Health care policy can get confusing, even for policy experts who study the details for a living. It’s one of the reasons dishonesty in the political debate surrounding health care is so damaging – even the most well-intentioned people often don’t know how best to separate fact from fiction.
It’s why efforts from political officials – who know better – to deliberately confuse people are so disappointing. Michael Hiltzik reports:
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act never stop producing new tricks to undermine the reform’s effectiveness. But leave it to California Republicans to reach for the bottom. Their goal appears to be to discredit the act by highlighting its costs and penalties rather than its potential benefits.
The device chosen by the Assembly’s GOP caucus is a website at the address coveringcaliforniahealthcareca.com. If that sounds suspiciously like coveredca.com, which is the real website for the California insurance exchange, it may not be a coincidence.
In theory, this is a site created by California Republicans to serve as a “resource” for those looking for additional information. In practice, the site “is worse than useless” – it didn’t direct users to the in-state exchange marketplace, and includes demonstrable falsehoods intended to deceive the public.
Like what? The site includes the ridiculous notion that the Affordable Care Act increases the federal budget deficit, which is the exact opposite of reality. It also claims the IRS will use the law to target conservatives; it says the law will discourage private-sector hiring; and it even hints in the direction of the death-panel smear by raising the specter of “rationing” for the elderly.
All of these claims are wrong. All of them are presented, however, on a website that presents itself as objective and non-partisan.
Stepping back, dishonesty on this scale is certainly brazen, but it raises anew a lingering question: if the Affordable Care Act is so awful, and will be as horrific as critics claim, why do Republicans continue to feel the need to make stuff up? Shouldn’t reality be damaging enough?
By: Steve Benen, the Maddow Blog, December 4, 2013
One of my favorite scenes in a movie is Ed Harris playing NASA ace Gene Kranz at mission control when Apollo 13 was about to burn up. He walks into a room full of engineers and scientists responsible for the mission as they are arguing and screaming at one another. He slams his fist down, quiets the crowd and says, “Let’s work the problem, people.”
That is how I feel about the launch of Obamacare. Fix it. Solve it. Make it work.
The other famous quote from that movie was Tom Hanks as Commander Jim Lovell when he said, “Houston, we have a problem.” The actual quote from Lovell was, “Houston we’ve had a problem.” Now that seems more appropriate for the herculean task of solving America’s health care problems.
We’ve had a problem, all right, for generations. We’ve failed to tackle the critical issue of health care in our country ever since Teddy Roosevelt. How can we justify more than 45 million Americans without health insurance? How can we rationalize a system that charges women twice as much as men? How can we not strike back against a system that would deny people health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition or that kicked them off because they hit a cap or got sick?
How can we possibly not recognize “we’ve had a problem” when costs have risen from $1,000 per person in the United States in 1980 to more than $8,000 in 2010? Costs going up 15 to 20 percent a year and eating up one-sixth of our economy are not sustainable.
The Republicans don’t want to work the problem, they want to sweep it back under the rug. Their goal is to turn this into a political football they can kick around between now and November. Five hearings in three days, more votes to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Not one suggested “fix” coming out of the Republicans in the House of Representatives.
I suggest House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Darrell Issa watch the scene from Apollo 13 where the scientists react to Ed Harris. They put everything on the table that they have to work with in the space capsule and figure out how to bring the astronauts back safely to earth. They worked the problem; it is time for all concerned to do the same on health care. Mend it, don’t end it.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, November 15, @013
You’ve probably heard that Dick Cheney agrees with Bill Clinton about letting people who are losing private insurance keep their old plans, as President Obama repeatedly seemed to promise they could. That’s not surprising: Cheney is a troll who maligns the president whenever he can, and piling on with Clinton is a special kind of fun. Yes, it’s outrageous that a man who has enjoyed many millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded medical care doesn’t give a damn about the uninsured in our society, but that’s Dick Cheney.
Still, I was a little startled to hear the former vice president express total indifference to questions about his heart donor in a revealing interview with Larry King (it airs Thursday night; here’s a clip). It’s a window into his utter entitlement and self-absorption, and he comes off as an even bigger monster than I’d thought. Most people would at least feign interest in the donor; Cheney can’t manage it.
When King asks if he knows the identity of the person whose heart keeps him alive, Cheney, who is promoting a book about his transplant experience, says no, and adds, “it hadn’t been a priority for me.” Then he goes on:
When I came out from under the anesthetic after the transplant, I was euphoric. I’d had–I’d been given the gift of additional lives, additional years of life. For the family of the donor, they’d just been [through] some terrible tragedy, they’d lost a family member. Can’t tell why, obviously, when you don’t know the details, but the way I think of it from a psychological standpoint is that it’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart. And I always thank the donor, generically thank donors for the gift that I’ve been given, but I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.
