An American Editor

August 1, 2012

On Politics: Healthcare in America

Obamacare was recently saved by the surprise opinion of arch conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. Regardless of his hidden reasons for saving Obamacare, he really did Americans a favor — not that any one would know it by listening to Republican rhetoric.

I do not disagree with the Republicans that Obamacare could be greatly improved. Personally, I would like to see Medicare made universal for all Americans. That’s my solution to the problem of healthcare for all Americans.

The Republican solution is…. That’s really the question voters should be asking of every Republican. It is not enough to say repeal and replace; there needs to be clear understanding of what the replacement will be. Experience in American politics dictates that repeal will result in no replacement because there is no consensus, even within the Republican party, on what to do. Unlike Democrats who can say “perhaps Obamacare is flawed but we at least addressed a problem and came up with a plan,” the Republicans can only say that Obamacare is flawed.

I have asked my congressperson, who is now Republican as a result of redistricting, to outline for me in detail precisely what she proposes to replace Obamacare with. “How can I evaluate,” I asked, “the merits and demerits of Obamacare versus the Republican plan without knowing the details of the Republican plan other than that once Obamacare is repealed, leaving me with nothing, Republicans might come up with a solution of their own?”

The problem with asking a question like that of a politician is that they do not know how to respond, so they don’t respond. Politicians want to talk in soundbites, in platitudes, not in substance, and voters too readily are willing to let politicians do that. Sadly, so are partisan newspapers. I keep waiting for Fox News to ask that question. They can tell me what they think is wrong with Obamacare, which largely boils down to an unwillingness to see fellow Americans receive medical care because these pundits have goldplated policies, but not one is willing to do the newsperson’s job and ask “replace with what?”

American’s are too willing to accept the Mitch McConnell approach: it doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t Obama(care). It is better to have no insurance than to have Obamacare. McConnell and fellow Republicans make it difficult to be proud to be an American because they make it clear that, to them, “real” Americans are anti-Obama and those who are pro-Obama, or at least not anti-Obama, are not “real” Americans.

There has been discussion in recent months about the benefits of Obamacare, but there are at least two benefits that are not often mentioned but which I think are key: first, the self-employed will finally be able to have medical coverage at a reasonable cost; second, that no American will be stuck in a job they hate just so they can have medical benefits for themselves and their families — medical insurance will be portable. This latter benefit will encourage and permit Americans to become entrepreneurs and fuel the next workplace revolution.

The Republican failure to offer an alternative plan to Obamacare has resulted in a “debate” that is really not a debate and that is full of misleading rhetoric. Consider the exchanges that Obamacare requires. The exchanges are central locations that individuals can visit to see what competing insurance plans are offered by private insurers and at what price. This will promote competitiveness in the private marketplace on both price and coverage. What the exchanges do is simply make information available in an easy-to-find-and-use location. The services are still private industry services, not public services, although a public option will be offered.

Doesn’t this sound like a Republican idea? It does to me. The complaint is that private insurers will have to compete with the government. Well, hasn’t the Republican argument always been that private enterprise can do any job cheaper and better than the government? So why the sudden shift? Perhaps the Republican argument is toothless and this will expose too many voters to the toothlessness of the Republican vision.

Or perhaps the problem is that if Obamacare actually works and makes people freer it will also mean that employers can no longer rely on mediocre benefits to keep employees and will have to pay higher wages; or that it will increase competition among employers for employees, which Republican business contributors will not like; or perhaps it will result in more people voting Democrat because the Democrats did something to solve a major societal problem and the Republicans were simply obstructionist.

The Republicans can combat this by coming forward with their alternative plan to provide healthcare coverage for Americans, especially for the 60+ million Americans who are currently uninsured. I, for one, am open to an alternative plan. If it is a better plan than Obamacare, then I certainly would urge my congressperson to support repeal and replace; but I assure you that I will never support repeal without a replacement in hand.

The time has come when Republicans need to have a true dialog with the American voter and disclose what their alternative vision is in detail. I understand that this is something that is contrary to the way Republicans have campaigned for decades — I think the last Republican to attempt such a dialog was Barry Goldwater and I suspect his overwhelming defeat by Lyndon Johnson led Republicans to take the vague road — but the time has come when that dialog should be resurrected.

