Thursday, October 24, 2013

Obamacare web site problems nothing compared to what will happen when they're fixed.

Though this should come as no surprise to those paying attention with the exception of Obamacare's most blind defenders, based on the early returns on Obamacare enrollments, many of the predictions of  failure including those made by both Howard Dean and Warren Buffet back in 2010, are becoming reality. And it has nothing to do with web site glitches.

The glitches and problems with the web site are actually, for the moment  a blessing for Democrats and Obama himself, serving as a temporary smoke screen to the real problems which will soon become evident and which were inherent in the law itself, a law for those not aware, that was primarily written by the insurance industry itself ( see the PBS documentary on Frontline) after Obama gave in to their demands and dropped the public option. Which is going to make Obamacare, not the signature accomplishment of his presidency as his supporters like to trumpet, but his signature failure.

These failures which at their core are rooted in the dropping by Obama of the public option in a compromise   to the insurance companies,  virtually guaranteed its failure from the beginning as both Howard Dean and Warren Buffet warned as far back as 2010. And was clear to many  Democrats who had wanted the public option. Remember that immediately after Obamacare passed the senate, when Democratic senator Tom Harkin, a public option supporter, was asked how he felt about passing the bill his answer was "it's better than nothing ". If asked the same question today he might not be so generous.

Obamacare's  failure has nothing to do with the criticism leveled by Republicans, most of which are patently dishonest, motivated by politics,and based on distortion and flat out lying.  Republicans would prefer no real healthcare reform at all, and in fact it was blatant lies about the public option,  ( "pulling the plug on grandma" to name one) that Obama and the news media were both too weak and inept to refute which partially led to Obama's eventual sell out to the health insurance lobby in  the kind of mealy-mouthed compromise Obama always engages in believing he is giving something  both sides will accept and then ends up with nothing of real value. Unfortunately for the country and the Democratic agenda, Obama's idea of wisdom  has been to actually split the baby,  giving a legislative half to each side in the hopes that everyone will be satisfied,  then can't understand when everyone but his most blind supporters are disgusted.  There is no better example of this than Obamacare.

What was needed and what would have been real reform was the public healthcare option (before her own capitulation to Obama and betrayal of her conscience Nancy Pelosi called the public option "the centerpiece of healthcare reform")  which had the votes in a Democratically controlled congress to pass, was backed by the American people in poll after poll by large majorities and would have given Americans the choice of leaving their insurance companies for a government run program similar to Medicare.  Obamacare is just the opposite and is predicated on trying to force 32 million uninsured people to run to the insurance companies to purchase policies despite the fact that these same insurance companies were part of the problem in the first place.

What will soon be apparent once the glitches with the web sites are fixed is that Obamacare will not get remotely close to the 32 million needed to make the program work.  And that will have nothing to do with the web site but what people see on the web site once they get there.

As Robert F. Frank pointed out in the business section of the NY Times, for Obamacare to succeed, all 32 million young, healthy uninsured people need to buy into the program and purchase insurance. All of them.  One look at the proposed premiums for the bottom tier plans designed to attract those 32 million and anyone not blinded by wishful thinking could have seen that  Obamacare was going to fail.

 The cost alone of these low end policies are producing sticker shock when people see them. It gets worse when people see what the insurance companies are actually offering for these premiums. That's when they get the second shock.

Many uninsured are finding that the bronze or lowest end policies are being priced in the range of $300 a month and up on average and that they come with $6,000  yearly deductibles to be paid out of pocket before they get full coverage. Until then they pay  40% in co-pays until the $6,000 out of pocket is reached in addition to the monthly premiums.And again, this is for the bottom tier polices for a single person, not a family. Costs to a family are higher.

It doesn't take a Warren Buffet to figure out that young, healthy uninsured Americans who are largely uninsured because they cant afford health insurance in the first place are not going to be flocking to buy these policies for the privilege of having a health insurance card in their wallets that requires another $6,000 out of pocket before their expenses are fully covered and includes co-pays of 40% of all initial costs until that  $6,000 is reached. What most of them will do is what they have been doing -- live without insurance and go to an emergency room if they need medical care where the law says they have to be treated whether they have insurance or not.

The returns so far on Obamacare  bear this out and spell disaster. It's not about glitches on the web site. The percentage of people who get to the site who are filling out applications is minisucle -- as of this writing approximately 6 million hits resulting in 750,000 applications,or a little better than 10% of those visiting the site. And remember, applications are not enrollments -- they are only people filling out a required general application before they are even able to see what's being offered and does not obligate an applicant to choose a plan. And so far most aren't.

The percentage of people actually enrolling in a plan compared to those who have filled out applications is even smaller. According to the latest figures ( obviously subject to change) there have been approximately 168,000  actual enrollments from almost 750,000 applications or about 2% of those who apply actually enroll. There is no reason to think these percentages will change  substantially when the glitches are fixed and volume increases because the more people that get to the web site and see what is being offered and for how much,  the more people will get the bad news.

