Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Green Party of the United States
Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-904-7614, firstname.lastname@example.org
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, email@example.com
Green Party urges universal health care supporters to Go Green in 2016
• 2016 Green Presidential Nominating Convention, Houston, Aug. 4-7: http://www.gp.org/pnc-2016
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Green Party is urging supporters of Single-Payer national health care (Medicare For All) to "Go Green in 2016," in an open letter written by Margaret Flowers and James Lane, Honorary Co-chairs of the 2016 Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention.
Excerpts from the letter are appended below. The full text is online here: http://www.gp.org/open_letter_single_payer_movement
According to a May 16 Gallup poll, 58% of U.S. adults (including 41% of Republicans) say they favor replacing Obamacare with a federally funded health-care system that covers all Americans ( http://www.gallup.com/poll/191504/majority-support-idea-fed-funded-healthcare-system.aspx ).
After Hillary Clinton's likely nomination at the Democratic National Convention, the Green Party and Green nominee will be the sole national advocates for Single-Payer in the 2016 election.
Green Party leaders are stressing the importance of having the Green nominee in the fall presidential debates, to argue for Single-Payer and other urgent ideas.
In January, Ms. Clinton said that a Single-Payer system "will never, ever come to pass." Her appointees to the Democratic Party's platform panel blocked endorsement of Single-Payer. As of January 2016, Ms. Clinton received $13 million from insurance and other health-care industries ( http://www.ibtimes.com/political-capital/hillary-clinton-gets-13-million-health-industry-now-says-single-payer-will-never ).
Greens compare achieving a Single-Payer system with the enactment of laws for an eight-hour workday, workers' benefits, unemployment compensation, minimum wages, child labor prohibitions, Social Security, and Medicare. All of these ideas were introduced by alternative parties and realized under alternative-party influence after initial opposition from the two major parties.
The effort to enact Canada's successful Single-Payer system was led by Tommy Douglas of the New Democratic Party, an alternative party, during the 1960s. U.S. Green Party leaders said that winning universal health care here will require strong Green Party influence and the election of Greens to legislative seats in statehouses and Congress. The Green Party and its candidates accept no money from corporate PACs.
Every developed country in the world except the U.S. guarantees its citizens medical care. For more information about Single-Payer and how it covers everyone and provides quality care while drastically reducing costs, see http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single-payer-faq
The letter follows earlier letters appeals to supporters of Black Lives Matter ( http://www.gp.org/open_letter_black_lives_matter_supporters ) and Bernie Sanders supporters ( http://www.gp.org/green_party_reaches_out_to_sanders_supporters ), also from Dr. Flowers and Mr. Lane. Mr. Sanders has promoted Single-Payer throughout his campaign, one of many reasons for his supporters to go Green in 2016 after the Democratic convention.
The Green Party's Presidential Nominating Convention will take place August 4-7 on the campus of the University of Houston in Texas ( http://www.gp.org/pnc-2016 ). Members of the media may register for credentials here ( http://www.gp.org/media-credentials ) as well as on site during the convention.
For more details about the convention, including a schedule of events, see this news advisory: http://www.gp.org/green_party_will_keep_the_political_revolution_going
• Open Letter to the Single Payer Movement from the Honorary Co-chairs of the Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention (excerpted)
We applaud your efforts to push for the health care system that we so desperately need, a national improved Medicare for All. It is outrageous that in the wealthiest country in the world we treat health care as a commodity instead of a public good and that so many people are suffering and dying of preventable causes as a result.
We know how hard you have worked to get legislators to support single payer. The vast majority of Republican legislators are against it. Many Democrats are willing to sponsor single payer legislation when Republicans are the majority, but shy away from it when the Democrats are in power. We share your frustration with this restrictive two-party system....
Imagine what it would be like if Democrats couldn’t take voters for granted, if voters could choose a political party that supported and fought for single payer health care. That would certainly change the political dynamic. Legislators would have to earn the support of voters, and the stronger the single payer party was, the stronger the single payer movement would be.
The Green Party has supported single payer health care since its beginning. In fact, improved Medicare for All is a fundamental policy for the Green Party because it satisfies the party’s values of equality, justice and reducing the wealth divide.... As honorary co-chairs of the Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention, we invite you to consider the Green Party as the political home for the single payer movement. You are welcome to attend this year’s Annual Meeting in Houston from August 4 to 7.
Margaret Flowers and James Lane
Honorary Co-chairs of the 2016 Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention
Physicians for a National Health Program
The Urban Institute’s Attack On Single Payer: Ridiculous Assumptions Yield Ridiculous Estimates
By David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, Huffington Post, May 10, 2016
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Saturday, June 11, 2016
Title Link - http://www.flushthetpp.org/public-health-must-not-resuscitate-the-trans-pacific-partnership/
By Ellen R. Shaffer on Huffington Post
Co-authored by Joe Brenner, Joshua Yang, Donald Zeigler
Two recent high-profile statements attempt to drum up support for the unpopular Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) based on faulty analyses of provisions that greatly concern public health: tobacco control, and access to medicines.