“It’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart.” Consider the complete self-centeredness of that statement, and the utter lack of empathy. I shouldn’t be surprised at that — war criminals and torture-promoters aren’t known for their empathy — but I was. Cheney’s so absorbed in his great good luck that he can’t help sharing: “My cardiologist told me at one point, ‘You know, Dick, the transplant is a spiritual experience, not just for the patient, but also for the team.’” What a generous guy, sharing that “spiritual experience” with his cardiology team! So: Cheney is happy to have a new heart, but doesn’t bother to “spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.”
And his statement that it wasn’t a “priority” to learn about his heart donor revealingly echoes his explanation for getting five deferments from the Vietnam War: The notorious war hawk famously told the Washington Post: “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service.” Now he has other priorities than learning about his heart donor.
It’s certainly not compulsory to find out about the person who died so that you could live – who gave what Cheney called “the gift of life itself.” There may be valid psychological reasons not to. I don’t judge that decision. But I can’t get over the coldness required to express complete indifference to knowing about that person, and their family’s suffering.
Or could it be compassion? For a lot of people, the tragedy of a family member dying would be compounded, not lessened, by learning that their heart went to Cheney. Nah, there’s neither compassion nor self-awareness in the way Cheney talks about receiving “the gift of life,” from American taxpayers or from his mystery heart donor.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, November 14, 2013
Few topics in American society have more myths and stereotypes surrounding them than poverty, misconceptions that distort both our politics and our domestic policy making.
They include the notion that poverty affects a relatively small number of Americans, that the poor are impoverished for years at a time, that most of those in poverty live in inner cities, that too much welfare assistance is provided and that poverty is ultimately a result of not working hard enough. Although pervasive, each assumption is flat-out wrong.
Contrary to popular belief, the percentage of the population that directly encounters poverty is exceedingly high. My research indicates that nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least one year below the official poverty line during that period ($23,492 for a family of four), and 54 percent will spend a year in poverty or near poverty (below 150 percent of the poverty line).
Even more astounding, if we add in related conditions like welfare use, near-poverty and unemployment, four out of five Americans will encounter one or more of these events.
In addition, half of all American children will at some point during their childhood reside in a household that uses food stamps for a period of time.
Put simply, poverty is a mainstream event experienced by a majority of Americans. For most of us, the question is not whether we will experience poverty, but when.
But while poverty strikes a majority of the population, the average time most people spend in poverty is relatively short. The standard image of the poor has been that of an entrenched underclass, impoverished for years at a time. While this captures a small and important slice of poverty, it is also a highly misleading picture of its more widespread and dynamic nature.
The typical pattern is for an individual to experience poverty for a year or two, get above the poverty line for an extended period of time, and then perhaps encounter another spell at some later point. Events like losing a job, having work hours cut back, experiencing a family split or developing a serious medical problem all have the potential to throw households into poverty.
Just as poverty is widely dispersed with respect to time, it is also widely dispersed with respect to place. Only approximately 10 percent of those in poverty live in extremely poor urban neighborhoods. Households in poverty can be found throughout a variety of urban and suburban landscapes, as well as in small towns and communities across rural America. This dispersion of poverty has been increasing over the past 20 years, particularly within suburban areas.
Along with the image of inner-city poverty, there is also a widespread perception that most individuals in poverty are nonwhite. This is another myth: According to the latest Census Bureau numbers, two-thirds of those below the poverty line identified themselves as white — a number that has held rather steady over the past several decades.
What about the generous assistance we provide to the poor? Contrary to political rhetoric, the American social safety net is extremely weak and filled with gaping holes. Furthermore, it has become even weaker over the past 40 years because of various welfare reform and budget cutting measures.
We currently expend among the fewest resources within the industrialized countries in terms of pulling families out of poverty and protecting them from falling into it. And the United States is one of the few developed nations that does not provide universal health care, affordable child care, or reasonably priced low-income housing. As a result, our poverty rate is approximately twice the European average.
Whether we examine childhood poverty, poverty among working-age adults, poverty within single-parent families or overall rates of poverty, the story is much the same — the United States has exceedingly high levels of impoverishment. The many who find themselves in poverty are often shocked at how little assistance the government actually provides to help them through tough times.
Finally, the common explanation for poverty has emphasized a lack of motivation, the failure to work hard enough and poor decision making in life.
Yet my research and that of others has consistently found that the behaviors and attitudes of those in poverty basically mirror those of mainstream America. Likewise, a vast majority of the poor have worked extensively and will do so again. Poverty is ultimately a result of failings at economic and political levels rather than individual shortcomings.
The solutions to poverty are to be found in what is important for the health of any family — having a job that pays a decent wage, having the support of good health and child care and having access to a first-rate education. Yet these policies will become a reality only when we begin to truly understand that poverty is an issue of us, rather than an issue of them.
By: Mark R. Rank, The New York Times, November 2, 2013