My twenty years or so in computer programming may make me an elderly nerd. It doesn't make me an expert on all things IT. I lost count a long time ago of the number of folks who have asked me about one computer issue or another. I couldn't help them.
For one thing, information technology covers a lot of territory. I know somewhat less than nothing about what actually makes a computer operate. Very few programmers would be able to tell you much about the inner workings of hardware. I usually refer those whose PCs have been enveloped in some trauma to my loved one, who is A-Plus certified and a bit of a hardware genius.
Beyond that, the number of computer languages is a Tower of Babel, likely to fall on anyone who thinks they know even a fraction of everything.
Once, I was assigned to make some needed adjustments to a voice response system for a client company. Calls were not being routed fast enough to the right person. Menus were inadequate and callers were not being offered a quick way to an operator if they couldn't find their way through. I was warned that an unpleasant sales employee, a self-styled expert, liked to harass computer techs. I was promised there would be no problem if I was rude to the fellow, since everyone there considered him a bit of a jerk.
Sure enough, a guy swaggered on over while I was untangling previous work so I could solve whatever ailed their system. He began loudly berating my company, their choice of system platforms, the languages they used, the dumb technical people - like me - they would send to make adjustments. For a while, I just kept working. But he kept getting louder. People looked up from their desks at the commotion.
Finally, I looked up. "Come on over," I said. "Let me show you something." He sauntered over to the work station. I pointed to the screen. "This blinking light is what we call ..." I slowed down and slowly enunciated, "... the cursor." I explained that the cursor told us where in the system of files we were looking. I began to explain what files were and how directories were organized.
He got fidgety and finally could stand it no longer. He interrupted me. "You don't need to tell me all that! I happen to be kind of an expert in computers." The number of onlookers had multiplied by then. Some of them looked a little uncomfortable at the behavior of the loudmouth.
I feigned embarrassment. "On gosh, I'm sorry. I hope you realize there's absolutely nothing you've said that would have led me to believe that." The office broke into cheers.
There is still some internet related programming I haven't forgotten. But I know more back end data related stuff.
I have to confess I was kind of surprised at the initial debacle of Obamacare. The website was, apparently, ill-constructed. The volume was greater than expected, not so much because of the instant popularity of the program, but because of the number of states, governed by Republicans, that turned down incentives for setting up their own enrollment systems. Stress testing on the federal system was apparently inadequate.
From what I have read, the geniuses who ran the information systems providing strategic data to the 2012 Obama campaign - I do wish I had been part of THAT - were kept from participating in setting up Obamacare. Appearance of impropriety was the fear, I'd guess.
Too bad. Those who are willing to think Obama is a hybrid of Bozo the Clown and Attila the Hun don't hesitate to accuse Bozo the Hun of corruption, with evidence they themselves pretty much invent.
The newest CNN poll seems to indicate that Obamacare is very unpopular, unless you look more closely. About 40 percent like the new law just fine. 58 percent are opposed to Obamacare. So that's bad for Obamacare, right?
But 14 percent who say they don't like it also say it's because it doesn't go far enough. Grouping those who hate Obamacare in with those who say there isn't enough Obamacare in Obamacare seems a little off base. If you do the right thing and add those who say it should do more with those who like it the way it is, you're at 54 percent. By some coincidence, that 54 percent happens to match the number who think the technical problems will eventually get worked out.
Younger, more technologically experienced people are the most optimistic about the web problems. Just 25 percent of younger voters have doubts about the technology.
For me, the real news is the debate itself. Various myths about Obamacare have begun fading. Death panels are widely ridiculed. Those who care enough about deficits to pay attention know that the program improves health care while reducing costs. Budget deficits will be lowered by the law.
In the good old days, Republicans opposed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for largely philosophical reasons. The debate was about the legitimate role of government in ensuring reasonable care for the common good. Heady stuff.
After getting past the silly interpretations we've been hearing since President Obama adopted Mitt Romney's program from Massachusetts, we have now arrived at the end point.
Scandals surrounding Benghazi, IRS, and various bureaucratic inevitabilities have been examined and exhausted and appear to be Republican contrivances. Investigations into Obamacare are conducted by people who blink with non-comprehension at the news that comment lines exist.
