Tag: wealth inequality

The Health Insurance Debate

George S LedyardThe issue of health insurance in America should be a lot simpler than it’s made out to be. All the way back in the 1930’s our country made the decision to go a different way that every other major democratic nation by opting for an employer based health insurance system. This decision was entirely ideological in nature. Right wing opposition to anything that even hinted at the great bugaboo “Socialism” made it impossible for us to have a national health care system like every other major nation.
This decision made major problems with our health care in the US inevitable right from that moment. Our system virtually ensures that millions of citizens have no insurance whatever. First of all, there are the unemployed. No job, no insurance. Add to that, our massive number of “underemployed”. Congress rightly decided that small businesses couldn’t afford to provide insurance to their employees so they were exempted. Additionally, only full time workers generally received benefits so larger corp[orations used as many part time workers as was feasible to avoid paying benefits. The chronically “|underemployed” could be working two, even three part time jobs, just to pay the bills and receive zero benefits.

Eventually a patchwork system of work-arounds brought the number of uninsured down. Medicare covered the citizens over retirement age. Medicaid was set up at the state level to cover the poor who otherwise couldn’t afford to be covered. Of course this left large disparities between the states as to how well they took care of their poor.

So, even with the additional programs filling in some of the gaps, as many as 48 million citizens were still uninsured (a 2012 figure). These many millions tended to end up using the emergency care infrastructure for their basic health care which was, by far, the most expensive way to provide health care services. Additionally, we got to the point at which even for those who had coverage of some sort, many had plans that denied coverage for existing conditions, had huge deductibles which made it impossible for the unwell to afford to get care. The result was that under our system, the number one cause for personal bankruptcies in the US is medical costs.

So now, the Republicans are in power. They have steadfastly opposed the provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, since it was passed. But the effort to repeal and replace the ACA is revealing an ideological divide on the right. The Trump / Ryan plan does a massive tax cut that goes mostly to the wealthiest Americans, puts up to 26 million people back into the ranks of the unemployed, pushes more costs onto the consumer and also places a heavier burden on the states, which probably do not have the tax base to fill in the void.

But, the repeal is running into problems, not from the outnumbered Democrats who appear to be 100% against the repeal on principle, but from the ultra right wing of the party. These folks are the radical “libertarian” wing known as the Freedom Caucus in the House. These people, if left completely to their own devices, would have almost no government role in health care at all.

health care reform, Ryancare, Trumpcare, uninsured

So, what the Republicans are struggling with is a choice between two plans, one of which screws the poor, the elderly, disadvantaged women, and so on and reduces the share the wealthiest pay to support the system and a complete devastation of the health care system that would pretty much screw everyone not able to afford his own insurance at free market rates. This is a fight that totally leaves out GOP moderates… It is between far right  Congressional representatives who wish to shrink the government role in providing health care but are mindful of voter back lash and are worried about pushing the effort so far that they get demolished in the 2018 mid-terms and the ultra right libertarian fanatics who simply do not care about the voters at all and see themselves as fighting for small government and maximum privatization, screw the folks who can’t afford it. These are the folks that see any and all government benefits as removing the incentives of the poor to get jobs and get to work.

In other words, Democrats may rejoice that the GOP is divided and this temporarily is delaying the repeal of the ACA, but the negotiations about how to compromise on the Trump / Ryan plan and get the Freedom Caucus people on board will not result in any improvement but rather result in a compromise plan that is even worse, if possible, than the original. It will result in tens of millions losing coverage, sky high deductibles, more excluded conditions, the middle class covering more of the costs relative to the super rich, and so on. It is an unmitigated disaster for health care in the US and will result in far higher medical costs for the country in the end.
Once again we see the Republican commitment to take from the poor and give to the rich fully revealed. It is a morally bankrupt effort and we as a country should be ashamed that this is the direction we are choosing to go.
Check out:
How We Ended Up with Employer Based Healthy Care

Five Charts Which Explain the Ryan Plan

House Vote to Repeal is Delayed

“Merit Based Immigration” Ignores the Needs of Regular Americans

George S LedyardMerit based immigration” is a disguised “class-ist” system. Right now the US is allowing highly skilled workers to come from overseas and take positions in American companies. We benefit from their expertise and that seems like a good thing.

