“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood…a beautiful day for a neighbor..would you be mine…could you be mine….”
Oh, yeah. Mister Rogers had nothing on the way the political parties are trying to attract Independent voters and Senior citizens. But the fact is that there is a significant difference. It is a difference that is often overlooked, to the distraction and to the detriment of the average family.
The distinctive difference today, one that most people perhaps could never even discover because it is so well hidden behind propaganda.
The Republicans are fighting, not for all Americans, but for a few very, very rich Americans. The really brilliant part is that they are using average citizens who happen to be Republicans (at least in their voting preference) to put the rich into greater and greater power every year. And the rich use that power to damage the lives of those average American Republicans who vote them into power!
Today the issue is Medicare. And the brilliance of the Republican message is to somehow persuade Seniors and Independent voters that somehow, if they do not vote to destroy Medicare, they will lose Medicare. In other words…do the right thing and commit suicide. Of course they leave out one very important fact. And it is that fact, and the lack of intelligent analytical ability by most Americans these days, that even gives Republicans the power to make such a ridiculous statement and get away with it.
The fact is this. We could dispense with all this talk of cutting Medicare by simply making our government solvent again. Of course, most Americans…only when pushed away from the dining table or pried away from the television or forced to stop jogging or lifting weights for a minute or endlessly doing what you are doing right now…spend enough time to think through the proposition.
Since 1981, the top 1% of Americans have become richer and richer. There are several reasons for it, almost all of which have to do with politics and all of which have been done when our Presidents were Republicans…voted in by those same dumb Republicans who are now on the verge of losing their Medicare. And make no mistake about it, losing Medicare means no health care when you pass age 55 or so. Don’t worry about age 65. If they do away with Medicare you won’t have health insurance at any remotely affordable rate at age 55.
Let’s just take one example. The top 1% of all Americans is about 3 million people. That’s about 60,000 people per state or roughly 3,000 people on average in every good sized community. If you have 30,000 people in your community, it’s the top 300. It isn’t, in other words, the other 29,700 who live there.
So that is the context, only it is worse than that because the big wealth is really more concentrated than that at the top. Someone who makes $300,000 is in that group statistically, but that is just because of averaging. They could be a two-income family that has two people making a very good living…say, a wife who is an ad executive and a husband who is a CPA. They aren’t rich but because of the way things are structured, they fall into the same category as the Koch brothers, each of whom is worth something like $20 billion or $40 billion apiece.
The top income earners are not eager to disassociate themselves from these upper-middle income workers. They are very happy to claim that those receiving tax breaks deserve them to be able to build up a small nest egg of a few million. They don’t mention the fact that the nest egg that they, the billionaires, are building is being used to destroy regulations against polluting, or against reckless off shore drilling or against Wall Street speculation leading to Recession.
(At this point we must always make the disclaimer “not all of them” about multi-millionaires and billionaires or we would be including people like Howard Buffett, Bill Gates and George Soros and too many others–like the more recently wealthy Bill Clinton–who have said many times that they do not need the enormous tax breaks that they get from government.)
So now we have a situation in which a few (obviously fewer than 1% of the populiation) in the country control corporations, the media, and more than half of all the elected officials, national and local. (For the time being.) And they want to stay in control. So how do they do it? The answer is obvious…by winning elections and controlling government. And how do they win elections when their Party, the Republicans, only support them…the top 1% of income earners and global corporations? They pretend that they are concerned about the rest of Americans, the other 99%.
The latest “concern” that the Republicans have is for the national budget. If we are honest about it, we must say instead that the latest “scare” the Republican have. Because, while they do not care for the bottom 99% of Americans, they do want to scare them into voting for Republican candidates. That has worked and so they want to continue it. Remember the Tea Party, the kooks who were so “worried” about the deficit that they were elected to save the country from disaster? Well, they have all voted Republican. Even though they said that they were independently minded, they are not.
They are obviously just more Republicans who lied to get elected. As soon as they were ushered in the door of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Tea Party members voted to cut taxes on the rich again. They voted to repeal Health Care Reform. They voted for the Ryan budget bill that ends Medicare. They voted against taxes on corporations who keep their headquarters abroad and against reducing the tax breaks for corporations making billions in profit and paying no taxes at all. In other words, they voted for the straight Corporatist, Neocon, Right Wing agenda.
So, let’s be clear. It is the Republicans…all the Republicans…anyone with an “R” after his or her name. “Hang ’em all and let God sort out the innocent.” That’s the way to look at it. They are all Right Wingers. Vote them out and let’s stop the bleeding. Here’s what we will accomplish.
We will stop the hand-wringing over the budget and the scare tactics about Medicare and Social Security.