Republicans are pinning all of their hopes on the continuing failure of a website. Their latest accusation is that President Obama is inadequately technical.
Let's begin with Rush Limbaugh, because ... why not?
Let’s say, let’s take 10 people in a room and they’re a group. And the room is made up of six men and four women. OK? The group has a rule that the men cannot rape the women. The group also has a rule that says any rule that will be changed must require six votes, of the 10, to change the rule.
- Rush Limbaugh, November 22, 2013
Well, that was interesting.
Actually, Rush was making a point. His thought experiment had to do with the recent change to the filibuster rule of the United States Senate. That was the rule that used to be invoked whenever a few Senators felt so strongly about an issue, where the majority was against them, that they were willing to keep any vote from happening.
Mostly, in the past, that happened whenever the topic was some law against segregation, or even against the custom in some sections of the country of decorating tree limbs with black folks who might want to do something outrageous, like vote - or drink from the wrong water fountain.
The rule allowed any Senator to talk endlessly, holding up Senate business, unless a lot more than a majority of Senators voted to end debate and vote on whatever it was. Well, that's what it used to mean. A while back, Senators decided on a couple of changes.
The first was the number of Senators needed to end a filibuster was reduced. For a long, long time it was 67 votes. But in 1975, a proposal to change the rule to 60 votes was introduced. Naturally, it was filibustered.
Nelson Rockefeller was Vice President in 1975. He kept refusing to recognize Senators who wanted to filibuster against changing the filibuster rule. When he was challenged on it, he read from the Senate rules. "It says right here in the precedents of the Senate, 'The Chair may decline to respond; the chair may decline to answer a parliamentary inquiry.'" So Senators brought up points of order and motions to table other motions to table. It was a horrible tangle.
Finally, a deal was reached. A filibuster could be stopped by 60 votes. Yay! In return, Vice President Rockefeller apologized to the Senate for being such a jerk as to violate hallowed customs in order to make it easier to pass civil rights laws. Sorry about that.
Senators also did something they thought was brilliant. If a Senator wanted to filibuster, they would move on to the next item, bypassing any actual talking. That way, other Senate business could be conducted without waiting for obstructing Senators to get tired of standing.
That also made it really convenient to conduct a filibuster. Think of it as a sort of microwave of obstruction. Saves everyone from having to perform all that institutional cooking. "I announce my intention to talk endlessly for many hours about this bill that the majority wants to pass." - "No need for all that, Senator. We'll just move on to something else." - "Okay. In that case, I'll sit around and enjoy a cigar."
When President Obama took office, Republicans met just after the Inaugural Address to decide how to destroy him. No kidding. That's what they did.
They began filibustering pretty much everything more important than naming Post Offices. Democrats retaliated with harsh looks and furtive gestures. Amazingly, Republicans were undeterred.
So Democrats got tough. They threatened to "go nuclear" and end the filibuster. Republicans said that was scary and promised only to filibuster if they ever got really really mad. So Democrats, impressed by this new, reasonable approach, said okay and told everyone that Senate tradition had been preserved. They did briefly wonder why Republicans were giggling joyfully and highfiving.
Then, Republicans announced they would refuse to confirm any judges to one of the District Courts no matter who was nominated. Just because.
They explained that they were not breaking their word, because they had had their fingers crossed plus they were really really mad about pretty much everything.
So Democrats decided, at long last, to end the filibuster. HaHaHa, just kidding.
They would end the filibuster for any and all administrative judicial appointments. HaHaHa, got you again.
They didn't end filibusters for ALL judicial appointments. Only those not having to do with the Supreme Court. Pretty tough, these Democrats.
So conservatives are hopping mad. . . Okay, that part is pretty much same as before. They remain hopping mad.
Rush does have a recurring obsession with all things sexual: calling individual women sluts, suggesting that those who use birth control (except for aspirin) are prostitutes, apparently thinking that contraceptive prescriptions must be increased with more sexual activity, wondering if there is a Planned Parenthood conspiracy to reduce effectiveness of morning-after pills for women wearing more than size 2 clothes. That sort of thing.