The U.S. electorate is massively opposed, across the political spectrum, to the proposed TPP. Hatched during the market triumphalism of the 1980s, modern era trade agreements like the TPP have contributed to the most lopsided inequality in income distribution since the Great Depression. They created the commercial and legal framework for outsourcing living-wage jobs, escalating the prices of critical medicines, and assigning corporate privileges globally that undermine national and local government laws and regulations on climate and the environment, labor standards and occupational safety and health, controls on tobacco, alcohol and obesogenic foods and beverages, and privatizing services such as health, education, social services, water, and corrections.
The TPP would continue and extend these policies, which significantly undermine the social and economic determinants of the public’s health. In fact, even therecent analysis by the usually complacent International Trade Commission concedes that the TPP would add virtually nothing to U.S. economic growth, while further eroding jobs in 16 out of 25 U.S. economic sectors in agriculture, manufacturing, and services. Public health must not collude with efforts to resuscitate the TPP.
Tobacco control: The American Cancer Society is urging Congress to support the TPP for one reason: because it offers limited protection for tobacco control regulations from a uniquely corporate-friendly trade mechanism known as the investor-state dispute system (ISDS). Multinational tobacco corporations have invoked ISDS to challenge effective public health protections like requiring plain packaging for cigarettes to discourage marketing to youths. But the TPP’s proposed fix is tantamount to a half-dose of antibiotics: relief if any is likely limited and short lived, while the surviving infection can mutate to roar back more powerfully.
The TPP offers each country an option to assert individually that its tobacco control measures will not be subject to pending or possible future ISDS trade challenges from corporations, rather than providing uniform protection to all TPP countries. This means that in order to exercise an “opt out,” each country must prioritize and mobilize the necessary resources to resist the inevitable tobacco industry lobbying campaigns that will oppose such efforts. Local and state governments would have no authority to opt-out.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death, worldwide. But the rest of the TPP still treats tobacco like other products, including for requirements that have proven problematic for public health in the past such as regulatory coherence. Tariffs on tobacco and tobacco products are reduced or eliminated, making cigarettes cheaper and increasing deadly consumption.
And the TPP welcome mat remains available to corporate ISDS challenges to virtually any other real or imagined infringement on corporate rights.
Access to medicines: There is ample analytical as well as ground-level evidence that trade provisions such as patents, and brand name companies’ control of clinical trial data (known as “data protections”), create and perpetuate monopolies that drive up drug prices. Trade-related restraints on access to medicines for HIV/AIDS have been well-documented and have sparked global campaigns since the late 1990s.
But a Washington Post editorial declared the TPP a “healthy agreement,” based on one report that increases in overall national spending on pharmaceuticals have been no higher in countries that already have trade agreements similar to the TPP, compared with countries that have no such agreements. In contrast to this study, the drug industry recognizes that countries vary widely in regulatory environments for drug approval and pricing, as well as income levels, and targets objectives for trade agreements accordingly.
The fact is that the unrestrained U.S. pharmaceutical market is far and away the largest and highest-priced profit center for prescription drugs in the world. Propping up U.S. prices is always the primary objective. Drug companies fight fiercely for trade rules that protect or even improve this status quo. These drug industry protections are significant barriers to access to medicines and jeopardize public health.
Studies of the effects of free trade agreements on Jordan and Guatemala did find “higher prices on patented and branded medicines, resulting from delayed competition with low-cost generics.” Equally interestingly, according to a recentIMS report “[a]fter a sharp drop in 2012, [U.S.] spending [on pharmaceuticals in 2015] grew 8.5%, driven by a wave of innovative specialty medicines … for hepatitis, autoimmune diseases, and oncology.” The vast majority of the 90 drugs currently listed as data-protected in Guatemala treat these same conditions. According to Brook Baker, the TPP would further threaten access to affordable medicines both in the U.S. and abroad.
Another world is possible. The 12-nation TPP, finalized in February, 2016, is now subject to approval by those 12 governments. In the U.S., each presidential candidate says they oppose it, as do majorities in the House and the Senate. Empty promises of a glittering 21st century trade agreement are no substitute for meaningful policies that shape a healthy global economy.
The TPP would exacerbate income inequality, entrench unaffordable prices for prescription drugs, undermine and endanger public health protections for the environment, tobacco and alcohol control, food safety, and data privacy, and generally elevate corporate rights over the public’s interest. It is on a glide path to defeat. Public health should promote its demise and replacement with international agreements that give priority to ensuring and strengthening the social determinants that improve health for all.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
#VoteGreen2016: The Green Party will enact a universal, comprehensive, national #singlepayer #health plan | #p2 #the99%
Green Party Platform: Enact a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health plan
The Green Party supports single-payer universal health care and preventive care for all. We believe that health care is a right, not a privilege.
Our current health care system lets tens of thousands of people die each year by excluding them from adequate care, while its exorbitant costs are crippling our economy. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a national health care system.
