Fair Booth Presented Issues Important To Farmers / Dems

The Democratic Party of Brown County had a booth at the Brown County Fair. Lots of people stopped by to visit us and see how Farmer’s issues are the Party’s issues. Click on picture below for link:

After over a decade, Democrats returned to the Brown County Fair in August. We made a big impact with countless positive interactions, great conversations and connected with dozens of people who want to help win in 2020.  Democracy is more than just voting, and we are Ready to Rally for 2020! At the county fair we polled passersby on several issues.  We received 376 responses on our massive issues board! 

1 Healthcare – 125

2 Environment – 90

3 Education – 78

4 Roads / infrastructure – 42

5 Agriculture / Dairy – 41

Conditions on Southern Border

Unspeakable Conditions on our Southern Border: Where shall we direct our rage?
Op/Ed by Lynn Gerlach

So, honestly, when Julian Castro suggested the repeal of Section 1325, did you know what he was talking about? I certainly didn’t, so I Googled the darned thing and read it. It says nothing of separating children from their parents, yet I’m told that’s the law the Trump administration uses to justify holding children in cages.

I determined to learn everything I could about the history of our southern border, our immigration policies, and the apparent causes of the current atrocity. Here I’ll briefly lay out the key facts in the hope you’ll undertake some research of your own.

Until 1917, people came and went at all ports of call on all our borders without documentation. No one worried about passports and visas. In 1924 the U.S. imposed quotas on various countries, but NOT from within the Americas. And it still wasn’t a crime to enter. The newly formed Border Patrol focused on barring Asians and discouraging Canadian rum-runners.

Mexicans came and went, providing cheap labor for our farms and ranches. But “nativists,” (racial purists) didn’t like that, and they found their champion in South Carolina in 1929: Coleman Livingston Blease, a Democrat and an unapologetic white supremacist whose political strategies bear frightening likeness to those of our current president.

Blease offered the compromise between agricultural employers and racial purists: Section 1325. Let them come only at official entry points – otherwise, prosecute them for a crime. BUT NOT FOR THE SOUTHERN BORDER! The braceros program to allow for cheap Mexican labor ended only in 1965; that’s when it became illegal to cross our southern border except at official points of entry.

For years single, young Mexican laborers sneaked in where they could to seek a job. Jimmy Carter first suggested fencing the border, and George H.W. Bush built the first fence. Every president since then has added a bit of fencing for a total of 700 miles of fence on our 1,953-mile border.

And then it all changed. Drought, flooding and coffee blight destroyed the economies of Honduras and Guatemala. These two countries, the third- and fourth- poorest in the western hemisphere, suffered gang violence, police abuse, and corruption on a growing scale. Families traveled through Mexico to the U.S., seeking asylum. They didn’t sneak in; they waited endlessly at official ports of entry and then began to walk and swim and climb into our country where they could, begging for the “credible fear interview” guaranteed by both international law and U.S. law.  They presented themselves to guards or simply waited to be taken for their asylum interviews. They were, instead, taken into custody.

That’s how Section 1325 sends children to cages: If the adult is going to be held for prosecution, you must provide alternative detention for minors. And what an alternative, right?!

Finally, I discovered the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).  There I learned why two-thirds of the people who now cross our southern border are families – and not Mexican. WOLA also presents a vision for a smooth and humane process – and what steps might create that workable border-crossing system for asylum seekers with children.

Space does not allow me to detail the insight I found at WOLA. I can only urge you to visit that website and enhance your own understanding of the crisis at our southern border. And then, I think, it would make sense to expect our Democratic candidates to understand it too – and propose a long-term, realistic solution. WOLA says, “This is the new pattern, not a temporary surge or distortion.” While we direct our justified fury at a callous administration and its horrifying border policy, let’s also demand answers in place of acrimony from our Democratic candidates seeking the highest office in the land.

