Rich Guys For Higher Taxes, Businesses For Single-Payer

Are more zillionaires joining “renegade” rich guys like Nick Hanauer and Warren Buffett and recognizing the dangers posed by the current gap between the rich and the rest?

A recent article from the Guardian was titled “Patriotic millionaires want to pay more taxes.” Those millionaires didn’t mince words.

If you believe the prevailing philosophy of US conservative ideology, the handful of individuals in the 1% are entitled to every bit of their wealth and power because they deployed their capital wisely.

As businessmen in the 1%, living in a conservative state, we confront this philosophy every day, and frankly, we’re sick of it.

The Republican party’s embrace of the “I’ve-done-it-all-on-my-own” mentality is extraordinarily delusional, harmful, and counterproductive. Collective goods – like a sound infrastructure system, a strong K-12 and higher education systems, and rule of law – are critical ingredients to building both individual and societal economic prosperity.

The article’s authors have joined the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy Americans “from all walks of life across deep red, deep blue and purple states” who realize that the system that enabled their success, that created opportunity, is fundamentally broken. And they aren’t shy about placing the blame: they write that the system has been ” hijacked by the ultra-wealthy.”

But a substantive and sincere commitment to an evolved form of capitalism requires a few things. It requires us to confront the reality of the climate crisis as the existential threat of our time; and to acknowledge that we are a country founded on the toxic prejudice of white supremacy, which continues to unjustly shape the future of millions of Americans before they’re even born. We must separate money from politics, so that the influence of special interests doesn’t overpower the voices of voters; and shift our financial goals from short-term profits to long-term sustainability.

And it requires economically advantaged folks like us to not only pay our fair share, but also unequivocally commit to and support the policies that will achieve that reality – and to get all of our similarly situated friends and associates to do the same.

It isn’t just the ultra-rich who are (belatedly) recognizing the need for change. Another new group is Businesses for Single Payer.

Activist Wendell Potter has become president of Business for Medicare for All, the only national business organization working for single payer health insurance. This group of the economically pragmatic lends expertise and credibility to the cause of reform at a time when many, including some of those running for the Democratic presidential nomination, question the viability of single payer.

Potter spent twenty years in the health insurance industry, and left to become an outspoken critic of what he calls a broken, dysfunctional and unfair healthcare system. He points to surveys showing that people on Medicare are far more satisfied than people with private insurance, and says one reason is that  private insurance has changed significantly over the years. Premiums have gone up while insurance companies have devised clever strategies to avoid paying for care.

In the linked article, Potter enumerates the reasons single-payer systems are superior to our patchwork approach. Most of us could recite those reasons in our sleep, but until now, the business sector has been noticeably absent from both the conversation and the criticism. Why the change?

About three years ago, I was approached by a business leader in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, Richard Master, who decided to make a documentary on the US healthcare system….

But he began to pay a lot of attention to healthcare costs. He’s got an MBA from Wharton and a law degree from Columbia so this guy’s really smart, has built a very successful business, but he was questioning the sanity of a system in which he has no control over his healthcare costs from year to year….

 I knew what individuals and families were facing, but I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to what is happening to employers who are trying to stay in the game in our uniquely American, employer-based healthcare system. It’s abundantly clear that the system has run its course and is just not working for increasingly large numbers of employers.

Potter quotes Warren Buffett’s observation that “healthcare is the tapeworm that is destroying American competitiveness,” and goes on to say that more and more businesses are recognizing the need to change.

We’ve got several hundred employers who are part of our organization. Our goal is to have at least one business from every congressional district by this time next year. We’re growing pretty rapidly and we already have a voice in Washington.

Money talks, for good or ill. If people with money support higher tax rates and a more robust social safety net, Congress might actually listen.


  1. I remember when we moved to the states and I had to explain the healthcare system we had to my spouse. He grew up in the UK’s single payer system. I had to explain what health care spending accounts were, premiums, co pays, deductibles and in network and out of network meant. Then when I found a Naturopath MD in AZ, I had to explain why she didn’t take insurance. She told me that she would have to raise her fees and hire someone to fight the insurance companies all day. In fact, her fees were low enough that she qualified for Medicaid.

