Tuesday, March 28, 2017
|Delcan & Company; Photo by Al Drago/The New York Times|
I and others have been making the case that of the Congressional Republicans perhaps the biggest fraud is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. His hypocrisy is almost unlimited, especially as he claims to be a dutiful Catholic out of one side of his mouth while at the same time pushing policies that are abhorrent from the perspective of the Catholic Church's social gospel. For far too long, the media has give Ryan a pass on this breath taking hypocrisy. Worse yet, many journalists have acted as if Ryan is a serious thinker and a policy expert. The realty is that these images are empty and unsupported by objective facts. If Ryan is expert at anything, it is at devising ways to take from the poor and middle class while give to the wealthy and then openly lying about the horrific impact of his policies on average Americans. Thankfully, last week's American Health Care Act debacle may finally have the laudatory effect of showing the shallowness and cravenness - I would even argue moral bankruptcy - of Mr. Ryan. A main page editorial in the New York Times does a wonderful take down of Ryan. Here are highlights:
“Look, I’m a policy guy.” That was Paul Ryan’s line before last Friday, when the health care bill he designed in secret went down without a vote, his own party showing what they thought of his policy.
Time and again when he was asked about President Trump’s attacks on immigrants or the courts, his ties to Russia or his claims of massive election fraud, the speaker of the House would say he was too busy working on his agenda, “A Better Way,” to think about all that nasty stuff.
That Mr. Ryan failed on the policy promise that Republicans have been running on for eight years makes it clear that if he is the policy wonk of the Republican Party, then the Republican Party has no policy. And with a health care plan that would have stripped 24 million Americans of basic care and drastically hiked premiums for people over 60, it seems that they don’t much care what Americans need or want.
The discrepancy between promise and reality should be no surprise to anyone who has looked at Mr. Ryan’s proposals over the years. Mr. Ryan has been rolling out grand pronouncements in bound volumes with fancy covers and snappy names, but the main message never changed: America‘s “path to prosperity” (remember that one? 2011) lies in tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and slashing social programs and regulations.
Three years ago, a House Republican leader said his report on antipoverty programs showed that “Paul Ryan remains our big-ideas guy.” We called it “a high-minded excuse” to “eviscerate programs like Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps.”
After Mitt Romney, with Mr. Ryan as his running mate, lost the presidential election in 2012, . . . . Mr. Ryan responded by repackaging the same agenda for the 2016 election, even though working-class Americans were demonstrating fury at his establishment orthodoxy. They didn’t want Social Security cut and they wanted the “health care for everybody” that Mr. Trump promised.
After seven years and 60 failed Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Mr. Ryan finally got his moment, and blew it.
After pulling the bill, Mr. Ryan showed he hadn’t given up on trying to make people think he was someone they could believe in. With no detectable irony, he described his humiliating defeat as “an incredible opportunity,” adding “There remains so much that we can do to help improve people’s lives, and we will.”
But he’s fooling no one any longer. Put to the test, Mr. Ryan revealed that all along, he doesn’t have anything more creative in his cranium than stale conservative dogma.
He had helped fulfill a cynical prophecy delivered last month by John Boehner, . . . . . “In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress,” Mr. Boehner said, “Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once. And all this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal — yeah, we’ll do replace, replace — I started laughing.”
We might thank Mr. Ryan for one thing. His dreadful legislation drove voters of both parties to flood town halls and the Capitol, demanding that Congress reject the bill.
One can only hope that going forward, the media will recognize Ryan for the small minded phony that he is and give him media coverage that no longer aids the pretense that the man is a serious thinker.
