This is a followup to my previous post – My Call to Kerry – Not Reassuring.
Drew O’Brien is John Kerry’s Staff Director in Massachusetts. He called me this morning and we spoke for nearly an hour. It was a cordial and, I hope, productive conversation.
First, he agreed that Social Security is solvent, without any adjustments at all. I said that John Kerry, as the senior senator from Massachusetts, needed to come out publicly and say this every time someone mentioned that Social Security was “in trouble”.
Second, he agreed that having some kind of single payer health care that cut out the insurance company overhead and profits would take the financial pressure off of Medicare and Medicaid. He said he that the transition from the present health insurance system to single payer would be difficult. I said that it would be easy to lower the age of eligibility for Medicare to 50, and then subsequently to 40, 30, 20 and 0. He thought this was an interesting suggestion. We agreed that health insurance companies would lose their profits. I told him that James Roosevelt, who is the administrator for the Tufts Health Care plan, has pointed out that if this happened, many of the administrators of the health insurance companies would work for Medicare. On the other hand, some of the doctors who work for the insurance companies in denying payment would have to start treating patients in order to earn a living. I pointed out that while we spend nearly twice as much money per capita on health care as any other developed country, we have worse outcomes, and that going to Medicare for all and negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies would enable us to get more value for our health care dollars.
He agreed that income distribution has become more unequal since the 1970s and that this was not a good thing.
I suggested that Senator Kerry’s office make a graph showing military spending in inflation-adjusted dollars since World War II, and that on this graph they should place events such as, End of World War II, Korean War, End of Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, End of Vietnam War, End of Cold War, War in Iraq, War in Afghanistan. I suggested that such a graph would show military spending increasing repeatedly in peacetime. It would also raise the important question of why we didn’t see a “peace dividend” at the end of the Cold War, and might suggest where some budget savings could come from.
I told him that the purpose of this committee was to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while protecting the military budget and the tax cuts for the top 1%. I said that Senator Kerry could be a hero by turning this committee on its head and making it do exactly the opposite – preserving the three cornerstones of our social compact and reducing the deficit by transitioning to Medicare for All, increasing taxes on the top 1% and cutting the military budget. I asked him what Senator Kerry planned to do and he said that they were still in the early planning stages. He assured me that “John Kerry will work to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” There will be tremendous pressure on him to do the opposite or to cut these programs in the guise of “protecting them in the long run”. I think this is the perfect time for people to call Senator Kerry’s office (202-224-2742), and, indeed the offices of all twelve members of this “Super Committee”, and tell them to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with no cuts. The game isn’t over, and we can have an enormous effect on its outcome.