Under a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health care system, the administrative waste of private insurance corporations would be redirected to patient care. If the United States were to shift to a system of universal coverage and a single payer plan, as in Canada and many European countries, the savings in administrative costs would be more than enough to offset the cost of additional care. Expenses for businesses currently providing coverage would be reduced, while state and local governments would pay less because they would receive reimbursement for services provided to the previously uninsured, and because public programs would cease to be the "dumping ground" for high-risk patients and those rejected by health maintenance organizations (HMOs) when they become disabled and unemployed. In addition, people would gain the peace of mind in knowing that they have health care they need.
No longer would people have to worry about the prospect of financial ruin if they become seriously ill, are laid off their jobs, or are injured in an accident.
Greens support a wide range of health care services, not just traditional medicine, which too often emphasizes "a medical arms race" that relies upon high-tech intervention, surgical techniques and costly pharmaceuticals. Chronic conditions are often best cured by alternative medicine. We support the teaching, funding and practice of holistic health approaches and, as appropriate, the use of complementary and alternative therapies such as herbal medicines, homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and other healing approaches.
Greens recognize that our own health is also intimately tied to the health of our communities and environment. To improve our own health, we must improve the quality of our air, water and food and the health of our workplaces, homes and schools.
The Green Party unequivocally supports a woman's right to reproductive choice, no matter her marital status or age, and that contraception and safe, legal abortion procedures be available on demand and be included in all health insurance coverage in the U.S., as well as free of charge in any state where a woman's income falls below the poverty level. [See section A.1. Women's Rights in this chapter]
We recommend the following actions:
1. Single-Payer Health Care
Enact a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health plan that will provide the following with no increase in cost:
- A publicly funded health care insurance program, administered at the state and local levels, with comprehensive lifetime benefits, including dental, vision, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, medication coverage, and hospice and long-term care;
- Participation of all licensed and/or certified health providers, subject to standards of practice in their field, with the freedom of patients to choose the type of health care provider from a wide range of health care choices, and with decision-making in the hands of patients and their health providers, not insurance companies;
- Portability of coverage regardless of geographical location or employment;
- Cost controls via streamlined administration, national fee schedules, bulk purchases of drugs and medical equipment, coordination of capital expenditures and publicly negotiated prices of medications;
- Primary and preventive care as priorities, including wellness education about diet, nutrition and exercise; holistic health; and medical marijuana.
- More comprehensive services for those who have special needs, including the mentally ill, the differently abled and those who are terminally ill;
- A mental health care system that safeguards human dignity, respects individual autonomy, and protects informed consent;
- Greatly reduced paperwork for both patients and providers;
- Fair and full reimbursement to providers for their services;
- Hospitals that can afford safe and adequate staffing levels of registered nurses;
- Establishment of national, state, and local health policy boards consisting of health consumers and providers to oversee and evaluate the performance of the system, ensure access to care, and help determine research priorities; and
- Establishment of a National Health Trust Fund that would channel all current Federal payments for health care programs directly into the Fund, in addition to employees' health premium payments.
Friday, May 20, 2016
"The fall #debates will be the first test -- or opportunity -- for politcal #revolution" | #Election2016 #Dems #Sanders
About That Post-Bernie Movement
"The fall debates will be the first test -- or opportunity -- for political revolution"
Now that it's almost inevitable Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, the talk is turning to what will come out of Bernie Sanders' campaign after the Democratic National Convention.
Enthusiasm is growing for a post-Sanders movement. Khwaja Khusro Tariq writes "if one accepts that Hillary is the most likely Democratic nominee for president does that mean we pack it up and go home? No. We signed up for a political revolution, not just this campaign." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/khwaja-khusro-tariq/an-open-letter-to-bernie-_3_b_9779214.html)
Even Noam Chomsky is optimistic: Mr. Sanders has "mobilized a large number of young people who are saying, 'Look, we’re not going to consent anymore.' If that turns into a continuing, organized, mobilized force, that could change the country—maybe not for this election, but in the longer term" (http://usuncut.com/news/chomsky-bernie-sanders-radical)
The post-nomination Sanders movement will face its first test -- or opportunity, if you prefer -- in September. Will Mr. Sanders and his supporters demand a place for the Green Party nominee in the fall presidential debates?
Or will they look the other way while ideas they claim to support are silenced and only the Democratic and Republican nominees are allowed to participate?
The Green nominee will argue for many of the same things that Mr. Sanders has advocated, from Medicare For All to dismantling the power of the too-big-to-fail banks. The Green will go further than Mr. Sanders, calling for an end to endless war, a halt to deployment of civilian-killing drones, withholding of support for Israel's brutal suppression of Palestinian rights, and drastic cuts in military spending.
Green Party candidates don't only call for relief from the crushing debt burden suffered by college students, they call for debt forgiveness and free college tuition that can be easily covered by reducing the slice of the budget pie that goes to Pentagon contractors and military ventures.
It's essential that the ideas behind the political revolution remain in front of the public after the conventions.
