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The Republicans are poised to unveil a model budget on Tuesday that would effectively end Medicare by privatizing it, Steve Benen reports in the Washington Monthly. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) is touting the budget as a strategy to reduce the national debt.
Ryan’s plan would turn Medicare from a single-payer system to a “premium support” system. “Premium support” is a euphemism for the government giving up to $15,000 per person, per year, to insurance companies to defray the cost of a health insurance policy.
As Benen points out, privatizing Medicare does nothing to contain health care costs. On the contrary, as insurance customers weary of double-digit premium increases can attest, private insurers have a miserable track record of containing costs. They excel at denying care and coverage, but that’s not the same thing.
The only way the government would save money under Ryan’s proposal is by paying a flat rate in vouchers. Medicare covers the full cost of medical treatments, but private insurers are typically much less generous. So, after paying into Medicare all their working lives, Americans currently 55 and younger would get vouchers for part of their health insurance and still have to pay out-of-pocket to approach the level of benefits that Medicare currently provides.
Taking aim at Medicaid
The poor are easy targets for Republican budget-slashing, Jamelle Bouie writes on TAPPED. Ryan’s proposal would also cut $1 trillion over the next 10 years from Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor, by eliminating federal matching and providing all state funding through block grants. Most of this money would come from repealing the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which is slated to add 15 million people to Medicaid.
Block grants are cuts in disguise. Currently, Medicaid is an entitlement program, which means that states have to enroll everyone who is eligible, regardless of the state’s ability to pay. In return, the states get federal matching funds for each person in the program. Ryan and the Republicans want to change Medicaid into a block grant program where the federal government simply gives each state a lump sum to spend on Medicaid. The states want to use this new found “flexibility” to cut benefits, narrow eligibility criteria, and generally gut the program.
This is incredibly short-sighted. The current structure of Medicaid ensures extra federal funding for every new patient. So when unemployment rises and large numbers of new patients become eligible for Medicaid, the states get extra federal money for each of them. But with a block grant, the states would just have to stretch the existing block grants or find money from somewhere else in their budgets. Medicaid rolls surge during bad economic times, so a block grant system could make state budget crises even worse.
Ryan’s proposal has no chance of becoming law as long as Democrats control the Senate. The main purpose of the document is to lay out a platform for the 2012 elections.
Fake debt crisis
In The Nation, sociologist and activist Frances Fox Piven argues that the Republicans are hyping the debt threat to justify cuts to social programs:
Corporate America’s unprovoked assault on working people has been carried out by manufacturing a need for fiscal austerity. We are told that there is no more money for essential human services, for the care of children, or better public schools, or to help lower the cost of a college education. The fact is that big banks and large corporations are hoarding trillions in cash and using tax loopholes to bankrupt our communities.
She notes that Republican-backed tax cuts for the wealthy are a major contributor to the debt.
Jesus was a non-union carpenter?
Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones reports on the religious right’s crusade against unions. He notes that James Dobson of the socially conservative Family Research Council tweeted: “Pro-family voters should celebrate WI victory b/c public & private sector union bosses have marched lock-step w/liberal social agenda.”
Harkinson reports that the Family Research Council is backing the Republican incumbent, David Prosser, in today’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election–a battle that has become a proxy fight over Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining bill:
The FRC’s new political action committee, the Faith, Family, Freedom Fund, is airing ads on 34 Wisconsin radio stations in an effort to influence the April 5 judicial election that could ultimately decide the fate of the law. The ads target Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, who’s running against a conservative incumbent, David Prosser, for a seat on the state Supreme Court. If elected, Kloppenburg would alter the balance on the court in favor of Democrats, giving them the ability to invalidate the recently enacted ban on public-employee collective bargaining. “Liberals see her as their best hope to advance their political agenda and strike down laws passed by a legislature and governor elected by the people,” say the ads. “A vote for Prosser is a vote to keep politics out of the Supreme Court.”
Roger Bybee of Working In These Times argues that recalling Republican state senators in Wisconsin is not enough to defend workers’ rights from Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union onslaught.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.
by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger
With millions of Americans out of work, House Republicans are focusing in on real priorities: decimating private abortion coverage and crippling public funding for abortion, as Jessica Arons reports in RH Reality Check.
In AlterNet, Amanda Marcotte notes that the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, or H.R. 3, also redefines rape as “forcible rape” in order to determine whether a patient is eligible for a Medicaid-funded abortion. Under the Hyde Amendment, government-funded insurance programs can only cover abortions in cases of rape and incest, or to save the life of the mother. Note that the term “forcible rape” is legally meaningless. Supporters of the bill just want to go on the record as saying that a poor 13-year-old girl pregnant by a 30-year-old should be forced to give birth.
