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The Number Two Reason Canadian Healthcare is Free And Equal to All Canadians

mellon's picture

Over the last few weeks we've been seeing a drama slowly unfold in the UK. We in the US should be watching this very closely, because our own fate is closely tied to the fate of the Brits. Unfortunately, the US media, controlled as it is by five corporations, is almost completely blanking out the UK story. And the very few US stories that have mentioned it are neglecting to tell us the core issues at all, of course. Why? Because it's a trip down the rabbit hole they call neoliberalism. And it shows just how greedy and desperate politicians and corporations are these days to lock in their gains from the last few decades, fast, before the world wises up, as they know it will.

It's a very ugly story for both the US and the UK, because a core aspect of it is politicians not telling us about a very, very important thing, and then, repeatedly, when the time came to 'fess up, continuing to lie, digging themselves in deeper and deeper.

So, the US government has been trying, successfully to keep the core FTA goals and agenda, which have practically nothing to do with trade, secret.

However, in the UK they have the NHS, and privatizing the existing NHS is a lot more difficult than simply creating a fake story, and elaborate bipartisan cover-ups, as to why a nation isn't able to get their own NHS when they really need one (e.g., in the US). As our scene opens, several UK government negotiators, as well as the US ambassador, have been trying to sell the Brits on the idea of TTIP, and approving, without ever having been told the true intentions of, one (really two) more trade deals like GATS, TTIP and the even more secretive TiSA, either one of which will further befoul and entangle both the UK's and the USA's hopes of having affordable healthcare in the future. Because it (or they) are not what they seem. Left out of the "debate," for reasons which will soon be obvious, is GATS, the already signed and sealed WTO services agreement from the 1990s, which all this time has been there, serving as a secret ratchet. More on that in a sec.

The most recent problems come in the form of what appear to me to be intentional misrepresentations that the TTIP trade deal would not have effects that have been, in more candid trade forums, repeatedly stated to be these trade deals' intended effects.

One is the "standstill" -- locking in the current level of "nonconforming" public services as a maximum level, which can never again be exceeded. The other is setting up what's called a ratchet, which is exactly what the name implies, a one way process leading, click, click, irreversibly, only to total privatization which can never, ever be reversed for any reason, as it supersedes national laws and elections.

See "Mechanisms for standstill, rollback and listing of country specific reservations". The definition comes from one of the last FTAs whose text we now know, the MAI.

In the case of GATS, for the US (except for Canada and Mexico), that first standstill began in 1995. (I don't know when the UK signed it; probably around the same time.) But at that time, the UK's NHS was not privatized at all. However, over the next two decades, both the UK and the US were gradually privatized and in neither country were the people ever informed that those privatizations each represent a click of the ratchet under the FTAs. Nor are they being told now! As explained in this essay, it took a laborious process of legal suits by corporations against countries even for trade lawyers to get an idea of what the clauses in GATS meant to the WTO. The first story I saw that mentioned these crucial issues was this one: UK anti-TTIP protests to focus on NHS privatisation. And now, we are seeing a response to the concerns expressed. But, it's not an honest response.

This recent UK story about promises made by UK bureaucrats to try to sell TTIP is a case in point; it's clear to me that they are continuing to refuse to come clean as to the meanings and effect of these FTAs. They are just lying and hoping it goes away.

These FTAs, all of them, represent stealth attacks on public services all around the world. We should get that clear right now. The evidence they increase world trade just isn't there. That's not their intent. If they fail, world trade won't suffer, it will probably be better, because inequality won't get as bad as fast, as if they were passed. That's it.

Especially, the fact that we are seeing the very first news stories on this issue should in no way be interpreted as meaning that they are or have any intent of telling the truth about TIP, TiSA, the health care aspect, or anything. They can't because the truth is so long overdue that it's too ugly for words at this point.

Nor does it mean that this problem is confined to the UK at all, as many are framing it. The real story is yet to be told, and it's in the USA.