Vladimir Putin seemingly ran a successful operation that attacked American's 2016 presidential election and threw the election to Donald Trump, a cross between a carnival barker and a would be fascist dictator on the style of Mussolini (even though he likely sees himself as Hitler, not Mussolini). Now, however, with FBI, Congressional and other investigations underway of Trump's Russia ties and possible collusion, Putin may have received far less than he had hoped for. Meanwhile, on the home front, Putin is facing protests at home. While not sufficient for now to topple Putin's dictatorship, the protests nonetheless suggest that all is not well in Russia. A piece in the New Yorker looks at what these protests mean for Russia's would be tsar. Here are highlights:
Sunday in Moscow was a bright spring day, chilly but clear, and by the time I made my way to Tverskaya Street, Moscow’s main thoroughfare, the sidewalks were full of people strolling up, toward Pushkin Square, and down, toward Red Square and the red-brick towers of the Kremlin. They had come out for a march led by Alexey Navalny, Russia’s savviest and most popular opposition politician, who had declared a nationwide day of anti-corruption action. The protest was one of mere presence, rather than any specific activity: a few people held signs, and every now and then a chant broke out, but the main political statement of the day was simply showing up.
The nominal cause for the march, and for similar gatherings in dozens of cities across the country, was that Navalny and his researchers had unearthed about Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s largely enfeebled Prime Minister. Earlier this month, Navalny had published a report detailing various far-flung properties, luxury yachts, and other high-end goods that Medvedev has allegedly acquired over the years, in part by contributions that Russian oligarchs made to fake charity foundations. But Sunday’s demonstrations were also about a creeping mood of public dissatisfaction and fatigue, a sense that, after seventeen years, Vladimir Putin’s political system was running out of arguments to justify its continued monopoly hold on power. Official corruption proved to be a more compelling rallying cry than civil rights or voting irregularities: less about abstract political freedoms and more about the insult of learning that your country’s Prime Minister had acquired a vineyard in Tuscany while disposable incomes an average of twelve per cent since 2014.
The Moscow mayor’s office had not authorized the march route—it had instead offered organizers the use of a park outside the city center—and had cautioned that it could not “bear responsibility for any possible negative consequences” of the unsanctioned demonstration. The warning didn’t seem to keep people away.
Navalny himself was grabbed and thrown into a police van a few minutes after he arrived, with a pair of Nike sneakers hanging from his neck—a riff on one of the charges that he had levelled against Medvedev, who he said used a front company led by a loyal crony to buy himself running shoes.
Near the Central Telegraph building, where I stood, the flow of people passed unbothered, but by Pushkin Square riot police, wearing black body armor and helmets, arrested dozens of people, clubbing and beating them before dragging them away. By the end of the day, as many as a thousand people in Moscow had been detained, far more than in 2011 and 2012, the last time the capital saw demonstrations of this size.
I was struck by how many young people had joined the protest march. During the previous wave of large-scale demonstrations in Moscow, the crowds were largely drawn from the capital’s middle class—educated, professional people in their twenties, thirties, and forties. On Sunday, the presence of high schoolers and college students was immediately noticeable. “Never before have schoolchildren and students participated on such a massive scale in opposition protests,” Meduza, an independent news site that is home to some of Russia’s best journalism, declared.
Younger Russians, though, are less likely to pay attention to state-controlled TV, and it seems that the Kremlin has less certain tools for reaching this demographic, let alone shaping its political attitudes. Even LifeNews, a usually servile, pro-Kremlin tabloid site, has admitted this new reality.
Sunday’s protests, in the columnist’s view, represented an “extremely disturbing and serious warning sign” for Kremlin officials. “Television has failed, and its inefficiency as a mass ‘agitator and organizer’ will only intensify.”
Russia’s young people can truly be called “Putin’s” generation: those under twenty-five have no significant memories of any other Russian leader. Yet, as was the case during perestroika, in the nineteen-eighties, the authorities appear to have lost a certain sway over the country’s youth, and no longer speak their language.
For the Kremlin, the geographic diversity of Sunday’s protests was just as unsettling as their demographics. Gatherings of various sizes were held in nearly a hundred Russian cities, including places where demonstrations hadn’t occurred five years ago, during the previous wave of anti-Kremlin protests.
