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The Usefulness of Alt-Left, EmoProg, BernieBros, and FireBaggers

2017 May 15
by Ian Welsh

The existence of all of the above phrases brings joy to my life. I consider it like nature giving skunks a broad white stripe down their back, as an extra “bad, very, very bad” warning.

All of these phrases are, or were, used by centrists to disparage people to their left.

Emo-prog: “You have emotions about issues, which means you aren’t serious! Why can’t you debate reasonably about how many brown people we should kill, whether torture works, and how many people should be raped in prison? Having emotions mean you can’t be trusted with these decisions.”

Fire-Bagger: “You’re just like the tea-baggers because you want Obamacare to include a public option so that it can’t easily be destroyed by Republicans or gamed by insurance companies. Don’t you  understand this is the best we can do, and Republicans would never dare destroy it! We’ll build from it. People like you, you’re just like right-wing crazies who want to shut down the government!”

BernieBro: “You’re all men, you oppose Clinton because she’s a woman, and you’re racist. Racist and sexist. How dare you criticize the most qualified woman in history for Iraq and Libya. Only brown people in America count. And all you young women who support Bernie, you just want to sleep with young men. Traitors!”

Alt-Left: “There’s no difference between people who want universal health care and people who are Nazis!” (Notice that alt-left is the functional equivalent of FireBagger–name people for their exact opposite and pretend they’re the same.)

So I’m very grateful for these phrases because anyone who uses them non-ironically marks themself as my enemy (or a complete fool under the sway of my enemies). It’s that simple.

The centrists (who are really conservatives bordering on reactionaries) who bill themselves as the center left, assume that actual left-wingers have to vote for them. “I am offering a crumb, sir, a crumb, and the Republicans are not offering even a crumb.” They grow very very offended when left-wingers dare to stand up for actual left-wing principles, such as not bombing brown people to smithereens, or making sure everyone gets health care, or increasing the minimum wage to something, well, honestly, still pretty shitty.

Anyone who uses these phrases is a bad person. They aren’t as bad as actual Nazis or Republicans, but they are basically evil people. Hillary Clinton, their avatar and savior, couldn’t even bring herself to support a national $15/hour minimum wage, and they have done nothing meaningful, while in power, to stop climate change, despite acknowledging it is real.

I mean, at least Republicans have the grace to say, “No, I don’t believe in climate change. Therefore, I don’t think inaction will kill billions.”

Democrats and Labour and other “third Way” movements say, “This is a terrible, terrible problem which will kill wads of people, and, yes, I will sign a piece of paper but will do nothing that matters despite knowing that failure to act is effectively mass murder.”

So, Alt-left.

Great phrase. Use it early and often if you’re a douchebag centrist. It saves a lot of time for everyone.


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124 Responses
  1. S Brennan permalink
    May 17, 2017

    @Wendy

    While the kewl kids were over at FDL, I wasted my breath at Ezra Klein’s old blog…and before that at Josh Marshal’s TPL [Toilet Paper Memes] and before that…

    I self-label myself as an FDRist. I love watching “liberal” “Democrats” squirm with that label.

    Being a “liberal Democrat” now means celebrating the wide swathes of desert created by neoliberalism, neocolonialism [aka neocon] alongside the cultural nihilism quaintly referred to as globalism. Today’s “liberal Democrat” is an ugly creature wrapped the silken cloth of boutique diversity, the finest that money can buy.

    FDR’s willingness to represent the needs of working class people is anathema to modern day “liberal Democrats”. But those “liberals” have a hard time refuting FDR outright, as it brings their legitimacy into question.

    Not that it matters, but I think the answer on how to get single payer is expanding Medicare down in steps…with a no-return opt-out for those who drink nectar with the gods.

  2. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Exactly marym. Whenever I see an unarmed person being beaten mercilessly, I’m going to take umbrage with it and even be outraged and pissed about it, politics be damned. It’s especially egregious when it’s a foreign tyrant’s thugs doing it on my turf. It’s a huge insult and any decent POTUS should feel the same way and act accordingly. The fact Obama & Trump didn’t, means neither is a person of principle. Tell me something I didn’t already know. If we don’t have principles that transcend politics, we have nothing. Therefore, we have nothing. Isn’t it time we had something versus nothing? I think it is. It’s about time.

