It’s no secret that Americans pay more for healthcare than anyone in the world, and it’s increasingly less of a secret that a better system would result in fewer infant deaths, fewer preventable deaths, fewer uninsured people, and less expense for Americans. What does that system look like, though? Well, it’s not privatized health insurance.
The problem with privatized health insurance is that it allows or forces people to go uninsured due to cost, which is why President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is so important. It lowered the number of uninsured to an all-time low of 8.6 percent by forcing affordable coverage options upon them (if you live in a state that expanded Medicaid) or forcing them to pay a fine so the insured wouldn’t have to flip so much of the uninsured’s bill. And while healthcare costs are still increasing (they always will), they are increasing at a slower rate than they were prior to the ACA.
The biggest reason socialized healthcare is difficult for Republicans to stomach is because they don’t trust the federal government to handle healthcare. You hear them say that over and over, and that the states can do it better. I don’t disagree, but if India can provide free healthcare to roughly 276 million Indians living under the poverty line, the American government can certainly do it for 43.1 million impoverished Americans. States should not be allowed to opt out of this coverage. It should be mandatory because those with private insurance would be paying for fewer uninsured visits to the hospital, meaning hospitals wouldn’t have to increase costs for everyone because of the $900 each uninsured visitor costs them annually.
But socialized healthcare is not going to be passed by this Congress or any other unless the Democrats manage a supermajority at some point, and even then it’s no certainty given the bad, yet unwarranted, reputation the word “socialism” has in this country. (Hint: it’s not fascism.)
The House Republicans’ American Health Care Act won’t be passed by this Congress, either. At least not how it currently stands. But minimum wage legislation should appeal to constituents and politicians of both parties.
The biggest problem for Americans isn’t increasing health insurance premiums. The biggest problem is stagnant wages, which is why passing minimum wage legislation is so important. Back in February, the U.S. inflation rate was at its highest since 2012. An item that cost $20 back in 1997 would cost $30.38 today. That’s a cumulative rate of inflation of almost 52 percent in 20 years. Middle- and low-wage workers’ incomes grew just over five percent during the same period. When the value of the U.S. dollar decreases 10 times faster than incomes increase, people struggle to pay for everything. My father and an entire district of a machinists’ union didn’t get a raise for the eight years Ronald Reagan was President. Imagine working for the same wage for nearly a decade while the cumulative rate of inflation increased 36.4 percent over that time. By the end of the eight years your 1981 U.S. dollar was worth just 63.6 cents in 1989. The lack of union membership in America has a lot to do with the increased income for the top 10 percent of earners, too.
While the globalization of the economy makes executives more valuable, a lack of union membership and lack of collective bargaining allows executive salaries to inflate. And while the affordability of commonly used items like refrigerators, ovens, etc. has increased according to the CATO Institute, that doesn’t necessarily offset the ever-increasing cost of energy. Between 2005 and 2015, residential energy costs increased 34 percent despite prices of natural gas delivered to electric utilities declining nearly 60 percent and coal prices remaining essentially flat, according to the Institute for Energy Research. And we all know that gasoline is more expensive. Today’s average price for gasoline is 54 percent more than the inflation-adjusted price of 1998, when oil prices reached an all-time low of $18.13 per barrel.
Secondary education continues to be an increasing expense, which increased on average at a rate of nine percent at four-year colleges, 11 percent at two-year colleges and 13 percent at private colleges since 2011-12, according to CollegeBoard. “But you don’t need a college education,” you might say. Sure, you might not need it, but the value of of a secondary education was double that of an equal investment in the stock market back in 2011, according to the Brookings Institute, and USA Today reported that a New York Fed study determined the net present value of a college degree to be at an all-time high of $300,000 back in 2014.
Education isn’t the only thing that’s steadily increased in cost, either. The median cost of rent has increased 64 percent since 1960 and 12 percent from 2000 to 2010 despite median wages falling seven percent during that time, according to ApartmentList. The Consumer Price Index for food is also 2.4 percent higher than it was just a year ago, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
While Republican politicians have no interest in socialized healthcare legislation or minimum wage legislation, they should if their goals entail more American jobs and a flourishing American economy. Socialized healthcare legislation, like Rep. John Conyer’s Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, and minimum wage legislation, like Rep. Al Green’s Original Living Wage Act, would allow Republicans to create more jobs and allow Americans to further stimulate the economy with expendable income.
