A lot is being written over the fissures within the Democratic Party on Health Care. Some, like Bernie Sanders, unequivocally support Medicare-for-All. Others, like Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown, both Midwest senators with more conservative constituencies, want a more incremental approach, a Medicare buy-in option for example, or lowering the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 50.
Sounds good, right. Medicare-for-All is way too radical. A more moderate approach stands a better chance of getting the broad-based support needed to get through Congress and be signed into law.
Except that the insurance companies, with their web of campaign contributions and armies of lobbyists, will pounce on any compromise and turn it into a variation of what we have today – a system with huge overhead and administrative costs that rewards waste and inefficiency over positive health outcomes.
Sound familiar – that’s essentially what happened with Obama Care. State-by-state exchanges just to make sure there are no incentives to create national plans that operate more transparently and efficiently.
So Bernie Sanders is right – it is time for universal health coverage in a nationwide program that takes the insurance companies out of the mix, thereby saving U.S. economy and the American consumer huge amounts of money that today are wasted on a system that rewards administrative inefficiency over the health of the American people.
The Republican tax bill passed the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday along straight party lines. The legislation now goes to the full Senate. It is one of the most disastrous pieces of legislation ever to be introduced in Congress, and yet it looks increasingly likely to pass the Congress and be signed into law.
The bill contains huge tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals while it hammers the poor and middle class. Instead of stimulating economic growth, as Republicans claim, it is much more likely to hurt the economy over the longer term by exacerbating income inequality.
How did we get to this place where legislation of such immense importance and negative effect now seems likely to pass the Congress along straight party lines?
Well, you can blame Republicans and Democrats alike who have so contorted the budget process as to allow major legislations to pass on party line votes, instead of the 60 votes needed to ensure bipartisan support.
Or, you can blame the corporate media which is busy “reporting” on Donald Trump’s latest tweets – and totally out of its depth on most complex issues including taxation and the economy.
You can even blame the Democratic Party establishment which is mostly content to simply oppose Donald Trump rather than advance a coherent policy agenda of its own.
But if we are going to play the blame game, let’s get to the root cause: big money, mainly corporations, have so completely “Captured” the U.S. Government and they are now advancing legislation that clearly benefits them at the expense of the American middle class and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Perhaps we should heed the words of Jeremy Grantham, a British born financier from Boston. Grantham is a bit of a legend in financial circles, having predicated the last two financial bubbles in 2000 and 2007. Here is Grantham quoted November 6, 2017 on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal:
“The U.S. form of capitalism has lost it way. The social contract was previously in good shape. Corporations looked after their employees. They were more paternalistic. Great pension funds were starting up. The CEOs were increasing income alongside their workers. CEOs earned more than 40 times workers. Today that number is 350 times, and the system has gone to hell. Keynes, Schumpeter – and Marx not to mention—thought, by their nature, corporations and capitalism would overreach simply because they could. Corporations would use their advantages to get more power and more money. Their share of the pie would increase, and cause society to push back. Sooner or later there will be pushback.”
Well said, Jeremy. But the time for “pushback” is not sooner. It is certainly not later. It is now.
For decades after WW II, the American middle class was the envy of the world. Today, that same middle class is struggling just to make ends meet. Wages are stagnant; the level of income inequality is extreme.
The tax debate currently taking place in the United States illustrates a big part of the problem – our political system has been hijacked by big money interests proposing to do just the opposite of what is actually needed.
Slashing taxes on the wealthy and major corporations, as Republicans have proposed, will almost certainly exacerbate income inequality and force cuts in services that primarily benefit the poor and middle class.
Many wealthy individuals, who rely primarily on capital gains and income from assets, already pay less as a percentage of their income than people who work for a living. That is not fair. It is almost certainly the reason Donald Trump will not release his tax returns.
Out tax system is already regressive. Let’s not make it even worse. Better yet, let’s fix it so the wealthy actually pay their fair share.
You don’t have to be a big-shot Ivy League economist to know that the American middle class has historically been the engine of economic growth in the U.S. Yet under Republican proposals, by targeting additional tax breaks to the rich, the economy is more likely to shrink further, not grow.
Are you listening Democrats? Will you take a stand up against the big money interests, oppose so-called Republican “tax reform” in all its nefarious forms, not get drawn in when Republicans throw you a bone like keeping deductions for state and local taxes, and finally do what is right for the American economy and its beleaguered middle class?