July 18, 2012

On Politics: The Logic of the Illogical

As an editor, I constantly have to watch for author statements that are illogical. Unfortunately, that practice doesn’t stop at the workplace door; it carries over to election-year politics and makes me a wary consumer of political talk.

What brings this to the fore is a recent statement by the Republican (expected) nominee for president, Mitt Romney. As reported in the New York Times (“Romney Seeks Obama Apology for Bain Attacks,” by Michael D. Shear, July 14, 2012, electronic edition, p. 31), Mit Romney said on Fox News:

You just had very bad news on the economic front, with now 41 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.

Romney made this statement in support of his demand that the Bush-era tax cuts on the income of the top 2% of earners be made permanent and not be allowed to expire come January because these 2-percenters are the job creators and to raise their taxes would destroy job creation!

This has been a constant refrain of the Republicans and the Romney campaign. What I would like to know is, “Where are these jobs being created?” In publishing, the jobs are being created in India, not America. In America, editors are both losing work and being forced to accept lower wages as a result of this migration of jobs from America to India. I do not see John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, or Markus Dohle, CEO of Random House, or the CEO any of the other major American publishers — all members of the 2% club – promising, in writing, to create new American jobs if their personal tax cuts are preserved.

In response to a recent solicitation I received asking me to make a campaign contribution in support of Romney and the Republicans, I wrote back with this offer:

I will make a contribution if you will answer these questions directly and without obfuscation: If keeping the tax cuts on the wealthiest 2% of American society will create jobs as you claim, why haven’t those jobs been created in the past decade while the Bush-era tax cuts have been in place? Why, if these wealthy 2-percenters create jobs, did we have significant job loss during the current life of their tax cuts? How many new American jobs have the Koch brothers, and John Sargent (Macmillan CEO), and Markus Dohle (Random House CEO) guaranteed — in writing – to create within the next 12 months (and how many new American jobs did they create over the past 4 years) as a direct result of the reduced personal rate of taxation they received from the Bush-era tax cuts?

I am still waiting for a reply, and I’m not holding my breath.

The reality is that the claim that reducing taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans increases American jobs is illogical, whether made by a Republican or a Democrat. It is a remnant of the flushdown economics of the Reagan era and ignores the fact that jobs grew under Reagan only after Reagan increased taxes and continued to grow (with resulting budget surpluses) under Clinton when tax rates were both raised and significantly higher than under the Bush-era tax cuts and current rates.

Interestingly, Obama, who should be attacking this kind of illogic, doesn’t seem to fight back by demanding that Romney and the Republicans put their cards on the table face up. It seems to me that Obama should be demanding real numbers from the Republicans. Make the Koch brothers pledge in writing to either create 100,000 new American jobs within 6 months of the election if the tax cuts are extended — regardless of whether they are extended by Romney or Obama — or agree to pay a $5 billion penalty. Require other 2% recipients — such as the John Sargents and the Markus Dohles – of the benefits of the tax cut to make the same pledge to create a specific number of new American jobs or pay a significant penalty, and have enough of them make the written pledges so that American unemployment will be reduced to less than 2%. Then I’ll buy the argument that these are the job creators, as will all other Americans!

The reality is not only will the 2-percenters not make such written pledges, but that they are not job creators. They are money makers and obligated to make as much money at as minimal a cost as possible, which means exporting American jobs if it is cost-effective to do so, which is what they have been doing all through the Bush-era tax cuts.

I have noted that Romney and the Republicans are very careful to talk about “job creation” but not “creation of American jobs”. The implication is that the jobs that the 2-percenters create are American jobs; the reality may well be different.

The Republican rhetoric also ignores the realities of the business world. Consider the recent $7+ billion loss suffered by JP Morgan Chase as a result of bad trades. The losses were incurred by a small group of individuals but already threaten the jobs of thousands of ordinary employees who had no connection to the loss-making trades or the division of Chase that made them. Yet, Romney and the Republicans want to give Jaime Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, a tax break because he will “create” new jobs. What will he do? Hire another valet? Tax breaks for Dimon have no effect whatsoever on whether JP Morgan Chase hires or fires employees.