It was clear that the Kremlin hadn’t anticipated anti-government activity in such regions, and that it had failed to give clear instructions to local authorities. As a result, in some places, the protests went on unmolested; in others, they were broken up roughly, as in Omsk, where authorities had snowplows drive out the crowd in the city’s central square.
With elections a year away, it’s unclear what argument or bargain Putin wants to make with the Russian people in his fourth, and presumably last, term. The patriotic boost that the annexation of Crimea provided is starting to fade. Russia’s military operation in Syria is an even less potent propaganda tool. Putin and his political advisers don’t have a coherent answer to the populist and non-ideological anti-corruption message offered by Navalny.
[E]ven if he figures out how to deal with Navalny, Putin will still face a trickier dilemma: How much longer will the cocktail of inertia, stability, and fear of the unknown keep him generally popular? And, if that political tincture loses its potency, what will his next offer to the Russian people entail? He may be able to delay answering those ques tions for some time, but not forever.
Putin needs to be driven from power. He is but the latest of Russia's failed leaders who have betrayed the Russian people and their best interests - all to maintain Putin's power and to enrich himself. Perhaps the younger generations ae=re waking to the fact that Putin has betrayed them and Russia itself.
GOP Congressman Devin Nunes seemingly is out to singlehandedly destroy any ability of Republicans to maintain the pretense that they are impartial in the Congressional investigation of ties between the Trump campaign/transition team and Russian agents/intelligence operatives. Indeed, Nunes' behavior to date makes the Three Stooges look sophisticated and discrete. Between clandestine meetings on at the White House and cancelling open hearings, Nunes' main objective would appear to protect Der Trumpenführer, and his co-conspirators in possible treason at all cost, including his own career and reputation. Democrats are rightly calling for Nunes' removal as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a number of Republicans now concede that an independent investigative body is needed. In fact, even Dick Chaney, a/k/a Emperor Palpatine, is describing Russia's interference wirh the 2016 presidential election as an "act of war." A piece in the Washington Post looks at Nunes' one man effort to destroy the GOP's appearance of being impartial. Here are excerpts:
From the perspective of impartiality, one of the problems with Congress investigating Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election and whether President Trump’s circle had anything to do with it is Congress itself.
It’s a political body made up of — well, politicians. That’s not to say these politicians can’t put on their impartial hats to undertake a large-scale investigation about the independence of U.S. democracy from foreign influence. But congressional investigations have a higher threshold of impartiality to meet than, say, an independent investigation outside the confines of Congress.
Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is making it very hard for his committee to meet those standards of impartiality.
On Monday, Washington was abuzz with news that Nunes, a Trump ally, was on the White House grounds viewing classified information related to the president’s evidence-less claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. A day later, Nunes (R-Calif.) announced that he had information that revealed the president’s conversations during the campaign may have been caught up in a broader, unrelated intelligence net.We still don’t know who gave Nunes the surveillance information or its significance to the committee’s broader investigation into Russia’s meddling.
But here’s what anyone trying to follow the twists and turns of this Trump-Russia-wiretapping story is left with: A top Republican congressman and Trump ally was at the White House the day before he released information that appeared to somewhat defend the president on his defenseless wiretapping claims.
What’s more, the congressman released this secret information to the president — whose circle is under investigation by the FBI for alleged ties to Russia — before sharing it with his own committee members.
From there, it’s not a stretch for a reasonable person to consider whether Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, wants to protect the president. And from there, it’s not a stretch to question the impartiality of the investigation Nunes is leading in the House on Russia meddling in the U.S. election.
And that, say ethics and national security experts, is where the real damage in Nunes’s White House trip lies.
"This is really unusual behavior of an oversight committee chairman," said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow of governance studies at Brookings Institution and editor-in-chief of Lawfare. "And it's hard to understand what could possibly justify it."
T]he stakes could not be higher that impartial investigations into what Russia did actually stay impartial. Most intelligence officials agree that Russia will probably try to tinker with Western democratic elections again; maybe even that of the United States.
