What is so frightening about Obamacare that Republicans are willing to shut government, crash the economy and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States forever?
Obamacare is more damaging to America “than anything I’ve seen pass in my lifetime," declared Jim DeMint - the guy who resigned from the Senate to run The Heritage Foundation which has put millions of dollars into campaign to distort and destroy public opinion of Obamacare,
Now it was the Heritage Foundation that originally came up with the model that is the basis for Obamacare, a model which preserves the private, for-profit insurance companies as a layer of cost and a gatekeeper between you and your doctor, instead of a single-payer system (Medicare for all) that Democrats favored. And of course, Obamacare replicates the Romney plan that has been successful in Massachusetts, insuring 99 percent of the people. So what's the problem?
First, that Americans will actually like Obamacare and not want to give it up. Also, that the success of Obamacare will lead people to trust that Government in the right hands, can actually do go (OMG, is renewable energy next? tax reform? public education funding? infrastructure investment????).
What is more, Obamacare breaks the dependency of workers on their employer for their health insurance (like serfdom), and their great fear that if they leave their job, they will lose health insurance for their entire family. But if you aren't a prisoner to your employer, you can demand higher wages and better conditions. Or you can go off and start your own business. You won't be so vulnerable to a boss sending a letter around before an election "vote for my candidate [as was done on behalf of Romney 2012] or we will be forced to lay off workers." That also goes for spouses afraid to leave abusive relationships for fear of losing health insurance.
What really has Republicans peeved about Obamacare, though, is free contraception for women, which Republicans have equated with the breakdown of family and society. In fact, in the dead of night, House Republicans added last-minute language into the shut down bill that would limit your access to contraception. This so-called "conscience clause" would allow an employer or an insurance company to opt out of preventive care for women, such as birth control. But at its heart, giving a woman control over how many children she has is key to her empowerment, her financial emancipation.
And finally, health care - and how it drains resources from a family - is also key to economic and political power. Health care is not just a HUGE profit-making sector for CEOs who pocket a billion dollars (think about how many health procedures have been nixed to pay that), but living without health insurance increases health and financial insecurity. Half of all personal bankruptcies are related to health emergencies; a single medical emergency can wipe out a lifetime of savings and the prospect for college, a home, retirement. You can't be very politically active if you are fighting disease, suffering in pain or misery, or if you are watching the suffering of your child, spouse, or parent. Health care is such a big-out-of-pocket expense, it is a big, big reason why there is such a income gap between the 1% and everyone else. And that income gap is also a power gap.
What else do Republicans and the One Percenters fear? They fear that there will be 30 million more people in doctors' offices and they might have to wait for care because we don't produce enough doctors. In fact the ACA - for the first time - also addresses incentives for training of doctors and nurses and opening new clinics - something that is desperately needed anyway. In fact, we already face a crisis of care, with the aging Baby Boomers (there is only one geriatric doctor per 8500 people over 65), we will soon be faced with a crisis regardless.
And despite the criticisms to the contrary, ACA also begins to address the obscene cost of health care - mainly by transparency, competition, mechanisms to foster "best practices" and shift payment incentives from more procedures and visits to successful treatment, and a focus on prevention, wellness and early treatment, including more treatment of mental illness.
But what they fear most is that Obamacare will lead to single-payer or a public option (how is that bad?).
Finally, the anti-Obamacare fanatics have made the claim that Affordable Health Care will somehow hurt the budget deficit. But last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the health care law would add more than $100 billion to the deficit over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the following decade.
What is disgusting about the campaign against Obamacare is that the only way to combat the arguments for Obamacare are to lie.
Some 60% of Americans say they are not aware of Obamacare - an interesting statistic since 54%, supposedly, do not support Obamacare (it turns out that two thirds of the 54% who say they do not favor Obamacare say it did not go far enough and would have preferred the single-payer, Medicare-for-all option; and 60% say they do not want Obamacare repealed or defunded).
The lack of understanding of Obamacare is understandable since the media has focused on the tactics and the Congressional jousting (to the death!), while HUNDREDS of millions of dollars have been poured into anti-Obamacare campaigns.