If you can get past that, he does have a point about majoritarianism. Some things should be opposed regardless of whether a majority is in favor. Things about basic rights.
For example, voting rights should be safeguarded, even if most folks are okay with making it harder for minorities to vote. Gay rights should not be circumvented, even in locations where most people are anti-gay. If a majority of voters in my neighborhood decide that everyone must contribute to religion, I would be opposed, even if the funding would flow to the house of worship I attend. A Nevada assemblyman kicked up some dust by telling supporters that he would vote for slavery if his constituents wanted it.
Point is, or should be, that basic rights are inalienable. The rights can be abridged. They can be voted down, shouted down, put down by majority vote, or oppressed by the sheer force of bigotry. But they are still rights, even as they are violated.
"You know what? We're going to change the rule. Now all we need is five." And well, "you can't do that." "Yes we are. We're the majority. We're changing the rule."
- Rush Limbaugh, November 22, 2013
Freedom from rape is a basic right. Obstructing pretty much everything that requires Senate action is not.
Now, if Rush Limbaugh could find it in his heart to apply his anti-majoritarian logic to gay rights, we might get somewhere.
A month before last year's election, employment numbers began to improve. There was a lot of talk that the reason for the drop was the number of people taking part time work. Initial data seemed to back that up.
A few on the ragged edge of conservatism saw it as a conspiracy.
Jack Welch tweeted:
Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers.
Several months later, the tone was softer, but the message was the same. This time, the job distortion was not so much a conspiracy as the result of subconscious desires and unintentional actions.
When the government unions and the government employees are in subjective jobs, no matter how decent the people are — let's assume they are all perfect — their biases have to come through.
Even now, Rick Santelli maintains the jobs report back then might still be a fake:
You know, there's a lot of reports out that the census group that's involved in phone surveys, which are part of the household survey, which determines the unemployment rate, well, some of those may have been fake.
I never saw the point. If some voter somewhere cast a vote based on the monthly report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it would have been a phenomenon of rarity. People are influenced by the economy. But voting is based on personal experience and direct contact.
All the spin in the world won't affect how people view their economic condition or that of friends and relatives. "Uncle Harry just lost his job, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the rate of unemployment just went down by 3/10's of 1 percent. I think I'll vote for the Democrat."
The conservative theory of skewed polling never made a lot of sense to me. I did not see how voters would be swayed by those polls. "Vote for me because polling data indicates you will vote for me." I don't see it. In fact, all that conservative effort seems to have hurt Republicans. The Mitt Romney campaign made strategic decisions on the basis of inaccurate information.
The latest news that spin can't spin for long is Obamacare.
Most folks don't see any change in their insurance. All we're seeing now is news stories about people forced to give up coverage they want to keep. Initially, those who looked behind the news all thought those stories were an exaggerated account of 3 percent of the population. Now that actual numbers are being surveyed, it looks like the stories are actually an exaggerated account involving 6/10 of 1 percent of the population.
But not many are looking through the tall weeds. The most visible evidence, the Obamacare website, is the object of late night jokes.
All the huff-and-puff about Obamacare has an effect now.
It won't in a few months.
If the Obamacare site is up and working, and people are shopping about because they have to, and they end up saving money on a better deal, all the stories and spin in the opposite direction will be swept away. In fact, some with group coverage are already getting refunds.
If the Obamacare site is still a bust, and people can't even get to a better deal, all the stories and spin in favor of Obamacare will look kind of foolish.
The dice are rolling, the coin is in the air, door number one is already chosen, the national decision has been made.
Predictions will not matter. What actually happens will.
So maybe all that's left is to wait and see?
It isn't easy to develop an intelligent view on the debate about Iran without stumbling into the tall weeds.
One of the magic numbers is 225. Another is 19.75. If Iran had 225 kilograms of Uranium enriched to a level of 19.75 percent, it could make a nuclear weapon. A year ago, the Institute for Science and International Security (pdf) was warning that Iran could, with some effort, produce just enough enriched uranium for a weapon by this year.
