An American Editor

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 23, 2011

The Forked Tongue Dialogues: Romneycare vs. Obamacare

Here’s my question, one that no potential Republican candidate for president has been willing to directly tackle, at least not to date: Why is Romneycare good for Massachusetts but bad for America?

I used to be a Republican, back when one didn’t have to pass a special test to be a Republican. Remember those days when what mattered was a belief that big government wasn’t the answer to all questions and people’s rights and well being were important mainstays of Republicanism? The days of the Rockefeller, Ford, even Reagan?

Civil Rights legislation passed in the 1960s because Republicans cared about people, not because Democrats were overwhelmingly in control. It was the Republican Everett Dirksen who ensured that there were enough Republican votes to pass Civil Rights and Medicare and other Great Society legislation as the Southern Democrats and the Dixiecrats rebelled.

But today, I couldn’t be a Republican even if I was desperate to be one because I couldn’t pass the ideological litmus test: I believe that what has made America great is that its politicians ultimately sought the middle ground and compromised. Today, “middle ground” and “compromise” are banned from the Republican lexicon.

Which brings me back to Romneycare. Massachusetts undertook, at the instigation of its then Republican governor, Mitt Romney (who desperately wants to be the next president of the United States), an overhaul of healthcare, requiring that every resident of Massachusetts have health insurance or pay a fine/tax — universal healthcare for Massachusetts. And it apparently is working. The latest information indicates that nearly 99% of Bay Staters are insured and that insurance premiums have declined over the past several years (or at least the rate of increase has declined) as compared to pre-Romneycare.

On the other hand, in my state, not only has it been difficult to get good healthcare insurance, it has been exceedingly expensive and every year premiums have increased by 20% or more over the prior year. Plus there is a large swath of residents who have no insurance, can’t get insurance, or can’t afford insurance. So I ask again: Why is Romneycare good for Massachusetts but bad for America?

Perhaps instead of calling it Romneycare I should call it Republicancare. Maybe then Republicans would own up to having “coerced” citizens of Massachusetts into buying healthcare insurance whether they wanted it or not. Why is it a good argument that Obamacare is unconstitutional because it “coerces” citizens to do something they do not want to do (buy health insurance) but Republicancare/Romneycare is constitutional because it “coerces” citizens to do something they do not want to do (buy health insurance)?

Clearly, or so I would think based on Republican Second Amendment arguments, Republicans don’t believe citizens lose their constitutional rights at the state border. So where is the Republican outrage against Republicancare/Romneycare for Bay Staters? I guess the answer is wrapped up in the old state’s rights argument — states can do harm but the federal government can’t.

The reason that argument fails (at least in my thinking) is that Republicancare/Romneycare has a direct impact on interstate commerce, which the federal government can regulate. So where are Mike Pence (R-Indiana), Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota), and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), or even Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) when their help is needed? Why haven’t they, or one of them, introduced legislation to repeal the Bay State’s Republicancare/Romneycare and rescuing millions of Americans from fiscal enslavement? Or legislation cutting off all federal funding for that bit of socialized medicine?

The answer lies in the origins of that bit of state socialism: it was brought to America by Republicans and therefore cannot possibly be socialism or bad for the citizenry. So I ask yet a third time: Why is Republicancare/Romneycare good for Massachusetts but bad for America? Where is the moral outrage? Where are the witty Palinisms that rile up the Tea Party and the Republican right?

Obamacare is Republicancare/Romneycare just on a broader scale. But one would never know that by listening to the Republicans or the Tea Partiers. I offer this suggestion to Republicans and Tea Partiers: Solve the healthcare reform problem by repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Republicancare/Romneycare. Alternatively, a simpler and quicker approach would be to introduce legislation that renames Obamacare as Republicancare/Romneycare. Now you can trumpet your triumph over big government and socialized medicine yet show that you want to treat all Americans equally — a win-win for Republicans and Americans.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: