Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Complexities of Cruelty

Now that nearly two-thirds of Americans declare themselves in favor of true universal health care, or Medicare for All, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts finally acknowledges that the time is ripe for the Democratic Party to follow suit. 
 President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.”
Tell that to the party leadership. The way a group of them showed their loathing for the now-delayed Better Call the Undertaker Act proffered by the Republicans was to literally sit down and "raucously" sulk for the cameras. 
“So John Lewis and I (Sen. Cory Booker) are going to sit down on the Capitol steps for a while to protest Senate Republican’s efforts to repeal health care and give voice to millions of Americans who believe that affordable health care is a human right,” Booker posted alongside the Facebook live stream. “Watch, share & join us.”

“By sitting in, by sitting down, you’re really standing up,” Lewis said. 

Ben Wikler, the Washington director of activist group, tweeted how he became part of the sit-in, describing the organic growth of the event as “kinda magical.”

Unlike the protesters who were cruelly yanked out of their wheelchairs last week and arrested for blocking Mitch McConnell's office, the supine and able-bodied establishment Democrats were deemed harmless enough by Capitol police to remain in place, despite blocking the entire building. It was really kinda magical. Who knew that some forms of protest are more equal and acceptable than others?

Nonetheless, Warren is gently and belatedly urging liberal lawmakers to get up off their slacktivist butts and take that next organic step and start running on single payer health care for human organisms living in the United States. She understands that Hillary Clinton's vow during her campaign that single payer "will never, ever come to pass" is probably not a winning strategy for her party. All it did was help stimulate those all-important collective passions right into the arms of Donald Trump - who, as a private citizen had himself voiced support for government-sponsored medical insurance as the sanest, most cost-effective solution.

Trump, who only a few weeks ago called the GOP reform plan "mean," put a noncommittal spin on his latest word salad:  “This will be great if we get it done. And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like, and that’s O.K., and I understand that very well.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to delay voting on the Better Care Reconciliation Act when a handful of GOP senators balked - either because the measure isn't sufficiently cruel, or because its draconian cruelty isn't sufficiently hidden from voters. Mainly, they were miffed that Mitch operated behind closed doors, without their own input. How can they sell a bill to their constituents when they're being kept as much in the dark as their constituents?

 The Congressional Budget Office scoring reveals that under the Bitterly Callous Retrogression Act, 22 million fewer Americans would be covered by insurance by the year 2026. It's so bad that even the arch-conservative American Medical Association, which has always lobbied heavily against any kind of government involvement in health care, calls BCRA  a clear violation of the Hippocratic Oath of "first, do no harm."

As Mitch cynically drawled to the TV cameras after temporarily yanking the bill, who could have guessed that big complicated cruelty could be so complex? Therefore, his most immediate challenge is to get enough of his cohort "comfortable" enough with the unprecedented cruelty for the oligarchic job to get done.

Senator John Tester cynically put in that all they really need is more flexibility to rescue the most vulnerable citizens from the pain of Medicaid covering all their health care needs. That way, the protesters in wheelchairs won't even have to travel to Washington and block Congressional offices. They'll be blissing out in a permanent state of health care Nirvana freedom.

These malevolent political clowns remind me of the feckless characters in Demons, Fyodor Dostoevsky's scathing 1872 novel which critiques both nihilism and supine, often complicit, liberalism. The "debate" really is just about how much sadism that today's reactionaries think they can get away with.

One of the characters in the novel argues for "a final solution of the question, the division of mankind into two unequal parts. One tenth is granted freedom of person and unlimited rights over the remaining nine tenths. These must lose their person and turn into something like a herd, and in unlimited obedience, through a series of regenerations, attain to primeval innocence, something like the primeval paradise - though, by the way, they will have to work."

To which the other, more bloodthirsty nihilist counters, "I'd take these nine-tenths of mankind, since there's really nothing to do about them, and blow them sky-high, and leave just a bunch of learned people who would start living happily in an educated way.


stranger in a strange land said...

Either of those two Dostoevskian schemes would likely progress smoothly under President Booker. That dude is as venal as they get, an exemplar of the maxim 'Anyone willing to do what it takes to be elected President should be automatically disqualified from that position.'

Ostentatiously protesting bad healthcare policy? That's rich:

paintedjaguar said...

Where was John Lewis when Obama was killing the public option and keeping single payer off the table? And those kettling nets around his little kaffeeklatch look suspiciously like velvet ropes.

annenigma said...

