Author: Joseph Sparks

Messaging Microcosm and Macrocosm

A recent vote in Montgomery County (MC), Maryland, illustrates the problem in microcosm that Democrats have with messaging.

This past November there was a proposal, Question B, on the ballot as to whether term limits should apply to County Council members and the county executive. A local Republican activist frustrated by the Democrats’ dominance on the Council pushed the proposal. In MC, 58 percent of the registered voters are Democrat, 19 percent are Republican and 22 percent are independent.

Clinton clobbered Trump by more than three to one in MC, 75 percent to 19 percent in the general election.

The local Democratic Party carefully researched Question B, and urged Democrats to vote against it. Their research was thorough and showed that when term limits were implemented, institutional knowledge was lost and that the influence of lobbyists and special interests increased.

So in a heavily Democratic area that defeated similar propositions twice before, Question B overwhelmingly passed with 70 percent voting for it and 30 percent voting against it.

According to a prominent MC Democratic party activist, term limits passed because many people were upset that the County Council had increased taxes, yet the Council had not made the case as to why they needed the tax increases.

The MC microcosm demonstrates two key points. One, people often vote with their emotions and not their heads. Two, politicians must constantly explain and justify their actions, preferably in a way that resonates with people’s feelings, to get their message out.

On the national or macrocosmic level, Democrats have a severe messaging problem. As one conservative said:

Those of us at the Heritage Foundation and allied public-policy institutions like the American Enterprise Institute have effectively defined the terms of the debate on Medicare reform. The Democrats are debating our proposals. We’re not debating theirs.
— Robert Moffit, Senior Fellow, Heritage Foundatio

Unfortunately for Democrats, messaging struggles include health care, taxes, economic policy and other areas. For example, in health care there is a debate about whether to repeal Obamacare or keep it. If Democrats had done their messaging properly, the debate would not include how to repeal Obamacare, but how to make it better.

If Democrats want to win, they ned to solve their messaging problem.

Strong Stances, Good Messages

According to Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., “Pollster Allan Rivlin has been offering a compelling presentation to Democrats, arguing that they lack a clear, comprehensible and convincing economic message. He’s right. It’s time they got one.”

Let me second, third and fourth that. Democrats have not been getting their message out for a long time. This has caused the Democrats to lose big in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, and to lose the most recent presidential election in the Electoral College. In contrast, the unified messages provided by the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2016 have contributed to his wins.

When I asked a Democratic supporter what do Democrats stand for, he had a hard time answering. When I asked dedicated Clinton supporters why they are voting for Hillary Clinton, they had to think about it. Even dedicated supporters had trouble stating their party’s or their candidate’s positions.

Before Democrats can frame their messages, the must stand for something. They can start by taking a bubble-up economic approach—adopting policies that help people on the bottom rung.

First they need to support Medicare-for-all so everybody has access to health care. While Obamacare was a good first step and has helped millions of people, it does not solve many of the problems in our health care system. Medicare-for-all would.

Second, we need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

Third, we should provide free public education through college.

Fourth we should guarantee that everybody has adequate to food, clothing and shelter.

These strong stances would allow the Democrats to play offense instead of playing defense with Republican-lite policies that don’t work and move the country toward disastrous Republican solutions such as those implemented in Kansas.

These strong stances would provide Democrats with the “clear, comprehensible and convincing economic message” that is needed to show that they are committed to improving people’s lives and growing the economy. These policies would provide the strong stances necessary for good messaging and would allow Democrats to play offense for a welcome and necessary change.

 

Health Care and ‘Skin in the Game’

Other countries have implemented Medicare-for-all systems that do not require “skin in the game,” and they get better health outcomes at much lower costs. In fact, “skin in the game” causes consumers to forgo necessary health care. The most common way to implement “skin in the game” is with high-deductible health plans. As one health expert stated:

The nation continues to push forward with expanding deductibles in health plans in spite of evidence that they are creating great harm by increasing financial burdens on individuals and families and by impairing access to essential health care services and products.

Meanwhile, health insurance and pharmaceutical executives have no incentive to improve the system. For too long these executives have been able to act however they want without any consequences. This has literally killed people and caused bankruptcies—all in efforts for the companies to keep their profits high and for the CEOs to keep their salaries astronomical.

It is time to force these executives to have “skin in the game.” We need to define a series of performance goals for our health care system.

The first goal should be that our health system covers everybody.

The second goal should be to eliminate financial stress from accessing health care. Eliminating copayments and deductibles can achieve this.

The third goal is that patients should have the freedom to choose any medical professional or hospital.

The fourth and fifth goals should be to have the per capita health expenditure equal to or less than $4,750 and the health expenditure as a percentage of GDP that is equal to or less than 10 percent. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which represents 35 countries, the average per capita health expenditure is about $4,750 for developed countries, and the average expenditure as a percentage of GDP is about 10 percent.

Until all goals are met, health insurance and pharmaceutical executives are limited to compensation that does not exceed ten times the minimum wage. Profits from the companies shall be used to reduce health care costs until the goals are met. Once met the companies may use their profits and compensate their executives however they want.

These executives have perpetuated a system that requires too many patients to sacrifice their good health, their financial well-being, and/or their lives. It is only fair that we make the executives have “skin in the game.”

The Newest Banana Republic

According to one report on Dec. 19th, Kuwait switched its annual party from the Four Seasons Hotel to president-elect Donald J. Trump’s newest hotel in Washington, DC, “after members of Trump’s Organization pressured” Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S., Salem Al-Sabah.

The next day another report claimed that there had been no pressure from the Trump Organization to switch hotels. The ambassador said, “I do not know president-elect Trump. I do not know any of his people. None of his people have contacted me. I thought would be exciting for our guests to see a new venue. It looks great. It looks cool. So let’s do it.”

Regardless of which version is true, it gives the United States the feel of a banana republic, where you try to gain favors from a country’s leader by enhancing the leader’s economic well-being. Unfortunately, “[f]oreign diplomats have openly admitted that some see staying at the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel owned by the president-elect as a chance to curry favor with Trump.

To prevent our becoming a banana republic, President Obama should issue an executive order that forbids any foreign government representative from staying in or having functions at any Trump property.

If the U.S. wants to retain it superpower status, we must not only maintain our strength, but also our moral standing. We must demonstrate that we will base our foreign policy on actual policy. Otherwise our status as a banana republic will become permanent.

Medicare-for-all—There Is No Better Solution

Republicans have been saying for many years that the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, needs to be repealed and replaced with something better. Medicare-for-all is that something better.

Unfortunately for Republicans and the rest of us, after six years of complaining, they still have no idea of how to replace Obamacare. Their latest proposal is to repeal Obamacare, then delay the repeal for two to three years in the hope that they can force Democrats to negotiate a replacement.

Republicans argue falsely that the current problems in our health care system have been exacerbated by Obamacare. In fact Obamacare has mitigated some of the worst problems by reducing the number of uninsured by about 12.5 million and allowing people with pre-existing conditions to get insurance.

However, even Obamacare has not been able to fix the systemic problems that cause the United States to have the most expensive health care system in the world with some of the worst health outcomes of any developed nation. We pay for a yacht, but get a dinghy.

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