Tag Archives: conservatives

Today’s Big Lie

Topping today’s fake news is the Republican mantra that Obamacare is failing and whatever faults their replacement plan may have, nothing can save Obamacare. Cited as evidence is a decrease in the number of insurance companies serving certain states. Aside from the obvious option of the federal government providing coverage as it does in Medicare, which no one mentions, is the quiet Republican sabotage that brought about this situation.

For the last seven years since the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) came into law, Republicans have not only claimed they had a better plan (when they obviously didn’t),  they have worked behind the scenes to gut key elements of the ACA. Now, disingenuously, they act as though they had nothing to do with the problems they cite as evidence of its failure.

If these were decent people, they wouldn’t be able to face themselves in the mirror. But extremists have never let a little basic human decency get in the way of their agenda.

Back in 2015, as the ACA took effect and more people were for the first time able to gain desperately needed medical care, Republicans saw that they would never be able to tear this coverage out of the hands of sick and dying people without suffering political blow-back. So with their midterm election wins giving them legislative authority, they eagerly set about gutting key elements of the ACA in a strategy meant to guarantee its failure.

The law had made provisions for early insurance company losses described in the bill as a ‘risk corridor.’ Expected to decreasingly occur as the bill’s mandatory enrollment requirements gradually built up the number of healthy insured persons, the risk corridor would eventually die off. In the interim, companies were guaranteed government reimbursement to cover such losses.

So in 2015, Senator Marco Rubio led an effort to gut the risk corridor provision. Slipped into a massive spending law late that year, their meddling cut the payments to insurance companies from $2.9 billion to around $400 million. This left insurance companies no choice but to begin withdrawing from low income/high illness states.

Now we hear Rubio, Ryan, et al crowing about how the ACA failed as if they had no hand in that failure.

It’s not that these men want to really hurt their less fortunate brothers. It’s that they worship only two gods—money and so-called conservative values.

As noted in an excellent discussion of the Republican conundrum about health care, “Republicans will not increase the role of government [in health care] for political and ideological reasons” which is why they cannot now or ever develop a plan that is better and cheaper than the ACA.

The conservative agenda is clearly stated as limited government, a healthy culture, and a strong defense. I’ll refrain from ranting about their idea of a healthy culture, code words for “White” and “Christian.”  Sticking to the topic of this post, I’ll point out that “limited government” does not include mandating health care or providing for health care in any way. Worshiping at the feet of so-called ‘free markets,’ conservatives want the sick left to die. If relatives, neighbors or churches don’t help them and they haven’t managed to make enough money to help themselves, then it’s their fault and God’s will that they suffer.

Limited government is a loosely applied term, however. If it comes to invading private homes to rout out pot smokers, conservative lawmakers are all about it. Yet if it comes to corporate polluters lying about profitable chemicals that cause birth defects and cancer, it’s hands off. This means government is limited only when it comes to policing entities that are too big for any citizen or group of citizens to fight alone and unlimited when it comes to bringing the full police powers of the state against individuals who violate conservative cultural norms.

In one tiny example of the absurdity of the health care debate currently underway is the fact that over half of Medicaid recipients are children under the age of six who have developmental disabilities. I blogged about this last week. While seeking to reduce or eliminate Medicaid that serves such children, the Republicans simultaneously are eliminating government oversight of chemical pollution from which many such disabled children arise.

If legislators had the real interests of the American people at heart, they would throw out their replacement plan and the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicare to the entire population. They would remove profiteering insurance companies from the mix. They would instill cost controls on drug companies and medical providers.

After all, if utilities are such a vital need that they deserve government price controls, surely health care is an even greater vital need.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that without insurance companies taking a healthy slice of every health care dollar, costs would go down. Or that there’s a screaming need for cost controls when pharmaceutical industry profits routinely equal the profits of banks at nearly 20%, some as high as 40%.

Drug companies are quick to cry how much they need all that money so they can develop new drugs. But reality is that despite investment in new drugs and abusive advertising campaigns, their profits exceed most other industries. With that kind of loose change, it’s no wonder that one of the heaviest contributors to political candidates are drug companies, coming in right after big banks and weapons manufacturers.

World’s largest pharmaceutical firms
Company Total revenue ($bn) R&D spend ($bn) Sales and marketing spend($bn) Profit ($bn) Profit margin (%)
Johnson & Johnson (US) 71.3 8.2 17.5 13.8 19
Novartis (Swiss) 58.8 9.9 14.6 9.2 16
Pfizer (US) 51.6 6.6 11.4 22.0 43
Hoffmann-La Roche (Swiss) 50.3 9.3 9.0 12.0 24
Sanofi (France) 44.4 6.3 9.1 8.5 11
Merck (US) 44.0 7.5 9.5 4.4 10
GSK (UK) 41.4 5.3 9.9 8.5 21
AstraZeneca (UK) 25.7 4.3 7.3 2.6 10
Eli Lilly (US) 23.1 5.5 5.7 4.7 20
AbbVie (US) 18.8 2.9 4.3 4.1 22
Source: GlobalData

In fact, if you take a look at the list of corporate donors to the 2016 campaign, you can pretty much determine the current legislative agenda: more military spending, Wall-Street friendly cabinet members, and no serious effort to provide for the health and well-being of the American people.

