June 29, 2012

Why the ACA is Bad: June 28, 2012 Republican Spin Edition

Remarkably, after listening to some of the commentary yesterday on the SCOTUS decision to uphold just about all of what the Republicans call endearingly call the Job-Killing Health Care Law, I came away with an odd feeling that they actually support the bill, but are concerned that it doesn’t go far enough or meet the President’s promises, so that’s the reason why it must be repealed. Or, as Mitt Romney promised, struck down on his first day in office. 

Here are just a few of the reasons:
  • Obama said if you liked your health care you could keep it, but that won’t happen because employers will drop coverage because of the ACA. So since it won’t do what the President said, we must repeal. 
  • The penalty for employers for not offering coverage is too low, and so they will drop it. So, since we’re not imposing a high enough incentive on business to continue coverage, we must repeal.
  • The President said he’d not raise taxes on the middle class, but since SCOTUS said the penalty for the individual mandate provision was a tax, then the President did not keep his promise. And so we must repeal.
My thoughts: 
  • Yes, we were told that if we liked our coverage we could keep it, and yes it’s possible that some businesses will stop offering the coverage (which they have maintained even in the crappy 'Obamaconomy') and throw their employees to the wind. The thing is, dropping coverage is not a provision of the law, it's choice some companies may make. If every law were repealed based on the way people (and by people of course I mean corporations) respond, where would we be? And if leaving the choice on whether to offer insurance to the employer is bad, what are the alternatives? Mandate that employers must offer coverage, no matter what? Or mandate that they don’t offer coverage? Both mandates and choice can't be bad, can they?  
  • Regarding the penalty being too low – seriously? Republicans pretending that a business regulation is not burdensome enough?  How stupid do they think we are? 
  • The penalty for individual mandate does not constitute raising taxes on the middle class. From a constitutional definition, it may be a tax, but it only applies to people who choose to pay it. That’s right – this tax is a choice, not a mandatory tax that’s going to apply across the board. To claim that for this reason Obama has broken a promise not to raise taxes on people earning less than $250K is ridiculous.
One more thing: another reason I heard yesterday on why the ACA is bad is because we have a doctor shortage. See, if we give coverage to all those tens of millions of uninsured, they’ll never get in to see a physician, or worse they’ll keep me from getting in to see a physician. So clearly we must repeal this bill. 

Yep – we have a doctor shortage, I think everyone agrees on that. So, Republicans - if you're ‘all about the jobs' , why don't you focus on putting more health care professional to work, instead of repealing the ACA?

June 28, 2012

Why I Support the Individual Mandate

Was I surprised with today's SCOTUS decision? Yes, I was -- I had not been having confident thoughts on it -- but I'm pleased with it, for a variety of reasons. 

Let's start with this one: I'm tired of paying for other people's health care.

There, I said it. Makes me a bad person I'm sure, but at least I'm honest.

The big deal today, obviously, was Justice Roberts joining the four liberals in upholding the constitutionality of the 'individual mandate' requiring people either get insurance or pay a penalty.  The penalty starts at less than $100 a person, and goes up to about $695 per person at its highest. It'll never be more than about 3.5% of a family's income, and will almost always be less. At the high end, the per-person cost is about the cost of an ER visit, so in the overall scheme of things it's not a ton of money for people who have money, can afford health insurance, but choose not to have it. 

Most of the comments from the Right talk about how this whopping penalty, or tax, or incentive of less than a night on the town is such a huge intrusion into their lives.  And of course the R's in the House have already decided their repeal vote will come on July 11th.

To me the larger intrusion is the cost those of us with insurance have to pay to make up for those who don't buy it when they could. We all pay, through our premiums and fees paid by our employers and (in New York at least) through surcharges added onto benefit payments. 

If a person truly cannot afford insurance, and has no coverage options available through the many safety net programs that are out there, that's one thing.

But if a person's not indigent, and makes a choice not to pay for health insurance, is it OK that I'm forced to pay for something I don't want, as long as they don't have to pay for what they don't want? 

No - it's not fair. And now, under ACA, people who choose not to participate will pay a little bit for their bad decision, and I'll have to pay a little less on their behalf. 

Just one reason I'm for the ACA.

June 22, 2012

Mittenverse: The Poetry of Mitt Romney

Pennsylvania: The Keypad State

Well, I went to a place today
called Wawas, I was at Wawas.
I went in to order a sandwich

You press a little touchtone keypad, alright?
You just touch that and, you know, the sandwich comes up. You
Touch this, touch this, touch this,

go pay...It's amazing!