The debates are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which is controlled by the two establishment parties and their corporate underwriters. The CPD took over the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters in 1988 deliberately to bar independent and alternative-party candidates and to ensure a format that poses few challenges to the D and R nominees and doesn't offend the sponsors. (See George Farah's book "No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates," http://www.amazon.com/No-Debate-Republican-Democratic-Presidential/dp/1583226303).
If limited to Clinton vs. Trump, the debates can pretend that the political revolution doesn't exist and the Sanders campaign never happened.
Will the post-nomination Sanders movement decide that helping Ms. Clinton defeat the dreaded Donald should take precedent over an airing of the demand for Medicare For All and other objectives?
No movement can be taken seriously if it tolerates the censorship of its own agenda in the most widely watched forums of the election year.
Fair and democratic debates would admit any candidate whose name is on the ballot line in enough states to win. In 2012, the Green Party's Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson should have qualified. In 2016, two legal actions filed against the CPD, the Level the Playing Field (http://www.changetherule.org) and Our America Initiative (https://www.ouramericainitiative.com) law suits, may bring inclusive debates closer to reality.
The challenge I pose here raises a broader question: Will the political revolution be independent or a subsidiary of the Democratic Party?
It's a reasonable question, given the tendency of the Democratic Party to absorb radical and progressive movements. The Situationist International, a politics-and-arts movement that reached its peak during the May 1968 uprising in France, had a word for this process, when the establishment political and media culture annexes radical ideas and neutralizes them: recuperation. (Mr. Sanders' platform is hardly radical, except in the context of today's narrow political spectrum.)
We've seen the effects of recuperation over and over in recent years: the Working Families Party, posing as an alternative but serving as a front for Dems in fusion-state New York; Occupy Democrats and 99% Spring emerging after Occupy Wall Street campers folded up their tents; the near-demise of the peace movement of the last decade, after faux-antiwar President Obama's victory in 2008. To their credit, some movements have resisted recuperation, including Black Lives Matter and local remnants of Occupy.
If the post-nomination Sanders movement is unable to declare independence from the Democratic Party, recuperation will turn it into a warmed-over version of MoveOn.
We know that the Democratic Party leadership is bent on defusing the Sanders insurgency. The Democratic National Committee has already rigged the Philadelphia convention to curb his influence. It wasn't enough just to rig the nomination against him, through the party's superdelegate system.
Here is Robert Reich, writing on his Facebook page: "The Sanders campaign had been hoping for a significant role at the Democratic convention, but [Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC] has picked 75 members of the convention’s key committees -- rules, credentials and platform – and accepted only 3 of Bernie’s choices, failing to acknowledge the proportion of the vote Bernie has won in the primaries and caucuses. Negotiations with the DNC have failed to add any additional Bernie picks to any of the standing committees. Worse yet, she’s named as chairs Hillary backers known for their harsh criticism of Bernie (among them Barnie Frank, as co-chair of the influential Rules Committee)... How [can] Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC be so obtuse?" (Posted by Mr. Reich and retrieved May 15, 2016; see also http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/bernie-sanders-dnc-rules-committee-222978)
In other words, "Forget about political revolution, shut up and vote for Hillary."
Ms. Wasserman Schultz and the DNC aren't obtuse. They're assuming what they assume every election year, that the Democratic Party can always take progressive support for granted -- that working people, those concerned about the health of the planet or enraged by gross racial disparities in the justice system, and others hoping for a better world have nowhere else to go. Will Sanders supporters like Robert Reich prove them correct again in 2016?
I hope the Sanders movement comes to a different conclusion and recognizes that we can no longer afford a paradigm limited to the two establishment parties. The D and R parties are incapable of handling the emergencies of the 21st century: an impending climate catastrophe, encroaching corporate oligarchy, the shredding of economic rights and security for working people and the safety net for the poor, mass incarceration, endless war. Both parties, despite their differences, are on the wrong side of these crises.
It's not enough to declare "We'll put pressure on the Democrats from within." The Democratic Party's aggressive marginalization of progressives, evident in the defeat of the Sanders campaign in a fixed nomination process, tells us that it's beyond rehabilitation.
Democratic leaders and their defenders in the media will continue to insist that the only real choice is between D and R, repeating what they say every election year: "This isn't the year for alternative parties and ideas. We must defeat the GOP menace."
To the extent that progressives have acquiesced, they've made themselves complicit in the country's bipartisan slide to the right. There's nothing revolutionary about a movement that retreats into an endorsement of the lesser of two evils.
Regardless of her modestly populist primary-season rhetoric, Hillary Clinton will snap back to the center-right after her nomination and even further to the right after Inauguration Day. She has already scolded those who hope for enactment of Medicare For All (despite majority support: http://www.gallup.com/poll/191504/majority-support-idea-fed-funded-healthcare-system.aspx) and restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act. Like President Obama, Ms. Clinton will stack her administration with Wall Street operatives and revolving-door experts.
Prominent Dems are pressing Bernie Sanders to exit the race, warning that his presence has delayed Ms. Clinton's ability to "pivot" (i.e., to the right) for the general election (https://www.yahoo.com/news/fearing-trump-democrats-pressure-sanders-exit-074218940--election.html). They expect Mr. Sanders' supporters to pivot too.