While the White House is so far refusing to release figures showing actual enrollments,(that will come in mid-November) the estimates are based on state run exchanges as well as data from and estimates from health insurance industry experts and companies processing enrollments. Based on the numbers and the need for all 32 million young healthy uninsured people to purchase policies for Obamacare to work, it's not going to work.

Yes it's early but not that early since enrollment has to occur before the end of December to avoid the $95 penalty for not having insurance,  and so far the actual number of enrollments is about 0.01%  of what is needed.

A healthcare industry analyst has said that he believes that so far, most of those who are actually signing up are not the young, healthy target market, but older and sicker people and people signing up for expanded Medicaid. 

Based on what the insurance companies are charging for low end policies and what is being offered for the money, it's no wonder healthy young people who couldn't afford insurance in the first place are so far saying thanks but no thanks. There may be some anecdotal exceptions but not enough to matter. One college student who works part time out in the midwest wrote that he purchased a policy for $70 a month which included his government subsidy ( that's still $840 a year for a college student working part time) but didn't say what he was getting for his money. And maybe he didn't check.

Low end policies costing $300 a month and up are the average for single people making $40,000 a year and less but higher or lower depending on where you live ($611 in New York City, $218 in parts of upstate Rochester NY, $337 in other parts of Rochester)  on top of $6,000 deductibles, 40% co-pays and the best hospitals and doctors excluded  from the policy's networks. It's everything one would have expected from the insurance companies who authored this debacle of a law and everything the public option which Obama dropped, was designed to fix and replace.

Democrats are already starting to bail out with ten Democrats in the senate calling for a delay in the deadline for enrollment and a year's delay in the $95 penalty. But a delay isnt the answer. An overhaul is. 

Congressional Democrats should start getting out in front of what is going to be a mammoth failure, and start running on the idea of  having supported a public option in the first place,  promoting the idea of a Democratic congress in 2014 passing the public option to make this work. If that sounds like its throwing Obama and Obamacare under the bus, it might be. But its not like he doesn't deserve it and hasn't done the same to almost everyone else. And is the right thing to do in terms of policy.

For the moment the problems with the web site are buying time,  obscuring and delaying and to a great extent, providing temporary cover for the failure to come. While Democrats and Democratic strategists have not exactly demonstrated great skill strategically over the last 15 years in the world of politics and messaging, especially in a crisis, and even more so in standing up to Republicans, Democrats need to take advantage of the time they are being given, get out from under Obamacare, lay the groundwork for a public option as an alternative for a Democratic congress in 2014, and not let the failures of Obama and Nancy Pelosi who went along with this mess be their own.

Obama has said a number of times in response to the problems with Obamacare, "don't destroy it, fix it." The best way, maybe the only way to fix it is to do what Howard Dean said to do --  junk it. And replace it with a public option.

UPDATE: To underscore the impending failure of Obamacare, the New York Times, on  Oct.24,2013, published an article showing how Obamacare is already failing in the rural areas of the country. In Orange County Indiana, a silver policy, the second cheapest on the exchanges, for a single man, age 50, costs $487.11 per month with all the aforementioned deductibles. In Baker County Ga. the same plan is $644.05 per month. The same plan in metropolitan Atlanta is $320.06, half the cost in the rural areas but still significant for people who couldn't afford insurance in the first place because of their incomes, and burdened with high deductibles, out of pockets and with the best doctors and hospitals excluded from the plans' networks.

In Wyoming there is still only a single insurer because most insurance companies don't see enough profit  potential in a state with a population of 620,000 and have abandoned Wyoming as a market. So the idea of the exchanges bringing down the high costs of premiums because of competition is not just a myth there, it's non-existent.

Which underscores the reason for and need for the public option -- leaving healthcare  and it's costs to the health insurance industry as Obamacare does, was the problem in the first place.  And Obsmacare does nothing to fix it. Instead of a government run public option where the government is NOT in it for a profit and would make no decisions based on profit and would have provided full healthcare coverage to people for as little as $100 a month,the benefits of  Obamacare go more to the insurance companies who wrote the law than people and are designed to achieve the same goal as always -- profit. Which in the end may result in Obamacare  being remembered for being The Unaffordable Care Act.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wolf Blitzer earns his equivalency diploma reporting on government shut down.

There are reasons why a Pew Research study on American attitudes towards journalists revealed that on average, 70%  say they don't trust the news media to accurately report the facts and that number also specifically applies to CNN which has it's lowest ratings in twenty years.

It's been talked about before from Bill Moyers to NPR's release last year of new standards for their journalists, that the insidious practice of main stream journalism to try and find equivalency in anything regarding politics and policy so as not to offend one side or the other regardless of the truth,  this phony idea of "balance", which has no place in honest reporting, has devalued the role of journalism as much as it has devalued the journalists practicing it.

In trying to find "equivalency" in the debt ceiling crisis and Republicans shutting down the government and bringing the country to the brink of default, and with all the polls showing the public blaming Republicans for what happened (and for good reason) Blitzer made a mockery of himself and CNN when he tried to find a false Democratic equivalency to the Tea Party Republicans and their destructive tactics by saying that "some Democrats who are now railing against Republicans for refusing to raise the debt ceiling did the same thing during the Bush Administration".