How much more misleading can the Republican discourse be? Not much, but it sure makes for good bullet points on Fox News. Most of the 2-percenters are employed by a corporation or a foundation or some other business organization whose job-creation decisions are made independently of the personal finances of these 2-percenters. Yes, there are some exceptions, but not many.

The Romney-Republican argument on taxing the top 2% of Americans belies another premise of their presidential campaign: to-wit, that Romney really understands how jobs are created. Jobs are created by the masses spending more money and buying more goods and services, not by a 2-percenter suddenly deciding to trade in last year’s Lamborghini for this year’s model. Economic recovery is not in the hands of the few; it is in the hands of the masses, which is why consumer confidence measures are so important.

It isn’t clear to me what it will take to get voters to look beyond the twitteresque rhetoric and demand that politicians put up or shut up. Nor is it clear to me what it will take to get the Obama campaign to put the Romney and Republican campaigns’ feet to the fire. But in both instances, I hope that such a test occurs because the decision we have to make in November could be catastrophic for America if it is the wrong decision, especially if it is a decision made on platitudes rather than fact.

March 12, 2012

Why I Can’t Vote Republican

I consider myself an independent when it comes to politics. Depending on the primary contest, because New York doesn’t have open primaries, I may affiliate with a party so I can participate in a primary, but when it actually comes to voting on election day, I rarely vote for candidates from a single party.

But as the Republicans move further away from the center, which is where I am, it becomes increasingly difficult to consider voting for a Republican. It seems that, as each day passes, the Republicans are deliberately closing the door more tightly to any thinking independent or centrist-oriented voter.

What seals my decision so early in the election year is not only the poor quality of the Republican candidates (although I admit that I do not think very highly of Barack Obama, either), but their clear lack of honesty and moral conscience as evidenced by their responses to Rush Limbaugh’s defamation of Sandra Fluke. (See “Obama Backs Student in Furor With Limbaugh on Birth Control” in the New York Times for more details about the controversy.) Even the head of her Catholic university, who clearly disagrees with Ms. Fluke’s views on contraception, came to her defense.

Here is what the New York Times reports Limbaugh had to say:

“What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” Those remarks and others whipped up a frenzy of denunciations, but on Thursday, Mr. Limbaugh held his ground, declaring: “If we’re going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Conservatives should be outraged by this attack, but they aren’t. And Limbaugh, an admitted drug abuser who has been convicted of drug-related offenses, should not be a conservative icon because of his lack of a moral conscience — but he is.

Mitt Romney and  Rick Santorum claim to be family men, and Newt Gingrich claims to have found morality. All claim to be concerned about the good of Americans, yet they are willing to stand by and let a woman be defamed simply because her views on what is a controversial topic in America do not comport with their views. This tells me that, should one of these men be elected president, given the opportunity, they will try to suppress dissent any way they can. It tells me that these Republicans do not really care about an individual’s constitutional rights, do not care about family values, do not care about anything but what will get them nominated and elected. They lack a moral conscience. I do not want as president, or even as local councilperson, someone who talks the talk of being a moral person but walks the walk of a moral-less person.

I haven’t yet forgotten the Republican lies against their own John McCain (remember the lie about his having a black mistress and a black child that magically appeared just before voters in South Carolina went to the primary polls?), and the willingness of conservative Republicans to outright, knowingly lie to voters just to win their vote.

I also haven’t forgotten George W. Bush’s lack of moral courage to stand up to the Swift Boaters in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and defend John Kerry from the false attacks. Kerry at least went to Vietnam; his attackers and George W. Bush partied at home instead. But Bush should have stood up for Kerry in this matter. Kerry didn’t give himself his medals; they were awarded by the United States Navy, and the Swift Boaters not only attacked Kerry but also attacked the veracity of the U.S. Navy — people George W. Bush, as commander-in-chief, should have defended.

As each election cycle comes, Republicans increasingly display a wholesale disregard for the things that matter most — honesty and moral conscience. George W. Bush still has no regrets about lying to the American public about the supposed weapons of mass destruction; after all, neither he nor Dick Cheney had to face enemy fire — either then or in their youth, when they avoided military service.

I find that, because of their lack of moral conscience, Republicans are quick to commit Americans to war. Bush did it in Iraq and Afghanistan; Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich are promising to do the same in Iran should they be elected. The morals-less three (Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich) are also quick to impose their male values on women. They would prefer that a woman die rather than be allowed to use contraception or have an abortion.

