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“5 Things Conservatives Lie Shamelessly About”: A Neat Little Rhetorical Trick, Tell Lies So Fast Your Opponents Can’t Keep Up

Mark Twain once famously said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Twain wasn’t praising lies with this comment, of course, but modern-day conservatives seem to think he was dishing out advice instead of damning the practice of dishonesty. Conservatives have figured out a neat little rhetorical trick: One lie is easy for your opponents to debunk. Tell one lie after another, however, and your opponent’s debunkings will never catch up. By the time the liberal opposition has debunked one lie, there’s a dozen more to take its place.

Science educator Eugenie Scott deemed the technique the “Gish Gallop,” named for a notoriously sleazy creationist named Duane Gish. The Urban Dictionary defines the Gish Gallop as a technique that “involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it.” Often users of the Gish Gallop know their arguments are nonsense or made in bad faith, but don’t particularly care because they are so dead set on advancing their agenda. Unfortunately, the strategy is so effective that it’s been expanding rapidly in right-wing circles. Here are just a few of the most disturbing examples of the Gish Gallop in action.

1. Creationism. It’s no surprise creationists inspired the coining of the term Gish Gallop, as they have perfected the art of making up nonsense faster than scientists can refute it. The list of false or irrelevant claims made by creationists, as chronicled by Talk Origins, numbers in the dozens, perhaps even hundreds, and more are always being spun out. Trying to argue with a creationist, therefore, turns into a hellish game of Whack-A-Mole. Debunk the lie that the speed of light is not constant, and you’ll find he’s already arguing that humans co-existed with dinosaurs. Argue that it’s unconstitutional to put the story of Adam and Eve in the science classroom, and find he’s pretending he was never asking for that and instead wants to “teach the controversy.”

“Teaching the controversy” is a classic Gish Gallop apology. The conservative wants to make it seem like he’s supporting open-minded debate, but instead he just wants an opportunity to dump a bunch of lies on students with the knowledge that they’ll never have the time and attention to carefully parse every debunking.

2. Climate change denialism. This strategy worked so well for creationism it makes perfect sense that it would be imported to the world of climate change denialism. Climate change denialists have many changing excuses for why they reject the science showing that human-caused greenhouse gases are changing the climate, but what all these reasons have in common is they are utter nonsense in service of a predetermined opposition to taking any action to prevent further damage.

Skeptical Science, a website devoted to debunking right-wing lies on this topic, has compiled a dizzying list of 176 common claims by climate denialists and links to why they are false. Some of these lies directly contradict each other. For instance, it can’t both be true that climate change is “natural” and that it’s not happening at all. No matter, since the point of these lies is not to create a real discussion about the issue, but to confuse the issue so much it’s impossible to get any real momentum behind efforts to stop global warming.

3. The Affordable Care Act. It’s not just science where conservatives have discovered the value in telling lies so fast you simply wear your opposition out. When it comes to healthcare reform, the lying has been relentless. There are the big lies, such as calling Obamacare “socialism,” which implies a single-payer system, when in fact, it’s about connecting the uninsured with private companies and giving consumers of healthcare a basic set of rights. In a sense, even the name “Obamacare” is a lie, as the bill was, per the President’s explicit wishes, written by Congress.

But there are also the small lies: The ACA funds abortion. Under the ACA, old people will be forcibly euthanized. Obamacare somehow covers undocumented immigrants. Congress exempted itself from Obamacare (one of the lies that doesn’t even make sense, as it’s not a program you could really get exempted from). Healthcare will add a trillion dollars to the deficit.

The strategy of just lying and lying and lying some more about the ACA has gotten to the point where Fox News is just broadcasting lies accusing the Obama administration of lying. When it was reported that the administration was going to hit its projections for the number of enrollments through healthcare.gov, a subculture of “enrollment truthers” immediately sprang up to spread a variety of often conflicting lies to deny that these numbers are even real. It started soft, with some conservatives suggesting that some enrollments shouldn’t count or arguing, without a shred of evidence, that huge numbers of new enrollees won’t pay their premiums. Now the lying is blowing up to the shameless level, with “cooking the books” being a common false accusation or, as with Jesse Watters on Fox, straight up accusing the White House of making the number up. Perhaps soon there will be demands to see all these new enrollees’ birth certificates.

4. Contraception mandate.The ACA-based requirement that insurance plans cover contraception without a copay has generated a Gish Gallop so large it deserves its own category. Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check chronicled 12 of the biggest lies generated by the right-wing noise machine in just the past couple of years since the mandate was even announced. It is not “free” birth control, nor is it “paid for” by employers. The birth control coverage is paid for by the employees, with benefits they earn by working. The mandate doesn’t cover “abortifacients,” only contraception. No, birth control doesn’t work by killing fertilized eggs, but by preventing fertilization. It’s simply false that the prescriptions in question can all be replaced with a $9-a-month prescription from Walmart, as many women’s prescriptions run into the hundreds and even thousands a year. No, it’s not true that the contraception mandate is about funding women’s “lifestyle”, because statistics show that having sex for fun instead of procreation is a universal human behavior and not a marginal or unusual behavior as the term “lifestyle” implies.

