Bipartisan agreement in Washington usually means citizens should hold on to their wallets or get ready for another threat to peace. In today’s politics, the bipartisan center usually applauds when entrenched interests and big money speak. Beneath all the partisan bickering, bipartisan majorities are solid for a trade policy run by and for multinationals, a health-care system serving insurance and drug companies, an energy policy for Big Oil and King Coal, and finance favoring banks that are too big to fail.
Economist James Galbraith calls this the “predator state,” one in which large corporate interests rig the rules to protect their subsidies, tax dodges and monopolies. This isn’t the free market; it’s a rigged market.
Wall Street is a classic example. The attorney general announces that some banks are too big to prosecute. Despite what the FBI called an “epidemic of fraud,” not one head of a big bank has gone to jail or paid a major personal fine. Bloomberg News estimated that the subsidy they are provided by being too big to fail adds up to an estimated $83 billion a year.
Corporate welfare is, of course, offensive to progressives. The Nation and other media expose the endless outrages — drug companies getting Congress to ban Medicare negotiating bulk discounts on prices, Big Oil protecting billions in subsidies, multinationals hoarding a couple of trillion dollars abroad to avoid paying taxes, and much more.
But true conservatives are — or should be — offended by corporate welfare as well. Conservative economists Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales argue that it is time to “save capitalism from the capitalists,” urging conservatives to support strong measures to break up monopolies, cartels and the predatory use of political power to distort competition.
Here is where left and right meet, not in a bipartisan big-money fix, but in an odd bedfellows campaign to clean out Washington.
For that to happen, small businesses and community banks will have to develop an independent voice in our politics. Today, they are too often abused as cover for multinational corporations and banks. The Chamber of Commerce exemplifies the scam. It pretends to represent the interests of millions of small businesses, but its issue and electoral campaigns are defined and paid for by big-money interests working to keep the game rigged.
An authentic small-business lobby has finally started to emerge, as William Greider reports in the most recent issue of the Nation. The American Sustainable Business Council, along with the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority, are enlisting small business owners to speak for themselves — and challenging the corporate financed propaganda groups such as the Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Business. Their positions often align with those of progressives. They loathe the big banks and multinationals that work to undermine competition.
Greider reports on the antipathy these small business owners have for the big guys. Camille Moran, president and chief executive of Caramor Industries and Four Seasons Christmas Tree Farm in Natchitoches, La., rails against the “Wall Street wheelers and dealers.” They knew, she argues, that they “ would get no sympathy saying that ending the high-income Bush tax cuts would hurt them, so instead they pretend it would hurt Main Street small business and employment. Don’t fall for it. . . . That’s a trillion dollars less we would have for education, roads, security, small business assistance and all of the other things that actually help our communities.”
ReShonda Young, operations manager of Alpha Express, a family-owned delivery service in Waterloo, Iowa: “We’re not afraid to compete with the biggest delivery companies out here, but it needs to be a fair fight, not one in which big corporations use loopholes to avoid their taxes, stick our business with the tab.”
Polls show these aren’t isolated views. The ASBC, the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority sponsored a poll by Lake Research of small business owners. Ninety percent believe “big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes that small businesses have to pay,” and three-fourths said their own businesses suffer because of it.
The ASBC and its allies have the potential to become what Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator, dubbed a “Chamber of Progress,” a small-business voice that is willing to take on the big guys that tilt the playing field.
The possibilities are endless. Wall Street argues for rolling back financial regulation on the grounds that it hurts community and small banks. What if community and small bankers joined the call of conservative Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher to break up the big banks?
Multinational executives have just launched the “LIFT America” Coalition to push for a territorial tax system that would exempt from U.S. taxes all profits reported abroad. ASBC and its allies could rally small businesses to demand closing down overseas tax havens and imposing a minimum tax on profits sitting abroad, so that they didn’t face a higher tax burden that their global competitors.
In today’s Washington, powerful corporate interests stymie progress on areas vital to our future. Can a right/left, small-business/worker odd bedfellows alliance emerge to counter the predatory interests? We can only hope so.
By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 26, 2013
The law is a commonsense solution to our country’s broken healthcare system and is clearly constitutional. It eliminates insurance company abuses, makes coverage more affordable for seniors, families, and small businesses, and creates rules that stop insurers from denying care to the sick and jacking up premiums anytime they please.
The logic of the law is that we can make coverage more affordable and fair if everyone has insurance, including the young and healthy and those who don’t expect to get sick. That lowers costs by spreading the risk more broadly.
Our system is fundamentally out of balance. Many people don’t get the care they need, and others only get care at everyone else’s expense—and usually at an emergency room where services are far more expensive than at a doctor’s office. As a result, at least $43 billion in uncompensated care is provided every year, paid for by a $1,000 “hidden tax” in the premiums of every insured person in the country.