    I have great insurance here. I have a 500 a month premium, a 500 deductible and the insurance pays for 90% of everything including my medication. This covers me worldwide and they will repatriate me if I’m traveling and need care. May seem expensive but I have received excellent care. Country wide it’s considered Universal Healthcare and the premiums are based on income.

  2. The ultra rich paying more taxes or rather, their fair share that they have avoided paying in the past 20-plus years, is a step in the direction of economic justice. I recommend reading a book by Anand Giridharadas titled, “Winners Take All.” If youʻre time-challenged, look up his interview on Amanpour on PBS or Youtube.

    He explains how charitable foundations replaced those taxes formerly paid and the subsequent changes in policies which has led to many regular people falling through the cracks, whether in our education system or elsewhere. Areas that were once the responsibility of public service have become vulnerable to the whims of a few elite rich, and dependent upon their selection of charitable interests.

    Instead of consistent policies and their implementation, we currently have a patchwork of charities that either overlap or leave gaping holes.

    Addressing the necessary institutional changes takes the super wealthy to realize that amassing giant mountains of money is not doing anybody much good, even for themselves. Glad to see a movement in this direction.

  3. Oh, I forgot to mention that you have to purchase this on your own and it is not provided or compensated by your employer. Competition is good.

  4. How do you teach an asshole to be a helping hand?

    How do you defeat the argument that the strength of a nation is determined by how concentrated its wealth is? It may feel wonderful to say: No, a nation’s strength is determined by how robust its middle class is; but that argument has failed. We need an argument that is a bit more persuasive than, No, I’m right; you’re wrong. Pointing to some arbitrary period in our history and claiming that it was our strongest era as a nation…and, incidentally, it was characterized by a strong middle class…has also failed. Quoting economists and philosophers has failed. The literature and movies of science fiction have failed. Does the only argument the worshipers of wealth will buy always have to be the argument of clubs and hoes and scythes and bullets and hangings from street lights? History says Yes.

    How can the 1% claim they have “deployed their wealth” wisely when their wise thinking is deployed only 90 days into the future and their adaptability synapses are frozen solid on how much profit they can steal right now?

    Perhaps, a few members of the 1% taking it upon themselves to lead by example will change the faith of the Wealth is Strength sect.

  5. Yes, well, the health care insurance economic model is based on the most basic Friedman-like model for capitalism: No public services, everything for profit. Pay out as little as legally possible. Take in as much up front money as possible. The embedded message from these silk-suited thieves is: “How much will you pay to not hurt or live a little longer.” That’s it.

    While researching one of my own books, I came across a quote from the CEO of a major drug maker: “Oh, we’re not in business to cure illness. We’re in business to make money.” Yes, it’s that craven. Throw in the abjectly corrupt economic model of the Republican party and you get what we have today.

    Economic justice will only be achieved by a single-payer, Medicare-like model where ALL health care services are excellent. COMPETITION IN HEALTH CARE AS WELL AS EDUCATION IS PURE BULLSHIT. Why would you go to someone who doesn’t educate your children, but you have no other place to go? The same applies to health care. Health care and education are human RIGHTS, not some cocktail hour yammering topics.

  6. Albert Einstein was pretty smart too! He body-slammed capitalism in the 1940s with his infamous dictum, Why Socialism.

    He also slammed communism for the same spiritual reasons. We’ve used the same automaton approach with education. We push kids through like widgets on an assembly line.

    They also got the lynchpins holding this into place — all backed by pooled money flowing to the political class. We have to stop the flow of money along with corporate lawyers writing laws.

    Bernie Sanders just proposed legislation to do that and lobbyists are going nuts. Once again, the cost of bribing public officials is built into the system and those costs are passed along to consumers. Think monopolies and utilities. Cable networks.

