How Single Payer Healthcare Works and What’s Been Going on in Britain

Read this. Please!

Benjamin Studebaker

Today I’d like to get at some of the deeper intricacies of single payer healthcare systems by telling you a story about what’s going on with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). If you’re American, this post will shed some light on how Bernie Sanders’ system potentially works. If you’re British, this is where you’ll get my view on the junior doctors’ strike and what the conservatives are trying to do with the NHS.

View original post 1,062 more words

When Priorities Attack

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks at the Univision, Washington Post Democratic presidential debate at Miami-Dade College, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

(Image by Associated Press)

Viewers had a hard time deciding if the Democrat was wearing brown or blue.

– CBSNewYork

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our national political discourse…

I know the debates are getting a bit redundant at this point. There were some exchanges that were taken almost verbatim from the Flint, Michigan debate last Sunday.

But seriously…

This?

Suit

#WhatTheHell?

Has the Trump Effect become so pervasive that we actually can’t focus on actual things anymore? Is the man’s Twitter obsession contagious, rendering all other tweets vapid and clownish?

I mean, I’m no fan of Twitter, but surely we can do more with it than this?

Is it brown? Is it blue?

Is you kidding me?!?

 

Four More Years (of the Same Damn Thing)

402px-Hard_Times-Gradgrind

Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!

– Thomas Gradgrind

I’m not gonna lie: I’m a little disappointed with Tuesday’s primary results.

The problem with the American electorate is that it suffers from a remarkable lack of imagination. And it has, once again, scared itself off just short of greatness.

Why are we, in this country, so afraid of big ideas? The Cold War ended 25 years ago; let the bogeyman go, people! In any case, no one is suggesting we go around calling each other “Comrade” and painting things red. And let’s be clear: Joseph Stalin was not a socialist, he was a dictator who used socialist rhetoric to consolidate and validate his rule. Not unlike certain other dictators (like Museveni in Uganda or al-Assad in Syria) who hide behind the rhetoric of democracy. Or xenophobic narcissists who build their movements on a platform of patriotic nationalism. Not that there are any of those around lately.

“Socialism,” as the younger generation of voters has responded to it over the last few months, is not (as has been condescendingly suggested by talking eggheads on news networks) just about “free college.” That’s part of it, but not remotely all of it…or even most of it.

The “New Socialism” is in many ways a restatement of Rawlsian “justice as fairness.” At its most basic, it’s about sharing. This is not a novel idea; most of us were taught to share as children. We just forget as we grow older. We’re not talking proletarian gray, here, either: no one’s calling for a complete leveling, just a little long overdue balancing in an effort to bring social divisions a bit closer to true.

It is not enough simply to preach faith in the American dream because the unpleasant truth is that not everyone is “created equal.” Donald Trump, for instance, did not earn his fortune. There were no bootstraps involved in his ascent; his is not an Alger-esque tale. Being born black is not the social equivalent of being born white; being born female is not the social equivalent of being born male; being born gay is not the social equivalent of being born straight. Not in practice. Doesn’t matter what the eyes of the law see; the eyes of prejudice are blindfolded.

What I advocate is not the abolition of success; it is the democratization of opportunity. Too many of our so-called entitlement programs are step-stools to nowhere. Even if all the unemployed were employed, the pay for “unskilled” labor will never amount to a living (never mind that our daily lives depend on this “unskilled” labor in almost every way). Why? Not because employers cannot afford to pay a living wage, but because doing so would cut into their profit margin. There is no will, so there is no way.

The only way to get past the “unskilled” jobs is to go to college, and increasingly, undertake some form of post-graduate study. But who can afford that? Working one’s way through college isn’t a feasible option anymore. So there’s the student loan. Which defeats its own purpose. These days, it’s a double whammy: not only will a college degree not net you a good job, but your unemployment will be complicated by debt payments people with jobs struggle to make.

