“The Conservative Learning Curve”: Thinking Mildly Heretical Thoughts Is One Thing, Actions On The Other Hand…
Over the long run, the most important impact of an election is not on the winning party but on the loser. Winners feel confirmed in staying the course they’re on. Losing parties — or, at least, the ones intent on winning again someday — are moved to figure out what they did wrong and how they must change.
After losing throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Republicans finally came to terms with the New Deal and elected Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Democrats lost three elections in the 1980s and did a lot of rethinking inspired by Bill Clinton, who won the White House in 1992. In Britain, the Labor Party learned a great deal during its exile from power in the Margaret Thatcher years. The same thing happened to the Conservatives during Tony Blair’s long run.
The American conservative movement and the Republican Party it controls were stunned by President Obama’s victory last month. The depth of their astonishment was itself a sign of how much they misunderstood the country they proposed to lead. Yet the shock has pushed many conservatives to think at least mildly heretical thoughts.
In particular, some are realizing that the tea party surge of 2010 was akin to an amphetamine rush — it produced instant gratification but left the conservative brand tarnished by extremism on both social and economic issues. Within two years, the tea party high gave way to a crash.
It’s true that the early signs of conservative evolution are superficial and largely rhetorical. The right wing’s supporters are already threatening primaries against House and Senate Republicans who offer even a hint of apostasy when it comes to raising taxes in any budget deal. Many Republicans still fear challenges from their right far more than defeat in an election by a Democrat.
Nonetheless, rhetorical shifts often presage substantive changes because they are the first and easiest steps along the revisionist path. And on Tuesday, three prominent Republicans took the plunge.
At a dinner in honor of the late Jack Kemp — a big tax-cutter who also had a big heart — Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio both worked hard to back the party away from the damage done by Mitt Romney’s comments on the supposedly dependent 47 percent and the broader hostility shown toward government by a conservatism transfigured by tea-party thinking.
Ryan spoke gracious words about Romney, the man who made him his running mate on the GOP ticket. But the implicit criticism of Romney’s theory was unmistakable. Kemp, Ryan said, “hated the idea that any part of America could be written off.” Republicans, Ryan said, must “carry on and keep fighting for the American Idea — the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to rise, to escape from poverty.” He also said: “Government must act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do.”
Rubio dubbed his speech a discourse on “middle-class opportunity” and distanced himself from the GOP’s obsession with giving succor to the very wealthy.
“Every country in the world has rich people,” Rubio said. “But only a few places have achieved a vibrant and stable middle class. And in the history of the world, none has been more vibrant and more stable than the great American middle class.”
Rubio also walked a new and more careful line on government. “Government has a role to play,” he said, “and we must make sure that it does its part.” Then, making sure he stayed inside the conservative tent, Rubio added: “But it’s a supporting role, to help create the conditions that enable prosperity in our private economy.”
For good measure, former president George W. Bush tried to push his party back toward moderation on immigration, using a speech in Texas to urge that the issue be approached with “a benevolent spirit” mindful of “the contribution of immigrants.”
There’s ample reason to remain skeptical about how far conservatives will go in challenging themselves. Substantively, neither Ryan nor Rubio threw much conservative orthodoxy overboard.
And actions matter more than words. It’s not encouraging that a large group of Republican senators blocked ratification of the international treaty on the rights of the disabled. Then there’s the budget. If Republicans can’t accept even a modest increase in tax rates on the best-off Americans, it’s hard to take their proclamations of a new day seriously.
Still, elections are 2-by-4s, and many conservatives seem to realize the need to understand what just hit them.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 5, 2012
Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan have been adamant that their Medicare proposals won’t affect people over 55. That may be true. But their Medicaid proposals sure will. A lot of health care for the elderly comes from Medicaid. We call those people “dual-eligibles”, because they qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. Some dual-eligible are younger disabled people, but about two-thirds are 65 or older. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports:
Dual eligibles as a share of total Medicaid enrollees ranged from a low of 10 percent in Arizona and Utah to a high of 26 percent in Maine, due to demographic differences and policy preferences across the states. Similarly, spending on dual eligibles as a percentage of total Medicaid spending ranged from a low of 18 percent in Arizona to a high of 59 percent in North Dakota.
