After watching last week's State of the Union address, I considered the proposals President Biden presented to mend our nation. He said that Democratic programs could be implemented if only Republicans would cooperate. Or, failing that, as the never-ending solicitations I receive from front groups for the Democratic Party suggest, if and only if we elect enough Democrats to the House and Senate would they be possible. Ah, if only.
I have heard Republicans of all stripes howling about the radical socialist left-wing agenda pushed by Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and our old Uncle Joe. These right-wing voices constantly remind us just how horrible our country would be under the thumb of the “radicals”. According to Republicans, if the Democrats were given a free hand to govern, we would soon live under a totalitarian system like that of the former Soviet Union.
Democrats or Republicans act as if there were no way to really know what would be possible if the Democrats regained majorities in our House and Senate and we did not have divided governance. Oh, if only there were a way to settle this argument of left vs right, Democrat vs Republican.
Well, I believe I can answer this conundrum because I happen live in the Great Soviet province of California. My state is a bellwether of what America would be like if Democrats ran our country.
California represents to the rest of our Nation, and certainly the Republican Party, a godless horde of radical-socialists hellbent on building a Communists paradise., Democrats hold super majorities in both houses of our state government, as well as the governorship and countless downstream elected offices that control the state to ensure that we get the type of government and social system that only the Democratic Party can deliver. Two election cycles ago, California Democrats even turned forever deep red Orange County blue.
With that in mind, let us consider what the great state of California and its Democratic Party dominance seeks to accomplish. Perhaps there is no greater example of a progressive agenda than Single Payer Healthcare. When voters know what it is and how it works, they overwhelming support it. Eighty-five percent of Democratic Party members support it. In fact, even fifty-two percent of California Republicans support it, according to a survey conducted by Hill.TV and the HarrisX polling company in late 2018.
In addition consider what the Congressional Budget Office, led by current Chairman Phillip L. Swagel—a Republican who was a non-resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute—found. In its February 23rd report, the CBO determined that our existing corporate-run health care system is immiserating millions of Americans and that a Medicare style All Single Payer alternative could quickly repair our broken health care system.
Now if that sounds like socialist propaganda or a Democratic talking point, let’s dig a little deeper and look at the CBO report’s actual findings themselves.
- Households’ health insurance premiums would be eliminated, and their out-of-pocket health care costs would decline.
- Administrative expenses in the health care sector would decline, freeing up productive resources for other sectors and ultimately increasing economy-wide productivity.
- Longevity and labor productivity would increase as people’s health outcomes improved.
- Workers would choose to work fewer hours, on average, despite higher wages because the reduction in health insurance premiums and (out-of-pocket) expenses would generate a positive wealth effect that allowed households to spend their time on activities other than paid work and maintain the same standard of living.
- That wealth effect would boost households’ disposable income, which they could then split between increased saving and non-health consumption. Although hours worked per capita would decline, the effect on GDP would be offset under most policy specifications by an increase in economy-wide productivity, an increase in the size of the labor force, an increase in the average worker’s labor productivity, and a rise in the capital stock.
- States could respond to the (ensuing) budget surplus by growing their rainy-day funds (at least temporarily), reducing state tax rates, increasing spending on government purchases or public services, or a combination of all three.
All that from that bastion of socialist thinking, the Republican-led Congressional Budget Office.
With that in mind, let’s take a look how California has chosen to address healthcare. Only last month in our great Democratic/Socialist state, our elected Democratic Super Majorities considered Assembly Bill 1400 (Cal-Care). In this bill, they finally had an opportunity to give Californians of all parties what they reportedly they all want: affordable healthcare. Healthcare that is actually “health” and “care”. Here they had in CalCare, a publicly financed health care system that would provide coverage to all Californians, similar to the way medical treatments are delivered in Britain or Canada. It is a system exactly like the one proposed as a solution to our healthcare crisis by the CBO noted above.
When it comes to Big Business, anyone who believes that the Democratic Party is anything more than the other side of the Republican coin needs to have their head examined.
Seems to me, and perhaps to you as well, a real no brainer for anyone in office or wishing to get elected. Perhaps it’s something a party that wishes to serve its citizens would have jumped on to garner votes today and going forward. Well, you would have been wrong. California’s super majority of Democratic party politicians would not even bring it up for a vote! Not even bring it to the floor. Why, oh why, in the socialist paradise of California, did this bill not have a chance to stand or fall on its merits with a simple vote? Perhaps it was because California and the nation could then see clearly who supported Single Payer and who supported the worst healthcare system in the First World. We could all see who was standing up “for” rather than up “to” Big Pharma, the insurance industry and the for-profit healthcare Industry. So much for our socialist paradise!