The biggest legacy of the Sanders campaign should be that its defeat killed illusions that we can ever expect a political revolution, or any substantial change, to come out of the Democratic Party.
The U.S. is heading in a dangerous direction whether we elect Ds or Rs. Changing that direction requires altering a political landscape that's effectively limited to the Post-Hope Party and the Post-Sanity Party. The political revolution inspired by Bernie Sanders must continue outside of the two parties of war and Wall Street or it won't continue at all.
Scott McLarty is media coordinator for the Green Party of the United States (http://www.gp.org). He lives in Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
The Dangers of Free Trade Agreements: #TTIP’s Threat to Europe’s #Elderly | #MustRead for #p2 #the99%
By Michael Hudson on CounterPunch
The most obvious approach to look at how European care for the elderly will evolve is to project technological trends and the costs of people living longer as diagnostic equipment, drug treatments and other medical science continues to improve. This kind of projection shows a rising cost to society of pensions and health care, because a rising proportion of the aging population is retiring. How will economies pay for it?
I want to point to some special problems that are looming on the political front. I assume that the reason you have invited me from America is that my country has been doing just about everything wrong in its health care. Its experience may provide an object lesson for what Europe should avoid (and indeed, has avoided up to this point).
For starters, privatization is much more expensive than European-style Single Payer public health care. Monopoly prices also are higher. And of course, fraud is a problem.
America’s Obamacare and health insurance laws have been written by political lobbyists for special interests. So has the TTIP: Transatlantische Handelsabwollen. Since George W. Bush, the U.S. Government has been prohibited from bargaining for low bulk prices from the pharmaceutical companies. Most Americans think that Health Management Organizations (HMOs) are rife with corruption and billing fraud. The insurance sector has made a killing by spending a great deal of money on bureaucratic techniques to reject patients who seem likely to require expensive health care. Doctors need to hire specialists working full time just to fill out the paperwork. Error is constant, and any visit to the doctor, even for a simple annual checkup, requires many hours by most patients on the phone with their insurance company to correct over-billing.
The dream of U.S. “free market” lobbyists to shift the costs of health care onto its users instead of as a public program. According to current plans backed both by the Republicans and by much of the Democratic Party leadership, these user costs ideally would be paid bypre-saving in special “health savings” accounts, to be managed by Wall Street banks as a kind of mutual fund (with all the financial risks this entails – the same kind of risks that are troubling most U.S. pension funds today).
The reason why the U.S. discussion of health care for the elderly is so relevant for Europeans is that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that President Barack Obama pushed on German Chancellor Angela Merkel two weeks ago. It poses a far-reaching threat to European policies.
The agreement has been drawn up in secret, and has only been available to Congressmen in a special room as a read-only copy. Not even Congressional staff have been permitted to see the details. The reason is that the terms of the TTIP are so awful that it could never be approved by voters. That is why the lobbyists for banks, insurance companies, drug companies, oil and gas companies and other special interests that wrote the law are trying to bypass democratic government and going directly to Brussels – and in the United States to the Executive Branch of government.
The aim of the TTIP is to replace the application of national laws with special courts of referees nominated by the special interests. This includes the organization of health care. Last week Britain’s main labor union, Unite, warned that the TTIP would mean that the National Health Service would have to be wound down and privatized. Although “Austria, Germany, Greece and Italy do have explicit reservations in the TTIP text to protect existing rules relating to healthcare,” the privatization lobbyist strategy is to have the treaty “provisionally applied” to force matters, by backing compliant politicians. Objections will be sidestepped as the “provisional’ law becomes a fait accompli.
I think that the best perspective that I can give you is to discuss how the various interest groups are working to shape political decisions regarding the public and private role of health care. This is an area I have been involved with for forty years. In 1976, I contributed the economic section for two reports by The Futures Group in Glastonbury, Connecticut for the National Science Foundation analyzing the economic and financial consequences of life‑extending technology: When We Live Longer: Prospects for America (with Herb Gurjuoy et al., 1977) and A Technology Assessment of Life-Extending Technologies (Vol. 5: Demography, Economics and Aging, 1977). I believe these were the first reports to pinpoint the implications for the Social Security system of an aging population and its inter-generational financial tensions.
American politicians and economic futurists were concerned with the effect on public health budgets of a rising proportion of the population able to live out the maximum present human lifespan of 125 years (called “squaring” the life expectancy curve). What is the best public response to what should be a dream being realized? More to the point, how should governments cope with special interests seeking merely to profiteer from such breakthroughs – and use their promise in an extortionate manner?
Every interest group has its own perspective. Most politicians in the United States are lawyers, and they worried that the Social Security, pension and health care contracts were a legal right that could not be broken or modified. President Eisenhower had called Social Security the “third rail” of American politics – meaning that any politician or party that sought to downgrade its promises would quickly be voted out of office.
It was obvious that a population living longer would receive more Social Security and pension payments, and that a rising proportion of national income would be spent on their health care. Some of the politicians I talked to were so pessimistic about the costs involved that one said that he was sorry that kidney dialysis procedures had been invented, because with so many people having kidney problems, it would cost a fortune to provide this service to everyone who medically needed it.