Lots of Medicaid money goes to the elderly. Cut Medicaid, and you likely cut some of that. Here’s more:
One quarter (25%) of Medicaid spending for dual eligibles went toward Medicare premiums and cost-sharing for Medicare services in 2008. Five percent of spending for duals was for acute care services not covered by Medicare (e.g., dental, vision, and hearing services). Another 1 percent of Medicaid dual eligible spending was for prescription drugs, a percentage that has fallen significantly since coverage for nearly all prescribed drugs for duals was shifted from Medicaid to Medicare Part D in 2006. The remaining 69% of Medicaid spending was for long-term care services, which are generally not covered by Medicare or private insurance.
That Medicaid money is going to Medicare premiums! It’s also going to actual care. Cut Medicaid, and you likely cut some of that.
It’s about time someone pointed that out. The health care proposals of Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan will absolutely impact some elderly people way earlier than a decade. Unless they’ve changed their minds again.
By: Aaron Carroll, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 7, 2012
At my father’s funeral, the presiding minister, Ebb Munden, was a man who had been one of my dad’s closest friends. Ebb talked about how the last time he had gone to see my dad before he lost consciousness, he had been very emotional but that my dad had comforted him by gripping his hand and telling him it would be alright, that my dad was at peace and Ebb should be too. The lesson was that even at our physically weakest we could still be helping other people and making things better in the world.
I was thinking of that this past weekend when I went to see my brother Kevin back home in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kevin is one of those people who followers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy would call a leech on society — Rand believed that people with disabilities were leeches and parasites on society, and that the “parasites should perish.” Kevin’s birth father broke a chair over his head and gave him brain damage, making him developmentally disabled and making it hard for him to speak clearly. He came to my family when we were both 11 years old, and has been not only my brother but one of my closest friends ever since. As an adult in recent years, his body has continued to betray him as he is hard of hearing, can’t see well, and has muscular dystrophy. Recently he had to go into the hospital for major surgery and then developed pneumonia — his muscular dystrophy makes it especially tough to recover from all this.
For all of that, though, Kevin still contributes to the world around him, just as he always has. He has always shown great tenderness to the people around him, and still does. He can’t talk right now because he is on a ventilator, but his expressive hands still say a great deal. After I was watching him go through strenuous rehab exercises, I came over to him after he was done and asked how he was doing, and he just grinned and patted me on my too-big tummy, not only telling me he was okay, but that maybe I should be doing more exercise too. Even with all the tubes attached to him, he was still up for playing catch with a plastic ball in his room. He still had smiles for, and played ball with, a 5-year-old girl who came to see him. One of the nurses at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital told me how touched she had been when he gave her a hug even though she was doing painful rehab exercises she knew he didn’t like. He still gave me all kinds of trouble, taking delight in showing me two stuffed dogs people had given him because he had named the big dog Kevin and the little dog Mike. And when I had to leave to go the airport and had tears in my eyes as I was leaning down to hug him goodbye, he rubbed my head to comfort me. I had come to comfort him in his time of pain, and he had comforted me even more. Kevin being a part of my life has been such a gift to me, and has made me 100 times better a person.
Kevin has also shaped my values and philosophy of life, and given me a perspective on policy issues. Conservatives are obsessed with the idea that somewhere, somehow there are lazy “undeserving” welfare recipients, but more than 90 percent of government support dollars go to the elderly, people working hard but are still below the poverty line because of low-wage jobs, and very disabled people like Kevin — those whose middle-class families like mine would be plunged into poverty if we had to pay for all their medical costs on our own.
It is Kevin who I think of when I see that the Ryan-Romney budget slashes money from Medicaid and from the Social Services Block Grant, a fund specifically targeted to help states meet the needs of their most vulnerable citizens. It is Kevin who I thought about when the audience at a Republican debate cheered about a man who had no health insurance dying. It is Kevin who I thought of when an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference laughed and cheered when Glenn Beck gleefully proclaimed that “in nature, the lions eat the weak.”