Today most people have insurance. Most of the 50 million uninsured want coverage but either can’t afford it or are excluded by insurers because of pre-existing conditions. When the law is fully implemented, families unable to afford coverage will get tax credits to put it within reach. The truth is that the individual responsibility provision, also known as the mandate, will affect only the 2 percent of Americans who have access to affordable coverage but refuse it. That’s what this fight is about: the 2 percent who reject rules that will allow the rest of us to get better, more affordable coverage.
The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the Constitution gives Congress the ability to develop national solutions to national problems. If the court were to bow to political pressures to strike down the law, it would essentially put regulation of healthcare, which accounts for nearly 18 percent of our economy, beyond the reach of Congress. That is plainly absurd.
The case against the health law is an extension of a transparently partisan political mission to tear down this milestone law as a way to turn President Obama out of office in November. What the partisans selfishly refuse to acknowledge is that there is so much more than politics at stake.
By: Ethan Rome, U. S. News and World Report, March 26, 2012
“A Window Into The Future”: Mitt Romney Won’t Enroll In Medicare And Doesn’t Want Anybody Else To Either
Mitt Romney hasn’t explained his announcement yesterday that he won’t be enrolling in Medicare despite turning 65, but as Jonathan Cohn points out, Romney is at least practicing what he preaches. Romney supports Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program, a plan that would effectively end Medicare as we know it, and Romney is putting his money where his mouth is by deciding against enrolling.
Romney’s decision is a window into the future that he promises to deliver. Instead of a Medicare program that directly provides coverage, Romney wants seniors to obtain coverage from private insurers. Depending on their income and personal wealth, a portion of that coverage would be subsidized, but the guaranteed coverage of Medicare would be eliminated.
The fact that Romney was able to forego the Medicare system without penalty or punishment puts the lie to the notion that government health care programs are tyrannical. That’s an important fact to point out, because even though any senior who doesn’t want Medicare coverage could walk away from the system, just like Mitt Romney did, the overwhelming majority of them don’t—and that’s a testament to the effectiveness of Medicare.
But even though Medicare works, Mitt Romney wants to end the program as we know it. He wants Medicare to be transformed into a voucher provider, subsidizing private insurance plans instead of directly covering medical care. For 99 percent of Americans, it would be a radical overhaul, raising costs and making it difficult if not impossible to find insurance. Given his means, Romney would do fine in such a system. That’s basically the system he’s living in now, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize most people can’t afford what he can afford. And if Medicare were privatized as he proposes, that’s exactly what he would force every American senior to do.
If you’re only concerned about personal benefit, Medicare might not turn out to be the best deal in the world for someone like Mitt Romney, who is fabulously wealthy and doesn’t need the coverage. But even the Mitt Romneys of the world are better off living in a society where senior citizens have the security of health care coverage that Medicare provides. If we were to adopt Mitt Romney’s proposal to turn it into a voucher system, Medicare would no longer provide it’s greatest benefit of all: the peace of mind that comes with knowing that every single senior citizen has the health care coverage they need.
By: Jed Lewison, Daily Kos, March 13, 2012
Earlier today, in response to criticism from Catholic groups, the White House altered its regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide no-cost contraception coverage as part of their health care plans. Churches and religious nonprofits that primarily employ people of the same faith are still exempt from the requirement, but now religiously affiliated colleges, universities, and hospitals that wish to avoid providing birth control can do so. Their employees will still receive contraception coverage at no additional cost sharing directly from the insurer. But Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups are not satisfied with the accommodation and hope to use their false claim of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services. Despite Obama’s decision to shield nonprofit religious institutions from offering birth control benefits, next week Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is expected to offer an amendment that would permit any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it:
(6) RESPECTING RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE WITH REGARD TO SPECIFIC ITEMS OR SERVICES — “(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because — “(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or “(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage.
Under the measure, an insurer or an employer would be able to claim a moral or religious objection to covering HIV/AIDS screenings, Type 2 Diabetes treatments, cancer tests or anything else they deem inappropriate or the result of an “unhealthy” or “immoral” lifestyle. Similarly, a health plan could refuse to cover mental health care on the grounds that the plan believes that psychiatric problems should be treated with prayer.
Individuals too can opt out of coverage if it is contrary to their religious or moral beliefs, radically undermining “the basic principle of insurance, which involves pooling the risks for all possible medical needs of all enrollees.” As the National Women’s Law Center explains, Blunt’s language is vague enough that “insurers may be able to sell plans that do not cover services required by the new health care law to an entire market because one individual objects, so all consumers in a market lose their right to coverage of the full range of critical health services.” As a result, a man “purchasing an insurance plan offered to women and men could object to maternity coverage, so the plan would not have to cover it, even though such coverage is required as part of the essential health benefits.”
Read the full amendment here.
By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, February 10, 2012