The Future of the American Center

One of the things I like about David Brooks is that he is an optimist much like I want to be but often not. Here are his thoughts below:

What’s about to happen in Washington may be a little like the end of the Cold War — bipolarity gives way to multipolarity. A system dominated by two party-line powers gives way to a system with a lot of different power centers. Instead of just R’s and D’s, there will be a Trump-dominated populist nationalism, a more libertarian Freedom Caucus, a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren progressive caucus, a Chuck Schumer/Nancy Pelosi Democratic old guard.

The most important caucus formation will be in the ideological center. There’s a lot of room between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism….

Going forward, moderates face four big challenges. First, deepen a positive national vision that is not merely a positioning between left and right. Second, elevate a new generation of political leaders so the movement is not just a retread of retired establishment types.

Third, build a mass movement of actual voters, not just financiers and think-tank johnnies. Fourth, have the courage to stand together as a swing legislative caucus, when the pressure from the party leaderships becomes intense.

Source: The Future of the American Center – The New York Times

Before I get on to my thoughts about this topic let’s summarize the four thoughts:

  1. Having a positive vision of our country
  2. Spur a new generation of political leaders
  3. Build a mass movement of voters
  4. Take stands together

I think that pretty much summarizes a total game plan for the future, if there is a future for the USA.

Almost everything the current Oval Office occupant says is negative in nature. He says everything is terrible and only I can make it right.  To him America is a very dark place with nothing positive to proclaim. We need to get out of this mode of thinking the sooner the better.  Great nations were never sustained by such negative thoughts.

One of the major problems with politics today is that it is ruled by seventy-some year olds. Just look at our last election to see that fact.  Just look at the current makeup of the Senate to see that fact. Our future depends on getting a new generation of leaders to take the helm. A generation of leaders who have the whole country as their perspective, not just a small slice of it. Presently politics has become so stained I  just don’t see  how anyone would chose that as a any part of their life choice. We need to do whatever is necessary to make it a noble goal once again.

Another major problem in this country is that fewer than half of us ever get out to vote for any of our elected leaders. Too many think that their vote doesn’t matter. Too many others are like sheep and follow the easiest path which too often is destructive in nature. The result of this is that a relatively small minority can choose our leaders.

Taking stands is going to be a major way to resist destructive change that is certain to come in these following years. Things like gutting our social healthcare safety nets in favor of meager vouchers. Things like losing basic freedoms in the name of security. Thinks like basically changing the foundations of our democracy.  WE NEED TO TAKE STANDS TOGETHER.

Thanks David for showing us a possible path.

GOD SAVE OUR COUNTRY…

People of Faith For Resistance..

There seems to be many opportunities cropping up on this first day of a new administration for resistance to draconian change they intend for our democracy in the upcoming years. I am particularly happy to see Christians in this mode. No, not all Christians are among the 81% of Evangelicals who pushed the current administration in office.  In reality they are a small percentage of that community.

One of those orgs on the forefront of resistance is Sojourners.  Here are some words in a recent email from them.

2017-01-20_10-55-42Today, “T” (my edit)  is sworn in as president of the United States. Many of us in the faith community have deep moral concerns as we enter into this new administration. We cannot just sit, with hope that the president-elect’s words and promises are not to be taken seriously—or that he doesn’t really mean all of his attacks on people for their race or ethnicity, their faith, their gender, their physical abilities, or their identity as Americans.

A better response is resistance to all those things, in defense of vulnerable people in particular, in the hope that such resistance might deter, or obstruct, or defeat such behaviors and policies…

Click on the image to the right to see more words

The GOP plans for a juggernaut of action very quickly to gut many of the social programs now in place including:

  • Affordable healthcare
  • Medicaid for the poor
  • Medicare for senior citizens
  • Social Security for present and future seniors

They say they are privatizing them to make them more efficient but the reality is quite different.  It will take a mammoth effort similar to what happened when they tried to eliminate the House Ethics Overlook.  Concerned citizens  need to stay active to prevent them accomplishing their intent of undoing these  and many other programs.

I am not particularly promoting Sojourners, but they are a good cause, in so much as encouraging you to join the resistance in whatever form you prefer.

2017-01-13_11-06-04.png

GOD SAVE OUR COUNTRY….

A Message from Elizabeth Warren

For this new year my intention in the political arena is to overwhelmingly focus on the issues and programs that are put in jeopardy and on the congress and to ignore for the most part what is happening on in the executive branch. The less I use the “T” word the happier I will be. The battle in 2017 is to try to preserve our democratic (little “d”) values, liberties and accomplishments. 

