For advocates of improvements in health care, retirement security, and such fairness issues as pay equity, there's a lot at stake in the November election.
Amidst the worst economic crisis in this nation since the 1930s, the prospect of a John McCain-Sarah Palin administration hardly offers much confidence for the future. Here's 10 reasons why:
1. Bye bye employer health benefits.
McCain wants to move people who get health benefits on the job from group employer coverage to the individual private market. He'd get there by taxing current health care benefits. The steep rise in taxes would prompt many younger, healthier employees to give up their coverage. Left with the least healthy, and thus most expensive workers -- which wrecks any notion of a risk pool -- the current trickle of employers dropping health benefits would become an avalanche. The Dallas Morning News cites analysts warning it could "lead to the death of company-provided health plans."
2. Your rapidly shrinking insurance coverage.
To supposedly offset the tax increase, McCain is offering a tax credit to buy private insurance. But the credit is less than half the present national average for family premiums not counting deductibles, co-pays, doctor's fees, and the 101 other ways the health care industry finds to extract money out of your pocket. The tax credit is also not indexed to inflation, nor does McCain propose to put any limits on how much insurers can charge. Look for even more people to buy junk insurance plans with few covered services that are too expensive to ever use.
3. Getting rid of those pesky consumer protections.
McCain wants to allow insurers to evade all existing state minimum standards on what health services insurance companies must cover. In California alone, for example, that would mean an end to such basic requirements that McCain probably considers frills, as independent medical review of care denials, minimum hospital stays for new moms, access to colorectal, cervical cancer, and prostrate cancer screenings, breast reconstruction, diabetic supplies, direct access to an OB/GYN, and hospice care.
4. What problem of the uninsured?
To conservative health care economists, like John Goodman, a McCain adviser, the problem is apparently not that people don't have health coverage, it's the public embarrassment of those unseemly high numbers. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American as uninsured," Goodman told the Dallas Morning News.
They're really not uninsured, they can always go to the ER for care, said Goodman, ignoring what happens to people's health when they have to wait to get emergency care. Though the McCain camp tried to distance themselves from the comment, it's standard fare for Republicans; Goodman was virtually channeling President Bush who used nearly identical words a year ago...
While we're at it, one blogger recently wrote, "maybe the way to solve our vexing cancer problem is to just stop calling it cancer."
5. Social What Security.
McCain has called the financing system of Social Security "a disgrace," even though that is the way it operated for 80 years, and now he wants to encourage young people to divert their Social Security payments into risky Wall Street investments (meet Lehman Brothers), undermining the financial foundation of our national retirement program. He also says "all options" for Social Security cuts are on the table, including raising the retirement age and cutting benefits. And, of course, he was on board with the Bush privatization fiasco. Good thing we still have those stable and secure 401k plans.
6. Medicare's promise, slip sliding away.
McCain was absent on the vote to repeal the Bush administration ban on government use of its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prices from drug companies for Medicare recipients. He's been silent on the doughnut hole, under which seniors must pay 100 percent of the next $3,000 in drug costs after Medicare pays 75 percent of cost for the first $2,700, and mum on insurance industry price gouging in the Medicare Advantage program in which payments to private plans average 113% of the cost of care for comparable seniors in regular Medicare.
7. The "fundamentals of our economy are strong," or maybe not.
On the day Wall Street was imploding Sept. 15, McCain said "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." It's a safe bet the 59 percent of Americans who told pollsters in June they are having a "serious" financial problem struggling with medical bills, mortgage payments, food and gas bills, don't share that sunny optimism. McCain also recently said, "It's easy for me to go to Washington and frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have." That seems evident.
8. What workplace discrimination?
McCain opposes two significant bills in Congress, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, intended to end the disparity in pay between men and women. The Ledbetter bill is named for the woman who sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber for paying her less than male co-workers. She won a discrimination lawsuit. Then the case went to the Supreme Court where it was, surprise, overturned on a technicality, which brings to mind...
9. If you like the Scalia-Thomas-Roberts-Alito court, just wait.
Quizzed about which Supreme Court judges he would not have appointed, McCain came up with the names of the four justices who have been most sympathetic to issues like workplace protections, women's rights, and civil rights. In addition to the Ledbetter case, there have been numerous decisions by the present court intended to throw working people under the bus. At least two of the judges McCain finds most distasteful are likely to retire during the next administration.
10. How about that Vice President?
Oh, but Palin offers some reassurance, right. Well, maybe not. On health care, her most visible stance has been to rail against regulation and push to repeal the state's certificate of need program which is intended to protect community medical centers from being financially undercut by more profitable businesses such as boutique clinics and high-end surgery centers.
A Palin-McCain administration, as she puts it, might look a lot like the rest of her record in office and her performance on the campaign trail. Her less than forthright statements about earmarks and that infamous Bridge to Nowhere. Her heavy handed use of state executive powers for a personal vendetta. And, the decision of Wasilla, AK, during Palin's tenure as mayor, to charge victims of sexual assault for evidence-gathering medical exams.
Palin may provide gender balance in a McCain administration, but looks to be in full lockstep with the philosophical and economic train wreck of the past eight years.
A McCain-Palin administration would likely to perpetuate that dismal record. If that's an advance for women or men, count me out.