Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times about frustration coming from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries that feel they are going to bear the brunt of the increasingly devastating ecological disasters that have been brought on, or at least enhanced, by pollutants produced disproportionately by global powers. In other words, the countries devastated worst are the most susceptible to even greater ecological damage, but they lack both the industry to be blamed as one of the chief causes as well as the economic power to battle and influence those that are the driving forces. It’s literally the worst of both worlds. As I read this article I thought of what a great parallel it made with states like Texas with regards to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Now I am no wonk like Ezra Klein, but I do my best to keep up with CNN and the New York Times on a daily basis. If this reveals some horrible bias on my part then so be it, but I cannot spend my whole day reading every conspiracy conservative blog post or every hyperbolic, meant-to-be-thought-provoking-and/or-inspiring post from Upworthy on my Facebook feed, so it is the best I can do. I also resent the idea that the New York Times, held as the public standard and public record for such a long time, all of a sudden became a bastion of liberal untruth (in their news reporting – yes their editorial page is liberal, but editorials and op-eds are on their face opinion pieces) when a cable station known as Fox News came to power. The New York Times stood for “2 + 2 = 4” for most of my life. Then Fox News came around and told its minions “2+2 = 9 and anyone who thinks it is less than that is a liberal monster and a liar, but we will ‘compromise’ and say 2+2=7. But if you cannot agree on that then you are uncompromising and wrong.”
But back to the task at hand. Texas has the most uninsured people of any state in America, by percentage (followed closely by Louisiana, to whom this analysis, if I can call it that, also applies). But their Governor Rick Perry, a staunch opponent of Obamacare, refused to expand Medicaid (once the Supreme Court made that part of Obamacare optional for states, but remember, a court is only activist when a LIBERAL court overturns or changes laws). The decision to uphold Obamacare by the Supreme Court is really a terrible decision regardless of what your political leanings are. It achieved the result of upholding the law, but it did so in a way that gutted the Commerce Clause powers of Congress far beyond what the Rehnquist Court ever did and it also made the Medicaid expansion optional, which was just the first way of rendering the decision a Pyrrhic victory for President Obama.
So Texas, with lots of uninsured people, and a federal guarantee to pick up 100% of the Medicaid costs for three years, and 90% of them after that, opted not to expand the rolls to the people who need it most. Now, governors like Rick Perry like to say they are doing what is best for their state when the federal government comes a knockin’ because that sounds tough and full of leadership. But in this case, it is not what is best for Texas that is driving Rick Perry, it is the new Republican governor motto – We do whatever is worse for President Obama.
And why did I start with the reference to the tragedy in the Philippines? Because, just as their voices and wallets are insufficient to change the world community’s direction on climate change, so too are the poor people who would most benefit from an expansion of Medicaid in Texas. Especially since Texas is one of several states, mostly southern, enacting stringent voter ID laws, since the Supreme Court gutted part of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year. It has been well documented that the plague of voter fraud is a mirage created by Republicans. Now one cannot sensibly argue for voter fraud, so that makes it an easy argument to make for anti-voter fraud measures. As if voting against stringent requirements MAKES you pro-voter fraud. But these laws are almost entirely a pre-text to limit the voting rights of communities who are more likely to vote Democratic. So in states like Texas you have created an almost perfect circle. The poor are denied health benefits out of political spite, but are then more likely to have voting impeded so that men like Governor Rick Perry can claim a mandate for their policies when the poor end up not voting in sufficient numbers to influence political change (several states like these are also ones seeking to limit early voting as well).
Do I think the requirements are too stringent? No. But I also am a very educated person with (diminishing) means. They do not seem too harsh to someone in my position, but the real issue is why would one party be the overwhelmingly driving force behind a law that purports to solve a problem that does not exist unless it is a pre-text for something else?
Does this have to do with President Obama? Of course. In 2008 lots of people were inspired and motivated to vote in larger numbers than before. And a lot of those first time voters may not have looked the same as some of the regulars. And there is your iron clad case for widespread voter fraud.
Now, as a supporter of President Obama I am both angry and disappointed that the healthcare.gov website was and is such a flop. The way I feel about this website is how I felt about Eliot Spitzer getting caught with hookers. Spitzer went after Wall St harder than just about anyone and was on the ball well before Wall St imploded. But he was messing with powerful people and by sleeping with high end hookers he gave them an Achilles’ heel to exploit. Now President Obama clearly has not fu*ked around on Michelle because there is no way Republicans would have taken the high ground while looking for dirt if they learned that he had cheated. But he challenged a massive industry and a powerful political party and with a faulty website he gave them Achilles’ entire leg to exploit.
Of course in states that cooperated and were efficient enough, the roll out of state run exchanges have been a success with Kentucky, of all places, being a shining example (wacko Senators, but a Democratic governor who believed it would help his state and that once it worked, would give him political cover). I live in New York. I enrolled in a health plan yesterday in about 60 minutes (the biggest snafu I had was that New York State apparently does not recognize the hyphen in my name, Jean-Louis). I was able to find plans that offered me better coverage than my current plan (which is pretty solid), is accepted by the doctors I see, and will save me about $160 per month over what I am paying now. And it was offered by a new provider that emerged in 23 states, specifically because of the market opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act. To me, the act is a clear cut success.
But I also understand that many (most?) people had their care go up and are also still having problems with the site. And the President has taken responsibility for both the site and the misrepresentation made to people about keeping their health care. But the fact is this is a plan on the scale of some of the biggest social programs in America’s history. Everyone agrees that health care costs are a monstrous problem for the present and future of this country. Everyone sees problems with it. The President pushed forward a plan, championed by Congressional Republicans in the 1990s and implemented by a Republican governor in Massachusetts in the 200s, but because the main political objective of Republicans in power nationwide has been “What’s Worse for Obama” they never made the best of it or worked with it (though some governors like Kasich in Ohio have). So a majority of states never set up exchanges, many did not expand Medicaid and just waited for something to fail. And the website gave them that opening, but having over 30 states needing the federal site cannot help its efficacy (even though that is not an excuse). But when one party stands as a roadblock out of principle than out of practicality and the betterment of their constituents, how is that a recipe for anything to be a full-fledged success?
From all that I have read the stimulus in 2009 staved off a worse recession, but many economists believed a much bigger stimulus was the key to reversing the economy’s woes. However, Republicans (and their Blue Dog Democrat buddies) tempered it and forced a half measure, just as they have with every initiative Obama has put forth, even when the measures he put forth were Republican idea (cap and trade, health care marketplace, Middle East intervention, etc.)! So you deliver half a solution and when it delivers half or less of a result the party that caused the failure then gets up and screams “It’s a failure!” It is the political equivalent of another darling of Republicans – stand your ground laws. You can pick a fight, begin losing a fight and then kill the person winning the fight and it is all legal, according to the state of Florida. Republicans have governed with a sort of suicide bomber mentality with regards to President Obama. “We cannot win because the President is personally popular and we have antiquated ideas and no policies (except for our libertarian brethren who are also assholes, but call themselves libertarians because they want to appear principled instead of selfish), but we can create a losing environment for the President.”
The point of all this is just like the climate change deniers or selfish industrial nations, while the haves argue policy and theory (ether honestly or cynically) there are have-nots being hurt, in reality, with the consequences of actions. And the ACA is a real effort to help the have-nots. The website and the President’s false statement are not small problems, but while complaining about those, maybe it is also worth asking what people like Gov. Rick Perry really want with their actions. Is it what is best for Texans, or is it what’s worse for President Obama? Best to ask this now while the poor, most likely to be helped or hurt by these actions, still have a voice.
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