Our Hypocrisy is Not Like Theirs, Part 16 (but who’s counting?)

As most people who follow the news even a little bit know by now, the Republicans managed to twist arms and make deals to such an extent that they got 51 of their members to vote for it at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning.

Yippee!, Republicans.

In the end John McCain voted for the bill, and so did Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Flake. The ‘mavericks’ and stalwarts that you could count on to show a little bit of backbone in the past were all co-opted.  Only ‘little’ Bob Corker voted off.[1]

Forget about the $1.5 trillion that they’re adding to the deficit, that they were still scribbling amendments by hand well past midnight, that no one had read the bill before they voted on it, that Republicans abused the budget reconciliation process to avoid a filibuster, and that they treated ‘regular order’ like they had never heard of the concept.  Forget about all that.  As part of their proposed tax overhaul, Republicans in the Senate also revived the repeal of the individual mandate, the core feature of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ‘Obamacare’).

As loyal readers of the blog already know, I have posted extensively on the Affordable Care Act, what it does and how it came into being. Let’s just review the highlights:

  • The individual mandate is a Republican idea.
  • It came out of the ‘Heritage Foundation’ in response to the failed Clinton health care effort.
  • It was pioneered in Massachusetts under Republican Governor (and later presidential candidate) Mitt Romney.
  • The Massachusetts program has been a success.
  • The federal program has also been a success, in that it has substantially reduced the approximately $16 million people who had no health insurance before its enactment.
  • Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, we (the taxpayers) already paid for the health care of the uninsured when they showed up at hospital emergency rooms with ailments that could have and should have been treated much sooner.
  • Early estimates from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office are that repealing the individual mandate would reintroduce about $13 million Americans to the rolls of the uninsured.
  • Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, unaffordable hospital bills was the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States.

Now Republicans have been telling us that they ‘only’ want to repeal the individual mandate. The more popular parts of the Affordable Care Act – like the prohibition on preventing those with pre-existing conditions from getting insurance – those they want to keep.

That’s a little bit like saying that they ‘only’ want to take the engine out of a car in order to save gas mileage.

Why is the Individual Mandate so Important?

A question that many people don’t know the answer to is, why is the individual mandate so important. And the short answer is that it requires younger and healthier people to buy insurance now so as to spread the risk around the entire population. It’s also the reason that the health insurance industry was willing to sign on to the Affordable Care Act, instead of standing in implacable opposition to any kind of universal health care package, as had been proposed by the Clinton administration, for example.

If you repeal the individual mandate, what will happen is that young and healthy people won’t buy health insurance, which means that only the middle class, middle-aged, old and sick people will contribute to health insurance. That would cause the rates to rise to such a degree that many of the elderly, and those with significant health challenges, would not longer be able to afford insurance.

It would literally kill people who don’t need to die.

What About those Rising Insurance Rates?

Republicans like Donald Trump keep assuring us that Obamacare is ‘imploding.’ But that is not true.  For sure, health care costs (and the insurance to cover them) continue to rise. But that is a problem separate and apart from the problem of getting people insured.  And it’s a tough nut to crack.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has made, and continues to make some efforts, to bring down health care costs. (Other states have probably also faced up to the challenge, but I’m mostly aware of the efforts here in Massachusetts.)  In 2012, the Commonwealth enacted Chapter 224, An Act Improving the Quality of Health Care and Reducing Costs Through Increased Transparency, Efficiency and Innovation. That Act introduced the concept of an ‘Accountable Care Organization’ (a vertical organization intended to improve coordination of care), and tried to find outlier hospitals, whose costs were out of line with other hospitals, to encourage them to reduce their costs. In particular, the bill requires health care entities that exceed a ‘cost growth benchmark’ to file and implement performance improvement plans, starting in 2015.

After several years of operation, the verdict is not in yet, but suffice it to say that much more needs to be done to bring costs down. Part of what is keeping costs up is the high prices charged for pharmaceuticals and by medical device makers.

But that’s a story for another day.

What’s the Hypocrisy Here?