 

 

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Make America Great Again – What Does It Mean?

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Depends on who you ask.

If you ask a self-identified conservative, by definition that person will value the preservation of long-established traditions. The valuation of what was supersedes valuation of change, even in the face of problems that require change for resolution. Within this crowd, you’d likely find a few who don’t believe anyone has been to the moon.

The success of Trump in his presidential bid relied on his ability to push hot buttons on various conservative issues. His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” claimed America was no longer great due to changes wrought against the wishes of conservatives. He alone could fix it.

Still waiting for the how.

Progressives, on the other hand, see the slogan and his subsequent win as a threat to hard won changes that have addressed many of the nation’s problems over the last fifty years. Included in the hard won changes has been the end of the Cold War, which if Trump’s ham-fisted approach fails to lighten, could easily reignite.

None of which worries a majority of conservatives who see the threat of Armageddon as fulfillment of God’s promise. Bring it, they whisper in their prayers.

Meanwhile, it’s the mundane stuff keeping the conservatives foaming at the mouth. Take, for example, the issue of welfare. Conservatives would prefer to eliminate aid for parents with dependent children, food stamps, and other support programs for the poor. Except for their Uncle Bob who only has one eye and is dying of Hepatitis C. Uncle Bob needs a government handout because without it, the Christian shame of a kinsman dying on the street means Bob would have to move into the back bedroom.

Bob’s not the only one who can’t take care of himself. Government provides food, shelter stipends, and medical care (until the Affordable Care Act gets blasted into last year) for handicapped, terminally ill, and mentally ill citizens as well as parents of minor children earning less than poverty wage. All those slackers need to get a job!

Progressives have tried to deal with the real problems faced by their fellow man. For example, before 1960, persons with mental illness lived in institutional settings. Patients with depression or autism lived alongside persons with various psychoses, truly a ‘snake pit’ environment. Aided by the advent of new psychoactive drugs and outpatient counseling, sanitariums were closed and most patients were released to the general population.

The mentally ill weren’t the only ones who triggered massive welfare efforts. The aged had gained Social Security decades earlier, but it was the late 1960s before Medicare came into existence. Then there were the rest who’d previously been left to die in unheated shanties.

The ‘needy’ had always been among us. But from the late 19th century to World War II, the industrialization of agriculture caused more people to move from the countryside to cities. Previous support networks of families and neighbors and local churches were disconnected from those who needed their help. That along with a tremendous increase in population resulted in the present welfare system.

It’s not like progressives saw a vision of ever higher taxes to support an ever increasing horde of needy. Their solution has been to spend more money in addressing the roots of poverty and ignorance: better schools, one-on-one casework to determine needs, more job training programs, more and better preschool options, higher teacher salaries, and health care for every person.

It should go without saying that a person who is mentally or physically ill can’t work. But one of the fondest dreams of conservatives is to kill Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act.

There’s no apparent effort to connect the dots.

The conservative ‘great again’ solution is to cut programs. They envision a pastoral scene where neighbors care for neighbors and local churches hand out food baskets. They cling to their fantasy because it’s simple. It worked a hundred years ago, so it should work now. Of course they’re not eager to revert to outdoor toilets, kerosene lamps, and horse and buggy.

Nothing about the modern world and its problems is as simple as conservatives want to make it.

If you ask evangelical Christians, ‘great again’ means turning back the clock to a time when a woman could not terminate a pregnancy without risking her life. Evangelicals do not accept that women have the Constitutional and moral right to determine what happens inside their own bodies. For many conservatives, a woman’s use of any form of birth control is questionable. Women belong in the home, not in the workplace competing with men, coming home with perhaps a larger paycheck and the ability to pack up and leave if he doesn’t treat her right, and pregnancy helped keep her there.

In the conservative Christian view, granting women these rights did not solve problems but created them. The fact that over 5000 women died annually from illegal abortion doesn’t faze them—it’s the fetus that matters.

Progressives sought solutions to the outrage suffered by atheists, Jews, Muslims, and followers of other faiths forced to hear Christian prayers announced over the intercom as a resonant baritone voice intoned the supplication. Whether in government meetings or public buildings, Christian beliefs and imagery dominated. The solution seemed simple enough—allow no advocacy or public recognition of any specific religion in commonly shared venues. Nothing of this restrained an individual from praying silently or at home or places of worship.

