Sunday, June 3, 2012
We Are The 99% (part 2)
We Are The 99%: The Focus of Our Rage, part 2
The fourth fundamental human right, and another way to articulate what we want, is to address the problem of health insurance and its ridiculous cost, pricing 54 million out of the health insurance market and forcing many of us to rely on the local emergency room for medical treatment. It is a fact that every developed country in the world has national health insurance except for the United States. From Europe to Canada to Japan, getting sick is never a problem unless the illness is terminal. Not so in the USA, where health care is on a for-profit basis, and we are the only country in the developed world where this is so. We have the highest cost for health care and for prescription drugs of any country in the world by far. In other words, good health care in this country is only for those who can afford it. The rest of us are left stranded on the side of the road to health and wellness and without remedy, eventually to die, but well before our time. Speaking as an Internet pastor, I find the idea of denying healthcare to nearly a fourth of the US population (about half of whom are children) just because they can't pay for it to be immoral, unjustifiable, and utterly barbaric.
So what is the solution to this pressing problem? One thing is for sure, every human being on the face of the earth has the unconditional right to good health care. It's as basic as access to clean water (another area where mankind has some work to do). I strongly maintain that it should be a crime for any patient to die because they lacked access to treatment due to having no money or health insurance. There is simply no excuse for that to be happening in the richest country in the world, and I for one am ashamed that it is occurring, and I doubt that I am the only one who has this opinion. Also, people with preexisting conditions or catastrophic illnesses should always have unconditional access to health care. I know this to be true from personal experience. Anyone seeking treatment for substance abuse or mental illness, or who are in need of any organ transplants, or kidney dialysis, cancer treatment, or any other serious illness requiring constant monitoring or ongoing therapy, must be able to get treatment without financial qualification. This is not a privilege of the well off, it is a basic human right.
The question remains then, and it is this: how do we get caught up with the rest of the developed world when it comes to universal health care? Also, how do we do this within the framework of the existing US health care system(s) in order to conserve on start-up costs and minimize overhead? The plan I propose is simple: Take all currently available medical care and put it under one umbrella, so to speak. Merge private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, government health insurance for civilian employees at the state and federal levels, the military and Congress' (including the President's) healthcare plans, plus the entire Veterans Administration hospital system into one single-payer system so that no one is left out. Next, streamline the new universal single-payer health care system by eliminating all the duplicate departments, and by making it an online, Internet-based and paperless system utilizing leading edge Information Technology in order to lower operating costs and cut way down on paperwork. And third, once this new online system gets rolled out and becomes available to everyone, we'll simply eliminate Medicaid by putting everybody in the entire country on Medicare, and all persons will have unconditional access to the same level of care, from the President down to the dishwasher at your favorite restaurant. And now, before I move on, let me point out another equally big advantage to having a universal healthcare system such as this.
Having the government take over the administration of healthcare for the entire country is a solution that is long overdue. Don't worry about what might happen to the existing insurance industry, it isn't going anywhere and I will explain why in the next paragraph. Allowing a hypothetical universal healthcare system to work in this manner would take the burden of providing health insurance for its employees off the backs of businesses, substantially enhancing the profit margins of all US companies both great and small. This will give the American economy – together with US businesses – a far greater shot in the arm than any government tax cut could ever hope to. In the process, making US medical care into a series of nonprofit entities will bring American health and wellness into the 21st century with comparatively nominal operating costs.
So what happens to the existing insurance industry? These very companies will be the ones who will administer this new digitized healthcare system. They will do so by way of a competitive bidding process to ensure that costs are kept under control, effectively farming out the day-to-day operations of the healthcare program. The companies with the lowest bids will get the contracts, which will be brought up for renewal periodically – say, every 5 years. Running the new universal healthcare system this way will ensure that only the best insurance companies will be administering the program, and that the marginal or substandard insurance companies be ultimately either forced to improve or go out of business.
