Originally posted on People and Nature:
In Moscow, anti-war demonstrators were detained in large numbers. Each
Originally posted on People and Nature:
In Moscow, anti-war demonstrators were detained in large numbers. Each
Veteran radical journalist Chris Hedges successfully argued for the proposition that “Edward Snowden is a hero” at the Oxford Union on February 21. Of course, he is absolutely right to praise Snowden’s moral courage. But he painted a picture of a “solitary individual” standing up for his principles against a potentially all-powerful corporate state, neglecting the intention of Snowden’s revelations, which was to alert the public to the extent of NSA surveillance and engage them in discussing placing limits on it.
Prior to the debate, Hedges published an essay in Truthdig in which he writes that Snowden’s personal risk was heroic because we live in a “dual state” (using the terminology of the German political scientist Ernst Fraenkel) where “civil liberties are abolished in the name of national security. … The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are hollow, political stagecraft. … Those who challenge the abuses of power by the prerogative state, those who, like Snowden, expose the crimes carried out by government, are made into criminals.”
There is no denying the authoritarian nature of NSA surveillance, the vicious prosecution of whistleblowers, the outsized political influence bought by right-wing billiionaires, and killing of civilians by drone strikes. But despite the vast enterprise set up in the name of Homeland Security to suppress dissent, other whistleblowers and leakers continue to reveal what the security state is doing. Why would they do this? Only because they are not acting as isolated heroes; their bravery channels the commitment of Americans to their constitutional rights, their strong attachment to the ideal of democracy. Their moral imperatives are social, not individual.
A new report published in the German Bild am Sonntag reveals that, based on information provided by a “high-ranking NSA employee in Germany,” and not on any of the documents released by Snowden, the NSA responded to an order to refrain from spying directly on president Angela Merkel’s phone by intensifying its monitoring of other high-level officials in her government. As Glenn Greenwald points out, this means there is already at least one more NSA source prepared to risk his or her career to disclose the agency’s secrets.
It seems to me that by focusing on the authoritarian elements in the US, Hedges has prematurely written off society’s strengths. The political theorist he cites, Ernst Fraenkel, based his analysis on his direct experience of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazi authoritarian rule within the German state. Comparisons of the present situation of the U.S. with Weimar, which have been made recently by commentators ranging from Glenn Beck to Noam Chomsky, overlook major differences in the two societies: principally that Germany did not have a strong democratic tradition established through a revolution against European powers.
Authoritarian trends within US society certainly exist; but there is a continuing struggle between state coercion and democratic forms of popular participation. Hedges implies that the US surveillance state is part of a self-enclosed apparatus in a polar opposition to society. But to sustain their moral authority, ideals of legitimacy also penetrate state institutions. Edward Snowden, for example, was part of the US surveillance state just as much as the heads of the CIA or FBI, but became a whistleblower because of the contradiction between his experience of the actuality of surveillance and its justification with the misuse of democratic ideals. He began to question his own role when, as Hedges himself narrates, “he had watched as senior officials including Barack Obama lied to the public about internal surveillance.”
State entities need to preserve their moral justification even when political groups within them are misusing their authority to extend their own power – if we truly lived in a dual state, for example, the Christie scandal and the Walker prosecutions would not even be publicly known.
Mike Lofgren, a former GOP congressional staff member with the House and Senate Budget Committees, gives an insider’s view of the same phenomenon, the “hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country … connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible [constitutional] state.” He writes: “In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.”
Moreover, as Juan Cole points out, the “Deep State” is internally divided, and much more responsive to the exercise of public political power than it appears. Cole also argues that the vast expansion of the security apparatus was a time-dependent effect of the impact of the September 11 attacks, and this influence is already beginning to wane.
The public has asserted its political power in diverse ways: Obama has had to abandon cuts to social security from his budget; had to back off from military intervention in Syria; and had to make at least a verbal commitment to NSA reform. The election of de Blasio in New York from an overt campaign against inequality signifies a marked shift in the popular mood – his new administration is already taking steps to reverse the plutocratic drive to commandeer society’s education resources.