 Sean Wilentz in his Rolling Stone article on the Republican Party and it's tactics, "A House Divided"(Oct.24,2013)  helped define false equivalency "whereby blatant falsehoods get reported simply as one side of an argument and receive equal weight with the reported argument of the other side".

Watching Blitzer try and claim that Democrats did the same thing is just that kind of blatant falsehood and is another reason Blitzer and CNN at times are almost a satire on American journalism .

Obviously Democrats did not do the same thing.  There was no equivalency in the fact that some  Democrats voted against raising the debt ceiling during the Bush presidency and the Republican tactic of refusing to allow a vote at all in order to  shut down the government and threaten a default to extract concessions from a Democratic president.

This is not so much to defend Democrats -- had it not been for Obama's sell out of the public option he replaced  with a watered down insurance industry written law known as Obamacare the shutdown wouldn't have happened in the first place --  but to once again show how useless the news media is especially in times of crisis. Blitzer's attempt at phony journalism by trying to say "both sides did it"  was nothing short of dishonest as well as pathetic. 

What Blitzer ignored in his quest for false equivalency  is that Democrats never shut down the government or threatened the country with default. Or threatened the country with anything.  They were also  never in a position to refuse to raise the debt ceiling as Blitzer falsely claimed since during the first six years of the Bush presidency they were the minority party.

 Democrats who voted against raising the debt ceiling during the Bush presidency at least had the opportunity to vote, something Republican leadership denied during the shutdown in not allowing a no strings attached clean bill to be brought to the floor.  That is worlds apart from Republicans trying to exact political concessions  in  return for not forcing the country  into default and dealing a blow to American citizens and the economy.

What Blitzer also ignored is that those Democrats who voted against raising the debt ceiling (which again, is a world apart from preventing a vote  at all)  did so at the time to protest Republican refusal to pay for the war in Iraq. Republicans passed bills to deficit finance the war and then wanted to raise the debt ceiling to borrow money to pay for it  because they refused to pay for it by raising taxes.  (No current member of the Tea Party claiming the deficit is what motivates them said a word about this at the time).

Republicans not only refused to raise revenue to pay for the war in Iraq which would have kept the balanced budget and  zero deficit they inherited from Clinton intact, they actually cut taxes as part of their conservative mantra,  which made Bush and the Republicans the first U.S. government in history to cut taxes and take the country to war at the same time. The result created a $1 trillion deficit, almost 3/4 of the current deficit and something we are all still paying for. The decision not to pay for the war and deficit finance it so  Republicans could implement their mantra and cut taxes was a much more worthy reason for voting against raising the debt ceiling than trying to undo a law you disagree with but didn't have the votes to stop and were soundly defeated in an election largely over the same issue.

Since Blitzer was willing to distort the truth either out of a bizarre journalistic idea of "balance" or a cowardly fear of angering Republicans,  perhaps Democrats should do what Blitzer was afraid Republicans would do -- boycott CNN until he is willing to report the truth as it is, retract his assertion that " Democrats did the same thing"  and not twist himself and the facts into a pretzel in order to appease either congressional Republicans or viewers sympathetic to Republican politics for the sake pretending there is "balance" in world events.

The last thing Blitzer ignored in his distorting of reality was that Democrats made no attempt at using tactics destructive to the country to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to gain other legislative advantages as Republicans  did,  made no attempts at using procedural tricks either in the House or senate to hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage even though at the time the deficit financing of the Iraq war blew a gaping hole in the balanced budget and a zero deficit and was a much more justifiable fight than Obamacare.  And in the end during the Bush years ( as with Reagan)  the debt ceiling was raised in all cases without delay and without damage to the country.

CNN has had a long history with both Blitzer, Candy Crowley and some others never holding politicians accountable either for their actions or challenging them when they clearly lie. They always look at it as letting a politician tell "their side" which can include repeatedly lying, falsifying facts, or ignoring results.  That was the case recently when CNN conducted a soft ball interview with Ted Cruz and let him blatantly lie about facts without a challenge. In CNN's quest for equivalency,  if a Republican went on a rampage and committed serial murder, Blitzer and Crowley would bring up unpaid parking tickets by Democrats and point out that people in both parties break the law.

As journalism, Blitzer trying to compare the Republican shut down and threat of default which cost the economy $24 billion, to Democrats in Congress  simply exercising their right to vote against something they opposed during the Bush years, earns Blitzer his false equivalency diploma as the valedictorian of the movement and false journalism.  A diploma he should be too embarrassed to hang on a wall. But isn't.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Tea Party and the use of terrorist tactics.

Some people think president Obama and Harry Reid using words like "extortion" and "hostage taking"  and "arsonists" in talking about the government shut down and the threat issued by John Boehner not to raise the debt ceiling "unless.." is  too inflammatory. But in a very real and literal way the Tea Party and  Republicans in the House with John Boehner as their messenger can be accurately defined as anti-American terrorists in the literal sense, not as name calling. And their primary weapon is traditional terrorist tactics.