The fourth and final main thing I want to write a couple of paragraphs about is that of economic inequality, or what I call in my first book “enforced inequality”. Class warfare has been declared by the top 1% against the rest of us, the 99% who are losing our jobs, our homes, our cars, our savings and eventually our health as the enforced liquidation of the US middle and working classes continues. What is needed is a peaceful and orderly redistribution of wealth that is done in a non-violent manner. So how do we accomplish this? I have a couple of ideas, but the first step for America would be to enact an all-new tax system, abolishing the federal income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax. This proposed new tax system will be a 2-tiered system, with the national sales tax – or consumption tax – set at 9% (excluding groceries, fuel, utilities, wholesale goods, raw materials, and all government entities). Why 9%, you ask? Well, according to some data that I obtained from the IRS, as well as from the alternative media, the average personal income tax rate in 2011 is roughly 18%, so I am proposing cutting that rate in half. The second tier of this proposed new tax system will be what I call an “excess wealth tax” for the mega-rich, and for any financial transactions that are over a certain limit. For individuals, there is no income tax on the first $10 million, but anything above that gets taxed at a rate of 50%. So, a household or individual who made $50 million last year would pay no tax on the first $10 million, but they would pay $20 million on the remaining $40 million. For businesses, the proposed consumption tax rate is far much more generous, with the first $700 million tax free, and a tax rate of one-third on anything over and above that. So, a company that made $1 billion dollars the previous year would pay no tax on the first $700 million, but they would pay $100 million on the remaining $300 million. As a result, all itemized deductions would come to an end. Ditto for the estate tax and capital gains tax, both of which would be replaced by the proposed Excess Wealth tax. The alternative minimum and self-employment taxes would both be phased out in favor of the national sales tax.
Under this plan, there is ample incentive for the rich and big business to get enthused about my idea. First, the necessity of providing group health care would go away for US businesses (due to my proposed Medicare-for-all system), followed by the repeal of the income tax. All the money being spent on income taxes and group insurance could be put back into these businesses, making them more competitive than ever before. In fact, I would estimate that such a move by the federal government would go along way toward making America very competitive in the global economy because the costs associated with operating a business will drop so drastically due to the elimination of these two expenses. And second, the “excess wealth tax” that I just proposed would still provide sufficient funding for costly government institutions like the military and the space program, not to mention the cost of public reeducation and the public works projects I mentioned previously.
Another way to redistribute wealth is by converting unwanted or surplus housing and commercial or office structures into residences, live-work-play developments, green or urban garden space, or new businesses. One of the things that can and should be done with a national public works program that I wrote about previously is to get rid of all the empty, boarded-up houses that have been abandoned to foreclosure. Put all the homeless and jobless to work remodeling this otherwise worthless real estate. There are millions of unemployed construction workers who would love to get a chance to do something like this, so why not let them? And when they are finished rebuilding them, let them live in them and so revitalize America. Reward them by turning them into homeowners. This is how we can end unemployment and homelessness while turning around the US foreclosure crisis. We can do the same with healthcare and with higher education. Make them both available to everyone unconditionally as a way to enforce economic equality and social parity. This is how we can redistribute American wealth in a peaceful and nonviolent manner, and in so doing set a good example for our kids and grand-kids. The days of making good healthcare and higher education available for only those who can afford it must come to an end. That is unfair, discriminatory, it is a social injustice and therefore a civil rights violation of the worst magnitude. To tell anyone that they can't stay well or can't improve themselves because they have insufficient funds to pay should be a crime.
In closing, everybody needs to have an income and a livelihood. It is cruel and mean-spirited to tell anyone that they are not needed nor wanted, or that they can't be hired because there is allegedly no money to pay them while corporate America sits on trillions of dollars in excess cash. If unemployment is brought to an end using the methods and ideas that I have written about, poverty, hunger and crime will be brought to an end as well. We already have the means to do this, so it would be irresponsible and immoral for us not to act.