Some politicians sought ways to not to fund expensive medical technologies – on the ground that if these were developed, the government might have an obligation to supply the most expensive technologies (especially dialysis and organ transplants) to the population at large. The costs of doing this would absorb nearly all the economic growth.
One set of futures envisioned that the more costly medical treatments might become available only on islands – in the Caribbean, for instance. After all, did not Hippocrates practice on the island of Cos?
As forecast decades ago, health care is the most sharply rising cost in the United States. What none of us were cynical enough to forecast was the corrupt role played by special interests in maximizing the costs by treating each element of health care as a profit center – indeed, as an opportunity to extract monopoly rent.
Privatization of health insurance under Obamacare has been a bonanza for the financial sector and the insurance industry. Initially a Republican “free market” proposal, it required the Democratic Party in power to disable popular pressure for “Medicare for all” in the form of single payer public health care. No discussion within Congress was even permitted to favor public health care. (I was economic advisor to Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, whom the Democratic Party leadership blocked from even discussing a public option in the Congressional debate.)
The enormous power of lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry bought the loyalty of politicians who blocked anti-trust laws from being applied against the drug companies. As I noted earlier, these lobbyists even succeeded in blocking the government from negotiating directly with the drug companies over prices.
I mention these points because the U.S. solution should serve as an object lesson for what European and other countries should avoid in managing their care for the elderly. This is especially important to Europe, because its neoliberal policies favoring the financial sector imply a slow economic crash squeezing household and employer budgets. Five concerns are paramount.
Triage: restricting the most expensive health care only to the wealthy
Lower incomes lead to shorter lifespans as a result of worse health, and also suicides. Marriage and birth rates also are lower as economies polarize and growth slows. Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and other post-Soviet states show this – and it may be a forecast of European experience. This raises the ratio of elderly to working-age populations. A slowly growing labor force must support more and more retirees.
Studies in almost every country have shown that health standards and lifespans are polarizing between wealthy and poor. A recent U.S. study notes: “The life-expectancy gap between rich and poor in the United States is actually accelerating. Since 2001, American men among the nation’s most affluent 5 percent have seen their lifespans increase by more than two years. American women in that bracket have registered an almost three-year extension to their life expectancy. Meanwhile, the poorest five percent of Americans have seen essentially no gains at all.”
This has important implications regarding recent proposals to raise the retirement age at which people can qualify for Social Security. Only the well to do are living longer, not blue-collar labor. Raising the retirement age would deprive the latter of the retirement years that better-paid individuals enjoy as a result of their healthier lives.
I mentioned above one scenario drawn by futurists: that the best medical care might only be available in “medical islands” or their equivalent in the United States, called “Cadillac health insurance plans.”
Blaming the victims for their unhealthy environment as the problem were their “personal responsibility.”
George W. Bush recommended that the poor simply should go to hospital emergency wards when they get sick. This obviously is the most expensive approach. Prevention is by far more economical. But public moves along this line are being fought tooth and nail by the tobacco and soft-drink industries, and other purveyors of bad health.
Better health and longer lifespans are achieved not only by advanced medical technology, but by better public health standards, and personal diets and exercise. The most serious behaviors impairing health and longevity are smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and eating junk foods to the point of obesity. In the United States, childhood diabetes is rising sharply, especially among racial and ethnic minorities, and the poor in general.
An obvious way to keep down health expenditures is to lead a more healthy life. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg sought to ban the sale of large sugar-drink servings. Lawyers for the junk-food industry, supported by fast food restaurants and movie theaters, blocked his initiative. And an even more powerful legal tool to block public health warnings is contained in the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These proposed treaties follow the earlier North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in le0vying enormous fines on government who warn populations of the dangers of smoking or other unhealthy behavior that is highly profitable to cigarette companies, soft drink “sugar water” makers, and fast food restaurants selling food-like substances that give little nourishment. Under the proposed neoliberal agreement being put in the hands of Brussels politicians by American lobbyists, government warnings of the health hazards of smoking will require these governments to pay the tobacco companies what they would have earned if cigarette sales had not declined as a result of these warnings! Fines already have been levied against Australia for seeking to improve public health by requiring such warnings on cigarette packages. A recent Australian report concludes:
Tobacco policies implemented in the past have been effective at decreasing overall rates of smoking, but new and innovative interventions will be needed in the future to affect change in all populations.
Six chapters were identified with potential to limit governments’ ability to implement tobacco control policies. The key chapters are: investment, particularly the ISDS mechanism; rules related to trademarks in intellectual property, regulatory coherence, cross-border services and technical barriers to trade. … Multiple chapters may also interact with the potential for amplified effects on tobacco control. Various provisions in these parts of the TPP may provide the tobacco industry with greater influence over policymaking and more avenues to contest tobacco control measures, as well as preventing governments from introducing new policies.
