Policy makers in Washington who debate continuously about the deficit seem often to forget those who want to work, who look for work, who are desperate for work, but who remain unemployed.
But another unfortunate aspect of the recession we are now ever so slowly crawling out from under is the number of people who really want to retire, but who continue to work because they have to. Sometimes this is because they no longer have enough banked away, financial wizards on Wall Street having figured out how to prosper while gambling away the money of small investors.
Just as often, it is because of employer provided health care. You see, a lot of folks really depend on the health insurance they get through work. If they retire, health insurance will become prohibitively expensive. Lots of folks work because they have to. These folks specifically work just to keep health care.
When Social Security was enacted in 1935, conservatives insisted it would increase unemployment. That is because employers would be so outraged, they would turn away customers rather than hire enough employees to provide goods and services. But it turned out that Social Security enabled elderly workers to retire, and this made it a bit easier for other workers to get jobs. A social safety net can work wonders.
Would something similar happen if a rational system of health care was provided in the United States? It turns out it would. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office crunched the numbers and found that 800,000 workers would retire (pdf) in the next ten years because they could afford to retire, if they didn't have to continue working just to get insurance. That's 800,000 more workers than would otherwise retire. That's 800,000 more available jobs for those who need to find work.
The expansion of Medicaid and the availability of subsidies through the exchanges will effectively increase beneficiaries’ financial resources. Those additional resources will encourage some people to work fewer hours or to withdraw from the labor market...
Changes to the insurance market, including provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people because of preexisting conditions and that restrict how much prices can vary with an individual’s age or health status, will increase the appeal of health insurance plans offered outside the workplace for older workers. As a result, some older workers will choose to retire earlier than they otherwise would.
In fact, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf testified directly about the drop in workers. Fewer workers would be employed, he said, because more workers would finally be able to stop working and still have health coverage. Just like with Social Security during the Great Depression. 800,000 more retirees is not a lot when you consider the number of employees lining up to get those jobs. But every bit of good news counts, right?
The news was good, right up until conservatives started doing with policy what Andrew Breitbart did to Shirley Sherrod. A snippet of the testimony about 800,000 fewer workers was portrayed as 800,000 fewer jobs. The tiny video went viral, then hit major conservative publications.
The Weekly Standard's headline was "CBO Director Says Obamacare Would Reduce Employment By 800,000 Workers". The National Review followed suit. Bloggers and Congressional Republicans gleefully circulated the false information.
Even our own conservative contributor and friend, T. Paine, was taken in:
For starters, even the Director of the non-partisan CBO, Dr. Douglas Elmendorf admitted that Obamacare would end up costing 800,000 jobs by 2021 (video). One doesn’t help reduce health care costs very effectively by eliminating 800K jobs.
Although we are sure Mr. Paine will condemn the misinformation that fooled him and others, we don't expect any similar moves from those conservatives with a lesser standard of ethics.
When advocates of a viewpoint must continually falsify information, deliberately misleading in order to make their case, the casual observer might be forgiven for thinking the case itself is bogus. If hit-and-run conservatives had a valid point to make, they would be willing to do it honestly.
As a Republican state senator who secretly recorded conversations for the FBI testified Thursday that he couldn’t explain why he called black customers of a casino "aborigines," Alabama’s Democrat leader called for his resignation and the Republican Party chairman defended his reputation.
A developing scandal illustrates the difficulty in conducting honest debate on public policy. A recent survey showed a phenomenal number of employers planning to drop health insurance for employees as a result of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The study, published by the McKinsey consulting group, was stunning. About 30% of employers said they would stop providing insurance coverage for employees. Workers would be on their own. The effect was the direct opposite of the intent of the new act.
How could this be? It's not a completely rhetorical question. When new studies are published, whether polls or surveys or economic impact analysis, the methodology is published along with it.
This includes how a selection of subjects is made. If a study shows a disproportionate number of Democrats or Republicans, for example, explanations are in order. If an ethnic group is overrepresented or absent, it raises more questions. The questions themselves are subject to examination.
