The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why I'm not gloating

Why I'm not gloating about Health Care

Lots of reasons. I am happy that my President got this through, even though it is a clumsy, cludgy patchwork in comparison to the elegance of what I would have wanted: a Medicare +10% buy in, leading to an expansion until all these overlapping health systems connect.

My logic was clear, and I put it out at the beginning, for good or ill: life span, infant mortality rate, and cost per capita OR percentage of GNP. So far as I could see, every country that beat us on these measures uses a nationalized system. Biggest pool, no profit? Seems to be a no-brainer.


But as we saw, there are intelligent, honorable people who disagreed with these judgements, on numerous grounds:

1) The belief that nationalized health care (NHC) would lead to diminished medical research.

2) Or decreased quality of care in some specific disease instances

3) That it would expand government dangerously.

If there are others I saw and considered worthy of respect (if not agreement) I apologize, I really do. I had a very serious problem with the fact that the majority (not the educated, reasonable folks on this forum) of individuals or pundits I heard speaking about this issue, or actually engaged in conversation, seemed totally unaware that the mass of the rest of the world uses such a system. The common trope seems to be that it will cost gigantic amounts (when the actual result is a lowered cost) or is some kind of experiment (when it has been tested thoroughly). That was genuinely bothersome, as if the anti-NHC position was dependent upon carefully maintained ignorance.

Couldn't be true--there were reasonable arguments against it. I literally never heard MY issues addressed by Right-wing media, which troubles me greatly.

What troubled me more was the fact that part of this was, quite clearly, sheer political theater: from the Right the avowed attempt to make this Obama's "Waterloo." From the Left, ultimately, the urge to get SOME kind of bill through, however flawed, with a commitment to fix it as we go. That if we didn't, this would be used by political opponents to cripple an entire political agenda. The intent seems to me to be: obstruct obstruct, keep anything elegant and reasonable from going through, and then criticize whatever crippled mess emerges as if that was the original intent.

And to a degree, it works! If you look at media on the Left, it is clear that a huge swath of 'em considers Obama a total sell-out to the Right, while forces on the Right consider this a total movement toward some kind of totalitarian Socialist nightmare. Wow. I hate politics, I really do.

The frantic, panicked ugliness of the Tea Party set, predictably racist in their rhetoric, is the leading edge of the ugly pushing by demagogues who know that this has been tried around the world, and don't seem to want to discuss that (I'm not implying that the discussion would be determinative--conversation on this blog proves that is not true. I merely state amazement that those core issues are so seldom addressed. Perhaps I am naive.)

They are terrified of the changes going on. And, yes, that a black man is in the White House, and that women are taking power. The code words are all over the place, and it is sad. But these are our brothers and sisters, and if I consider them wrong on this issue, so be it. We've been wrong too, every one of us.

What I believe is that this will get tinkered with to create State-level Opt-in programs that slowly eat away at the power of insurance companies until they no longer offer much primary health care--they primarily offer Cadillac plans. There was no way to do that directly: to fight the Republicans, Conservatives, AND the Insurance industry and Big Pharma at the same time would have been impossible. So it got splintered, and the Dems didn't take the bait of "let's start over." I agree that they could not. Feel pain that this was as far as we could get, but think you can't measure the strength of an airplane's engines unless you grasp the strength of the headwinds. I said once that I think Obama is the smartest guy I've ever seen on the national political stage. I don't know if that will translate into being a good president, I really don't. I think that against staggering opposition, he got the ball across the goal line--dirty, muddy, and bruised up, but it's there.

But I won't discount the fear and concern from the other side. Even the Birther insanity is just an expression of raw fear and loss of privilege. I feel sad for those who cannot adapt...and pray that things settle down. This bill is too late to save my mother's life. I feel nothing to gloat about, but much to be proud of in our country. The exact same pioneer/independent spirit that empowered this country has, in my mind, been hijacked by Corporatists who want to hold onto every scrap of money as long as they can, and fund perfectly reasonable Americans to promote splinter ideas that, in the aggregate, try to promote the idea that "government doesn't do anything right" when, bizarrely, usually the standards held up to prove governments don't work are...other government programs. I love the way people trying to prove our schools can't work generally compare them to schools in other countries, as if unconscious that those schools, outperforming our own, are collective programs.

