Category Archives: Health care

The realism of Berniecare

Ever since Bernie Sanders released details of his single-payer health care proposal recently, critics right and center have been on the attack against his “revolutionary, unaffordable and unachievable” scheme. In fact, for those who truly want to achieve universal, affordable health care, Sanders’ path is the only realistic way forward.

“Be reasonable: demand the impossible.” So said revolutionary Ché Guevara. [NOTE: I’ve since been corrected; the origin of this slogan was not Ché, but a graffiti encountered during the 1968 Paris uprising. Check it out here.] It’s a lesson much of the Democratic Party establishment needs to relearn this election year.

For instance, Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution. One of the country’s top experts on social insurance and health care financing and a smart political observer to boot, Aaron ran a piece in Newsweek recently that took apart presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s health care reform plan as being “radical in a way that no legislation has ever been in the United States,” vague on details, and technically unfeasible. It’s “a health reform idea that was, is, and will remain a dream,” Aaron writes. “Single-payer health reform is a dream because, as the old joke goes, ‘you can’t get there from here.’”

Continue reading The realism of Berniecare

The Meaning of Harry Reid’s Departure

For the last decade, Harry Reid has been a bulwark against efforts by Republicans and members of his own party to send the core of the New Deal achievement down the road to oblivion. Other Democratic lawmakers may be equally committed, but almost none have the same close emotional ties that he possesses to the Rooseveltian state.

When Senate minority leader Harry Reid announced last week that he won’t run for reelection in 2016, the first thing that flashed through my mind was his age: he’s 75. Only nine senators are older than Reid, and only two of them are Democrats. That underscores how few people still serving in the Senate were born during the New Deal, the period that formed the modern US government, with its social protections, administrative apparatus, and (not so happily) military-industrial complex. For the past 35 years, roughly corresponding to Reid’s career in electoral office, the legislation that Washington enacted during the Great Depression has been a war zone, Continue reading The Meaning of Harry Reid’s Departure

Progressives Learn to Love ObamaCare

“ObamaCare” – actually two complex pieces of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and the Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 – started life as an unloved orphan. The right hated it passionately and comprehensively, and still does. Progressive Democrats, who’d been working for something like it for a century, were disappointed that it came out a patchwork of baby steps, not a full-fledged reinvention of American health care.

Last month’s policy conference of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) in Washington brought together a group of health care reformers, some of whom have been in the game for a long time. If their comments are anything to go on, progressive Democrats are finally learning to love ObamaCare. If they go so far as to Continue reading Progressives Learn to Love ObamaCare

How Much Do We Care About the Elderly?

That’s the real issue behind the Social Security debate – and the deficit fight as well. But it’s almost impossible to have a constructive public discussion about the elderly and the share of the economy they occupy so long as deficit hysteria continues.

Don’t go to Pete Peterson’s Fiscal Times for balanced reporting on Social Security and the federal fisc. That would be like asking Col. Qadaffi for news and analysis on Middle Eastern populism. But every now and then, the miscreants raise an important issue. Perhaps inadvertently, but there it is.

Eric Schurenberg, who purveys politically palatable news to the business community as head of BNET and, published an op-ed in the Fiscal Times last week that purported to demolish the “myths” bolstering “that fiscal fun-house mirror, the Social Security trust fund.” The piece is full of misconceptions that are nicely demolished elsewhere.

But Schurenberg raises an issue that’s been almost entirely left out of the current debate about reducing the deficit and “reforming” entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. “The most destructive myth of all,” Schurenberg writes, Continue reading How Much Do We Care About the Elderly?

Bowles-Simpson: The Unequal Marriage of Reaganomics and Rubinomics

The Bowles-Simpson plan isn’t a fair and equitable way to reduce the long-term federal deficit, whatever its co-authors might claim. In fact, it’s the biggest proposed experiment in supply-side economics since early Reagan.

Long story short: The proposal put on the table last week by the co-chairs of the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is essentially a wedding of Rubinomics and Reaganomics. As such, it’s what we might get if Bill Clinton and the late Ronald Reagan were locked in a room together and required to cut the long-term budget deficit – without any regard for the impact of their handiwork on low- and middle-income people.

You’ve probably guessed which partner has the upper hand in this deal. And we’ll explore that in a moment. But first, some background.

This wasn’t an overnight meet-court-marry. The supply-siders and the deficit hawks – as the two lovebirds are also known – have been trying to join hands even since 1985, Continue reading Bowles-Simpson: The Unequal Marriage of Reaganomics and Rubinomics

Robert N. Butler and the Battle for Social Security

Butler, who died Sunday at 83, was not just a distinguished scientist, author, and crusader for the elderly. He was the catalyst for one of the most powerful social movements of the last half-century – a movement that has widened access to health care in the U.S. and kept Social Security from being dismembered, among many other things.

Gray Power has changed this country powerfully for the better since it burst onto the scene a bit more than 40 years. While the first White House Conference on Aging was held in 1961, it took the rest of the decade for the elderly to begin organizing in large numbers, a trend that accelerated after Butler started using the term “ageism” to describe the treatment they receive at the hands of society and, especially, the medical profession: Continue reading Robert N. Butler and the Battle for Social Security

Health Care Reform, Act II

Progressives should be happy their health care reform bill came out far from perfect. In some ways, it’ll benefit them more than if they’d got all they wanted.

Conservatives are denouncing health care reform as a ruthless power grab, propelled by “the single purpose of permanently expanding the American entitlement state.” They know whereof they speak. Ever since the New Deal, the great engine of Democratic electoral success has been the creation of new and improved services by government that the private sector cannot or will not provide in an equitable way.

Social Security, unemployment and disability insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, a vast expansion of public education: all were products of the great period of Democratic political dominance in the U.S. that stretched from the Roosevelt through the Johnson administrations. These programs directly benefited millions of working families and sealed their loyalty to the Democratic Party.

None were perfect from Day One. And that was the beauty of it.

Take Social Security. It didn’t much resemble today’s program when it was first passed in 1935. Benefits were tiny and not indexed to inflation. About the only category of individuals who were well covered were white, male industrial workers. Although it started collecting payroll tax contributions right away, benefits weren’t even supposed Continue reading Health Care Reform, Act II