Are "educational" statements included? "Are you in favor or opposed to raising the Federal debt ceiling?" might bring a different result than "Many economists say failure to raise the Federal debt ceiling will bring on another Great Depression. Are you in favor or opposed to raising the Federal debt ceiling?"
What about the questions themselves? Fox News is kind of famous for skewed questions. One involved a possible parliamentary procedure to bypass endless filibusters:
Does the ‘Reconciliation’ Gambit Make You Angry?
- Yes. This is outrageous! They’re using rules to bypass the clear voice of the people – payback in November, guys.
- Not sure, but if they have to resort to rules loopholes to pass a law, doesn’t that indicate that a lot of people oppose it?
- No. Look, we need health care reform and we need it now. Let’s get started, even if it means using a rules loophole.
- Other (post a comment)
The study showing employers ready to drop insurance coverage was more than startling. It went in the face of a widely accepted premise, that employers would be more likely to provide coverage, and that the coverage they provided would be at a higher level, as costs dropped. And then things got dicey. Reporters asked for routine background data, data that is always provided and always studied in detail.
Who was surveyed? Were there regional biases? For example were businesses disproportionately surveyed in the South or West or North? McKinsey and Company would not answer the question.
Were companies of a particular size over or underrepresented? McKinsey said it was confidential information.
What specific questions were asked? McKinsey would not say. The list went on and on. What percentage of those asked to respond actually answered? How was the study conducted: In person, by telephone, by internet? What sort of followup effort was made to ensure a random sample? McKinsey refused to answer even the most routine, the most basic, questions.
Enterprising reporters found a key phrase in what little information was released. The questions (whatever they were) that were asked of respondents (whomever they were) were preceded by "educational" information. Respondents were first "educated" about health care, then asked to answer questions about the information they had been given.
Interest in these alternatives rises with increasing awareness of reform, and our survey educated respondents about its implications for their companies and employees before they were asked about post-2014 strategies.
So what were the educational statements? McKinsey would not allow reporters to know. The study was authored by three McKinsey employees. They were kept away, unavailable for even the briefest of comments.
McKinsey conducts a lot of surveys. It's how they make their living. This was the very first survey ever released by the group that did not include such information. The questioning, and the doubts, became widespread. Then the attacks began. They were vicious, and involved the very legitimacy of the firm. These harsh critics were in the firm itself. High ranking members of upper management within the McKinsey group were screaming angrily about integrity and legitimacy.
But multiple sources both within and outside the firm tell TPM the survey was not conducted using McKinsey's typical, meticulous methodology. Indeed, the article the firm published was not intended to give the subject matter the same authoritative treatment as more thorough studies on the same topic -- particularly those conducted by numerous think tanks, and the Congressional Budget Office, which came to the opposite conclusion. And that's created a clamor within the firm at high levels to set the record straight.
Of course, that does not keep conservatives from quoting the survey as if it is credible. FoxNews, Forbes, the Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal are among them. They are joined by countless conservative bloggers. Even our own conservative contributor, the talented T. Paine, was taken in.
Contrast this with the reaction when polls were produced by a company hired by liberal DailyKos which were highly favorable to liberals. The pollster was fired by DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas personally when the results became suspect. This happened so early that nobody outside the DailyKos suspected anything was wrong until the announcement was made.
We can take seriously those who make up their minds based on facts. We should be suspicious of those who make up facts based on their opinions. We should be more than suspicious of those who quote discredited studies after they are known to be suspect.
MaggotyMaggie... Your rank..but have not become so foul that I am compelled to ignore you...my ignore is reserved for those who rely on slander of the loved ones of a chatter because they are so lacking in substance that that is how they think they compensate...they only demean and dishonor themselves, or porn pushers and those that try to defend them via taking a last ditch stand to defend the indefensable by going to the before mentioned slurs against family.