Michigan: Anywhere here, you're within 85 miles of a great noodle.

I have no idea
what was said but
I sure remember

Being here in Frankenmuth.
And the wonderful chicken

You -- you have a lot
of chicken here in Frankenmuth
Oh yeah,

Chicken, and, you know, noodles...right here.
What a wonderful place!

June 20, 2012

Voter Purge or Cash Splurge (part 2)

So, I was a little off when I said that the thing that really harms the integrity of the process and undermines voter confidence was not dead people. It is dead people -- dead presidents, actually.

Most people get that running for office costs money. Lots of money. There's polling, and focus groups, and lawn signs, and mailings, and TV ads and radio ads and bus ads and get out the vote drives.

There's rent for headquarters, sometimes multiple headquarters, to cover the sprawling (and ridiculous) districts. Phone bills and Internet bills and office staff and copiers and printers and all that stuff. Doodads to hand out to people so they don't forget you.  The list goes on and on.

Most people also clearly get -- they really do -- that corporations aren't people, that unions aren't people, that PACs aren't people, that interest groups and business groups aren't people. 

Opinionated billionaires are people, of course, but when they choose to donate their gazillions into the political process through whatever means they can, in my eyes these folks lose their personhood and become just like corporations and interest groups -- they become little more than wallets.

Wallets that open up and spill out tens of millions of dollars, that pour money into districts they've never heard of, never been to, and couldn't find if their lives depended on it. They buy up the airwaves, bombarding us with lies, which some folks actually fall for. They drive me nuts.

So no, it's not the risk of dead people voting that erodes voter confidence, it's the money, stupid. It's the cash splurge that candidates know they can count on, and believe they can't win without.
Here's a thought or three:
  • What if you had to show photo ID and proof of residency in the district of the candidate you were donating to? 
  • What if politicians swore to never take a dime of PAC or special interest money?
  • What if broadcasters only aired ads that were paid for and approved by the candidates themselves? 
Ah. What if I weren't so naive?

Sidebar: Voter Purge

Shortly after posting part 1 on voter purge, I read an email from the Brennan Center for Justice, asking for my help in pushing back against "the biggest rollback in voting rights since the Jim Crow era."

The email references three citizens who are having trouble obtaining or maintaining their voting rights, including a veteran in South Carolina who can't vote without the correct state photo ID, but can't get one because he doesn't have his actual Social Security card. Which, of course, he can't get without his South Carolina ID card.  I chuckled uncomfortably at this one, remembering my own situation of  trying to obtain an ID card without having an ID card.

Also mentioned was a 93 year old woman, who worked for 30 years at the Statehouse in Tennessee. Trusted to clean the building, including the governor's office, she "was almost barred from voting for the first time in decades" because her ID card didn't meet the new standards.  She'd been voting all along, without any issue.

The third situation pertains to an 88 year old woman, whose name on her birth certificate doesn't match the name on her ID, so she needs to provide her 65-year old marriage certificate, assuming she's eventually able to find it. Kinda thinking that most married women have one name today and another one when they were born, don't you think?

These are just a few of the many cases that have come to light where seniors, young people, and other traditional Democratic-leaning constituencies have been made to jump through hoops to maintain their right to vote by Republican-controlled state legislatures.  The Florida League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote had suspended voter registration drives in protest over the Sunshine State's new laws, and only recently went back to work there.

But here's the thing -- regardless of which party is behind the changing rules or the voter registration drives, the real problem is that so many eligible voters don't vote.  That should be a bigger concern, and more important area of focus, than disenfranchising the ones who do.

June 19, 2012

Voter Purge or Cash Splurge? (Part 1)

Last week I received a call from a nice woman reaching out on behalf of Judicial Watch, urging me to contribute $75 or more to their 2012 Election Integrity Project effort to purge the rolls of ineligible voters. 

The pitch started with me being advised that there are currently over 2 million dead people registered to vote.  I asked where these people were, and was advised, "well, they're right here in America, all across the United States, literally millions of dead people still on the voter rolls." 

I asked how many of them had actually voted; she was not able to answer my question, but forged ahead, explaining how dangerous it was that this year's election could be stolen  -- stolen! -- by ineligible voters, and that we needed photo ID and needed to purge all of the ineligible and dead voters from the polls to provide us election integrity. Paraphrasing her concern, the issue was that states will mail voter notices to dead people, and they will be picked up and used by living people with nefarious intent to elect the wrong person and throw the country into turmoil.