This small step toward consideration for others infuriates those who want to force Christian beliefs upon the entire population and declare the United States a “Christian nation.” Never mind what it says in the Constitution. As Vice-President Elect Pence says, God comes before country.

Allahu Akbar, ya’ll!

For men and women who desire and love those of their own sex, progress means allowing them the same rights under the law as enjoyed by all American citizens. Legal challenges affirmed the right to privacy in matters involving with whom and how sexual relations might occur. They affirmed the legal rights of marriage, of employment and housing and commerce.

To the evangelical right, ‘great again’ means reclaiming a time when nobody talked about homosexuality and if they did, they whispered. To legitimize such perceived deviation by granting rights to homosexuals is a moral outrage. And now transgender? Bathrooms? For this segment of voters, blocking such ‘progress’ is a dictate from God Himself.

For many conservatives, making American great again means going back at least to the 1950s if not the 1850s when African Americans knew their place. And that place wasn’t at the lunch counter beside respectable whites. It wasn’t at school mixing with white children. It wasn’t in interracial marriages.

Make America Great Again! Go back to a time before we knew so much, before incomprehensible terms like ‘climate change’ didn’t haunt the daily news. This topic alone creates great unease among the segment of the nation’s voters who never understood—or in many cases never accepted—basic scientific principles.

Because government has been the vehicle by which social progress has been required of everyone, conservative hatred centers on government. Government, not the need to care for the poor, not the need for fair and equal education, not the rights to liberty and justice for all, is the reason they have to sit next to a Muslim on the airplane.

Enshrining ignorance as a value is yet another gift of the religious right. Blind faith in God working magic and sufficient prayer time means no personal responsibility to think or learn or take action. Just keep having babies and ignoring evidence that much of the world’s current ills derive from overpopulation.

Real life-threatening problems face the people of the world. Tearing up treaties and trade agreements doesn’t solve them. Ignoring science doesn’t solve them. Removing environmental regulations doesn’t solve them. But at no time in the campaign or now in his appointments has Trump described a single solution to a single problem. He has so little intellectual grasp of his newly-acquired responsibilities that he plans to spend weekends at his penthouse. Because in his world of delegating to underlings, being president is a 9-5, M-F occupation.

If that.

In this dark hour, progressives cling to a promise that has gained momentum since this nation was founded, that we as Americans value and strive for equal rights, welcome the downtrodden to our shores, and treat all humanity as our brothers and sisters.

It’s the Golden Rule conservatives have forgotten.

Progressive: making use of new ideas, findings, or opportunities. Liberal: given in a generous and openhanded way; broadminded, not bound by authoritarianism, embracing ideals of economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and institutional, political and administrative reforms.

Progress is forward—unless the future remains in the hands of conservatives.

First, We’re Democrats

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An emerging narrative from Bernie supporters alleges that the Baby Boomer generation ‘shit all over’ the younger folks and now it’s time for us to step out of the way. The militant rhetoric evidently serves as a potent recruiting tool. Too bad it’s completely bogus.

Yes, there are some of the Sixties generation who tuned in, turned on, and then made a U-turn in the middle of Main Street to become some of the greediest, most soulless people on the planet. But a few rotten apples did not spoil the whole barrel. The rest of us accomplished amazing things for which we have yet to receive any credit.

To you newbies dissing the Boomers, shut the f*** up and think about this: that yoga meditation that you enjoy? We brought you that. Your baby delivered by a midwife? We gave you that. Those organic salad greens you just bought at your local supermarket? Yeah, us.

The reason you male members of the Bernie True Believers haven’t been drafted and sent to the Middle East with a rifle in your hand is that we forced an end to the draft. We were the generation that lost nearly sixty thousand of our brothers and lovers in Vietnam and spilled our own blood in the streets to make it stop.

You female members of the Bernie True Believers are empowered to be out there on the streets with your political action groups largely because we burned our bras and filled university and government buildings with our sit-ins demanding equal pay and equal rights. We didn’t settle for an apron and dust mop. We elbowed our way into the mainstream.

We pushed our reproductive agenda and got a Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. We celebrated our freedom to choose with new technology like birth control pills, so that whatever child was born was a wanted child. We pushed aside the obstetricians with their convenient forceps deliveries and anesthetized mothers and birthed our babies into darkened rooms where the fathers were part of the experience. You were floated in warm baths and held to our breasts in a revolution of childbirth every bit as radical as any Bernie slogan.

We demanded clean food free of pesticides and additives and organized our own food cooperatives. We trucked in hard-to-find organic produce and flour. Many of us went back to the land to raise organic beef and grow our own gardens where our children could eat fresh peas straight off the vine.