A society that does not value my brother Kevin at least as much as it does the Wall Street titans who grow rich as they speculate with other people’s money, and use the tax code to write off the debt they use to buy and sell companies regardless of the consequences to the families who work there, is a sick society. A government that would cut support to middle-class families trying to support their disabled children so the wealthy can get more tax breaks — a government that actually decides to help the wealthy and powerful more than the poor and disabled — would be a government with no decency. That is what Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Republicans are proposing for us. Their hero Ayn Rand would be proud.
I have many reasons for working to oppose Romney’s policies. I think his economic policies are a disaster for an economy still weakened by allowing Wall Street to run roughshod over the rest of us for the first decade of this century. I’d like for people to have access to contraceptives, and all of us to have access to quality health care. The idea of appointing more Supreme Court Justices who support cases like the Citizens United ruling that have allowed “corporations are people, my friends” is destructive to our democracy. But even if all of that wasn’t there, I would only need one reason to oppose Romney’s policies, and his name is Kevin.
By: Mike Lux, Partner, Democracy Partners, Published in The Huffington Post, May 29, 2012
You have to want to be President awfully badly to purposely scare the hell out of parents whose children face illness and disability in their lives. You also have to be a perfectly despicable human being.
Appearing yesterday with his wife, Karen, on the Glenn Beck program, Rick Santorum joined his wife in ‘revealing’ that it was the passage of Obamacare that motivated them to enter into the presidential race.
According to Karen Santorum, “Because we have as you know a little angel, little Bella, special needs little girl, and when Obamacare passed, that was it, that put the fire in my belly.”
Had that been the end of it, I’d have no problem whatsoever with Mrs. Santorum’s comment. If Karen Santorum feels that there is a better way to protect the health and wellbeing of her child, it is not only her right but her responsibility to do everything she can on behalf of her little girl and every child out there in similar circumstances. I would fully respect her for the same even if I disagree with her assessment of what the law means to her daughter and others who suffer illness.
But it did not end there—not by a long shot. Instead, Rick Santorum chimed in his agreement by arguing that the health care law would ration care based on the ‘usefulness’ of an individual.
It’s all about utilization, right? It’s all about how do we best allocate resources where they are most effectively used? [...] Government allocating resources best on how to get the best bang for your dollars and it’s all about utility. It’s all about the usefulness of the person to society, instead of the dignity of every human life and the opportunity for people who love and care for people to give them the best possibility to have the best possible life.
I don’t believe that Rick Santorum knows the first thing about dignity in a human life. He couldn’t. If he did he could not possibly have made such a statement knowing how this would cause fear for so many when it is a complete lie.
Never mind that the ACA has made it possible for children like Bella Santorum to always access health insurance, without lifetime caps and without the possibility for exclusion because of being born with a tragic illness or disability. Never mind that, because of the ACA, children born into a lifetime of medical challenges will never again face a time when they are denied the health insurance necessary to pay for their expensive healthcare needs.
And never mind that we are left to scratch our heads in wonderment that leading organizations such as the American Association of People with Disabilities, National Organization For Rare Disorders, The Arc of the United States, and numerous additional widely recognized and respected groups whose sole purpose is to represent the needs of those Santorum tells us will be deemed disposable, have not only registered their support for the ACA, but have gone to the trouble and expense to actually file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court to defend the law.
Apparently, Santorum either believes that these organizations are led by the dumbest people alive; that they have entered into some sort of deal with the devil to sell out the very people they exist to defend for reasons that escape the rational mind; or he simply could not care less that his statements will be heard by people who are the parents of special children and that they will be terrified.
Let’s take a look at the what law actually does and who it affects.
The government board that Santorum pretends to fear is the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) which is authorized to make changes to Medicare—and only Medicare. Accordingly, while some children with challenges like little Bella Santorum could find themselves qualified for coverage in Medicare, young Bella would not be affected by any decisions of the IPAB as the Santorum family has their own insurance coverage. Further, the legislative record makes clear that the IPAB is not to offer any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or increase Medicare beneficiary premiums, increase Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (deductibles, coinsurance, or co-payments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.
And if, by some evil act, the IPAB does attempt to ration healthcare, Congress has the specific authority under the law to shoot it right down.
If Rick Santorum doesn’t understand the law, he should. And if he is too lazy or finds it too inconvenient to correctly cite the law when lying is so much better for political purposes, then he could,at least, show sufficient humanity to avoid targeting his political potshots in a way designed to frighten those with challenged children.