  3. StewartM permalink
    May 17, 2017

    @TSMB:

    Yes, Sanders was screwed by the rigged system, but rather than speaking out against it and fighting it, he acquiesced. He therefore is not worthy to lead anything. Many people, even the majority of the people as you assert, may agree with the ideas that made up his platform, but he was/is the wrong person to deliver the goods. As long as the rigged system remains in place, no person will be the right person. The rigged system will neutralize them just as its neutralized Bernie.

    I’m more forgiving; I think Sanders’ acquiescence was a tactical decision. Sanders clearly ran not expecting he would win (just look how he initially announced his candidacy, in a very brief, no-fanfare, interview in Congress when he ran off at its end to rush off to a meeting) but to have *someone* to push the eventual Dem nominee leftwards (the very reason why he openly advocated someone primarying Obama from the left in 2012). I think the enthusiasm and support Sanders received surprised even him.

    When Sanders was unable to overcome the DNC’s heavily pressed thumb on the scale for Clinton, he had a choice to make…should he throw in the towel and try to gain leverage inside the Democratic Party, or should he break ranks and run as an independent, maybe will Jill Stein? I don’t think he had a good choice, and I think what he did was probably the best that could be done–joining forces with Jill Stein (who I voted for) wasn’t going to win, because she wasn’t even on the ballot in all 50 states. All that revolt would have done is to give the Dem corporatists an excuse to pin Hillary’s eventual loss on those damned dirty hippies again, just like they did in 2000 with Nader. I Bernie’s “unenthusiastic support” for Clinton was probably his best option (as opposed to Warren, who *did* enthusiastically support Clinton).

    Instead of leading a failed Pickett’s charge, Bernie is perhaps the most popular politician in the US (even by Fox News polling!). The person who was really hurt was Warren, because she a) refused to endorse Bernie when Bernie had a shot (especially in MA) and b) her gushing support for Clinton in the general, as opposed to Sanders’ ‘unenthusiastic support’.

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/17/elizabeth-warren-no-longer-darling-of-the-left-commentary.html

    A majority of progressive voters and activists I spoke to during my campaign reporting were disgusted with Warren’s cowardice during the Democratic Primary, where she dodged on endorsing the most progressive candidate to run since FDR.

    The firebrand, anti-Wall Street Senator was wildly popular in her home-state of Massachusetts, but she decided not to endorse Sanders before the Super Tuesday primary. Sanders lost Massachusetts by less than two points, causing progressives to believe the state—and momentum—would have gone to Sanders had Warren endorsed and campaigned with him across the state.

    “So, the time for choosing is upon Warren. She must decide: what do I truly stand for? Right now, there’s a large swath of the progressive movement that’s no longer sure.”

    Larger than her Massachusetts mistake, Warren’s choice to passionately campaign for Clinton—the antithesis of all she proclaimed to stand against during her meteoric rise isn’t a fact progressive Sanders aficionados will simply forgive and forget.

    Furthermore, Warren—along with the corporate media—was inexplicably MIA during the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying nothing as thousands of unarmed, peaceful Native Americans and environmental activists were illegally arrested and shot at with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, freezing water, and grenades by de facto oil police in North Dakota.

    Like her decision to conveniently endorse Clinton when Sanders was mathematically eliminated, Warren finally chose to speak out against DAPL on the same day the Army Corps of Engineers denied a crucial permit for the pipeline’s completion.

    This kind of calculated, Johnny-Come-Lately progressivism doesn’t cut it for the millions of progressives looking to rally behind a leader as the road to 2020 narrows.

  4. StewartM permalink
    May 17, 2017

    @Peter

    We have about three times the number of people on Medicaid as the whole population of Taiwan. A large percentage of these people will never work or pay into this single payer system. It appears that the Taiwanese government is involved in delivering health care which is where increasing costs are generated, insurance costs just reflect that cost.

    a) You’re forgetting the US has almost three times the per-capita GDP as Taiwan. Per-capita GDP, not the absolute number of people, is the key metric.

    b) A lot of those people on Medicaid could do some form of work again if they 1) didn’t lose their benefits if they worked or 2) we had a true full-employment economy, which we do not.

    c) Finally, what you’re contending is that we can afford a bloated, expensive, system that consumes 18 % of GDP, doesn’t cover everyone, and has bad result metrics, but can’t possibly afford a system that does cover everyone, delivers excellent care by any standard, could cost us half as much. HUH?