Let’s help fix our democracy by making damn sure this latest incarnation of tax cuts for the wealthy is consigned to the dust bin of history where it belongs.
The Museum of the American Revolution opened in April of this year, funded largely by private donations. Located in Old City Philadelphia, the museum is just blocks from Independence Hall and across the street from the First Bank of the United States founded by Alexander Hamilton.
The museum documents the history of the American Revolution through numerous exhibits, short films and reenactments, including hundreds of artifacts ranging from pamphlets to clothing to ships and weapons used by both sides.
But what really sets this museum apart is that, through pictures and short videos, it also tells the stories of real people, of farmers, African and Native Americans. And in so doing, it seems to capture the “spirit” of a Revolution where ordinary people rose up to oppose the oppression of a distant monarch and claim the “right” to govern themselves.
Upon entering the museum, an exhibit recounts how George Washington deliberately chose to live in a tent, to demonstrate that he was not above his men, and that he would share the hardships of long and brutal winters that nearly destroyed his army. At the end of a video presentation, the curtain rises and the actual tent Washington used is revealed.
Another exhibit documents the contributions of Thomas Paine, a Philadelphian who helped spark the Revolution with the pamphlet “Common Sense” and whose later rallied troops on the brink of defeat with a series of pamphlets, “The American Crisis” (see excerpt below), written in part while Paine was encamped with Washington’s army near Trenton.
At one point, there’s a video reenactment of patriots tearing down a statue of King George III in Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan. Its serves as a timely reminder that we must oppose tyranny in all its forms, and that the symbols of tyranny matter, whether kings or Confederate generals who fought to preserve slavery.
At another point towards the end of the museum’s self-guided tour, the question is posed: “What Kind of Nation did the Revolution Create?” The answer suggests a tension that continues to this day:
“The Revolution is not over yet … ever since the adoption of the Constitution, Americans have struggled to balance their ideals of Liberty with the practical need for governmental authority.”
Later, as you exit the exhibition halls, there is a wall covered with mirrors. Standing before the wall, with your image reflected in the glass, a caption asks you to gaze upon “the Future of the American Revolution.” It gets you thinking.
Today, the spirt of the American Revolution is being challenged as never before. It can be subtle as when our elected officials manipulate the media to cast tax breaks for the rich as health care or economic reform. Or it can be more overt, as when those same officials denigrate and arrest minorities.
But subtle or overt, such actions betray the values of our founders fought for. The Museaum of the American Revolution reminds us we have a duty as citizens to look in that mirror, and to fight to reaffirm the principles of justice and equality for all that are the foundation of our great democracy.
THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. (Thomas Pain, the American Crisis, December 23, 1776)
My wife Mary and I recently took a short vacation to the Maritime provinces. We visited Yarmouth and Shelburne, among other small towns along the South Coast of Nova Scotia. We reveled in the natural beauty of the landscapes and the warmth of the people we met.
The only time it got even remotely strained was when a Canadian customs agent asked “the purpose of our trip” and I joked that “I was seeking asylum from Donald Trump.” Oops! As a veteran of the Vietnam War protests, I was remembering a time when Americans did flee to Canada to escape the draft, and were mostly welcomed.
Today, I am told, Americans are fleeing once again, but this time many are seeking access to the Canadian health care system which most closely resembles the single payer, “Medicare for All” approach advocated by Bernie Sanders and other Democrats.
But unlike the Vietnam War era, the welcome mat is not out. The custom agent (and wife Mary) were visibly upset with my half-assed humor. Before letting me through, the agent made me prove we had travel reservations for the return trip to the U.S. Canadians, understandably, do not want to bear the costs for Americans looking for access to affordable health care.
The Canadian health care system is not perfect. Some services are not covered, like dental, vision and mental health. Users must pay out-of-pocket or carry private insurance. Still, basic health services are free; total per capital costs are significantly lower than in the U.S. and health outcomes, such as life expectancy and infant mortality, are better.
Obamacare was a positive step in that direction. In their latest effort, the Graham-Cassidy bill, Republicans are trying to roll back Obamacare not because they believe in “states rights,” as their latest, repackaged rhetoric would have you believe. Rather, Republicans simply want to avoid paying higher taxes to subsidize low income folks – even if that means effectively denying basic health coverage to millions of people.
