Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Republican Crybabies Meet Their Waterloo

In the wake of the passage of President Obama's historic health care reform bill, and over the next seven months before the midterm elections, the administration and the Democratic Party must effectively educate the American public on exactly what comprises the measure and how it will affect individuals and small businesses alike. Obama must convince voters of the significant benefits, especially as the Republican party gears up its "repeal" engine.

Fortunately for Democrats, seven months in politics is an eternity, leaving plenty of time for voters to actually decide for themselves whether or not the bill, as House Minority Leader John Boehner in an Oscar-worthy performance gravely warned, will have caused "Armageddon" and will "ruin our country." They'll see, for example, that they didn't have to switch insurance plans or doctors, as GOP propaganda has claimed. Or that the dreaded "death panels" were nothing more than Republican scare tactics. It's more likely by November that voters will no longer be operating in the current vacuum, and will be more knowledgeable about reform and the positive impact on their lives.

But make no mistake, it's going to be an ugly seven months. Republicans are like scared, cornered powerless rats right now, and they've already begun to show their campaign cards. Seething over Democrats' unilateral passage of the bill, Arizona Sen. John McCain angrily vowed this week to defiantly oppose everything Obama and the party puts forth going forward. "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year." And Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) gave a sneak peek into the sleazy GOP playbook by suggesting that routine insurance problems will be deceptively attributed to reform. "Insurance premiums are going to go up normally, and millions of Americans are going to experience higher premiums. All this is going to be coming, and the health care bill is going to get blamed for a lot of it."

Personally, if this is the tact the GOP is going to take in its insatiable hunger to regain power, I'm all for it. Nothing like positioning yourselves as crybaby, sore-losing, self-serving obstructionist do-nothings hellbent on selling your souls, and the nation's best interests, in order to win a few House and Senate seats. So much for McCain's "country first" campaign promise. As we've seen this week, what truly comes first is the coffers of their fatcat corporate special-interest pals and the personal bank accounts of their rich, tax-loathing constituency. Fuck the poor, the middle class, the sick, the needy, the uninsured. I got mine, now go get yours. At least we know what matters most to these selfish elitists.

Last July Republican Sen. Jim DeMint (SC) arrogantly predicted that health care reform would fail and become Obama's "Waterloo" and that "it will break him." With this week's victory and the political capital its bestowed on the president, even conservatives like American Enterprise Institute fellow David Frum fear that Republicans have not just blown an unprecedented opportunity to help shape major policy, but also served to empower Obama, which is the exact opposite of what they aimed to accomplish. "The political imperative crowded out the policy imperative. And the Republicans have now lost both." He said Obama's health care victory is now the Republicans' Waterloo. "We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat."

Yes, I'd really love to see the GOP run on a repeal platform. Because I wonder exactly which parts of the bill Americans will want to give up next year. The ban on being denied coverage due to pre-existing illness? Doing away with lifetime caps? The ability to keep children on the family plan up to age 26? The subsidizing of senior citizens' "donut hole" prescription drug coverage? Seems pretty unlikely that enough voters beyond the hard-core Tea Bag zealots will hop on the "hey-let's-repeal-all-these-awesome-new-protections" bandwagon.

So what happens next? Obama needs to craft a propaganda campaign of his own. He can start with what I call the "Repeal the Lies" PR campaign:

Lie #1: The reform bill is a government takeover of the health care industry:

There's no government takeover of anything, just an extension of the existing system. A system that includes programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans benefits/coverage, and Social Security. People will still get to choose their own private insurance, doctors and procedures.

Lie #2: The health care bill is nothing but socialism or socialized medicine:

Ridiculous. How can a bill which hands 32-million new customers to private, for-profit insurance companies be socialism? What's more, if this is socialism, then the true socialists are U.S. Senators and Congressman, who are current beneficiaries of this "socialized medicine." Fear-mongers like McCain, Alexander and Boehner conveniently forget to tell Americans that they are current recipients of this "governemnt takeover", and quite happily so. I guess it's a cool perk when you get free government health care but it's a socialist nightmare when those lazy poor and middle class folks get it.

Lie #3: Health care reform will swell the nation's already massive debt:

Untrue. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill will reduce the defecit by $143 billion over ten years.

Lie #4: The bill will result in higher taxes for small businesses:

Again untrue. The majority of small businesses in America employ less than 50 people, and these companies will receive tax credits, not increases. It is the large health, drug and medical device companies, as well as tanning salons (yes, tanning salons) who'll be hit with tax hikes.