The rapid escalation of minimum wage demands at the local level stems from years when wages have been held down and pressure on living standards has built up. Politically, the national Democratic leadership is being outflanked by a grass-roots surge of low-waged workers and community activists. Josh Eidelson reports that in Los Angeles, a City Council committee is studying nearly doubling the minimum wage for hotel employees to $15.37, while in Seattle, newly-elected mayor Ed Murray spoke confidently of a $15 minimum for the city’s public and private sector workers.
This movement and the interests of the plutocracy are on a collision course. But although the legal system discriminates in favor of corporations and security agencies are working diligently to suppress dissent, the more determined popular resistance becomes, the more likely state entities will be subverted from within. Their role is by no means settled in advance.
The state cannot rule through force alone. It would be a mistake to overestimate its strength when the American public has not been defeated or cowed, but up until now has been diverted from fighting for its economic interests by either liberal rhetoric or racism. While mindful of the dangers of a turn to authoritarian rule, we need to recognize that the society we live in is not at present a “dual state” but is in a transitional moment: the struggle for democracy is ongoing.
The Union of Auto Workers’ bid for recognition at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was narrowly defeated last week by 712 votes to 626, a difference of 6.5% of the vote – hardly the stunning defeat reported by the mainstream media. Volkswagen management, under pressure from its corporate headquarters, had agreed to remain neutral in the campaign, unlike most US corporations who attempt to prevent unionization at all costs. If the UAW had succeeded, VW would have been the first foreign auto plant in the South to be unionized.
What was noteworthy about the election was the unprecedented high-profile intervention by Republican politicians, who pulled out all the stops to defeat the bid. Their panic over the possibility of a pro-union vote signifies the erosion of the Republican party’s southern strategy of using racism to suppress unionization and the social safety net while keeping workers voting against their economic interests.
Economic expansion in the South has led to increased support for unions and worker self-confidence. As Steven Pearlstein commented in the Washington Post, “incomes in the region still lag those of the North and West, while unemployment rates in many states are higher than the national average. And those once-grateful and -docile workers are beginning to notice – even in right-to-work states such as Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, where union membership grew by 19 percent or more last year – the fastest rates in the country.”
Not only did right-wing billionaire Grover Norquist post billboards in the town depicting the UAW as having destroyed Detroit, Republican senator Bob Corker called a press conference on the eve of the vote specifically to claim that VW would manufacture a new mid-size SUV in the Chattanooga facility if the UAW was defeated – tying the possibility of jobs to rejecting the union. VW immediately denied any connection between the vote and the decision where to build the new model. Tennessee state legislators attacked VW as promoting an “un-American” labor campaign and threatened to withhold tax incentives for the company’s expansion if the union was recognized.
Obama was moved to retort that the Tennessee politicians were “more concerned about German shareholders than American workers,” according to Reuters. But that is a cheap piece of xenophobia: VW itself was in favor of union recognition, since that would have enabled it to set up a “works council” similar to those at their other factories. What the politicians wanted to buttress was the cheap labor strategy of the Southern elite – which is why they are also so opposed to affordable health care, expansion of Medicaid, and a living wage in the region.
Union leaders bitterly denounced Republican interference, but statements by anti-union workers in the factory showed that right-wing depictions of the UAW as an outside group coming in to impose bureaucratic control over the workforce and jeopardize their jobs had resonated with sections of the workforce and plant management. Union activists in the plant told labor correspondent Mike Elk of In These Times that they had seen “multiple low-level supervisors and salaried employees at the plant wearing ‘Vote No’ T-shirts in the days leading up to the union election,” even though they were not eligible to join.
Mike Jarvis, an hourly worker and member of the anti-union “No 2 UAW” campaign, told the Washington Post that many workers had been persuaded to vote against the deal by the terms of a neutrality agreement negotiated between VW and the UAW, which they understood as the union brokering a deal not to bargain for wages above what was offered by VW’s competitors in the United States. “We got people to realize they had already negotiated a deal behind their backs—[workers] didn’t get to have a say-so,” he told reporters.
Mike Burton, an hourly worker who created the website for No 2 UAW, said many workers objected to the UAW having initially sought unionization based on what it said was having a majority of cards signed favoring a union. “We were only given one choice [of a union],” he told Mike Elk. “When you are only given one choice, it’s BS. It would be nice if we had a union that came in here and forthright said, ‘Here is what we can offer.’ I am not anti-union, I am anti-UAW,” he said. “There are great unions out there, and we just weren’t offered any of them.”
