Nov 102005
 

For some time, the conservative "position" on health care has been a stalwart commitment to the status quo, resisting any proposals for sweeping reform. Two new studies comparing global health data — one by American Progress distinguished senior fellow Tom Daschle, another by the Commonwealth Fund — spell out what this position entails: conservatives apparently are content with a health care system that ranks #37 in the world (behind both developed and developing countries); a system that has the highest rate of medical mistakes, medication errors, and inaccurate or delayed lab results of any of the six nations surveyed by Commonwealth (Australia, Canada, German, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom); and a system that forces fully half of sick adults to report cost-related barriers to needed care. This disparity is not simply about health practices or economics; it is about our most basic values as Americans: our current health care system violates our core commitment to the common good, and betrays the simple notion (articulated by Sen. Daschle) that the "world’s wealthiest country should be its healthiest." (The Center for American Progress, unlike the Bush administration, has developed a real plan for making America healthier. Read all about it, or watch the flash video.)

THE MORAL COST OF THE STATUS QUO: The most substandard element of our health care system is arguably also the most morally troubling. As Paul Krugman explains, "Americans are far more likely than others to forgo treatment because they can’t afford it. Forty percent of the Americans surveyed failed to fill a prescription because of cost. A third were deterred by cost from seeing a doctor when sick or from getting recommended tests or follow-up." That citizens must regularly deny themselves and their families medical care is bad enough; that it happens in the wealthiest country in human history is almost unbelievable.

THE ECONOMIC COST OF THE STATUS QUO: Employment-based health insurance "is the only serious source of coverage for Americans too young to receive Medicare and insufficiently destitute to receive Medicaid," yet it’s becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. The reason? The strain of health care costs for employers is growing, "possibly to a breaking point." The average total premium for an employer-based family plan was $9,979 in 2005, representing nearly the entire annual income of a full-time, minimum-wage worker. The cost of premiums for employer-based plans has outpaced wage growth by nearly fivefold since 2000. According to one report, by 2008, health costs will exceed profits at Fortune 500 companies. Comparing the U.S. system to countries with universal coverage, Sen. Daschle found that "in general, their predictable and broadly-financed costs along with their outcomes — improved health and productivity of workers — tend to benefit their businesses, and give them a competitive advantage over ours."

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Sep 222005
 
  • A nice little tax cut for your wealthy friends – $327 billion
  • Some corporate welfare for your campaign contributors in the oil business – $8.5 Billion
  • Having a king-sized natural disaster to help you try to cut the programs you don’t like for the old and poor – Priceless
  • For everything else, there’s the queers.

With great fanfare, and recalling the "Gingrich Revolution" of the 1990s, House conservatives yesterday proposed a broad set of spending cuts they said would help offset the costs of the Katrina reconstruction effort. Their plan reduces the budget by $500 billion over 10 years, and does so in large part by dismantling programs that invest in middle- and working-class Americans. Progressives can do better. It’s possible to cut far more unnecessary federal spending, accomplish it in half the time, and do so while upholding the principles of fiscal responsibility and concern for the common good.

The proposal announced yesterday cuts substantial funding from several "long-standing targets of conservative scorn," like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the foreign operations budget. The largest proposed cuts are targeted at Medicaid, "the health care safety net for low-income children, elderly, disabled, pregnant women and parents." The plan cuts $225 billion by converting the federal share of certain Medicaid payments into a block grant, and $8 billion more by increasing Medicaid co-payments. Eliminating subsidized loans to graduate students slices off an additional $8.5 billion. $11 billion more is saved by passing restrictive new rules for federal retiree health care and federal pension programs.

A progressive approach to trimming the budget could result in greater savings over a shorter period of time. For example, rolling back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans would save $327 billion over five years. Cracking down on offshore tax shelters would save $65 billion over the same time period. Simply allowing Medicare recipients to purchase drugs through the mail would save $43 billion over five years. Repealing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry contained in the recent energy bill would save $8.5 billion. Shelving costly and unnecessary weapons systems would save $200 billion. Getting rid of counterproductive agricultural export subsidies would save $30 billion over the first five years along. Giving up half of the 6,371 special earmarked projects of the 2005 transportation bill would save an additional $12 billion. A progressive approach to trimming the budget could cut $688 billion in federal spending over just five years.


 Republican Offsets      Progressive Offsets  
 Title III Program Cuts  $307B    Rollback Tax Cuts for the Wealthy  $327B
Other including DoD and DHS  $333B    Eliminate Offshore Tax Shelters  $  65B
 Cut Federal Share of Medicaid  $225B    Repeal Oil Industry Subsidies  $    8.5B
 Increase Medicaid Copayments  $    8B    Allow Medicare Mail Order Drug Purchases  $  43B
 Eliminate Loans To Graduate Students  $    8.5B    Shelve unnecessary Defense Systems  $200B
 Restriction on Federal Retiree Healthcare and Pensions  $   11B    Eliminate Agricultural Export Subsidies  $  30B
 Foreign Operations Budget  $   37B    Eliminate 1/2 of 6,371 Transportation Bill Projects  $  12B

 TOTAL After 10 Years

 $929B  

 TOTAL Savings after only five years

 $685.5B

Let’s take a special look at some of the cuts included in the Republican Plan. I think most agregious is their call to eliminate "Corporate Welfare." This from a Congress that gave the oil companies, already experiencing windfall profits, huge subsidies in the just passed energy bill. Take a look at a partial list and see if you notice any patterns:

  • Eliminate the Applied Research for Renewable Energy Sources Program
  • Eliminate the Clean Coal Technology Program
  • Eliminate the FreedomCAR Program
  • Eliminate the ITA’s Trade Promotion Activates
  • Eliminate the Advanced Technology Program
  • Repeal the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act
  • Eliminate the Foreign Market Development Program
  • Eliminate the Market Access Program
  • Eliminate the Export Enhancement Program
  • Eliminate the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative

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