Congress, by its nature, was already at risk of appearing motivated by partisanship as it looked into these very critical questions. At the very least, Nunes just opened up the door for people to believe the worst about Congress: that its members put politics above all else.
[T]there are other investigative options besides Congress that could be perceived as more impartial. The FBI confirmed it is looking into alleged Trump connections to Russia. Attorney General Jeff Sessions agreed to step aside from overseeing the investigation after news broke that he met with the Russian ambassador to the United States last year and didn't disclose it in his confirmation hearings before the Senate.
In addition to its Senate and House intelligence committees, Congress could set up a special congressional committee dedicated to investigating this, a la the Republican-majority Benghazi committee. Or it could set up a completely independent investigation outside of Congress, a la the 9/11 Commission. (The latter is what Schiff has called for.)
There’s no immediate sign that Republican leaders would be on board with any of those investigative alternatives. They’re already looking into something their president would rather they leave alone — Russia. . . . But Nunes is making it that much harder for Republicans to argue that.
The bottom line? A independent special prosecutor needs to be appointed with broad investigatory powers. Amomg those investigated should be Nunes himself. Either he's a bungling idiot or he is a partisan who desperate to protect his party's president and keep the American public from learning of possible treason by Trump, Pence and others in Der Trumpenführer,'s regime. Either way, Nunes is unfit to head the House investigation and arguably too stupid to hold a seat in the House of Representatives.
Monday, March 27, 2017
With all the serious and pressing issues facing states and the nation, one would think that Republicans would have more important things to do than continue their anti-transgender jihad. But that assumption would be wrong in many states - including Virginia, home of Side Show Bob Marshall - but especially so in Arkansas where pending GOP bills would make being transgender more or less illegal and set individuals up for fines and jail time. Can't you just feel the "Christian love" behind these bills introduced to pander to Christofascists? A piece in Salon looks at the anti-transgender animus at work. Here are excerpts:
The clock is ticking on a trio of bills that LGBT advocates in Arkansas claim would make it effectively “illegal to be transgender” in the state.Republicans have until March 31, which marks the end of the 2017 legislative session, to pass House Bill 1986, Senate Bill 774 and House Bill 1894 before these proposals are tabled for the year. SB 774, known as the Arkansas Physical Privacy and Safety Act, is similar to North Carolina’s controversial HB 2. It forces trans people in the state to use public restrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate when entering government buildings and other entities owned by the state. That legislation is currently awaiting a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
That bill has been opposed by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has warned that legalizing discrimination could trigger massive economic backlash in the state. After passing HB 2 exactly a year ago, North Carolina has lost an estimated $600 million in revenue . . .
The bathroom bill, though, is just the tip of the iceberg. Further legislation being pushed by conservative lawmakers threatens to target trans individuals by making it extraordinarily difficult to be in public at all.
Often referred to as the “bathroom bill lite,” HB 1986 actually goes further than the Physical Privacy and Safety Act by allowing individuals to bring charges against trans people for “indecent exposure.” Such actions are already a crime under Arkansas law, but HB 1986 would expand existing law on the subject. The bill defines indecent exposure as an instance in which an individual “knowingly exposes his or her sex organs to a person of the opposite biological sex: (A) In a public place or in public view; or (B) Under circumstances in which the person could reasonably believe the conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm.”
“If a transgender man has top surgery, his chest could be viewed as a sexual organ, according to the the language used on the bill. Anywhere his chest is in public view — like at a public pool or going to a spa — he could be in violation of the law and be arrested.”
Under HB 1986, trans people could face a hefty fine, as well as jail time, if another individual feels that the alleged assailant has exposed themselves in a way that would cause “affront or alarm.” If convicted of indecent exposure, transgender folks in the state would be subjected to a $2,500 penalty, in addition to a maximum sentence of a year in prison.
