Archive for the ‘health care reform’ Tag
Strange are the times we live in. Never has this nation been in more desperate need of cooperation, but never before has this nation been so completely and totally divided (at least not in my lifetime). The November 2nd midterm elections are upon us, and they are sure to profoundly shape the immediate future of the United States, both politically and economically.
So what can we expect to see if the Republicans manage a coup?
Well, it won’t be good, that’s for sure. The simple answer is a return to the very same policies they had under the Bush administration. And that’s not conjecture. That’s exactly what they’ve stated. They want to return us to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.
But let’s talk specifics. We’ll start with taxes. Republicans are absolutely adamant about extending the Bush tax cuts for EVERYBODY, while the Obama administration and the Democrats want to extend tax breaks to those families making less than $250,000 per year, and individuals making less than $200,000 per year.
There are a couple of ways to look at it. Republicans say that tax cuts are the only way to revive a struggling economy. And that by extending tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, it helps to spur job creation. Democrats say that it’s necessary to extend tax cuts for the middle class; that we need to put the money in the hands of people who need it most, who are most likely to spend it and put it back into the economy, which will help the economy grow.
There is no evidence to suggest that giving tax breaks, kickbacks, handouts, or whatever you want to call them, to the wealthy will do anything to spur economic growth. Quite the opposite. People who don’t need the money are more likely to put it into their pockets and hang on to it. There is no incentive for them to do anything with that money. There is no incentive for wealthy business owners to expand their businesses just for the sake of expanding their businesses. Tax breaks make the rich richer, and that’s about it.
Now, I’ll buy the argument that targeted tax breaks for small businesses will help spur job creation and economic development. For example, a tax break for those small businesses that hire a new employee, or some sort of temporary payroll tax holiday. Tax cuts in certain areas might make sense, and they might help growth. But that’s not what the Republicans are proposing. They want across the board tax cuts without any proof that it will help.
In fact, Republicans have offered no specifics on what they would do should they retake Congress. Lots of vague references, but nothing concrete. As if voters aren’t smart enough to know when they’re being snowed under.
The truth is that if the Republicans get their way, things will get worse. A whole lot worse. Repubs have vilified “out of control government spending,” telling us how we need to reduce the deficit and not grow the national debt. And they’re just the ones to do it, doggone it! The facts, however, tell us otherwise. The Republican plan to extend ALL of the Bush tax breaks, will ADD $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, and increase the budget deficit by $700 billion.
Oh, and by the way, lest we forget, it was a Republican administration, in concert with a Republican controlled House and a Republican controlled Senate that oversaw the explosion of the debt and deficit, that turned a budget surplus in to record budget deficits, and that saw government spending reach new heights. But let’s not let a little thing like the facts stand in our way.
This is not to say that Democrats have firm control of their policy message. Their unwillingness to directly challenge the Republican minority on their tax oath by putting off debate until after the midterm election is an astonishing display of cowardice, as they should use this opportunity to highlight the differences between themselves and their opponents. Dems are in the right, and have public opinion polling strongly in their favor, yet still refuse to publicly take up the fight.
Republicans recently released their “Pledge to America,” in which they said government had to cut expenditures; where they promised to cut federal spending next year by $100 billion. Again, they insist on cutting taxes for the richest two percent of Americans, yet have no plan to increase government revenues to address the debt and deficit. They also failed to point to a single program or area of the federal budget that they would target for such cuts.
An analysis by Bloomberg News found that cutting spending by the proposed 21% would take $400 million out of police department budgets; $6 billion from health research programs, including cancer research; $15 billion from education, including $5 billion from the Pell Grant programs that provide a financial lifeline to students who otherwise would not have access to a college education. Our already decimated education system would be put in a veritable death grip. Fire departments would also see huge cuts.
Military spending, however, according to the Republican “Pledge,” is off the table. No need to discuss it further, despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ insistence on the need to trim $100 billion from the Pentagon budget over the next five years. Republicans have scoffed, since trimming the defense budget would surely mean that their defense contractor friends would see some of their government contracts disappear. And after all, examining military operational efficiencies is strictly taboo to the Republican base.
Entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, account for 60% of the federal budget, but they refused to detail what, if anything, they would cut from those programs. Despite that, Republicans insist that they can close the budget gap by cutting those mysterious costs and cutting taxes at the same time. In short, it’s MAGIC! It’ll happen because they say it will, but their math just doesn’t add up.
Speaking of entitlements: What was once unmentionable, even for Republicans, is now their preferred M.O. Privatizing (or “personalizing,” as Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle puts it) Social Security is now squarely back on the table. The idea is to hand over all of our inputs into the Social Security system to Wall St. and let them invest it in the stock market. Oh, and there will be no additional accountability to Wall St. execs, allowing them to gamble some folks’ retirement lifelines like they did in the years leading up to the “Great Recession.” How many of our seniors would have had their entire life savings completely wiped out two years ago if George W. Bush had been successful in 2005?
Republicans vow to wipe out capital gains taxes (which currently stands at 15%). That would mean that some hedge fund managers and Wall St. execs would pay no taxes at all, despite the billions of dollars in profits they take. Even billionaire Warren Buffet says it’s wrong for him to be paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. Democrats, on the other hand, want to raise the capital gains rate to 20%, still lower than it was under Bill Clinton’s administration. Also consider the fact that hedge fund managers don’t actually produce anything tangible, so they don’t anything concrete to our economy. Giving them even more tax breaks won’t provide more jobs for more workers. And when hedge fund managers bet against the American economy, as many did leading up to the “Great Recession,” it even further damages our national well-being.
And those tepid Wall St. reforms put in place by Congress and signed into law by President Obama? Kiss those goodbye. Since the Glass-Steagall act was repealed in 1999, big banks have been free to invest their depositors’ money in any way they choose. Traditional banks have now become major investment houses instead of the safe, secure institutions we’ve counted on them to be. The complex and controversial derivatives market was completely unchecked. But thanks to the Democratic Congress and the Obama administration, big banks can no longer frivolously throw money at any project in search of astronomical profits for their executives with no accountability, and there is at least SOME transparency now in the derivatives market.
The Republican plan calls for less regulation on industry, particularly on Wall St. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, since it was a dire lack of regulation that led to the near collapse of our financial system in the first place.
The Obama administration was also behind the biggest overhaul of the federal student loan program in history, to the benefit of every student who will need loans just to attend college. Instead of providing billions of dollars in kickbacks to banks to administer the loan programs, the government will now take on that responsibility, freeing up billions of dollars in funds that will now go directly to students in need rather than bank executives who have found new and creative ways to game the system and take money away from students and schools.
Under Republican rule, those student loan reforms will go away.
And let’s not get started on health care reform. The damage that would be done to the future of health care in this country would be simply devastating. Suffice it to say that Republican cries of “government health care” are disingenuous at best. While they bemoan “putting health care decisions in the hands of government bureaucrats,” what they actually want to do is return health care decisions to the insurance company bureaucrats that, due to their profit driven motives, have skyrocketed health care costs and made access to care a pipe dream for tens of millions of Americans, while simultaneously forcing employers to eliminate health care benefits or cut their workforce just to be able to keep their heads above water.
And for those who insist that the government is too incompetent to administer the program, under Republican governance, that theory becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They want government programs to fail in order to prove how feeble government is, so they deliberately fail to provide the necessary resources that would ensure success. Just ask any senior dependent on Medicare how willing they would be to see that program go away.
Republicans have made no secret of their desire to return to the failed policies of the Bush II era that have brought about near disaster for the United States in the first place. They’ve promised a change; a change back to exactly the way things were between 2000 and 2008, except in many cases they’ll shift even more radically to the right of the political spectrum.
Despite claims to the contrary, “Trickle Down Economics” is a complete myth. Even the Oracle himself, Alan Greenspan, flatly denied Republican claims that cutting taxes actually increases federal tax receipts, that tax cuts pay for themselves. But if Republicans take over Congress, these are exactly the policies we’ll get. And we’ll long for the good ‘ole days of 2009 and 2010, when there was actually a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
A Republican victory on November 2nd is a victory for big business and special interests, and a major blow to average Americans, particularly middle class Americans. So do yourselves a favor and get out and vote and make sure we don’t cede our government to the corporate interests that run the Republican Party.