Have we forgotten how antigay Dick Cheney was until his daughter came out? Because it affected him directly, his tune changed. Have we forgotten how indignant Gingrich was about the so-called Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair while he was cheating on his own wife?

It is not that Democrats are so much better. Rather, it is that they are better, and my only real choice is Democrat or Republican. Given those limitations and the fact that when it comes to moral conscience Republicans seem to lack one, I will be voting Democrat in the presidential election. My hope is that the Republicans face their Rubicon again, as they did in 1964 when they nominated Barry Goldwater. That might cause Republicans to rethink their drift to the extreme right, might cause them to gain a moral conscience and no longer tolerate the tactics and lies of the Limbaughs and the Swift Boaters, and might cause centrist Republicans like Olympia Snowe (who has announced she will not run for reelection because of the rightward tilt of the Republican party and its unwillingness to be anything but obstructionist) to regain favor and their willingness to serve.

Should that occur, I would happily consider voting for a Republican candidate. Until then, this independent has moved toward the Democrat side of the aisle.

March 2, 2012

Politics: Negative Advertising

This is the political season in the United States. Sadly, the season has been in effect for months and still has many months to go.

I know that negative political advertising is more effective than positive, which is in itself a very sad commentary on Americans and the depths of their thinking and the limits of their attention spans, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Although all of the Republican candidates and their super-PACs (political action committees) are guilty of such advertising (and the Democrats will join them as the fall campaign gets closer), I’d like to see an “independent” PAC take on negative advertising.

Perhaps an ad should be run along the following lines, with equal time for all candidates who use negative advertising –

The background imagery would be the candidate whose negative ads are the subject of this ad, in this case Mitt Romney, and some of the candidate’s misstatements. The overnarration would run along these lines:

Why does Mitt Romney use negative ads? Is it because not even he can find anything positive or good to say about his beliefs and positions?

Why does Mitt Romney distort the truth about what others have said? Is it because Mitt Romney cannot tell lie from truth?

What kind of president would Mitt Romney be? How would America know whether or not he was lying to it?

Negative ads make candidates untrustworthy; presidents shouldn’t be untrustworthy.

Needless to say, one could substitute — currently — any of the Republican candidates for Mitt Romney, and I suspect that come the Republican vs. Democrat battle in the fall, one will be able to add Barack Obama to the list of players.

If I were to create a negative ad to support a candidate, I think I would use the following tag line (substituting, of course, the name of the candidate I was being negative about), which could also be a bumper sticker:

Mitt Romney — bringing America to her knees, one lie at a time!

(And for any of you politicians or politically oriented folk who are thinking about coopting these ideas, remember that they are copyrighted. I know politicians and their most fervent supporters often ignore copyright, but it really isn’t a good idea to do so.)

June 15, 2011

On Politics: The Question Not Being Answered (or Even Asked)

At my age, I carefully follow any news that might impact my decision-making process regarding retirement. I also, regardless of age, watch for political news that might affect the taxes I pay. Being a New Yorker, I already am one of the highest taxed citizens of the United States.

Needless to say, the biggest potential impacts in current news are the Republican onslaught against universal healthcare, which Republicans have euphemistically labeled “Obamacare,” and the Republican plan to privatize (or voucherize) Medicare (and even Social Security). Neither really impacts me because I am in the “safe” age group (older than 55 years), at least insofar as the Republicans vocalize today (tomorrow the Republicans may change their mind); they do affect me, however, because I have children who will be impacted and because I do care what happens to my fellow citizens. Medicare and Social Security are the safety nets for the elderly. (Interestingly, many of the Republicans legislators who support the changes are well-to-do, have taxpayer-funded retirement and healthcare, and will not need either Medicare or Social Security to survive in their retirement years. Once they retire from Congress, they can get part-time lobbying jobs that will provide sustenance that Americans like me can only dream about!)

Yet I see one lingering question that I can’t seem to get a Republican congressperson to answer directly and clearly. Obfuscation seems to be the vocabulary word of the year and to make sure they remember the word, the Republicans practice it. The question is this:

If Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, how can the Republican plan to require citizens to contribute to Medicare and receive in exchange a voucher for use in the private marketplace be constitutional? That is, what makes the individual mandate of required Medicare contribution and participation constitutional but not the mandate in Obamacare?

