By Al Simpson, September 7, 2017
In this article, I will show how the rationing of health care is an integral part of the United States’ drive for war. The same is true for entitlement programs. In general, the rulers will jettison or severely curtail anything that might limit the size of the war budget.
Opposition to imperialist war has developed in the United States and internationally over the last 15 years in response to the immense cost in life and resources of the US-led wars of brigandage. Significant majorities of the US and Europe oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because they are waged based on lies for the purpose of securing world domination on behalf of American corporations. Over a million citizens died[i] in Iraq alone, and thousands of coalition soldiers have been either killed or maimed. The Iraq war alone has a financial cost of well over 2[ii] trillion dollars, while trillions of dollars have been drained from social programs to expand the military-intelligence agencies. The war mongering is not going to stop at this point, and any period of peace in the future may be episodic, as future imperialist wars are currently being planned – unless they are halted by the Working Class!
After World War II, the United States was the only combatant left intact, but now, decades later, it has competition and is in decline. If it cannot stay on top because of its productive capacity, then it will attempt to do so by use of its military might and dwindling financial influence.
The American bosses haven’t been subtle about their opposition to the rise of China as an economic competitor. A number of publicly available papers[iii] discuss the blockading of China and other war plans. In January 2017, Forbes magazine actually had an article entitled: “A U.S. Blockade In The South China Sea Is An Act Of Peace”. The U.S. regularly sends ships and planes close to Chinese territory in the South China Sea as acts of intimidation and spying. The U.S. and Vietnam staged war games off the coast of China, which infuriated the Chinese. And as a show of strength, the US flew B52 bombers over small Islands in the South China Sea belonging to China. The U.S. is also mindful of China’s plan for the increase of trade in Eurasia as a whole – without the involvement of the United States. There was no intention to curtail trade with the United States, per se, but to greatly improve trade in Eurasia.
The U.S. was not going to stand idly by while this was happening, so it erected a toll booth in eastern Europe. The American bosses overthrew the elected government in Ukraine and replaced it with a fascist backed government. The fascists were deliberately integrated into Ukraine’s armed forces, so there would not be a clean outcome! Russia had to defend itself, and needed to guarantee the existence of a warm water port on the Black Sea, so it annexed Crimea. By the way, the population of Crimea voted over 96 percent in favor of the Annexation by Russia[iv]. As if on cue, numerous sanctions were then placed upon Russia to disrupt its economy. Most recently, further sanctions were placed on Russia, not for anything it did, but to facilitate the sale of American liquefied natural gas, while at the same time prohibiting the sale of Russian natural gas[v]. These aggressive and reckless actions against Russia and China could lead to war. Almost needless to say, war planning by the maniacs in Washington has been ongoing for some time. Nevertheless, there are obstacles to America’s drive to war. Let’s discuss some of them.
Expenditures on Health Care Reduce War Budget
Military planners see the expenditures on health care and entitlements as impediments to their war planning because they are expensive and might limit the amount of money spent on war. They complain that people are living too long and that health care and entitlement spending is too high. Their arguments have a fascistic odor to them. Daniel Callahan wrote in the New York Times:[vi] “We are not, however, obliged to help the old become indefinitely older. Indeed, our duty may be just the reverse: to let death have its day.” Callahan also wrote: “And exactly what are the potential social benefits? Is there any evidence that more old people will make special contributions now lacking with an average life expectancy close to 80?” According to a report from CNBC[vii] life expectancy in the U.S. will not increase very much in the coming years anyway. Here is what they wrote: “The poor levels of life expectancy in the U.S. against other rich nations has been laid bare in a new report [by the World Health Organization and Imperial College London], which predicts that minimal gains over the coming years will see the country have similar rates to Mexico by the year 2030.” Life expectancy for black people have improved, but they are more likely to die sooner of all causes (Washington Post May 2, 2017).
But, this dismal outcome isn’t enough for the ghouls in the Defense Department. They want even lower life expectancy to pay for their grandiose plans for world domination.
Another problem they face is opposition to war from their own citizens, as noted earlier. Their answer to this is that the United States needs military victories regardless of what the public thinks, so they can show the world that they can wield a big stick; especially given the dismal failures in Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere. Their second argument is the expectation that the public will fall into line once it has seen that the enemy has been destroyed. This is an argument that many people won’t buy.
Are We in A B-Movie?