The hypocrisy here is the notion that the desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act is about anything other than undermining President Obama’s legacy.

That’s what opposition to the Affordable Care Act has always been about.  I mean, consider:

  • Obama deliberately began with a bi-partisan proposal, using as the model for the Affordable Care Act the law that had been passed in Massachusetts.[2]
  • Obama went out of his way to solicit input from Republican Congressmen.
  • Not a single Republican was willing to lend him a vote, because they were all so focused on making sure that he would be a ‘one-term’ President.
  • Because they knew he would veto a repeal, the Republicans voted to repeal the ACA something like 56 times.
  • Obama is no longer in office. His legacy is what it is, and repealing the ACA now will not change his legacy.
  • And yet, our Republican friends in Congress feel duty-bound to continue on their ill-fated quest because that’s what they told their voters they would do back when he was still President.

Sheesh.  Is this a federal Congress, or a Second Grade Class?

[1] Yes, there is technically still a conference committee that the Republicans can convene, but they’re smelling and tasting their victory now. Finally something for their ‘base’ (who will get fucked but won’t know it) and their corporate overlords.

[2] When enacted in 2006, Massachusetts had a Republican Governor (Romney) and a substantially Democratic legislature. The result was a classic bipartisan effort.

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Why ‘Trickle Down’ Doesn’t Work

Some of you, those of you who are old enough to have lived through the Reagan Administration, will remember ‘trickle down’ economics. That was the notion that tax cuts for corporations and businesses (and also the wealthy) would create economic activity that would ‘trickle down’ to the middle and working classes.

The architect of that notion was David Stockman, a former Congressman and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. (Stockman has since repudiated his own theory, making him a prophet without a flock.) In any case, what is incontrovertible is that Reagan’s tax cuts increased the deficit of the federal government substantially: during his, presidency, the national debt grew from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion.

So, why doesn’t ‘trickle down’ work?

It’s really not that hard to understand.

First of all, if you’ve ever studied economics, you’ve probably heard of the ‘multiplier effect.’ The effect can be demonstrated with a simple example.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the city of Boston had a project, formally known as the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, but which everyone knew as the “Big Dig.” This project brought in literally thousands of construction workers to the Boston area to work on the project. Each one of these had to be housed, and clothed, and fed, all in the Boston area. The landlords, the restaurants, the retailers who had to house, feed and clothe these workers all had a significant uptick in business as a result.  This allowed them to do things like make home repairs, hire more waiters and waitresses, hire more retail staff, and so forth.  Each of these hired staff also had more money to spend on things, and so the economic activity ‘multiplied’ and spread throughout the Boston economy.

This works only while the economic effects stay local. That is why infrastructure projects, like road and bridge repair, are such a boon to a local economy.  All the economic activity stays local. And it’s also why trickle down doesn’t really work.

The problem is that both large corporations and the very rich are no longer confined to any geographic locality.  Big corporations, like Exxon Mobile, Apple, General Motors, or AT&T went global a long time ago. Corporate profits are already at record highs. If companies were interested in investing their profits, they already have every opportunity to do so. If they were interested in raising wages, they have already had every opportunity to do so.  Lowering corporate taxes might increase the already record high profits, but the fact is clear: lowering corporate profits does not metastasize as a large increase in economic activity.

And so with the wealth of individuals. As the Paradise Papers have already proven, the über-rich do not hold their money in investments in the United States. They hold them in places like Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Isle of Man, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Vanuatu and Cypress. Chrystia Freeland recently wrote a book  called ‘Plutocrats’ that reported on the ‘rise of the new global super-rich and the fall of everyone else.’ Her book demonstrates, without a doubt, that the super-rich are no longer bounded by any geographic borders.

The notion that the tax cuts proposed by the Republicans would “pay for themselves” is pure fantasy. It would require the United States to produce a sustained growth rate of 6% to 7%, which not even China is able to achieve right now. As the New York Times recently put it in a memorable headline, “in [the] battle over tax cuts, it’s Republicans vs. Economists.”

