Wednesday, January 30, 2019

So, Kamala Harris Won't Axe Private Health Insurance. She Says

In her triumphant presidential campaign kickoff, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) promised Medicare For All. And when asked by an interviewer a couple days later, she said that it would be the end of private health insurance.
“Let’s eliminate all of that,” Harris said when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if, under her proposed “Medicare For All” proposal, Americans with private insurance plans could retain them.
Now she has backed off. Of course she has.

Let me rehearse the reason why.

Way back when, neoconservative god Irving Kristol said that the only way to help the poor with social programs was to deal in the middle class.

If you wanted to help the workers in their old age with government pensions you would have to create a comprehensive and mandatory program that would also give benefits to the middle class. Thus the popular Social Security.

If you wanted to help the elderly poor with medical care you would have to enroll all the elderly, including the billionaires. Thus Medicare.

So when HillaryCare emerged in 1993-94 I thought to myself that it can't work because the average American worker already has health insurance at work.

I still remember where I was, in the summer of 1994, when a bewildered NPR woman reporter told us Seattle liberals that the American people were against HillaryCare. Of course they were: Because of the Kristol Rule. The average American already had health insurance, so HillaryCare would do nothing for her.

The Democrats had learned their lesson when pushing Obamacare. President Obama lied, and lied again when he insisted that, "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." Oh and keep your "health plan." He had to lie, otherwise Obamacare would never have passed.

But, of course, after Obamacare was passed the voters wised up and elected a Republican House of Representatives on the spot, and a Republican Senate four years later.

Because, Senator, the voters were damned if they were going to give up their private health insurance to help the 30 million or so marooned between Medicaid and workplace health insurance.

So now comes Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) with a brilliant and wizard wheeze for BernieCare, or KamalaCare or whatever, and her first step out of the gate she says "let's eliminate all that" private health insurance.

Which, I think, tells us that Willie Brown's best girl is not yet ready for prime time. Because, Senator, you can only pass new government programs if you deal in the middle class. Or brazenly lie about it.

The problem for our Democratic friends is that there is almost nothing left in the loot-and-plunder department in which the middle class has not already been dealt in. Yeah, you can propose Medicare For All, but the middle class already has health insurance. You can increase taxes on the wealthy but guess what: you ain't gonna collect much new revenue because all the tippy-top rich are going to get their money out and that means that their money ain't gonna be creating much in the way of middle-class and working-class jobs. You can pass your glorious program to save the world from climate change, but the ordinary yellow-vest middle class isn't going to stand for paying swingeing energy taxes to get there.

Hey, it's not just Democrats that have a problem here. I'd like to reform Social Security and make it into a real savings program: but today's workers and grandpas basically say "over my dead body." I'd like to reform Medicare so that it provides a basic decent health program for the elderly poor, and get everyone else to pay for their own end-of-life health care. But grandma says "they'd better not touch My Medicare." I'd like to reform government education, but the teachers and administrators say: "over my dead body."

So that's why we have a deadlock in US politics today. The Democrats are becalmed because the middle class doesn't want to pay for somebody else's benefits. The Republicans are becalmed because the middle-class doesn't want to give up a dime of the benefits that they "already paid for."

What's the end game here? I have no idea. Maybe, when the crisis arrives and the government runs out of other people's money we will elect a leader that will propose and administer the bitter medicine that will repair the government's finances. Or maybe, as in Venezuela, the government will flush the whole country down the toilet rather than admit that it was wrong.

Hey, maybe the wonders of 5G will unleash such a tidal wave of prosperity that the deficits and the debt will disappear. But I doubt it.

All I know is that when the crash comes, minorities and women will be hardest hit. Just like last time.

And you can take that to the bank, Senator Harris.

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