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[Photo by Piron Guillaume via Unsplash]

A Neoliberal Argument for Medicare for All

[NB: Note the byline, as always. /~Rayne]

The old white billionaire dudes lipping off about “un-American” expectations of fairness and equity in income distribution jogged something loose in me.

I’m so damned angry about their willingness to complain their ability to buy yet another fucking yacht may be diminished because the average working American has the chutzpah to demand health care for everyone on top of a living wage.

What really cheeses me off is the utter stupidity of these so-called business geniuses.

WHY ARE THEY IN THE HEALTH CARE BUSINESS AT ALL??

Let’s pick on Mr. Luxury Beverage’s business. His core competency is preparing beverages to meet Americans’ tastes in an appealing environment.

Why has he spent any of his corporation’s human resource dollars on health care programs? His corporation’s expertise is NOT health care or insurance; they’re only providing health care because competition for stable, healthy employees is tight and turnover costs a butt-load of money.

I know you’ll love that technical term ‘butt-load’ but seriously, turnover in low-wage jobs in which employers have invested considerable training eats away at profit margins. It can take a year or two for low-level employees to reach maximum productivity — like pouring the optimum level of crema on a double espresso and know the entire menu by heart while operating at full-speed during rush hour.

What does it cost the Luxury Beverage business if workers leave inside that first year because they can get health care elsewhere?

Ditto for Mr. Business News Provider. His core competency is gathering, reporting, distributing timely news preferred by businesses ahead of the rest of the competition; time matters greatly if stock trades on this corporation’s work product. Why is his corporation in the health care business at all?

And yet both disparate businesses — beverage purveyor and news distributor — expect a comparable level of health among their workforce. They aren’t factoring into SWOT analyses the possibility a competitor’s workforce might be more healthy and fit.

If we look at other industries like the automotive industry or construction, healthy workers who can handle physical demands becomes mission critical. Only so much work can be automated or eased with technology and equipment.

And yet the cost of negotiating and providing health care for their employees can be the difference between profitability and business failure.

The challenge is greater when competing with companies overseas as automakers do.  Health care costs for the Big Three here add a significant percentage to the cost of goods sold — far more than $2 billion a year — while their foreign competitors pay less because the costs is absorbed across all of society instead of their businesses’ experience. The costs are based on a population which has had uniform access to health care throughout their lives.

So why are industries which aren’t delivering health care in the business of providing health care at all?

It’s in the best interest of the country and its industries to use economies of scale to acquire good health care at lower cost, provide it to the entire country, so that the country’s businesses can focus solely on their core competencies as well as the features which differentiate them positively from competing overseas products.

This is exactly what the neoliberal “strong but impartial state” is for in concert with “free enterprise, the system of competition,” to provide what the people know is needed to establish economic justice, insure domestic peace, provide for the common defense against health and employment insecurity, promote the general welfare of all citizens and workers, while securing an optimum opportunity for businesses to compete.

The U.S. is going to spend $3.5 trillion on health care this year under this current system. This is nearly two times what comparable countries spend on average. It’s inflating the cost of everything we make and sell. Imagine the profits corporations could make and keep if they didn’t have to spend valuable time and resources on health care benefits management.

But, but socialism! — this is the immediate refrain offered as push back against institutionalizing health care as a federal program to be provided to all.

Do you see either Mr. Luxury Beverages or Mr. Business News Provider complaining about the federal government’s role in assuring baseline education across the country through its K-12 public school system? I would argue this is the most American federal program we have now or have ever had since its inception with the Pilgrims.

But socialized K-12 education!

Imagine having to argue as a presidential candidate that we can’t have education for all though this program has already directly benefited every business and our common defense in some way.

Imagine American corporations, each independently in isolation, spending billions each year on human resources to research and negotiate education programs as an offering for employees and their families. Ridiculous, right? It’d suffocate so many young businesses on the verge of scaling up.

But these old white male billionaires don’t see any problem with publicly-funded education for all which helped make them what they are today.

I can’t believe I’ve had to argue a neoliberal case for publicly-funded health care for all because a guy who grew up in public housing thinks such health care is “un-American.”

 

Treat this as an open thread.

