Archive | Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Going To Extreme


Mr. Obama seems to have sincerely believed that he would face a different reception. And he made a real try at bipartisanship, nearly losing his chance at health reform by frittering away months in a vain attempt to get a few Republicans on board. At this point, however, it’s clear that any Democratic president will face total opposition from a Republican Party that is completely dominated by right-wing extremists.

For today’s G.O.P. is, fully and finally, the party of Ronald Reagan — not Reagan the pragmatic politician, who could and did strike deals with Democrats, but Reagan the antigovernment fanatic, who warned that Medicare would destroy American freedom. It’s a party that sees modest efforts to improve Americans’ economic and health security not merely as unwise, but as monstrous. It’s a party in which paranoid fantasies about the other side — Obama is a socialist, Democrats have totalitarian ambitions — are mainstream. And, as a result, it’s a party that fundamentally doesn’t accept anyone else’s right to govern.

In the short run, Republican extremism may be good for Democrats, to the extent that it prompts a voter backlash. But in the long run, it’s a very bad thing for America. We need to have two reasonable, rational parties in this country. And right now we don’t.

Fascist America

Are we there yet?

Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline.

[…] a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

The Republican Plan

Thank you, Bob Reich, for pointing this out:

Years ago, conservatives and their think tanks latched onto the individual mandate as the way to get health insurance to Americans. It was ideologically more acceptable than requiring all employers to provide coverage for their workers, and vastly more palatable than a single payer system. Tax credits, too, surfaced years ago, and gained some traction during the 2004 presidential race, when both John Kerry and George W. Bush embraced tax subsidies for families with lower incomes.

At the time, Michael Chernew, then a health policy expert at the University of Michigan and now at Harvard, told The Nation that “the evidence suggests that subsidizing insurance premiums will be a relatively expensive way to encourage coverage, and relatively few people would respond.” This year’s version is still expensive, but Congress addressed the second part of Chernew’s critique; the individual mandate with penalties will require people to respond.

High-deductible insurance is now an integral part of the American health care model. Policies sold in the small group market, for example, will carry deductibles of $4000 for families and $2000 for individuals. As in Massachusetts, policies sold in the Exchanges will also carry high deductibles. The conservative think tank National Center for Policy Analysis—along with Patrick Rooney, then CEO of Golden Rule Insurance, which is now part of the giant UnitedHealth Care—pushed Congress to allow high-deductible health plans. They are quickly moving into mainstream insurance acceptability.

A look at the history of the Massachusetts reform law, the model for national legislation, shows that the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector—the state’s name for its shopping exchange—was born at the conservative Heritage Foundation. A document circulated by the staff of Gov. Mitt Romney at the time called for a law reflecting “a culture of insurance” and “personal responsibility”—the latter a keystone of conservative ideology.

The embrace of conservative ideas also helps explain why real cost containment didn’t make it into the final product. Curbs on prices are anathema to American business, and perhaps that’s why the president made a deal with the drug companies early on not to fight for negotiated prices in the Medicare program, a pledge he had made during his campaign.

All this explains why the usual right-wing think tanks weren’t especially vocal during the final stretches of the bill’s path to enactment. Their ideas were going to become law—which makes it all the more puzzling that the Republicans have fought so hard against the legislation. “The significance of Obama’s health legislation is more political than substantive,” Reich wrote in his TMP column. “For the first time since Ronald Reagan told America government is the problem, Obama’s health bill reasserts that government can provide a major solution”—albeit a solution that relies on the private market to deliver the goods. The question is whether health care is a commodity that the marketplace can manage with government help. Or will something else be needed in the distant future?

High-deductible plans are something the elites of both parties love to push. It fits their vision of “personal responsibility.” What it is, in plain language, is a financial disincentive to get needed health care.

This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the law subsidizes out-of-pocket expenses, including co-pays and deductibles. But we still need to fight for the higher subsidies that were included in the original House version of the bill.

Lemons from Lemonade

I’ve mentioned before that I can’t stand hypocritical clown Pat Meehan, the Republican nominee for PA-7 this year. From Portia at Young Philly Politics:

Whatever you think of Pat Meehan, you have to admire his talent for creative problem solving. A former U.S. Attorney and Delaware County DA, Meehan presumably knows a thing or two about election law. That didn’t, however, stop him from filing nomination petitions so rife with errors that a fifth grader with so so vision might have questioned their adequacy. Was this stupid beyond belief? Well, sure. But give creddit where it’s due: since the problems came to light, Meehan’s handling of the situation has been nothing short of masterful. Future candidates caught up in petition scandals would do well to take notes on the problems he’s faced and how he’s responded.

Problem 1: Twenty pages of your nomination petition were circulated by a guy with known ethical problems. Your opponent, seeing line after line in the same handwriting, begins calling alleged signers. When those contacted — including one of your neighbors — denies knowing anything about a petition, it’s apparent there’s a problem. Best way to handle this:

(A) Since you know you’re caught, call your buddy, the current Delco DA, and request that he investigate. Make a preemptive announcement to the press describing the step you’ve taken and commending yourself for taking “the high road.”

(B) Suggest that only a few signatures are affected. Don’t mention that the guy collected more than 600 signatures or that most of your other petition pages have problems too.

(C) Distance yourself from the shady circulator. Have your campaign spokesperson describe the circulator as “not a Meehan volunteer,” and as someone who “ must have been acting at the behest of the municipal or county Republican committees.” Disregard the fact that you assembled the petition, knowingly included the shady circulator’s pages and either didn’t review the pages or ignored the red flags before attaching a candidate’s affidavit confirming that you were following applicable election laws.