We cast aside centuries of misogynist religion to embrace the greater spiritual power of the Universe. Did you think your yoga studio appeared out of the Fifties like Athena sprang from the forehead of Zeus? No—we traveled to India. We read the books. We followed the gurus in order to reframe our embrace of the Divine.

We shared our dorm rooms, our jobs, and our farms with gay men and lesbians, strenghtened their public arrival with our acceptance in spite of the brutality that they encountered in the rest of society. We opened our homes to African Americans and other minorities and joined in their protests. We saw all people as our kinsmen.

We are the reason you can access acupuncture and Asian medicine, holistic practitioners, therapeutic massage, and the proliferation of alternative medicines that spread before you today like a feast-laden table. We sought out health in a world filled with sickness, in world where ‘medicine’ fulfilled all we knew about healing.

We took our children to protests, meetings, and hearings. You played outside in the sunshine while we stuffed envelopes and called friends. We changed the world without social media or computers.

We sacrificed days, weeks, even years of our lives in the fight to save our forests and oceans, our waterways and air from pollution. We fought for the whales and the wolves. We wrote letters, stood in cold wind and glaring sun with our signs, took up residence in trees. The environmental protection you may take for granted came about because of us.

We had help from older generations. Some of them fought to the end just like us. We’re still fighting. Many Baby Boomers are active in Bernie’s campaign.

Whatever disconnect exists between what the Boomers accomplished and the platform from which you launch your tirade is not because the Boomers failed. The disconnect derives from the same power brokers who manipulate every new generation into following certain paths. We called it The Man, The Machine. Their message? If you want the new car, the nice house, all the toys, then you’ll toe the line. Pass the drug tests. Conform.

The history of any war is written by the victors. In the still-simmering culture wars, the corporations want you to see us as the enemy. You have to dig deep to uncover the fullness of what I’ve said here in a few words. You want to change the world? Join the club.

Just keep in mind that because Bernie says all the right things doesn’t mean he’ll lead you to victory. Maybe you’ve never heard about our work for McGovern, walking door to door, keeping faith that we could usher in a New Age. In 1968, we never saw Daly’s henchmen coming or the disaster that would befall the Democrats as a result of that convention. We didn’t anticipate the backlash, all the haters and religionists ready to answer the clarion call of the corporate machine. We invested our future in the hope and change promised by Democrats and watched in horror as Richard Nixon won two terms.

Maybe you never understood what happened to our next great hope, Jimmy Carter. It’s instructive to review how he lost to Ronald Reagan:

  • Carter later wrote that the most intense and mounting opposition to his policies came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which he attributed to Ted Kennedy’s ambition to replace him as president. Kennedy surprised his supporters by running a weak campaign, and Carter won most of the primaries and secured renomination. However, Kennedy had mobilized the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which gave Carter weak support in the fall election. (Wiki)

Or the loss of Al Gore not because George W. Bush was such a stunning candidate, but because the Democratic left wing blindly flew to support Ralph Nader and his pie in the sky oblivious to the very real possibility that by splitting the progressive vote, a Republican would win. Perhaps some of this language will sound familiar to Bernie fans:

  • Nader’s campaign rejected both parties as institutions dominated by corporate interests, stating that Al Gore and George W. Bush were “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” A long list of notable celebrities spoke [in his favor]. The campaign also had some prominent union help… (Wiki)

FYI, that could happen again. All the visceral emotion you’re feeling now about us, about Hillary as our ‘representative,’ you’re feeling that for more reasons than you may realize. For over two decades it’s been the Republican end game against a woman they’ve always known could be a successful president.

If their first-wave tactics work, you’ll bring Bernie a successful nomination. Then they’ll begin their second wave, this time against Bernie: Socialism. Higher Taxes. Universal Healthcare. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! In November, a Republican candidate will win.

You may live in a bubble where pot is legal, polyamory is accepted, and social progress is a straight line from here to there, but you haven’t faced the reality that 70% of the population still identifies as Christian. A third of those folks are evangelical, meaning they will show up and they will vote no matter what you do. They are the active force behind the Republicans, agitated and directed by the corporate money masters.

Your disdain for the Baby Boomers is the result of their careful plan. You like Bernie? So do I. Want to make him president? Go for it. Just keep in mind that if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, you’ll have a choice. If the Machine is successful, you’ll be so angry at the Boomer generation and Hillary in particular, you’ll not vote for anyone but Bernie.

By indulging your cleverly fomented rage and refusing to support a Democratic candidate other than Bernie, you will play right into the hands of the machine. Another Nixon-Reagan-Bush waits in the wings.

So cultivate your anger with knowledge. Wake up to the real history of the Boomer generation. We had big hopes too. But just because all our goals weren’t completely met doesn’t mean we’ve failed. We’ve moved the ball forward. We welcome you to the fight.

But don’t forget–we’re not the enemy.