Sunday, June 10, 2018

Trump's Assault Against the Working Class; June 4-10

Last week, Trump signed a “right to try” bill that allows terminally ill patients to try experimental drugs that are not approved by the FDA. This is a major boost to Big Pharma companies. They now have even greater leeway to push potentially harmful drugs onto patients.

However, it is no consolation that the FDA chief this week said that, despite the bill, the agency will still make decisions on whether patients receive the drugs. Even before the bill, the FDA had approved around 99% of all such requests. The FDA, like all governmental agencies, mainly operates in the interests of the major corporations and their profit incentives. The Trump administration is only making their control even more blatant.

The conservative business newspaper the Wall Street Journal reported that Social Security will have to dip into its $3 trillion trust fund this year since its costs exceeded its income, the first time it has done so since 1982.

It’s important to keep in mind what the WSJ says are the reasons are for this years’ costliness: “The tax cuts signed into law last year have slightly lowered Medicare and Social Security’s projected revenue over the next few years,” while revenue has also been reduced due to Trump’s “decision to end a program [DACA] offering young undocumented immigrants reprieve from deportation while allowing them to work.” At the same time “The nation’s aging population is boosting the costs of Social Security and Medicare,” a problem that could be remedied through immigration. “Slower growth in the economy” is also noted, something that could be aided by a public-funded jobs and infrastructure-rebuilding program, if public fund weren’t already going to wasteful tax cuts that have not increased growth.

Trump’s effort to revitalize the profits of the coal company owners who funded his campaign (as reported last week), would, if successful, “cost ratepayers [i.e., the population] a fortune” since the cost of coal energy is becoming much more expensive (“more expensive than any other power source”) than cheaper, safer renewables, writes Greg Ip this week. This cost is even greater when you add in the costs imposed upon the environment though climate change.

Furthermore, burning coal emits harmful soot emissions that directly kills people, both in terms of the coal factory workers (“most tragically” harming “the coal miners [Trump] seeks to help”—which goes to show these measures are meant to help company owners, not workers) and by reducing the life expectancy of households that use subsidized coal.

However, Trump needs to secure campaign contributions from the coal companies to help fund his reelection, and so the efforts continue.

Obamacare was a failure on many levels (it did not, and could not, reduce medical costs), but the reason it is attacked is mainly because of its beneficial measures.

One of its good features was that it charged taxes on the exorbitantly wealthy and used that money to give healthcare to poor people who couldn’t afford it. This tax is the main reason why the law receives is so much hatred within establishment politics. It is also despised by insurance companies because it restricts their ability to do things like denying coverage and charging higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions. Now, Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department are asking a federal court to strike down these restrictions, including “the bans on insurers denying coverage and charging higher rates to people with pre-existing health conditions” and the limits “on how much insurers can charge people based on gender and age.”

This is just the latest salvo in Trump’s concerted effort to destroy Obamacare. He is working in service of rich investors and the insurance companies.

The reason the US healthcare system costs twice as much as other industrial nations while having some of the worst outcomes is because of the privatized system; high costs are charged to increase profits, while companies try to skirt providing as much care as possible to reduce costs. This could all be remedied by switching to the type of less-costly, more efficient national healthcare systems that almost all other Western nations employ, but the insurers won’t allow it. Trump’s efforts attack Obamacare in the wrong direction and exacerbate the problem.

There is also a human cost. Maintaining the privatized system means “maintaining” a situation that results in the unnecessary deaths of 45,000 people each year, who die due to lack of preventative care resulting from lack of health coverage. The Justice Department’s efforts to unwind protections for people with existing medical conditions will only exacerbate this.

The Trump administration is continuing its signature policy of placing industry officials and lobbyists into government positions designed to regulate industry.

A former banker, Joseph Otting, now heads the Comptroller of the Currency office, which oversees banks such as Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp, which are “two of his former employers.”

Mr. Otting’s initial efforts have been dedicated to rolling back “requirements for banks to have anti-money laundering and community-development programs”—for the record, big banks are the main lifeline of the illegal drug industry, because they launder its profits—and toward encouraging banks to expand business into things like providing more “loans to companies deep in dept.”

As I reported before, the EPA recently was embroiled in a scandal after trying to conceal a federal study showing that toxic chemicals had contaminated significant portions of the country’s water supply. I noted that the intimate connections between the EPA and the chemical industry are likely major factors behind this. Now, after much lobbying from the chemical industry, the EPA has decided that it will only review the effects of harmful chemicals that result from “direct contact with a chemical” and will exclude “any potential exposure caused by the substances’ presence in the air.”

The NYT notes “the approach means that the improper disposal of chemicals – leading to the contamination of drinking water, for instance – will often not be a factor in deciding whether to restrict or ban them.” The agency “will not focus on exposures that occur from traces of the chemical found in drinking water in 44 states as a result of improper disposal over decades”—in essence, allowing the chemical industry free reign to poison the environment, leading to illness and death, all in search of higher profits.

Needless to say, the Trump administration is working diligently to increase the major problems afflicting the country. This point was captured quite beautifully in a recently released report by a Special UN Rapporteur who just completed a mission surveying poverty and inequality in America. It provides a scathing critique of US policy:

The US is “a land of stark contrast” where “the immense wealth of the few” is juxtaposed with “the squalor and deprivation in which vast numbers of Americans exist.”

For “almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best,” but the current administration’s efforts “seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship." The tax cuts “overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality,” and simply follow a general template that will only “worsen this situation” even further.

Download the full report here. I highly recommend reading the entire thing.


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