I recently got an email from Elizabeth Warren and as usual she is compassionate about keeping Donald Trump and the Republicans from dismantling what it means to be an American. Here are some words from that email:

We know what we are fighting for:

  • We will NOT let them gut the rules on Wall Street or weaken the CFPB.
  • We will NOT let them privatize Social Security and Medicare.
  • We will NOT let them completely dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
  • We will NOT let them weaken workers’ rights to good pay, decent benefits and the right to organize for better conditions.
  • We will NOT let them cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations.
  • We will NOT let them cut investments in education, infrastructure, or medical research.
  • We will NOT let them poison our air and water and destroy our planet.
  • We will NOT let them rip apart families or build Trump’s stupid wall.
  • And we will NOT let them legalize hate and bigotry against African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, women, or LGBT Americans.

We will fight them whenever and wherever we need to fight them. We will fight them with more energy, more passion and more determination than ever before because the fights to come are going to decide who we are as a people, and what kind of country we will be.

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2016-12-30_10-10-54If only Elizabeth had managed to be the Democratic nominee in 2016 our country would be looking a at a very different future.

I posted a few days ago about the Republican proposal to privatize Medicare and it is a scary one.  Basically they want to give the healthcare providers the ability to charge whatever they want and to put the increased bill totally on the backs of us seniors. I don’t understand how they, primarily Mr. Ryan, thinks they can get away with that. But then again I can’t see why they think the same thing about this whole list of programs as cited above they plan on dismantling .

GOD SAVE OUR COUNTRY…

The Republican plot to devour retirees’ nest eggs…AKA Balanced Billing

Given that all the soon-to-be president said on the campaign trail it is hard for me to determine just what he is for or against.  He has nominated a backer of the “balanced billing” as head of the DHH so I assume he is in favor of putting a major chuck of healthcare expenses on the backs of us seniors.  Here is a story about that:

Perhaps the most monstrous thing about the American medical system — and the bar for that title is high indeed — is predatory billing.

A great many medical providers adjust their prices based on how defenseless the patient is, and bleed the weakest ones for every last red cent, often with preposterously inflated charges for things like aspirin and bandages. A 2015 study looked at the worst price gougers in the country and found 50 hospitals that charged uninsured people roughly 10 times the actual cost of care.

Key to this practice is something called “balance billing,” and it’s why the American Medical Association is strongly supporting Donald Trump’s pick of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicare. Balance billing is forbidden for Medicare enrollees, but Price wants to allow it — thus allowing doctors and hospitals to devour the nest eggs of thousands of American seniors.

So what is balance billing? It’s the practice of billing the patient for the difference between the sticker price and what insurance will pay. So if a hospital visit costs $1,000, but your insurance will only cover $300, some providers will “balance bill” you for $700….

But allowing balance billing in Medicare is a straight-up evil policy. Republicans will attempt to camouflage it as allowing “free contracts” between patients and doctors or similar nonsense. Don’t believe a word of it, seniors. They want your retirement money.

Source: The Republican plot to devour retirees’ nest eggs

Will Mr. Trump actually back this idea of turning seniors over to the mercy of healthcare providers? I hear stories of the uninsured being billed several times more than the insurance companies pay. To allow people who can’t afford insurance to be gouged in this manner  seems out and out evil to me but that is what some of the folks in the GOP intend to do.

I’m sure they will take advantage of it with a Medicare change also. The Republicans like Mr. Ryan would love to completely eliminate Medicare but they realize that it would be a death sentence to maintaining their political office.

But as I said at the beginning of this post we really don’t know where Mr. Trump will come down on this issue or any other for that matter.  I mainly bring up this topic so that when seniors hear a term called “balanced billing” hidden inside the upcoming Medicare debates they will understand it really means gutting this protection for us and future seniors.  But that has been the agenda for the right wing of the GOP since Medicare’s inception fifty years ago. Unfortunately now could just be the time that they actually do it.

GOD SAVE OUR COUNTRY

Obstruct, Obstruct, Obstruct…

If we progressives learn anything from the most recent elections it is that obstruction pays off in the end. Democrats should take that lesson to heart during the Trump years. Here is a memorable quote about that followed by my take on the issue:

So what should Democrats do? Take a page from the GOP playbook and obstruct everything.

2016-12-11_08-50-08.pngOne of the most galling things about the complete Republican takeover of American government that we witnessed last month is the way it rewarded the party’s destructive behavior during the Obama years. Not only did voters never punish Republican leaders for pouring sand into the gas tank of representative democracy, they granted them victories in nearly every contested House and Senate race, proving incontrovertibly that voters simply do not care about or understand the ways that Republican leadership subverted longstanding norms of parliamentary procedure….

If Republicans are intent on gutting Medicare, do not under any circumstances compromise to make such a fiasco slightly more palatable. This is the only way for the Democrats to recapture power at a scale significant enough to fundamentally transform the American political system. And when this moment finally presents itself, in 2022 or 2024 or 2028, Democrats must have an extraordinarily radical agenda ready to roll: A massive amnesty. Compulsory voting. The end of plurality-rule elections. A new Voting Rights Act. Sweeping criminal justice reform. Medicare for all. Higher education whose cost is truly nominal. A basic income for all Americans. A Marshall Plan for climate change.