We fell for trickle down once.  Don’t fall for it again.


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Our Hypocrisy is Not Like Theirs, Part 15: The Deficit

Loyal readers of the Blog will have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in weeks. Honestly, in this day and age, I don’t really know what to say anymore. We are living in such an alternate reality at this moment in time, and there doesn’t seem to be much to say that hasn’t been said better by other commentators.

Even so, the Republican party’s latest efforts to ram a tax plan through Congress before Christmas, does deserve some comment.

As anybody who follows politics even vaguely knows, the Republicans have struck out several times this year in their promised effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’). They’ve now moved on to Tax ‘reform’ in an effort to prove that they can actually pass legislation, and thereby ‘govern.’  They are desperate to have at least one major legislative victory this year, so that they can tell their loyal base that they’ve actually accomplished something.

In order to hustle their tax plan through Congress in record time – the same thing they tried to do with their Affordable Care Act repeals – Congress has abandoned something known as ‘regular order.’  This is the normal process for how bills get enacted. They go to various committees and subcommittees. They have public hearings. The committee members get to proposed amendments. The bills get voted on in committee. Then they go successively through both branches, at which stage there are more opportunities for members to proposed amendments before the bills are ultimately engrossed and then enacted in each branch.

All of that has been abandoned, and with it has gone the Republican’s ability to ever object to a Democratic ‘abuse of process’ in the future.  The Republicans have proven, without a doubt, that they are only interested in the results, and not how they get there.

Contributing to this cynicism is also their abuse of the budget reconciliation process in the Senate, which is designed to avoid the power of the minority party to filibuster a budget.[1] So, in brief, the budget reconciliation process is one designed to make sure that budgets are able to pass, even in an era of high partisanship, and even when other bills can be blocked. That’s because if Congress cannot pass their budgets, then eventually the government will run out of money and not be able to function. So, once a bill is designated as a budget, special rules apply, including, in particular, that the bill cannot be filibustered.

The problem is that neither the Republican Tax proposals nor their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act are budgets. They had elements of budgeting, enough to allow the Senate to fit the bills under the reconciliation rules, but only by stretching the rules.

Of course.

So onward to what’s happening now. In order to fasts-track their tax ‘reform’ project, the Republicans introduced tax bills simultaneously in the House and the Senate, so each branch could pass through their chambers before Thanksgiving.[2] (The Senate missed the deadline but will try again in this week.)

Now the Republicans have made two promises to sell their tax plan. The first was to simplify taxes so much that you’d be able to “file them on a post-card.”[3] That promise of simplification has already been abandoned. While the Republican tax plan eliminates certain deductions, it wouldn’t be anywhere close to postcard like simplicity. In fact, all indications are that our taxes would remain as complicated as ever before.

The second promise, of course, was tax relief for the middle class. And that ain’t happening either. What’s in the two tax bills is complicated, and it’s too complicated for this blog post. The Washington Post examined the House bill and the Tax Policy Center of the Brookings Institute examined the current Senate proposal, and you can link to the articles if you’re interested in the details.  Suffice it to say that these bills cut a lot of taxes for large corporations and the wealthy, but cut very little in taxes for the middle class. Most notably, the tax cuts for corporations are permanent, while those for the middle class are temporary, expiring in 2023 (House) and 2027 (Senate).[4]

Paul Krugman recently wrote an interesting article in which he posited that “many Republicans now see themselves and their party in such dire straits [as a consequence of the Trump election] that they’re no longer even trying to improve their future electoral position; instead, it’s all about grabbing as much for their big donors while they still can.” So, therefore, the corporate tax cuts.

But here’s the big hypocrisy: for years, while Obama (or before him Bill Clinton) was in office, the Republicans were furious about the deficit. We needed spending cuts, and drastic ones, they claimed, because the budget was out of balance. In fact, they were willing to shut down the government – more than once – so as not to have to raise the debt ceiling.

And now?

