Tag Archives: Affordable Care

16 Days in October (Part 3)

 30 January 2015

An Incestuous Bubble of Babble

 The 47% Majority

“Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”
-Megan Kelly, FOX news anchor’s on-air question to Karl Rove, Republican strategist, on election night 2012. Rove was insisting that Romney would win the election. (Rove didn’t care for the question.)

The technology that moves data across the country at near light speed facilitates such an orgy of available information that consumers are overwhelmed by venues of content. Unlike the plain vanilla media landscape of the 1960s, when news was read by distinguished, Midwestern, middle-aged white males, cloned from Edward R. Morrow, today we can choose to receive our news content from a veritable rainbow of humanity.  If their presentation offends our sensibilities we can easily switch to one who will tailor the information in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves.

The right still complains incessantly about “liberal media bias”  even though they have FOX News, The Wall Street Journal, the Drudge report and a plethora of far right rabble-rousers on talk radio and television.  These conservative “news” organizations (which conservatives claim are balanced) are “necessary to set the record straight” and “disseminate facts the liberal media suppress.”  As conservatives gained control of more news outlets they became bolder, shriller, and wandered farther from the truth in their quest to reshape the world into what they think it should be.

The mainstream GOP tacitly condones the hate-mongering and disinformation disseminated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, FOX news, the NRA, et al.  Occasionally, they will attempt to distance themselves from a particularly offensive remark but overall they are pleased as punch to let these “unauthorized” provocateurs serve up raw meat to the homophobic, zenophobic, racist, sexist, climate-change-denying elements of their party which they are happy to welcome under their tent. The Republican Party owns these attack dogs, though they have long refused to take responsibility for them.  It seems a delicious irony, then, that their refusal to muzzle their dogs has allowed those dogs to turn on their masters.

The constant drumbeat of protest from the right over supposed liberal media bias has taken a toll on mainstream media. Mainstream news outlets, fearful of being labeled “liberal” bend over backwards to be balanced, to the point where they are afraid to call a spade a spade.  Indeed, as media outlets have become concentrated in fewer hands, and profitability of news organizations becomes increasingly elusive,  what possible motivation could there be for a liberal bias at the expense of profit? If anything, news media are indulging a conservative bias, the motivation for which would be preservation of the bottom line.

The take-over of a large chunk of news outlets by right wing provocateurs has not “balanced”  the information wars so much as it has facilitated the rise of an alternate reality populated by paranoid unicorns, revisionist historians and fiscal fairies. The Know Nothings embrace this 1950s never land, where there are two chickens in every pot, the only people of color are domestics, and wives and mistresses are destined never to meet. All the while they dutifully consume large quantities of Kool-aid brewed up by disconnected nabobs who take their orders directly from God.  Strangely, God seems to have trouble getting his facts straight.

For all their whining about the liberal media’s suppression of “the truth,” when conservatives research, analyze and disseminate their own, “unadulterated” version, it is often inaccurate.  I’m not talking about spin here.  It matters little if conservatives choose to live in an incestuous bubble of babble.  It matters little that they believe Obama is a Muslim, that John McCain works for Al Qaeda and that death panels will decide who receives medical care at the end. (We’ve had death panels for years; we call them insurance companies.)

Problems arise, though, when conservatives venture outside the bubble. Throughout the government shutdown in October of 2013, the Know Nothing Party justified their actions by saying they were representing the will of “the American People.” The true representatives of “the American people” were the ones who passed the Affordable Care Act.  These true representatives of the American people got the job by getting elected. That’s how it works outside the bubble.

It seems that conservatives would be better served if they placed their faith in, and based their campaign strategy on, information disseminated by the “liberal” mainstream media.  On election night, 2012, well-heeled Republican donors descended on New York City and DC, expecting to party the night away celebrating a Romney victory—of which they had been assured. Really. How in the world did these people ever amass enough wealth to buy so many politicians?  The mainstream, sorry, liberal news outlets, were all predicting an Obama victory.  Romney’s pollsters declared they were shocked, shocked, mind you, blindsided; no idea what happened.

Is there no one in the GOP political machine who understands the meaning of the word “fact?” Is it possible that what conservatives call “liberal media bias” is what the rest of humanity refers to as “the truth?” Conservative journalist Christopher Ruddy, in a post mortem of the 2012 election, blamed the candidate himself, the liberal media, other Republicans, the weather, et al., for Romney’s defeat.   While the extreme right rioted over Romney’s lack of true conservative credentials, most of the rest of the country (47% and then some) seized on the  faux conservative credentials he did have—and rejected them.

16 Days in October (Part 1)

12 January 2015

The Dodo is Extinct…The Wacko Bird is Alive and Well

“You do not take a hostage you are not going to for sure shoot, and we will not for sure shoot this hostage.”

