On The Monitor this week:
- Is the Affordable Care Act imploding and beyond repair? We discuss the topic with John Geyman.
- Comey, Clinton, and the politics of investigations – an interview with Coleen Rowley.
- Reminder – this coming Thursday Greg Palast is coming to Houston and there is a screening of his movie The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. This is a single screening on one night only. Full Details here.
More about this week’s guests:
John Geyman is professor emeritus of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine from 1976 to 1990. As a family physician with over 25 years in academic medicine, he has also practiced in rural communities for 13 years. He was the founding editor of The Journal of Family Practice (1973 to 1990) and the editor of The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine from 1990 to 2003. He is a past president of Physicians for a National Health Program.
Quote: “Premium increases for 2017 under the Affordable Care Act are being reported in a number of states (e.g. 59 percent in Minnesota up to 119 percent in Arizona), typically associated with reduced choice of health plans as more insurers exit the market. The costs of health insurance and health care already exceed $25,000 a year for a family of four on an average employer-sponsored plan as these increases become unaffordable and unsustainable for a growing part of our population.” His recent piece lists a host of problems with the ACA, as well as proposals by Hillary Clinton and Republicans. He writes: “Multiple studies have demonstrated that in the U.S. we could save about $500 billion a year by enacting a nonprofit single-payer national health program that streamlines administration. Those savings would be sufficient to guarantee everyone high-quality care, with no cost sharing, on a sustainable basis. The system could also negotiate lower drug prices. Studies over the past two decades have shown 3 of 5 Americans supporting an improved version of Medicare for all. Support for single payer is also growing among doctors and other health care professionals. Yet the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676 (Rep. John Conyers’ bill), with 62 co-sponsors, sits neglected in a House committee.” Geyman is the author of more than a dozen books. The most recent are:
• Health Care Wars: How Market Ideology and Corporate Power are Killing Americans (2012),
• Souls on a Walk: An Enduring Love Story Unbroken by Alzheimer’s (2013)
• How Obamacare is Unsustainable: Why We Need a Single-Payer Solution for All Americans (2015) won a National Nonfiction Book Award
• The Human Face of ObamaCare: Promises vs. Reality and What Comes Next (2016)
Coleen Rowley is a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures — was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She now writes op-eds for Consortium News.
Quote: “Given the beating that FBI Director James Comey is taking from Democratic leaders and partisans as well as from the Clinton campaign, it would be good to remember some of his history. Back in 2013, I wrote a New York Times op-ed [“Questions for the F.B.I. Nominee“] that attempted to question and point out some of the (mostly undeserved) basis for Comey’s reputation for integrity. My op-ed came out the day of his Senate confirmation hearing accompanied by a nice torture graphic (although the Times watered it down a little; for instance, they made me change the word ‘torture.’ We settled on: ‘He ultimately approved the C.I.A.’s list of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding, which experts on international law consider a form of torture.’). The op-ed had little effect as Comey sailed through the nomination with full bipartisan support and only one Senator voting against his confirmation. Comey is neither saint nor villain but someone who has been around the block. As an acting Attorney General, he’s actually been in his nominal boss’s Loretta Lynch’s exact position and knows how the political pressures as well as media disclosures (i.e. leaking to the public) work. Although he wasn’t really challenging mass surveillance of American citizens or the CIA’s use of torture back March 2004 in Ashcroft’s hospital room, he did stand up to John Yoo’s (presidentially ordained) pettifoggery establishing a form of martial law after 9-11, based on (fascistic) ‘imperial presidency’ war powers. Considering his background, I think Comey could be truly worried about the high level of corruption that has engulfed Washington D.C. It should be recalled that he appointed Patrick Fitzgerald as an independent prosecutor to investigate Bush-Cheney’s ‘Plamegate’ perfidy. And don’t forget a young Comey helped investigate the Clintons’ ‘Whitewater’ fraud over two decades ago. Yet after his stint at the Department of Justice, Comey went on to become a Vice-President and General Counsel for Lockheed Martin which donates to and has numerous ties to the Clintons and their Foundation.”