So there is some concern. Iran's leadership expressed unfriendly enough intentions toward Israel to make nuclear weapons something we ought to keep out of fanatic hands. As far as I know, the NRA has not expressed an opinion. I'm not sure I want to know whether outlawing nuclear weapons would mean only outlaws would have them. But then, I also want to keep assault rifles away from grade school kids, so what do I know?
Not every nuclear facility can produce that level of enrichment. In fact, as long as plutonium is not involved, everyone seems pretty sure mushroom clouds will not be possible.
But Iran has a reactor in Arak that can produce plutonium as a byproduct. This level of concern is technically known as yikes!
The United States and about every ally put a lot of sanctions into effect a few years ago. This has pretty much decimated the Iranian economy.
Iran's old President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seemed to have a bad case of tourette syndrome when it came to Israel. His hobby was shaking his fist and making ambiguous threats. "When I said they should be destroyed, I wasn't saying that WE were thinking of doing that." He never said that, but every other day something close to that would streak across the heavens. As long as his fists would never hold weapons grade nuclear material, he was just a nuisance. "Good old Mahmoud. What a character!" But nobody wanted him to get close to what glows in the dark, therefore the sanctions.
The new President is Hassan Rouhani. Hassan doesn't shake fists. He shakes hands. He campaigned on a platform of finding a way out of sanctions.
Those sanctions are pretty tough. Assets seized, bank accounts frozen, supplies cut off, boycotts of oil, and so on. Oil is a big deal. It's the main thing Iran produces that can get income into the country.
Talks have been going on for a while. Iran wants to continue a nuclear program to produce electricity. That would free up oil for export and get more income in. They agree to pull away from any plutonium, and to promise not to enrich any uranium to weapons grade levels. And they agree to enough inspectors to make sure they don't cheat.
The United States and its allies seem okay with that, at least enough to end some sanctions and release some bank accounts for medical and other emergency-type supplies. An end to other sanctions and asset seizures would not happen until those promises are kept and verified.
Does all of that make for a good deal? I dunno. Deciding that is what we elect Presidents and hire Secretaries of State to determine. Lots of experts are on hand.
The main argument against any agreement, as it is articulated in the press, is that we are dealing with Iran. Remember Ayatollah Khomeini? How about those hostages?
How should we trust people who kidnap diplomats?
The answer is we don't. We don't make arms treaties, nuclear or otherwise, with those we trust. We made treaties with the old Soviet Union back during the cold war. And we set up verification systems because we didn't trust them. They didn't trust us either, that's because they were paranoid. How could anyone not trust President Nixon?
But we don't make such treaties with Great Britain or Canada. That's because we trust them. No need for treaties between friends.
If we are not willing to lift any sanctions in exchange for anything at all, then Iran has no reason for giving up on weapons development. Things are bad if they develop weapons. Things are bad if they don't. No difference.
Lack of trust is not a reason to oppose a treaty. It is the only reason to have a treaty. Whether there is a treaty should depend on whether each step is positive, whether there is enough in sanctions left to force progress, and whether there is enough verification so they can't cheat.
Most of us lack the knowledge to guess whether a prospective agreement with Iran will be a good deal. More specifically, you could fit what I know of nuclear science into a mosquito and still have room for all the compassion in the heart of Dick Cheney.
But I can sometimes recognize a really bad argument. Lack of trust is one of the dumbest.
The Social Security program is facing serious problems. At some point, the fund will run out of money. Estimates vary. 2023, 2021, 2040 something. One economist says the date is ... well ... now.
Republican legislators have a plan for dealing with it. Representative Paul Ryan has put forward another plan. It is politically risky. It involves reducing costs.
Ryan and his colleagues should be commended for their courage. Not every politician would be willing to tell retirees that their benefits will be slashed.
At the Budget Conference Committee last month, Representative Ryan outlined Republican concerns.
Ten thousand baby-boomers are retiring every day. Health-care costs are rising. Medicare and Social Security are going broke. The Congressional Budget Office says if we don’t act, we’ll have a debt crisis. And if that happens, the most vulnerable will suffer first and worst. This debt weighs down our economy even today. But right now, we’re not doing much about it. We can’t kick the can down the road anymore. We’ve got to get a handle on our debt—now.
- Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), October 30, 2013
One way to meet the shortfall is for us to pay for it. But Representative Ryan points out that enough is enough. "And from my perspective, taking more from hardworking families just isn’t the answer. I know my Republican colleagues feel the same way."
The elderly will simply have to realize that their free ride is over. They will have to sacrifice. There are ways to accomplish this. They boil down to two. The age of eligibility can be raised. It's 67 now, for full benefits. Or benefits can be cut. As Paul Ryan has pointed out in the past, it is time for seniors to begin to act unselfishly for the benefit of all.
Over the long term, the problem can be met by increasing revenues another way. "The way to raise revenue is to grow the economy. We need to write a tax code that encourages economic growth-not stifles it." This means tax cuts for job creators.
So cutting back on benefits for senior citizens and cutting taxes for the wealthy will save Social Security.
Social Security went for many decades without this crisis. So how did this happen to us now?
Some point to increases in life expectancy. That is good news with unhappy financial consequence, right? Well, not really. In fact, most of the increase in life expectancy comes from reducing infant mortality. For seniors, the rise in life expectancy is modest. So life expectancy is not the problem. It is part of the answer. In twenty or twenty five years, those infants will be contributing to the Social Security fund.
Actually, Paul Ryan is onto something when he ascribes the problem to baby-boomers. In almost every demographic chart of age groups, we see a gigantic moving bulge beginning right after World War II, when lusty members of the greatest generation came home from defeating the Nazis and immediately produced babies. The 1950s were filled with millions of Beavers and Wallys. Cleavers were everywhere.
That giant bulge looks like a python having swallowed some prey, not an entirely comfortable Rorschach response, but there it is. The thing about that sort of bulge is that it has a beginning and an end. The baby boomer issue is temporary.
The dramatic description of Social Security running out can lead to draconian solutions to a short term problem.
Analogies will be the death of our economy. Bumper sticker economic theories are the province of deficit scolds. "Government should tighten its belt like families have to when times are tough." In fact, economists have learned over the past 80 years that deficits are a very good thing during hard economic times, as long as the money are repaid during times of prosperity. Kind of like the Clinton surplus.
But here is an analogy that might be more useful to describe a short term problem. Imagine your family car breaks down. Well, you have to get a new one so you can get to work. But your spouse throws a fit. If we buy a car every week, we'll go broke. We have to stop it right now. No cars! Period.
There are a couple of solutions for projected Social Security shortfall. One uses a simple fact. The Social Security payroll tax next year will only be paid for the first $117,000 of income. That pretty much is all of the income for most of us. If you make a higher amount, you still max out on paying taxes on the first $117,000.
If we raise that level by a substantial amount, and increase the future benefit accordingly, the bulge in benefits is overcome by a bulge in income. Problem solved.
The issue would also be solved by immediately increasing the number of workers. Life expectancy for infants will take too long. So how can we increase the number of working people? If you're thinking immigration you might conclude that a lot of our problems might disappear by taking less of a horse's south end approach to other people.
Problem solved. Again.
Immigration also tends to grow the economy.
So. Let's review, shall we?
The problem is a short term problem caused by a demographic bulge that will eventually disappear.
The problem could be solved by increasing the income level covered by Social Security.
- The problem could also be solved by increasing immigration, with a happy side effect of boosting the economy.
So why all the controversy?
It could be those facts are outside the view of conservatives who are in jerry rigged control of the House of Representatives. It's possible.
We must discourage cynicism. So it pains me to have to say this.
It could also be that slashing benefits for the elderly while cutting taxes for the wealthy are not the pathway to a goal. They are the goal.
Why can't this work?
I want to be clear not to endorse this. And it's definitely not a replacement for HealthCare.gov. But a few guys out in San Francisco have put together something called thehealthsherpa.com, which really quickly tells you what policies are available in your area, what subsidies you are entitled to based on your income and who to call or what site to go to buy the actual coverage.
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Public Information to the Public: Find Your Health Plan Now
Why is this not a larger part of the solution?
From CNBC, back in July:
Call it Obamacare 2.0.
