By Ted Braun
There's been a lot of bad news in the media recently: floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, gun violence, healthcare system problems, airplane, train, and bus crashes, assaults on girls and women, high unemployment, house foreclosures—the list could go on and on. But there are two examples of good news worth celebrating these days.
As we've mentioned before, one of the biggest downsides of the Affordable Care Act is its reliance on the private insurance industry. One of its best provisions, however, allows states to set up a single-payer system. Vermont has now become the first state to choose this option and is now in the process of starting a single-payer system. Its slogan is "Everybody in, nobody out."
Vermont's new system will be funded through Medicare, Medicaid, federal money from the ACA given to Vermont, and a small increase in taxes. For healthcare recipients, there will be no more premiums, deductibles, co-pays, or hospital bills—they will be able to use their money in other ways. Employers will be able to provide better wages or invest more in their infrastructure. Hospitals and healthcare providers will now be nonprofit and be able to save significantly in administrative costs.
As Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has stated, "The quickest route toward a national health care program will be when individual states go forward and demonstrate that universal and nonprofit health care works, and that it is the cost-effective and moral thing to do."
Another example of good news took place on November 26 when Pope Francis issued an 84-page "apostolic exhortation" to the Catholic Church. In it he called on politicians to guarantee "dignified work, education, and healthcare" to their citizens and to be more concerned about the poor and inequality. He criticized current economic systems that are profoundly unequal.
In the document he stated "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems."
In criticizing the "idolatry of money" and unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny," he spoke to all of us in the United States in the way we have merged our politics, economics, and religion into our perception of the world and our priorities in it. He called for action "beyond a simple welfare mentality." "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor."
How can we find and elect more "disturbed" politicians who will help eliminate our nation's growing inequality so that everyone is included in its benefits?