The Death of the Death of Obamacare

The PPACA – Obamacare – has survived. In the past, the attacks have been skirmishes, often fought in darkness, intent on inflicting wounds to cripple the program – filing lawsuits, withholding funds, promoting language, lying. Now this latest assault – this failed assault – this Trumpcare – a frontal attack by the combined forces of the anti-Obama legions and their very best strategists, commanders and troops.

Yet the PPACA remains standing, while the attack force skulks back to their bunkers, dazed, confused, and more than a little disheartened.

Pickett's Charge
The high-water mark of the Confederacy

Finding Blame, Giving Credit

The pundits, the winners, and the losers are rummaging through the wreckage, looking for the keys to why this assault failed. There are many qualified candidates for taking the blame (or the credit), of course. McConnell’s “13 white men” working-group made for bad optics and worse legislation. The Senate’s version of the House’s “Freedom Caucus” complained that they didn’t destroy enough of Obama’s legacy. Trump’s inept buffoonery meant there was no viable attack force from the White House. The Republicans, heady with electoral victory, overreached, trying to kill not just the young PPACA program but also the 52-year-old Medicaid program (and its brother, Medicare).

But the roots of this failure were set years ago – on March 23, 2010 – when President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.

The People’s Experience

All of the anger and all of the lies and all of the trickery that has flowed from the Republicans since that day could not match the one weapon that the PPACA carried – the people’s real-life experience.

Amid the shouts of “failing Obamacare” and “death spirals” and “collapse”, the people’s experience told them the truth – that their family, their friend, their co-worker, their teammate, they themselves have been helped by the PPACA. That reality drowned out the rants.

People have been helped. Illnesses have been treated. Lives have been saved.

Telling Their Stories

It took the Resistance, the nationwide gaggle of Indivisible groups, ADAPT protesters, health care advocates, and the people themselves to bring this reality to the forefront. They marched and shouted, they posted and tweeted, they emailed and called and sang, they carried photos of their friends and family, yes, they disrupted and got arrested – but mostly they told their stories.

They told of rejections and poverty and hopelessness that they experienced before PPACA, they told of the access and help and medical care that they experienced under PPACA.

They told of their fear of going back to those dark days, and they told of their children, their parents, their spouses who would be cast out once again by an unforgiving system driven by hollow-hearted politicians.

The people’s experience killed any hope of Trumpcare succeeding. Trumpcare is a bill about money. It could not stand against a law that is about people.

A Big Fucking Deal

And we cannot overlook the political savvy that made this possible. In 2010, the White House was occupied by a young president, light on experience but strong on insight, on strategy and on courage. He joined with two leaders in Congress, both strong on experience and on strategy. They understood the importance of putting something in place. They battled against those who complained that it didn’t do enough, that it didn’t go far enough, that it appeased the insurance industry, that it didn’t support abortion rights, that it didn’t provide “Medicare for all.”

That young president knew then that the critical factor was to put a program in place so that the people could have the experience of better access to health care. He understood that no arguments, no analysis, no budgetary complaints would be strong enough to overcome the people’s experience.

In 2010, his vice-president told him “this is a big, fucking deal.” This week we found out how big it was.

The Battle Continues

This is not a final victory, of course. The assaults will continue, the skirmishes will resume.

And the people will tell their stories – more stories, new stories. We continue our work so that their experience – the people’s experience – holds fast.


Photo: This popular image of “Pickett’s Charge” depicts the Confederate troops breaching the Union line at Gettysburg before being repulsed on the final day of that epic battle. This failed assault is cited as “the high-water mark” for the Confederate forces, as the Union forces drove them back here and elsewhere, until their surrender 2 years later. Photo credit: Bettman/Corbis, cited at Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

When A Liar Admits He Lied…

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A fair and important question:

When a liar admits he lied, should you believe him?

Yes, this post is triggered by yesterday’s revelation by Donald J. Trump, Jr. He released “the entire email chain of my emails” that relate to a meeting between a Russian attorney and key members of the Trump campaign team.

The pundits and press and politicians are aghast … of course.

But here’s the question I want an answer to: was Trump Jr. lying when he denied having a meeting or is he lying now when he claims he did have a meeting?

Consider this:

  • Trump, Sr., has tried to discredit the press (and other truth-tellers), using terms like “fake news”, “failing”, “dishonest” and “enemy of the people”.
  • The press has revealed one discovery after another of interactions between the Trump campaign team members and various Russians.
  • Trump, Sr., Fox News, many Republican officials, and Trump’s supporters dismiss the Trump-Russia allegations as “fake news”, “obsessions”, and “a nothing-burger”.

If you were Trump, Sr., how would you discredit all of your critics? How would you prove that the press is lying? Here’s what I would do: Continue reading

Declaration of Independence Day – A Weekly Remembrance

It’s the 5th of July. It’s Wednesday. It’s a good day to read the Declaration of Independence.

declarationdraftIt’s a good day to celebrate those heroes who gathered in Philadelphia to battle, not with guns and swords and weapons of war, but with beliefs and words and thoughts and arguments.

It’s a good day to ponder the courage of these heroes, who put their lives in jeopardy by daring to sign their names to a treasonous document at risk of being hanged.

It’s a good day to wonder how courageous WE would be under such circumstances.