The federal government has signed five landmark deals that set the stage for major Web insurance markeplaces to enroll potentially millions of people in Obamacare, CNBC learned late Wednesday.
Those deals, experts have said, could dramatically boost enrollment in those marketplaces and help keep premium costs low
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Cheney on Clinton, Benghazi - "What difference does it make" (2:24) - Click for Podcast
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Tritely Trite Thoughts about the Amazing Richard Cohen (8:26) - Click for Podcast
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New Data and the Need to Push Employment Up (6:20) - Click for Podcast
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Video and brief transcript
from Dan Amira, New York Magazine:
The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health-care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there's more competition, there's less tort reform threat, there's less trajectory of the cost increases, and those plans have been proposed over and over again. And what thwarts those plans? It's the far left. It's President Obama and his supporters who will not allow the Republicans to usher in free market, patient-centered, doctor-patient relationship links to reform health care.
- Sarah Palin, on Today Show, November 11, 2013
At last. A fair summary of the Republican Health Care alternative.
It took a while for the video to make the rounds. A Republican Assemblyman from Nevada told a room of supporters that he would vote for slavery if that is what his constituents wanted.
A couple of weeks ago, as the news went viral, state officials of both parties condemned the statement. Slavery? Are we really relitigating slavery?
The point the Assemblyman was making is central to a built in tension in representative democracy. To what extent is he, as an an elected official, obligated to follow the wishes of those who elected him? How far does conscience and morality play a role?
The position Assemblyman Jim Wheeler was taking was at the very end of the curve: anyone elected to a position of responsibility must follow the wishes of constituents with exactitude. "I'd have to hold my nose and I'd have to bite my tongue and they'd probably have to hold a gun to my head," but he would follow that simple ethic.
To a lesser extent, the conflict within the Republican party is about that ethic.
Moderates want to expand acceptability of conservatism by appealing to a broader electorate. They want conservatism, embodied as it is in themselves, to win at the ballot box. The are moderate only in the tactics they are willing to use, and in their willingness to negotiate with those they see as the enemy. On basic values, there is very little compromise in the Republican Party.
Those committed to the movement alone want principle followed with fidelity. They see any compromise as the moral equivalent of making comfortable deals with slavery. Within their narrow view of the world, they have a point. On some issues, compromise simply is not a moral option.
That is not to say that Democrats are never faced with a similar tension. It is, after all, a built in struggle, an essential part of self-government.
For Democrats, the tension has less to do with social values. Gay rights, voting rights, commitment to a social safety net, an obligation to commitments made to veterans, retirees, to the future of economic underpinnings, to the general welfare are all issues that have a common core. Political leaders and those who vote for them have a shared consensus. Tactics are not, for the most part, subject to dispute.
The esoteric parts of policy are a different matter. Hand wringing over how to fit economic reality on a bumper sticker has resulted in policy that seems politically centered. It is in this area that we have little choice but to assign research and understanding to those we hire to represent us. And they have an obligation to educate themselves and apply the results intelligently.
The bumper sticker says that government should tighten budgets in hard times, just as a family does. And, to some extent, Democrats have made moves in that direction. Deficit scolds have dominated public debate. Politicians respond to what makes sense to constituents. That is a bad move economically and politically.
The economic reality is a tough fit for car bumpers. Deficits are healthy during harsh economic times. Balance should be achieved during times of prosperity.
In Europe, the austerity movement has been severe. In the United States, an appeal to economic needs has relied on compassion. Austerity has been more moderate here.
The recent research summit of the International Monetary Fund produced what the actual data, measurements and causality, tell us is the verdict that reality has rendered. The major study (pdf) that pretty much stunned the assembly had some really bad news:
Austerity has not only hurt each economy that has tried it during economic downturn. It has hurt future capacity for economic growth.
The harm to economy has been widely known and was pretty much expected. Balanced government budgets during hard times is a really dumb idea. Deficits are good until economies are healthy and running a full capacity. That when we should pay back those deficits.
That was the approach that produced a good economy during the Clinton presidency. Deficits produced a good economy. A good economy produced a surplus. The administration wanted to use the surplus to pay down the debt.