But the fact is that we need to bring in high level expertise from overseas because our own schools are not turning out sufficient numbers of skilled workers to fill the openings we have. Importation of foreign expertise removes market pressures to fix our education system. If we didn’t allow H1B workers to satisfy the demand for skilled workers, our corporations would be pressuring Federal and State government to fix our educational system to produce the educated work force they require.

 H1B visas, merit based immigration
We have a massive income divide in the US and a middle class that is under pressure. Current debates about jobs, bringing manufacturing back to the US, etc largely ignore that robotics / automation is a revolution on the scale of our industrial revolution. It will not be too long before most of the jobs performed at the low income level of the economy will be performed by machines. Even now, the jobs being created via economic growth are jobs that require higher education or at the very least, extensive vocational training.

Who are the H1B Visa recipients? More often than not, these people represent the elite of the countries from which they come. They come from the top strata of society that could afford to send their children to the very best lite schools. They can then come to the United States and gain valuable work experience. Some choose to stay here and other return home, taking that valuable experience with them and many end up in businesses that directly compete with our own companies.

But that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is that the American middle class has been in decline for decades. It is increasingly difficult for the average American worker to find jobs that actually pay enough to maintain that middle class status. The opportunities for movement up the economic ladder for most of our middle class folks is decreasing all the time.
We have a country in which the average citizen reads at around an 8th grade level. These people simply do not have the education or the skills needed to fill the new economy jobs which are opening up. Even if Donald Trump succeeds in bringing back manufacturing to the US, these people will not be getting those jobs that return.
A merit based immigration program allows American business to get the expertise it needs without the country making the investment in its own citizens required to meet these corporate requirements. It is a system in which we let someone else shoulder the burden of creating an educational system that produces these highly trained people and then we bring them in and put them to work. All the while, our own citizens are struggling. We are not investing in getting them ready for the jobs of the future.
H1B, merit based immigrationWe have allowed an income divide to develop over time that simply leaves most Americans behind. A huge percentage of our citizens are underemployed, which means that they are working very hard at one, often two jobs, but are still barely able to survive. This income divide exists all over the world. Now the children of the economic elite of one country can come to the US and be a part of the economic elite of our country while no effort is made to better the lot of the folks already here who exist at the bottom.
So, while I am at pains to say that I am not at all anti-immigrant, the so-called “merit based” immigration system obviates the need to do something about our school system’s failure to produce enough skilled workers to ensure decent wage paying jobs for our own citizens. The jobs may be there but our own people aren’t prepared for them. It produces an upper middle class of technical elites that actually makes upward mobility for the rest of our citizens more difficult.

My Reply to the Working Class Guy on Facebook

George S LedyardA recent thread on Facebook was Trolled by a Tea Party Trump supporter who posted,
“THE LIBERALS ARE AFRAID OF TRUMP BECAUSE THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER NOW”
This is my reply…
[Name}… you clearly are not terribly bright. When you say Liberals are scared because “the people” have power now, what the hell do you mean? Did Liberals become a new species at some time I didn’t notice? We are just as much “the People” as the rest of you. My family has been here since well before the Revolution so you can’t pull that more American than I am BS.

Anyway, I suspect you mean the little guy, the working class stuff, the ones who do the blue collar work in our country. If that is what you mean by “the People” then you would be dead wrong. If you said that they were responsible for electing those in power now, you would be reasonably accurate.

But no, those “people” are not in power. They have in fact given power to a bunch of super elites who are in the top tenth of 1% in terms of wealth and whose agenda is almost totally devoted to assisting big corporate interests in making more profit.

You are foolish to think that this group of billionaires, CEOs and other top corporate types give a shit about the “little man” except when they need your vote. Now that they are in power, you can watch as your country is sold off to corporate interests while the protections you have had as a working man (all of which were instituted by Liberals I will point out) will be steadily eroded.
You are not smart enough to understand what is going on and by the time you have figured it out, you will not be able to do anything about it. Trump will keep you happy with his anti-immigrant policies and his anti-Muslim travel bans. You will be cheering his wall as it gets built, all the while these folks will be picking your pocket.

You will see a massive increase in the national debt. That money will go to the moneyed elites who own the companies that benefit from Federal spending. Since Trump’s tax cuts will largely benefit the wealthiest Americans. it will be the core middle class citizens who will be called on dis-proportionally  to repay this debt.