    Healthcare is corrosive and epitomizes capitalism gone awry. It’s the worst of worst but it’s also just the beginning of a socio-economic shift that must take place in this country. It will get the ball rolling. Clean energy needs to roll along simultaneously. Our health and the planet’s health must be addressed first and use those changes to stimulate other changes…food processing, etc.

    Both political parties have fought these changes because they’ve been paid to fight change for decades. And the media plays into it because they are financially rewarded for their silence. They all have to work more democratically for the people.

  7. I have seen only three of the super wealthy in this country state outright that they SHOULD be paying more taxes and that they are WILLING to do so. Warren Buffett, President Barack Obama and Stephen King.

  8. but then again,if we had the wages increase over the years,we would also be better off. healthcare may have been affordable?,if, we reigned in controls.. in calif during the oil embargo,1970s,(im that old) we went as far a odd/even days by plate lic plate numbers to get gas.when some stations decided to gouge the customer,at many out land stations,the state,had a windfall profits tax..that killed the gouging immediatly. wheres the idea now? maybe we have answers we never look back and explore. i once made a comment decades ago, living in southern calif,about all the universities and higher ed. about sororities,as a meeting ground for the well healed, to get aquaited with others,and,well heres the answer today. what we have. they have taken control of almost all facets of buisness,and now goverment. ceos as secretary possitions in our government,now telling other countries to change their board of directors to suit,OUR needs,i.e Ukraine,rick perry,wants to demand,they buy our LNG.(from texas). many a story in DW over the last few years is giving me suggestion,weve over stepped our bounds telling the eu what to do,under a cheating system,they worked hard to condem,and turn over. maybe not perfect,but damn sure answers to the people.(id like to see all the internet providers here,give us the same privacy standards they have in the eu.) some of the rich maybe somewhat honoring the system that honors the working class,,but overall,its a constant battle hatched in the reichstag,and being practiced in propaganda,against the ones who do the work today,the woking class..trucking is a perfect expample,of how its been done. 87% vote the republican ticket,because they dont read,know right from wrong and many are hired for their seat filling capacity over brains..(any seat today is filled by need,not by a persons intelligence,hense,cheap wages gets what you pay for)we are the standard barer of a divided working class. we dont talk to each other anymore,constructive criticism is not tolerated between us, many wont keep a c.b. radio because of this,and they get into trouble not knowing immediate needs,like stopped traffic on a freeway,on the otherside of the hill their topping. and best of all, most allow being screwed out of their wages,by signing off on many items,unheard of before reagan.. the dept of labor is the biggest rip off on our rights here,and congress gleefully allows it to happen..and many of these rich pricks,own and invest,in trucking….the suit: a uniform worn by those who believe they are above you… and ill make a fire hydrant of your leg buddy,. KMA..

  9. I first noticed Nick Hanauer a few years ago when he wrote “The Pitchforks are Coming”, which was about the concentration of money in a few hands in this country and that at some point those of us who have worked hard for years only to get nowhere and the younger generation that has almost no opportunity at all will revolt and come after the greedy wealthy few.

    For those of you who may be interested, Nick has a Podcast in which he covers the issues of our economy and the damage that has been done to the middle class over the past 3-4 decades.

    Wendell Potter! I lost track of him – thanks for pointing out that he is still fighting for us. Several years ago his moral conscience made him so disgusted with his employer that he decided to quit his job. He wrote about his experiences working for a large health insurance company and shared his inside knowledge about the constant schemes they created in order to not cover people or to deny payment for almost any type of illness of their insured.

    The insurance companies went after him with a vengeance until they finally broke him. They used their vast financial power to create and publish multiple fake stories about him until they almost ruined his life. Ultimately, he wasn’t able to keep fighting their attacks and disappeared from the public. I am really glad to find out that he is back and still fighting.

  10. If Nick Hanauer and his Patriotic Millionaires really want to make the changes that they talk about a good place to start would be to relentlessly call out and go after the Kochs, the Mercers, Bezos, the Waltons, and all the other extremely wealthy and powerful people in this country who use our system of government to obtain ill-gotten gains via special interest tax breaks/subsidies and outright legalized theft.