The huge level of secrecy in the US, and the attempts to limit any necessary truth telling to the EU only, should be cluing us in that the real story is here in the USA. And it has yet to emerge.

However, thanks to the willingness of British citizens to speak their minds in a way which seems to be lacking in America, now there a path exists. And these FTAs explain a lot that would otherwise be inexplicable in the USA.

For example:

"Garcia Bercero’s next argument invokes the safeguard on services supplied ‘in the exercise of governmental authority’ that was first introduced in the 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and has become standard in other trade agreements since. Yet this safeguard is worthless in protecting public services in the modern era, as the definition of services supplied ‘in the exercise of governmental authority’ requires them to be supplied (a) not on a commercial basis, and (b) not in competition with any other service supplier. As trade experts have confirmed over many years now, the NHS does not qualify for this protection on either of the two counts."

(Nor, obviously, does the United States.)

Why aren't we screaming that these FTAs are cutting off our country's chance of ever having affordble health care? (Because they are!)

Because we've been getting the "Big Lie" treatment.

Here in the USA, Americans have been assured that states could pass single payer laws. Which is true, it seems, but they never will get there. It's probably all an act. Not ignorance. Because once the states implement such laws, they can and will be sued in an unaccountable arbitration court much like Slovakia was recently, by Dutch insurer Achmea, for "expropriation," which means stealing the market from them.

By way of explanation for the FTAs strange and backwards logic, what my generation called public services are now called in free trade agreements, "nonconforming monopoly services" or "market access barriers" and are considered to be bad.

One of their most insidious failings seems to be low cost, if they provide a manageable affordable service, they "devalue markets". In other words, public services are framed as a very bad thing. Precisely because they offer too good of a deal, they are a theft of the value of "whatever a market will bear" from its owners, the corporations. Who got it for free, as the politicians set this up, sneaking behind our countries' backs.

They still can't be honest about it.

Since under the GATS FTA, which is referred to by the new FTAs constantly, "for profit" and nonprofit are framed as not being able to mix, at all, in an intent to set up a test that almost all mixed systems will fail (and indeed, the NHS and so the UK does. As does the US).

The result, is course: game over, you lose. However, wise Canada sails through that test. Showing that they had it right all along. Healthcare has to be free, to remain free.

Meanwhile, the UK, and the US are doomed to the never ending disinformation campaigns, and the effects of the slave trade agreements, masquerading of course as the Orwellian "free trade agreements." Dooming both of us to irreversible, one-way privatization with no escape possible.

Any state or national official who tells us any differently, is either woefully out of touch with the current zeitgeist, or more likely, lying.

Where can you read more? I would start with Putting Health First, by Policy Alternatives.

What is the path offered by the FTAs? Basically one which only has one possible outcome, now that the US and the UK have crossed the ratchet line: "Death by One Thousand Cuts".

And suppose we reject TTIP? Well, they have a back up plan already in the making, TiSA. See those two little tiny words there, standstill and ratchet, there on Line 15? ;)

So, that was the #2 reason Canadian health care is free and equal for everybody: And it's a doozie.

What's the #1 reason Canadian health care is free? It ends up being a lot cheaper that way, because a stitch in time, saves nine!

That's why they hate it! It saves too much money!

Average: 4 (2 votes)


Submitted by lambert on

I'm not sure. After 2006. They put the insurance companies in charge of implementing it, of course, and at some some point a few years later they closed registration because it was too expensive.

Adding, I went through and cleaned up a lot of minor stuff; this is the first post I've seen that really tells the story as a story (through perhaps I was too dense to see it),

One thing: Don't use all caps, they're an indication of total lack of seriousness. See also: single dashes. :-)

I remember I asked you -- and now I can't find the comment -- whether these are the five main issues to hit:

  1. ISDS
  2. Standstill
  3. Ratchet
  4. Deregulation
  5. Attacks on the precautionary principle

If they are, I can run with that -- "5 questions you should be asking Hillary Clinton on trade," for example....