  5. May 17, 2017

    Actually, I think the “alt-left” phrase is kind-of catchy, and
    maybe we should all just run with it. I can see how the
    middle-right might think it’s a nasty insult, but I’d argue
    they’re being tone deaf. In a few years, being labeled
    “alt-left” might be a net positive (compare it to “extreme left”,
    or “far left”… And if you’ve got reservations about the
    “left”, well this here is the “alt-left”, it’s different!).

    It’s kind of like back when the Dems wanted to attack Reagan’s
    “SDI”: they couldn’t call it “Buck Rodgers stuff”, because that
    would make them sound like old fogies, so they updated it to
    “Star Wars”– they associated it with one of the most popular
    movies of all time…

  6. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Stewart, even if Sanders had somehow miraculously won the Democratic Nomination and the Presidency, he still would have faced a Republic Dominated Congress. As we see with Trump, he’s allegedly Republican with a Republican Dominated Congress, and he’ll be lucky to get anything accomplished despite his scandals.

    So, we’re back to the System. It’s calcified. It’s locked into the Status Quo. Trying to change it by utilizing it is impossible. The Old System has to come down as a New System is being built up. Let’s envision a New System. I have some ideas.

    Trump is a Systems Test, of sorts. He is a reflection of just how antiquated and inappropriate the System is for these modern times. For example, the power of the executive is too great. There is too much consolidated power. I suggest we have four or five presidents, each responsible for overseeing various aspects of governance. For example, we could have one president who oversees all matters financial. Another president would oversee all foreign relations matters to include the military. Another president would oversee domestic social issues and yet another could oversee matters of law enforcement.

    There are so many pressing issues that one person and his/her administration cannot possibly address all of them, and now it seems any of them, effectively.

    How about The Legislative Branch and The Judicial Branch? Does anyone have any ideas on how we can change both for the better? It’s best to have this discussion now rather than later. It’s this or Autocracy. The Status Quo cannot hold much longer. Something’s going to give. Let’s be there with a solution when it does rather than ignoring it and becoming victims when it does.

  7. Willy permalink
    May 17, 2017

    @realitychecker

    If I have a core point which I’ve repeatedly tried to make here, it is this:

    While lefties are busy debating policy minutia, or history, or “cheerfully fellating…”, the PTB will do whatever it takes to remain the PTB.

    Whatever. It. Takes. And all which that implies.

    Is the Jess Money book just a starting point (from which further discussions can be launched), or is it your only point? Or, are you just another cranky misanthrope who has nothing better to do than snipe at “inferiors”?

  8. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Whatever. It. Takes. And all which that implies.

    Spot on. And that “whatever it takes” includes the ascension of Trump to POTUS. If they didn’t want him there for some yet to be determined purpose, he wouldn’t be POTUS. What is his purpose for them, and keep in mind, he doesn’t have to be, and most likely isn’t, witting to this special purpose?

    The Dems ran the worst possible candidate they could have run against Trump. The one matchup that made Trump look marginally palatable. A mistake that huuuge betrays a strategic purpose.

    CNN & Twitter were crucial to Trump’s win. CNN could have covered Trump in such a way as to diminish his effect and Twitter could have just shut down his account. Instead, they did the exact opposite.

    Trump is paying dividends in more ways than one. Navigate the chaos and turn it against them. My grandmother always used to say, “if you can keep your head when all around you seem to be losing theirs, perhaps you just don’t understand the situation.” She was a wise lady, my grandmother — rest her soul.

  9. realitychecker permalink
    May 17, 2017

    @ Willy

    I’m just a guy who knows your future is turning to shit, and you have no clue what to do about it. And never will.

    Also, you will have to live through that future, but I will not.

    Cheers.

  10. Willy permalink
    May 17, 2017

    I’m just a guy who knows your future is turning to shit, and you have no clue what to do about it. And never will. Also, you will have to live through that future, but I will not.

    And there you have it folks, realitychecker’s core point.

  11. Willy permalink
    May 17, 2017

    if you can keep your head when all around you seem to be losing theirs, perhaps you just don’t understand the situation

    But there is one rare type that can keep their head: the ones who enjoy the chaos because they caused it. At the end of the day, Trump may have been a useful puppet for people who are not dumb, and are different from the rest of us. IMO, the key (and the difficulty) lies in educating their enablers, who outnumber them a hundred to one. Still giving him the benefit of the doubt, I’m hoping that this is what RC is grasping for.