5. Gun safety. The gun lobby is dishonest to its core. Groups like the NRA like to paint themselves like they are human rights organizations, but in fact, they are an industry lobby whose only real goal is to protect the profit margins of gun manufacturers, regardless of the costs to human health and safety. Because their very existence is based on a lie, is it any surprise that gun industry advocates are experts at the Gish Gallop, ready to spring into action at the sign of any school shooting or report on gun violence and dump so many lies on the public that gun safety advocates can never even begin to address them all?

A small sampling of the many, many lies spouted by gun industry advocates: That guns prevent murder, when in fact more guns correlates strongly with more murders. That gun control doesn’t work. That gun control is unpopular. That any move to make gun ownership safer is a move to take away your guns. That a gun in the home makes you safer when it actually puts your family at more risk. That guns protect against domestic violence, when the truth is that owning a gun makes abuse worse, not better. Even the standard line “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a distracting bit of dishonesty, since most gun deaths aren’t murders but suicides.

How do you fight the Gish Gallop, when trying to debunk each and every lie is so overwhelming? There are a few tactics that help, including creating websites and pamphlets where all the lies can be aggregated in one place, for swift debunking. (Bingo cards and drinking games are a humorous version of this strategy.) A critical strategy is to avoid lengthy Lincoln-Douglas-style debates that allow conservatives to lie-dump rapidly during their speaking period, leaving you so busy trying to clean up their mess you have no time for positive points of your own. Better is a looser style of debate where you can interrupt and correct the lies as they come. I’ve also found some luck with setting an explicit “no lies” rule that will be strictly enforced. The first lie receives a warning, and the second lie means that the debate is immediately terminated. This helps prevent you from having to debunk and instead makes the price of participation a strict adherence to facts.

 

By: Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, April 2, 2014

April 6, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Irrational Hatred Of Obamacare Is Hard To Fathom”: The GOP’s Relentless Opposition Has Been Puzzling

My friend Isatou has just received an invoice from Kaiser Permanente, testament to her new coverage through the Affordable Care Act — usually called “Obamacare.” She’s thrilled to finally have health insurance so she can get regular checkups, including dental care.

A reasonably healthy middle-aged woman, she knows she needs routine mammograms and screenings for maladies such as hypertension. But before Obamacare, she struggled to pay for those things. She once had to resort to the emergency room, which left her with a bill for nearly $20,000. (She settled the bill for far less, but it still left her deeply in debt.)

She is one of more than 7 million people who have signed up for health insurance through the ACA, stark evidence of the overwhelming market demand. Despite a badly bungled initial rollout, a multimillion-dollar conservative media campaign designed to discourage sign-ups, and a years-long Republican crusade against it (50 votes to change the law), millions got health insurance.

That hardly means Obamacare is a raging success. It’s much too early to know how it will affect health outcomes for the previously uninsured. But it’s abundantly clear that the ACA has already made great strides in improving access to health care. And that alone is quite an accomplishment.

Now, young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until they are 26 years old — a boon in an economy where many young folks are struggling to find decent jobs. Now, patients with previously diagnosed illnesses (“pre-existing conditions,” in insurance lingo) can’t be denied coverage. Now, the chronically ill don’t have to worry about hitting a lifetime cap that would deny them essential procedures or pharmaceuticals. Now, working folks who don’t get insurance through their employers can purchase affordable policies.

Factoring in the Medicaid expansion, the ACA has extended health care coverage to an additional 9.5 million people, according to the Los Angeles Times, which gathered data from national surveys. Needless to say, millions more would have been covered if so many Republican governors, mostly located in Southern states, had not callously refused to accept the Medicaid expansion despite the fact that it is largely paid through federal government funds.

The GOP’s relentless opposition has been puzzling. Republicans have resorted to extreme measures to try to derail Obamacare, including an implicit threat to prevent the National Football League from participating in a marketing campaign to encourage people to sign up.

Oh, did I mention 50 votes to repeal or alter the law?

Even acknowledging that our politics have become bitterly polarized, I don’t understand this one. Even taking into account the GOP’s irrational hatred for President Obama, I don’t get it. Even though I know that Republicans believe in less government, I don’t understand their approach to Obamacare.

First off, the ACA adheres to market-based ideas, many of which were first suggested by conservatives. Instead of a single-payer system like, say, Medicare, the ACA relies on private insurance companies. It adopts the individual mandate that was supported by many Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, back in the 1990s and later adopted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Second, Republicans are free to offer up a health care scheme that is more in keeping with conservative principles. But the “repeal and replace” mantra is rarely heard anymore since it has become increasingly clear that the GOP has no intention of coming up with a plan to replace Obamacare. While there are various counter-proposals floating about, none has garnered the support of a majority of Republicans in Congress.

