A smooth rollout of the federal on-line health exchange, a key element of Obama’s signature legislative victory, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), had the potential to be a much needed triumph for the President. Instead, problems with the website snowballed into the “debacle” described by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in her testimony before an irate Congress.
2.8 million people visited the website in its first 8 hours on-line, but according to Republican estimates, fewer than 250 people were able to sign up for a plan. That 55 contractors were unable to complete the project linking consumers, health insurers, government agencies and private NGO’s securely and on budget by the October 1 deadline was no surprise to Computer World magazine which declared, “Healthcare.gov didn’t have a chance in hell.” (10/21/2013)
While Democrats and Republicans squabble over spending cuts and tax increases, the American people suffer. According to revised census data, 49.7 million Americans live in poverty. As of October, there are 12.3 million Americans out of a job; with that number likely larger because many gave up looking for work. In the construction sector alone, 930,000 workers are unemployed. Infrastructure spending is a mere 2.4% of GDP, compared to 5% in most of Europe and 9% in China. The Federal Government should immediately shift unemployment and defense spending to public works spending. In turn, the manufacturing sector, which as of October has 1.1 million out of work, will begin producing trucks, bulldozers, shovels, hardhats, steel beams, etc. It’s not rocket science, it’s the economy stupid!
The United States builds more roads then any other nation but lack the year-to-year funds to repair roads when they become outdated. Our airports are among the busiest in the world yet are notorious for be congested and delayed. Rail lines across the country travel at an average speed of 70 mph, while the average speed of European rail is 140 mph and 137mph in Japan. On average, each of us will spend almost 40 hours in an idle car stuck in traffic, and waste 26 gallons of gas and about $710 a year. 86% of public transit in the United States is done through driving, while the remaining 14% is split between trains, planes and various public transit. There needs to be greater balance and choice in how we travel to lower costs not only for gasoline but for other modes of transportation.
Working people in the US are fed up. After six years of mass unemployment and collossal cuts in education and social programs, we are told a “recovery” is under way. But the truth is that over 90% of the new wealth created has ended up in the pockets of the richest 1%. Profits are at record levels. Meanwhile, the majority of new jobs created are in the low-wage sector. Worldwide, an economic slowdown is underway in China, and the European markets continue to falter in crisis. A new financial reckoning and even full-scale depression is possible. Even during the current “recovery”, there is no feeling of lasting stability or substantial growth.
Working People want a Bigger Share
It is no wonder then that working people are beginning to demand a larger share of the wealth created in the recovery. “Raise the Wage” groups are gathering steam throughout the country, and 15 Now in Seattle and nationally stands as a shining example of determined struggle for low-wage workers. There is a mass discussion in US society taking place on the subject of economic inequality.
The Democratic Party leadership is staging a series of votes in the Senate on issues that would benefit the “pocketbooks” of working people in the US. The centerpiece is a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10/hour phased in over three years.
However, the main motivation for moving these proposals is not the needs of working people. Instead, the Democrats are desperate to mobilize their demoralized voting base for the midterm elections.
More than 46 million people now live in poverty in the US. In 2012, the 1 percent took their largest share of national wealth since 1917. This has spurred a growing discussion in the US, helped by the explosion of Occupy Wall Street in 2011 which introduced the language of the 1 percent and 99 percent.
As details of the insurance plans offered under Obama’s new Affordable Care Act became accessible, many working and poor people have had to realize that this is not the answer to their health insecurities they had hoped for. Designed to convert the 47 million uninsured Americans into paying customers for the insurance and pharmaceutical corporations, Obamacare adds unnecessary costs and layers of complexity for patients and health care providers.
Socialist Alternative fights for health care for all. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act delivers insurance – not care – and is not affordable. It mandates that every American have health insurance, so everyone not covered by an employer’s plan will have to buy insurance on their state exchanges or pay a fine. The fines begin this year at $95 per adult and $47.50 per child for a family maximum of $285 (or 1% of income, whichever is greater), and rise steeply to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, for a family maximum of $2,085 (or 2.5% of income, whichever is greater) in 2016.
An incredible £80 billion has been paid in bonuses alone to bankers since the financial crash of 2007. And they want even more!
Because of the outrage at bank bosses pay and bonuses since the banks were bailed out by taxpayers, the EU has passed laws limiting the scale of bonuses to 100% of annual salary or 200% if shareholders approval is granted. This still means that the EU supports the likes of HSBC chief executive getting annual bonuses of £2.4 million on top of his £1.2 million salary. But this still won’t make any difference.
Now these fat cats are planning to award extra shares to themselves on top of bonuses. After being bailed out to the tune of £1.2trillion of our money, the banks should be fully nationalised and democratically controlled so that the enormous wealth they control can be used to invest in services and the economy overall to create jobs.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. That must have been the line of Con-Dem Chancellor George Osborne’s thinking when he went about claiming new jobs and wages figures proved that his austerity measures were yielding a recovery.
Far from bringing relief to ‘hard-working families’, the Coalition’s cuts and pro-capitalist policies are rapidly turning the clock back on living standards at a terrifying rate. Real growth can however be seen in workers’ anger.
Osborne’s claim, faithfully reproduced across the big business-owned media, was that wages are now rising faster than inflation.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally…It’s a game we play…I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game.”
It’s not a game for Americans who need jobs and education and public transportation and infrastructure repair. But public services continue to be cut, while the wealthiest Americans benefit the most from a government they say they don’t want. They need government, but they don’t want to pay for it.
Here are some reasons why the super-rich should be paying a lot more in taxes.
1. $2 of Every $5 Owned Today was Created in the Last Five Years, and Went Mostly to the Richest 10%, Mostly Untaxed
And most of it was accumulated passively, and unproductively, by just waiting out the stock market. As America’s wealth increased from $47 trillion to an incredible $80.66 trillion in just five years, the richest 1% are estimated to have added an average of $5 million each to their fortunes. They pay no wealth tax, they can defer their income taxes, and they pay a reduced capital gains tax when they decide to cash in.
2. A Beggar Saving for a Hamburger will Pay More Sales Tax than the Entire Financial Trading Industry
The egalitarian Left is long overdue for soul searching. For decades the Democratic Party, ostensibly the instrument of progressive policy, has informally renounced its New Deal roots. Consequently, the middle class, long held as the linchpin America’s democratic system, has been dramatically attenuated from its peak in the post-New Deal state of the 1940s. In this reorientation of America, the physical economy — America’s highly skilled labor force, manufacturing capacity, and infrastructure — has languished to a near moribund state while a veritable financial casino economy has emerged transcendent.
Although this phenomenon cannot be entirely ascribed to any single political leader or movement, its center of gravity is undoubtedly Wall Street. The Democratic Party — imbibing on years of “free-market” orthodoxy and neoliberalism, has rejected its erstwhile commitment to economic progress for the average person. Instead, it has enabled the financial interests of the owning and possessing class to enrich itself at the expense of the vast majority of Americans, leading to the glaring income disparities that have become a feature of current public discourse.