    They should go after them publicly until everyone in this country (especially those who vote and are republican) is finally educated about how our government and capitalist economic system works against the middle and lower class. They have the money and the ability to reach all of the citizens who have been brainwashed by far right propaganda.

    If all they are prepared or willing to do is just an interview or feature story here and there, they are wasting their time and are not truly committed to bringing about the changes that they speak of.

    They need to pay enough money to get featured on Fox Spews and all of the other far right propaganda sources on the airwaves and the internet. This is how they will reach the people that need to be reached. They have the financial resources that can last for as long as it takes to reach everyone everywhere.

    Do they actually have the backbones to do whatever it will take to make change happen?

  11. AgingLGirl,

    Do you happen to have a spare room that you would be willing to rent? I am becoming more disenchanted with this country every day.

    My high school friend who has lived in Vienna, Austria for over 25 years loves his universal health insurance there and is completely disgusted by our system of death panels that the insurance companies run.

  12. As for me, the jury is still out. Are these [mostly] men taking out insurance so that when the Torch-and-Pitchfork Mobs start roaming the country they can shout above the hubbub, “Hey! I’m one of the good guys! Go attack the OTHER mansions in my gated community! THOSE folks are the ones who wanted to leave you twisting in the wind — not ME!”

    If they use their considerable resources to dismantle ALEC and similar institutions, they’ll be able to do some real good. That’s when I’ll believe they’re not pulling a bait-and-switch.

  13. Nancy: “If Nick Hanauer and his Patriotic Millionaires really want to make the changes that they talk about a good place to start would be to relentlessly call out and go after the Kochs, the Mercers, Bezos, the Waltons, and all the other extremely wealthy and powerful people in this country who use our system of government to obtain ill-gotten gains via special interest tax breaks/subsidies and outright legalized theft.”

    And what argument would Hanauer et al use that would get results, that would turn one single mind? Every post in this blog joins in on the chorus of “Ain’t it Awful”, but no one writes a new stanza with arguments that will sell.

    And what must be done with the millions of deplorables who are deaf to the music of logic, reason and argument? I fear the only hearing-aid that will work is made of lead.

  14. Todd’s incisive commentary today is right on. This acquiescence by a few zillionaires into the obvious has been a long time coming. Wage and wealth inequality is the number one domestic issue (other than Trump) today and has been since Reagan destroyed the New Deal, when the Dow stopped moving in tandem with wages. The disparity today is at record levels, and the good guy talk from the Midas set Sheila reports on today tells us that there is fear building up with the recognition that capitalism as currently practiced is nearing the end. When pitchforks morph into guillotines, it’s time to make economic amends, or else. I expect to see more zillionaires join the few, but I think it will be a long time before the few become the many, and as a result I see the possibility of substantial change in the way we conduct our economy.

    One way we can ameliorate what could be nasty street scenes is to take money out of politics, a move which would solve a lot of corollary problems and which, in the absence of incessant propaganda by the Midas set, might educate otherwise brainwashed voters to vote their own interests rather than that of Wall Street.

    As an aside, I had occasion over this past weekend to visit with a university professor, who broke up when I told him that I wanted to invest in pitchfork futures but didn’t know how to access the Chinese market.

  15. Gerald Stinson,
    “One way we can ameliorate what could be nasty street scenes is to take money out of politics . . .”

    When you’re right you’re right — however, that was one of OWS’s primary goals — and lots of other movements, too. Maybe, just maybe, adding a whole lot of money to the mix will change the outcome this time — but I’m not holding my breath.
    Especially when Mark Zuckerberg threatens to sue the federal government if Elizabeth Warren should win the presidency in a free and fair election.
    Of course, that’s assuming this nation is capable of conducting such a thing in the future —

    @ Larry Kaiser:
    Please leave your death threat outside. It is not becoming.
    I don’t care if it’s directed at a faceless, nameless mass or a single individual — it is simply not what we do.
    It’s a simple concept — do try to wrap your mind around it.