Terrorism, as opposed to conventional war,  is defined as acts of violence against a civilian
population designed to bring about a political solution or victory that couldn't be achieved legitimately through democratic  or political processes. By that definition, the tiny faction who call themselves the Tea Party and John Boehner  as their messenger boy in the House are in fact as much terrorists in shutting down the government and threatening to cause America to default as Al-Qaeda. Their threat is to do as much damage to the United States and the government and the civilian population as possible unless their demands are met.

When John Boehner, backed by Tea Party Republicans threatens not to raise the debt ceiling
unless they get concessions, something that was done seven times without controversy during the Bush presidency, even in 2007 when Democrats controlled the congress, and 18 times during Reagan's presidency with a Democratically controlled House,   it reveals who their target really is and who the Tea Party lunatics are intent on hurting unless their demands are met and they carry through on their threats.

Like any traditional terrorist group that looks for a vulnerability in the system to carry out a terrorist attack, Ted Cruz and the Tea Party in the House saw a vulnerability they could exploit in withholding a vote to continue to fund the government and another in threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. 

These vulnerabilities that Cruz and the Tea Party are trying to exploit,has already shut down the government costing taxpayers tens of millions if not hundreds of millions a day, putting people at risk by closing down the Centers For Disease Control and the Dept of Agriculture and other important services, and by not raising the debt ceiling they would take a sledgehammer to the full faith and credit of the United States and wreck havoc on the economy and financial well being of almost every American citizen.  No terrorist group could do better. What they were banking on is that either Obama caves in as he has done every time before, or he would have more decency than they do, another hallmark of the terrorist, and give in to their demands to spare American citizens the damage they threaten to cause, since like any other terrorist group it's the American civilian population they are threatening to hurt. 

They certainly won't be hurting Obama. Two years from now Obama will leave office and probably get a $3 -$5 million advance to write his memoirs. He also has a lifetime presidential pension with tax payer paid expenses for offices and other perks. The Republicans wont be hurting Democrats since polls show the American people by a huge margin (74%) hold Republicans responsible for the shut down and for any default caused by Boehner and his Tea Party led Republicans and by all accounts they will pay an enormous price in the future, giving the Tea Party exactly the opposite of what they wanted -- substantial control of the government and its institutions by Democrats.

The only people who will be hurt by Boehner and the Tea Party are 300 million Americans who will  be on the receiving end of  Boehner and the Tea Party having taken a sledgehammer to their immediate and perhaps long term economic futures,  the stocks they have in their 401k's, a recession, higher unemployment, and hundreds of billions added to the debt on interest alone because a lowered credit rating means higher interest and higher interest payments. More proof that the Tea Party agenda isn't what they say it is. If reducing the debt and deficit were their real goals its ludicrous to think that adding tens or hundreds of billions to the debt on added interest as a result of default would be okay with them.

It would also cause a blow to the global economy on which the U.S. depends. So Boehner and the Tea Party Republicans  and any other Republicans going along with a terrorist attack against America are basically threatening Obama with causing catastrophic damage to the United States, its economy, the recovery, and the well being and economic future of its citizens if Obama does not capitulate and concede over issues that the Tea Party and Republicans decisively lost  during the democratic process of the 2012 elections.

Needless to say the news media, as always are lowering themselves to the occasion,  too cowardly to point out that this is all on the Republicans and Tea Party. The polls show Americans know it but most news organizations are too afraid of being accused of taking sides lest it hurt their ratings or web hits. So CNN laughably showed a Tea Party protest at a WWII war memorial that was closed because of the REPUBLICAN shut down, organized by Ted Cruz and Sara Palin, complete with patriotic Confederate flags and CNN acted as if this spit in the ocean protest represented some kind of real and substantial national anger blaming Obama for the shut down (and is there anyone who tries to use the military as pawns for their political ideology more than the Tea Party?)

Boehner and the  ignorantly named Tea Party Republicans ( almost none of whom have the slightest idea of what was behind the original Boston Tea Party)  are using text book terrorist tactics for text book terrorist reasons --  to bring about a political and ideological victory for their beliefs that they couldn't win by legitimate means and doing it by attacking a civilian population.

The threats these Tea Party Republicans are making, a threat to cause a default by the United States if  their demands are not met,and a refusal not to allocate funds for the government to open and provide services already paid for by tax payers,   is not only clearly terrorism, it is also reminiscent of the Bible story about Solomon and the two women claiming to be the true mother of a baby just as the Tea Party tries to claim they are the "true patriots" and lovers of their country, the true "mothers" of America and what it stands for.  But Tea Party Republicans who couldn't win at the polls and are now making threats, are now saying they are willing to take half the baby if Obama will only give it to them despite the catastrophic consequences that would mean to American institutions.  They are willing, in essence to see the country's democratic institutions undermined, even killed, as long as they can get the half they want. This alone exposes them as false mothers (literally and epithetically) and phony patriots who are more enemies of the country and it's institutions (which many in the Tea Party readily admit)  than citizens who care about the well being of America and it's citizens.