Lie #5: The bill is the result of corrupt back-room "Cornhusker" deal-making and bribes to states like Nebraska and Louisiana for extra Medicaid money:

There are no such deals in the bill. Period.

So, Obama has a great story to tell here, and a lot of lies to dispel. And as NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote Tuesday, the president can remind America that thanks to this 100% Democratic bill, "millions of working families will go to bed at night knowing that they are not an illness away from financial ruin."

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Anonymous said...

But perhaps my biggest problem with the bill is its intrusion into the personal freedom of Americans.

Roe v Wade and many similar cases stands for the proposition that no one in government can interfere in my personal right to privacy. I happen to know several people who have white coat syndrome and simply do not like doctors. It's foolish, I know. But there are people out there who simply avoid doctors like the plague. My own father refused to go to a doctor for 20 years plus.

Now no one can FORCE a person to go to the doctor or accept medical treatment if they personally choose not to. The courts are replete with cases where people of sound mind and of legal age having the right to decline treatment.

It follows that those people who choose NOT to participate in the health care system of this country ought not to have their wealth confiscated by forcing them to purchase health insurance that they don't want and don't need. It is an invasion of their privacy not unlike that prohibited by the cases starting with Griswald all the way through Roe and up to Casey. It's my choice as to what to do with my body and I can't be made to do ANYTHING and if I can't be made to do ANYTHING, I ought to not have to be forced to have insurance that covers things I don't want and don't need.

Now there is NO honest comparison between that and auto insurance. It's more appropriate to compare it to a personal casualty (umbrella) insurance policy.

I can choose NOT to drive a car and no one can force me to purchase auto insurance. If I CHOOSE to drive, it is recognized as a privilige and thus, it's an appropriate area for enforced regulation. An important distinction is that in health insurance I am insuring ME. In auto insurance, I am providing benefits for third parties I may injure. BIG DIFFERENCE.

Yet, if someone walks into my house and trips and falls and I don't happen to have casualty insurance, the cost is on me. And if I don't have enough money to cover my guest's costs, then I'm bankrupt and it's on him.

That's life - the way the world works.

But in the area of health insurance, no THIRD party is involved. When you think about it, there is far more basis to regulate umbrella insurance policies than health insurance.

Anonymous said...

As much as I would like to see broadened coverage, I must say that I am disappointed at this bill and the dishonest way it was sold.

Let me address lie number 3 first. The nonpartisan CBO has NOT yet released any final figures on the bill. Supporters of Obamacare have run with it as if it were gospel, but they ignore a very basic factor that the CBO said. Which is that the figure was TENTATIVE because they have yet to see any language regarding the reconciliation bill.

Moreover the CBO operates under a fundamental disability or two. Let's start with the easy one - in scoring a bill, they must take it facially, accepting all assumptions regardless as to how reasonable or unreasonable they are. Thus, for example, a bill's assumption can say that part of the funding of the cost of the bill will derive from the expected discovery and exploitation of enormous oil reserves under the White House. Now we all know that no one is going to drill for oil under the White House regardless as to how valuable a commodity it would be. Yet the CBO would have to accept as true the assumption that we will, if that's one of the assumptions set forth by the bill's sponsors. In this case, they include $500 billion in Medicare savings as an assumption EVEN THOUGH they have earmarked those funds for a different bill. Yet the CBO must look at the bill submitted in isolation and completely ignore the fact that the $500 billion won't actually be available to the overall budget looking at the situation as a whole. That's extremely manipulative and dishonest.

Second - and more to the essential reason I am not in favor of Obamacare - is the manipulation of the process via the ten year period that the CBO must consider. That gave rise to a fundamental dishonesty inherent in the so-called savings that Andy notes in lie number 3. Beyond the double counting of the $500 billion, the bill being scored includes 10 years of revenues with only 6 years of costs. The true measure of the cost of the bill over time - which is really what we should be looking at when we are discussing whether to adopt a PERMANENT program is the annual cost versus the annual revenue within years when both are being collected and spent. It is a basic rule of accounting - the matching of cost and revenue.

Another assumption in arriving at the "savings" number is the 22% schedule reduction in medicare reimbursement rates to doctors. That reduction has been revoked every year it has come up for the simple reason that if it ever kicked in, fewer doctors would accept medicare and access to care for seniors who vote in droves would be severely restricted. Everyone knows it will be similarly revoked again. But in arriving at the CBO number, the reduction in reimbursement rates are assumed.

Anyone who thinks clearly has to know that you simply cannot add 30 odd million people to a system and actually save money.