  12. realitychecker permalink
    May 17, 2017

    It really appears that you need me a lot more than I need you.

    Suppose we play a game to see who can ignore the other for the longest time?

    Start now.

  13. May 17, 2017

    I personally prefer “guns-and-butter progressives”, to highlight the (IMO premature) rejection of symbolic politics.

  14. Hugh permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Stirling, “It would be nice it you would read economics, and maths, so you could understand the problem”

    This is a little like asking me to read up on necromancy or alchemy as it might help me understand the “problem”. Economics is the problem. It is pernicious, malevolent BS. As I said, the measures of an economy are not economic. They are not GDP, balance of payments, or ficititious unemployment rates. They are the kind and quality of the society achieved. If you have the society you want and it is sustainable, game over. You do not need to expand, grow, or maximize, you do not need to become more competitive or globalize. You are where you want to be. The idea that you can get to where you are going without having some clue as to where you are going is the essence of Economic Man. The magic of markets and the invisible hand will guide us to the promise land. Spare me.

    I am rather good at the critical analysis of theory. So I am used to meeting people with my best blank stare when they tell me that I need to read everything ever written about their subject, MMT, classical economics, whatever, before I can really understand it. What I am hearing is something akin to if we start building the house on the third floor, we can expand it down to the foundations and the roof will take care of itself (MMT) or don’t worry about an architectural plan, the house will construct itself, and it will be the best house possible or achievable (classical economics). Envision my best blank stare here.

  15. Hugh permalink
    May 17, 2017

    Re Sanders, I still don’t get why progressives tie their hopes and resources up with a guy who is known in Washington as a serial folder. He folded back in 2009-10 in the great healthcare debate. He folded and supported Clinton. What do people not get about this? Grant before Richmond said he would fight along this line if it took all summer. Sanders organized a one-man filibuster, only after he got permission from the Senate leadership and after most Senators had left town for the weekend. When push came to shove, did Sanders stand with his supporters or go with the pick of a rigged, corrupt system? He went with the rigged, corrupt system. I guess I just never felt the Bern.

  16. Peter permalink
    May 18, 2017

    @Stew

    Taiwan’s PPP GDP is 4/5 of the US per-capita but that doesn’t explain where they have gotten their health care savings. One thing that was mentioned was that they pay large co-pays but there wasn’t further explanations of exactly where the large savings were found.

    The info I read on Medicaid stated there were 60 million recipients who were too disabled either physically or mentally to ever work while some of the other l0 million do work at least part time. I doubt that many earn enough money to be bumped from the program.

    I think there are many things that could be done to improve our healthcare system including single-payer but I doubt any of it will happen. There are too many powerful vested interests other than the insurance industry involved. About 40% of the US population is already on single-payer programs and those programs face insolvency in the near future without any insurance costs.

    Projecting the superficial information from an authoritarian foreign country as a model for the US without any analysis except ‘look single-payer’ is magic thinking and offers no real plan.

  17. Tom W Harris permalink
    May 18, 2017

    @ wendy davis: No, I went by the handle Randall Kohn at fdl.

    Tom W Harris is a pseud as well. It’s the real name of a 2nd-string (but not always 2nd-rate) science fiction author who published (infrequently) mostly in the old digest magazine Imagination in the late 50s.

    One of his best stories escaped copyright renewal and was therefore scooped up by the Gutenberg Project:
    Goodbye, Dead Man!, a story of alien occupiers, murder, revenge, and card games. A Hemingwayesque masterpiece if you ask me (not that anybody actually did ask me).

  18. Tom W Harris permalink
    May 18, 2017

    @Hugh

    “Who writes the metaphor?”

    Fair question. I would say it should be seen as a turning away from today’s neoliberalism and kleptocracy back to a society that actually functions for the benefit of its members.

    That’s roughly what I had in mind. A direct answer to Stirling’s question might be: Anyone and everyone who wants to.

    Stirling’s caveat is useful, though. The old New Deal depended on the Solid South for much of its political success. We can’t, and shouldn’t want to, go back there.