First, Medicare. The new health care reform legislation will introduce two factors that we do not now have that will reduce costs. First, we will require that you have some kind of minimal health care insurance…if you can afford it…or have insurance from your company. That’s fair to everyone. The Republicans are making a big deal out of it, but they have it in Massachusetts and health insurance costs for individuals have gone down by 30% while the rest of the country…according to Republicans…is having an increase of 8.5%. It is probably more like 15% but the Republicans are low-balling it to make it seem less while they are trying to repeal health care reform. They want to say, “See, health insurance costs are coming down anyway. That’s a lot of bull!
The second thing that will reduce health care costs is the mandated competition among companies across state lines in regional health insurance pools. As soon as that starts–and the health insurance companies are terrified–it will be every man for himself. The best prices for the greatest number with the best policies will drive health care costs way, way down. Some companies will go out of business. Hopefully they will all go out of business and then we will be able to deal directly with doctors and hospitals again with only the government in between to handle the paperwork. Not some company constantly marking up services and taking a profit.
So, as costs go down, Medicare, which is simply reflective of medical costs, will also go down. Drug prices will go down. And the cost to the budget will go down.
What people like Erskine Bowles and Bart Simpson of the Simpson-Bowles Commission won’t tell you is that if we raise taxes to a reasonable rate…no more than we had in the first year of the Reagan Administration…all our problems would be over…for good. Even if we didn’t cut government spending. The reason that they don’t say something like: “Let’s just raise taxes to where they were when we had more workers and more revenues and more stability” is that they don’t think that the Republicans would ever let that happen. And they are right. So if you want it to happen, you have to vote the Republicans out.
So here are the facts. Medicare, if it were to continue as it is currently…in other words the high costs…it would go broke. But it need not continue to incur such high costs. It can be done at a cost at least 30% lower than the system currently operates. That is true even if we did nothing else. But we can fix it easily by letting Obamacare, i.e., the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act go into effect and gradually squeeze the profit motive…the 30% that we now pay over and above everything else…out of the system. Doctors, hospitals, clinics, emergency rooms, surgeries, long term care, outpatient care, doctors visits–everything will be less expensive.
Right now any decent,profitable company in the health care industry is making 15-20% profit while paying top executives the equivalent of about 40% of that profit. It is huge, almost obscene profitability. There is no mystery about why our health care is double that of Europe. They simply do not allow companies to make profits on health care. It isn’t right. You don’t charge someone for their misfortune. You don’t try to get rich on someone’s illness. Europeans in the management of health care try to help people. Americans in the management of health care try to impoverish people.
Will Medicare fold? It could if we don’t act. But we don’t need to…nor for God’s sake want to even remotely think of switching to some kind of voucher system with no restraints on the industry. That would be a nightmare and a return to the loss of health care by senior citizens as happened before health care for those over 65 was turned over for management to the government in Medicare. We simply need to raise taxes on those who can afford it and do a couple of other things at the same time.
We need to drastically reduce the size of the military. We have a military that, as an example, has 11 aircraft carriers. No other country in the world, including Russia and China, has more than one. We spend more on our military than all other countries combined! We need to cut subsidies for oil companies. We need to cut farm subsidies. We need to raise capital gains taxes to 20%. We need to tax hedge fund managers for their real income.
To make Social Security solvent we need to do only one thing. We need to raise the Social Security tax from its current $104,000 limit (roughly) to $208,000. That alone will solve the Social Security problem indefinitely. Then, over time, we need to change Social Security from an insurance program to an investment program, with strong guidance from the government aided by pension investment experts. Each person will still have Social Security and it is likely that each person would still have more than current Social Security pays, but they would definitely have their own account. They might pay more than we pay now while working but they would likely get more in retirement also.
The important thing about this change to Social Security is that the U.S. would lose all that debt and at the same time, individual Americans would pick up all those savings. The result would be a huge difference in the nature of the savings for the country as a whole. It would strengthen our financial picture dramatically. The government would bear a one-time debt but after that each taxpayer would have his or her own portable 401K. It would work if done right and that is why it should be done by Democrats under a Democratic administration. Are the Republicans crooks? Short answer: yes.
So don’t let anyone tell you that we can’t solve our national debt problems and that we must begin to cut Medicare and Medicaid and welfare and children’s health care. Here’s one more small example of how we can do it. We as taxpayers own 98 million acres of land currently leased to selfish, greedy, polluting, oil spilling, global oil companies. We should take back any of those leases that have not yet been drilled and do it ourselves. We should hire companies to drill, pay them wages, and keep the oil field profits for ourselves. The oil companies don’t want to pay taxes or clean up their messes. Let’s volunteer to do it ourselves. In ten years the U.S. deficit would be gone completely.
If you’re a senior then the message is clear. You’ve got to stop letting rich Americans borrow your tax money and steal your natural resources and then cut your government services when you need them most. Don’t get scared. Get angry! And vote those Republians out.