Last week the European Court of Justice upheld the 2014 Tobacco Products Directive against challenges from British-American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris. Like similar laws in other countries, the European law called for public warnings on cigarette packs telling smokers that nicotine kills. But the tobacco companies vowed to fight back, and the TTIP is now their major hope.
Dangers of privatization of health law under the TTIP
A recent British article lays out the problem:
A salient goal of TTIP is to shadow the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS), an instrument of public international law granting firms the right to raise an action in a tribunal on the basis that a state’s policies have harmed their commercial interests. … The economist Max Otte has called ISDS ‘a complete disempowerment of politics’. The tribunals are confidential, as is usual in arbitration. Negotiations over ISDS within TTIP are also secret, the aim being to get the ink dry on the agreement before it can provoke opposition by being made public. …As the Economist put it, ‘if you wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do.’
Dangers of financialization
The most efficient way to finance care for the elderly – and pensions – remains pay-as-you-go planning. This is becoming difficult in a neoliberal political environment with shrinking economic growth and consequent demographic shrinkage. The horror story today is a Ukraine-like situation where the labor force has fled, leaving the elderly to be supported without much of a social budget. That is becoming the post-Soviet model, from East Germany to the Baltics.
The American situation is worse, because Social Security, Medicare and pensions are front-loaded by being financialized – paid for in advance. For decades, savings have been set aside in the form of stock and bond purchases. The problem is that when more workers retire than are contributing to the pension plan or similar plans, their prices will decline. This will leave the retirement plan under-funded.
As interest rates have been reduced to nearly zero since 2008 by Quantitative Easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve and now European Central Bank, pension funds and insurance companies have become desperate to meet their statistically required targets. They have turned to gambling on complex financial derivatives – and have lost heavily, because their managers are no match for Wall Street sharpies.
It may be appropriate here to note the monetary madness of the eurozone not having a central bank to monetize budget deficits to spend into the economy to help it grow. That is the proper function of a real central bank, from the Bank of England to the U.S. Federal Reserve System. European voters are being frightened by junk economics claiming that only commercial banks should create money and credit, not central banks. The reality is that central banks can create the money to fund health programs without inflating the economy. What would inflate health care costs, especially proper care for the elderly, would be privatization and a relinquishing of health policy to the large corporations best in a position to profiteer.
Danger of trade agreements raising the cost of drugs and medical technology
The technological medical revolution involves high rent-extracting opportunities, especially in treating the elderly. The Australian study cited above notes the dangers posed by the TPP (and hence also by its European version) to public health expenditure, especially health costs for the elderly. Designed largely to protect “intellectual property rights,” the proposed treaty aims to increase monopolyrent extraction by the pharmaceutical sector.
Provisions proposed for the TPP that have the potential to limit implementation of new food labelling requirements in Australia include the ISDS mechanism; the regulatory coherence chapter and technical barriers to trade chapter. Provisions in these parts of the TPP have the potential to restrict policymakers to regulate using the most effective public health nutrition instruments. For example, the food industry could argue that introduction of mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling would be a technical barrier to trade. Without strong compensatory intervention to improve consumer awareness of the relative healthfulness of foods, it is likely that there will be no change to current high rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome and non-communicable diseases. This would have a negative impact on health, particularly for vulnerable populations.
For starters, the trade agreement limits the ability of public or community pharmacies to bargain for lower drug prices. Also, any attempt at anti-monopoly legislation would require governments to pay the foreign producers or investors as much money as they wouldhave earned if no “interference with markets” (that is, regulation of monopoly prices) had existed. This would sharply increase the cost of healthcare, and “many TPP provisions proposed during the negotiations are likely to be harmful to health.”
There is sufficient evidence which show that increases in the cost of medicines lead to greater patient copayments through the PBS, and that increases in patient copayments lead to lower rates of prescription use. Changes to prescription costs impact particularly on vulnerable populations who have less capacity to accommodate increased out-of-pocket expenses such as women, elderly adults, cultural and linguistic minorities, and low-income populations; people with chronic disease; geographically remote communities; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
Many provisions proposed for the TPP had the potential to increase the cost of medicines. These were identified in leaked drafts of the intellectual property chapter; the healthcare transparency annex; and the investment chapter, which includes an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. These provisions, if adopted, could be expected to lead to an increase in the costs of managing the PBS by delaying the availability of generic medicines, and constraining the ability of the PBS to contain costs. An increase in the cost of the PBS to government would be likely to lead to higher copayments for patients.
European sponsors of U.S.-style neoliberalism pose a threat of transforming European politics, and with it the structure of economies and society. Enormous sums of money are being spent on public relations, and to support politicians willing to shepherd corporate monopoly power against that of democratic government and voters. The most serious threat to European health care and care for the aging population in general is pressure from U.S. firms and diplomats to ram through the TTIP.
It is much more than a free trade agreement. Its “investor dispute” mechanism threatens to disenfranchise governments. The intent is to block them from protecting Europe’s economy, population and basic social philosophy that has developed over the past century of social democracy.
