It’s Our Choice: Medicare for All, or Endless War?

Common Dreams

Published on       November 20, 2019 by OtherWords

It’s Our Choice: Medicare for All, or Endless War?

If we end wars, shut down wasteful and failing weapons programs, and close unnecessary foreign bases, we could come up with an extra $350 billion to spend on Medicare for All—without sacrificing security.

by Lindsay Koshgarian       November 20, 2019
Together with common-sense cuts to runaway overhead costs, and by rolling current Pentagon health care costs into a universal health plan, we easily get more than the $300 billion needed for Medicare for All. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Together with common-sense cuts to runaway overhead costs, and by rolling current Pentagon health care costs into a universal health plan, we easily get more than the $300 billion needed for Medicare for All. (Photo: Shutterstock)

If you’re following the presidential race, you’ve heard plenty of sniping about Medicare for All and whether we can afford it. But when it comes to endless war or endless profits for Pentagon contractors, we’re told we simply must afford it—no questions asked.

Where can we find it? In a giant pot of money that’s already rampant with waste and abuse: the Pentagon.

According to one study, even if universal health insurance didn’t bring health care prices down—an unlikely worst-case scenario—we’d need an extra $300 billion a year beyond our current spending to provide full insurance for everyone.

Where can we find it? In a giant pot of money that’s already rampant with waste and abuse: the Pentagon.

Right now, only about one quarter of the $738 billion Pentagon budget goes to our troops. The rest is mainly three things: the cost of maintaining 800 military installations all over the world; lucrative Pentagon contracts, which account for nearly half of the entire Pentagon budget; and, of course, our never-ending wars in the Middle East.

According to my research, if we end those wars, shut down wasteful and failing weapons programs, and close unnecessary foreign bases, we could come up with an extra $350 billion to spend on Medicare for All—without sacrificing security.

As experts of various political stripes will tell you, the U.S. military is carrying out a costly 20th-century security vision in a 21st century world. For instance, the Pentagon still keeps tens of thousands of troops in Germany and Italy. Maybe 75 years after the end of World War II (and nearly 20 years into our ill-fated Iraq adventure) is a good time to finally bring those troops home?

Closing 60 percent of our foreign bases would save $90 billion a year. There’d be enough left over for more than one foreign military installation in each country on earth, if we insisted.

Right now, those bases enable our endless wars. Troops rotate from Germany into the Middle East and Africa, and tens of thousands are stationed in the conflict-ridden Middle East at any given time. Yet our wars have only further destabilized the region. It’s time we brought our troops home for good—and saved $66 billion each year in the bargain.

Then there are those highly paid contractors. For instance, the F-35 fighter jet is projected to cost more than the entire military budget of Iran. But even after many years and massive cost overruns, the lead Pentagon tester just reported that the F-35 is still “breaking more often than planned and taking longer to fix.”

We should halt the F-35 boondoggle, cut back on 20th century war technology like the aircraft carrier, and freeze nuclear weapons spending, with the eventual goal of eliminating these weapons that could wipe us all out at a keystroke.

All told, we could cut $100 billion from outdated, ill-conceived, or outright dangerous programs like these. The contractors will howl, but they’ve run things long enough.

None of this is as radical as it sounds. Today, military spending higher than it was at the peak of the Vietnam War. Even with a $350 billion cut, it would simply return to levels from the late 1990’s.

Together with common-sense cuts to runaway overhead costs, and by rolling current Pentagon health care costs into a universal health plan, we easily get more than the $300 billion needed for Medicare for All.

Which would make us safer: Medicare for All or endless wars? The choice is ours.

Lindsay Koshgarian

Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Finnish Prime Minister Marin calls for a 4-day-week and 6-hour-day for her country

Scoop.me – Europe

Finnish Prime Minister Marin calls for a 4-day-week and 6-hour-day for her country

Finland’s new head of state caused enthusiasm in the country: Sanna Marin (34) is the youngest female head of government worldwide. She leads a centre-left coalition in which all 5 government parties have women at the top. Her aim: To introduce the 4-day-week and the 6-hour-working day in Finland.

Sanna Marin is the new Prime Minister of Finland. The 34-year-old social democrat was celebrated internationally because of strong women-led government: It is a coalition of five parties – and in all of them, women are the leaders.

For Sanna Marin, the fact that she is young and female doesn’t play a big role:

“I have never thought about my age or gender. I think more about the motivations that brought me into politics.”

Marin wants “much shorter working hours”

More important for Marin is the question, how long the Finns should have to work. She demands much shorter working hours on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Turku. In her position as Minister of Transport and Communications, she said:

A four-day work week, a six-hour workday. Why couldn’t it be the next step? Is eight hours really the ultimate truth? I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture. This could be the next step for us in working life.

In Finland, 8-hour-days for five days a week are common in peoples’ work life. The left-wing alliance, with which Marin has formed a coalition recently, demanded a test run for the 6-hour-day.

Göteborg proves it: 6-hour-days keep you happy and healthy

The 6-hour-day already works in Finland’s neighbour country Sweden: In 2015, Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, reduced working time to six hours a day in the old peoples’ homes and the municipal hospital – while still full paying their employees. The results two years later: The employees were happier, healthier and more productive. With the reduction in working hours, services were expanded and patients were more satisfied.

And the costs were stable: More employees were hired, which resulted in more tax revenue. In Addition to that, fewer sick days, fewer invalidity pensions and fewer people unemployed saved money.