The truth is, if they really thought Obamacare would be the disaster they claim, politically
the smart thing to do ( and no one has ever accused the Tea Party of being smart)  would be to let it be implemented, let it fail and let Democrats be held responsible. That they are using this tactic to try and get rid of it indicates they might be more afraid of it succeeding than failing, though as has been stated here numerous times, the odds are it will fail miserably unless Democrats can retake the House and replace Obamacare with a public option. The difference is now, thanks to the Tea Party and their actions, even if Obamacare fails, Democrats will not be held politically responsible. The Tea Party has made sure it will be Republicans who are going to feel the brunt of American anger.

As has also been pointed out a thousand times, regarding problems of debt and deficits, Social Security and Medicare are not the problem. They contribute nothing to the debt and nothing to the deficit. If people are concerned about  the solvency of those programs in 20 years, that's fine but they have nothing to do with the problems at hand which is all that should matter. Why Republicans are  even bringing it up now during "negotiations" is another indicator that their goals and motives are not what they say they are. Another reason Obama has to stand firm and not reward terrorists by agreeing to anything until they back off their threats. If that doesn't work, the majority of the American people will take care of them in the next election.

Obama has no choice but to stand his ground and refuse to negotiate or weaken the democratic system of government by capitulating to what amounts to terrorist tactics no matter from where they might come.  His oath of office requires him to defend the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic even if the domestic enemy are Tea Party Republicans in the House.

 One possible, albeit radical but real solution if Boehner doesn't give up his threats against the American people would be for the moderate Republicans in the House to defect, if only temporarily, to the Democrats, give them the majority which would depose Boehner as speaker and leave Pelosi to bring up a clean bill and to open the government and raise the debt ceiling. It wouldn't change the will of the Republican majority in the House since those moderate Republicans, if they had to remain Democrats for a period of time could still vote any way they wished on anything, for all practical purposes preserving the Republican majority on future legislation.

There is a good chance that if those moderate Republicans told Boehner of those intentions, rather than lose his job, he would bring a clean bill to the floor.  But only after getting a taste of his own medicine.

NOTE: Late last night another attempt to pass a bill to open the government in the House was rejected by the extreme right wing elements in the Republican party. If there is any doubt that even they see their tactics as an attack on America, their publicly stated reason for rejecting the deal was that to accept it would be to "surrender", a military term further re-enforcing the idea that their closing of the government and their using the threat of default is for them, a weapon to be used in an ideological attack on the United States and it's citizens.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why Republicans, the party of personal responsibility, never wants to take any.

Republicans like to sell themselves as the party of personal responsibility. But they  have a long and sordid track record of never wanting to take any responsibility for anything when things don't go their way.  Personal responsibility it seems is for everyone but them.

During the current shutdown, Tea Party Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa went on CNN and blamed the entire shutdown on Obama. Unsaid, and not solicited from the not very courageous Carol Costello who conducted the interview, was that King's idea of the shutdown being Obama's fault is predicated on Obama refusing to concede to the Tea Party demands, demands King and the Republicans refuse to admit they couldn't implement because they lost the election for the White House and couldn't get a majority in the senate.

But that doesn't stop them from telling the Big Lie,  the political hallmark of Fascism, about who is to blame for the shutdown and that the American people support them.

This is how much the American people support them:

The most recent poll shows 62% blame Republicans for the shutdown. And congress' approval rating is now at 5%. Given that the shutdown and threat to default on the country's obligations are driven by the Tea Party Republicans and their constituents who are pleased they are causing the shut down,  that number, as reflected by the poll shows that Tea Party support is around 5% of the population. That translates into  5% of the people, Tea Party supporters,  who are willing to inflict damage on the other 95%.

What the House Republicans are actually trying to do which they dont want to say, or take responsibility for,  is to undo the last election which they lost.

 Obama has accused Republicans of insisting that he implement the Romney agenda that was rejected by the majority and in his words "effectively resign". And in some ways he is right. Which is why the fight is about a lot more than just Obamacare and the budget.

While many have criticized the use words like "arsonist", "anarchist", "terrorist", to describe Tea Party Republicans as going too far and not productive, the analogy isn't that far fetched in terms of their aims of bringing down the government if they can't get their way and then trying to blame the other side.

In 1932, the Nazis as a minority party, firebombed the Reichstag then blamed the opposition for the attack and accused them of trying to bring down the government. A sycophantic press didn't doubt it, let them get away with it, people believed it and the Nazis were swept into power in the next election.

Its not quite that extreme with Tea Party Republicans (though how many times did Tea Party supporters at rallies display guns and threaten, though admittedly the threats were as empty as the people making them, to use force to get their way?)  but as a political tactic of attacking the opposition government in power, trying to bring it to its knees and cause major damage to it's citzens and then blame the other side,(as King blamed Obama for closing war memorials)  it's a tactic used before and used by what most people would call the most destructive, insidious political forces in history.

In terms of Republican claims of being "the party of personal responsibility" it needs to be remembered who is really responsible for all the economic problems facing the country including the debt and the deficit, the issues the Tea Party Republicans in the House try to claim is the reason behind their actions ( if one wants to blame Obama, its that he didnt act forcefully enough to clean up their mess).