A third anti-trans bill has been reintroduced after being voted down by the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor earlier this month. HB 1894 would bar transgender people from amending their birth certificates to match their gender identity. “If I decided I don’t want to be white, well, do I get to pick my race?” asked Representative Mickey Gates, who authored the legislation, . . .
Should this bill become the law of the land, it would be next to impossible for any trans person in Arkansas to escape the aforementioned cycle of legal harassment and criminalization. Gwen Fry, president of the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition, argued that these bills are an attempt to “legislate the trans community out of existence.”
For years now - perhaps decades - the Republican Party has been wooing working class white voters to vote against their own economic best interests through appeals to racism, religious extremism, and other forms of hatred towards others. It worked yet again in the 2016 presidential election. Now, these manipulated voters who have been played for fools time and time again may be belated waking up to the fact that GOP policies are literally killing them. The uprising of Trump voters and working class whites against the GOP plan to kill Obamacare is a case in point - especially after many receiving health care benefits woke up and discovered that the new found benefits they enjoying (and depending on to survive) derived from Obamacare. Yes many will continue to fall for the GOP's toxic brew of racism/religious extremism/xenophobia, but perhaps the tide is finally turning, although not in time to have avoided the Trump/Pence nightmare. A piece in New York Magazine looks at this possible awakening. Here are excerpts:
In his inaugural address, President Trump vowed that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” He then suggested that the government has a responsibility to provide its “righteous people” with “great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.”The hedge-fund billionaire who bankrolled Trump’s campaign takes a different view. Robert Mercer reportedly believes that “human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make,” and that “society is upside down” because “government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.”
Thus far, Trump’s governing style has been more in keeping with his donor’s private views . . . . The president has backed a health-care plan that finances a tax cut for millionaires by throwing millions of “forgotten” Americans off of Medicaid — while proposing a budget that would slash spending on public housing, food assistance, after-school programs, and development funds for poor rural and urban areas.
The fact that the new Republican president is serving as a loyal general in the one percent’s class war would be wholly unremarkable, had Trump not campaigned as a populist outsider. But then, if Trump hadn’t run as a populist outsider, it’s quite possible that there wouldn’t be a new Republican president.
Typically, Republicans attribute the despair of impoverished communities to the moral failings of individual poor people. But Trump never lamented the “culture of poverty.” Instead, he blamed the misery of the “forgotten” on rapacious elites who had failed to protect the “righteous” people’s economic interests. . . . This message — when liberally (or, perhaps illiberally) salted with appeals to white racial resentment — proved to be a winning one.
Trump gave the GOP the rebrand it desperately needed. But, thus far, he’s made few alterations to the actual product. And, judging by their failed attempt to pass a supply-side tax cut dressed as a health-care bill, Republicans believe that the only thing their agenda ever lacked was a racist reality star as its salesman.
But they are wrong about that: Movement conservatism is failing politically because its policies have never had less to offer the voters it relies on.
New research on the surging death rate among white, non-college-educated Americans offers a harrowing testament to this fact. In 2015, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton discovered that an epidemic of suicides and substance abuse was driving up the mortality rate of middle-aged, working-class, white Americans — even as medical advances were pushing down that rate for college-educated whites and every other racial and ethnic group. . . . . the great recession, black and white non-college-educated workers have seen their mortality rates rise, across every age group. And working-class African-Americans still suffer higher death rates than white ones do.
However, only the non-college-educated white population has seen a nearly continuous rise in its mortality rate over the last two decades. And that jump has been driven by a uniquely high spike in “deaths of despair.”
[N]on-college-educated white workers have seen their economic prospects drop from a higher peak — and no countervailing narrative of cultural progress has arrested their sense of decline. This foreboding can pervade whole communities, and lead their most vulnerable members to seek relief in drinking, drugs, or death. . . . economists suggest that these breakdowns are “rooted in the labor market.”