Elk points out that the neutrality agreement may have weakened the UAW’s campaign by preventing one-on-one meetings with workers at their homes, a standard organizing tactic used to build trust with workers and answer questions about individual needs and concerns. Moreover, as he reports, “Many activists I spoke with during my two trips to Chattanooga said that when they saw the UAW being continually blasted on local talk radio, newspapers and billboards, they wanted to get involved to help build community support. However, they say that the UAW was lukewarm in partnering with them. … Community activists said they had a hard time finding ways to coordinate solidarity efforts with the UAW, whose campaign they saw as insular rather than community-based.”
The successes of the movement against low pay in the fast-food industry and at Walmart have all been based on alliances between unions and community groups. By eschewing such partnerships, and failing to engage the broader community, the UAW may have facilitated the right’s portrayal of them as outsiders. As one community organizer told Mike Elk: “There’s no way to win in the South without everyone that supports you fighting with you. Because the South is one giant anti-union campaign.”
But the Republican intervention has raised many questions about the politicians’ role. The Washington Post commented: “many of the plant’s workers are themselves conservatives – and have started to wonder why the politicians who represent them oppose their right to organize.” The report quotes John Wright, a test driver at the plant who identifies as a right-leaning independent, who said he was puzzled when Corker came back to Nashville to voice opposition to the UAW. “I can’t for the life of me understand why the Republicans and big money are coming against us so bad. To me, they’re attacking the average worker,” he said. ”To have politicians think that there’s nothing more important than coming down and picking on the little guy because he wants a union, there’s a national debt we’ve got to control, we have foreign policy things that we elect them to go up there to do, but you have to fly home for an emergency meeting because I want a union?”
Republican politicians’ fear of unions will not go unnoticed as Southern workers join the minimum wage struggle. They have had a valuable lesson about the contradictions in Republican rhetoric and the vulnerability of the political elite to worker organization and political independence.
A regular reader of Colonel Despard has contributed this story describing massive police mobilization against demonstrators protesting a draconian new law aimed at stifling dissent. According to press reports, seven protesters were arrested after clashes and 23 people injured. The law has not yet been approved by parliament, but passage is certain since the conservative government has an absolute majority. Unauthorized demonstrations near government buildings could incur huge fines, and new offences such as interfering in electoral processes have been created that could carry penalties of up to 600,000 euros. Blogger Don Quijones writes: “The law will also enable the police to establish ‘security zones’ to prevent congregations of people. Although the draft makes no specific reference, the measure is designed to stop escraches — the practice of protesting on the doorstep of politicians or business leaders — as well as spontaneous gatherings to prevent evictions, both of which have become popular forms of political protest and which the country’s supreme court has already deemed legal.” Since the start of the austerity crisis in 2008 there have been weekly protests in Spain, the vast majority entirely peaceful.
The strident whir of police helicopters hijacked the joy of citizens who yesterday went to Madrid’s Plaza del Sol to enjoy an unusually balmy evening in the company of friends and family. As people gathered in the famed square to see and be seen, take pictures of the Christmas lights, and generally have fun, one of the police choppers turned on its floodlights from above, and as if acting upon a signal below, a battalion of police moved to block the corner of Alcalá and Sol, preventing people from leaving.
A friend, a generous poet of the city, and I had been watching the helicopter when we became aware of the cops approaching dressed in full riot gear, including bullet-proof vests. We realized we needed to get out. Police were closing in on a peaceful assembly for apparently no reason. We decided to walk to the Cibeles Fountain to avoid them. My friend remarked, “They cannot close it since it’s an open roundabout and leads to all parts of the city.” He was sadly wrong. As made our way down Alcalá, we passed platoons of between 20-30 cops every three blocks, fully armed, and rows of vans with blue lights turned on. When we got to Cibeles, there were police platoons in each corner, surrounding in effect the beautiful statue of Madrid’s resident goddess. The streets were not closed, but the city was surrounded.