In 1992, with deficits at all time highs, Bill Clinton presented a budget which contained a 5c a gallon  increase in the gasoline tax with the money earmarked to go to eliminating the deficit. Republicans screamed "calamity". There were other aspects to the Clinton budget Republicans opposed as well and every Republican in the House and senate voted against it. They called press conference after press conference giving the country the benefit of their economic wisdom:  Clinton's budget and 5c a gallon gas tax increase would explode the deficit,  increase unemployment and send the country into a recession. The budget eventually passed when Al Gore as president of the senate cast the tie breaking vote.

Here is what happened: The Republicans batted 1.000. They were wrong about everything. Under Clinton, after his budget passed, and  during his 8 years as president,  the country went through the greatest economic expansion in history, the lowest unemployment in 40 years, the deficit was eliminated and reduced to zero and the country had a balanced budget for the first time in decades. When Clinton left office, he also left the country with a $5 1/2 trillion budget surplus to go with the zero deficit and balanced budget.

In 2000 Bush was elected with a Republican majority in the House and senate. Within 3 years the Republicans had destroyed the balanced budget, sent the country into its worst deficits in history and Bush became the first president since Herbert Hoover during the Depression to lose jobs in his first 3 years as president.

The Republicans did something else that even Paul Volcker, the chairman of the Fed under Reagan said was mind boggling. In three years they completely dissipated the$5 1/2 trillion surplus Clinton had left. In the end the Republicans destroyed the treasury, left the cupboard  bare, then deficit financed an unnecessary war in Iraq  so they didn't have to raise taxes to pay for it, an act that made them solely responsible for adding $1 trillion to the deficit. They not only didn't raise taxes to pay for their war, they actually cut taxes to fulfill their ideology. When it comes to government programs they don't like, they talk about the morality of sticking their grandchildren with the bill. When it came to a war they wanted, they had no problem sticking their grandchildren with the bill.  Then they put the icing on the cake by presiding over the worst economic collapse since the Depression.

This is who is now saying "trust us we know what's best for the country" and presenting budget demands to solve America's economic problems. And how much responsibility do they take for causing all the problems in the first place?  Nothing. It's social security's fault. It's Medicare's fault. It's Obamacare's fault. It's Miley Cyrus's fault.

During the Republican destruction of the economy, their destruction of the balanced budget and creation of the worst deficits in history, there was not a word from anyone who now claims to be a Tea Party "patriot" who said they are concerned about deficits. Which   legitimately  might call into question what their real agenda is, because based on facts, truth and history its not what they say it is.

Today, you don't hear anything from these Republicans acknowledging their disastrous handling of the American economy and taking responsibility for all  the problems they caused. You never hear them take responsibility for and admitting that they and their policies created the deficits in the first place and that they conveniently ignored their own stated principles when it suited  them so they could deficit finance a war without having to raise taxes to pay for it. Their principles it seems, applies to everyone but them.

Aiding and abetting the Republican ability to dodge responsibility for their actions and the ensuing catastrophic results are those wonderful folks whose primary professional concern is making sure they can make the payments on the beach house -- American journalists. Especially those on cable TV news.

For years Republicans, in spite of the facts, were able to make any false claims, any distorted statements or tell any lies no matter preposterous ( remember "pulling the plug on grandma"?) and never be challenged by any TV journalist, especially CNN who every day sets new records for using the words "both parties" or "both sides".  If someone was willing to contribute $1 to the treasury for every time Candy Crowley or Wolf Blitzer used the words "both parties" it would pay off the national debt.

So after being wrong about everything since 1992, after seeing the opposite of everything they stood for achieve spectacular results during the eight years of the  Clinton presidency,  then  taking power in 2000, passing their own policies and seeing catastrophic results,  these Republican Tea Party fiscal conservatives who blame everything on everyone else think they should be the stewards of the economy, they know best, they are the people looking out for what's best for the country.  And to show how much they care, they threaten to take a sledgehammer to the country's economy and credit rating  if they don't get their way and will cause major damage if they have to . If they were paying attention or taking any responsibility for anything they would acknowledge that they already have.

Which again, given the facts and history, legitimately calls into question what their real motives might be. Certainly its not to take responsibility for anything. For conservative Republicans, that's for people who don't have health insurance.

Fixing the deficit is not as hard as it sounds. What's hard is Republicans taking responsibility for what they did to cause it. And it starts with their decision back in 2002 not to raise taxes to pay for their war in Iraq. The result was clear and direct. That decision destroyed the balanced budget and created a $1 trillion deficit.

What to do about it? Apply physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If not raising taxes to pay for their war created a $1 trillion deficit ( and it did) then the only real and fair solution is to raise taxes now to cover what should have been paid for in the first place. Instead Republicans want to duck their responsibilities and pay for the deficits created by the war by sticking it to people who don't have health insurance,  people on social security pay for it with cuts to their benefits, and by cutting Medicare benefits.

Would the American people be furious at Republicans coming back now for the money in the form of higher taxes to pay for what should have been paid for in the first place? Yes. Would they take it out on them in the next election? Yes. Is it the right thing to do? Yes. It's called taking personal responsibility. And accepting the consequences.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

For districts fueling the government shut down, why not shut down the government for them permanently?