Movement conservatism’s other anti-poverty prescription — instilling self-reliance in the poor by kicking them out of their welfare hammocks — also withers under the paper’s scrutiny. The United States has the thinnest safety net of any major, western nation. And it is also the only such country in which non-college-educated white workers are dying much younger than they used to. . . . . the rationale behind House Republicans’ push to add work requirements to Medicaid — that providing a minimum standard of health care to the indigent unemployed breeds an unhealthy dependency — is hard to reconcile with the superior health outcomes of workers in European nanny states.
[T]he GOP has grown more radically right wing; income has grown more concentrated at the top; and Republicans have grown ever more dependent on the nonaffluent for votes.
Now, even the GOP base supports more government spending on health care and opposes tax cuts for the rich.
Republicans can continue putting the superstitions of misanthropic billionaires above the needs of their downscale voters. But in doing so, they will send more “forgotten men and women” to early graves. And, eventually, the righteous people may take the GOP down with them.
One can only hope that this growing realization accelerates and that some will learn to change the channel from Fox News.
There are two factors that Republicans seem unable to grasp as they seek to inflict their reverse Robin Hood agenda on America: (i) many GOP congressional seats are held because of gerrymandering, not because the GOP's policies are overwhelmingly popular, and (ii) Donald Trump won the presidency due to an Electoral College fluke - and the gutlessness of Electors - and overall won the vote of less than 30% of voters. A third factor that may be also in play is the reality that a majority of Americans want the federal government involved in healthcare. Indeed some pools suggest that a majority of Americans want a single payer system that would take away the power of health insurance companies that only care about making money and, frankly, do not give a damn abut taking cared their insureds or their insureds' best interest. If the congressional Republicans had joined in passing Obamacare and been willing to take even more power from insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, the nation would likely have a much improved and better perform healthcare system. Instead, Republicans sold their souls to insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies and clung to the myth that the free market could improve coverage and reduce cost. Anyone honest should concede that what the Republicans harp on even today is simply out of touch with objective reality. Worse yet, a majority of Americans are catching on to the fact that the currently dead American Health Care Act was really all about give a trillion dollar tax break to corporations and the obscenely wealthy. .
Conservative writer and columnist David Frum warned Republicans back when Obamacare was first being crafted that GOP obstruction and non-participation would haunt the party. For his candor and insight, he was refarded by being figuratively ridden out of town on a rail by his Republican brethren. He's back again and once more suggests that healthcare and the public yearning for a well functioning national healthcare system will be the GOP's Waterloo. He makes the case in a lengthy piece in The Atlantic. It is a long piece, but worth the read and it shows what conservatism should be. Here are excerpts:
Seven years and three days ago, the House of Representatives grumblingly voted to approve the Senate’s version of the Affordable Care Act. . . . . Rather than lose the whole thing, the House swallowed hard and accepted a bill that liberals regarded as a giveaway to insurance companies and other interest groups. The finished law proceeded to President Obama for signature on March 23, 2010.
A few minutes after the House vote, I wrote a short blog post for the website I edited in those days. The site had been founded early in 2009 to argue for a more modern and more moderate form of Republicanism. The timing could not have been worse. At precisely the moment we were urging the GOP to march in one direction, the great mass of conservatives and Republicans had turned on the double in the other, toward an ever more wild and even paranoid extremism.
At that time, I worked at the American Enterprise Institute, the most high-toned of Washington’s conservative think tanks. . . . The mood then was that supporters and opponents of the Obama administration were engaged in a furious battle over whether the United States would remain a capitalist economy at all.
It was no moment for advocates of compromise—indeed, it was precisely because I appreciated its unwelcomeness where I worked that I had launched an independent blog in the first place. There, to the increasing irritation of my colleagues and employers, I fruitlessly argued through 2009 and 2010 that Republicans should do business with President Obama on health-care reform.
It seemed to me that Obama’s adoption of ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s—and then enacted into state law in Massachusetts by Governor Mitt Romney—offered the best near-term hope to control the federal health-care spending that would otherwise devour the defense budget and force taxes upward. I suggested that universal coverage was a worthy goal, and one that would hugely relieve the anxieties of working-class and middle-class Americans who had suffered so much in the Great Recession.
