Thursday, July 23, 2009

Minimum Wage and Health Care

by Dick Mac

We Americans decided to eliminate the social safety-net that had been established between the Depression and the Great Society. Americans can't really go "on the dole" anymore, but that also means they have nowhere to turn if their life suddenly takes a turn for the worst.

Sick Americans used to be able to get health care with Medicaid or Medicare. We have made it nearly impossible for Americans, even children, to get Medicaid, and the Bush II administration gutted Medicare and pawned it to the lowest bidders in the early part of this decade. So, even though Medicare still costs a lot of money, many elderly people are not getting the health care they need.

The minimum wage is going to rise to $7.25 per hour.

When I got my first real minimum wage job in 1974, the wage was $2.25. As a 16-year-old that Summer, I had more purchasing power as a teenage dishwasher than a single-mother earning minimum wage today. Sadly, there are Americans, including economists and people in power, who think we should not increase the minimum wage.

A cup of coffee and a gallon of gas each cost two bucks or more! How can $7.25 be too high a wage? And since poor people spend ALL of their money after every payday, giving them more money will actually stimulate American purchasing!

The President wants a new health care system. Sadly he wants to base it on generation-old economic theory that has failed every facet of American life.

We don't need a new national health care system. We already have a national health care system: Medicaid & Medicare. The solution to the current health crisis is to undo the ludicrous changes to Medicare that the supply-siders instituted under the reign of Bush II, and extend the Medicaid & Medicare programs to all Americans. Period.

Increase the staffing and funding for Medicaid & Medicare, and make them work as they did in the mid-20th Century: as successful health care providers. Remove the "free" market (which doesn't really exist) from the equation, and provide health care to all citizens.

Then, if you want real competition, employers who want to attract talented people can augment that basic health care with private health insurance, purchased from health insurers, that provide even more benefits. If employers choose against offering this benefit to staff, then they will lose a competitive edge in the marketplace.

We do not need President Obama to invent another tax-based citizen benefit rooted in supply-side economic theory. That's the last thing Americans need. The President needs to restore existing, previously successful systems to their former greatness.

Will this mean a big bureaucracy? Yes. We are talking about the government; the government is a big bureaucracy - it is supposed to be a big bureaucracy. The government is not a corporation, should not be expected to run like a business, and needs to be restored to a properly funded, functioning government.

Then perhaps it can start protecting its citizens, not its corporate citizens, its individual citizens, and start making real decision based on real facts, instead of trying to implement ridiculous new enterprises based on supply-side economic theory that has destroyed American capitalism, and the American government, at its core.

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