Regarding those “small business” claims by Republicans……you know, the ones where they say that by allowing the Bush tax cuts to lapse on the richest 2% of Americans, it will adversely affect small businesses? Well, the piece Keith Olbermann did on the Republicans’ definition of “small business” is truly “must see” TV. Here’s a hint: Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting giant, is a small business, according to Republicans. So is Koch Industries, the largest privately held oil company in the U. S., and Bechtel Corp., one of the largest engineering firms in the world.
Check it out below:
I’m not sure what I expected to see when I dared to venture into enemy territory. I mean, I knew that, generally speaking, the Tea Partiers’ vision of America was not firmly based in reality; that they typically harbor a longing for “a simpler time,” and “the old days,” and that their theories on the economy and politics and health care tend to be more theory and less actual, workable policy. I also know unequivocally that should the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party gain any real power in America then we’re all in for a long, slow descent into third world status.
I’m not sure what I expected to see crowd wise: Would there be thousands upon thousands gathered to lend a full-throated roar to their anti-government rage? No. What I found was a modest gathering of about, oh, 700 or so people (maybe more, maybe less……I’m just guestimating here. But it wasn’t a huge crowd by any stretch of the imagination) that was rather tepid in their enthusiasm.
I must admit, though, that I approached the festivities with a small handful of preconceptions:
- The Tea Partiers tend to be older. Yet I was surprised to find a good number of twenty and thirty somethings. A few even brought their entire family.
- The Tea Partiers have racist tendencies. This one I’m not unconvinced of, but then again, I’m not convinced that they are racist (or do lean to racist tendencies). One thing I can say for sure is that most of the signs they displayed were so far out of the mainstream and so detached from reality, and truly did not lend credibility to the views of this group. In fact, I really have to question the education most of these folks received.
- The Tea Partiers are overwhelmingly white. This one could not have been more true. There was a stunning lack of color in the audience. Now, while those in attendance would argue that just because the audience was entirely white does not mean that they lacked diversity, I would argue that that is exactly what it means. All of these folks are white, middle class, have an irrational fear of government, and love to claim that they have a keen understanding of the Constitution, yet demonstrate every day that they clearly don’t.
I must also admit that I half expected to walk into a steaming cauldron of hate. Though I did find the expected half-witted, half-brained bile coming from the speakers and the signs on display, I found it to be a rather well-behaved, if paranoid crowd.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t the expected delusional rantings about the evil government and the “communist” Barack Obama. About how those dreaded liberals are out to deliberately destroy the country and hand it over to the Chinese or Venezuelans, or whomever the enemy du jour is. That only comes with the territory for a delusional right-winger. After all, there has to be SOMEONE out there that we have to start a war with next, right?
“We are at war with Oceania. We have always been at war with Oceania.”
Ok, so maybe there wasn’t the cadre of wild-eyed crazies that I half expected (hoped?) to find. But it’s just so easy to dismiss the majority of these people as plain ‘ol ignorant, malleable minions of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and El Rushbo.
And they are that.
That’s not to say that the crazies didn’t show up. They most certainly did, only most of them were featured speakers at the event.
First, I need to mention a prevailing sentiment at this gathering that I found rather disturbing: These folks view health care as a privilege, not a right. In fact, one of the first speakers I heard (sadly I did not arrive in time to hear Sharron “Obtuse” Angle speak……it’s probably for the better) was an obscure California gubernatorial candidate, Chelene Nightingale–Yeah…..I’d never heard of her either—who came right out and declared it!
“Health care is a privilege, not a right.” Which essentially means that if you can’t pay for medical attention, you can just go ahead and die. You won’t be missed. You weren’t wealthy enough to really contribute to society anyway. I could dedicate an entire book to ranting about how wrong that sentiment is, but I’ll save it for another time.
But that’s not the only thing coming through the PA system that I found, well, to put it mildly, objectionable. One speaker accused Barack Obama of being a “Hugo Chavez Wannabe dictator.” And there was plenty of other “Obama as socialist, commie pinko” nonsense (actually, I did see a sign accusing him of being a “commie.” C’mon! That’s so 50’s!)