By last count there are no more than 20-30 ultra right wing conservative Republican members of the House supported by another 30 or so who laughingly call themselves Tea Party "patriots", who are trying to bring down the government and are egged on by Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz. They have succeeded in intimidating that pillar of courage John Boehner into refusing to bring a clean CR to the House floor to fund the government even though a clean CR would get over 400 votes in the House with over 200 Republicans supporting it.

That handful  of of extremist conservatives, who Harry Reid has called anarchists,  come from ultra right wing districts in states like Indiana and Georgia where their constituents not only approve of the shut down, they are gleeful about it and want more. The idea is to use the shut down to extort what they couldn't get through elections since the majority of the country voted against them. The people who live in these districts have shown they  really don't care about elections or their outcomes and are unwilling to accept the democratic process. Instead they want to shove their ideology down the throats of everyone who have rejected it else because they've decided they know best. What matters to them is how much damage they can cause to the United States, something they call "leverage". They are now trying to also use raising the debt ceiling as "leverage"  making threats to cause untold damage to the United States, it's institutions, it's people and the economy.  You decide what to call these people. But whether they are called anarchists or political terrorists or any other term someone wants to use,  it's clear that Boehner and these extremist Republicans aren't much concerned about the damage they can cause and in fact for many of them, the damage is as much the point as seeing their ideological demands met.  For them its a win-win situation. Meet our demands or we burn down a House we don't like very much anyway.

 According to these Tea Party House members they are getting calls supporting the shut down by a ratio of 10-1.  They say they are getting calls from their constituents telling them  " attaboy" and "go get 'em" and not to give in over  their demand that Obamacare be repealed, something they will never get and something they continue to lie about pretending that the majority of the country rejects it which must be news to Mitt Romney. This is not to say Obamacare shouldnt be replaced with a public option or single payer system. It is only to say they are lying.

It's also telling to look at the character of some of the Tea Party supported members of congress leading the shut down and who support a United States default on its debt if their demands are not met. Representative Tom Graves who represents the 14th district who has been one of the leaders of the shutdown and supports a default was sued by a Georgia bank in 2011 for defaulting on a $2.2 million business loan.. Graves borrowed the money to open a motel, the motel went bust and when he couldnt pay the electric bill and the electric company shut off the electricity, he just closed everything down, walked away and defaulted on his debt.  This is the person the 14th district in Georgia elected to be their representative in congress. So no one should be surprised that someone like Graves, who shut down his own business when it wasn't successful and walked away from his obligations and stuck other people with his debt supports a default. Not only didnt he suffer consequences for being the dead beat failed businessman that he is, he found people gullible enough to elect him to congress.

So what should be done about all this? It's simple. Since new elections for the House are more than a year away, until then, unless the people of these districts, like the 14th in Georgia who are telling their representatives " attaboy" are the worst and lowest kind of  hypocrite they should have no problem agreeing to a law that would shut down the federal government for them permanently. Or at least until the next election. That would include banning Obamacare for everyone in these districts. But also every other federal government program and institution. And cut off all federal money to these districts.

The new law would prohibit any federal tax payer money, money from tax payers in places like New York, California, Pennsylvania,  Michigan and others states, from going to these districts for anything. Not for roads. Not for farm subsidies. Not for schools. Not for law enforcement. Nothing.  And all federally related offices would shut down and close until further notice. After all, if they support the shut down for the rest of the country they should support it for themselves.

The NY Times profiled one resident of the 14th district in Georgia who supports the shut down because, like most conservatives, what they seem to care about most is what they don't want other people to have.So shutting down the government to defund Obamacare for him is a good idea and worth the effort.

Another resident in a district supporting the shut down said he supported America defaulting on its debt if their demands aren't met and has told his representative to vote against raising the debt ceiling, something for which a case could be made is an act of treason.

 So let's give these districts what they say they want and just shut down the federal government and any services it provides for all these districts permanently or until they elect representatives who aren't irresponsible dead beats.

After this law passes they can raise their own taxes if they have to, use their own money to fix their own roads and local unemployment offices ( that's right, no more federal unemployment money for them)  or just get rid of the services they cant afford to pay for themselves.  Naturally, fair is fair and the law would allow them to keep all their own income taxes and not send a dime to the federal government.

Ted Cruz can always go to the people of Texas who elected him and tell them they need to raise  taxes in Texas so they can send the money to those districts to help them out.  Think that will go over big in Texas?    How many "attaboys" and " go get 'ems" do you think these Tea Party members of congress would get from their constituents then? 

Clearly these people don't care about the rest of America and are too short sighted to see the danger in 13,000 employees of the Center for Disease Control being furloughed, or thousands of kids being denied the Headstart program. So maybe it's time the rest of America didnt care about them and just called their own representatives to tell them to pass a bill that shuts down the federal government for these districts at least until the next congressional election in 2014.

One last bit of irony: a man from one of these districts supporting the shutdown was interviewed by the New York Times and said he had an idea for healthcare that was better than Obamacare. "I think it (healthcare) should be the same for everybody. One big company whether owned privately or by the government."