Let Them Eat (Starbucks’ Coffee) Cake

A couple of older billionaire white dudes have been shooting off their mouths. One of them is partially clued in. The other one apparently lives on a different planet where the sky is a groovy coffee-colored plaid.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when I point out these facts:

The links above include scolding by financial experts who say Americans need to do a better job of saving. But…

Don’t get me started on what college tuition and subsequent debt does to Americans’ ability to save.

We all know that health care costs have not improved and remain the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. even though more Americans have health insurance under ACA.

And rich older white dudes are completely, utterly, hopelessly out of touch about the financial facts of life for nearly half of Americans let alone the next 2-3 deciles.

Like Wilbur Ross — our Commerce Secretary who lied about his assets and clearly knows nothing about Americans’ daily commerce — struggled to comprehend why federal employees might need to use a food bank after missing a paycheck.

Just get a loan, Ross thinks. Sure, sure, banks give signature loans to people without any collateral let alone a source of income all the time. Come on, Wilbur: would you invest in a bank offering those kinds of terms to the average Joe/Josephine off the street?

And then there’s Trump, who thinks we can just ask the grocer to extend some credit for an unspecified period of time. Right — a nationwide grocery chain clearing 1-3% a year in profits can afford to extend credit.

So goddamned clueless he is. I’m only surprised he didn’t tell furloughed federal workers he’d give them a 5% discount to play golf at one of his courses during their free time.

76-year-old billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who thinks he’s still young enough to run for president in 2020, trashed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal as “probably unconstitutional,” thereby revealing his brain’s atrophy. If taxing higher levels of income wasn’t unconstitutional under Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, then it probably isn’t unconstitutional.

And then Seattle coffee magnate Howard Schultz popped off at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ proposals to increase marginal tax rates on the uber-wealthy, calling her “a bit misinformed” and her proposal “un-American.”

Except the U.S. had higher tax rates on the wealthy, for most of the 20th century. The country could afford to build more infrastructure; it built a successful public school system and went to the moon. How nice for Schultz that he could grow up and become a young entrepreneur in that economic environment.

(Put a pin in here for future reference, as a reminder that Schultz not only called AOC “un-American” but Sen. Kamala Harris, too. It’s as if he has a problem with women of color…)

Schultz thinks he has become a billionaire all on his own, as if the increasingly fascist political system with its active suppression of younger, marginalized citizens played no role in his wealth accumulation.

As if the last two decades of stagnant wages due to employment monopsony, repressive Federal Reserve policies, and the real estate market haven’t helped line his pockets by assuring low-wage workers get locked in and unable to move to better paying jobs.

Schultz has been able to accumulate massive amounts of wealth on the backs of people who aren’t being paid living wages, out of the wallets of those whose limited resources allows them to buy a coffee but not a house or health care. He’s rolling in a sea of cash because minimum wage workers are living in little more than indentured servitude.

You know what’s really un-American?

An ungrateful and narrow-minded billionaire white dude who doesn’t think living wages and health care for everyone are fair, who thinks that higher taxes after his first $50 million are theft.

A purveyor of luxury beverage products unable to grasp the unselfish commitment it will take to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for all the people.

At least Bloomberg sees the danger Schultz’s presidential candidacy poses to this country.

But Schultz isn’t in it for the country’s benefit. He’s in the race for himself. It’s clear he’s done the number crunching and determined that it’s cheaper to run for POTUS even if he were to cause Trump to win re-election. (I’ll bet he’s even figured out how to write off his exploratory trips around the country as a business expense.)

Because the campaign expenses are less than the cost to his personal wealth if he were taxed at a higher rate and if he were also forced to pay living wages to his workers.

What a pity Schultz hasn’t calculated how much more overpriced, excessively roasted coffee minimum wage workers can buy if they didn’t have to worry about health care expenses on top of their rent.

 

Treat this as an open thread.

Stop and Frisk STOPPED! [Updated]

[Note Update below]

In a rather remarkable decision just handed down by Judge Shira Scheindlin in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), has found New York City’s insidious stop and frisk policy violative of citizen’s basic Constitutional rights. From the NYT:

In a decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers have for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Officers often frisked these people, usually young minority men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, before letting them go, according to the 195-page decision.

These stop-and-frisk episodes, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment.

To fix the constitutional violations, Judge Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan said she intended to designate an outside lawyer, Peter L. Zimroth, to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the Constitution.

The full decision and order is here.