  16. We have a AARP sponsored Medicare Advantage health care Plan. As I understand it, that means that United Health Care took over all of the responsibilities for satisfying Medicare claims for us in exchange for the premiums that we pay monthly from SS and an additional amount that represents the present value of all that we paid into Medicare through all of our working years.

    They are of course regulated and supervised by Medicare to make sure that private business isn’t taking advantage of us and the situation.

    We are very happy with what we have but we have had the good fortune of above average health at least so far. I hate to admit it but the odds are that good luck is a limited time “offer” that will change someday as at some age as the consequences catch up to us.

    The ones who aren’t particularly happy are health care providers who find that their guarantee of whatever wealth that they want has been reduced to negotiation with a boss, the government. Having had and been a boss for my whole career I understand that negotiating can be a tough process and that’s why workers hire unions to do it.

    I have to say that United Health Care has been very good at administering the program and satisfying both us and Medicare.

    My conclusion? Both capitalism and socialism are capable of running that business in equally capable ways. The difference? The capitalist approach isn’t motivated to lower health care costs as long as they can build the bills that they have to pay into their premium structure but the government very much is motivated to lower the large chunk of US wealth that is costing us.

  17. My wife and I worked for Multi-National Corporations through most of our working careers, we had “good insurance coverage”. Nevertheless, we had to contribute to a health savings plan to cover the various deductibles and co-pays. When my middle school daughter was in a serious accident most of the bills were covered 100% since it was an emergency, except for the E.R. Surgeon. Since the surgeon was “out of network” we had to pay the the co-pay.

    For businesses if they are a small business or a large multi-national the expense of “shopping” every year for a plan that is “affordable” must take a significant amount of money. Plus, the business may “kick in” and cover some of the premiums.

    To maintain “affordability” the one way to reduce the costs of insurance is high deductibles and co-pays.

    There is also the cost to the hospitals, doctors and other medical providers of determining if the procedure is covered and how much will be covered by the clerical staff.

    Finally, you have the blood suckers and vampires in the collection companies who will dog you to “pay -up” or else get sued for unpaid overdue bills.

    There is only one solution and that is Single Payer – Medicare For All. The buy-in plans that some of the corporate candidates have championed are bogus.

  18. Wendell Potter, who Shelia mentions above had this to write about Medicare Advantage:

    Back when my mother was much younger and healthier – and when I still worked in the insurance industry – I encouraged her to enroll in an MA plan. At the time it was especially appealing because it covered prescriptions medicines. The traditional Medicare program didn’t provide drug coverage until 2006.

    Although Mom saw her MA premiums increase significantly over the years, she didn’t have any real motivation to disenroll until after she broke her hip and required skilled care in a nursing facility. After a few days, the nursing home administrator told her that if she stayed there, she would have to pay for everything out of her own pocket. Why? Because a utilization review nurse at her MA plan, who had never seen or examined her, decided that the care she was receiving was no longer “medically necessary.”

    Because there are no commonly used criteria as to what constitutes medical necessity, insurers have wide discretion in determining what they will pay for and when they will stop paying for services like skilled nursing care by decreeing it “custodial.”

    After doing considerable research, I learned that another highly regarded nursing facility nearby would take Mom and provide her with the skilled care she needed, but not if she stayed in the MA plan. That facility had years ago decided not to participate in MA plans like the one my mother was in because what happened to Mom was happening to other patients. Utilization review nurses at MA plans – not the patients’ treating physicians – where making the ultimate decisions as to whether nursing care was medically necessary. They still do.

  19. Larry,

    The message that Hanauer and his fellow billionaires should use to get the attention of the masses that live in conservative republican land is the exact same message that he has been speaking and writing about. The difference is that he and his buddies would need to pay a hefty amount of greenbacks to be allowed to speak on the far right propaganda sights in order to reach the people that have no clue what has been and still is going on. As we all know, the trump supporters are very angry people, but they have been mislead by propaganda and are angry at the wrong people.

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