The Republican tax cut plan would add $1.7 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years, according to an estimate from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. I guess those deficits aren’t so important anymore.[5]

The Republicans are claiming, as they have in the past, that ‘economic growth’ will take care of those pesky deficits because the economy will grow at such an astounding rate that tax revenues from that increased activity will be enough to offset the decrease in rates.

Don’t you believe it.

That’s the same argument that Sam Brownback made in Kansas, and he almost bankrupted the Kansas economy. You would think that at least the good people of Kansas now know better.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the question of why ‘trickle down’ doesn’t work. (And it’s not that hard to understand.)

[1] I have been plenty critical of the Congress use of the filibuster in the past. But if they’re going to use it, then they should at least use it correctly and in the same way, regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans have control of the Senate.

[2] The normal order of things is that a bill would be introduced in a chamber – either the House or Senate – and then pass through that chamber before being considered by the other chamber. But, you know, that takes more time.

[3] There are countries, such as Sweden, where this is actually possible. In those countries tax agency figures out what they think you owe, send you the information, and if you agree, you can check it off, and you’re done.  (If you disagree, the process would be longer, of course.)

[4] Those dates would be well after the 2020 elections, and that, of course, is no accident.

[5] Part of the idea is also that if Republicans can bring the budget substantially out of balance, then even when Democrats get back the levers of power, they won’t be able to do much because they will have to spend all their efforts on bringing the budget back in to balance.

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It’s not about the Racism, it’s about the Narcissim

At yesterday’s news conference the real and unscripted Donald Trump came out and said what he really believed. As anyone who has observed Trump even a little bit should know by now, there is no containing Donald Trump. No one (including new Chief of Staff General John F. Kelly) can manage Donald Trump. No one can speak for him, no one can manage him. He’s a one-man band, and always has been (as virtually all of his biographers have attested to).

So, yesterday Trump revived his ‘many sides’ accusation about violence at the Charlotteville incident.  In particular, he said this:

What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right’? Let me ask you this: What about the fact they came charging — that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

Let’s, for the moment, skip over the fact that there is no such thing as the ‘alt-left.’ That’s an invention of the Donald’s imagination. There is however, such a thing as ‘Antifa,’ which Wikipedia describes in this way:

Antifa is a far-left political movement of autonomous anti-fascist groups in the United States. . . [T]he word ‘Antifa’ has its roots in Anti-Fascist Action, a name taken up by European political movements in the 1930s, and which was revived in the 1990s, particularly in Germany (Antifaschistische Aktion). [In the United States] Antifa is composed of autonomous groups, not a formal organization. Activists typically organize protests via social media and through websites and list-serves. . . [I]t is an organizing strategy, not a group of people, and is commonly associated with a willingness to engage in a show of force. Antifa groups have most notably protested the 2016 election of Donald Trump. . . . Antifa protesters participated in the 2017 Berkeley protests where they gained mainstream media attention, throwing Molotov cocktails and smashing windows.

We should all be able to agree that to the extent that it is a movement, Antifa is not a non-violent movement. We can’t all be Mahatma Ghandi or Martin Luther King. For sure, there were people from the left who were looking to rock and roll that night in Charlottesville, just as much as there were people from the right. To that extent, Trump is not incorrect. The difference maker, obviously, is James Fields, who drove a car into a group of marchers heading away from the confrontation (it must be emphasized), killing Heather Heyer and injuring approximately 19 others. Some were injured critically, so they may still end up in the morgue.

From the beginning, it’s been clear that President Kumquat has been vexed by all of these protestors, all of us who have been protesting against him from day 1. Let’s not forget that (according to the British Independent) this is a man who is ‘handed folder of positive news clippings twice a day by White House staff.’

Trump is a clinical runaway Narcissist. He is probably the most extreme narcissist who has ever become a major public figure, at least in recent memory in the United States. This drumbeat of never-ending protests clearly incenses him to no end. Whether Trump is a racist – and at this point it’s pretty hard to argue that he’s not – is completely secondary to the fact that he’s a narcissist. A clinical, extreme, over-the-top narcissist. That is the defining character trait that drives this man. He was clearly outraged that militant counter-demonstrators showed up for the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, at which so many of his hard-core supporters were getting together.

