Archives for: June 2011, 13
Responding to T. Paine's Medicare Conservative Style is Still Better
Mr. Paine cheerfully acknowledges that he has not had time to consider actual facts, at least about the GOP plan to terminate Medicare, before forming the conservative opinions he expresses. A more informed opinion may be "coming sometime next week." Until then, Mr. Paine is reduced to a lesser level of factual knowledge. His more reality based analysis, due this week, will be an amazing document, backed by incredible bravery and a staggering intellect. Both are already demonstrated by his willingness to take on the mammoth task of defending contemporary conservatism.
Mr. Paine is amused at the "assertion that the Democrats want to reduce costs," he says. "I do not see, however, how the Affordable Health Care Act accomplishes this though." Mr. Paine, as he points out, is a very busy man, and so he has little time for green eye shade stuff. Fortunately, this has been done for him by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, research that has also been verified by independent analysis.
Knowing his time constraints, we had previously provided links to that research, here and here. So confident are Congressional Republicans that the Democratic plan will succeed in reducing costs, they claim similar provisions in their own program. They say their plan for privatized vouchers “transforms Medicare into a plan that’s very similar to the President’s own health care bill.” It doesn't, but the Republican claim itself should answer Mr. Paine. When he has time to bone up, he promises to respond in a more informed manner. The hope is these easily accessed links will help Mr. Paine switch his perspective to a reality based world.
In fact, in the unusual world Mr. Paine inhabits, insurance companies would be the main beneficiaries of Obamacare, while medical doctors would be hurt. His concerned about Medicare change is that "reimbursement of costs for those patients at best lets the doctors break even and at worst often times even fails to cover those costs." On the other hand, Democratic changes "will only help the insurance companies in the short term and then destroy our private insurance in the long run." Back out here in the real world, insurance companies fought to put out misinformation, opposing the changes Mr. Paine thinks would fill their coffers. Physicians, on the other hand, worked hard through their own group, the American Medical Association, to fight in favor of the exact plan Mr. Paine opposes out of concern for them. If you have pdf capabilities, you may want to click the AMA letter of endorsement to find out why.
Mr Paine asks "why is there the need for the Obama administration to continue to offer hundreds and hundreds of waivers to unions, large corporations, and lots of businesses in Pelosi’s congressional district to exempt them from having to comply with this egregious law?" He has made the same claim on his own site. Having the time he lacks, we researched it and answered him here. It turns out that one health care administrator applied for a ton of waivers all at once. The company is owned by a Republican who is usually hostile to Democrats and was responding to a local health ordinance. Pelosi had nothing to do with it.
Mr. Paine has raised constitutional objections before. We answered him, then referred him to those who had taken the time to research the question thoroughly. Still, he courageously repeats the same point, bravely ignoring the withering fire that pokes holes in his armor. "If the federal government has the ability to dictate that American citizens MUST buy a product or service from a private business simply because of the fact that they draw breath, then where are the limitations on what the government can mandate? At this level and caliber, this truly is unconstitutional and unprecedented."
Not so fast, Mr. Paine. Possibly you should go into your marvelous Original-Intent-Time-Machine and confront President Washington. The idea of individual mandates was applied as early as the 18th century. In one case the purpose was to support state run militias, the sort provided for in the 2nd Amendment. Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the 1792 Militia Act. It required every person eligible to join, or be drafted into, such a militia to purchase at his own expense and have ready firearms. The individual mandate was considered so acceptable no argument against it was ever brought up. It continues in the present with such items as mandatory auto insurance and employer-paid safety equipment.
"As for your assertion that the Democrats’ cutting of $500 Billion helps save Medicare, well then I ask why stop there?" says Mr. Paine. "Why not cut a full $1 Trillion?" Well, let's see. The savings from ending the ADvantage Program, a subset of Medicare, only went up to half a trillion. That sub-program provided worse care, at a higher cost, with a documented portion much much higher than expected, going into corporate pockets. This was pretty well covered for Mr. Paine here. When he has more time, he will no doubt review it and become enlightened.
T. Paine does lapse into a rational viewpoint by agreeing that the heart and soul of the Republican budget plan should be cut out. He wants to terminate the tax breaks for the extremely wealthy that reduce the savings to zero - the savings that would otherwise be achieved by abandoning the elderly to a limited voucher privatization program. Republicans have vehemently refused similar suggestions in Congress, preferring to award all savings from eliminating Medicare to additional tax breaks for the wealthy. If Mr. Paine feels strongly about it, he should consider becoming a Democrat and working to unseat those whose tax position he opposes.
On the other hand, he cannot resist a related side point. He generously provides this additional wisdom apart from the killing of Medicare, presumably to be documented when he has time to educate himself. He says: "... it was recently reported that now 47% of Americans pay no net taxes." The Fox level reports to which Mr. Paine refers seem to have omitted payroll taxes, state taxes, local taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes, most of which fall disproportionately on those of lower incomes.
The thrust of such reports is valid only when confined to income taxes, and even then only when further restricted to federal income taxes. Having more time on our hands than the very busy Mr. Paine, we last dealt with this in December. In fact, the bogus report has been around for years, and keeps popping up, vampire like, in viral form. It is dealt with capably here.
Mr. Paine is a gentle man, and a friend. He writes private notes of appreciation at a creative bit of phrasing or congratulations for posts he finds to be especially thoughtful. He is also that relative rarity, a thoughtful conservative.
But he most recently illustrates the inherent difficulty posed by today's conservatism. In most of his posts, his point of departure from a reasonable point of view, which is to say my own, is philosophical. But when he is deprived of facts, when a lack of time forces him to voice opinions that have only an accidental relationship with reality, the resemblance becomes striking. He sounds remarkably like a Republican Congressional representative, or a Fox news personality, or some drunken blowhard at a neighborhood bar. Such is the condition of contemporary conservative thought.
But all is not lost. Soon T. Paine will complete the task of arming himself with facts, and all will be right once more.