When it comes to Big Business, anyone who believes that the Democratic Party is anything more than the other side of the Republican coin needs to have their head examined. Indeed, Joe Biden proudly stated during his State of the Union speech that “I am a Capitalist.” For me, that was all anyone needed to hear from his hour and 20 minutes of political boilerplate proposals. When Biden referred to capitalism, do not be fooled into thinking he was talking small businesses, Old Jack's Hardware, the Nail Salon down the street, or the mechanic who owns his own shop works on your car? No, he was talking about capitalism practiced by the only party in America today, neither Democrat or Republican, but rather the Party of Milton Friedman's Free Market Capitalism and Neo-Liberalism writ large. Although we have two parties, our winner-take-all elections ensure that we end up with what the corporate capitalists allow us to have because they bought our elected officials lock, stock, and barrel long ago!
‘Twas ever thus and shall remain so regardless of who sits in the White House or controls the Senate and the House. When, during the State of the Union address, Biden called out the millionaires who run the government, he was referring to Russian Oligarchs. But my first thought was to our own House and Senate. That is where our own Oligarchs reside. They represent their own class interests and not the people’s. If you really want to see this for yourself simply google the average income or personal wealth of the members of Congress. Generally, even those who come from modest means become very wealthy after their terms end. Most end up in high paying seats on boards or in positions at the very companies they were responsible for regulating during their time in office. By the way, as sitting senators and congresspersons, they are all entitled the very kind of healthcare that they repeatedly have denied all Americans. The kind of healthcare my great state would not even vote on.
Maybe that is why even though the United States has the highest costs for healthcare in the first world, somehow we have some of the worst healthcare outcomes. Why is it that the U.S. spends a larger percentage of our economy, nearly twice as much as the average OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) country, and yet, after spending so much more, we end up with the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 nations? According the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, what we pay for healthcare as a percentage of our GDP is projected to rise from 17.7 percent in 2018 to 19.7 percent in 2028. Unfortunately, we did not have to wait because we hit that 19.7 number only last year.
Health consumption expenditures per capita in the United States are nearly 50% higher than the next closest first world country. Health care costs in the US have grown much faster and are higher than all other nations by a factor of nearly 46%. More importantly, the United States’ overall infant mortality rate is 5.79 deaths per 1,000 live births. Although that is an improvement from our past, that sill puts the U.S. just above Serbia and just below Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States is in 50th place in the world rankings for infant mortality. That we pay so much for healthcare, yet rank so low and are the wealthiest country the world has ever known is a shameful failure of epic proportions. Why would a truly great country subject its own citizens to such an overwhelming and nearly complete failure that we laughingly refer to as our healthcare system?
Wouldn’t any elected official worthy of being elected want to solve this problem? Well, you might think that was the case, but you would be wrong. Why is that? I believe it is because to get elected, or once in office, there is one and only one thing politicians must focus on, nearly to the exclusion of everything else. That is raising money. Since the Citizens United ruling equating money with free speech and granting personhood to corporations a tsunami of cash has poured into our election process. That means our sitting congresspersons and senators must spend about 75% to 80% of their time fund raising. Willy Sutton, the famous bank robber, reportedly replied to a reporter's repeated inquiries as to why he robbed banks by saying, "because that's where the money is." Like Willy, our elected officials go to where the money is: corporations, many of whom profit obscenely from our system exactly how it is.
What this ends up meaning is we are entitled to the best representation money can buy. I have heard politicians say without one scintilla of irony or self-awareness that money does not buy them. Money is just a tool without strings attached they use to do good. For example, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke three times at presentations for Goldman Sachs where she was paid an honorarium of $675,000. You only needed to look legislation she supported while serving in the Senate to know this was either payment for previous service or a downpayment for the future should she become president. Perhaps both.
Let me be very clear here. This really is not an issue about only one of our two parties. What it is about is the inherent corruption built into the very bedrock of our electoral process. Regardless of whether we are talking about Sky Blue California or Deep Red Alabama each has politicians in power who have been, by necessity, bought and paid for by the most profitable and richest corporations that human history has ever confronted.
Most of us, our friends and neighbors, and even our fellow citizens whom we may never meet support the basic fabric of this nation we call the United States. However, our politicians are either forced by necessity or by choice to do, not what is in the best interests of our society, fellow citizens or the world around us, but rather what is profitable and marketable to the multinational corporations that put them in office and can keep them there with the ever-growing campaign contributions they provide.
Until such time as we take the money out of our political and electoral process, we will be handcuffed to a murderously inefficient for-profit healthcare system, polluted air and water poisoned by the Petro-Chemical industry. We watch as the world continues to warm to our collective extinction, all for the corporate masters of our elected officials, corporations that profit as our world burns and we all die slowly, painfully and at great expense.
Vincent De Stefano