Problem 2: Your opponent challenges you, identifying a sufficient number of allegedly “bad” signatures to bring you below the mandatory minimum. Best way to handle this:

(A) Claim your opponent is playing petty politics and that you wouldn’t stoop to this level. Do not mention that your campaign carefully reviewed your opponent’s petitions, which you’d presumably only have done if you too were considering a challenge.

(B) Note that you’ve identified 500 invalid signatures on your opponent’s petitions, then suggest you too could file a challenge but are too high minded to do so. DO NOT note that eliminating 500 signatures would still leave your opponent with 4 times the required number, making any such challenge a sure loser.

(C) Hire a recently retired member of the court that will hear your challenge to represent you (hey – it worked for Brady). Have the retired judge announce to the press that your alleged errors are minor and amendable –even though he held the opposite while still on the bench.

This challenge being in its early stages, stay tuned for further tips on how to spin the issues and make lemonade from lemons.


Guess the Republicans looked at the polls! Via TPM:

We have our first Republican taking credit for the health care reform bill!

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who voted against the bill, has denounced it repeatedly, and who was a critical factor in gumming up negotiations in the Senate last summer, issued a press release today touting his authorship of an obscure provision in the bill:

In 2009, he drafted legislative reforms and succeeded in persuading the Democratic majority to include several of the reforms in the new health care law.

… that he then voted against!

Republican Assholes

PA Attorney General Tom Corbett is just one of the Republican politicians (he’s running for governor) who announced they will file a lawsuit claiming the new healthcare bill is unconstitutional.

If you want to sign a petition asking who he represents, sign here.

In the meantime, Washington governor Christine Gregoire rips into her state’s attorney general:

‘A Victory for Capitalism’

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Sicko. And today we’re joined by the director of Sicko, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. His latest film is called Capitalism: A Love Story, and he’s made many others. We spoke to him late yesterday and began by asking Michael for his reaction to the House vote on healthcare reform.

MICHAEL MOORE: I’ve been pretty vocal about this. This bill was never about universal healthcare. It, you know, did a couple of good things that could have been done anytime, I guess, like ending the pre-existing condition rule for children. It doesn’t end it for adults for four years, so you can rack up another, you know, probably 20,000 to 40,000 deaths in the meantime from people who otherwise would have received help had we truly gotten rid of the pre-existing condition thing for all citizens. But six months after the bill is signed by Obama, kids will be able to get coverage from a private, profit-making insurance company.

I mean, I don’t mean to sound cynical, because I understand the importance of this vote. Certainly, had the vote gone down to defeat and the Republicans had won, I would say that it would probably have been near impossible for President Obama to get anything through for the rest of this Congress. So that would not have been a good idea for that kind of paralysis to set in.

The larger picture here is that the private insurance companies are still the ones in charge. They’re still going to call the shots. And if anything, they’ve just been given another big handout by the government by guaranteeing customers. I mean, this is really kind of crazy when you think about it. Imagine Congress passing a law that required every person to buy—I mean, name any product—or watch my next movie. There’s a law that says now that you have to buy a DVD of every Michael Moore film. Woohoo! It’s like, hey, not a bad idea! I mean, I don’t know why—that’s what I’m saying. I don’t know why they’re so upset this week, because this bill is going to line their pockets to an even greater extent.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Michael, on that issue of the mandatory—the mandatory provision, individual mandate, you’re forced to buy this product that many view as defective, that has been shown to be defective for many years. But also, on the issue of abortion, you’re forced to buy a product where it doesn’t cover a legal medical procedure. I mean, that’s a key issue here.

MICHAEL MOORE: Right, and not only that—I mean, I understand why President Obama had to issue his declaration, to get the right-to-life Democrats, led by my own personal congressman here in Michigan, Bart Stupak, why he had to get them on board, but, boy, that’s a sorry sight to see a president, such as Obama, from the Democratic Party, endorsing the Hyde Amendment, which, trust me, history will view as one of a number of discriminatory practices against women in our society.

So they—I mean, this is, of course, another whole issue, that, you know, we’re always so afraid, because we’re just—we always feel like we’re hanging on by a thread. You know, it’s a five-to-four Supreme Court decision right now. One more vote, and that could mean the end of legal abortion in this country. So I think that liberals, people on the left, sometimes are maybe a little bit too afraid of going too far, but frankly, if not us, who? If we don’t stand up against this, if we don’t say this is wrong, if we don’t speak out against it, you know, what’s—then who’s going to do it?

But in the long run, at least 15 million Americans are still not going to have health insurance. And as you said, those who have it are going to be forced to buy a defective product. And trust me on this one thing: the insurance companies, they’re not going to go quietly into the night on this, even though they lost. They’re going to find ways to trick up the system to get around it, to raise premiums.

It’s not going to be as easy as it sounds. “Oh, you’ve got a pre-existing condition. No problem.” Well, not exactly “no problem.” You know, the so-called controls that this bill puts on them are Mickey Mouse. For instance, if they deny you health insurance—let’s say Aetna won’t give you health insurance because you have a pre-existing condition, and you say to them, “Hey, wait a minute. That’s against the law.” And they’re going to go, “Whoa, yeah. Sue me.” Because you know what the fine is, the fine for them for denying somebody because they have a pre-existing condition? One hundred dollars a day. So if you’re Aetna, and you’ve got a patient who maybe needs, you know, a $100,000 operation, what would you do? Would you pay out the $100,000 operation because the law says you have to? Or do you break the law but just get a $100-a-day fine? Because, let’s see, after a year that would be $36,500 versus a $100,000 operation. Gee, I wonder which one Aetna’s going to go for. And of course, they could just hope against hope that within a year the person without the operation might be dead, so they won’t have to be worrying about shelling out any more money to a doctor or to a hospital.

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