  19. wendy davis permalink
    May 18, 2017

    @ S Brennan: how funny; i wrote at josh’s café until he closed it for #fake reasons. we were gettin’ a bit too feisty for his desires to cut his hair and get some msnbc gigs. i get fdr, but remember: he created his social safety net in response to the wobblies’ labor strikes during ww II. most agreed to suspend strikes, but IWW history records it a bit differently as to ‘wildcat strikes’, etc. 😉 oh, and it took a long time at tpm to earn my bones as a ‘woman’ who could write on war, empire, security state, etc. but i wrote under my name there as well.
    @ Hugh: yes, the bern is a crepe-paper tiger. folds easily, but is an empericist to boot.

    @ Tom W Harris: i do remember ‘randall kohn’, but as my brain is more akin to cottage cheese every day, sorry, little else. googling led me to a ctuttle hit (now at shadowproof) ‘randall kohn aka ___’ then…to correntewire on your (her majesty) rachel maddow wowsiness; that was great.

    thanks for the link; i grabbed it.

  20. StewartM permalink
    May 19, 2017

    @Peter

    Taiwan’s PPP GDP is 4/5 of the US per-capita but that doesn’t explain where they have gotten their health care savings.

    First of all, I think per-capita income is the correct measure, not PPP GDP. Just because US businesses are now run solely for stockholder profit above all-else doesn’t mean other countries have to follow that model. In Asia, servicing the *customer* is job #1, providing for the employee job #2, and the stockholder comes in at #3. All you have to do is to travel there and you come to realize how how understaffed American businesses are, how crappy American customer service is because of that, how how Americans put up with things that Asians would not tolerate.

    Walk say, into an Asian department store, and they have people just standing around to answer your questions and there to help you. Walk into the American equivalent, there is one overworked guy who can barely keep up running the cash register and you’re on your own. An Asian hotel has 2-4 people behind the customer service desk; an American has 1-2. By US standards they are “overstaffed”. Yet they make what they consider to be reasonable profits.

    While in Taiwan the minimum wage is a little more than half the US, the corresponding price to buy most essential things is at least half than the corresponding US price; often one-third or one-fourth of the US price. While Taiwan is hardly perfect (they’re sitting on a demographic time bomb too, and they consider that they too have too-low wage problem) visiting there makes me think “why do WE put up with so much crap??” You don’t realize the extent that US businesses gouge their customers until you see what’s possible.

    So US companies make large profits and this shows up in the various economic inequality indices (Taiwan’s 10 % Gini index is 6.1; the US is 14). US businesses could make far less profit and still survive (and in fact, hire more employees and reduce the unemployment rate). In *fact they used to do just this* before (as Ian has noted) the Friedman/Jack Welch idea that companies should be run solely for shareholder benefit took root. So what I am describing is not some weird foreign idea, we could go back to running our country the same; particularly if we taxed rich people at very high levels like we used to to punish them for rewarding themselves.

    I think there are many things that could be done to improve our healthcare system including single-payer but I doubt any of it will happen. There are too many powerful vested interests other than the insurance industry involved. About 40% of the US population is already on single-payer programs and those programs face insolvency in the near future without any insurance costs.

    Jon Walker of Shadowproof has a good article on the solutions–“socialized medicine” (like the British NHS), single-payer, and all-payer, and how they lower costs.

    https://shadowproof.com/2017/04/17/road-single-payer-understanding-different-universal-health-care-systems/

    All these work to lower costs, in they way Jon describes. It’s no mystery, single-payer could work here. In fact studies like this indicate exactly why and how:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-geyman/misinformation-about-the_b_8172086.html

    Thanks to a landmark study in 2013 by Gerald Friedman, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, we have a solid financial analysis of the costs and benefits of a single-payer national health plan. With NHI, $592 billion would be saved annually by cutting the administrative waste of some 1,300 private health insurers ($476 billion) and reducing pharmaceutical prices to European levels ($116 billion). These savings would be enough to cover all of the 44 million uninsured (at the time of his study) and upgrade benefits for all other Americans, even including dental and long-term care. A single-payer public financing system would be established, similar to traditional (not privatized) Medicare, coupled with a private delivery system. Instead of having to pay the increasing costs of private health insurance, so often with unaffordable deductibles and other cost-sharing, patients would present their NHI cards at the point of service without cost-sharing or other out-of-pocket costs. Care would be based on medical need, not ability to pay. (2)