The Democrats must do whatever it takes to recapture power, even if it means adopting tactics that only yesterday they were calling threats to democracy. and to devise a message of social democracy that appeals not just to their coalition.  They must use their time in the minority to slow down and obstruct Trump, to turn the American people against the Republican Party…

Source: It’s time for Democrats to fight dirty

Logical thought seems to have nothing to do with our political systems now if it ever actually did. I am a person driven by logic. In that vain I continue to try to understand how by obstructing everything the Republicans managed to take almost total control of our government processes?  There is no logic to it?

But I am also a pragmatist and what recent events tell me is that opposition to everything pays off in the end with a large chunk of the voting population, or at least enough to totally skew the electoral college.

I hear that Mr. Ryan is chomping at the bit to start his privatization of Medicare and elimination of Medicaid as soon as possible after he totally wipes out Obamacare.  He has publicly stated that he thinks congress can get through all three social programs in the first year of their total control.   I wonder how many of the 81% of the Evangelical which were predominately senior citizens will be enthusiastic about giving up their Medicare for a small voucher on the open market and especially deep cuts to their Social Security?

I kind of believe that they will join the rest of us in backing the Democrats with the help of at least a few Republicans who put principles above party to shut down this  idea by Mr. Ryan and the Rad-Cons and maybe Mr. Trump.  But we really don’t know where Mr. Trump stands on this or any other issue as they never bothered to ask him before they voted him into office.

GOD SAVE OUR COUNTRY

Part 5 – How Did We Get Here — Democracy Is Not Always Forward…

GetHere Banner  I sometimes naively think that democracy is always moving forward into a better future rather than trying to preserve the status quo or even bring back the past.  Of course that feeling was quickly sapped from me on November 8 when the rural hinterland voters came out in massive numbers for a Trump presidency. It seems that they are just too afraid of what the future holds so want someone who will bring back the good old days and make America Great Again. To me America has always been great so there was no “bringing back” needed but of course2016-11-25_10-20-32.png my neighbors have a different opinion about that.

Having the feeling of being ignored and fearful of a unknowable future is nothing new to our country but it saddens to see it so prominent in the 21st century. I had hoped that we had finally conquered that fear but that just isn’t the case. What can be done to appease the fear of those in rural areas?  That is the major question of our times it seems.

Democracy depends on an informed and active electorate and that just didn’t happen this time around.  It is now known that the minority turnout at this election was the lowest in twenty years and that fact helped lead us to where we are today with a totally unprepared narcissist ready to take over the Oval Office. A narcissist who actually cares very little for anyone except himself. Read more

Why Are We Crippling Obamacare with Private Insurance Companies When Medicare Can Do The Job??

2015-11-20_08-28-13A threat by the nation’s largest health insurer to pull out of ObamaCare is a sign of the industry’s growing angst about the viability of the federal exchanges, sources close to the industry say.

UnitedHealthcare’s warning sent new shockwaves across the healthcare sector after weeks of mounting anxiety among private insurers whose participation in the exchanges is critical to the viability of the president’s signature law.

In the last month alone, insurers have learned that the Obama administration has significantly lowered its expectations for new customers and will have far fewer federal dollars to help cushion insurer losses.

Source: New ObamaCare angst as top insurer threatens to bail | TheHill

I can just hear all those nay-Sayers  “Here’s proof that Obamacare is a failure!” and in some ways I agree with them. Private insurers are certainly the weakest link in the current system.

I have been on Medicare for about 5 years now and have been paying about $100 a month for that privilege.  It covers 80% of my medical costs so I must either pay  the remainder or get Medigap coverage for the other 20%. I chose a Medigap policy that started out at about $150 a month to cover that last fifth of the costs. Now that policy is up to almost $200 and will climb to over $300 in the coming years.

It doesn’t take a lot of math to figure out that I am paying a private “for profit” insurer ten time more for the same dollar coverage that Medicare provides. Yes, I know that Medicare is paid as a government expense but it has also been widely acknowledged as the most efficient insurance provider in the country. Single payer systems have proven to be the most economical way to provide healthcare to the world’s citizens. We are about the only first world country that refuses recognize that fact.

It seems obvious to this pragmatist that our country and especially our private corporations would be better off if they could shed their healthcare responsibilities and have Medicare as the country’s single payer provider of healthcare costs.  In fact there are many companies that are doing just that. With single payer systems comes economy of scale and also increased leverage over medical manufacturers and such. Aside from a law pushed through by the GOP why do we in this country pay so much more for our prescriptions than anyone else in the world?