Right now, you have the Koch Brothers funding one of their shady groups with the patriotic name, Generation Opportunity, spending $750,000 to convince young people to opt out" of Obamacare and pay a fine rather than actually purchase health care (because they are invincible, after all) - using an image of a creepy Uncle Sam doing a vaginal probe of a pretty young blond woman. You might have thought it was an ad against the Republican Governors who have actually signed legislation that puts Government inside women's vaginas when they seek reproductive health care.
But nooooo, this is intended to scare young people with the message 'Opt Out of Obamacare," so they don't sign on to health insurance. Is it that young people will never get sick, never have babies, never get hit by a car or crash their mountain bike, and never get bankrupted when the medical bills come? Of course not. Their aim is to reduce the size of the pool, particularly of young, presumably healthy people, to put a monkey-wrench into the cost savings that Obamacare is based on: the wide pool lowers the cost for everyone.
Then Conservatives will be able to say "I told you so. Obamacare is not bringing down insurance premiums for everyone."
Meanwhile Republican governors like Rick Scott of Florida are putting barricades in the way of "navigators" who want to help people enroll.
Remember how upset Republicans were about IRS officials doing their job in seeing if political organizations qualified for SEC. 4 exemption? Now Darryl Issa's Government Oversight committee is demanding 1000 pages of paperwork from these organizations given federal grants to be navigators.
And they lie. Remember death panels? Now Congressman Michelle Bachmann is saying that the IRS will exert its power to withhold medical care to political opponents of the administration (Washington Post branded her absurd claim "Four Pinocchios").
"So now we find out these people are making decisions based on our politics and beliefs, and they’re going to be in charge of our health care. There’s a huge national database that’s being created right now. Your health care, my health care, all the Fox viewers health care, their personal, intimate, most close-to-the-vest secrets will be in that database, and the IRS is in charge of that database? So the IRS will have the ability potentially ...to deny health care, to deny access, to delay health care,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said on Fox News, May 15, 2013)
They also lie and distort the issue of the mandate, probably the most controversial pieces of Obamacare.
But the mandate isn't scary or onerous at all. Beginning Jan 1, 2014, all Americans will be "mandated" to have health insurance or pay a fine (which turns out to be a ridiculous low amount). The 85% of Americans who already have health insurance already comply so are not at all affected, do not have to change anything, will keep the doctors that their plan administrators have decided are the ones you can use.
But since just about everybody requires medical treatment in their lifetime, we taxpayers have already been paying the "fine" or tax for those without insurance, amounting to $1000 built into the insurance premium, because we subsidize the emergency rooms (and how does that have anything to do with treatment after the initial emergency especially for chronic and long-term illness?)
Plus, there is a generous subsidy program - something that Republican opponents have perversely said they favor, even though this is the government cost part of the plan: if you're purchasing individual insurance and you earn less than $45,000 per year (or a family of four that earns less than $94,000), you could be eligible for financial assistance to help pay for health insurance. That also applies to people who currently buy their own health insurance, so nearly half of them will be eligible as well.
As we have pointed out, Obamacare is essentially the Republican plan, and it has nothing to do with this "noble" quest to keep down the budget deficit, since the deficit is falling faster than any time in 60 years, is half of what it was when Obama came to office, and since repealing Obamacare would actually add $100 billion to the deficit over10 years, and $1 trillion in the next decade.
So there is more to the opposition merely to Obamacare, as the latest list of extortionist "demands" from the Radical Republicans makes clear: Now, to appease this minority of anti-government Tea Party fanatics they are now demanding that Obama not just delay implementation of health care, but also approve construction of the Keystone Pipeline, overhaul the tax code to favor the millionaires, more offshore oil and gas production and energy exploration on federal lands.
Also, in a growing list are demands to roll back regulations on coal ash, block new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas production, eliminate a $23 billion fund to ensure the orderly dissolution of failed major banks, eliminate mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limit medical malpractice lawsuits and increase means testing for Medicare, among other provisions.
(Why stop there? Why not also demand that the 2012 election be reversed and Obama step aside for Romney?)