Feminist blogger Sady Doyle has launched a twitter campaign against the bill under the hashtag #dearjohn, a reference to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Tweet to let him know how you feel about a bill that discriminates against 70% of rape victims because their rapes weren’t violent enough for @johnboehner, append the hashtag #dearjohn. (more…)
By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium Blogger
Over 100,000 people are believed dead after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday afternoon. The quake buried countless buildings, from shantytowns to the presidential palace. All hospitals in Port-au-Prince have been leveled or abandoned. The United Nations headquarters and the city’s main prison have collapsed as well. Thousands of residents are homeless and without food, water, or electricity.
On the ground in Port-au-Prince
Haiti is in a state of chaos, as Kayla Coleman reports for Care2. “The streets…are flooded with the rubble of collapsed buildings and displaced people. … The earthquake has destroyed much of the already fragile and overburdened infrastructure.”
Because all hospitals have been destroyed, there is nowhere to take the injured. According to Coleman, the United Nations says it will immediately release $10 million from its emergency fund to aid relief efforts.
Haiti before the earthquake
And though Americans are now paying attention to Haiti in the wake of this disaster, little to no attention was paid to the “daily chaos and misery” that plagues the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, as James Ridgeway writes for Mother Jones. “It is hard to imagine what a magnitude 7 earthquake might do to a city that on any ordinary day already resembles a disaster area.”
Ridgeway also cites a 2006 New York Times report that details how the Bush administration helped destabilize Haiti in the years leading up to the 2004 coup.
“For the most part, Europe and the United States have continued to sit by as Haiti has grown poorer and poorer. When I was there you could find the children just outside Cite Soleil, the giant slum, living in the garbage dump, waiting for the U.S. army trucks to dump the scraps left from the meals of American soldiers. There they stood, knee deep in garbage, fighting for bits of food. As for the old, they people every street, gathering at the Holiday Inn at Port-au-Prince in wheelchairs, waiting at the doorway in search of a coin or two. They have no social safety net. And nobody with any money—no bank, no insurance company, no hedge fund, no mutual fund—ever makes any serious investment in the country.”
Will prevailing attitudes towards Haiti change?
At RaceWire, Michelle Chen writes that Haiti, a place “where buildings have been known to suddenly collapse on their own, even without the help of a natural disaster,” was still trying to recover from the severe tropical storms last spring that leveled hundreds of schools and left tens of thousands homeless.
Now the situation is desperate. “There will be an outpouring of sympathy across borders, a spasm of humanitarian aid,” Chen writes. But “will there be an attitude shift in the power structures that have long compounded natural disaster with politically manufactured crisis?”
‘Supporting the right kind of aid’
For those in Haiti, outside help is crucial. The country is in need of search and rescue volunteers, field hospitals, emergency health, water purification, and telecommunications. To ensure that you are supporting the right kind of aid—”the kind that builds local self-resilience, strengthens the local economy, and fosters local leadership,” as Sarah van Gelder details for Yes! Magazine—donate to one or more groups with a proven track record, such as Doctors without Borders, Grassroots International, Partners in Health, and Action Aid, among others.
Hip-hop artist and Haitian native Wyclef Jean has led efforts to help Haiti for years through his charity Yele Haiti. Jessica Calefati at Mother Jones reports that Yele spends $100,000 a year on athletic programs for Haitian children and helps feed 50,000 people a month with food donated by the UN. When Jean received word of the disaster, he immediately acted, sending a “flurry of tweets” for people to donate $5 by texting 501501. He has already returned to Haiti to help.
How you can help
GritTV aired a segment on Haiti featuring Danny Glover, Marie St. Cyr, and a performance by the Welfare Poets. The video (below) covers the devastation in Haiti after the quake as well as the state of the country prior to the crisis:
How not to help
For an example of how not to help in a time of crisis, take a look at televangelist Pat Robertson, who claimed yesterday that the quake was Haiti’s payback for a “pact with the devil” that slaves made to obtain independence from French colonials. As a rebuttal, Afro-Netizen points out how Haiti’s liberation greatly benefited the United States, and Tracy Viselli at Care2 writes that “if there is a god, Pat Robertson is one of the devil’s pied pipers.”
More coverage of the crisis
For more information about relief efforts in Haiti, what you can do to help, and some historical context, check out the below list of coverage by Media Consortium members.
- Video from the Real News Network on how World Bank policies led to famine in Haiti.
- Garry Pierre-Pierre of Inter Press Service reports on humanitarian efforts of Haitian-American leaders in New York.
- Monica Potts explains why Americans should concentrate on our policies toward Haiti for The American Prospect.
- Erin Rosa at Campus Progress writes about Ansel Herz, a young journalist that is on the ground at Haiti.
- Video from The UpTake of President Obama’s pledge to send aid.
This post is a special report on Haiti and features links to the best independent, progressive reporting by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. For more updates, follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.