This really is an important question because it goes to the heart of Medicare even in its present form. (Worth noting, too, is that a citizen is required to apply for Medicare during a 6-month window at age 65 years, or be penalized.) Call it what you like, the reality is that citizens are being mandated to purchase Medicare (and Social Security) whether needed, wanted, or not, and semantics aside, I see no difference between those individual mandates and the Obamacare individual mandate. The end result is that the citizen is forced to buy healthcare coverage, whether wanted or not.

Note I’m not even talking about why Romneycare was great for Massachusetts’ citizens but the near-identical twin Obamacare isn’t great for Americans. (I did ask that question earlier, however, in The Forked Tongue Dialogues: Romneycare vs. Obamacare, and I still haven’t gotten an answer that makes sense. Worth noting is that many of the same Republicans who now oppose Obamacare praised Romneycare, although under Tea Party pressure they have “rethought” their earlier praise and now condemn Romneycare. All it took was a couple of clowns threatening primary fights against any Republican who didn’t recant for the great Republican flip-flop to occur. If only they would flip-flop on their “no taxes” pledge so we could logically and fairly solve the debt problem. I’m sure big oil would survive on profits of $30 billion rather than of $33 billion for the quarter.) All I want to know is this: Why is the individual mandate under Obamacare unconstitutional but the individual mandate the Republicans will impose under their Medicare privatization plan is constitutional?

I have asked this question in recent weeks of several Republicans — politicians and nonpoliticians. Either I have received no answer or I have received pablum statements talking about how great the Ryan budget proposal is for business (not for me as an individual, but for corporate America) and how the Republican privatization plan will bring back individual responsibility. No one will address the matter of how, under the Republican plan, limited-income seniors may have to eventually absorb as much as 65% of the cost of Medicare, the vouchers eventually covering only 35%. It is so difficult to pin a politician down. Do they run a special school for weaseling that is required for all new congresspersons and politicians?

While I wait for a cogent answer, which I suspect I will never get, I’m hoping some of the Republican attorneys-general who believe it is imperative to protect me from Obamacare will equally be prepared to protect me from Republicancare (or Ryancare if we want to keep the naming conventions consistent). Alas, I suspect that they view a Republican idea as god-given and god-driven and thus biblically mandated, unlike a Democrat idea, which obviously must be the work of some nefarious evil being.

Okay, perhaps I do exaggerate a minuscule amount, but not by much. From the moment Obama was sworn in as president, Republicans have called his presidency a failed presidency — and worked hard to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet many, if not most, of the policies that are Obama failures were initiated by Bush and called Bush successes — right up to the minute before Obama was sworn in and took the reins of government, so my exaggeration can’t be more than minuscule. Impressive, isn’t it, how, in less than a minute, industry bailouts can go from success to failure. All that is required is an oath-of-office ceremony.

Don’t get the idea that I think Obama has been a spectacular president. A Harry Truman, he is not. The buck clearly doesn’t stop at his desk. I think Obama has been a major disappointment as a leader on multiple levels. He has been a follower, not a leader, which, to me, has been and continues to be his greatest failure; his second greatest failure has been his focus on reelection. It sure would be nice to elect a president whose attitude was “America’s citizens first even if it means I don’t get reelected.”

I’m off track now, so let’s return to the subject at hand. If anyone can get an answer to my question — one that is really an answer and not some more pablum and one that is not semantical – I hope you’ll post it here. If the only answer we can get is a semantic one, then perhaps a few thousand whispers in Democrat ears to change the semantics of Obamacare would be appropriate to take the wind out of the Republican sails.

By the way — is anyone buying the Republican cry of Democrat distortion on the issue of Republican plans for Medicare? I find it amusing that Republicans consider Democrat characterizations of the Republican Plan as false and misleading but with the same forked tongue don’t consider Republican characterizations of Obamacare (remember, e.g., “death panels”) as false and misleading. Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

February 21, 2011

From Obamacare to Pencecare: The Illogical Republican

…or Sometimes You Just Gotta Keep Those Matches Away

I admit that since I became a thinking adult way back in the 1960s I have thought there was something wrong with America’s healthcare system. Even then a single-payer system made the most sense to me. But I wasn’t rabid about it. I did think that Medicare, which I strongly supported and wrote my first-ever political letter to my congressperson about, would be the baby step that would move us down that path. As history has demonstrated, 50 years later we haven’t really gone beyond either that first step or beyond the internecine wars regarding what is and isn’t a proper government role in healthcare.