[W]hen the Democrats indeed did pass the law without Republican input, just as I’d warned they would, a fury overcame me. Eighteen months of being called a “sellout” will do that to a man, I suppose. I opened my computer and in less than half an hour pounded out the blogpost that would function, more or less, as my suicide note in the organized conservative world.
The post was called “Waterloo.” . . . . Even more provocatively to Republicans already fixed on a promise to repeal the Obamacare abomination, I urged: "No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed." . . . . The next morning came a phone call inviting me to talk things over with AEI’s president. By Thursday, I was an ex-think-tank staffer.
Over the next seven years, Republicans would vote again and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Total and permanent opposition to the law would become the absolute touchstone of Republican loyalty. . . . . From time to time, some old veteran would recall my 2010 prediction that the law would endure and smilingly wonder if I wished to reconsider.
I never did, for the reasons that the whole world has witnessed in real time over this week of Obamacare’s 7th anniversary.
Some of the conservatives who voted “no” to the House leadership’s version of repeal may yet imagine that they will have some other opportunity to void the law. They are again deluding themselves. . . . . Too many people benefit from the law—and the Republican alternatives thus far offer too little to compensate for the loss of those benefits.
In that third week in March in 2010, America committed itself for the first time to the principle of universal (or near universal) health-care coverage. That principle has had seven years to work its way into American life and into the public sense of right and wrong. It’s not yet unanimously accepted. But it’s accepted by enough voters—and especially by enough Republican voters—to render impossible the seven-year Republican vision of removing that coverage from those who have gained it under the Affordable Care Act. Paul Ryan still upholds the right of Americans to “choose” to go uninsured if they cannot afford to pay the cost of their insurance on their own. His country no longer agrees.
What happens now is that—a few bitter-enders aside—Republican politicians, especially in the states, begin the slow and belated process of entering the next era of health-care politics. . . . How generous should health coverage be? What should be done to control costs? Who should pay, and on what terms? To what extent should citizens be free to impose the cost of their unhealthy choices upon others? Conservative-minded people will converge on one set of intuitions; progressives on another. It’s possible to imagine a Republican health-care politics that rejects the ultra-redistributionary approach of the ACA and instead argues that since all benefit from health coverage, all must contribute to its costs via some kind of broad-based tax.
It’s possible to imagine a Republican Party that cares about the details of health policy and is not satisfied with poorly informed hand waves toward outworn party shibboleths. It won’t happen soon, perhaps—but the sooner the better.
Health care may not be a human right, but the lack of universal health coverage in a wealthy democracy is a severe, unjustifiable, and unnecessary human wrong. As Americans lift this worry from their fellow citizens, they’ll discover that they have addressed some other important problems too. They’ll find that they have removed one of the most important barriers to entrepreneurship, because people with bright ideas will fear less to quit the jobs through which they get their health care. They’ll find they have improved the troubled lives of the white working class succumbing at earlier ages from preventable deaths of despair. They’ll find that they have equalized the life chances of Americans of different races. They’ll find that they have discouraged workplace discrimination against women, older Americans, the disabled, and other employees with higher expected health-care costs. They’ll find that their people become less alienated from a country that has overcome at last one of the least attractive manifestations of American exceptionalism—and joined the rest of the civilized world in ameliorating and alleviating our common human vulnerability to illness and pain.
I take no pride or pleasure in saying “I told you so.” . . . . Republicans who were wrong about the evolution of this debate please consider why they were wrong: Consider the destructive effect of ideological conformity, of ignorance of the experience of comparable countries, and of a conservative political culture that incentivizes intransigence, radicalism, and anger over prudence, moderation, and compassion.
Frum is 100% on target and the sooner sane Republicans get on board with what he suggests, the better. That may mean jettisoning the hate-filled Christofascists who rallied to Obamacare repeal, but that would be a very positive development for the GOP.