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Nader writes: "Congress is still talking about a 'Grand Bargain' that 'balances' far more spending cuts than tax increases ... Don't buy it!"

Ralph Nader on Meet the Press. (photo: NBC)
Ralph Nader on Meet the Press. (photo: NBC)

'Grand Bargain' Charade a Scheme to Protect Corporate Welfare

By Ralph Nader, Common Dreams

15 November 12


ongress is still talking about a "Grand Bargain" that "balances" far more spending cuts than tax increases. That is another way of saying that you - the consumer of Medicare and Medicaid services, the recipient of Social Security, and the average taxpayer will take the brunt of the spending cuts, while the wealthy get their income taxes restored, not raised, to their pre-Bush modest levels. Don't buy it!

There are two ways to cut Medicare and Medicaid. The right wingers want to cut benefits. Consumers want to cut vendor fraud, the overcharging and the immense over-diagnosis, over-treatment and erroneous or unnecessary procedures and prescriptions documented so often by, among others, the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Don't think this is small stuff. The waste and fraud amount to hundreds of billions of dollars a year! Americans pay the highest prices for drugs in the world even though most of them were developed in the U.S. significantly based on government research, development and with tax credit subsidies for Big Pharma. Even Mr. Obama's 2013 budget recognizes savings from excessive drug industry pricing.

The nation's leading expert, Harvard's Malcolm Sparrow, has estimated that computerized billing fraud and abuse is anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of the nation's health bill. This adds up to $270 billion to $650 billion a year. A big slice of that fraud is taken out of Medicare and Medicaid.

A single-payer, full Medicare for all system - formerly supported by President Obama, Hillary Clinton and many members of Congress, before Mr. Obama took it off the table in 2009 - would cut present administrative costs in half. Canada's system, which allows patients to freely choose their doctor and hospital, covers everyone for half of the $9000 per capita that Americans will pay this year. Our system leaves 50 million people uncovered of whom 45,000 will die this year alone due to lack of coverage, according to a peer-reviewed study by Harvard Medical School researchers.

Longer range savings come from reducing medical malpractice, hospital-induced infections and plain errors that annually cost 200,000 lives, and more injuries and sicknesses. Some hospitals are proving these savings can come quickly with common sense solutions: better sanitation, checklists and stronger internal peer reviews.

The trilogy of health care fraud, waste and abuse requires public discussion, along with the vastly greater returns from better funded policing of the healthcare system. Yet pundits and columnists ignore reaping savings from the bloated healthcare industry and assume the cuts must overwhelmingly come out of people's hides - namely benefits.

As economist Dean Baker has written, we don't need to cut Social Security benefits (already solid for the next 25 years) whether in money or later age eligibility.

Congress could also simply raise the social security tax on incomes above $115,000, increase the minimum wage, inflation adjusted, to that of 1968! And adopt other long-overdue improvements such as disability enforcement efficiencies. The initiatives will move the trust fund to sustainability for the next 75 years.

The deep bias of public dialogue here, whether in such reborn deficit-reduction commissions as Simpson-Bowles or in the general media is revealed in the use of the word "entitlements." It is only used to apply to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which involve recycling peoples' tax dollars. It is not used to describe the massive corporate entitlements shoveled out daily to business welfarists in the form of subsidies, bailouts, giveaways, tax loopholes, debt revocations, loan guarantees, discounted insurance and other aid to dependent corporations. Why? Power produces privileges.

When 30 large companies, such as Verizon and General Electric, make a total of $160 billion in U.S. profits from 2008-2010 according to the Citizens for Tax Justice and pay NO federal income taxes there is a substantial loss of revenue to the U.S. Treasury. Two thirds of corporations pay no income tax on their profits under the Swiss cheese tax code.

Moreover, the corporate welfare they receive in various modes, including free research, development, and inflated government contracts (a disguised subsidy) is hardly a recycling of their taxes.

Just taxing corporations at the rate paid in the prosperous nineteen sixties would bring in hundreds of billions of dollars yearly. Another great revenue producer is a tiny Wall St. speculation sales tax, a far tinier rate than what you pay in sales taxes.

What about taxing capital gains and dividends the same as ordinary income? That was the case under Ronald Reagan. Then there is the bloated military budget, so full of redundancies, waste, boondoggle weapons programs such as the F-22, endless weapons cost over-runs, contracting fraud and boomeranging Empire expenditures as to boggle the minds. Even retired high military officers condemn giving the Pentagon such blank checks.

Anyone who has been in the armed services has seen the runaway expenditures, especially those that hugely outsourced contracts inflict on American taxpayers.

It is hard to remember when the last thorough Congressional investigation of the Pentagon budget occurred. Why, Congress can't even get the Department of Defense to provide accountings so as to be auditable by the Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO). The Defense budget is half of the entire U.S. government's operating expenditures and it is not even auditable!

So enough already of the twisted, evasive talk of the Grand Bargain on your backs. The Grand Bargain should be both Parties paying close attention to corporate welfare, corporate tax escapes, and corporate crime, fraud and abuse before unraveling the most meager social safety net in the western world. your social media marketing partner


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+20 # dick 2012-11-16 00:05
Significant reform will require 2 consecutive GIGANTIC election victories & sustained mass demonstrations & sustained very civil disobedience, at least. Slowing the wrong way momentum may be a viable goal for the next 7 months. Strong support for the women in Congress is crucial. If Obama begins to falter on appointments or "compromise" he should be opposed peacefully but relentlessly IN THE STREETS. He OWES US.
-3 # Michael_K 2012-11-16 17:40
We have zero leverage. The time to nail his ass was when he was begging for re-election and was cynically calculating you were too stupid to figure out that you could vote en masse for a 3rd party.

He didn't care that he owed you in his first term, he betrayed you and laughed at you. Imagine how much worse it will be now that he got all he could get from you, his re-election.

Why can't any of you understand that this man is well to the right of Richard Nixon?
+25 # grandma lynn 2012-11-16 04:27
Fraud in Medicare billing - when my Mother was dying and had cancer-care, she was still alert enough to read her bills. She found a startlingly high charge to Medicare for something not done to her and on a day when she was at home. She called the hospital on it and had the charge cancelled. She was irrate, as a taxpayer. Good for Mother!
+16 # BradFromSalem 2012-11-16 09:40
Single payer will go a long way all by itself in eliminating many of those errors. With a myriad of Insurance Companies, each having multiple plans, added to large corporations that self insure and in doing so create a unique set of plans for that corporation; its amazing that the overhead isn't twice what it is. Sometimes the mistakes are actually fraud, many more times they are billing errors. The errors could be at any point along the billing trail, starting with the patient through their direct care provider such nurses and doctors, to their clerical staff, on up to the hospital billing department, their IT department, lets not forget legal and business managers that define what the policies mean for IT to implement. Back down to account receivables. And did I mention that everything changes every year on the same date? Its a wonder anything works.
+9 # charsjcca 2012-11-16 12:46
Step ONE. Let the fiscal cliff happen. See what happens for 18 months then craft an appropriate response.
+6 # Eliza D 2012-11-17 16:49
Why can't people see that you should have been president, Mr. Nader? Common-sense, honest fixes for our horrifyingly broken system.

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