Why is Elizabeth Warren only now 'advocating' for single payer? Because it's an empty threat, not a real position. It's timed to be a warning to Republicans to play ball with the Dems or face that as an alternative, as if.

annenigma said...

Where is Bernie's health care bill?

Anonymous said...

JK said...
Unleash the unicorn riders! Medicare for all! I'm not sure how we get from here: [ where our for-profit health insurance industry which is capitalized by 10s of millions of Americans and generates $15 billion in profits a year - that the government mandates we buy insurance from, and essentially transfers taxpayer dollars to via subsidies...AND at the same time undercuts those profits by supporting Medicaid patients that hospitals don't profit from either] to there [where the congress magically legislates the health insurance out of existence, making stocks in those companies worthless, which would throw the economy in some kind of turmoil, and reduce the wealth of millions of mutual fund/401K investors. But gosh it is so just and righteous to rally the masses around "Medicare for all". Bernie and Elizabeth are practiced 'high horse' riders, but those creatures are unicorns. Our HC system is guided by the oxymoron: for-profit altruism. There is just too much vested interest in maintaining the profit status quo. The only way we get from here to there is if the whole system collapses and the government steps in to "fix it" - which I'm betting will be a tax dollar bail out.

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ JK

You're so right. When Medicare for 65+ went into effect, the US went bankrupt along with the docs and other health providers. Oh WAIT, the economists worth a nickel have shown how Medicare boosted income for front-line providers, the med equipment companies and the pharmaceuticals.

I agree with you that the last-mentioned groups on the profit side of the equation are the important entities to be kept healthy and free of red ink; but we should add that the elders (who are only an incidental part of the Medicare system) got the help they never could have gotten without Medicare. But, as we've heard so often before, it's the ECONOMY, stupid. We'll wait a long, long time before we hear an astute politician say, it's people's LIVES, stupid. Because the business of America is business.

Do you ever wonder why advanced countries who long ago adopted national health care carry less debt than the US, nationally or individually, while, simultaneously, their statistics for length of life, child mortality, height, etc. surpass us to the extent that the US ranks somewhere in the middle thirties among that group for health care? The overabundance of unicorns in those nations must pose a menace on the highways during mating season.

Why, I've even heard Canada's veterinary services are better. Up here in Canada the length of our unicorns' unicorns are several inches longer than those of the US unicorns––if you can even find one to measure down there. We've even trained our unicorns to say "Eh" when they hear nonsense like what you're parroting.

Erik Roth said...

Karen Garcia's brilliantly bulls-eye hitting remarks, plus the astute and clever comments posted to them here, have provided more care and well-being for my health and state of mind than anything I've seen or heard anywhere.
For that my heartfelt appreciation cannot sufficiently be expressed.

Carry on, and agitate with insight and empathy!
Wishing you all well,
(in Minneapolis)

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
~ Krishnamurti

Anonymous said...

JK said...

@ Jay
There is no equating the economic effects of instituting Medicare during the Johnson administration with, essentially, a 'hostile takeover' of the for-profit health insurance industry in the proposal by some politicians to legislate Medicare for all. Medicare was (is) key to the social safety net; critical for the elderly and less fortunate. No argument - all for it. Whether it is currently having (and expected to have) a negative impact on the for-profit insurance corporations is debatable. My point is that Bernie and others have gained lots of favor from the left by waving the 'Medicare for all' flag, but the details of how we get that done are lacking in their message. We all know this. We all memorized his stale popcorn stump speech by the time the DNC convention happened. As I see it, it is the lack of details in his message (or any democrat who is advocating for single payer) that will jeopardize legislation for a more rational and moral health insurance system under universal Medicare.

Zee said...

“…it is the lack of details in [Sanders’] message (or any democrat who is advocating for single payer) that will jeopardize legislation for a more rational and moral health insurance system under universal Medicare." --JK

Exactly, JK!

However, I have come to the conclusion that it is a waste of time to ask--in this forum, or, perhaps in any progressive forum--for the details as to how this transformation is supposed to occur.

If you DO ask for costs and transitions processes you will inevitably be referred to the text of H.R. 676—whose 30 pages are virtually $$$-free—or to the website for Physicians for a National Health Plan.

Yes, the latter site contains some costs and explanations as to how the transition is supposed to take place, but the numbers seem—to me, at least—to come pretty much out of thin air.

But why worry? After all, the Canadian health care bill is only 12-13 pages long, right? Piece of cake, eh?

Trust me, JK, you are wasting your time asking for details as to how the transition from our current system to single-payer will take place, and how much the new system will cost.