This is the socialism of the Bernie Sanders supporter: Make America Fair Again. It’s not about free enterprise; it’s about freedom of movement. Freedom of access. Above all else, recognition of one another as interconnected. “Free college” is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. It creates a ladder out of disadvantage to a career, and a living; it creates an educated electorate that knows the difference between a brain and a hairpiece; and it raises the bar for all of us by raising the level of public discourse in our communities.

The rationale behind reining in the banks and drafting the support of the über-rich is simple: wealth hoarded, in the vicinity of so much disadvantage, is immoral. It is also unsustainable. The idea that affluence is the ultimate expression of the American dream is ludicrous, especially if my dream fuels another man’s nightmare. When we have what we need, we don’t need any more; however, the capitalist impulse creates the impression that we can never have enough. Which makes us blind to all our fellow human beings who actually don’t.

We need leaders who both acknowledge these imbalances, and who are willing to try and rectify them. Even if by way of baby steps. I support Sanders the democratic socialist because at the end of the day, a small step is still a step in the right direction. And if that’s as far as he managed to go, at least the next guy or gal will have one less rung to climb.

Here’s the thing about Hillary Clinton: she could easily run as a moderate Republican. Bernie, on the other hand, represents the true progressives among us. True progressives are, by definition, ahead of the curve; they make change by tugging the narrative forward, not by pushing it from behind. Not that Clinton will do either. If her tack holds, she could win, take a four-year nap, and still deliver as promised.

It’s not enough just to get four more years. We need someone who will actually do something with them.

SooperToosday

Suffrage_universel

But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me. 

– Vizzini

The day is upon us.

Super Tuesday: the day on which we all get to decide whether it’s more important to win, or whether–perhaps–there is more to our voting choices than that.

At the end of the day, this election isn’t about ideology, it isn’t about conservative versus liberal. This one’s about basic human decency, about respect for one another and our political process. This one says something, profound and revelatory, about us as a nation and a people.

I’m not endorsing one party over another here. There are Republican candidates who have a lot to offer (well, candidate, anyway: Kasich–although I’ll take Rubio in a pinch). There are Democratic candidates who also promise at least some level of progress, and who have talked, not about the “evil Other,” but about the good we can do together as citizens of the United States.

And then there is the One.

The guy whose whole platform is built on putting down pretty much everyone, who has all but endorsed whatever form of torture serves him most conveniently, who has refused to distance himself from the KKK (with which historically inconspicuous organization he claims to be unfamiliar), and who has bullied his way through a series of debates without ever actually talking about anything, really, at all.

The guy whose plan is having one.

I’ve heard of several conservatives who, given a Trump nomination, are planning to abstain. Fine. But you could vote now, instead; vote, thoughtfully, for a more thoughtful option. Which is pretty much ANYBODY ELSE.

To my fellow Democrats, same goes for you: winning isn’t everything. In fact, in some cases, it isn’t anything. “Electability” is for the cynical and cowardly. Our problem, politically speaking, is that we’re not willing to swing for the fences. Everything is “strategery”: how do we get our guy (or gal) in, and then, how do we keep them there?

And we wonder why nothing ever changes.

We have one candidate who has told us what could be accomplished if we try, and we have another who has told us, consistently, that so little can be done that trying is a waste of time. Yoda is great, but I don’t really want him in the White House. Progressivism (real progressivism) is all about the “try.” Anything else is stagnation. And we’re all too familiar with that.

Let’s be clear: Hillary tells us that the root of “progressive” is “progress.” Fair enough. The root of “socialism” is “social.” And that has nothing to do with the Soviet Union, or Karl Marx, or bread lines and sovkhozy.

It’s not about the state at all, really. It’s about how we look at each other, about who our neighbors are, about what kind of neighbors we intend to be. The true socialist society is a reflection of its people. That the USSR got it backwards doesn’t mean it can never work. It just means that it hasn’t worked yet.

So, stop fearing the labels and catchphrases, and listen to what Bernie has to say about the things that are holding us back as a nation. Which is ourselves.

