A lot has been made in the media about the accelerated schedule of the Green New Deal–the sponsors of the Congressional resolution want us to get there in 12 years.
To us, what’s more interesting is the fusion of progressive economic and social goals with the environmental initiatives to get to zero emissions. And again, in the formative stages of all this, it’s easy to look at it as disconnected. We might even be permitted to speculate that a firm connection did not exist in the minds of the plan’s creators. But we think over the course of this blog’s existence that we will end up showing a very firm connection between the social, the economic and the environmental elements.
Progressives began labeling healthcare a human right about a decade or so before the Green New Deal. Old school opponents were quick to object–how can infrastructure and services painstakingly built up over centuries at great cost to companies and individuals be re-characterized as providing something (healthcare) that their customers (patients) all of a sudden have a right to?
But we, their current and future patients, certainly see the logic. Just as the Declaration of Independence’s ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ are aspirations, not inalienable rights (we do still die, sadly, and pay taxes for the maintenance of prisons and spend a lot of money on anti-depressants), there is no reason not to add healthcare under the umbrella of things we want to be considered as among our rights. It is logical to expect a State and the services it provides to evolve along with changing conditions–Social Security and the GI Bill are not mentioned once in the Constitution. If Progressives are offering a New Deal, it is not only legitimate, it is completely natural to include the provision of healthcare as part of it.
As we move towards a watershed election in 2020, we are certain to hear two ‘facts’ hammered home by Democratic candidates–the first being that we spend twice as much per person on healthcare as other developed countries and the second being that our healthcare ‘outcomes’ are poorer than those same countries. There is much truth but more than a little misdirection in both statements. America indeed spends 18% of GDP on healthcare compared to between 6% and 10% for other rich countries, and American longevity, to take just one metric of health outcomes, averages a couple of years below those same countries. We spend more on healthcare and die younger than people do in France or Norway–something that seems to clash with how we view ourselves and our society.
Middle class and rich Americans do indeed spend a lot of money on healthcare, mostly through employer-provided insurance. But their health outcomes are just fine–just as good as Sweden and France. Poor Americans are hammered by healthcare costs they can’t afford and their health outcomes reflect the choices and sacrifices they are forced to make. Middle class and richer Americans live just as long as their European counterparts, no question about it.
America’s healthcare problem is largely one of economic inequality and cannot be solved unless it is recognized as such. Progressives don’t explicitly label the situation in those terms, but the solution Democrats are working towards–universal healthcare for all with costs paid for by taxes rather than insurance–is the only way to improve the healthcare quality and availability for about a third of Americans at the bottom of the income scale. Republicans allow this vagueness in terminology, probably because if it was explained more explicitly, their opposition to universal healthcare would clearly amount to ‘I’ve got mine, mate,’ much to their detriment at the polls.
We at this blog are skeptical that switching over to government provided or government financed healthcare will be cheap, or even significantly cheaper than what it replaces. We certainly are not good at cost containment on things like the military, and the new technologies employed to combat cancer, hospital infections and chronic ailments associated with ageing are going to be more expensive than anyone thinks. But without a switch to single provider of healthcare, those new technologies will be available only to the elite, something that America would have regarded as unpalatable for most of its history.
Progressives are promoting a New Deal because many in America are getting a bad deal. One place they are getting a bad deal is healthcare. Progressives argue that what we should expect from our State includes healthcare for all. History provides plenty of examples of States taking on additional burdens in response to the needs of their citizens.
Some may disagree with Progressives about the provision of healthcare. But there is no real reason not to include it in their overall proposal. In later posts we will discuss the impact of healthcare on the environment–it may surprise readers. But this post is certainly long enough as it is.
Tip of the Day: If you’re in the market for a new car, buy an electric or hybrid vehicle. As with planting trees, your purchase will not save the planet. But it won’t hurt it as much as alternative purchases and it will send a signal to manufacturers and politicians that greener is better. Eventually we will have to address the power plants that provide the electricity for your new, green car. But even if your battery is charged by electricity coming from a coal plant, the overall emissions are about half those coming from an internal combustion engine pushing your car down the road. About 30% of American emissions of greenhouse gases come from transportation. No real reason to add to that, plenty of good reasons to lower it.