Finally, there is a very basic business issue. I am a business man. I actually have cut my staff significantly because of business conditions and with things improving and this bill on the horizon, I have made a very simple calculation. I save a ton of money by simply paying my existing people overtime and higher wages than by hiring the additional people I would otherwise hire. Why should I incur an additional expensive health care obligation for an additional or marginal worker? I simply won't.

Anonymous said...

Actually, all of the silly named deals that were cut - Cornhusker Kickbackk, Louisiana Purchase, etc. are in the bill that Obama signed. They are TRYING to take them out via the reconciliation bill. But the truth is, the President signed a bill with all that stuff in it.

Anonymous said...

All this prognostication. Wow. Let's see how it pans out, folks. Anyone here who has made predictions about the demise of America due to this one massive, long-needed and always conservative-opposed LAW, stand up in the end and show how you were either (a) correct or (b) just plain WRONG, again. Yeah, that's what I thought. Now go have some tea.

Anonymous said...

Andy, you're so right. Personally, I love that the Republicans will stay focused on repealing the Health Care bill, and ignore jobs and financial reform. They're handling Obama a golden oppotunity to paint them as backward looking and not even willing to discuss the great issues of the day. This is a real game-changer, and not in the way the Republicans think . . . as people see this is not so onerous and in fact has some good stuff in it, they will be more and more out of step.


Realist said...

For the Democrats to redeem themselves with the American people, they will have to pull lots of Harvey-sized white rabbits out of their Wall Street-supplied top hats prior to the mid-term elections.

They will have to put a serious dent in the unemployment numbers (the real ones, not the "official" ones). They will have to put meaningful restrictions on the Wall Street banks who paid their way to power. They will have to enact ALL of those promised alterations to the health insurance subsidy bill. They will have to keep another million of so foreclosures from throwing more people out into the streets. Ending the farcical wars against terrorism, drugs, and labor might also be nice, with the savings applied to the creation of a competitive green energy industry. The list grows daily, but those items are the top ones.

Meanwhile, I sit at home and wait for Judge Crater, Amelia Earhart, and Jimmy Hoffa to show up at my house for Bridge. We'll be arranging our cards while discussing the prospects of the Democrats remaining standing against the GOP slander machine long before anything is actually finalized by them.

Anonymous said...

Andy, if ObamaCare is so wonderful--why are all the Washington insiders EXEMPT from having to buy it? Does Obama and his family have to purchase it? What about Biden, his wife, Pelosi, her husband? Harry Reid? Rahm Emanuel? Any of these people getting on the plan??

NOPE! But yet its WONDERFUL! Praise God!

Anonymous said...

Let's get this straight: The bill allows Americans to buy health insurance that could not get it before. Yes the law makes everyone get coverage by 2014, but that is how costs will be kept down. I think this will eventually lead to a Medicare for all type a program. With Americans suffering and dying I find those opposed to this bill to be immoral not to mention racist and homophobic (as we saw last weekend).
Bottom Line: All we are going to do is die anyway, and yet, we are fighting about health care for Americans???? WTF!!!! Republican Christianity is sure strange.

Anonymous said...

It is not so much a decision to ignore health care in detriment to other matters.

The decision to set priorities was our people - the Democrats control all aspects of the national government - they have strong majorities in both houses which determines which topics/bills will be allowed to reach the floor. We control the White House which also participates in setting the priorities.

I'm one of the few Dems who is really unhappy with the Health Care bill recently signed. And one important reason is that I felt that when Obama and the strengthened filibuster proof majority took office, they really ought to have set priorities based upon what the Nation critically needed first. And first and foremost was fixing the economy and putting people back to work.

While some work was done on that, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the overwhelming obsession with Health Care, a program which is far more ideological than it is urgent. Urgencies needed to be at the top of the list and we made the serious mistake of not doing that.

Having done that, and passing a mess of a bill that can in some respects hurt job creation by discouraging the hiring of additional workers who will bring significant new costs, it's difficult to blame the opposition for seeking to take actions that will respond to what was done. They didn't choose the priorities - they simply reacted to our selection of them.

It is important to clean things up health care wise. It's important to address the new job killing taxes. It's important to focus on the economic disaster that the bill presents over the long haul. The CBO numbers are, looking at the long haul monstrously misleading. Looking at only a 10 year snapshot where 6 years expenses are matched with 10 years of revenues is a problem for a program that is intended to be permanent. When one normalizes things so that we see what the annual net effect will be, it's obvious that this already huge deficit will be enormously deeper. That is unsustainable and needs to be addressed.

Speaking of urgencies, that has become an urgency because the iron is hot and the issue is pressing. We simply cannot add this kind of real deficit to deficits that already risk our economy and our basic way of life.