No Conservative who is struggling to pay for necessities can successfully argue that they don’t deserve a raise, and no Republican politician can successfully argue that his or her struggling constituents don’t deserve a raise and keep his or her job. This is something Congress can pass and something Donald Trump should be proud to sign. It would be quite the blow to his predecessor if Trump managed to increase wages for all American workers making minimum wage. It would certainly make the numbers look better if Trump and the Republicans are successful in passing their healthcare bill, as more Americans would be able to afford health insurance.
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After signing an executive order to limit the number of H-1B immigrants (immigrants working jobs requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree), Donald Trump signed Congress’s temporary spending bill that allows for more than double the number of H-2B immigrants (immigrants working jobs that don’t even require a high school education).
This is nothing new, as it’s the same policy passed in the last spending bill, but Trump didn’t exactly do much to alter the policy despite being in a position to do so. Why would he? Allowing even more immigrants to serve as temporary employees at cheaper wages will make his CEO friends happy, but it should infuriate Americans. It certainly assures that the 11.5 percent youth (ages 16 to 24) unemployment rate will remain mostly unchanged.
These H-2B jobs, like working at winter or summer resorts in guest services or as a housekeeper or groundskeeper, used to be filled by high school and college students looking to make a buck while going to school. Some of them are saving for a college education that has grown increasingly unaffordable. Now the money goes to temporary immigrants who will take it home with them when they’re no longer needed. They can serve up to three years on an H-2B visa, but then only have to leave the United States for three months before reapplying. From the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website:
“A person who has held H-2B nonimmigrant status for a total of 3 years must depart and remain outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of 3 months before seeking readmission as an H-2B nonimmigrant. Additionally, previous time spent in other H or L classifications counts toward total H-2B time.”
When you elect an American businessman to be the most powerful person in the world, you are submitting this country and others to the business practices of an American businessman. Those practices include hiring cheap, immigrant labor (Trump businesses have asked the government to grant temporary visas to 1,200 foreign workers since 2000), lowering taxes for corporations and the rich and raising them for the middle class (Trump’s tax plan cronies are considering eliminating the personal exemption and reduce the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent), and allowing internet service providers to monitor your online history and sell it to advertisers.
At least medical marijuana jobs won’t be affected by the spending bill, though. The Department of Justice still can’t spend funds enforcing federal marijuana law upon state’s that have legalized medical marijuana, but no protections exist for states with recreational marijuana policies.
Alaskan fisher-people should also be happy, as the spending bill has made the “brown king crab” more appealing by allowing it to be called “golden king crab.” Young Americans will also be subjected to school breakfasts and lunches featuring more sugar and fat thanks to new Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue freezing Michelle Obama’s plan to fight childhood obesity. Welcome to Trump's America, where under-educated Americans lose jobs to under-educated immigrants, under-paid Americans pay more taxes than over-paid Americans, and diabetes runs rampant.
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Alex Jones continues to receive about as much press as his friend Donald Trump, with Stephen Colbert impersonating the talk show host on The Late Show, and Trevor Noah attacking him on The Daily Show. Follow the links to view the videos.
Alex Jones makes for good television. That enraged character is so entertaining that Comedy Central has requested the right to use this clip of Jones to open their new show, The President Show, featuring a Donald Trump impersonator as host talking about the day’s news. It’s an attempt at impersonating the InfoWars model and mocking the Alex Jones character to attract a larger, more moderate audience. (The show had Keith Olbermann from GQ’s The Resistance as its first guest.)
The writers and producers of just about every comedy show have been pretty lazy lately, with the lone exception being the writers and producers of Last Week Tonight. With very little effort and originality, the writers and producers of The Late Show, The Daily Show and even Newsweek are taking shots at an easy target from point blank range and making easy money doing so. Not only that, they’re only giving Jones free publicity that enhances his “celebrity,” because as the cliché goes, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Clichés exist because there is truth to them.