I do respect the views of those who fear government encroachment into healthcare. I don’t discount some of their arguments as some of them do have merit. But I do discount and have little respect for those whose arguments essentially boil down to “your government intervention threatens my freedom and thus is bad; my government intervention threatens only your freedom and thus is good.” Alas, that is the rhetoric being applied to Obamcare (“your government intervention threatens my freedom and thus is bad”) and Pencecare (“my government intervention threatens only your freedom and thus is good”) by Republicans and Tea Partiers.

(For those who haven’t quite caught on, Pencecare is the healthcare plan that Congressperson Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, and his fellow Republicans and Tea Partiers would like to foist on me and America — essentially, fend for yourself. Obamacare needs no definition today.)

What raised my hackles this week was the cutting of all funding for Planned Parenthood, abortion under any circumstance, and Obamacare. I don’t agree with everything Planned Parenthood does; I don’t agree 100% with the current plans for Obamacare; I don’t agree that abortion should be lightly undertaken or given — but I more fervently do not agree that Planned Parenthood should be wholly defunded; that Obamacare is not good for America and should not be funded; or that all abortions should be prohibited or made so difficult to get as to de facto prohibit them. There needs to be middle ground.

The Republican illogic runs many paths. It is not that Democrats aren’t often illogical, they are, but when it comes to healthcare, budgets, and morals, today’s Republicans are significantly more illogical (and more likely to run amuck) than Democrats. Consider this bit of budget busting: According to budget-cutting Republicans it is logical for the U.S. military to spend millions of taxpayer dollars sponsoring NASCAR races (which as a sport has a declining fan base; it would have been more logical to sponsor NFL football) but it is illogical to fund Sesame Street or family planning or universal healthcare. There is a severe disconnect.

And hasn’t the Republican-Tea Party battle cry against Obamacare been government intrusion into personal healthcare decisions — putting the government between the patient and the doctor? OK, let’s step aside from whether I think I am more likely to get an unbiased and better-for-me decision about my healthcare from a government bureaucrat who doesn’t have to worry about quarterly returns for shareholders than from a private insurer whose staff bonuses are determined by how much profit the company makes, not by how much healthcare it delivers to its insured. Instead let’s look at what the Republicans-Tea Party combination wants to give us: Pencecare. Pencecare puts the government squarely between the patient and the patient’s doctor because it has predetermined that universally certain forms of healthcare shall be denied the patient. No ifs, ands, or buts.

The difference between Obamacare and Pencecare is the neutrality factor. Obamacare is neutral. It gives citizens a menu of choices, from among which the citizen can choose. In contrast, Pencecare dictates what is permissible healthcare; it gives no choice. Whereas under Obamacare the patient, the patient’s family, and the patient’s doctors can consider the totality of circumstances and choose to take action (and among actions) or inaction, under Pencecare the patient has no need to consider anything, the family’s decisions are irrelevant, and the doctor might as well not exist — the government has made the decision in advance and regardless of circumstances.

Pencecare is the Republican formulation of Sarah Palin’s “death panels” for the rest of America. Sarah Palin’s “death panels” were dealing with end-of-life decision making (should we, for example, spend $1 million dollars of taxpayer funds to prolong the life of a 90-year-old person for 30 days?); in contrast, the Pencecare “death panels” deal with beginning-of-life decision making (should we, for example, compel a 12-year-old girl who was raped by her father to carry the fetus to term even though it is likely that she will die during the childbirth process?).

The other difference between Obamacare and Pencecare “death panels” is that under Obamacare the end-of-life discussion was voluntary whereas under Pencecare the beginning-of-life discussion cannot be held — to discuss it is forbidden.

One other thing that is striking about Pencecare. Unlike Obamacare which affects all classes of Americans, Pencecare almost wholly affects the lower socioeconomic classes. Enacting Pencecare has to be a relatively easy thing to do when your income is $170,000+ a year, enabling you to financially skirt its effects, and it is clear that the primary people affected will be those who earn less than $35,000 a year and often less than $15,000 a year.