This is a very strong decision, and it is based on trial evidence and specific findings of fact and conclusions of law that should give it some extra protection, compared to a straight legal decision alone, should the city appeal to the 2nd Circuit.

The court found that the practice violated both the 4th and 14th Amendments and denied equal protection. In so doing, the court basically confirmed that New York City had a standing policy that constituted blatant racial profiling. The court noted, in reference to the City’s belligerent defense of such an unconstitutional policy:

City acted w/deliberate indifference toward NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks.

The “Applicable Law” portion contained in pages 15-30 (by the court’s page numbering) is a hornbook primer on Terry stops and reasonable suspicion.

A few words from the court will close out this post:

New Yorkers are rightly proud of their city and seek to make it as safe as the largest city in America can be. New Yorkers also treasure their liberty. Countless individuals have come to New York in pursuit of that liberty. The goals of liberty and safety may be in tension, but they can coexist — indeed the Constitution mandates it.

….

In conclusion, I find that the City is liable for violating plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City acted with deliberate indifference toward the NYPD’s practice of making unconstitutional stops and conducting unconstitutional frisks. Even if the City had not been deliberately indifferent, the NYPD’s unconstitutional practices were sufficiently widespread as to have the force of law. In addition, the City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data. This has resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Both statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites. For example, once a stop is made, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband. I also conclude that the City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting “the right people” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution. One NYPD official has even suggested that it is permissible to stop racially defined groups just to instill fear in them that they are subject to being stopped at any time for any reason — in the hope that this fear will deter them from carrying guns in the streets. The goal of deterring crime is laudable, but this method of doing so is unconstitutional.

Bravo Judge Scheindlin, and thank you.

More like this please; the federal courts of America owe the citizens the duty of reeling in 4th Amendment abuses by governmental entities. This is a start, but the Obama Administration’s surveillance programs demonstrate there is a very long way to go.

UPDATE: I neglected to include the separate “Remedies Opinion” issued by Judge Scheindlin, here is the link for that.

A few words from the court about the intransigence of NYC and NYPD:

I have always recognized the need for caution in ordering remedies that affect the internal operations of the NYPD, the nation’s largest municipal police force and an organization with over 35,000 members. I would have preferred that the City cooperate in a joint undertaking to develop some of the remedies ordered in this Opinion. Instead, the City declined to participate, and argued that “the NYPD systems already in place” — perhaps with unspecified “minor adjustments” — would suffice to address any constitutional wrongs that might be found. I note that the City’s refusal to engage in a joint attempt to craft remedies contrasts with the many municipalities that have reached settlement agreements or consent decrees when confronted with evidence of police misconduct. (footnotes omitted)

The defendant NYC and NYPD are very much not going to like Judge Scheindlin’s remedies and, thus, likely will appeal on that basis. As I said above, the decision itself looks pretty solid for appeal, the remedies may be another matter. Professor Orin Kerr thinks the court may have gone too far in broad scope based on this paper he previously authored on 4th Amendment remedies in 2009.

I am a big fan of Professor Kerr’s 4th Amendment analysis, but we occasionally differ. And we differ here. My review of Judge Scheindlin’s remedies and order reflects a set of cures targeted and appropriate in purpose, and broad only where necessary to effect said purpose (with possible exception of order to wear cameras). We shall see how they hold up on appeal, but the remedies look proper and necessary to me.

Bloomberg Averts Zuccotti Park Showdown as Occupy Wall Street Goes Global

A sign in Zuccotti Park on Thursday. (photo: NLNY, Creative Commons license)

At the end of the day yesterday, the burning question was whether New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would send the New York Police Department into Zuccotti Park this morning to clear it of protesters under cover of a request from the owners of the property (although used as a public park, the property is privately owned).  This morning, we learn that the property owners and Bloomberg have backed down, postponing for now the planned cleaning which had been put forward as the reason for potentially clearing the park.  From CNN:

The New York mayor’s office said Brookfield Properties, the owners of Zuccotti Park, told the city late Thursday the scheduled cleaning is off for now and “for the time being” they are “withdrawing their request” made earlier in the week for police assistance during the cleaning operation.

“Our position has been consistent throughout: the City’s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers. Brookfield believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said.