What I and many others witnessed in Madrid last night brought us face to face with one of the nightmarish ghosts of Christmas Past, that of Francisco Franco’s fascist Spain. During his 40-year reign, the militarization of the police served to crush dissent and prevent citizens from petitioning their government for redress—the right for which American patriots North and South have fought and died, and for which the makers of Spain’s Second Republic also gave their lives heroically. With the Ley de Mordaza [translated literally Gag Law] this right is under threat in Spain once again. The law forbids any spontaneous assembly, any protest in front of a government building, or in front of an elected official’s home. While it might be debated that escraches, as the protests outside politician’s homes are known, are an invasion of privacy, the fines for spontaneous, peaceful assembly, and for protesting outside a government building are a violation of the rights of modern citizenship and popular sovereignty that have characterized Western Democracies up until now.
To judge from the police presence last night, an observer would have thought an enormous throng had gathered to assert their rights as citizens of a western democracy. But the massive show of force was against a small number (only 2,000), as El Público reports. There were 1,500 police, almost equaling the number of protestors. My friend, who lived during the Franco years, said this was eerily similar, and perhaps worse: after all, the police during Franco did not resemble storm troopers or Roman gladiators. The excessive display of force shows how determined the current administration in Spain is to silence any opposition to its policies, and that is not shy about summoning the spirit of former terrors to frighten people.
In doing so, the Spanish state is setting itself against its citizenry, and waging it will be cowed into submission. But instead it is adding pressure to the fabric of an already fraying nation: in addition to the persistent economic crisis, reduced prospects for the future, and pain that people are suffering—right down to hunger—it appears more likely than ever that Catalonia will secede. The transfer of wealth to Spain’s 1% continues unchecked because of repressive measures and ideology, but at a certain point, fear ceases to be an effective weapon of governance and ideological justifications no longer correspond to the reality of people’s lives. That disjunction is becoming more pronounced in the average Spaniard’s life, where in a table of five conversants, at least two people will have experience a major cut in their standard of living.
The government can fool some of the people some time, but not all the people all of the time.
Pace Machiavelli and Dick Cheney, terror worked in the Middle Ages, and arguably, even through the Bush years in the United States. Yet as we advance in the second decade of the 21st century, people around the world are discovering that their voices will not be silenced—from the leaders of the Arab Spring and Occupy, to Malala Youssef to Edward Snowden. It it is this courage, the same courage of the protesters near Cibeles last night, that will banish the ghost of Francisco Franco and his ilk. As they fight the Ley de Mordaza, our Spanish brothers and sisters remind us that the only way of protecting our freedoms is by exercising them and defending them against thousands of batons, if necessary.
A one-day strike of fast-food workers in over 100 U.S. cities on Thursday, together with protests at 1,500 Walmart stores on “Black Friday” last week, marks a significant escalation of the campaign for a higher minimum wage. Low pay has become a focus for activist groups around the country, bringing them together and creating political pressure on Democrats.
NBC reports: “In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald’s at around 6:30 a.m.; one startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn’t look up from eating and reading amid their chants of ‘We can’t survive on $7.25!’ “
The fast-food strikes, demanding a $15 minimum hourly wage, began in Manhattan eight months ago and have spread to locations as far apart as Chicago, Washington D.C, Boston, St. Louis, Kansas City, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Detroit, as well as Memphis and Raleigh, N.C., in the traditionally union-resistant South. The recent elections in New York resulted in the city’s three top positions — mayor, public advocate and comptroller — all being filled by supporters of the campaign.
Jonathan Westin, an organizer with New York Communities for Change, told the New York Times that the tactic of the roaming one-day strike was influenced by Occupy Wall Street’s success in inserting the theme of the 1 percent into the national conversation. “Confronting power more openly and publicly and directly,” he said, “that came straight from Occupy.”
The influence of Occupy is also clear from the “mic-check” protocol followed by protesters flooding the New York McDonald’s. Camille Rivera of United New York explained to Democracy Now how the protests were organized by coalitions of community organizations. She told Amy Goodman: “we have been, for the past year and a half, working with other, you know, organizations, clergy, etc., to create a support network for these workers.” When workers faced employer intimidation, “we’ve had community and clergy go there and do delegations and talk to the owners, demanding—from the communities themselves, saying, ‘You will not do this in my community. You will not intimidate workers’.”
Rivera said: “people are actually organizing on the ground on their own, as well … we get information online where workers say, ‘I’m in … Kansas, and I’m actually going to strike my store today.’… And it’s because what they’ve seen in New York and what they’ve seen across the country.”