Sigh. This is all so messy. I don't like it, but suppose I chose a hell of a time to start paying attention to Politics. We'll see what happens now. But for those on the Left unhappy--I ask that you look at the way the Right is raving and foaming, and realize THAT was the opposition. And to those on the Right who think we just went off a Socialist cliff--will you please listen to the real Socialists and realize that they are very close to thinking Obama a traitor? This legislation went right down the middle, not far enough in my book, but I am troubled by how few people seem to see that. I may be wrong, but if I'm right, there is a lot of waking up to do, on both sides.

I see nothing to gloat about.


suzanne said...

that fear of the Baggers
has been
consciously and deliberately
fed by the "conservative" media
the "religious" Right
and by some of the GOP
there is
in my opinion
no reason to behave
like chicken little

but that is primarily what we are hearing now
how the sky will fall
some year soon
and it will all be OBAMA's Fault

I'm so sick of whining and complaing
especially of the irrational variety

Nancy Lebovitz said...

One more slightly different argument against or at least dubiousness about reforming health care.

I realize that a lot of the world has universal health care, and it seems to work better than the mess we've got in the US. (I call it a mess because I know enough Americans who are struggling to get care.)

However, we have an extremely corrupt medical industry (I'm including insurance as well as the people directly doing medical care), and it's got a lot of influence. I consider it possible that we'll end up with an even worse mess.

I also know three people (a libertarian, a centrist, and a conservative) who are on the financial edge, and are terrified they'll be pushed over it if they're required to pay for health insurance. I don't know if they're being reasonable about the requirement or not.

Anonymous said...

"... will you please listen to the real Socialists and realize that they are very close to thinking Obama a traitor?"

Kucinich doesn't think Obama is -- and you know why. This is the Left's agenda, being done by incrementalism and stealth.

Politically, that makes Obama and Pelosi geniuses. But, geniuses at what, which will have what long-term consequences unintended by honest supporters of Obamacare such as yourself?

I'll concede that they're political geniuses. The problem is, "political genius" is a value-neutral term -- it applies as much to a Stalin as an Abraham Lincoln.

So, what will the consequences of all this political genius actually end up being? That's the question that we end up arguing about because, necessarily, the answers are guesswork. We're not living in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and there is no infallible Hari Seldon to predict this stuff; there's just a lot of different people with different mental models of how the world works, and what the consequences of nationalizing the entire biomedical industry (one-sixth the U.S. economy) will be for American economics, politics, scientific innovation, and liberty.

--Erich Schwarz

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Hell, "values" is a value neutral term. Hitler and Stalin both had "values."

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"..nationalizing the entire biomedical industry.."

Obamacare even at its most extreme would hardly nationalize the entirety of the biomedical industry. Said industry furnishes the entire gamut of health-related products, from heart shunts to suntan lotion. I highly doubt that the feds are going to seize rights to Nair, Talcum Powder and the like. Further, the measure doesn't aim to seize private assets and production; it's scope is limited to managing and dispensing services vital to basic health. Even within its stated domain Obamacare will be sharply limited. Conservatives refuse to permit it to cover abortions, and Feds of all persuasions certainly won't permit tax dollars to finance vanity procedures like boob-jobs, dick pumps, face-lifts, Botox, etc., i.e. a huge section of the biomedical industry.

Frank said...

Enjoy your Victory and continue to believe that Tea Party folk are "frantic, panicked ugliness" while

The bond market is saying that it’s safer to lend to Warren Buffett than Barack Obama.

Two-year notes sold by the billionaire’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in February yield 3.5 basis points less than Treasuries of similar maturity, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Procter & Gamble Co., Johnson & Johnson and Lowe’s Cos. debt also traded at lower yields in recent weeks, a situation former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. chief fixed-income strategist Jack Malvey calls an “exceedingly rare” event in the history of the bond market.

The $2.59 trillion of Treasury Department sales since the start of 2009 have created a glut as the budget deficit swelled to a post-World War II-record 10 percent of the economy and raised concerns whether the U.S. deserves its AAA credit rating. The increased borrowing may also undermine the first-quarter rally in Treasuries as the economy improves....

Moody’s Warning

While Treasuries backed by the full faith and credit of the government typically yield less than corporate debt, the relationship has flipped as Moody’s Investors Service predicts the U.S. will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other top-rated country except the U.K. America will use about 7 percent of taxes for debt payments in 2010 and almost 11 percent in 2013, moving “substantially” closer to losing its AAA rating, Moody’s said last week.