The Iraq War (and Afghanistan) was the largest redistribution of wealth since the Depression. The methodology was the same. Record deficit spending coupled with tax decreases mostly for the wealthy. Trump’s agenda is clear. He will cut the Government programs which benefit the poor and working class folks. He will expand the programs, like the huge defense budget, the national security apparatus, etc The military / industrial / prison complex will be the recipients of your tax dollars which will, in the end became profits for the wealthy stock holders.

I am willing to bet that you aren’t a big share holder in Lockheed Martin… In fact, if you are like almost all of the citizens you are referring to as “the people”, you aren’t share holders in much of anything. That’s true of most of us, in fact. All that Federal money will go to Trump and his corporate cronies.

There’s a good chance Trump will start some conflict or other and you or your kids will be called on to fight. Trump’s kids and grand kids will stay at home learning to manage the vast wealth of the Trump holdings. At the end of the process, they will be richer and you will not. Not one iota better off than you have been and likely worse.

But you folks aren’t smart enough to remotely understand how you are being bamboozled, It is as Lyndon Johnson said,
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Just add Muslim, Mexican. Liberal or some such for colored man and you have an apt description of yourself and your so-called “People”. Getting the people at the bottom to vote against their own economic self interest is a much perfected art form on the part of the elites and you are the classic victim.

Why Class War?

This article was posted on my Facebook timeline. I responded but then decided I should share it via my Blog. So, read the article and then read my response below.

Know Thy Enemy: a Classier Take on Class Warfare by Sable Levy In case you didn’t know it, the ultra-rich are widely vilified—particularly within movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the political campaign of Bernie Sanders, which has captured the…Read more ›

Source: Know Thy Enemy: a Classier Take on Class Warfare – Texas Millennial Institute

George S LedyardMy Response:

Well , it all depends on what battle we are talking about. Class warfare is only one of the many battles we all are engaged in. There’s the battle between good and evil… and that can be described as existing on different levels in itself. There is the battle against evil out in the world. Rape, murder, enslavement, ethnic cleansing, and so on. This is the realm of politics, diplomacy, and the military.

There is also the battle between good and evil in ourselves. This is largely the realm of religion. It is the jihad that Islam speaks of, the battle with our lesser selves, the struggle to be good people. Or as Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us”.

Karl Marx , Class Warfare, Clas war, Social JusticeThere are lots of battles. But few of these battles are not impacted by the class battle. Marxism may not have been a great way to run an economy… Capitalism, at least in some mixed economy form, has proven to result in better economic results. But if you want to understand who is getting screwed in a society, then Marxism is pretty good about telling you that. That’s why the Right never wants the dialogue framed this way. because if people really understood how the deck is stacked against them, they’d throw those suckers out (which of course has happened a number of times in history).

Of course poor people can be both good and bad, just like rich people. Domestic abuse, rape, theft, and so on are not at all defined by class lines. Rich folks commit them just as frequently as poor folks. But if you want to understand who is more likely to get a fair trial when accused, you better understand how class divides effect that. A rich executive is likely to get a lighter sentence for a more serious crime than a poor one for a less serious crime, especially if he or she is a minority. That’s just a fact.

Militarism - Spanish American WarIf you want to understand how our military adventurism around the world affects our own society, you damned well have to consider class. The rich get richer when we fight these wars. It is the poor and working classes who fight them. That is also just plain fact. The only really democratic war in US history was WWII in which the sons of the rich, like George Bush senior, JFK, and Teddy Roosevelt III, fought out on the front lines. All of the rest of our wars were fought by the poorest of our poor, all the way back to the Revolution.

If you want to understand why, when we have already agreed that both rich and poor can be good and evil, that they each commit crimes, that neither group is more or less moral than the other, we have the largest percentage of our population imprisoned than any other country in the world and that these people are largely poor and dis-proportionally minority, well, class warfare addresses that and your model above does not at all.

Income Inequality - class warWhile it is certainly a mistake to impute some sort of Rousseau-ian romanticization to the lower classes it is also a mistake to not address the fact that any given society is largely set up to benefit the wealthiest members at the expense of the poorest members. While we should all remain cognoscente of the fact that rich folks are both good and bad, some mean well and do great things with the wealth and others are not much better than pimps and predators and do huge harm, they still tend to vote along with their own self interest.

Class-ism is almost impossible to avoid in any society. So, in any attempt to have a society which is a just society, in which equal opportunity exists for all, in which the playing field is actually close to being level, then you had better be using the class war model to evaluate what is going on because the other models for the battles we face will not tell you anything about how a society falls short of its stated values and how to go about addressing that.