Saturday, August 25, 2012

Women, Choice and Power

Turns out, women are a key voting bloc in the upcoming election. It's up to us not only to get each other engaged, and voting. but to demand credible commitments that address our concerns.

Here are our choices heading into the political conventions:

A Republican Party fueled with unprecedented gushers of corporate cash that draws political life support from the medieval wing of several fundamentalist religions, whose fantastical beliefs about women's biology are rooted in their ironclad devotion to patriarchy.

A Democratic Party also overly dependent on the parasitic finance sector, that is now reaching back to the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act of 2009 to symbolize its commitment to women's economic empowerment. It depends for political fuel in no small part on the indisputable fact that the Republicans are profoundly scary.

Polls show the 2 running neck in neck.

In fact, this election offers women a clear choice. The Republican platform would make criminals of the 30% of American women who've had an abortion (including me, once because of a fetal anomaly diagnosed in my second trimester). The Affordable Care Act, which Paul Ryan has voted repeatedly to repeal, assures more affordable birth control and extends Medicare's financial health, in contrast to Ryan's proposal to privatize it.

But it's not enough to debunk the opposition's lies, or to point out that they rely on stoking fear and anger. Some recent polls of women who are not politically active show that they do react viscerally to the demeaning insults slung by decision-makers they perceive as "mean, old, white men." But they are living difficult lives, bounded not only by state legislatures that snatch away their birth control and penalize them for their reproductive decisions, but by extensive financial hardship. One quote: "I'm happy this month that I haven't had to sell plasma to feed my children."

So here are some things to call for in Charlotte:

1. An iron clad commitment to preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare. These two programs form the bedrock of women's financial security as we age. They are under attack explicitly by the Republicans. And too frequently for comfort, our side also periodically lip synchs the lies about the needs to reform these "entitlements." Let's hear Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirm that the programs are solvent, and that they will not compromise on preserving and improving these programs.

2. It's great that Nancy Keenan of NARAL and Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood will be speaking. Women's rights to make their own decisions about their reproductive health are fundamental to our economic and personal wellbeing, including access to legal, affordable birth control and abortion. We hope their introductions will include words of support from HHS and the Surgeon General.

3. Finally: Lots of women. On the podium, speaking, in charge, active, visible, and vocal. Women of all races, and for that matter, candidates for races. We know who the top ticket nominees are. Let's give a boost to the EMILY's List all-star roster of pro-choice Democratic women candidates, people like Maggie Hassan for governor of New Hampshire, Congressional candidates like Grace Meng, Christie Vilsack, Val Demings, and Tammy Duckworth, and Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin for Senate, and of course, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill. Since Canadian-born former governor Jennifer Granholm can't run for president, nominate her now for a Cabinet post, if she wants one, and give her air time.

We're going to write checks, emails and op eds, as well as getting out the vote. We have power. Let's recognize and exercise it.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan: Marching Backwards on Medicare

Let's get one thing perfectly straight:  Paul Ryan wants to end Medicare.

His 2012 proposal is less straightforward about it than his 2011 proposal.

It would, nevertheless, end Medicare. And the Affordable Care Act.

Single payer/Medicare for All?  Fuhggedaboudit.

Here's  quick back-of-the-envelope on how it shapes up:

Medicare Now
Old Ryan Plan
"New" Ryan Plan
Age you are eligible
67, increase starting 2023
67, complete by 2034
Privatization initiatives
Drug plan, Medicare Advantage
Vouchers for everyone
Vouchers phased in
Extra costs to seniors
$6,000 a year
Medicare as % of Federal expenditures
Savings mechanisms
ACA: IPAB, primary care,  EMRs, ACOs
Vouchers: Individual seniors control costs through purchases
Vouchers: Individual seniors control costs through purchases
Insurance industry competition

Do we need to do more to improve and expand Medicare? Indeed. But Ryan would double down on disaster.

On Medicare for All, he had this exchange with reporter Sam Husseini, published June 13, 2011:

Sam Husseini: If you’re a fiscal conservative and you want to provide a safety net, why wouldn’t you be for something like a single-payer health care system?

Paul Ryan: I think a single-payer health care system would be a disaster for people who need health-care the most. I think it would cause rationing, waiting lines. I think it would be a fiscal house of cards, I think it would help accelerate a national debt crisis and hurt the economy.

Husseini: Wouldn’t it save a lot of money and cover everybody?

Ryan: Absolutely not. I totally and fundamentally disagree with it. I believe that you can have affordable access to healthcare for all Americans, including people with pre-existing conditions, without a government takeover of the healthcare sector. If we actually have government-run healthcare, what I think you’ll have is government managing, government-rationing healthcare. I think that will be a fiscal disaster, I think that it would accelerate a debt crisis that would slow our economy and take jobs and economic growth from those people that need it the most, which are people who are out of work.

Husseini: Doesn’t Medicare have a much lower — 2 or 3 percent — overhead compared to the insurance companies? Which — insurance companies –

Ryan: — That’s an apples and oranges comparison. If you take a look at Medicare itself, Medicare is going bankrupt.

Husseini: That’s the healthcare system in general that’s going bankrupt.

Ryan: There are three facts about medicare that you simply can’t dispute: 10,000 seniors are retiring everyday with fewer workers going into the workforce to pay for them; healthcare costs are skyrocketing at about four times the rate of inflation, which threatens medicare’s ability to give affordable care; and number three, the non-partisan experts agree that Medicare is going bankrupt. So Medicare’s status quo is bankruptcy and that threatens healthcare not only for current seniors but obviously for future seniors, so I believe a patient-centered healthcare system — reforms that put the patient at the center of the healthcare system, not the government — are the best for people who need healthcare and they’re best for the economy, and they’re the best way to avert a debt crisis.

Husseini: But isn’t the problem with healthcare fundamentally the corporate structure? I mean your biggest funders are a who’s who — Northwestern Mutual –

Ryan: — Which is a big employer in Milwaukee by the way —

Husseini: — Aurora Health Care, Abbott Laboratories, Credit Suisse — the insurers — [see "Paul Ryan's Health Industry Ties..." Humana Inc., Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Aetna]
Ryan: — Government-run healthcare doesn’t work. Wherever we’ve seen government-run healthcare, it’s failed.
Husseini: You think that people are worse off in France and Canada?

Ryan: I think we’re worse off if we go with a government healthcare system that will cost us jobs, it will increase our deficit and our debt and I do believe, and I put ideas on the table that show, that we can get to a patient-centered healthcare system that helps create jobs, that helps get healthcare costs under control, and gives everybody affordable healthcare coverage for everyone regardless of income or pre-existing conditions.

Husseini: You think poor people in Europe are worse off than poor people here?

Ryan ends questioning here.