That is why so many of us in the United States also are fighting against this agreement. It has been a major issue in this year’s presidential campaign. Republican nominee Donald Trump has affirmed that the public option is by far the most economic. And Democratic contender Bernie Sanders has opposed Hillary Clinton’s support for her patrons on Wall Street and in the pharmaceutical monopolies. I hope that a similar fight will be waged in Europe.
This is the text of Michael Hudson’s speech to SANICADEMIA, May 9, 2016 in Villach, Austria for the 5th International Congress on Geriatrics and Gerontology = 59th Austrian Convention for Hospital Management, “We’re Living Longer: The healthcare challenges for today and tomorrow.”
 Hazel Sheffield, “TTIP could cause an NHS sell-off and UK Parliament would be powerless to stop it, says leading union,” The Independent, April 29 2016.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/ttip-could-cause-an-nhs-sell-off-and-parliament-would-be-powerless-to-stop-it-says-leading-union-a7006471.html
 Sam Pizzigati, “Inequality Kills: Top 1% Lives 15 Years Longer Than the Poorest,” Naked Capitalism, May 3, 2016, originally published at Other Words.http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/05/inequality-kills-top-1-lives-15-years-longer-than-the-poorest.html
 Katherine Hirono, Fiona Haigh, Deborah Gleeson, Patrick Harris, Anne Marie Thow and Sharon Frie, “Is health impact assessment useful in the context of trade negotiations? A case study of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement,” April 4, 2016.http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/4/e010339.full. The report notes: “The final agreement also included an optional tobacco carve-out from ISDS, allowing TPP countries to prevent the use of ISDS to challenge tobacco control measures. Yet even these apparent ‘wins’ have some limitations. Unlike tobacco, the health system, food and alcohol were not carved out from ISDS, leaving these policy areas vulnerable to claims by foreign investors. While various safeguards have been included to try and protect public health, experts have raised doubts about whether they will be sufficient.”
 Glen Newey, “Investors v. States,” London Review of Books blog, April 29, 2016. http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2016/04/29/glen-newey/investors-v-states/
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Green Party of the United States
This release is online at http://www.gp.org/the_green_party_recognizes_five_candidates_for_the_green_presidential_nomination
Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-904-7614, firstname.lastname@example.org
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, email@example.com
Rich Zitola, Co-Chair of the Presidential Campaign Support Committee, 617-543-2579, firstname.lastname@example.org
Holly Hart, Co-Chair of the Presidential Campaign Support Committee, 319-331-9616, email@example.com
The Green Party recognizes five candidates for the Green presidential nomination
• The Green Party will hold its 2016 National Convention in Houston, Aug. 4-7
• Presidential Candidates page: http://www.gp.org/2016_presidential_candidates
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Green Party of the United States has recognized five candidates for the party's presidential nomination.
The presidential and vice-presidential nominees will be chosen at the 2016 Green Presidential Nominating Convention, which will take place in Houston, Texas, from August 4 to 7.
The five candidates are:
• Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry ( http://www.facebook.com/skcmcurryforpresident )
• Jill Stein ( http://www.jill2016.com )
• Darryl Cherney ( http://www.feelthechern.com )
• William P. Kreml ( http://www.billkreml.org )
• Kent Mesplay ( http://mesplay.org )
For contact information, see the candidates' web sites or the Green Party's Presidential Candidates page ( http://www.gp.org/2016_presidential_candidates ).
In the 2012 election, the Green Party had presidential ballot lines in 37 states including the District of Columbia, reaching 82% of voters. As of January 1, 2016, the Green Party is already on the ballot in 22 states, is actively petitioning in eight other states, and is aiming for ballot lines in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
As of December 30, the Green Party's Presidential Campaign Support Committee determined that all five had sufficiently met the requirements to be officially recognized by the party.
Requirements for recognition include evidence of support from at least 100 party members across the country, completion of a questionnaire stating the campaign's main issues and strategy, and a pledge to appear on all available state Green Party ballot lines ( http://gpus.org/national-committee/rules-and-procedures-of-the-green-party-of-the-united-states/#10 ).
Green presidential contenders must also file with the FEC and meet
fundraising milestones in order to maintain recognized status ( http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/candcmte_info.shtml ).
The requirements for recognition are meant to show a candidate's level of campaign organization, campaign strategy, and positions on issues, and help the party determine which candidates are seriously seeking the nomination.
The process helps state Green Parties decide which candidates to place before their members during the 2016 primaries and at statewide conventions and caucuses in preparation for the nominating convention. Each state Green Party has its own procedure for apportioning delegates. (See http://gpus.org/other-committes/presidential-campaign-support/how-seek-green-presidential-nomination-2016 )
The Green Party has demanded that Green presidential nominees be allowed to participate in post-nomination debates and is currently a plaintiff in two lawsuits against the Commission on Presidential Debates (see http://www.gp.org/newsroom/press-releases/details/4/797 and http://gp.org/press/pr-national.php?ID=819 ).
The Green nominees in previous presidential election years were Dr. Stein and Cheri Honkala (2012), Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente (2008), David Cobb and Pat LaMarche (2004), and Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke (2000 and 1996).