A comparatively small number of Walmart employees took part in the Black Friday protests because of the company’s threats and firings of employees who joined protest actions last year. However, as with the fast-food strikers, they were backed up by large numbers of labor and community activists, over 100 of whom were arrested as they carried out civil disobedience actions. More than one participant made the comparison to the civil rights movement.
Democracy Now reports: “In St. Paul, Minnesota, 26 protesters were arrested when they blocked traffic while demanding better wages for janitors and retail employees. In Illinois, 10 people were issued citations at a protest near a Wal-Mart in Chicago. Video posted online showed nine people being arrested at a protest outside a Wal-Mart store in Alexandria, Virginia. At Wal-Mart protests in California, 15 people were arrested in Roseville, 10 arrested in Ontario, and five arrested in San Leandro.”
In Hadley, Mass, a crowd of around 200 coordinated by Western Massachusetts Jobs with Justice braved frigid weather to support two Walmart employees who recently went on a one-day strike for better treatment. Shoppers and passers-by were clearly aware of the low-wage campaign: some showed displeasure but many showed their support by honking their horns – in 2012, shoppers had no idea what was going on and were confused by the protests.
Elaine Rozier, who has worked at a Miami, Florida, Walmart for eight years, told supporters in Seacaucus, New Jersey: “I’ve come today to represent all the silent Wal-Mart workers that are afraid to stand up for their rights. I’m here to represent the nation, to let the Walmart corporation know that we’re not standing back.” She had traveled to the New Jersey store with Mark Bowers and Colby Harris, two Walmart workers from Texas. Harris told In These Times: “I’m getting arrested because Wal-Mart has continued to retaliate against the associates who’ve been speaking up,” before sitting down in the middle of the street.
The rapidly-growing grassroots movement against low pay has been reflected in Washington, as Obama picked up the rhetoric about growing inequality. While his speech impressed Paul Krugman, Obama’s call for Congress to increase the federal minimum wage was an empty one. Washington is so mired in partisan deadlock it is unlikely to ever implement such a policy; Obama himself refuses to even reply to a call by congressional Democrats to take presidential executive action to raise the wages of workers employed through federal government contracts.
Because of the congressional stalemate, the political momentum of the issue has bypassed Washington and gone local. As well as the vote for a $15 minimum wage at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, according to the Washington Post, “The California legislature, which is dominated by Democrats, passed a law over Republican objections this year to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016. Massachusetts lawmakers also are considering a $10 wage. New Jersey voters endorsed an $8.25 wage this month, even while voting overwhelmingly to reelect Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who opposed it.”
This is an indicator that politics in America is being reshaped. The schemes of Wall Street hedge funds, backed by billionaire-funded conservative groups, to plunder the remaining wealth of the middle class will unite more sections of society in the struggle for a fair wage. The struggle against corporate Goliaths like Walmart and McDonald’s asserts the dignity of the lives of workers and their families against those who have degraded it for too long.
Last week’s overwhelming vote by 31,000 Boeing workers to reject a contract making cuts in pension and healthcare benefits is a signal that the tide is turning against the neoliberal strategy of using the threat of outsourced production to intimidate Americans into giving up their social safety net.
Boeing floated a promise of job security for the next eight years by committing to produce its newest aircraft in Seattle and offered a $10,000 bonus for agreeing to the deal. However, the current contract would be terminated, a defined-benefit pension plan replaced with a 401k, and healthcare costs increased.
Jeffrey Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council writes in the Seattle Times: “Machinists were presented with a unilateral proposal that would have frozen the pension system that they had bargained for over the last several decades — it would have also ended the pension system for new hires. … It would have been unthinkable for grandparents or parents to sell out younger workers and future workers, many of whom are sons and daughters or nieces and nephews, and prevent them from earning a secure retirement future.”
According to the Washington Post, “Dian Lord, a toolmaker at Boeing’s facility in Renton who is nearing retirement, said Wednesday morning she believed the company was extorting its workers by pushing a swift contract vote while threatening to place 777X operations elsewhere if machinists don’t oblige. Still, Lord said she felt intense pressure to vote for the contract, especially considering that it could impact a variety of other Boeing workers and vendors should the company move elsewhere.”
The union leadership made no recommendation on the proposal until a packed meeting made clear that the membership overwhelmingly opposed it.
