We are facing huge long-term problems: a real unemployment rate of 18%, dysfunctional banks that are "too big to fail", a regressive tax structure that's stifling economic growth, prisons that are bursting at the seams, urban schools that are struggling, a health care system that still needs major reform, the lack of a coherent national energy policy that will protect our economy and the environment, and a government that has been encroaching on our civil liberties. For decades we have lived with irresponsible public policies from career politicians in Congress who care more about increasing their party’s power and getting re-elected than they care about solving long-term problems. They haven’t been honest with us, and they have been lousy public servants.
I’m different. I do not want to be a career politician. I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a Problem Solver. I want to force members of Congress to be responsible, and implement sustainable solutions to real problems. Please read the positions I present on this website, and spread the word to friends and family.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Op-ed piece by John Mertens
Joe Lieberman’s opposition to the “public option” for health care ignores the real issue: we’re facing a $36 trillion dollar shortfall in Medicare over the next 75 years! (To put this into perspective, the entire U.S. economy is $14 trillion.) It’s the biggest fiscal problem we face, and it’s the reason we need real health care reform now. Unfortunately, Joe Lieberman is not the only person obscuring the problem: we don’t hear Republicans or Democrats mentioning it either. This is one of the many reasons I’m running for U.S. Senate as an Independent.
We are facing this huge problem because of the changing age distribution of our population. In 1960 we had 5.1 workers paying into Medicare for each retired person. In 2005 it had fallen to 3.3 workers per retiree, and around 2030 we will reach an equilibrium of about 2.1 workers per retiree. There are two reasons for this: a generation of Americans were very happy during the years after World War II and had a lot of babies, producing a population bubble that is now entering retirement age (the baby-boomers); and life expectancy in the United States has risen steadily. These are good things! But they have produced an economic fact of life that we must deal with. After all, most of us non-wealthy people will rely on Medicare for our insurance when we retire. I know I will. (And, if elected, I pledge that I will not accept the premium health care insurance provided by taxpayers to members of the U.S. Senate. I will purchase my own.)
To deal with this problem it is critical that we reduce the cost of health care PER PERSON in the United States. We need to reduce overhead, stop redundant and defensive medicine, and create a much more efficient delivery system. To accomplish these goals, we must get everyone insured, implement intelligent health care tort reform, overhaul the health care information and billing systems, increase options for consumers, and eventually move to a single-payer system. A single-payer system can work with both private insurance companies and public systems (such as Medicare), and can provide a big reduction in overhead. You can learn more about this in the book “The Healing of America” by T.R. Reid. His book provides an objective non-partisan study of different health care models from around the world: private and/or public and/or single payer. Every member of Congress should read it. And here’s what the Republicans and Democrats are afraid to tell you: even if we succeed with all these savings, we will still need to increase the 1.45% Medicare payroll tax. If we confront this problem now, we won’t have to raise it as much as if we continue to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it.
The health care bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, and the current proposal in the U.S. Senate, is a good first step. But I am worried about working middle-class families that do not currently have coverage, do not qualify for subsidies under the provisions of the bills, and are required to purchase insurance. The “public option” needs to provide basic coverage that is affordable for people in this situation.
Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman recently wrote “Our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.” We need calm, intelligent, non-partisan problem-solving in government! Unfortunately, Joe Lieberman has chosen to obstruct reform rather than present real solutions. Instead of threatening a filibuster, he should work hard to make sure the public option is well-designed, efficient, and provides an affordable option for basic coverage for the working middle class.
Dr. John Mertens is a Professor of Engineering at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the chairman of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. He is running for U.S. Senate in 2010, seeking the nominations of the Independent Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, and Connecticut for Lieberman Party.