Swedish Tech Industry as Pioneer

In the Swedish tech industry, the 6-hour-day has been default for many years. First and foremost, the automobile manufacturer Toyota proved how it works. As early as 2003, the Gothenburg plant switched to shorter working days with full pay.

Not only were Toyota’s employees more satisfied and motivated, they could also increase their productivity – and in the end: Toyota’s profits. The reasons for this are simple: First, unnecessarily long meetings were discarded or made more efficient. And second, there are much fewer idle times in the working day that are filled with social media or Internet surfing.

People go to work and do it more focused and concentrated. Then they go home and have enough time to spend the afternoon with their families, friends and hobbies.

The social democratic magazine Kontrast.at covers current political events, both in Austria and in the rest of the world. We view society, state and economy from a progressive, emancipatory point of view. Kontrast casts the gaze of social justice on the world.

For Mouth & Foot Painting Artists, anything really is possible

CBS Sunday Morning

For Mouth & Foot Painting Artists, anything really is possible

CBS NEWS                        December 15, 2019

At the Zenger Group printing plant in Buffalo, New York, Christmas came early … really early. It was August when holiday cards were rolling off the presses –a summer-time snowdrift of paper, each card as individual as a snowflake.

You might think in these digital days of ours that sending greeting cards like these is a bit old-fashioned. But for the very special artists who paint them, it’s anything but just a quaint tradition.

“I would love just for people to just enjoy the piece for what it is, and not necessarily be taken back by the way that I’m doing it,” said artist Alana Tillman.

She was born with a condition that left her arms locked in place, but she’s been drawing with her mouth since he was a kid.

alana-tillman-mouth-and-foot-painting-artist-with-lee-cowan-620.jpg
Artist Alana Tillman, a member of Mouth & Foot Painting Artists.  CBS NEWS

 

“No one taught you how to do it? You just figured it out?” asked correspondent Lee Cowan.

“No, I just kind of figured it out,” Tillman said. “I’ve always had to prove myself to people that I am capable. Doubters in my life just made me want to achieve even more.”

Then there’s artist Brom Wikstrom: “When I got out of the hospital it was just something to maintain my sanity, you know, to give me something to do,” he said.

“More therapy than anything?” asked Cowan.

“Yeah, to help me feel better about myself.”

brom-wikstrom-mouth-and-foot-painting-artist-620.jpg
Artist Brom Wikstrom at work.  CBS NEWS

 

Wikstrom was paralyzed at age 21, when he dove head-first into the Mississippi River in 1975.  He’s been painting with his mouth almost every day since“I would just paint from morning until night,” he said.

“So, it sounds like it’s almost a need for you to paint,” Cowan said.

“At this point, I can’t imagine what else I’d be doing.”

It’s remarkable to watch either of them paint – the detail, the finesse, the control.

brom-wikstrom-mouth-and-foot-painting-artwork-620.jpg
An example of Brom Wikstrom’s artwork.  CBS NEWS

 

And no, they don’t just paint holiday cards; they each have huge portfolios. But it’s the Christmas cards that have helped pave the way for their careers, and which have helped make possible an association called the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. Its name takes a bit of getting used to, but not its goal: the money from its Christmas cards goes to financing disabled artists. It’s not about charity; it’s about empowerment.

It is, said Jim March, the director of North American Operations, “very much not a non-profit. They’re very proud of not being a non-profit situation. It’s a business to make money to give them a living.”

The MFPA, as it’s called, was started in 1957 by Arnulf Erich Stegmann, a German painter who had lost the use of his hands due to polio. Despite his challenges, he became an accomplished artist and publisher, who sought out other painters like him to help further their skills and build their careers.

holiday-cards-from-mouth-and-foot-painting-artists-montage-620.jpg
Examples of holiday cards from the Mouth & Foot Painting Artists.  MFPA

 

Today, there are about 800 artists who are members of the association, and every one of them gets a monthly stipend based on their skill level. They enter as student members, like Alana Tillman, who lives on her own in Santa Rosa, California.  She gets enough to pay for art courses as well as supplies, and it certainly helps pay the rent.

“Before they came along, I was just living off of my Social Security. I didn’t really feel like I was a contributing member to society,” she said.

“So, has it given you a sense of independence?” asked Cowan.

“Way more independence.”

She’s adapted to just about everything, including driving to work. She now owns her own business, called ArtXcursion, where she offers painting lessons (people don’t have to paint with their feet or mouth), with a side of wine and appetizers.

“Talking about my adversities, I think is what kind of helps them realize that they can actually do it, too,” Tillman said.

Brom Wikstrom has been with the MFPA so long, he gets a full salary, the equivalent of what any other commercial artist near his home in Seattle might be paid.  “I thought that I was going to be on public assistance, or you know, how was I going to make it?” he said.

Now he’s on the payroll forever, regardless of whether he stops painting or not.  “It is a lifetime position now, so if physically I was incapable of working, they would be there for me,” he said.

That’s a relief not only for him, but for his wife of 30 years, Anne. The association, she said, has not only provided Brom with a living wage, but something much harder to quantify: Confidence.

Wikstrom works part-time at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, and he volunteers at schools, showing children that, yes, anything really is possible.

As successful as both Wikstrom and Tillman have become, their daily struggles remain. But what they hope can be changed is perception.

They want to be seen simply as artists, not “disabled artists,” who at this time of year are truly making our season bright.

“I think people do us kind of a double kindness because they’re buying our cards, but they also get to send those cards out to their loved ones,” Wikstrom said. “And it seems like such a small thing  but it means a lot.”


For more info: 

This is why we need a public option for the ACA or Medicare For All !