I asked her where she lived and what proof of identity she had to show to vote in the last election.  According to her, in Phoenix, you just have to show up with the card you got in the mail, and you can vote. Silly Arizonans, I thought -- with their illegal immigration issues, you'd think they'd require more than that. And of course they do -- I checked the rules for proof of identification, which boldly declare Every qualified elector is required to show proof of identity at the polling place before receiving a ballot.

Oh dear -- was I lied to?

Here in Onondaga County, in Central New York, I have to (1) show up at the right polling place; (2) be listed in the log; and (3) sign the book with a signature that matches the one that's on file with the Board of Elections.  

I'm thinking that's a pretty good protection -- not a perfect one, I agree, but pretty darn good. And while I'm not diabolically opposed to having to show ID to vote, the risk of someone voting using a fake ID seems much higher than that of someone having enough interest in 'fake voting' to take the time to get hold of and practice my atrocious signature and then show up at the right place to pretend they're me.  

I want elections to be fair and honest and reasonable as much as the next guy. I think that states should maintain accurate voter registration records.  I think if a state allows someone to vote simply because they have a polling place card in their hands, they need to have their heads examined. But I think Judicial Watch is stretching it with their belief that "Allowing the names of ineligible voters to remain on the voting rolls harms the integrity of the electoral process and undermines voter confidence in the legitimacy of elections."

In part two, I'll talk about the things that really harm the integrity and undermine voter confidence.  Trust me, it's not dead people.

June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day, Dad


Over the past few weeks I've received dozens of emails - at last count around 75 - having something to do with Father's Day.  Ranging from creative spam (Dad's day Cialis) to retail frenzy (buy this! no buy THIS!) to messages from politicians (the best was short & sweet from Governor Andrew Cuomo), they started arriving just around Memorial Day, about the time we would have been cleaning up from a cookout.

With you being gone (five years now), at first I found them all to be intrusive, and deleted most without even reading them. After all, none of them really fit my situation: what do to for Father's Day when your Dad is gone.  But as it got further into June, I started looking at them a little differently.

As I read the emails from hardware stores and sporting goods stores and home improvement stores and clothing stores and on and on, I was taken back to when I was a kid and going through the 'find the right Father's Day present' angst. I'm sure Mom remembers those days too!

I only remember on one present I ever gave you for this occasion. And no, it wasn't a tie, but that doesn't mean I didn't give you some over the years -- you had so many, all so very wide and colorful that if I were to guess, I suspect I may have had a hand in some of them. You were kind enough to wear even the most 'special' ones to school.

Once I became an adult, our Father's Day celebrations were cookouts or dinner at my house, with as many family gathered as possible; you and Mom would come over, the boys and usually some of your grandkids, and there'd be that buzzing, bubbling sound of family, people picking on each other and reminiscing and laughing too loudly about silly little things.

And there was always the US Open, around which I had to plan dinner.

I remember one year (after My Sweet Baboo and I got together) when everyone was out in the garden, playing croquet, taking pictures, looking for toads and bugs, except you.  You were inside, bowl of oyster crackers on the coffee table, cocktail in hand, watching the golf.  I remember asking Mom what was wrong, and her telling me there was nothing wrong, you were enjoying Father's Day. 

It was hard for me to understand how sitting by yourself watching golf while your whole family gathered outside was 'enjoyment' for you, but I learned to live with it, over the years, and remember coming in and sitting with you, with my glass of wine, watching Phil and Ernie and all the rest, and of course that darn Tiger Woods in his red shirt.  Together on the couch, with quiet conversation or sometimes just companionable silence, we enjoyed the time, until I had to go stir something or turn something or head back outside to see what was going on. You'd give my arm a squeeze, "OK Diz, see you in a little bit," and off I'd go, leaving you with a smile (and taking mine with me).

I'm thinking this morning that nothing would make me happier than to be able to sit and watch golf with you, or plan dinner around a sudden death playoff. And I'm remembering that one very special Father's Day present.  It was a little resin statue of a man which was popular at the time. He'd be dressed for different occasions, or different sports, with cute sayings on them.  In this one, he might have had a hot water bottle on his head or something, don't remember that part exactly, but I do remember what it said.

I Love You So Much It Hurts.

Happy Father's Day.