As a side note it seems that on a regular basis veteran’s care is attacked by problems of poor implementation. Our veterans are just not getting the quality of care that they deserve under their current system.  Maybe it is time to at least fold it into Medicare instead of trying to stand alone.  Almost half of our citizens are currently on government provided single payer system. When we finally manage to get the rest there like the rest of the world we will all be better off.

 

VA Hospital Problems….

2014-05-30_09-29-20Shinseki reiterated other steps he’s taken, including putting the leadership at the Phoenix facility on leave and ordering a “nationwide audit of all other major VA health care facilities to ensure understanding of, and compliance with, our appointment policy.” Some question whether removing Shinseki would address the core problems at the VA or simply serve as a distraction for now.”Is him resigning going to get us to the bottom of the problem? Is it going to help us find out what’s really going on?,” asked House Speaker John Boehner, the chamber’s top Republican, adding that his answer so far was “no.” SOURCE: Shinseki initiating removal of senior leaders at Phoenix VA – CNN.com.

I don’t know about you but it seems I have been hearing the above type problems with the VA almost all of my life. It was pleasantly surprising to see that the top House Republican saying firing another head of that agency won’t fix the problem. If fact it would probably just delay the fixes more.

I’m just a simple guy but it seems that the solution to this problem is pretty logical. Why not just put veterans into the Medicare system? I have been on Medicare for about three years now and have never had to wait more than one month to see any specialist. The article above talks about 115 day waits in the Phoenix VA hospital!  Another fundamental question seems to be why does the VA need their own hospitals? Why can’t they go to the same hospitals as the rest of us.  If PTSD or other specialists are needed I’m sure they could be hired from the existing VA or trained by the private sector.

I’m pretty sure my conservative friends would jump on this solution as WRONG. Maybe we are reversing roles here. I say let the private sector take care of our veterans the same way as they take care of us seniors.  One thing that would be nice to carry over from the VA is for Medicare to be able to negotiate drug prices. VA can presently do that while Medicare can’t. That alone would save us billions in healthcare costs.

Eventually, probably not in my life time, all our health care will be folded into a single payer system as much of the rest of the world has already done. But until that time it just seems to make sense to once and for all get rid of these perpetual problems with VA hospitals. Our young men and women who have been traumatized by their war experiences deserve it. But then again this solution just seems to be common sense and logical so I doubt that those folks in Washington will even consider it…..

Back Door Universal Healthcare…

Medicaid Expansion 2023

Anyone who has read some of my posts know that I am an advocate for universal single-payer healthcare.  After all, it is very efficient and cost containing system used in much of the rest of the world.  Many of our citizens in the U.S. including this one are currently on a single payer system known as Medicare. After being on it for two years now I can attest that I have found it to be much better than the private insurance mode I fought with for so many years prior. Other citizens also on a single-payer system are those on Medicaid and with military healthcare systems. This makes up about 40% of the current population. The other 60% are on various employer or private systems or no insurance at all.

But to those so adamantly against Obamacare, which ended up not even be close to single-payer all of these systems are to be eliminated. Just why they believe that I really don’t know. They say those systems are socialist but why is that a bad thing?  Most of the rest of the world, at least those who no longer have the mammoth healthcare runaway costs implemented single payer systems years ago and statistically most in those countries actually live longer than we do.

When the pollsters show that 52% of the people are against Obamacare what they don’t show is that there is a significant number of those people who are like me and don’t really like Obamacare because it doesn’t go far enough. There are also a large portion in the polls who readily admit that they actually know practically nothing about Obamacare and are only parroting what their favorite talking-head has told them. They are against it because their party is against it.  So much for free-thinkers among the GOP! 🙂  Because Obamacare is such a piecemeal piece of legislation it will have to be pretty greatly changed in the future in order to be cost-effective.

Getting back to the original thoughts for this post, it seems if we are patient enough that we will eventually get to a single payer system. With all us baby boomers retiring and so many others at the other end of the spectrum becoming eligible for Medicaid the population that is in these two systems will continue to grow.  and then of course with our incessant increases in military spending that system will also expand. We might eventually work our way into a single payer system via the back door.

Wouldn’t that be something?

LOL Moment….

Medicare CardJust a quick note to say I just watched a video of a town hall meeting opposing Obamacare. There was an elderly lady who ranted on and on about it. She was totally convinced that if we allow it to be implemented that it would certainly cause the downfall of the entire country.  She finished with the following statement. “I realize that Obamacare does not directly affect me but I just want to make sure that we keep the government out of my Medicare!!”

They didn’t show if anyone had bothered to tell her that Medicare is a single payer system run exclusively by the government. Of course this just goes to show how so many on the radical right and particularly Fox News have distorted the reality of the Affordable Care Act.

I also reviewed some of the things that happened in 1965 when Medicare was enacted.  It is amazing to see the similarities with today. Most Republicans were, like today, adamantly against that too.