ALEC – Right Wing Bill Mill

Nancy Wakefield, Howard

ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is really, really scary. It is an organization of conservative state legislators and private sector corporations originally founded by Wisconsin native Paul Weyrich. Weyrich also founded the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Corporate representatives craft and share models of state-level legislation for distribution among state governments in the USA. Then the state can customize the legislation and introduce it for debate in their own state legislature. When we look back at the lame-duck session here, this rings a bell. The bills proposed in Wisconsin and Michigan show a pattern of similarity that cannot be accidental. Look how quickly a large number of bills were submitted by Wisconsin Republicans. This shows that they had been discussing this plan for a long time and were ready to act immediately after the election.
ALEC is funded by the extreme right and large corporations. Thousands of lawmakers pay $50 a year for membership. Corporations pay between $7,000 and $25,000 annually with some giving hundreds of thousands of dollars more. The lawmakers get “scholarships,” the New Yorks Times reported, to attend an annual ALEC convention where they work in task forces with corporate representatives. The task forces write model bills that the lawmakers introduce in legislatures. An ALEC membership brochure reported in 2012 that its legislative members introduce more than 1,000 bills a year.
I suggest that you go to the website of the Center for Media and Democracy, , and read more. Some well-known Wisconsin lawmakers have had ties with ALEC: Tommy Thompson, Scott Walker, current House Speaker Robin Vos, current Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, Rep. John Nygren, and Leah Vukmir. I urge you to really take some time to find out all that the website has found.
Rep. Robin Vos and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald have come out against Gov. Evers, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported. They are vowing to change everything that Evers wants in the budget; he will veto their bills; and then we will have a royal mess. So much for finding one thing we can work on together. It looks to me that they are going to war with the newly elected Democrats using all the skills they learned from ALEC meetings.
How can we fight ALEC for our state business and the next election? Mainly we need to expose those who have been members and hold them responsible for their behavior. Of course, we must vote them out. Another thing to do is to have a good number of people contact legislators by phone (best) or email. One or two calls will not work. We need a lot of people to be aware of what is coming up and be ready to act.
If readers have more suggestions, please write your letters. We are going to have to fight hard because these legislators are already years ahead of us.

What to Believe about Medicare-for-All

 

By Lynn Gerlach, Green Bay

Remember when Donald Trump said that “Nobody knew how complicated healthcare is”?

We snickered, because we’d been through the long ACA struggle some years ago with the Obama administration. In fact, it is unlikely most of us truly appreciate the confusing advantages and disadvantages or even the plausibility of universal, single-payer healthcare for all Americans. My review of recent publications on the topic was head-spinning.

When I became eligible for Medicare, my monthly health insurance premium fell by roughly 80%. It was one of the best financial events of my life. So, will Medicare-for-all do the same for Americans of all ages? Probably not. Our country would struggle to afford healthcare coverage for all citizens at the rate it currently covers seniors. That said, it seems Americans would be better off under some type of Medicare-for-all or other “universal coverage” program. How do we navigate this complex issue?

The Kaiser Family Foundation (1) has found broad support for proposals that simply expand public programs like Medicare and Medicaid, but how politicians discuss these proposals directly influences the levels of support. A common theme overall is a “desire for universal coverage,” but both sides tend to be supportive of “buy-in” options, although potential tax increases or projected delays in medical tests or treatment influence those support levels.

The New York Times (2) reminds us that “universal coverage is found in every developed country except the United States… Under current law, the government estimates that the U.S. will spend about one-sixth of GDP on health care this year, with those costs divided between the federal government, individuals, employers and state governments.” Some experts believe single-payer universal coverage would be less costly due to “gains in efficiency and scale,” but critics predict huge cost increases. One complicating factor that makes cost projections nearly impossible is the fact that patients, providers and politicians will influence decisions and actions in complex and unpredictable ways.

The biggest difference in plans, these experts say, is going to be in how much hospitals, doctors and other providers will be paid. “Pay too little, and you risk hospital closings and unhappy health care providers. Pay too much, and the system will become far more expensive.” Paying the same prices that Medicare pays now will result in a cut in pay for doctors now seeing patients with private insurance. Still, the income of the health care industry is going to have to be cut in some way to create a Medicare plan that saves money. Pay all doctors what all health insurers currently pay providers (111% of Medicare), and the cost of the all-inclusive plan shoots up by hundreds of billions of dollars.