Just as if it were part of a B-movie, President Trump announced that the so-called “Defense” budget of $580.3 billion be increased to $639 billion, a 10.1 percent increase ($58.7 billion increase). By comparison, the total of the budgets for the Department of Health and Human Services PLUS the Department of Housing and Urban Development amounts to $61.2 billion. Notice how little discussion there has been regarding this sizable increase to an already bloated “Defense” budget. In addition, deep cuts in in health care insurance had been proposed by the House and Senate Republicans in two different bills along with the phasing out of Medicaid. And, of course, the wealthy never suffer: tax cuts for the rich are currently being considered by the Congress.
Here are details of some of the health insurance cuts. For brevity, only the Senate bill will be considered.
Pre-existing conditions: The Senate bill requires insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions and bans insurers from basing premiums on consumers’ health history. However, it would allow states to waive the federal mandate on what insurers must cover, known as the essential health benefits. This would permit insurers to offer less comprehensive policies, so those with pre-existing conditions may not have all of their treatments covered by insurance.
Medicaid: The bill would continue the enhanced Medicaid expansion funding from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) until 2021 and then phase it out over three years.
Premiums subsidies: The Senate bill also maintains Obamacare’s premium subsidies structure, but would tighten the eligibility starting in 2020. It would cut the number of people who would get help because only those earning up to 350% of the poverty level would qualify, instead of the 400% threshold contained in Obamacare. But it would also allow subsidies to enrollees below the poverty level so those living in states that didn’t expand Medicaid could get some assistance. The subsidies could not be used for abortions.
Premiums for Older Persons: Older persons will be charged 5 times as much as younger persons. The limit under the Affordable Care Act is 3 times. This will make health insurance unaffordable for many people.
Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood would be defunded for one year.
The two healthcare cutting schemes have been defeated, but if either scheme would have been enacted, over 22 million people would have lost their health insurance. Many people believe the unproven meddling by Russia into the last presidential election will be used as a distraction to enable the Democrats and Republicans to pass healthcare and entitlement cuts.
Finally, tax cuts for the rich! The huge cutbacks in health insurance, mentioned above, were intended, at least in part, to fund tax breaks for the wealthy. In view of the defeat of the healthcare legislation, the tax breaks for the wealthy may have to be more modest. They are currently being debated but few specifics have emerged so far. Let’s go over a few. Chopping tax rates on corporations to 15 percent, from 35 percent, and on wealthy Americans to 35 percent, from about 40 percent have been proposed. Also, ending the estate tax, which only hits multimillionaires (The levy applies to estates worth more than $5.49 million. This will only touch an estimated 5,200 people in the country this year)[viii]. There has been some discussion on eliminating the tax deduction on real estate taxes, a deduction that many working class families depend upon. Interestingly, repealing the deduction on real estate mortgage interest has not been popular. The proposals for changes in the tax code are still in an incomplete form at this writing, so the changes may or may not occur.
Many of the things mentioned in this article may sound like the work of a madman, but the falling rate of profit forces the capitalists to try more and more aggressive and reckless actions. This explains why the United States would contemplate engaging in a nuclear war to halt China’s rise as a world power. That is why they are more than willing to deprive millions of people of health insurance, why they are willing to phase out Medicaid, and all the other depredations. But there is an alternative to the madness. It is the historic task of the Working Class to overthrow capitalism and build a better more humane world for us all – free of war, racism, sexism, and all the other ills of capitalism and class society.
The author, Al Simpson, is a mathematician who lives in the United States.
[i] ORB survey of Iraq War casualties. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ORB_survey_of_Iraq_War_casualties Sept 14, 2007.
[ii] Iraq war costs U.S. more than $2 trillion: study. Reuters March 13, 2014.
[iii] The Dynamics of a Pacific Blockade Strategy by Warren Van Allen LCDR, U.S. Navy Advanced Studies in Naval
Strategy Program. Conflict with China Rand Corporation.
[iv]The official result from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was a 96.77 percent vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 83.1 percent voter turnout. Crimean status referendum, 2014 Wikipedia.
[v] US bets Europe willing to pay more for less dependence on Russian energy. RT.com August 22, 2017.
[vi] On Dying After Your Time Daniel Callahan New York Times Sunday Review November 30, 2013.
[vii] US life expectancy is low and is now projected to be on par with Mexico by 2030 CNBC February 22, 2017.
[viii] The Finance 202: Trump speech will bash rigged system. But tax outline would benefit 1 percent. PowerPost The Finance 202 by Tory Newmyer, August 30, 2017.