Ya want my ignore ya know the conditions...feel free to dishonor yourself further at anytime in that manner and I will indeed oblige you
Gosh, Robby. You used to be so sweat to Maggies and everyone else. Like a kindly old civil serpent, Maybe a male man. You were the epitaph of a gentleman. You were at the pinochle of your form. Now, I am sorry to say, you seem resolved to decline. Every particle enjoins you. Still, your physiognomy is so grammatical Why are you so pertorbitted? You seem highstrung, almost hydrostatical. Please tell us every perpendicular.
In reply to Burr Deming's
Helping a Conservative Into Health Care Reality
Mr. Deming, I applaud your grand effort in putting forth your data and arguments in the defense of this government-mandated monstrosity, even though I find some of your points are inaccurate or irrelevant, my friend.
First, let’s start by addressing the issues of health care cost. You claim that Democrats want to reduce costs. While that would seem to be a given, one then wonders why the plan they enacted is doing, and will continue to do just the opposite. For starters, even the Director of the non-partisan CBO, Dr. Douglas Elmendorf admitted that Obamacare would end up costing 800,000 jobs by 2021 (video). One doesn’t help reduce health care costs very effectively by eliminating 800K jobs. Indeed, I think it is reasonable to assume that a significant percentage of these good folks will have to become reliant on tax-payer help for their healthcare once their employers kick them to the curb in this economy. Higher demand without the ability for one to pay creates higher costs.
Further, as per this Wall Street Journal article,
In a study last year, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, estimated that an additional 35 million workers would be moved out of employer plans and into subsidized coverage, and that this would add about $1 trillion to the total cost of the president's health law over the next decade. McKinsey's survey implies that the cost to taxpayers could be significantly more.
The McKinsey study, How US health care reform will affect employee benefits, predicts that employers will either drop coverage altogether, offer defined contributions for insurance, or offer coverage only to certain employees. The study concludes that 30% of employers overall will definitely or probably stop offering health insurance to their workers. However, among employers with a high awareness of the health-reform law, this proportion increases to more than 50%.
Indeed, one top Senatorial aide stated in a moment of candor last year after the passing of Obamacare that, “This is a coverage bill, not a cost reduction bill.” David Bowen, former health staff director of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is one of the Obamacare authors to admit the bill could be a time-bomb.
Continuing onward, Mr. Deming, the implication of your statements that I am incorrect regarding Obamacare hurting insurance companies in the long run and doctors overall is, well… incorrect. Indeed, initially Obamacare will be a great boon to insurance companies since everyone will be mandated by un-Constitutional law to purchase health insurance or face fines. But, as the loss in jobs and the costs of providing health care by employers continues to rise, more people will be unable to afford them and thus have to go to a government-sponsored/subsidized health plan as their only remaining option. Fewer and fewer clients available for private sector insurers will eventually put them out of business, which really was the Democrats’ plan all along.
As for an increase in costs for doctors, well, the results of that can be seen in Medicare reimbursements today. This problem will only become more exacerbated with Obamacare. Indeed my own primary care doctor and cardiologist have both spoken to me of their having to cease taking any more Medicare patients because their costs aren’t covered by the reimbursements. While my case may be anecdotal, it appears that this phenomena is undeniable for more and more physicians. Indeed, as per this article in Money:
Dr. Edward Kornel, a neurosurgeon based in White Plains, N.Y., stopped seeing Medicare patients two years ago. Two colleagues in his group practice have joined him in dropping Medicare patients over the past six months. Kornel, who's been in practice for 27 years, said he had always accepted Medicare patients in the past. "But when I looked at my income from reimbursements, I was losing money every time I took care of a Medicare patient," said Kornel. "It wasn't covering my costs." While Medicare patients accounted for about 20% of his total patient load, they were generating less than 5% of his income. "I would have had to do 300 operations in one year just to break even," he said.
The Massachusetts Medical Society framed the debate about the shrinking reimbursements to doctors and the devastating impact it will have on health care providers.
