Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’


Last month, Alexander Beunder, the editor of Socialist Economist, asked a handful of “expert economists from around the world”—including Johanna Bockman, Prabhat Patnaik, Andrew Kliman, and myself—two key questions concerning the problems and prospects for socialism, economics, and the Left in the world today. Beunder requested that we keep our answers to two hundred words.

Our answers are now posted on-line, which can be read by clicking on the links below. Here are mine:

What economic obstacles is the Left facing in the 21st Century? 

The spectacular failures of capitalism in the United States have provided fertile ground for a renewed interest in socialism. These include the punishments meted out by the Second Great Depression, the lopsided nature of the current recovery, and a decades-old trend of obscene and still-rising inequality. In addition, the increasing indebtedness associated with higher education, the high cost and limited access to healthcare, and the growing precariousness of the workplace have left working-class Americans, especially young workers, with gnawing financial insecurity — and growing support for socialism. However, the U.S. Left currently faces two main economic obstacles: the decline in labor unions and an attempt to regulate capitalism. During the postwar Golden Age, union representation peaked at almost 35%. Now, it is down to 11.1% — and only 6.6% in the private sector. At least in part as a result, the Left has shifted its focus more to regulating capitalism, often by invoking a nostalgia for manufacturing and using the theoretical lens of Keynesian economics, and moving away from criticizing capitalism, especially its class dimensions (particularly the way the surplus is appropriated and distributed, as Marxists and other socialists understand them).

How can the Left use economics as a tool in the 21st Century? 

Socialist economists can help identify the ways the current problems of American capitalism are not just a matter of economic “imperfections,” but deeply embedded in capitalism itself. Moreover, the Left has the opportunity to propose changes that benefit workers in the short term and empower the working-class to make additional changes over time. Socialist economists can play a key role in the ongoing debates within economic theory (regarding stagnant wages, growing inequality, the one-sided nature of the recovery, and so on) and national politics (concerning universal healthcare, student debt, precarious jobs, and the like)—and to engage the rehabilitation of socialism as a legitimate position within American politics. For example, socialist economists can change the debate about inequality and explain how it is a product not of a lack of skills, but of rising exploitation and the distribution of the growing surplus to the top 10 percent. Similarly, they can change the limits of the possible by showing how movement in the direction of universal healthcare can improve the lives of working-class Americans and, at the same time, create the space for other ways of organizing healthcare itself—by expanding worker cooperatives and other community-oriented ways of providing health services.


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The Siren Song of the Moderate  Kavanaugh


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American capitalists love immigration. So, as it turns out, should American workers.

The last time I addressed the issue of immigration, I made the argument that

recent waves of immigration have benefited a tiny group of employers at the top, who in turn have managed to shift the costs—through wage reductions and higher taxes—onto workers (both recent immigrants and native-born workers).

In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, American corporate titans used a collegial dinner with Donald Trump to press him on easing immigration restrictions.


As it turns out, Americans have a much more positive view of immigration than they did in 2007—and than Trump and some of his supporters have today. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans now say immigrants have a positive effect on food, music, and the arts (57 percent), while nearly half say immigration benefits the economy in general (45 percent)—with both of those measures up 17 percentage points from 2007.

Recent studies suggest that American workers should really have an even more positive view of immigration.


One reason is because, as the Social Security Administration’s 2018 trustees demonstrate in their most recent report (pdf), immigrants—both undocumented and legal—lower the Social Security deficit and increase the chances of the program remaining solvent. As Alexia Fernández Campbell explains,

That’s because immigrants, on average, are a lot younger than the overall US population, so their retirement is far off. And undocumented immigrants pay for Social Security, but they’re not allowed to get benefits.

For all three periods, when total net immigration increases, the actuarial balance increases from -1.93 to -1.62 percent for the 25-year period, from -2.68 to -2.24 percent for the 50-year period, and from -3.12 to -2.60 percent for the 75-year period.*

The other reason American workers should support immigration is because immigrants to the United States actually subsidize the healthcare of U.S. citizens. Lila Flavin, Leah Zallman, Danny McCormick, and J. Wesley Boyd recently published a study (unfortunately behind a paywall) in which they compare the healthcare expenditures of immigrants to those of U.S.-born individuals and evaluate the role immigrants play in the rising cost of healthcare. Their conclusions?

Immigrants’ overall expenditures were one-half to two-thirds those of U.S.-born individuals, across all assessed age groups, regardless of immigration status. Per capita expenditures from private and public insurance sources were lower for immigrants, particularly expenditures for undocumented immigrants. Immigrant individuals made larger out-of-pocket health care payments compared to U.S.-born individuals. Overall, immigrants almost certainly paid more toward medical expenses than they withdrew, providing a low-risk pool that subsidized the public and private health insurance markets.

That net benefit to U.S.-born workers will, of course, decrease over time if health insurance and healthcare services continue to be withheld from immigrant workers— since, without adequate healthcare for foreign-born workers, the burden imposed on the U.S. healthcare system will likely increase in the future.

Clearly, U.S.-born workers benefit from the inflow of immigrants, at least in terms of their retirement and healthcare benefits. That may put them on the side of their employers. Where their interests diverge, however, is what happens when immigrants arrive in the United States and begin to work. Capitalists want to maintain a low-cost, growing pool of employees, regardless of their place of birth. However, workers—both U.S-born and immigrant—have every interest in legalizing the status of undocumented immigrant workers and organizing themselves, in order to improve and expand their access to government services and to increase their collective bargaining power vis-à-vis their employers.

Now that’s a wall worth fighting for.


*Of course, increased immigration is not enough to eliminate the Social Security deficit. That can only be done, as I explained in 2012, by eliminating the taxable earnings cap.


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After a Lot of Hype, Russian Interference Turns Out Not to Amoun  600_214109


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