Read more

John Brennan, the Intelligence Community’s One Man Justice Department

Matt Apuzzo has a story describing three different responses to growing concerns about the CIA-on-the-Hudson.

There’s Rush Holt, who unfortunately is no longer on the House Intelligence Committee and therefore has limited ability to look into this:

“I believe that these serious and significant allegations warrant an immediate investigation,” Holt wrote.

[snip]

Holt, who previously served on the House Intelligence Committee, said he never remembers being told about the CIA partnership or the programs the NYPD was running.

[snip]

Holt asked for a special prosecutor because he wanted both the civil rights issues and the NYPD-CIA collaboration to be investigated, his office said.

So Holt, who suggests he should have been informed of the NYPD spook program but wasn’t, suggests one means of oversight never happened.

There’s Mike Bloomberg, who has been Mayor for almost the entire post-9/11 period and therefore ought to have exercised some oversight over this program:

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked Thursday about the CIA’s investigation and whether he thought the partnership violated any laws.

“How would I know?” Bloomberg replied. “They’re doing an investigation. That’s what — if I knew, I’d be happy to tell them. But my guess is no.”

Surprisingly, Bloomberg hasn’t thought of consulting one of NY’s own lawyers, or one of the thousands of lawyers inhabiting NY, to find out whether the partnership was legal. A smart guy like Mayor Mike and he claims not to even know how he might find out if the program were legal. Rather than finding out, though, he’s just gonna guess.

And then, finally, there’s John Brennan, the guy who apparently did the targeting for Cheney’s illegal wiretap program and also was personally involved in one of the whistleblower cases the Obama Justice Department is prosecuting, who cites his intimate knowledge of the program as his basis for being sure there’s no problem.

President Barack Obama’s homeland security adviser, John Brennan, who was the deputy executive director the CIA when the NYPD intelligence programs began, said he was intimately familiar with the CIA-NYPD partnership. He said that agency knew what the rules were and did not cross any lines.

Call me crazy. But I think there’s a third reason to support Holt’s call for an independent prosecutor. Not only is Obama’s DOJ personally involved, but his top Homeland Security advisor was involved in this mess, too. Given the White House’s past involvement in shutting down DOJ investigations pertaining to the Brennan-era CIA, I’d say we need someone free of that chain of authority.

Break with the Bankers

In the calm before yesterday’s election night storm, Howie Kurtz took a moment to engage in his favorite hobby, obsessing about Democratic men’s penises.

If any of the candidates are patronizing hookers, Chris Matthews has the right guest. Eliot Spitzer, on the set.

But Matthews may in fact have had the most logical guest on to interpret last night’s results. As Digby concluded last night,

At this point, the only thing that seems obvious to me is that the super wealthy just aren’t as popular as they used to be. Even in New York City.

You see, regardless of his own considerable fortune and whether he has paid for sex, Spitzer had this to say yesterday (presumably before Bloomberg almost failed to buy a city):

Imagine this: by next spring, an intellectual consensus will have emerged that the concentration in the banking sector that developed from the 1980s until the crash of ‘08 was misguided. Voices as disparate as Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King, meta- investor George Soros, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page will be in agreement on this point.A few brave souls on the Right — recognizing that the Republican Party has been bereft of ideas in its attacks on President Obama — will then try to re-define a populist, conservative attack by asserting that the White House has been captured by Wall Street. Real populism and change, they will argue, will come from the Republican, not the Democratic, party.

The power of such an attack from the Right should not be underestimated. There will be a huge first mover advantage that goes to the candidates who grab the real banner of attacking the structure of Wall Street as having been the root of the crash of ‘08.

[snip]

So the simple question remains: why aren’t we focusing on the problem that got us here in the first instance — the scope, range, and size of the mega-institutions whose risk taking has so far inflicted only enormous harm on our economy? If the Republicans pick up this issue before we do, the elections of 2010 could be even worse than we are now fearing.

The teabaggers failed yesterday, but there’s every reason to believe they will be more successful at mobilizing anxiety and frustration in Florida. And they’ll be doing it all the while downplaying Dick Armey’s considerable financial largesse.

If the teabaggers can then turn their energy into a focus on Wall Street, I do believe they’ll be successful in coming years. Particularly if the Administration continues to coddle the bankers.

Update: Speaking of Spitzer, Gawker has the journalist/flack emails from the first days that scandal broke.