That Trump was not going to be enthused about disowning his supporters, not matter how white supremacist or neo-Nazi they proved to be, should not be a surprise to anyone who has observed President Kumquat for any period of time. Yesterday he doubled down and stayed true to form.

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The problem with Southerners advocating for Confederate monuments

As anybody who follows the news knows, the incident in Charlottesville VA last weekend started with the objection of white supremacists (and some others) to taking down a statute of Robert E. Lee.  Some southerners argue that the confederate flag and statutes like the ones of Lee are emblematic of southern pride. And there may be some truth to that. But here is the problem:

If modern Germany were populated with statutes of Hitler, and Göbbels, and Himmler, and Göring; if Germans were still singing the “Horst-Wessel-Lied” in the streets; if individual households were still flying the NAZI flag from their stoops, millions of Americans, including southern Americans would be outraged.

“What did we fight this bloody war for if these idiots could still be allowed to have their statutes, and their songs, and their flags?”, incensed Americans all over the South would be asking themselves. And they would be right.

While it’s not a perfect analogy – no analogies are perfect – that is essentially what many Southerners are arguing for when they are arguing for their flags and their statutes and their monuments. Because while the war was geographically between the southern and northern states, it was conceptually about the right to own slaves.

And the right to own slaves is not morally a whole lot better than the right to gas Jews.

The South lost the war. That ended in 1865. That was 152 years ago. As some comedians have recently noted,  there is some irony in Trump supporters waving confederate flags and shouting to the rest of us, ‘you lost, get over it.’

Uh huh.

It would be a good thing if at least some of the advocates for Confederate symbols and monuments could be a little bit more introspective about what it is that they are actually advocating for. And why much of the rest of the country objects.

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Our Hypocrisy is not like Donald Trump’s

By now, there has been a chorus of voices criticizing Donald Trump for his reaction to the events in Charlottesville Virginia. In case you don’t know, Charlottesville is the city in which the main campus of the University of Virginia, with its approximately 45,000 students, resides. So there was bound to be some pushback to a white supremacist rally in the middle of the city.

I really want to make two points about this that most other commentators have not yet made:

  • First, if you watch the video, you can see that Trump is reading a prepared statement – a statement he seems to be uncomfortable reading – and then he improvises the “on many sides” line. It’s obvious that this line is improvised, and that he couldn’t wait to get there and dilute the power of the previous statement.
  • Second, this is the same guy who made such an issue out of Barack Obama not using the term “radical Islamic terrorist” (a term that, ironically, Donald Trump also refused to use back in May of 2017 when he was making a televised speech in Saudi Arabia).

A number of commentators have pointed out (like John Oliver, for example) that it should have been the easiest thing for Donald Trump to refute white supremacists, and yet he didn’t do it.

Other people have pointed out that Trump’s own grandchildren are Jewish, his son-in-law is Jewish, and even his own daughter has converted to Judaism, and yet Trump cannot seem to condemn Neo-Nazis.

Apologists for Trump have made the argument that there was some violence on both sides between the white supremacists and the counter-protestors, and this is true. But that obscures the fact that the central event – James Fields driving his Dodge Charger into a crowd of people marching away from the rally – came from one side and one side only.[1]

The apologists obscure the fact that what James Fields did was, by any standard definition, a terrorist incident, premeditated and unprovoked. Rex Tillerson can admit that. Ivanka Trump can admit that. Even Mike Pence can admit that.  But not the Donald.

Now, I don’t believe that Donald Trump is actually a white supremacist, and I don’t know that he’s much worse of a racist than most of the rest of us. But what is different about Trump is that he’s clearly willing to go to bed with racists.

