IMAGINE: The Elephant Party and the Donkey Party have split and broken up. The new Goat Party has won a landslide victory and I, its standard bearer, am installed in the White House. Following two speeches on foreign policy, I turned to domestic policy issues. The following is the fourth talk in the series about domestic issues.
My fellow Americans:
Today I am going to talk about a subject we all cherish: freedom. We all have pictures in our minds of the opposite of freedom: the oxen laboring under a heavy yoke, the slave with an iron ball chained to his legs. Just such a yoke today burdens our students in higher education. Just such a ball and chain drags back our families faced with the need for medical care.
Education is supposed to set a young person free — free to pursue a career in their chosen field, free to start a family, buy a house, start a life of relative security and progress. That’s the dream, isn’t it? But what’s the reality? Seven out of ten college graduates — 44 million people — are carrying student debt averaging nearly $40,000. The total is $1.5 trillion. Yes, trillion with a t. And that’s rising every year.
What’s the result? More and more potential students are turning away from higher education because of the debt burden. Those who do graduate find that they can’t afford to buy a place to live because of their student debt. Their life styles are pinched. They’re postponing marriage, they’re not having children. Our economy is being robbed of the educated young people we need. Our markets, our family structure, our reproductive progress are warped. We’ve got a higher ed system that’s open primarily to families of affluence, and increasingly shut off to the broad majority of Americans.
That’s intolerable. It’s unAmerican. And it’s going to end, right now. I have this morning signed a bill sent to me by Congress entitled the Higher Education Debt Relief and Restructuring Act. It could also be called the Student Emancipation Proclamation. Point one of the bill is the immediate reduction of all outstanding student debt to one dollar per student. That’s right, as soon as a student pays their lender one dollar, the student’s entire debt is forgiven, cancelled, gone. Part two of the bill prevents the creation of new student debt at all public colleges, community colleges, and public universities. Tuition, board, and fees for all students at public institutions will be reduced to one dollar per year. That’s right, one dollar. We do not believe that higher education should be free. The student should have to pay something. But the price must be right; it must be something absolutely everyone can pay. One dollar is that right price. Given the revenue boosting and cost-saving measures I announced previously, our federal government will pick up the costs that the state systems cannot carry, and cheerfully consider the expenditure an excellent investment.
An even heavier burden of debt crushes American families due to medical expenses. More than 70 million people are struggling with medical debt, and this accounts for nearly three quarters of all bankruptcies. The debt burden has only gotten worse during the previous administration, as it worked to wreck the modest measures included in the Affordable Care Act. It’s painfully obvious that millions of Americans are avoiding medical treatment that they need, failing to fill prescriptions they rely on, and going short of food and other necessities in order to try to meet medical payment obligations. As in education, the system is rigged so that the upper income minority can generally get top quality treatment whenever and wherever they want it, while the broad majority of Americans live on the edge.
Why do we put up with this state of affairs? Are we afraid of bogey labels like “socialized medicine” and the like? Yet perfectly capitalist countries, neighbors and allies, provide their citizens with greater medical security at less expense than we seem able to do. There’s just no excuse for going on this way. It’s going to stop, this afternoon. I have on my desk and am about to sign the American Health Maintenance Act. This bill is modeled on one of the most successful medical care institutions we have: the nonprofit Kaiser Permanente Health Maintenance Organization. A member of the Kaiser HMO gets a plastic card, and this card, with a modest co-payment, entitles them to whatever medical services they need, from flu shots to cardiac surgery, all at one membership price. The AHMA takes the Kaiser model, rolls it out nationwide with everyone a member, and with the federal government paying the membership fee. Like the education bill. it cancels existing medical debts. Unlike that bill, it doesn’t require a dollar payment. Health care is a basic right, and health care should be free.
We realize that medical care is a complex subject. Too complex by far. An octopus tangle of for-profit hospitals, for-profit doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and for-profit insurance companies have created an interlocking roadblock to progress. We are still going to have affluent families who can afford the luxury of feeding all these bloodsuckers, but the mainstream American will never again have to deal with a for-profit medical insurance company, a for-profit hospital, or a for-profit physician. We will most definitely bargain down pharmaceutical prices, and we will actively import quality medications from wherever in the world they are manufactured. The days when Americans have to choose between meals or medicines, when illness or injury mean financial disaster, when America ranks near the bottom in world health rankings — those days are history.
My fellow Americans, thank you for your confidence in the Goat Party. The goat is a stubborn animal, independent minded, a lover of freedom. In that spirit, we have today kicked away the heavy burdens that hold back education and health care, two of the core concerns of any society. Freed from debt burden, our students will take wings. Freed from the oppressive cost of health care, our families will straighten up, stride with confidence, and thrive. This is all part of the real America, the America that shines a bright light in the world, the America we all honor and love. Thank you.