Some will say, yes, but employed at what? I've been looking for a job for over a year (or more) and I haven't found squat. Brothers and sisters, this is not your fault. Your government, together with some of this country's most well-known institutions such as the US public school system and the multinational corporations, have let you down. All the jobs that could be outsourced overseas were sent away, never to return. The ones that couldn't be outsourced were mostly downsized out of existence. It is for these reasons that we are now protesting in the streets and occupying America in New York, Boston, Washington, DC and Atlanta, among others. Because the truth of the matter is that since these jobs aren't coming back, we as a country should be making new ones, and this should have started years ago. We have a lot of catching up to do in the area of job creation. The good news is that there are new industries currently being born that can replace all those lost jobs that I wrote about. Green industries like solar power, windmill power generators, the construction of a low-voltage national electrical grid and of fusion reactors, not to mention biotechnology, stem cell research, nanotechnology, robotics, seashore desalination plants for an endless supply of clean water, and a greatly expanded and revitalized space industry are the new growth industries of the 21st century.
Seriously, people! We first landed on the moon in 1969, took our last trip there in 1972, after which our country's “leadership” mysteriously gave up and quit. This was alleged at the time to be due to insufficient funding, but if the US hadn't been involved with the war in Vietnam, America could easily have afforded to continue NASA's Apollo program. The immoral and strategically questionable wars in Iran and Afghanistan today are preventing our country from returning to space in much the same way as Vietnam did. It's all a matter of the proper allocation of resources. So when do we start a grassroots campaign to stop the wars overseas so we can fund our needs at home? How much longer are we going to delay?
Once that serious matter is taken care of, the next step will be for us to decide how to allocate all the money the country will save by ending the wars overseas and bringing our troops home. All right, check this out. We are supposed to be in the space business already! Hello! Instead, we debate among ourselves whether or not women should have abortions, or whether gay marriage is acceptable or not. Speaking as an independent Internet preacher of the radical kind, if we are serious about wanting to lead good lives and to be productive contributors towards the common good, then we need to be creating jobs and helping to rebuild people's lives. We need to be helping people regain their sustenance and self-sufficiency. I also am appalled that the mainstream church is so against abortion while being in favor of the death penalty and of waging war. I am equally appalled at the mainstream denominations for their condemnation of gay marriage while the divorce rates for evangelicals are about the same as for the secular world. These are glaring contradictions to their faith, to say the least.
OK, so here's how we fix our public schools and accelerate the start-up of all these new 21st century businesses, all at the same time. First, government and business should get together and find a way to give large grants to these fledgling companies that are already started up in one form or another. They need start-up capital, and they're not going to find it at the bank branch down the street from them. Government can and must step in. Our only alternative is to become a second-rate country, a has-been of military and economic power. The other thing that needs to be done is to start training future astronauts now. Update public school curriculum, and put it on-line. Turn the public schools into an Internet-based system that is paperless and that doesn't need to buy expensive textbooks every year (save the trees!). Then, start teaching the kids skills that they will need for a technology-based world and a digital workplace, with an emphasis on science and math. Start teaching them to be astronauts when they're 12 years old, because by the time they graduate from college there will be thousands of astronauts needed, not just a select lucky few like today. At the peak of the US space shuttle program, NASA was launching about three per year. Having just witnessed the birth of the privatization of space by the recent docking of the first commercial space flight to the ISS, I can tell you that by the end of this decade there will be about three launches per week instead of per year. Ten years after that in 2030 there could easily be more than 3 launches per day, and so on. The time to begin getting ready for our space-faring future is now. Then do the same with the adults. Retrain everybody who can't find work, or who is in need of a career change, and pick up the tab. Performing this service for America's workforce will literally lift it all up to the next level and make it much more competitive. I have heard people complain over and over again that “we can't compete” with some dude in China who does the same job we do for $2.00 a day. What America needs is new careers to replace those that have been eliminated. We not only have the capacity to do this already, but we are way behind and we have some catching up to do. But we are Americans. We can and will succeed if only we will unite together in this effort. Let's all get started today.