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TWOFER: Tax and Health Care Cuts

Trump has two top legislative priorities: “Tax Reform” and “Repeal the ACA”.
Today, they intersected: his “Tax Reform” plan cuts exactly one tax from the ACA – the 3.8% Medicare tax on Net Investment Income for high-income taxpayers.
It has long been a badly-kept secret that the driving force behind “repeal the ACA” has been the 3.8% Medicare tax on Net Investment Income for high-income taxpayers. After all:
  1. this is a tax on the top 4% of income earners, who make more than a quarter-million dollars annually on investment income. 96% of the population is never affected by this tax.
  2. this is a Medicare tax on investment income. Before the ACA, this income was not subject to Medicare tax – those who made all or most of their income from investments paid nothing or little into Medicare

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CHANNELLING Behavior : Rewards and Punishments through the Tax System

In the 1960’s, an infamous memo from the Draft (Selective Service System) described “manpower channelling” as an important part of the draft. Using draft deferments, the system could “channel” young men to behave in ways that were seen as “in the national interest”. Quoting from the memo:

In the Selective Service System, the term “deferment” has been used millions of times to describe the method and means used to attract to the kind of service considered to be the most important, the individuals who were not compelled to do it. The club of induction has been used to drive out of areas considered to be less important to the areas of greater importance in which deferments were given, the individuals who did not or could not participate in activities which were considered essential to the Nation.

… It is in dealing with the other millions of registrants that the System is heavily occupied, developing more effective human beings in the national interest.

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Promises made, Promises broken

Uncertainty damages business … and people too. Too bad about the student loan forgiveness plan.

18820225526_884e6b752d_zI remember (in 2012) when the Bush tax cuts of 2003 were scheduled to expire. Republicans raised a hue and cry about the “uncertainty” that this cast upon our economy. Businesses didn’t know how to plan – should they expect those tax cuts to be extended? or will taxes be restored? or raised? or lowered? What to do?

Yet, now, these same Republicans are reveling in a new world of uncertainty – one that makes every rule and every law an uncertain rule or law. Every day, the Republican Congress is voting on another rollback or another repeal. Rules that applied yesterday may not apply tomorrow. Promises made are being broken. Businesses don’t know how to plan – what to do?

Well, here’s today’s uncertainty and this time it is being cast on those with student loans.

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“Fear was a big part of it”

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I’m watching the PBS American Experience episode “Ruby Ridge”. Sara Weaver, the daughter of Randy Weaver, is describing how her parents were preparing to move from their Iowa farm to living on a mountain in Idaho. She says they were adhering to the Biblical passages of “an apocalyptic future” and says

“Fear was a big part of it.”

As the episode draws to a close, she adds

“When you operate out of misinformation and fear, things can go wrong.”

These are words worth remembering – not just in the tragic and volatile 1992 “Ruby Ridge” case, but in our society in general today, and in the language that we hear from those who are responsible for guiding us forward as a nation.

Fear is a big part of it.

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Reward and Punishment: SCOTUS Nominations

I’m still troubled by the idea of rewarding – and thus encouraging – the behavior of the GOP Senate in 2016 re: the nomination of Merrick Garland.

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While two wrongs don’t make a right, rewarding a wrong encourages more of the same. There have to be consequences to misbehavior, especially intentional misbehavior such as the 2016 GOP Senate engaged in.

With that in mind, and for that reason – the Democrats should block all consideration of any SCOTUS nomination for the duration of this current presidency, regardless of the nominee’s qualifications.

 

Ending the Imperial Presidency

I have a theory — that we are living through the end of the “Imperial Presidency”, with the accompanying restoration of the Congress as the center of power in federal government.
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“The Imperial Presidency”. Those who have watched as many presidencies as I have (or more) know that term. It has been around for the entirety of our modern presidency — which I put at all presidents starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration, in the midst of the Great Depression. It was FDR who swung the presidency like a club, sweeping across the economy and the “general welfare” of a nation in dire straits. FDR wasn’t always attentive to the Constitution along the way, and met resistance from conservatives, the opposition (Republican) party and businesses. But his New Deal reforms are entrenched in government programs to this day — and the presidential power that he exercised before and during World War II set the tone for the Imperial Presidency that continued long after he died.

All presidencies since FDR have tried, with varying degrees of success, to deal with the challenge of the Imperial Presidency. We’ve had other Imperials — JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, W and Obama. All of them were accused — correctly — of expanding the dominance of the White House. In most cases, Congress pushed back hard and SCOTUS blocked the way, but the popular perception, at home and internationally, was that of a dominating, celebrity POTUS.

With 45, it’s different — significantly different. First, he is showing himself, unsurprisingly, to be utterly incompetent and ignorant, and has surrounded himself with friends who are equally ignorant, equally incompetent or just too obsequious to resist him. Add to that the departure, by voluntary or forced resignation, of the knowledge leadership in the executive branches, and the slow pace at which that leadership is being restored. The executive branch is in the hands of idiots – and that is widely accepted to be true, at least for the time being.
Second, importantly, Congress is all Republican. This gives Congress the ability to do whatever they want and to succeed in demanding that their fellow party member in the White House go along with it. They are soon to move SCOTUS into their camp as well (because they can), taking down any final barrier to Congressional “overreach”.

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Can You Lie About The Future?

Can you lie about future events? Here’s a comparison of two statements, both cast as “lies”:
OBAMA: “no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan.” (June 15, 2009)
TRUMP: “There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down.” (November 21, 2015)
img_1755In my judgement, Obama was wrong but Trump lied.
What makes the difference? The difference is that Obama was making a statement about a FUTURE event.
In June 2009, the health care plan was nowhere close to being decided. The Tea Party rose up a few months after this statement, Congress was battling over small and large changes, and everything was uncertain. So what was Obama talking about? He was talking about what he was trying to put into place — it was a statement about what the future would be IF Congress passed Obama’s plan. They didn’t. For these reasons, PolitiFact rated it “half-true” because it was a statement about the future.

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