By David Swanson, Executive Director of World BEYOND War, February 21, 2020
Enhanced Medicare for All — that wild scheme that Michael Bloomberg calls “untried” because it’s only been tested for decades in virtually every wealthy nation on earth — would cost $450 billion a year less than the current U.S. system. In the usual propaganda terms (in which you multiply by ten and then — if asked — admit that you’re talking about ten years) that’s a savings of $4.5 trillion! Let’s be honest and call it $450 billion a year.
The health coverage debate has gone on for the past century in the United States, during which numerous other studies have reached similar conclusions. The massive savings that awaits us according to these studies, does not include the potential healthcare savings of greater, more reliable preventive care, or of the reduced stress of guaranteed coverage, or the economic benefits of investing in Medicare For All.
Yes, a single-payer healthcare system involves shifting expenditures from private to public sources. No more do you get to pay your beloved health insurance bills and deductibles and co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses, or in any way contribute to your cherished health insurance companies. Instead, the U.S. government pays. But you, dear reader, pay far less than you do now for a few obvious reasons. (1) We’re saving $450 billion a year. (2) A government capable of enacting a major sensible policy is a government that by definition will begin taxing corporations and billionaires in a reasonable way. (3) All the other savings I mentioned above can be added to from the stress reduction to come from living wages, secure retirement, and the absence of student debt, plus the health benefits available to a society willing to enact a Green New Deal and reduce the poisons being injected into its earth, air, and water.
A Green New Deal, without even considering its health benefits, would cost somewhere in the range of negative trillions of dollars. This is just the saved money from refraining from causing climate catastrophes. Destroyed coasts and crops are expensive. We’re only starting to pay for them now, but we will be paying a lot more without a Green New Deal. We can pile onto such savings $20 billion a year in fossil fuel subsidies that the U.S. government now dumps into intentionally exacerbating the problem. I’m making the assumption that a Green New Deal would not co-exist with fossil fuel subsidies.
If we were serious enough to switch to vegan diets and eliminate the massive waste of the livestock industries — much of it public waste — the savings would increase further.
A Green New Deal isn’t free, just because it would costs trillions less than doing nothing. But it would produce jobs, it would produce other economic benefits, it would produce major savings for many people including home weatherization, solar and wind power, fast and convenient public transportation, etc. And it would be a public cost, which has all the advantages to non-billionaires mentioned above.
Improving public education and including college and preschool in it (here, and not on healthcare, is where one should say “for those who want it”) costs money. It improves lives, benefits economies, and creates whole populations capable of comprehending words like these (there must be savings potential in that!). But it does actually cost a (relatively small) positive number of dollars.
Yet, there are places those dollars can very easily come from. One is taxing the mega-wealthy and their corporations and their financial transactions.
We should bear in mind all of the pros and cons of eliminating billionaires. Among the pros: never having to see people like Donald Trump or Michael Bloomberg on television again, and not having to live under a government controlled by such people. Among the cons: once you tax the billionaires out of existence (as we damn well should) you can’t tax them the same amount again the next year.
Fortunately, there is another source of funding that is unfathomably huge, destructive in every way if left in its current state, and available anew year after year. There’s a government agency whose reports on what it spends are full of fraud and which has never met the legal requirement of an audit, and whose enterprise is openly the criminal one of aggression rather than the euphemistic one of “defense.” A good fiscal conservative might suggest that such an agency not receive another dime. Instead, the Pentagon, plus other military agencies and expenses, are getting $1.25 trillion a year while less than 3% of that could end starvation on earth.
Consider the economic benefits of peace conversion. For every $1 billion now spent on militarism that is moved to education, economists tell us we’ll produce over twice as many jobs (138.4% more jobs to be precise). A small fraction just of recent increases in U.S. military spending could fund our wildest educational dreams while producing millions of good jobs. To this we have to add consideration of the human, environmental, and property-damage cost of war, which globally is in the trillions of dollars every year. Why not save some of that while we’re in the saving mood? And if, in the process, we prevent a bit of all the sorts of damage that militarism does, who will really mind?