at the expense of the people and for the benefit of the rich) which also includes our monetary system and the privately-owned FERAL Reserve that has controlled it for over a century now.

And most notably, he discusses a bill that he himself sponsored in 2011-2012 called the NEED Act, which would have ended this monetary racket via an independent Treasury (much like Ellen Brown's public banking idea) and the abolished the scam known as fractional-reserve banking.   The newly-created greenbacks would then be used to create full employment via funding much-needed improvements in infrastructure as well as education, healthcare, and other government spending, which would have been a great stimulus to the economy.   The bill would also restore the federal usury cap to an even lower 8% (it was 12% before it was removed in 1978) as well.  It even had the potential to also create a citizen's dividend (aka a Universal Basic Income), provide universal healthcare, shore up Social Security, and solve so many other problems at once.  Overall, an excellent bill.  But of course, the cowardly and venal Congress unfortunately did not pass it.

In case you were worried whether such an idea would create hyperinflation, allow us to put that fear to rest.  Currently, the private banks create new money out of thin air all the time, every time they make a loan.  The FERAL Reserve does this too, most notably the secret $16 trillion (which eventually became more like $29 trillion) bailout of the banks just a few years ago.  So why not have this process be publicly controlled and used for the benefit of We the People rather than the oligarchs?

As Ellen Brown notes, the Weimar hyperinflation in Germany from 1921-1924 occurred while the money was being created by the private banks.  Germany had been punished with crippling debt by the Allies in the aftermath of WWI, and they needed to create a lot of money to pay it.  The biggest problem, though, were the speculators who shorted their currency (betting that it would go down in value), which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the banks just kept on printing more and more marks to satisfy the speculators' demands, creating a vicious cycle of runaway hyperinflation.  The madness only stopped once the government got a handle on it by finally taking back control of the money supply in 1924, which was followed by a few years of relative prosperity before the deflationary Great Depression began in 1929.  And Brown also notes, as we noted in our previous article, that Germany got out of the Depression by using the "one weird trick" themselves (too bad they didn't do it much sooner, that is, before you-know-who took over in 1933).

(And just in case anyone predictably tries to play the "Jew card" after reading this, keep in mind that most oligarchs/banksters are actually WASPs rather than Jews, and have been for quite a while now.  Even the Vatican has their own bank now.  And the TSAP does not condone anti-Semitism of any kind.)

So what are we waiting for?  Let's finally put an end to artificial scarcity and artificially-created unemployment for good. Yesterday.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

One Weird Trick to Rescue Economy, Defeat Oligarchy, and Pre-empt Fascism--Banksters HATE This!

As the classic clickbait-y title implies,what if there was a way to accomplish such a thing at little to no cost, and would also result in lower taxes for the masses as well? What if that option has always existed, but knowledge of it has been suppressed by the elites for decades out of fear of losing their power?

Well, it's actually true, believe it or not.  It's so simple that people tend to overlook it, and it's called public banking.  To wit, the government would print/create its own money interest-free, independently of the banks.  And thus the FERAL Reserve (which is about as "federal" as Federal Express, given how it is privately owned by the big banks) would become truly federal for once, with banks serving We the People, not the other way around.  National debt would become a non-problem overnight.  (This idea can also be implemented at the state and local levels as well.)  Of course, the banksters would absolutely HATE that.  For example, both JFK and Lincoln tried to do such a thing in fact, and we all know what eventually happened to them.  But the fact remains that We the People, through our elected representatives in Congress, nonetheless have to power to do exactly that.  We essentially gave the banksters their power, and we can also take it away--were it not for their venal and cowardly puppets in Congress today, that is.

Ellen Brown, author of Web of Debt (2007) and The Public Bank Solution (2013), has a lot to say about such an idea.   She brilliantly illustrates just how important the democratization of money is to a free society, and the history of just how much the bankster oligarchy has been ripping us all off for centuries.  For example, did you know that nearly HALF of the taxes we pay essentially go towards servicing the massive government debt to the banksters?  Did you know that nearly HALF of the price of practically everything we buy is a result of cumulative compound interest and/or hidden taxes embedded within such prices?  Did you know that infrastructure costs can also be cut in HALF simply by financing them with public banking?  And did you know that private banks actually create money out of thin air via a perfectly legal and centuries-old racket known as "fractional reserve banking"?  And that interest charged, not the expansion of the money supply, is the real cause of nearly all of the "inflation" that we see?  And for decades now, wages have not only lagged behind productivity gains, but haven't even kept up with such inflation?  Meanwhile the top 1%, and especially top 0.01%, have made out like bandits at the expense of the bottom 99%, with resulting inequality (which hurts the economy) soaring to levels not seen since the 1920s or even the Gilded Age.  If that doesn't make you feel RIPPED OFF, check your pulse 'cause you might be dead!

So what does all of this have to do with fascism?  Well, it appears that a certain little painter from Austria decided to exploit a rather similar situation in 1930s Germany after taking over.  In fact, rescuing the ailing economy, especially reducing or abolishing unemployment, was one of Hitler's biggest campaign promises.  And he did in fact succeed in doing so, and did so better than FDR despite Germany starting out in much worse shape than the United States was in 1933.  So how did the Nazis manage to pull it off?  By thinking outside the box and having their government essentially create their own money independently of the banks. Their country was literally bankrupt from the aftermath of losing WWI as well as being hit particularly hard by the Great Depression, but by creating their own money and spending it to "prime the pump", they were able to transcend their economic woes, and were thus able to restore full employment within a few short years.  In fact, their unemployment rate dropped by HALF within a year!  Contrast this with Austria, whose unemployment rate remained stubbornly high and barely even budged from 1932-1937, only dropping significantly in 1938 after Hitler annexed their country as part of the Third Reich.  Prior to that, the Austro-fascist regime was essentially following the outdated Austrian School austerity policies that Ludwig von Mises himself would have likely approved of.  The point of this discussion is NOT to praise Hitler or the Nazis in any way, but rather to show what opportunists they were and how to prevent such an evil authoritarian regime from ever rising again--if only the (erstwhile) free world had the foresight to get their economic policies right in the first place.  Because then, there would be essentially no legitimate grievances large enough for such a regime to exploit.

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't also note that Hitler's "economic miracle" came with a serious dark side as well, even before the Holocaust began in earnest.  At least part of the drop in unemployment was the result of 1) removing Jews from the workforce after revoking their citizenship, replacing them with ethnic Germans, 2) removing women from the workforce (i.e. by firing many of them and also paying mothers to stay home), replacing them with men, and no longer counting women in the statistics, 3) bringing back the draft, and 4) spending ludicrous amounts of money on the military, financed by debt.  But since none of these things occurred until 1935 or even later, one could safely conclude that at least the first two years of the "economic miracle" can be easily traced to the pump-priming that resulted from their independent money creation.  The point is, there is no logical reason why that policy cannot be replicated minus the dark side, as fascism/racism/sexism/militarism is NOT a prerequisite for sound fiscal and monetary policy, any more so than it is for making the trains run on time like Mussolini did.

And just in case you thought that this "one weird trick" was peculiar to fascism, keep in mind that Hitler in fact got the idea from--wait for it--ABRAHAM LINCOLN.  Yes, really. Meanwhile, fascist Austria did the opposite under Dolfuss and Schuschnigg, and they messed the economy up so badly that the Austrian people actually eagerly welcomed the Nazis when they eventually took over in 1938.

Bottom line:  we know now what economic policies really work in practice, as opposed to half-baked voodoo economic theories and crank science.  As the saying goes, "it's the economy, stupid!"  So how long till we finally get it right?