Reuters reports: “A crowd of more than 100 people erupted in cheers when the vote was announced amid a charged atmosphere at the union’s main hall in Seattle. … Even though the union’s 31,000 workers gave up their chance for [777X production] jobs, they considered the giveaways in the contract too grave to accept. … Voter turnout was high. Workers began lining up in predawn darkness on Wednesday outside the union hall in Everett, Washington and elsewhere in the Seattle area and in Oregon. … ‘It goes against everything that we’ve fought for over the years,’ said John Orcutt, 42, a 17-year union member and hydraulic tube bender.”
Boeing anticipated it could increase profits through confining wage increases to 1% annually for the life of the 777X project, reducing liabilities to retirees, and eliminating collective bargaining from the implementation of next-generation technology.
After the Boeing workers’ union was provoked into a 52-day strike in 2008, the company retaliated by moving work to South Carolina. The union dropped its complaint to the National Labor Relations Board about this illegal tactic when Boeing threatened to move production of another aircraft, the 737MAX, and demanded wage concessions in exchange for a guarantee that the plane would be built in unionized facilities around Puget Sound.
Jenny Brown of Labor Notes explains: “That contract saw a 70 percent yes vote and a generational split, with the over-50 workers voting no and the newer workers making only $15 an hour voting yes. The difference now is that, with the exception of those prepared to retire before 2016, everyone in the union is getting hit, hard. The younger workers lose out on a real pension, period. Anyone midway through their working years will lose a huge amount of the retirement income they anticipated. Medical costs will double or triple over the life of the extension, more than eating up the 1 percent raises. And the union membership will have no leverage against Boeing for 11 more years.”
The Boeing vote parallels Americans’ deep concerns about retirement and health coverage. This is why the reaction to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is complex: despite the mismanaged launch of the website, the public is not moved by Republican attempts to repeal the law. Its advantage for the uninsured and low-paid is security in their coverage: it disconnects insurance from employment, removing the obligation to stay in an exploitative job in order to keep healthcare; it eliminates annual and lifetime benefit maximums, and prevents insurers refusing coverage because of pre-existing conditions. This is why politicians in Republican controlled states, organized by ALEC, are planning to undermine the law at the state level. They want to promote insecurity and intensify dependence on employers while cutting the social wage.
Obamacare attempts to rationalize healthcare while preserving the dominance of insurance companies by rearranging risk pools while mandating individual coverage. The health insurance industry is now positioned to extract premiums from a much larger base, creating a division of right-wing opinion between ALEC-backed governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and states where Republicans receive major campaign contributions from health insurers. In Florida, for example, the industry is pushing the state to reverse its stance on Medicaid. The federal government is offering billions of dollars to finance Medicaid’s expansion, and insurance companies want a piece of that action. Florida Blue executive Patrick Geraghty told journalists: “We believe strongly that we ought to be taking that funding.”
Obama has lost credibility with the public, however, because of the hopes raised by his optimistic statements about his administration’s signature legislation and their contradiction with the cack-handed implementation of the website, together with his promises about keeping existing plans (and, by implication, doctors with knowledge of people’s medical history). That is why the website debacle has eroded the trust Obama was able to leverage in two elections.
It also illustrates the bankruptcy of market-based solutions to social problems. The political decision to expand health coverage by relying on a mix of incentives and regulations for entrenched insurance companies, rather than instituting a single-payer system, has multiplied the law’s complexity exponentially. A physician writes that “administrative costs make up more than 30 percent of our national health care bill, most of it unnecessary. The waste in this area alone is equivalent to around $400 billion annually. That is more than enough to provide health care to every uninsured person living in our country. Some of these costs result from the slicing and dicing of Americans into ever-tinier and more confusing categories, the inevitable result of applying the principles of insurance to health care.” The Affordable Care Act will only increase this administrative complexity. It is “far too complicated and therefore too expensive to manage, full of holes, will be applied unevenly and unfairly, be full of unintended consequences, and be easily exploited by those looking to make a quick buck.”
While the problems with the Obamacare website will eventually be fixed, the need for adequate healthcare and an assurance that the old will not starve in retirement remains as acute as ever. The Boeing Union action is another example of the increased resistance to attempts to roll back Social Security and Medicare as well as to the assault on public workers’ pensions. This battle will undoubtedly intensify as the plutocracy and its political servants seek to lower the living standard of Americans.