    The current single-payer bill in the House of Representatives, H. R. 676, The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D. MI), includes funding to absorb the costs of converting investor-owned facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes and ambulatory surgery centers, to non-profit status over a 15-year transition period. Savings would also fund $51 billion in transition costs, such as retraining displaced workers. (3)

    When we look at cost controls after NHI is enacted, the argument for it becomes even more compelling. Cost controls would include negotiated annual budgets with hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities, negotiated fees with physicians and other health care professionals, and bulk purchasing for prescription drugs, as the Veterans Administration has done for many years in getting 40 percent discounts.

    AND..Medicare is in trouble because we don’t do many of these things (like drive prices down to European levels). Medicare’s finances would be *improved* by single-payer, not worsened.

    As Jon notes, all-payer systems can work and work well, but they actually require the most government regulation and oversight to work efficiently. One thing that the US definitely *does NOT do well* is regulate business for the public interest over the long-term. So if we are going to be “realistic” given our history, such systems are out.

    Lastly, on Singapore’s system, which you have praised:

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/4/25/15356118/singapore-health-care-system-explained

    But Singapore isn’t a free market utopia. Quite the opposite, really. It’s a largely state-run health care system where the government designed the insurance products with a healthy appreciation for free market principles — the kind of policy Milton Friedman might have crafted if he’d been a socialist.

    Unlike in America, where the government’s main role is in managing insurance programs, Singapore’s government controls and pays for much of the medical system itself — hospitals are overwhelmingly public, a large portion of doctors work directly for the state, patients can only use their Medisave accounts to purchase preapproved drugs, and the government subsidizes many medical bills directly.

    What Singapore shows is that unusual fusions of conservative and liberal ideas in health care really are possible. Singapore is a place where the government acts to keep costs low and then uses those low costs to make a market-driven insurance system possible. One thing you quickly realize when studying their system is it would be a disaster if you tried to impose it in a country with America’s out-of-control medical prices .

    That speaks to the more depressing lesson of Singapore. As soon as you begin seriously comparing where they are, and how their system works, to where the US is, and how our system works, it becomes painfully clear how far America is from having the institutions or preconditions for truly radical health care reform.

    Plus some of their system is semantics. I mean, being forced to put 9 % of your paycheck into a health savings account that you can only spend for services and drugs that the government approves, is really not much different than a tax:

    But again, the way Medisave actually works is the government forces you to divert 7 to 9.5 percent of your wages into this account, and then it decides what you can do with those savings — one way Singapore keeps drug prices low, for instance, is it only allows Medisave funds to be used for drugs that the government judges cost-effective (more on this later).

    So while Medisave may look like a health savings account, it’s a mandatory health savings account funded by a payroll tax and only usable in certain conditions.

  21. StewartM permalink
    May 19, 2017

    @Peter

    I think there are many things that could be done to improve our healthcare system including single-payer but I doubt any of it will happen. There are too many powerful vested interests other than the insurance industry involved.

    Actually, the recent TrumpCare vote says “no”, the health-industrial complex can be defeated:

    https://shadowproof.com/2017/05/14/trumpcare-shows-majority-politicians-willing-vote-health-care-industry/

    The American Health Care Act recently approved by the Republican controlled House is a truly terrible bill. It would cause millions to lose Medicaid coverage to finance a large tax cut for the top 1 percent.

    There is, however, one small upside for people who support a single-payer health care system. The AHCA undermines one of the most common political arguments levied against single-payer: that you can never get a majority of politicians to vote against the massive health care industry.

    The AHCA was able to get a majority in the House despite opposition from nearly every health care industry group, since it would slash government spending on health care by nearly a trillion dollars.

    The American Hospital Association, which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals and spent over $20 million on lobbying last year, said America’s hospitals were “deeply disappointed” with the passage of the AHCA. The American Federation of Hospitals, which spent just under $3 million on lobbying, strongly opposed it. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which spent $7 million on lobbying, said the bill “needs important improvements.” Even the conservative American Medical Association, which spent $19 million lobbying last year, came out against it.

    Each of these organizations opposed AHCA because it is bad policy and because they stand to lose a significant amount of money if it becomes law. Yet, despite the opposition of patient groups and some of the biggest lobbying organizations in Washington D.C., Republicans came up with the votes for their terrible bill.