The man with the insatiable ego, with the runaway narcissistic personality disorder – a disorder so extreme that psychiatrists and psychologists are rethinking the necessity of the Goldwater Rule – will go to bed with anyone who will support him. White supremacists, Neo-Nazis and racists of all stripes have been gleeful in their support of Trump.[2]

The Donald, as he has done in the past, will continue to claim that he is the least racist and least anti-Semitic person alive – a claim so ludicrous that it is not even deserving of placement on a satirical website. But Trump may actually believe this about himself. It’s hard to tell where reality actually intrudes into the mind of Donald Trump.

In any case, his hypocrisy could not be any louder and clearer. Trump governs only for the 35% or so of his hardcore believers, but is losing everyone else. That group of hardcore supporters will shrink over time as Trump fails to deliver, but it’s still a disturbingly large coterie of people whose thought process is incomprehensible to me. And for whom going to bed with racists (or just being racists) is no big thing.

[1] This is one of the right’s favorite rhetorical techniques, to set up equivalencies which are clearly and demonstrably false.

[2] I want to clarify here that I’m not saying that all Trump supporters are racists. As logicians will remind us, proximity and causality are not the same thing. But Trump supporters are clearly willing to overlook his getting in bed with overt and adamant racists, and that is saying something in and of itself.

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Our Hypocrisy is not Like Theirs, Part 14

As loyal readers of the blog know, I have on occasion published posts in a long-running series entitled “Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs.” Today we’re up to Part 14. I saw a certain kind of irony in the following two stories, both of which caused news yesterday:

  • Baby Charlie Gard
  • The Better Care Reconciliation Act

Let’s review these one at a time.

Baby Charlie Gard

Charlie Gard is a rather unfortunate baby living in the London borough of Camden who has acquired a rare genetic condition known as a mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. It’s a tragedy for this boy’s family, for sure. The boy was born in August of 2016, was diagnosed in October of 2016, and by January of 2017 was in the hospital long-term, where the medical team was applying for approval to do an experimental treatment with nucleosides.  However, while the application process was going on, baby Charlie had a round of seizures so severe that the medical team withdrew their support for attempting the experimental therapy (due to the development of severe epileptic encephalopathy). They began discussions with the parents about withdrawing life support and providing palliative care. The parents, however, were and remain opposed, and under the motto “if Charlie’s still fighting, we’re still fighting” have sought to move the baby to the United States to receive the experimental care there. They raised £1.3 million from the crowdfunding website GoFundMe for this endeavor, but have not yet received approval to move him.[1] Today came the news that they had stormed out of one more “last chance hearing” when their request to have him moved to the United States was once again denied.

This tragic little case had become newsworthy some time ago in the United Kingdom, and Charlie’s plight has since made news in the United States as well.  Pope Francis weighed in, with an offer to have the baby transferred to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome. Naturally, it didn’t take long for President Kumquat and two Republican Congressmen (Brad Wenstrup and Trent Franks) to follow suit. The two Congressmen promised to file legislation to make little Charlie an American citizen so that he can come here and be treated here.[2]

The Better Care Reconciliation Act

The BCRA  is, of course, Mitch McConnell’s Senate version of the American Health Care Act, both of which are variants of the Republican’s repeated promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Again, to review:

  • There is nothing wrong with the Affordable Care Act that some bi-partisan cooperation could not fix.
  • The reason that the Republicans have been so implacably opposed is not because the Affordable Care Act is imploding or destroying the health insurance industry, but because they are implacably opposed to Obama’s legacy (even though Obama is out of office now).
  • Although they had six years to do so, the Republicans never drafted a replacement for the Affordable Care Act because they never thought they would be in a position to repeal it. (As long as Obama and Hillary Clinton were President, they knew their repeal would be vetoed.)
  • When they finally had the chance to repeal and replace, both the House and the Senate worked under the cover of night and with as much secrecy as possible, knowing that their work would be deeply unpopular.
  • The House’s first attempt failed when it became clear that they did not have the votes in March of 2017. However, a 2nd attempt a few weeks later succeeded just barely after enough sweeteners and bribes were thrown into the pot.
  • The Senate’s first attempt right before the July 4th recess also failed to come to a vote, because the Senate’s internal vote count made it clear that there were enough right-wing and moderate Republican defections to fail to muster the required 51 vote majority (including the Vice President, who can cast the tie-breaking vote).
  • Now they’re back with their own second attempt. They’ve tinkered around the edges, but the essential problem remains intact.