While our advertising sales representatives at GCN confirm they have not raised the advertising rates for The Alex Jones Show, they certainly aren’t having trouble selling those spots, even while Jones is taking time to attend a custody hearing. He’s not off to a hot start in proving his attorney’s argument that Jones is playing a character on his show, telling the jury on 4/20 that George Soros is to blame for the ever-increasing potency of marijuana.
All that said, Jones’s audience is set. The people who tune into The Alex Jones Show will likely always tune into The Alex Jones Show, whether it’s on the radio or YouTube. The people who watch Bill O’Reilly will continue consuming whatever it is he does after Fox News, much like Rush Limbaugh. You don’t need to understand these people; you only need to understand these people exist and there’s no changing them.
Apparently, the only thing that could affect the advertising revenue of The Alex Jones Show is a criminal charge or sexual harassment allegation brought against Alex Jones. That’s been the case in sports and entertainment for quite some time. A custody battle isn’t going to turn advertisers away in droves like they ran away from The O’Reilly Factor.
There’s nothing anyone can do about people who want to be heard and have the resources to accomplish that goal because there’s nothing anyone can do about the audience that consumes that garbage. Americans consume everything including garbage; some garbage just smells better.
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Donald Trump is in the battleground state of Wisconsin to sign an executive order that will reportedly make it harder for technology companies to hire cheaper, high-skilled workers from overseas and prioritize the hiring of American workers and strengthen rules to make sure government contracts are awarded to American contractors.
Trump and White House officials have targeted the H-1B visa for high-skilled, foreign workers, which will even affect Trump himself. His own company takes advantage of the H-1B visa at his hotels, golf courses and vineyard. According to a CNN Money investigation conducted in July 2016, Trump utilized the visa to import 1,256 workers over 15 years. One of Trump’s campaign promises was to end the H-1B visa as a cheap labor program, but according to a study by Brookings Institute researchers, H-1B job vacancies are harder to fill and H-1B workers are paid more than non-H-1B workers, with wage growth much higher than the national average. Here are some answers to criticisms brought against the study and here’s a comparable study that comes to the same conclusion.
According to WorkPermit.com, the U.S. H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows American companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc. Any professional level job that usually requires a Bachelor’s degree or higher can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations, but if a foreign worker does not have a Bachelor’s degree, they may still be able to show degree equivalence through work experience or other qualifications.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it received 199,000 petitions for 85,000 slots during this year’s H-1B visa lottery. Last year, the agency received 236,000 applications. Indian outsourcing firms such as Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro receive most of the visas because they submit the most applications to increase their chances.
Technology companies have long complained of a lack of a highly educated and skilled American workers as a reason for taking advantage of the H-1B program, but there are also companies taking advantage of it. Regardless, American technology companies could get around all of this by hiring foreign workers to work remotely from their home countries.
Supporters of the H-1B visa program say Trump’s executive order will make it harder and more expensive for businesses to find adequate workers, while the opposition says Trump’s order doesn’t go far enough. If more is to be done, however, Congress will have to get involved. Several bills have been introduced to overhaul the visa program. One presented by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley would require companies seeking H-1B visas to make a “good-faith effort” to hire Americans prior to exploring foreign workers. What constitutes a “good-faith effort” will be determined by the Labor Department. The bill would also give foreign students studying in the U.S. the upper hand when applying for H-1B visas.
H-1B visas shouldn’t be confused with the H-2B visa program, which does allow companies like beach and ski resorts to import cheaper, low-skilled labor to serve seasonal positions. Hotels, resorts, restaurants, construction companies and seafood processors got a big boost when a spending bill was approved last year that allows for anyone who obtained an H-2B visa in the last three years to retain it and not count towards the 66,000 visa cap. These jobs will still go to immigrants who will do the work for less. That’s why every time you ski Montana or Colorado or California or Utah there’s rarely a local to be found in uniform. Yet the price of admission never seems to reflect the lower cost of the labor.
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