    The AHCA and Medicare-for-all are diametrically opposed policies but they do have one thing in common: both would upset the health care industry by costing them real money. The AHCA would slash spending on health care for the poor while Medicare-for-all would finally stop the industry from dramatically overcharging Americans.

    And going back to my previous comment on how US companies routinely overcharge and gouge US consumers for pretty much everything, is it any surprise that we get similarly gouged on healthcare? Tossing aside the question of insurance, even if you were paying out of your own pocket for what it costs to say *one day* in a US hospital, you could stay in a Dutch hospital for *one week*. And it’s pretty much the same for everything else across the board.

  22. Peter permalink
    May 19, 2017

    @Stew

    I don’t think you could use the UK’s NHS as an successful example of universal healthcare. Just a few months ago the Red Cross declared a humanitarian crisis there with people dying on gurneys after days of waiting for care. Their system is broken with too few doctors/nurses and even beds, people wait years for elective surgery or go to Europe to get care. With a booming economy and high oil revenues the system worked reasonably well but those days are gone.

    Converting the US into a Socialist health care state is a very large fantasy and even trying to impose single-payer will create a lot of resistance. When millions of people learn that the State mandated Medicare for all means only 80% of their medical bills are covered and they must pay more every month for this degraded coverage their not going to be happy about their part in this deal.

    The numbers you list above as savings under single-payer may be accurate but most savings from administration costs would come directly from employee paychecks leaving them out of work. I doubt drug price controls are part of any single-payer proposal, they didn’t come with Obamacare. A few more years of the current level of cost increases will eat whatever actual savings single-payer produces.

    The Clintonites waited until they were safely out of power before embracing singe-payer so it’s nothing more than an election ploy, more phony virtue signaling to attract the fleeing rubes.

  23. StewartM permalink
    May 20, 2017

    @Hugh

    This is a little like asking me to read up on necromancy or alchemy as it might help me understand the “problem”. Economics is the problem. It is pernicious, malevolent BS. As I said, the measures of an economy are not economic.

    Thought you’d enjoy this:

    Economists are puzzled about why incomes aren’t rising — but workers have a good hunch

    http://www.businessinsider.com/slow-wage-growth-from-demographics-and-employers-2017-5

  24. StewartM permalink
    May 21, 2017

    @ Peter

    I don’t think you could use the UK’s NHS as an successful example of universal healthcare. Just a few months ago the Red Cross declared a humanitarian crisis there with people dying on gurneys after days of waiting for care. Their system is broken with too few doctors/nurses and even beds, people wait years for elective surgery or go to Europe to get care.

    1) The ‘humanitarian crises’ involved the deaths of *three patients* awaiting care.

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/06/three-deaths-worcestershire-royal-hospital-nhs-winter-crisis

    Care to scale that to the US experience (a friend of mine would have died from a heart attack, because the hospital staff was wanting insurance information (ahem) from him first before admitting him to treatment, and was only saved by a doctor who chanced to walk by and recognized he was having a heart attack.

    2) The problems are due to a faster-than-anticipated rise in the number of incoming patients, and due to the fact that the Tory government places higher priority on spending billions on measures to accelerate privatization than on actually providing health care, and cutting corporate taxes. The solution is to fund the system. Watch Corbyn’s response:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38538637

    3) The fact that Norway and Denmark also have ‘socialized medicine’ and their systems are not in crises is simply proof that the current issues with the NHS are not due to a failed design, but by deliberate mismanagement by a conservative government. Like I said, Tennessee in the 1990s once had a similar Medicaid expansion program that was initially very successful until a conservative Republican took power and deliberately ran the system into the ditch by removing all cost controls. No private or public institution can be made entirely safe from deliberate mismanagement designed to wreck it.

    Converting the US into a Socialist health care state is a very large fantasy and even trying to impose single-payer will create a lot of resistance.