The two defining features of both bills is that they would (1) repeal the individual mandate that is at the core of Obamacare, and (2) substantially limit the federal government’s contribution to Medicaid (which goes far beyond an Obamacare repeal, and is intended to give the Republicans the financial flexibility to be able to pass tax cuts for the super-rich.) The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has determined that the House and Senate bills would cause millions of people to lose health insurance over the next decade: 23 million in the case of the House bill, 22 million in the case of the Senate bill. (Health care bills was and still is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States.)

For those of you interested in the details of what both the House and Senate bills would do, National Public Radio has put together a very convenient table, which you can see here.

Mitch McConnell went back to the drawing board – in secret once again – and this time he has come back with a very similar bill that adds two incentives for both wings of his party:

  1. For the right wing, he has added provisions that allow insurance companies who are participating in an exchange to offer “de minimis” plans that do not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., don’t include ‘essential health benefits’), and which are cheap enough that some young and healthy individuals might actually buy health insurance. This is known as the “Cruz amendment” after our beloved Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.
  2. For moderate Republicans, there are provisions adding billions of spending to the bill. The bill first offered by McConnell and friends a few weeks ago included $2 billion to address the opioid crisis for 2018; this version would offer about $45 billion over 10 years. Also trying to buy off moderate opponents, the original version provided $112 billion that would have allowed states to stabilize their markets; this version bumps up that “buy off” money to $182 billion.[3]

Other than that the new version of the BCRA keeps some of the Obamacare taxes that the first version repealed, including the net investment income tax and a payroll tax.  However, it still caps Medicaid, as the previous version did. And is still screws over people with pre-existing conditions by allowing insurance companies to charge whatever the fuck they want for that group of unfortunate people. Like me.

About the Hypocrisy

So, you can always count on Republicans to jump on the bandwagon when there is a public story out there that has a ‘pro-life’ angle.  Keep baby Charlie alive, no matter the cost! Make him a citizen, bring him to America! (Even though all the doctors who have treated him – and let’s face it, doctors basically never give up – have all given up.) Baby Charlie is worth every penny!

Now, how about working and middle-class Americans who would like to see their parents cared for in a nursing home, if needed, for the last few years of life. Well, fuck those people! Who needs them? Sure, a lot of them voted for Trump, but we don’t need them anymore.

Or how about middle-aged people with pre-existing conditions? Well, fuck those people! Who needs them? Sure, a lot of them voted for Trump, but we don’t need them anymore.

Or, how about those of us who might need some nursing care ourselves as we grow into the late stage of our lives. Well, fuck us! Who needs us? Sure, a lot of us voted for Trump – well, not readers of this blog, but you get the point – but we’re not needed anymore.

This is your modern-day Republican party. Pyrrhic victories, and a kiss off for everybody else, even the voters who brought you to the party. And those voters have been so thoroughly propagandized that they will find a way to blame the Democrats. After all Democrats are obstructionists! (as we’ve been told by President Kumquat). Forgetting the whole time that nobody has ever been more obstructionist than the Republican party during the Obama administration, and that the only reason that we’re having this “repeal and replace” debate is because it is part of the Republican’s legacy in obstructing the Affordable Care Act at every turn.

[1] The case was heard at the High Court, and on April 11 the court ruled that it was in the infant’s best interests for his treating clinicians to withdraw mechanical ventilation and provide him with palliative care only, maintaining his dignity. On May 25, the Court of Appeal refused to overturn the decision of the lower court, and the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom subsequently refused permission to appeal from this decision. A final appeal was made to the European Court of Human Rights, which was also rejected.

[2] It’s not so clear who would pay for all of this. Probably the American taxpayer.

[3] Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has already announced her opposition to the revised bill.  So has Rand Paul from Kentucky (but for completely different reasons). So McConnell can’t afford to lose anyone else.

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