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Another national election season is upon us and the field of potential Republican presidential candidates is as thick as locusts. Given Republicans’ approach to problem solving (remember the government shutdown?) does the GOP candidate exist who would not alienate the vast majority of the electorate?

There used to be a saying in national politics: Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line.  The first part is probably still true. Democrats are less likely to vote for a candidate purely because he/she is their party’s nominee if the candidate does not inspire passion. Republicans, on the other hand could always be counted on to turn out the vote, weather be damned, no matter who their nominee was, because theirs was a top-down organization. This disciplined approach to electioneering served the party well for decades and that, coupled with their fund-raising advantage and superior knack for appealing to the everyman, made them a force to be reckoned with.

Something has changed. These days the Republican party looks a lot like the maniacal melange of characters gleefully portrayed by Tony Collett, whose protagonist, Tara, suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) in Showtime’s “The United States of Tara.” The title of the show is ironic but, then, so is the GOP, self-identified as the party of fiscal responsibility.

So, how did the party that could be counted on never to air its dirty laundry in public become the disfunctional family whose internal disagreements spill into the street and wake up the neighbors?

Dog Day Afternoon

In August of 2013, 80 House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner suggesting that he use the threat of a government shutdown to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  (Charles Krauthammer dubbed them the “Suicide Caucus.”) The Suicide Caucus was largely composed of Representatives of southern and upper midwestern, (mostly) red states. None of these states are on the West coast or in the major population centers of the East coast and New England. These 80 House districts represented just 18% of the US population – though the US population they represent is not representative of the US.  These districts are whiter, more rural, and far more Republican than the country as a whole.  Despite widespread criticism of the tactic from the more moderate wing of the party, the Suicide Caucus, egged on by fellow “wacko bird” Senator Ted Cruz, took the US Government and the world economy hostage. Standard and Poors estimated that the shutdown cost the US economy $24 billion and substantially reduced fourth quarter GDP. True to it’s nickname, the Suicide Caucus went down in flames, though its demise was not nearly as dramatic, nor as noble, as they wanted it to be.

“We’re not going to be disrespected”
Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind) to The Washington Examiner.

(He was wrong.)

The Suicide Caucus’s initial demand to defund Obamacare as a condition for agreeing to a budget was quickly abandoned as unobtainable, and the ensuing drama devolved into a deluge of disfunctional demands which decreased in relevance and legitimacy as the fiasco wore on.

The ransom note(s): (Courtesy of Rachel Maddow. The comments are mine.)

  • Defund Obamacare
  • Delay Obamacare
  • Delay the Individual Mandate
  • Deny Coverage for the President
  • Deny coverage for the cabinet
  • Deny coverage to congressional staffers
  • Deny birth control coverage
  • Means testing for Medicare (Actually, a good idea. How did that get in there?)
  • Change federal employee pensions
  • Approve the Keystone pipeline
  • Expand oil drilling 
  • Block net neutrality
  • Tort reform
  • Weaken regs for coal-fired power plants
  • Tax code changes (Also a good idea but not the way they intended)
  • Thwart EPA coal-ash regulations
  • Repeal the medical device tax
  • Change rules on debt ceiling

The GOP has long been the party of fiscal and social conservatism.  This, even though social conservatives, who tend to be religious, often don’t have a clue as to what fiscal conservatism is all about. And many country club Republicans only pay lip service to conservative social values, for the sake of party unity. Mainstream fiscal conservatives are more likely to live on one of the coasts rather than in the rural bible belt, the domain of social conservatives. Monied Republicans are only loosely tied to rural conservatives by a shared dread of change. Change is bad for your bottom line—or it might be.  (Why take the chance?) If you are socially conservative you don’t want change because things are the way God intended (else, why would they be this way?) and you are bound to follow God’s will.

The issue of gay marriage may be the quintessential example of the divide between the two factions. Does anyone suppose that the cause of gay marriage (which is near to becoming the law of the land) would have made the gains it has in the last few years without the support of many mainstream Republicans?  Fiscal conservatives, business people, have gone public, first with tepid expressions of tolerance of gay unions but, increasingly, with full-fledged endorsements of gay marriage.  Why? The short answer is that gay marriage is good for the economy.

Listening to the rantings of the Know Nothing Suicide Caucus one was struck by the other worldliness of their point of view.  The “keep the government’s hands off my Medicare” ignorance of Tea Party constituents would be amusing if it weren’t also echoed by their elected representatives—at least when it serves their purpose.   Mainstream Republicans are no better. After all, they don’t necessarily disagree with the Know Nothings’ point of view, only their tactics. Their insistence that Obamacare is a “train wreck” that is “doomed to fail,” that it will “bankrupt the country” and is “causing thousands of people to lose their jobs” before it was implemented, mind you, borders on delusional.  The plain fact is that the state of health care in the US was a “train wreck” that was bankrupting the country and causing thousands of people to lose their jobs.  Not to mention that it isn’t any better than health care elsewhere that costs a third as much.