    Ahem, we have the VA. And despite its troubles, it’s still the best-rated care in America:

    http://prospect.org/article/why-veterans-health-system-better-you-think

    The VA’s problems too stem from ideological opposition:

    The real VHA story is ideological opposition by the right—and clinical excellence despite chronic under-funding. The main opponents of the Veterans Health Administration are congressional Republicans. This Republican opposition is odd, since Republicans go to great lengths to demonstrate their support for Americans in uniform. But when vets return home and are hidden from view, the right short-changes their care and then blames the VHA. During the Senate debate about the $24 billion Department of Veterans Affairs allocation, for example, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions echoed the sentiments of his fellow Republicans, insisting, “I don’t think our veterans want their programs to be enhanced if every penny of the money to enhance those programs is added to the debt of the United States of America.” Has he asked any vets about that?

    Again, neoliberal ideology is the issue, not concept or even execution:

    http://www.pnhp.org/news/2014/june/va-care-still-the-best-care-anywhere

    But before we go there, can we get clear on just what the underlying reality is? There is, to be sure, a systemic backlog of vets of all ages trying to establish eligibility for VA health care. This is due to absurd laws passed by Congress, which reflect on all us, that make veterans essentially prove that they are “worthy” of VA treatment (about which more later). But this backlog often gets confused with the entirely separate issue of whether those who get into system face wait times that are longer than what Americans enrolled in non-VA health care plans generally must endure.

    Just what do we know about how crowded VA hospitals are generally? Here’s a key relevant fact that is just the opposite of what most people think. For all the wars we’ve been fighting, the veterans population has been falling sharply (pdf). Nationwide, their number fell by 17 percent between 2000 and 2014, primarily due to the passing of the huge cohorts of World War II- and Korea War-era vets. The decline has been particularly steep in California and throughout much of New England, the Mid-Atlantic and industrial Midwest, where the fall off has ranged between 21 percent and 36.7 percent.

    Reflecting this decline, as well a general trend toward more outpatient services, many VA hospitals in these areas, including flagship facilities, want for nothing except sufficient numbers of patients to maintain their long-term viability. I have visited VA hospitals around the county and often been unnerved by how empty they are . When I visited two of the VA’s four state-of-the-art, breathtakingly advanced polytrauma units, in Palo Alto and Minneapolis, there was hardly a patient to be found.

    So why not fill these empty hospitals with people in need? Oh…neoliberals don’t want Americans to have ‘socialized medicine’ because Americans would find out how excellent it can be…and they then could never get rid of it. Just like Grover Norquist said.

    The numbers you list above as savings under single-payer may be accurate but most savings from administration costs would come directly from employee paychecks leaving them out of work.

    Huh?? Are you making coal industry analogy here (‘we have to maintain armies of people doing unnecessary jobs for no good reason that add nothing of value to the economy and that are intrinsically inflationary just because’)? Besides, people who advocate this also advocate things such as free college so that people who got degrees for jobs manipulating paper that should be worthless in a truly productive economy can get jobs in different fields. We need more doers and less paper-shufflers. Paradoxically, contrary to its hype, it’s capitalism that produces armies of paper-shufflers while socialism rewards doers.

    That has national policy implications. The reason why I believe the Fed considers unemployment rates of 5 % as inflationary is not only because it’s setting its rates for the sole benefit of Wall Street (true enough). I believe that Marvin Harris was largely correct in his assessment that the systemic inflation experienced in the US starting 50 years ago or so are largely systemic, due to a smaller proportion of the workforce actually doing economically useful work and yet doing things that add to the money supply. Today, we have the military-weapons complex, the prison-industrial complex, the surveillance state complex, the medical-industrial complex, a bloated financial sector, and so forth–all doing things that we’re better off without them doing. Just go to the DC suburbs and look who’s building. Any part of “making America great again” has to downsize YUGELY these entire sectors of our economy.

    By contrast, look at the unemployment rates in the Asian countries I cited, where people are still largely producing *things* or economically useful services. Even though these businesses are “overstaffed” by comparison with the US, they have unemployment rates of one-third to one-fourth the US and yet comparable inflation rates.

    I doubt drug price controls are part of any single-payer proposal, they didn’t come with Obamacare. A few more years of the current level of cost increases will eat whatever actual savings single-payer produces.

    a) Obamacare wasn’t single-payer (didn’t you read Jon’s article)?

    b) Single-payer systems *do* in fact achieve lower drug costs and lower rates of drug inflation. That’s why Medicare would save oodles of money by allowing drug re-importation.
    Here’s the price of Nexium, which is fairly typical:

    https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-e6e7933513c263b62345f4e3e7852c79-c

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