Next, Mr. Deming, you drift off course in gallant defense of the indefensible Nancy Pelosi. While I did not explicitly state that she was responsible for 20% of the Obamacare waivers awarded in the last go around to businesses in her district, I understand that is the implication of my statement. And while you found articles to back your assertion of her feigned innocence, I found others that stick to the notion that something was rotten in the city by the bay. See here for one of many such articles.
Despite all of that nonsense, the point of my argument really had nothing to do with the semblance of Pelosi cronyism anyway, but was rather this; if this Obamacare Act is so terrific, why is there even a need for all of these waivers and why did Congress exempt itself from the dictates of the law?
Next, my friend, you give a brilliant defense of the supposed constitutionality of the Obamacare Act by citing George Washington and the forming of the revolutionary era militias. The differences here are stark. First, at the outset of hostilities for our independence from Mother Britain, there was not yet a constitution drafted, let alone implemented, thereby rendering the constitutionality argument useless. Second, as the continental army was nearly non-existent in the number of regular troops serving, the extreme need for the assistance of state militias was vital to our victory. The regulars of the continental army were even disbanded at the signing of the Treaty of Paris that concluded our war of independence. In other words, the United States did not have a standing army at that point. The fact of the matter is that the requirement that any able-bodied male own a firearm was critical to our even becoming a nation with the formation of those vital state militias. Without the militias we would have failed. The over-riding need to provide for the common defense in the birth of our nation is hardly on par with mandating that I must buy health care today. The comparison is absolutely silly, my friend.
The tired argument that every Obamacare supporter cites of the state requiring one to buy auto insurance also does not pass muster. One can choose not to drive if one wishes or can opt for other forms of transportation from bicycles to taxis to public transportation. It is my understanding that residents of some metropolitan areas such as New York City have grown elderly and have never learned to drive accordingly.
The fact is that they have a choice. It is a choice I am not afforded with the pernicious Obamacare Act. The fact that I am alive and draw breath means that I must purchase health insurance under penalty of law otherwise. I guess suicide would be the only way one could “opt out” here.
Next, NOWHERE in the Constitution is the authority granted to the federal government to provide social security or health care. I understand that these have been adjudicated differently, but that doesn’t make them any more constitutionally or morally correct than was the Dred Scott decision. Indeed ALL of those items that are not specifically addressed and stipulated in the United States Constitution are by the law of the land reserved to the States or to the people themselves. See the Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights for a reference.
Either we are to be a nation of laws and abide by what I believe is an inspired document in the Constitution, or we will continue to circumvent, distort, and pervert it to fit our own desires since we don’t seem to ever have the necessary strength of numbers and political courage these days to amend it, if it truly was warranted.
Finally, the $500 Billion removed from Medicare by the Democrats wasn’t due to cutting “wastefulness”. When has that EVER been an issue to congress, let alone Democrats in congress?
Back on March 4th of this year, During a hearing on Capitol Hill, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, admitted to double-counting that $500 billion in the Obamacare budget.
The text of the questioning of Secretary Sebelius by Congressman Shimkus of Illinois follows:
“There is an issue here on the budget because your own actuary has said you can’t double-count,” said Shimkus. “You can’t count — they’re attacking Medicare on the CR when their bill, your law, cut $500 billion from Medicare.”
He continued: “Then you’re also using the same $500 billion to what? Say your funding health care. Your own actuary says you can’t do both. […] What’s the $500 billion in cuts for? Preserving Medicare or funding the health-care law?” Sebelius’ reply? “Both.”
In other words, the cutting of the $500 billion from Medicare wasn’t due to good stewardship by the Democrats to cut waste. It was so that they could begin funding the un-Constitutional Obamacare Act.
I could find many other facts and figures to further decimate your argument my friend, but as you pointed out, I really am quite busy, and besides, I think the preceding information does a sufficient job of that already, sir.