There seems a common theme: all of the demands impact health care - the demand to increase fossil fuels and eliminate regulations of pollution and emissions, eliminate redress for medical malpractice, and at the same time, continue to shift wealth to the wealthiest - making Americans sicker, poorer and more powerless.
"The bottom line, though, is do we want to continue to live in a society where we've got the most inefficient health care system on Earth, leaving millions of people exposed to the possibilities that they could lose everything because they get sick?" President Obama told President Clinton during a conversation on health care at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative. "Or we've got little children and families going to the emergency room once a week because they've got asthma and other preventable diseases, because their families aren't linked up with a primary care physician who is providing them regular care? Where the costs to society for reduced productivity, illnesses, et cetera, all burden our businesses? Is that the kind of society we aspire to?
"And I think the answer is no. And the notion that we would resist, or at least some would resist as fiercely as they have, make this their number-one agenda, perpetuating a system in which millions of people across the country, hardworking Americans don't have access to health care I think is wrong," he said.
But now the Republicans are using Obamacare - and this reasonable approach to solving the health care crisis while addressing the budget deficit - in order to organize what amounts to a coup and disposing a democratically elected majority (Obama was reelected with 5 million more votes than Romney, and more Democratic votes were cast for Congress than Republican votes.)
They may have expropriated the name Tea Party after the colonials who challenged British rule, but these rebels are far from noble. The Republicans have made it clear they intend to use this hostage-taking tactic - as Grover Norquist put it, keeping Obama on a monthly "leash" - over and over again. It has cost jobs, hurt retirement savings, prolonged economic suffering and cut off any mobility. In effect, they intend to destroy the democratic principles of this country, just as they seek to destroy government. Sounds like treason to me.
President Obama cannot negotiate with hostage takers, because this practice is happening over and over. Those that would defeat Obama and his agenda have settled on this tactic because they haven't yet had the grounds to mount an impeachment.
Obama needs to restore the democratic principles. In fact, Congress is in violation of the Constitution - the 14th amendment - which requires the Congress to pay its debts. Obama could invoke it himself, but that will trigger the impeachment process that the Tea Partyers have been salivating for. Instead, the President should sue Congress for violating its oath, and bring the suit to the Supreme Court, which despite the Republican activists (they were Unitary Executive proponents during the Bush regime) who have been dedicated to shifting power from the people to corporations while claiming to be "originalists," have to take the language of the Constitution:
"The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."
Case closed. Get on with it.
"I’m not going to start setting a precedent not just for me, but for future Presidents where one chamber in Congress can basically say each time there needs to be a vote to make sure Treasury pays its bills, we’re not going to sign it unless our particular hobbyhorse gets advanced," Obama said
"Imagine if you had a Republican President and a Democratic Speaker, and the Democratic Speaker said, well, we’re not going to pass a debt ceiling unless we raise corporate taxes by 40 percent; or unless we pass background checks on guns; or whatever other list of agenda items Democrats were interested in. Does anybody actually think that we would be hearing from Republicans that that was acceptable behavior?
"That's not how our constitutional system is designed. We are not going to do it. The American people have worked too hard to recover from a bunch of crises -- several of them now over the last couple of years inflicted by some of the same folks in Congress that we’re talking about now -- to see extremists in Congress cause another crisis.....
"And that's why we’ve got to break this cycle. My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time. Pay our bills on time. Refocus on the everyday concerns of the American people.
"There will be differences between Democrats and Republicans. We can have all kinds of conversations about how to resolve those differences. There will be areas where we can work together. There will be areas where we disagree. But do not threaten to burn the house down simply because you haven’t gotten 100 percent of your way. That's not how our democracy is supposed to work.
"Every day that this goes on is another day that we’re not focused on doing what we need to be focused on, which is rebuilding this great country of ours so that our middle class is growing and everybody has got opportunity if they're willing to work hard. That's what I’m focused on. That's what Congress should be focused on as well."
The President has to break this cycle of hostage taking. Don't give in. Don't give up. And by the way, he should raise the stakes so that there is some penalty. Because all of this drama isn't just harming the economy and having real impact on the incomes and livelihood and opportunities for every American, but every day they are consumed with this they are not dealing with other vital issues: climate change, immigration reform, gun violence prevention, infrastructure.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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