On The Monitor this week:
- The misconstrued relationship between automation and wage inequality, with John Schmitt
- The gap between rhetoric and reality in Hillary Clinton’s assessments of Bernie Sanders’ healthcare plan, with Gerald Friedman
More about this week’s guests:
John Schmitt is research director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and co-author of the piece, “Don’t Blame the Robots: Assessing the Job Polarization Explanation of Growing Wage Inequality.” (co-authored with Heidi Shierholz — who is now the chief economist at the Labor Department — and Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute). You can follow John on Twitter here.
Background: President Obama said in his State of the Union address: “Now, what is true — and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious — is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up. Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.”
Schmitt Quote: “Technological change is not the force behind rising inequality. Technological change has been a constant feature of the economy throughout the entire 20th century, with no obvious associated increase in wage or income inequality for much of that period. As many researchers have also noted, the timing of the microcomputer revolution doesn’t match well with the jump in inequality. The largest increase in wage inequality took place in the few years between 1979 and 1982, well before personal computers, let alone the Internet, had transformed workplaces. And, the pace of growth in wage inequality slowed somewhat even as computerization spread steadily in the late 1980s and 1990s. Technology is also not well suited to explain important dimensions of wage inequality by gender, race, and age.
On this week’s show:
- New Study on Campaign Cash Behind the National Surveillance State – an interview with Paul Jorgensen
- The Complexity “Baked into Obamacare” – an interview with Philip Caper
More about this week’s guests:
Paul Jorgensen is assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas Pan American and a lab fellow of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University. With Thomas Ferguson and Jie Chen, he just completed a major study of campaign finance in the 2012 election. They summarize their results on AlterNet: “Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State.”
Quote: “As the storm over surveillance broke, we were completing a statistical analysis of campaign contributions in 2012, using an entirely new dataset that we constructed from the raw material provided by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. … In our big sample, which pretty well approximates ‘business as a whole,’ Obama trailed far behind Romney.”
But they continue: “In sharp contrast to … claims that big business was deeply suspicious of the president, our statistical results show that a large and powerful bloc of ‘industries of the future’ — telecommunications, high tech, computers, and software — showed essentially equal or higher percentages of support for the president in 2012 than they did for Romney.
“We think this finding is the most significant of all: Firms in many of the industries directly involved in the surveillance programs were relative bastions of support for the president.
“Bush and Cheney may have invented it, but national Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in this 21st century National Surveillance State and the interest group pressures that now help to sustain its defenders in Washington work just as powerfully on Democrats as on Republicans.”
They add that “we do not believe that it would be impossible to strike a reasonable balance between the demands of security and freedom that accords with traditional Fourth Amendment principles. … But a system dominated by firms that want to sell all your data working with a government that seems to want to collect nearly all of it through them is unlikely to produce that.”
A preliminary version of their longer study, with several tables, is available as a Roosevelt Institute Working Paper: “Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections: Who’s Really Driving the Taxi to the Dark Side?“
Philip Caper is a doctor in Portland, Maine and regular columnist at the Bangor Daily News. He is a founding board member of Maine AllCare, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group committed to making health care in Maine universal, accessible and affordable for all. He recently wrote the piece “The High Costs of Complexity in Health Care Reform.” Caper said today: “The problem with the ACA is not that the federal government is involved, but that literally thousands of private insurers have their fingers in the cookie jar, resulting in a law that is much too complicated for what it needs to accomplish, and too complex for anybody to administer efficiently and effectively. … Together, Medicare and Social Security — both run by the federal government — have been successfully providing access to private health care and income security for millions of seniors and the disabled for almost 50 years. They have been a major factor in keeping seniors in our country out of poverty. … We need expanded and improved Medicare-for-All. And we need to vote any politician who won’t advance us toward that goal out of office.”