One aspect of health care and health insurance we sometimes forget is the cost of administering the programs. Every health insurer has administrative costs; every clinic and hospital does too. Logically, if you roll all that administration into one system, duplication is avoided and costs go down; the experts agree, in general, on that point. Still, the question remains: How much will the new system cost the average citizen? We must remember that, under Medicare-for-all, we’ll see a dramatic shift in who is doing the paying: you and me, the taxpayers. And so far, “none of the proposals has included a detailed tax plan.” According to the Times, “Raising revenue would require broad tax increases that are likely to be partly borne by the middle class.”

There’s another way to look at the tax-based payment system, though, as explained by Matt Bruenig, founder of the People’s Policy Project. In an April 29, 2019, letter to the editor of the New York Times (3) , Bruenig suggests we consider the health insurance premiums we already pay through our employers (for private insurance) a “tax.” Considered that way, he says, “we already have an unfair system. Middle-class workers in America are charged the same health insurance fees as upper-class workers despite the vast income differences between the two groups, and pay more of their earnings toward taxes and health care than workers in many wealthy countries.”

Moving toward a European-style system, Bruenig says, would make our health insurance payments much more progressive: Eliminating the private health insurance premiums “would more than offset the rise in formal taxes for all but the wealthy.” The fact that we don’t call our premiums for employer-provided health insurance “taxes,” he says, “shouldn’t blind us to the best lutions.”Bruenig believes that shifting the health insurance burden up the income ladder while bringing down overall health care costs would boost the fortunes of the middle class.

We have currently been introduced to about 10 major proposals to expand Medicare or Medicaid in addition to a handful under Congressional consideration now. Some of them, such as the Sanders and Jayapal plans, transition ALL costs to the federal government: premiums, co-payments for drugs, and all Medicaid expenses. Again relying on the New York Times (4) , I found that the proposals might be compared in five fundamental ways, per the panel of experts asked to review them.

Nearly all experts favored universal coverage, some calling the question “a moral issue.” But, universality has trade-offs,” the authors say. “It’s costly… Expanding coverage to a subset of the population… will be cheaper and more politically palatable.” Ellen Meara of Dartmouth reminds us that such an incremental approach is what led us to Medicare for seniors only, Medicaid for only those who qualify, and CHIP for children only. Medicare-for-all proposals are generally not incremental.

Employer-based private coverage was probably a mistake, most experts agreed. However, they also said that plans to eliminate it now “are politically infeasible.” Offer the option to add private coverage, and you generate complexity that could drive up costs. Dr. Don Berwick of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a source I, personally, trust, believes one can meld work-based coverage into a single-payer system. “Employers could contribute to the single, common payment pool, as they do today to premiums for private plans,” he explained.

On the question of replacing individually purchased ACA plans and Medicare Advantage plans, the experts could not agree. Some say choice drives innovation while others suggest that choice generates inequality and complexity. Then there is the “hassle for doctors, hospitals and other health care providers” introduced by variations in approaches to quality and costs. We now have 1700+ distinct quality measures and a wide variety of billing requirements in our U.S. system due to the large variety of payers.

Most experts believed a “no premiums” approach is politically unrealistic. While they like a tax-financed system without premiums, the numbers convinced them this might not be feasible. Some say this might nearly double what the country needs to collect in personal income tax.

All but two of the Times’ panelists supported some type of cost sharing. Still, one pointed out that collecting co-payments and deductibles just adds to the administrative cost of health care. Others explained that co-pays deter excessive use of the system. What to believe?

With 20 Democrats now in the 2020 race, and everyone scrambling to create winning policies, the universal health care situation really is getting hard to follow. In addition to the expansive Sanders and Jayapal plans mentioned above, we have Medicare for America (DeLauro and Schakowsky), which covers all Americans AND continues employer-based insurance. That plan does include premiums along with funding through a tax increase, and it also includes government regulation of health care prices.