Sadly, the opposite strategy was introduced by President Bush. Nothing was paid back during good times. The surplus disappeared in tax cuts. As bad times came, Republicans have advocated austerity. Democrats have gone along - moderately, of course.
The Obama administration began by introducing a massive stimulus. Democrats pushed for a more moderate approach. Bumper sticker economics had to be accommodated. So a more moderate stimulus was adopted. Later, a moderate austerity became policy.
The new study, sponsored by and submitted to the IMF, contained the bad news. The economy of Europe, and the global economy, had been hard hit by austerity moves. This was expected. Austerity during hard times hurts any economy and most citizens who are unlucky enough to depend on those economies. Economy recovers, but does not recover to capacity, in the face of austerity.
What was stunning was that economic capacity itself has been going down as a result of austerity. The future ability to grow has reduced. This has affected the United States as well. Not as much harm was done here, but our future ability to grow has been hurt.
One of several ironies abound. Those politicians seeking a safe middle ground, an economic policy calculated to be less alarming to voters, put themselves in more political risk. Off year elections are the most vulnerable times. The backdrop for the 2010 Tea Party success was economic recovery hampered by policy moderation. Unemployment was the key.
Americans do have opinions about the type of drill that might produce a quarter inch hole. But in the end, they are less interested the drill than in the quarter inch hole.
The politically smart move for Democrats was and is maximum employment policies, before that maximum gets even lower.
One to One to One on the Approaching Republican Demise (8:12) - Click for Podcast
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Obama Overreach - Why Republicans Hate Obamacare (5:53) - Click for Podcast
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Kaiser Permanente’s decision to cancel the insurance policies of lifelong Democrats Lee Hammack and JoEllen Brothers generated a flood of interest yesterday. The couple, supporters of President Obama, may have to spend twice as much next year for a health insurance plan that has fewer benefits than the plan they have.
Kaiser explained to them, and to me, that their plan didn’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and therefore had to be canceled. But how could it be, many readers wondered, that the seemingly inferior plan offered for next year met the requirements of the act while the richer one they currently have does not?
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You have to allow politicians a bit of leeway on the facts, I suppose.
It was really hard during the 2012 election. Mitt Romney went so far beyond the usual level of the data equivalent of Tammany Hall's "honest graft" his staff began to tell reporters the campaign had no obligation at all to tell the truth.
Amazingly, one instance actually cost him votes in Ohio and Michigan. Remember the ad that said that work on one major car model was being transferred to China and that US workers would be fired? Romney knew that to be untrue, but the ad kept airing. Problem was, voters paid enough attention to the resulting uproar to realize it was a deliberate falsehood.
That Romney thought he could get away with that behavior forever was understandable. Americans have a sort of lazy cynicism toward politicians. That leads to a low threshold. One example after another of sudden reversals in position had been accompanied by denials that there was any reversal at all. Flip flop? What flip flop?
He survived an entire primary season with stretches of truth that left his opponents gasping. Each one was a Burger King Whopper, the sort it takes two hands to handle. Why would he consider changing in the general election?
A year after the election he joins the Republican chorus, accusing the President of lying, being off by 3% from his you-can-keep-your-doctor-and-your-insurance statements. Apparently, in promising the federal government would not take away your insurance, Obama was also promising nothing would change ever.
The President seemed to be relying on the grandfathering of existing policies for the first years. They wouldn't have to change. But Republicans say he was also promising that insurance companies themselves would not change insurance policies. No word on whether the President was also promising that no medical people would ever retire.
There’s no question in my mind that had the President been truthful and told the American people that millions would lose their insurance and millions more would see their premiums skyrocket ... had he told them that at the time it was going through Washington there would have been such a hue and cry against it, it would not have passed.
- Mitt Romney, Meet the Press, November 3, 2013
It is refreshing to see the same Republicans who voted to end Medicaid for 14 million people (pdf - page 2) get an acute attack of concern for those who do not want their Insurance Corporations to start switching insurance policies on them. Compassion is good for the soul.
It's a bit awkward for Mitt Romney to join in the criticism. Every time he does, Romneycare is brought up. It's like the primaries, then the election, all over again. How dreary. Meet the Press was no exception.