You see, should the ACA continue to be the law of the land and Rick Santorum is not president, Santorum gets to return to his cushy lobbying gig. But all of these parents with special needs children—the people Santorum has so needlessly frightened—will be left to worry forever because Rick Santorum thought this all made for a nifty campaign pitch.
I guess when your ambition is as big as Senator Santorum’s, you can’t be worried about the damage to you do to those who are the most vulnerable.
I understand very well that many people object to the Affordable Care Act for a variety of reasons. And while I am convinced that if people better understood the law the result would be greater support for the law, this is wholly beside the point.
If your own judgment is that Obamacare is not the best way to address our healthcare problems, fine. That’s what America is all about. If you have a better idea as to how to deal with the issue then, by all means, vote for those who share your approach and work hard to make any change you believe is necessary, even if that includes repealing the Act.
However, when Rick Santorum tells us that the law would deny the right to life and the care needed to sustain that life to children like his own daughter, because such a child would be deemed to not be of ‘sufficient use to society’, he accuses the President, every member of Congress who supported the law, and every other supporter, such as myself, of being unfit to walk to this earth.
Anyone is welcomed to disagree with my judgment as to whether the Affordable Care Act is a good or a bad law. If my opinion is wrong, it won’t be the first time or the last that this will prove to be the case. But if you are going to accuse me of being willing to allow a child—or anyone else— to die because I would somehow deem her to be inconsequential to society, you’d really better be prepared to not only say that to my face but take the punishment that I promise you will follow.
What’s all the more amazing is that Santorum’s statement doesn’t even make sense.
In point of fact, the elements of the law that allegedly so concern Santorum do not even begin to ‘kick in’ until 2014. Thus, President Obama would only preside over its implementation for a very few years. And yet, Rick Santorum suggests that he is of the belief that Congresses and presidents in the years to come—some of whom will no doubt be Republican—would stand idly by while people are allowed to die because they are no longer deemed useful to society.
It is precisely because Santorum’s statement makes no sense, and precisely because he so badly cites the reality of the law, that we know that it is nothing but pure politics. And playing politics with the hearts of people whose lives are already tough enough takes a very special kind of human being—the kind that would never be welcomed at my dinner table.
American politics is a contact sport to be sure. But when the front-runner for his party’s nomination is willing to level charges such as this just to score some cheap political points while giving every parent with a challenged child a false reason to lie awake at night with worry, it is Rick Santorum’s usefulness to our society —not the value of the sick and disabled—that remains very much in question.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributing Writer, Forbes, February 25, 2012
Over the last few years, there’s been no shortage of attacks from the right against the Affordable Care Act, but going after provisions related to pre-natal testing appears to be a new one.
Rick Santorum accused President Obama of requiring free prenatal testing in the health care plan he signed in 2010 because it would detect if children were disabled, encourage more abortions and save money.
“One of the things that you don’t know about ObamaCare in one of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing,” Santorum began telling about 400 people here. “Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society. That too is part of ObamaCare — another hidden message as to what president Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country.”
CBS’s Bob Schieffer pressed Santorum on this point yesterday, saying, “You sound like you’re saying that the purpose of pre-natal care is to cause people to have abortions.” The Republican presidential hopeful didn’t back down, arguing, “[A] lot of pre-natal tests are done to identify deformities in utero and the customary procedure is to encourage abortions.”
Even for Santorum, this is low.
For one thing, medical experts know Santorum’s line is nonsense. As MSNBC’s First Read explained, “There is value in pre-natal testing, because it can detect potential problems in utero or at delivery and allow parents and doctors to get the proper care for their child.”
For another, trying to turn pre-natal care into yet another culture-war battle is ridiculous. University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack, an expert in health policy, added, “Santorum’s comments are only made uglier by their utter lack of foundation. There is no evidence whatsoever that liberals — let alone President Obama — are less solicitious or caring about the disabled than other Americans. I’ve never heard any liberal health policy wonk promote genetic technologies to ‘cull the ranks of the disabled’ or as part of any cost-cutting plan. That ugly meme is completely made up. By any reasonable measure, the proliferation of genetic diagnostic technologies coincides with great progress in public acceptance and support for people with disabilities.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 20, 2012