So here’s what I see as happening come 2018 and/or 2020:

The Democrats (perhaps, but not for certain) will actually make a big push for single-payer. If they do, the Republicans will shriek “socialism!” and “death panels!” and, for lack of the crucial, detailed arguments needed to counter these charges, single-payer will go down in flames, just as did the “public option” under ObamaCare.

Perhaps like you, I expect single-payer to become a reality in this country only in response to a complete and utter collapse of the current health care system. And for that to occur, an even greater calamity—perhaps on a global scale—may also have to take place.

In that case, I can only hope that I’m not around to see that day.

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ Ray

So, it's not an excess of unicorns, after all; now it's a dearth of detail. Wrong again. The details are not lacking; the political will to do the right thing is what's lacking. Which is understandable because our representatives are owned by the relatively small circle of big money. Once our supposed representatives ever begin to represent the will of the majority, the sensible decision will be made about Medicare, and the functionaries will see to the details.

That should be easy for the bureaucracy since the details are already in place. We need only copy them. Medicare for all simply involves expanding the existing Medicare system, which, by the way, seniors love and others long for. Furthermore, the overhead for Medicare beats every private insurance company on the horizon.

Here's the simplest way to provide a smooth and orderly shift from profit-making insurance to Medicare for all. Right now, Medicare covers mainly seniors over 65. How about we extend Medicare to other age groups every few years, first, say, those who are 55-65? After the dust settles on that expansion, cover children <1-10. Continue at a measured pace for each cohort until all Americans are covered. No earthquakes in that scenario, which need only take 10-15 years to complete.

For lots more detail see Physicians for a National Health Program. No unicorns or innumerates at that site.

Zee said...


While I still might quibble with you over some details, I think your idea is quite brilliant.

Anonymous said...

JK said...

@ Jay and Zee
Imagine you are john Q mutual fund manager, in charge of 800,000 accounts, a majority of which are institutional investments. Your fund is invested in the health care industry at 25%, half of which is in the health insurance market. Jay's plan to incrementally expand Medicare is looking like it might pass the senate and will me signed into law by the president (only because he likes to show everyone how nice he signs his name). It is your fiduciary responsibility to your investors to quickly find something else to buy, and it appears that every other fund is unloading HC stock. The fund takes a huge hit, people's investment loses value. It doesn't matter how slowly the transition to 'Medicare for all happens', the writing is on the wall as soon as the bill appears like it might pass - HC stock becomes rapidly worthless. Retirement benefits get reduced.

But, maybe that is the tradeoff we all accept: reduced retirement benefits in proportion to our exposure to the for-profit insurance market, and increased taxes to cover Medicaid expenses - in trade for a more efficient and moral healthcare system.

Y'all are too smart for me. I'm Schtoopit (frequently wrong) and a time-waster. I'll will show himself out.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Before you go JK, let's see if I've got this straight.

According to the gospel of JK, the American government has an overarching responsibility to protect people who gamble on Wall Street.* The health of personal portfolios comes before the wellbeing of the general public. Never mind what some of those listed companies are up to. Little people are expected to sacrifice for the greater glory of the Dow Jones. Praise Mammon and bless his priesthood, the fund managers. Make straight their way. All they want is the privatization of profits and the socialization of losses. Sounds like the sour dogma of Lemon Socialism to me.

Even phonies like Sanders, Shumer and Warren know better. They work both sides of the fence but don't try to stand justice on its head (as does JK) and call it morality.

*Even honest people with marginal amounts of disposable income are forced to practice the faith of The Market, there being nowhere else to put overhauls on your hard-earned savings from real work. Why? Because the banks don't do serious interest on those petty savings accounts anymore. Time deposits are a joke. Don't save; spend into debt or invest. Everybody, rich or poor, must turn to Wall Street, even though everybody knows (or ought to know by now) that the game is rigged against the hopeful little investor, especially since Glass-Steagall expired and QE ballooned (your money plus printed money used solely to recapitalize the banks and swell the bonuses of their managerial class). Go ahead, play cards with thieves at their table. But that's a story for another day.

Zee said...


Unlike Jay, I think that you raised a legitimate concern that had not occurred to me--I'm not particularly knowledgable about things financial. While I still think Jay's idea is worth further study, it appears that The Law of Unintended Consequences has struck again, and the transition process must be further "thought through."

Also, unlike Jay, I DO think that the government DOES have an obligation to maintain national financial stability during a major economic changeover that would occur by the government's own volition.