During the election campaign, Romney usually answered with a tautology. That was Massachusetts, not the entire United States (Duh). It's a series of lines that has been smoothed over by years of practice. So he answered David Gregory's question:
First of all, the Massachusetts experience was a state-run plan. The right way to deal with healthcare reform is not to have a one-size-fits-all plan that’s imposed on all the states, but recognizing the differences between different states and their populations. States should be able to craft their own plans to get all their citizens insured and to make sure that pre-existing conditions are covered.
- Mitt Romney, Meet the Press, November 3, 2013
It's a strange sort of argument. That was there, this is here. The Massachusetts program was in Massachusetts. This is in other states. That one was Romneycare, this one is Obamacare. Massachusetts is closer to the Atlantic than most of the country. I was a Governor. He is President. My last name has more letters.
One size fits all? No wonder Mitt liked Massachusetts. The people were all just the right height. Michigan comes in second. It only has the right height in trees.
In fact, it isn't the state, it's the decade that has changed. Conservatives at the Heritage Foundation invented Obamacare. Mitt Romney implemented it in Massachusetts to a round of Republican praise. You see, President Obama was only Obama back then..
On Meet the Press, David Gregory kept bringing up Mitt Romney's previous video clips, urging that the Massachusetts plan ought to be applied to all states.
Personal accountability was once the value that Romney used as an applause line with Republican groups. Those who encounter medical catastrophe either have insurance or they go bankrupt and leave the bills to the rest of us. The best thing, he said in those days, is to require everyone to have enough coverage to handle whatever comes up.
But accountability has since been overcome by a more profound concern.
The basic argument that has turned Republicans against the plan invented by conservatives, the plan implemented in Massachusetts, the plan applauded as the conservative alternative to ClintonCare in the 1990s, is that Republicans have had a change of heart about requiring people to do what they don't want to do.
Making it against the law to NOT do something may have been okayed by the Supreme Court. But that doesn't make it fair.
It's about time we admit Republicans have a point.
It is all so typical of Obama overreach, a pattern repeated over and over again since he became President.
Obama has made it against the law for Republicans not to hate the plan they once supported.
Thoughts on the Assemblyman Who Would Vote for Slavery (6:57) - Click for Podcast
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In Response to Burr Deming's Obamacare and Cancelled Coverage
Enterprising journalists have researched a few of those cases. Some of those who are deprived of their former coverage have been contacted for reviews of their coverage. Turns out some granular details did not find their way into original interviews.
In each case, less expensive coverage, or superior coverage, or both was available. Republican tales and some television interviews also left out subsidies designed to help meet the cost.
- Burr Deming, October 31, 2013
The Obama administration is losing the "information war" here. Perhaps it hopes that everything will work itself out once the federal website is fixed. At the moment, however, the public doesn't understand the main features of the law, their purpose, or their connection to cost and quality of care. At the same time, politicians and pundits from the opposition are all too willing to misinform or lie about it, just as they have for years.
From reading hundreds or thousands of comments on articles about the law, I am finding that many people:
Either do not know about the tax credits or simply assume that they are only for the poor,
Take "You can keep your doctor" and "You can keep your plan if you like it" to mean "Nothing will ever change for any reason",
See the mandate as not just an abuse of power, but an arbitrary one; they do not understand its connection to people with pre-existing conditions and irresponsible users of health care who lack insurance,
Do not understand how insurance in general works or why they have to pay for new coverage that they will not use (e.g. pediatric care for the childless, women's preventive services for men),
- Do not understand that businesses with fewer than 51 employees are not forced to offer insurance.
There is also talk of death panels still as well as faux scandals like the one about HIPAA compliance and commented-out lines about privacy, but these five stand out to me. I would argue that the first is the worst because cost and quality of insurance are the public's primary concerns and the tax credits are essential to keeping insurance affordable. President Obama needs to stress their existence, importance, and relevance to the average American who will use an exchange.
Ryan is a frequent and generous contributor. He also writes for his own site where information and reason overwhelm any ignorance that dares appear. Please visit Secular Ethics.