“Those economies have been caught in a crisis while they are highly leveraged,” said Pierre Cailleteau, the managing director of sovereign risk at Moody’s in London. “They have to make the required adjustment to stabilize markets without choking off growth.”

Advanced economies face “acute” challenges in tackling high public debt, and unwinding existing stimulus measures will not come close to bringing deficits back to prudent levels, said John Lipsky, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Unprecedented Spending

All G7 countries, except Canada and Germany, will have debt-to-GDP ratios close to or exceeding 100 percent by 2014, Lipsky said in a speech yesterday at the China Development Forum in Beijing. Already this year, the average ratio in advanced economies is expected to reach the levels seen in 1950, after World War II, he said.

Obama’s unprecedented spending and the Federal Reserve’s emergency measures to fix the financial system are boosting the economy and cutting the risk of corporate failures. Standard & Poor’s said the default rate will drop to 5 percent by year-end from 10.4 percent in February.

Bonds sold by companies have returned 3.24 percent this year, including reinvested interest, compared with a 1.55 percent gain for Treasuries, Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data show. Returns exceeded government debt by a record 23 percentage points in 2009.

But no worries, I'm sure this is all just "scare tactic" by people who are "terrified of the changes going on" which are really benign.

And, of course, the billions in new spending on "health care" will really be reducing the deficit, so there's nothing to worry about there.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"..the billions in new spending on "health care" will really be reducing the deficit."

Rather like the billions in Public Assistance disbursed to injury and chronic illness suffers made indigent by no medical care diminishes the deficit?

Daniel Keys Moran said...


It's a good thing Republicans didn't inherit a balanced budget and blow it up and trash the economy and then hand it over to Obama with the expectation that he'd fix it ...

... because that would be ironic.

Frank said...

Hey Dan,

You want to criticize Republicans for spending like drunken sailors when they were in power, go ahead. I'm with you.

That whole Part D entitlement was pretty irresponsible even if my Mother loves it.

But to blame Republicans for blowing up and trashing the economy is just the type of rhetoric our host says he disfavors. There is plenty of blame to go around, and as much falls on Democrats as Republicans, though there were some Republicans who recognized that something was up at Fannie Mae while I can think of no Democrat who was so aware.

But regardless, the Democrats got elected in 2006 with the promise of fiscal discipline. I think what Speaker Pelosi siad precisely was

Our New Direction is committed to “Pay As You Go” budgeting - no more defi cit spending.
We are committed to auditing the books and subjecting every facet of federal spending to tough budget discipline and accountability, forcing the Congress to choose a new direction
and the right priorities for all Americans.

Now lots of people took them at their word especially since Republicans weren't doing much in this respect so letting them continue didn't seem right.

But what we got was spending like drunken sailors on steriods. So now it's worse.

And you can blame Republicans all you want for obstructing Health Care "reform" but remember this: they didn't have the votes to obstruct until the end.

The real fight was between Democrats with fiscal discipline and those without.

And you think the economy blew up in 2008? Just wait...

Daniel Keys Moran said...

I will. My entire life, Democratic administrations have been more fiscally responsible than Republican administrations. Since before my birth the economy has outperformed during Dem administrations vs Republican administrations.

Obama inherited a mess. He's already done something, with the health bill, that Republicans haven't done ever that I can recall: raise money to pay for it, rather than just -- to quote somebody or other -- borrowing from the Chinese.

suzanne said...

I really worry
about the state of education in this country
given results like these:

The whammy: 14 percent of Americans say President Barack Obama may be the anti-Christ. When split by political party, 24 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats viewed the nation's leader in this way.

The results come from a Harris Poll involving 2,320 adults who were surveyed online between March 1 and March 8 by Harris Interactive, a market research firm.

Here's the percentage breakdown of respondents' views of President Obama:

38 percent say he wants to take away Americans' right to own guns.
32 percent say he is a Muslim.
29 percent think he wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government.
29 percent think he has done many things that are unconstitutional.
27 percent say he resents America's heritage.
27 percent say he does what Wall Street and the bankers tell him to do.
25 percent say he was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president.
25 percent say he is a domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitutions speaks of.
23 percent say he is a racist.
23 percent say he is anti-American.
23 percent say he wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers.
20 percent say he is doing many of the things that Hitler did.