When the Times reporter informed him that what he was describing was a single payer system, the system Obama had  promised, had the votes in congress to pass in 2009 but instead caved in to both the insurance companies and the Republicans who called it socialism and then dropped it in favor of  what became Obamacare the man replied, "yeah I know. It's crazy".

That might be considered the understatement of the year.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tea Party stupidity, this time with the shutdown, is again Obama's best friend.

The anti-democratic, anti-American politics of Republican Tea Party conservatives in the House who shut down the government, the equivalent of  a mob of angry anarchistic malcontents politically fire bombing democratic institutions because the majority of Americans voted against them and they didn't like the outcome of the 2012 elections, has once again blown up in their faces, rescued Obama and turned him  into a sympathetic figure and the questionable value of Obamacare into a sympathetic program.

 Even the factual criticism of Obamacare displayed here, and the criticism leveled at Obama for selling out the public option has to be put aside for the moment since even the glitches on the insurance exchanges mean nothing compared to the political firebombing of our democratic institutions instigated by Ted Cruz and carried out by Tea Party House conservatives and what is clearly a weak and irresponsible Speaker in John Boehner.

All of which turns Obama and Obamacare into something sympathetic  even for its staunchest critics. There is a degree of logic at work here -- if these inept, incompetent right wing neo-fascist driven Tea Party conservatives are against something it has to have some good to it, right?

As  Tom Friedman pointed out in his column in the Times, Obama is no longer defending Obamacare, he is defending and standing up for democracy itself and  the democratic institutions that elect representatives and pass laws based on majority rule. The shut down as Friedman pointed out, is the result of a minority trying to trample on the rights of the majority, not caring what the majority wants or voted for but who are trying to get what they couldnt get in an election and do it by extortion. That is fascism and can be spotted a mile away since it is always predicated on what's on page 1 of the Fascist Handbook -- The Big Lie.

Republicans and conservatives have told many lies during the healthcare debate, (yes Democrats too) and gutless journalists like Chuck Todd at MSNBC and David Gregory at NBC,  people who have thrown into a dumpster the idea of the public's right to know and need to know, have admitted that pointing out Republican lies is not their job. They are not alone. Which is one reason why the American people are so badly informed and why any politician feels emboldened to go on any news program and lie with impunity knowing they can get away it and there will be no consequences.

The Big Lie being told now during the shut down by Ted Cruz and other Tea Party members of the House is that they are sticking up and speaking for the American people. Which is the biggest lie they could tell. The are not. The American people spoke for themselves during the 2012 election when Obamacare was one of the central issues in the presidential campaign, and the Tea Party and their beliefs as well as their candidate  who opposed Obamacare was beaten in one of the biggest electoral landslides in history. What they are really doing is ignoring what the American people said they want, showing their disdain for the American people and democracy itself and the whole idea of elections by trying to substitute their own minority wishes by extortion and not caring that they are punishing millions. And John Boehner is aiding and abetting.

At some point Obamacare will be judged solely on its merits. For now, its the Republicans and more specifically the anti-democracy, anti-American falsely named dunderheads known as Tea Party conservatives and John Boehner who are being judged on their merits. And considering they don't have any, Republicans everywhere, even those running for local  and state wide offices since no one in the House is up for re-election,  could find themselves in deep water if voters decide to take out their displeasure with the Republicans on election day this November 5.

And though Obamacare itself, as shown here previously has real major problems and major flaws, leave it to the Tea Party to once again pull the rug out from under Republicans and save Obama's bacon by making any criticism of Obamacare by any Republican now or possibly in the future stained by the government shut down and as such, dismissed as lunatic partisan politics with no credibility. If any criticism of Obamacare is to have an effect in the future it will  probably have to come from the left.

With even conventional Republican conservatives like Rep. Peter King of New York going after Ted Cruz and  harshly attacking him, and with Republican senator Olympia Snowe saying "this isn't the party I joined",  the Tea Party continues to severely damage Republicans, the country, and at the same time rescues Obama and Obamacare from even it's  harshest critics like Howard Dean, since what the Tea Party Republicans have caused with their shutdown makes the flaws of Obamacare pale by comparison.

As long as Obama  and Democrats continue to hold their ground, not give an inch and watch the Tea Party wing of the House destroy themselves while they do untold damage to the Republican  party,what Ted Cruz, John Boehner and the House Tea Party Republicans have done and are trying to do will always overshadow the shortcomings of Obamacare.

They have also completely destroyed any leverage Republicans thought they might have had over the raising of the debt ceiling since any repeat of a government shutdown over the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling, any damage Tea Party Republicans do to the full faith and credit of the United States, any damage they do to the economy, will turn the entire Republican party into pariahs and probably reduce them to sawdust this coming election day and possibly for years. If the shutdown lasts any length of time, don't be surprised to see some moderate Republicans decide to defect to the Democratic party.

So in some ways Obama could actually thank the Tea Party for their stupidity, since it now leaves him holding all the cards, both when it comes to Obamacare, and in the near future over raising the debt ceiling.  One can only hope he knows it and doesn't throw away his hand.