Well, democracy has a price. Franklin Roosevelt understood that. Canadians understand it and are living it every day. But somewhere along the line, many Americans lost sight of basic democratic values of justice and equality. People struggling to make ends meet should never have to choose between food on the table and a visit to the doctor. Never.
Republicans, motivated by big money and corporate interests, are once again assailing our basic rights – and we need to fight back.
Hillary Clinton’s new book, entitled “What Happened,” is due out later this month. Based on excerpts circulating on the web, Clinton blames her loss in part on Bernie Sanders for repeatedly attacking her and setting up Trump’s refrain “Crooked Hillary.” She also questions Sanders’ Democratic credentials and asserts that she, not Bernie Sanders, is the real Democrat.
Here’s another view: the problem with Hillary Clinton was (and continues to be) that she is totally out-of-touch with reality and with ordinary Americans, having spent far too much time raising money from big donors rather than listening to, and addressing, the concerns of ordinary Americans.
And, by most accounts, Clinton ran a terrible campaign, one that was overly differential to her as an individual, to her ego, and not the important issues of our day, such as inequality and wage stagnation.
To make matters worse, all she really had to do to win the election was to embrace the Progressive movement and send a message of unity. Instead, her campaign worked overtime to discredit and undermine Bernie Sanders, alienating his supporters, the very people whose energy and enthusiasm she needed to get elected.
And she continues to insult the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party by declaring that she’s the real Democrat and Bernie Sanders is some sort of interloper. Well, the policies advocated by Hilary Clinton make it seem as if she is actually a Republican, or at best, a moderate Democrat stuck in a 1990’s time warp.
I have a message for Hillary – democratic politics is changing. There is a new Progressive movement afoot in the land. Maybe you, and other icons of the establishment, should get on board. In the meantime, enjoy those book royalties from people naive enough to pay good money to hear the same failed message – over and over and over again.
Back in the old days (and TDV remembers those days, barely) there was an ethos in politics: you were expected to be courteous and respectful of others, even those with differing points of view.
Well, those days, which lasted from roughly the Post-War period through the 1970’s, are long gone. Today, in American politics, it is not only OK to viciously attack those with whom you disagree, it is expected, a de facto prerequisite to participate in politics.
What happened? Well, the economy went south in the 1970’s and 1980’s and the purchasing power of working people in particular was hammered by inflation. Republicans cleverly exploited people’s angst by blaming it all on the government, and Democrats acquiesced.
Then came the internet and cable TV, and it was the people who shouted the loudest and attacked their opponents who got the most attention and were elected to public office.
To make matters worse, the Supreme Court in the Citizens’ United decision in 2010 held that money is an expression free speech, opening the floodgates to a tidal wave of special interest spending. This has only served to reinforce the shouting and mud-slinging that now passes for political debate in this country.
What to do about it? Well, the most obvious answer is to boot Donald Trump from office, since he is the culmination, the very epitome, of all that has gone wrong with our political system over decades since the 1980’s.
But we also believe it is not enough simply to oppose Trump. We must repair and rebuild our political culture and system so we treat people with respect; hold accountable those who don’t, and demand that elected officials actually do their jobs.
Here are a just a few obvious steps we could take to help heal a divisive culture and a broken political system:
We should ban political advertising on television because you can’t inform in 30 seconds. It has become all negative attack ads that only inflame passions rather than foster real debate.
We should give candidates free debate time on public television. After all, public television is subsidized by our tax dollars. Let’s use that subsidy to help foster a serious discussion of the important issues we face, rather than simply attack one’s opponents.
We should challenge Citizens’ United and limit the amount of money in politics.
We should insist that Congress actually do its job and require full disclosure of political contributions. There is simply no excuse for the amount of “dark money” in politics – except that our elected officials refuse to do anything about.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, let’s have term limits for those serving in Congress, so we routinely get fresh ideas and new blood from people who have not spent an entire career pandering to special interests for campaign donations.
And we are just warming up! Are you listening @TheDemocrats. It is not enough to simply oppose Trump. Tell us where you stand on the issues, and propose solutions, so we never, ever wind up in this place – ever again.
Andrew Young was interviewed on Meet the Press on Sunday (Aug. 20) in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, Va. Young, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement and protege of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., agreed with the essence of TDV’s point of view that we need to be careful not to let our outrage and condemnation drown out larger issues that may be in play including extreme poverty and lack of opportunity for too many Americans of all races.