Then there was a “comedian” named Eric Golub. I put “comedian” in quotes because he obviously thinks he’s funny, and he apparently does have a stand-up act that he takes on the road. I, however, found the guy pretty sad and pathetic. Certainly not funny.
But he brought out his ‘A’ game for this event, let me tell you! Like the joke where he says he agrees “we need to be more bipartisan. We need to find compromises for our government to work. For example, gun control. We conservatives want LESS, those commie liberals want MORE gun control. So all we have to do is take all of the guns away from those liberals and give them to us. And the next time we have a disagreement, we’ll win ‘cause WE HAVE ALL THE GUNS!”
Or the one on tax policy. “We want to lower taxes, while those liberals want to RAISE taxes. So here’s what we do: We take their money and give it to us. What are they gonna say about it? WE HAVE ALL THE GUNS!!!”
Ha ha. I’m ROFLOL.
Or this gem: “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, BRING A BAZOOKA!”
What is it about Conservatives (big ‘C’) and those “2nd Amendment solutions” they are always looking to bring about? (Like the sign I photographed that said “The solution to 1984 is 1776!”)
Or his reference to the Speaker of the House as “Pelosiraptor.” Oh, and you should probably buy this guy’s book………ok, maybe not.
There was also the rhetoric thrown around by Rickey Jackson’s daughter (why the hell did they ask her to speak?). “Obamacare,” she says, “threatens everything about our way of life.” A bit melodramatic, maybe, Candace? Of course, this is a woman who believes that the health insurance companies are the “victims” of “Obamacare.” And that progressive intellectuals “fell in love with Russian and German socialism.” She also tells us that “Obamacare is unconstitutional!” Like she’s some sort of Constitutional Scholar or something.
One positive of the day was hearing the story of Nick Popaditch. Mr. Popaditch is running against Rep. Bob Filner of the 51st District. He seems like a decent enough guy, but I don’t think he is cut out for Congress just yet. I’m not sure he has a full grasp of just what it means to run a government and represent ALL of the people in a district. But he does have a compelling and inspirational story.
Mr. Popaditch is a Marine who was wounded in Iraq. He took shrapnel to his face, causing him to lose his right eye (he wears an eye patch). He also caught another piece of shrapnel that got lodged in behind his left eye, rendering him temporarily blind. The doctors were unsure if they would be able to save it, or if he’d ever be able to see anything ever again. They were forced to remove his left eye to get to the offending piece of metal and remove it, reinserting his lone remaining “good” eye afterward. Today Mr. Popaditch doesn’t see perfectly out of his left eye, but he can see. And for that he expresses his eternal gratitude to the doctors that worked with him.
But Mr. Popadtich has a warped view of the American healthcare system. He says “doctors are mercenaries.” And he doesn’t really have a plan or an idea for making sure the 43 million Americans without health insurance can get it. At least none that he proposed during his talk.
He also decries the evils of “Obamacare,” and insists that it should be repealed. But Popaditch is a realist, and knows that even as a member of Congress he’ll never be able to repeal the health care bill. But, he says, they can defund it, and by gosh, that’s just what he intends to do.
Popaditch also wants to “get rid of all those Czars” (never mind that George W. Bush appointed far more “Czars” than Obama has, but it didn’t seem to bother anybody back then). He insists that government cannot create jobs. And he demands lower taxes (despite the fact that taxes are at their lowest in half a century—yes, that means we are paying less in taxes than we have in a VERY long time).
But perhaps the most disturbing thing about Nick Popaditch, and most dangerous in my opinion, is that he views the world and its politics through his military service. He seems to believe that military force is the answer to all of our problems throughout the world. He would like to see a tougher approach to Iran and North Korea—”we need to rattle more sabers and talk tough with them.” His message: “America will always be able to out tough you and out fight you!” Like dropping bombs is the answer for everything. As if that will make us more secure.
Anyway, I did get a chance to speak with Mr. Popaditch very briefly, and I do intend to take him up on his offer for an interview. I found him to be very personable and respectful and I do think he means well. I just don’t think he has the right ideas about what life in this country is all about. So while I wish him the very best and sincerely thank him for his military service, I hope that Bob Filner retains his seat in Congress next November.
Photos of the event to come……..I have to download them off of my camera first.