The Urban Institute’s Healthy America proposal is the next-most far-reaching program, including all of the above EXCEPT coverage for all Americans. Choose Medicare, offered by Merkley and Murphy, has been called a “glide path” to true single-payer Medicare-for all. The plan gives employers the option to allow their workforce to leave the plan they offer in favor of the new public plan.

And we have The CHOICE Act, which offers Medicare buy-in only to small employers currently eligible to buy insurance through the ACA marketplace, with workers at larger firms shut out. (I should add that, according to a March 20, 2019, Vox article (5), the current system offers a huge incentive to employers to pay health care benefits. “Those benefits are completely tax-free,” creating an uneven playing field in which “Fortune 500 companies get, in effect, a huge federal subsidy to insure their workers.”)

Medicare X (by Bennet, Kaine and Higgins) would also offer buy-in to small employers only. In fact, it would be dramatically limited in its first few years and would gradually expand to the individual market nationwide. And then there’s Stabenow’s Medicare-at-50 plan that simply lowers the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 50.

Are you confused yet? It could be that the most reliable statement Donald Trump ever made was that health care is complicated. We just might have to give him that.

Sources:

1 – Public Opinion on Single-Payer, National Health Plans, and Expanding Access to Medicare Coverage, Kaiser Family Foundation, March 27, 2019.
2 –  Would ‘Medicare for All’ Save Billions or Cost Billions?  The New York Times, April 10, 2019. 

3 – Build your Own “Medicare for All” Plan. Beware: There are Tough Choices, The New York Times,
February 27, 2019.
4 –  We Read Democrats’ 9 Plans for Expanding Health Care: Here’s How They Work , Vox, March 20, 2019.

One story of why we need the ACA

From J. Brown, Green Bay, WI

I would like to take a moment to tell you about something that happened in my life recently and how a government program helped my family in the months since.

In December my mother suffered an aneurysm at the pre-school where she worked in North Carolina. She was rushed to the nearest hospital and then airlifted to a top-tier hospital in Charlotte. The medical professionals there performed surgeries and procedures in order to decrease the amount of blood on the brain and decrease the swelling. They provided the highest level of care to her for the next 7 days until my father made the difficult decision to allow her to move on from this world.

I was able to be there when she passed away and had the opportunity to speak about her life at her memorial. So many people who knew her showed their love to me. My mother’s passing left a void in our family and in the community. I’m taking it one day at a time and holding on to the many good memories that I have of her.

As you can imagine, the costs of the medical care my mother received were very high. She didn’t have health insurance through the church that ran the pre-school where she worked. My father is a self-employed tile installer and never had health insurance through his business.

My father is a conservative Republican and my mother voted the same way he did even though she was a registered Democrat. Neither one of them wanted to get health insurance through the government program created by the Affordable Care Act, which is often referred to as Obamacare.

However, they signed up in late 2017 in order to avoid the penalty. They paid a total of about $2.50 per month for coverage. Their decision to get coverage through the government saved my family from financial ruin. The costs of my mother’s hospitalization would’ve been around $150,000 without insurance. Instead, my father has been billed around $2,900. Donations from family and friends will be able to cover most of that.

Our family is all too familiar with how medical bills can burden a family. In 1996, my mother had thyroid cancer, which she overcame. My father is still paying off the bills that came while my mother was in the hospital back then. Those bills made it difficult for my parents to pay the mortgage, buy vehicles, put gas in the car, pay for food, and cover the many expenses that families have. Sending me and siblings to college was out of the question because the money just wasn’t there. Those bills made all of our lives much more difficult and put a lot of stress on my parents.

Without the health insurance that my parents got because of the Affordable Care Act the rest of my father’s life would’ve been much more difficult. He could’ve lost everything or spent the rest of his life deeply in debt because of the medical bills. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act my father will be able to move into the next phase of his life without the crushing debt he would’ve had without insurance.

For that reason and many more I will continue to support progressive candidates and causes. The policies that we as Democrats fight to advance are important and worth fighting for because of how they help improve this country and the lives of Americans from coast to coast.