Here are excerpts from the interview with Young:
The reason I feel uncomfortable condemning the Klan types is they are almost the poorest of the poor. They are the forgotten Americans. They have been used and abused and neglected …
We need to keep our eyes on the prize, and the prize is not everyone getting even. The prize is redemption …
Our job is not to put down white people. Our job is to lift everyone up together, to learn to live together as brothers and sisters, rather than perish together as fools.”
In addition to advising and marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement, Young formerly served as Chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was also a congressman from Georgia; UN ambassador during the Carter Administration, and the Mayor of Atlanta.
Racism and violence, of the kind we saw in Charlottesville, Va, this past week always merit our outage and condemnation. But we have to be careful. Such attitudes pose a subtle danger: they can be overly simplistic and serve to obscure underlying issues that contribute to the unrest.
History has taught us that racism and violence are often symptoms of a deeper malaise rooted in economic hardship. That was one of the lessons learned from the Nazis in W.W.II. They were able to exploit people’s economic anxiety and fear to create a police state that persecuted and killed Jews and other minorities.
America today is not Nazi Germany. But there are parallels, not the least of which is an elected leader wiling to stoke fear and division for political gain rather than encouraging people to come together to pursue a greater, public good.
Meanwhile, economic opportunity and upward mobility have all but vanished for many Americans, rural and urban, white and black. People feel trapped; there’s no place to go; the future looks bleak, and they lash out at everyone and everything that is different from them.
In a democratic society, we have a responsibility not only to condemn the racism and violence, but also to try to understand and address underlying issues – including pervasive poverty and a broken economy that leaves people feeling frustrated and trapped with few options for improving their lives.
Of course Trump has said many times that fixing the economy so it works for everyone is a central goal of his administration. But his is purposefully misleading rhetoric designed to inflame passions rather than heal wounds. The problem is all those immigrants and foreigners taking our jobs! Trump and others like him are the problem, not the solution. Scratch the surface of his policy proposals and its tax cuts for the rich that is at the core of Trump’s agenda (and that of his Republican allies in Congress).
The reality is that fixing the economy requires just the opposite: raising taxes on the wealthy, whose incomes have skyrocketed in recent decades while wages for working Americans have stagnated. Taxes on high earners are at the lowest point in modern history. The proceeds of the higher taxes should be invested in basic infrastructure, roads, bridges and transit systems – and in people, in health care, education and job training. That would stimulate job creation and economic growth for all Americans.
Particular emphasis should be placed on investing in inner cities and rural areas where poverty and lack of opportunity are most pervasive.
Sounds like a heavy lift, and it is. Politicians who propose higher taxes of any kind quickly become fodder for a flurry of attack ads.
Fortunately, there are some politicians willing to step-up: Senator Bernie Sanders, the former Democratic presidential nominee, for one; more recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York proposed a tax on those earning over $500,000 to pay for long overdue subway repairs that primarily benefit working class New Yorkers.
We should always condemn racism and violence in all its forms, but we should never stop searching for the underlying causes and work to address those issues. A rigged economy, that favors the wealthy while leaving working and poor people behind, is a contributing factor to the kind racism and violence we’re seeing in Charlottesville (and around the word).
The very fabric of American democracy is fraying. It is time to fix it, with real, concrete economic reforms that improve the lives of all Americans, black, brown and white.
In the past, it has been rare that an event in American politics provokes such outrage. That’s because politicians are trained to offend as few as possible and appeal to a broad middle class and win elections.
So what is wrong with Donald Trump? He essentially won because the Democratic Party, (mis)led by Hilary Clinton, split in two – Progressives and moderates. The so-called moderates couldn’t seem to relate to working people or offer a positive message of change. Ultimately, they failed to generate the enthusiasm needed to counter Trump’s vacuous, populist bluster.
In this environment, one would expect Trump to move to the middle, to cement his support with disaffected voters on the margins whom he will need to win the next election.
Instead, Trump has doubled down with dangerous, “bomb”-bastic rhetoric targeted to his most ardent followers. In so doing, he has violated one of the most sacred pillars of American politics – America’s nuclear arsenal is intended as a deterrent, and you never, ever threaten nuclear war for political gain.
But that is just what Trump did and, in so doing, he has proven himself unfit for office.
He now needs to feel the “fire and fury” of the American electorate.