Every generation needs a “moonshot.” But that means embracing the big ideas, remembering that the moon is out there in the first place, waiting to be shot at.

So, two suggestions:

Democrats, let’s vote for the candidate who’s willing to shoot for the moon.

And Republicans…

For the love of Pete, don’t vote for the guy who might accidentally blow it up.

#FeelTheBern
#DumpTrump

The Kids Are Alright

caypndbw0aei226

(Image from TheAtlantic.com)

Kick down the barricades
Listen what the kids say
From time to time people change their minds
But the music is here to stay 

– Bryan Adams

What I wouldn’t give to be a college student again!

Say what you will about the “damn millennials,” they’re more than just lazy punks with a poor work ethic. Much, much more. They are, like it or not, the future.

My undergraduate presidential election was Bush v. Gore, in 2000, which of course bled over into 2001 as Bush v. Gore. At the time, I was a junior at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., studying to be a Baptist minister. So, you can imagine where I came down on things: I was a Christian, and Christians voted for the guy on the right. Very little thought, backed by all the blind conviction I could muster.

Sixteen years later, I realize the myopia of my ways. It is, then, with profound respect and admiration that I watch the undergrads and young adults of this election cycle readily and competently engaging the political realities around them. Not just as it affects them personally, but as it impacts the larger world to which they understand themselves to belong.

There is, sad as I am to admit it, more social awareness and concern in their little fingers than I possessed in my whole being at their age. Perhaps the Internet has yielded a few positive dividends, after all. I wonder if, given access to social outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere, my friends and I might have been a bit more conscious of our surroundings in our early 20s.

Then again, there are existential differences that carry weight, as well. My parents handed me a well-endowed college fund that got me through all but the very last semester of my undergraduate career. Unlike many students today (and then, for that matter), I didn’t have to work while going to school, and even had I had to work, I could have feasibly made it through without having to take out a loan. I finished well before the market crashed in 2008 and took out other college funds as well-endowed as mine while their owners stood helplessly by. College was a cakewalk for me, comparatively speaking.

In retrospect, having married into my wife’s undergrad debt, I’ve gained more perspective on the issue, and the injustice of the system fires me up, too. But I didn’t live it like these guys do; I didn’t have to sink in order to swim; I didn’t have to choose between education and future solvency. This is their issue in a way it can never be mine; they’re paying through the nose, and it’s coming out bloody. And they’re coming out swinging.

They also don’t carry the same historical baggage as my generation. The Cold War is in my past, but it is in their prehistory. The only Mutually Assured Destruction they fear is the possibility of Trump in the White House. And, as one interviewee remarked in an article on TheAtlantic.com, “socialism shouldn’t be a dirty word.”

I almost cheered when I read that, sitting here at my work desk: this is a major, monumental step forward. We have a generation of emerging citizens capable of envisioning socialism as something other than the USSR, as a cooperative ethic rather than as a clash of civilizations. Why? Because, quite simply, they are not us. Socialism is, to them, a new idea, not an old bugbear or cautionary tale used to stave off the liberal mind. They are throwbacks to the dawn of the concept, when it was about knocking down the fences that cut people off from the land, before it became about authority and still stood for community and solidarity.

If anyone can make this work, these are the ones to do it: they are not afraid to try new things, and they have one mother of a stake in the game. If Bernie Sanders falls short of the Oval, at the very least he is a hero for flipping the switch in young people’s minds, and showing them what fellow feeling is and can do if everyone works together in the interests of everybody else.

So the kids are taking control, which is as it should be. It’s their future, their world to make or break. I’m approaching 40, and while I’m not even close to being out of the game yet, with each passing year my role in all this becomes less about me and more about them. Which is also as it should be. It’s the long game I’m looking at here: I’m halfway to the finish line, but my nieces and nephew have their whole lives ahead of them. And I’m voting with the kids for my kids.

Thank goodness for the “damn millennials.” The future is theirs, and as such, it’s in good hands.