Voters gave the Republicans and Tea Partiers matches to play with in this past election. The Republicans and Tea Partiers seem to be giddy with excitement about finally being able to play with fire, and so indiscriminately keep lighting those matches. The problem is that such giddiness is blinding them to their own hypocrisy. The least we should expect is no hypocrisy.

(For one perspective on the availability and affordability of health insurance, see Money Won’t Buy You Health Insurance, written by Donna Dubinsky, a cofounder of Palm Computer and CEO of Handspring, who begins: “This isn’t the story of a poor family with a mother who has a dreadful disease that bankrupts them, or with a child who has to go without vital medicines. Unlike many others, my family can afford medical care, with or without insurance.”)

December 24, 2010

A Boost to My Pocketbook, But a Pain in My Heart

Filed under: Politics — americaneditor @ 8:14 am
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The recently enacted tax extension compromise was good for my pocketbook but bad for my children’s future and thus worries me greatly. It also makes me worry about the backbone of our Democrat politicians.

Why does it make me worry? Because of the 2% reduction in the employee Social Security contribution.

Let’s consider history a moment. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt introduced Social Security legislation, it has been under attack from the conservative right. The reasons have varied but ultimately it boils down to what distinguishes Republicans from Democrats: Republicans believe that the only safety net that government should provide is for the wealthy, a class they dream of joining, whereas Democrats believe there should be a safety net for those who are not wealthy and never will be wealthy. This is a fundamental philosophical difference and one that will become a chasm wider than the Grand Canyon in the Congress soon to be seated.

Over the years the right’s attack on Social Security has been thwarted. The most recent defeat was the plan to privatize a portion of Social Security. Can you imagine the mess most of us would be in had that plan come to fruition a few years ago? But now the Democrats have helped drive the first nail into the coffin of Social Security as a safety net. If there is one thing that can be said about Democrat politicians, it is that they are clueless.

Remember when the Bush-era tax cuts were enacted by the Republicans? What was the key to getting the tax cuts passed? It was the assertion that the cuts were temporary and would expire. The U.S. treasury would not lose those hundreds of billions of dollars forever. I suppose another key was the fanciful and fantasy belief that by giving the wealthy more money to spend, it would all trickle down to the middle and poor classes. Trickle is not what I would call what occurred; I feel more like a Robert Maplethorpe exhibit than the recipient of wealthy largesse.

So here the tax cuts are set to expire and what is the Republican hue and cry? To not extend the tax cuts would be a tax increase and they are adamantly opposed to a tax increase — even if just on millionaires and billionaires. I have to tell you how glad I am that the Republicans fought so bravely to maintain the wealthy’s ability to have both winter and summer homes and a Tiffany Christmas. But that is beside the point.

The point is that 42 Republicans stood together, united in refusing to do any of the countries business unless the wealthy got their tax cuts extended, with the preference that they be made permanent. What do you think will happen next year when the Social Security tax cut is supposed to expire?

It is like a perfect storm in the sense that the Republicans, with the help of Democrats, can accomplish two goals in by casting one stone. How better can they destroy Social Security for the future than to deprive it of finding, just as they plan to do to the health care reform measures. And when Democrats howl about how Social Security will be under financial threat, the Republicans will stand tall and united yet again in opposition to anything that smacks of a rise in taxes, which returning the Social Security tax rate to its 6.2% level would clearly be.

Of course there is the possibility that Republicans won’t object because basically the tax is a regressive tax on the middle- and low-income classes, not on the wealthy, but I doubt it. I expect that at some point the Democrats will realize they have been snookered yet again and my generation will be the last generation to collect Social Security as a safety net in old age.

I am always amazed at how ruthless Republicans can be and hapless Democrats are; I keep hoping that Democrats will suddenly get hit over the head with the frying pan and it will jostle their minds sufficiently to see that if they really want to be champions of the middle and lower classes, they need to give Republicans a dose of their own medicine. Alas, I expect that will never occur because Democrats tend to be leaderless.

This year was the 75th birthday of Social Security; I doubt we will celebrate its 100th.

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