I will admit though, you have taught me that I cannot simply just spout an opinion and “phone one in”. You indeed make me take my time, think critically, and get my fact duckies all in a row. I will endeavor to do so going forward in order that I don’t have to spend so much time on the back-end of a debate rebutting what may appear at first glance to be a losing position due to your excellent writing and framing of the debate, despite the fact that in the final analysis, you are still wrong, my friend!
Note: May be inappropriate for children
In reply to Burr Deming's
Social Security Joins Medicare on GOP Chopping Block
The best reason for, if not discontinuing Social Security in its current guise altogether, then at least letting younger workers choose to "opt out" of it, is that the system doesn't work worth a dang.
A vast majority of folks that are relying solely on Social Security for the retirement, are going to be living well under the poverty level.
Instead of looking to the government to be the solution to each and every one of our problems, why don't we look to ourselves, our families, and our communities first to help out when needed?
Why don't we begin preparing for our retirement by even putting aside $20 a paycheck when we first get that minimum wage job in high school?
Instead, we covet those dollars of the evil rich and expect others to take care of us when we know we should have been taking care of ourselves from the beginning. The ever-growing entitlement mentality in this country will ultimately be the final nail in the coffin of liberty.
Republicans have been hostile toward Medicare ever since the program was created in 1965. Social Security has been targeted off and on for longer than most retirees have been alive.
Republican attacks on Social Security were mostly tactical back in 1935. It would create more unemployment. The idea was that employer contributions would reduce profits, drive employers berserk, and make them turn away business rather than keep employees to provide goods and services to customers wanting to buy. The obvious counter-argument was that a strong retirement safety net would encourage older workers to retire, thus providing openings to others who needed a chance. Constitutional objections also were furiously hurled, but the Supreme Court shot those objections down in 1937. The program was constitutional.
But everyone knew that the real core objection Republicans had, the seething antagonism close to the heart, was a hatred of any government solution. Oh there was an element of self-interest, to be sure. Wealthy owners of mega-factories were loath to being forced to pay more than they had to. That's why they hated unions. But the ideological animus toward government was the soul of the opposition.
Widespread acceptance of the program made opposition suicidal. When you've got politicians by the votes, their hearts and minds, even of conservatives, just might follow. For a time. In fact, the single greatest expansion of Social Security was proposed, initiated, and pushed through by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Farmers, farm workers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, preachers and others were brought in.
A strict application, let us say, of economic theory, at least as taught by Adam Smith, would be, ‘Let these people take care of themselves; during their active life they are supposed to save enough to take care of themselves.’
In this modern industry, dependent as we are on mass production, and so on, we create conditions where that is no longer possible for everybody. So the active part of the population has to take care of all the population, and if they haven’t been able during the course of their active life to save up enough money, we have these systems.
- - President Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 17, 1953
The opposition to the program was briefly revived when President George W. Bush listened to conservatives and proposed privatization in 2005. Republicans were pretty much crushed in the next election. So the matter is settled, right?
Not so much.
Never underestimate the tenacity of conservative ideologues. 10 days ago, Republicans introduced a bill to make Social Security voluntary and privatized. The ostensible purpose is to defend the system. Sound familiar? Senator Pete Sessions (R-TX) proposed two reasons for backing the end of Social Security as we know it. First, the program lost money this year. Second, the national debt needs to be reduced.
Our nation's Social Security Trust Fund is depleting at an alarming rate, and failure to implement immediate reforms endangers the ability of Americans to plan for their retirement with the options and certainty they deserve.
To simply maintain the status quo would weaken American competitiveness by adding more unsustainable debt and insolvent entitlements to our economy when we can least afford it.
The Social Security deficit is slight, easily handled by increasing the coverage to include higher income people. In fact, the problem is demographic, caused by the huge bump in population called the baby boom. After those of us of a certain age range are carried off by our own rapture, the issue will vanish on its own.
But then, for Republicans, solvency and the national debt have never been the real problem with Social Security.