And there's far more at stake than protection of the "personal portfolios" of money-grubbing gamblers here: there are still plenty of huge pension funds that are--I assume--pretty much entirely invested in the market, including health care stocks. As you observe, hard-earned retirement benefits will be [potentially] drastically reduced. Do we want the creation of even more Illinois debacles?

Perhaps we are back to your conclusion--and mine--that the transition to single-payer will only occur when the current health-care "system" collapses entirely.

Finally, I did not mean to imply that you were wasting MY time. I would welcome all the information that I can get as to how much a single-payer would cost and how it would work. I find the current information available at Physicians for a National Health Program, for instance, to be sadly lacking in numbers and explanations as to what would REALLY be covered.

annenigma said...

You framed it correctly, Jay, but JK is still right in about our elected (so-called) representatives will never harm The Market. They represent monied interests after all, not the health and well-being of Americans or of Mother Earth.

The reason people will remain at risk for sickness and death from lack of health care in this country is the same reason young people will be forced into joining our imperial armed forces for employment, education and health care, risking life and limb to protect, preserve, and defend the interests of imperialism. It's our war-based, profit-driven economy. That racket started long ago and is not about the end.

In the words of Marine Major General Smedley Butler, "War is a racket"

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

That international criminal racket is even more profitable and pervasive now. So let's start being precise about what we're talking about - CAPITALISM *genuflect*. We must be courageous enough to speak openly about the false religion of Capitalism, the church and high priests of Wall Street, the god Mammon, the sacrament of War, and the selfish construct called Ego which they serve. In other words, the Beast.

It's inaccurate to say that climate change originates in human related, aka anthropogenic, activity. It originates in Capitalogenic activity. Capitalism is the culprit. Let's place responsibility where it belongs and not let all humans be scapegoated for something that the small group of plutocratic gangters and banksters have caused, enabled by the elected reps they prop up for us to choose from. We stopped them from poisoning much of the land, air, and water through the efforts of Naders Raiders activists at one time, but it's all being undone as we speak.

If we don't have the courage to say it's name, Capitalism, we don't deserve any better than the deadly racket we have. The only cure is to take the profit motive out of war, health care, and anything else that harms us. We must take up where Occupy began when it tied it all together but was crushed by Obama on behalf of his corporate sponsors - just as he crushed the spirited movement he got elected with.

We must start by abandoning the Democratic Party. Nancy Pelosi recently said of the Party, "We're Capitalists. That's just how it is."

Elizabeth -- Marysville said...

I love you, Jay!

The majority of U.S.ians have no interest whatsoever in those numbers scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen, as they reap no benefit from the legalized gambling enabled by capitalism. But those numbers serve as a subliminal message, much as everything else we have become desensitized to. "That's the way it is." "We have no control." "We have no power". Most of us were born into this unreal reality and don't question anything, not realizing how starved we are for the things money cannot buy, and not cognizant of the corruption in basic essentials we are forced to buy (food, housing, health care, education, etc.). Capitalism is the crap shoot that maybe, if we work hard enough and don't get sick or injured, we can finally relax and enjoy our senior years. Of course, many people (POC, for instance) are hindered at every turn from even holding a pair of dice to roll.

The 401Ks and other retirement accounts people do have are just sitting there like giant pinatas, barely holding onto their value, waiting to be breached by the 0.01%.

Communities need upend the craps table and look within and draw upon the resources they have to become self-sufficient.

Pearl said...

Only capitalism, especially a bought and sold kind, can spawn a Trump. Are we thinking about the possibilities of a democratic social revolution? There are many people running for office who might have some of the answers. Keep a lookout.

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ annenigma & Elizabeth

If either of you ever decides to run for office, I will volunteer as the most devoted envelope stuffer and office gopher on your campaign staff.

Bill Sprague said...

I was married to a French Canadienne. She knew lots of doctors whom we would actually visit on our too frequent trips up to Montreal and le camping and sugar houses. The doctors couldn't WAIT to come to the US where they could make some real cash instead of having universal healthcare shoved down their throats. H. Oath? You've got to be kidding. It's all about bucks. Always was, alway will be.

stranger in a strange land said...

JK said... But, maybe that is the tradeoff we all [sic] accept: reduced retirement benefits in proportion to our exposure to the for-profit insurance market, and increased taxes to cover Medicaid expenses - in trade for a more efficient and moral healthcare system.

Um, yup - that's pretty much the idea.

Taxes are the price we pay for civilization. I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The trick is getting the yoke onto the right ox.

We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes. Leona Helmsley