Is the ACA perfect? Absolutely not. There is much in the law that needs to be worked on, refined, improved. But the GOP doesn’t seem interested in that. Instead, its members have taken to engaging in increasingly ridiculous criticisms, including the charge that the White House has made up the number of successful enrollees.

It’s strange. Could it be that Republicans are simply furious that millions of Americans like Isatou finally have health insurance?

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, is a Visiting Professor at the University of Georgia; Published in The National Memo, April 5, 2014

 

 

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Enough With Puff Pieces About Painting”: Bush Crew’s Deplorable Return, How Their Reemergence Sends A Deadly Message

It’s been more than five years since Dick Cheney left the White House and nearly eight years since Donald Rumsfeld was booted from the Pentagon. With the obvious exception of George W. Bush himself, no two men were more responsible for the United States’ disastrous and criminal invasion of Iraq, as well as its embrace of a counter-terrorism model built on the twin barbarities of indefinite detention and systematic torture. In the years that have passed since their departure from public office, both men have released best-selling memoirs, made countless media appearances and no doubt added substantially to their already considerable wealth.

In fact, to get a real sense of just how little these men have had to pay for their sins, consider three recent examples.

One is a recent comment from Dick Cheney, delivered in public — not in private, not on background, not via unknown insiders with intimate knowledge of the former vice president’s thinking, but in public — about whether he still supports waterboarding (or torture, as most people besides Cheney tend to call it): “If I had to do it all over again,” Cheney said, “I would.”

The second is the new documentary, “The Unknown Known,” by Errol Morris and about Donald Rumsfeld. Estimations of the film’s quality vary, but all reviewers are unanimous in at least one regard: Rumsfeld, as he comes off in the film, truly has no regrets. Asked by Morris if invading Iraq for the second time, causing hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths and turning millions more into refugees, was worth it, Rumsfeld shrugs off the question and settles for a fittingly cold and glib answer: “Time will tell.”

The third story is, to my mind, the most disturbing. It’s a piece in the New York Times, published Friday, about a third man, a man who ignored warnings of a terrorist attack, plunged his country into two disastrous wars, invaded a sovereign nation without sanction from the United Nations and on false pretexts, signed off on the implementation of a worldwide torture regime, secretly initiated domestic surveillance on an unprecedented scale, oversaw the destruction of one of the world’s greatest cities, and cut taxes for, and thwarted regulations against, the Wall Street power-players who destroyed the global economy and consigned millions of people to lives of poverty, unemployment and deferred dreams. That man is George W. Bush, and the article is a puff piece about his kitschy paintings.

Obviously, the fact that these men continue to live charmed lives offends our sense of fairness. But it has a more tangible consequence, too. Consider the state of foreign policy thinking within the Republican Party today. Granted, with the recent ascendance of the relatively isolationist Sen. Rand Paul, the GOP’s view of foreign policy is somewhat in flux. But Paul is still an outlier, and a quick glance of the Mitt Romney campaign’s foreign policy experts is enough to show that neoconservatives like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith and the rest of that ghoulish clique still call the foreign policy shots for national Republicans. Despite their abject failures — both technocratically and morally — Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld remain in good standing with the people who run one of America’s only two serious political parties. If Mitt Romney were president right now, with Dan Senor by his side, the United States could be ramping up for war with Iran or Russia, preparing to once again spread freedom from the barrel of a gun as if Fallujah and Abu Ghraib never happened.

There’s next to no chance any of these men will ever be officially held accountable for their crimes. All three clearly harbor no regrets. These are the fruits of belonging to the American elite in an era of widespread inequality, when not only the economy, but many pieces of the state itself, act to reinforce and perpetuate the divide separating those who have from those who do not.

Of course, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush are hardly the first American war criminals to escape justice. Richard Nixon, in whose administration the former two men served, immediately comes to mind. Henry Kissinger, too. As was the case for Nixon and Kissinger, Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld have benefitted from a decision of the political ruling class — and, to a lesser degree, of the general public— that it’s best not to dwell too much on the nastier bits of America’s recent history. Back when some touchingly naïve souls thought it a possibility, President Obama used to dismiss the notion of holding his predecessors accountable for torture by urging America to “look forward.” This was an order that the vast majority of Americans showed themselves willing to follow.

This same dynamic, this resistance on the part of the powerful to hold their fellow elites to account — as well as the general public’s silent acceptance of these different, looser ethical standards — was also a key driver of the government’s response to the financial meltdown of 2008. After the crisis had passed and the Obama administration had begun reconstituting the financial sector (mostly in its prior form, sadly), there were public demands that some of the Wall Streeters responsible be prosecuted for the damage they wrought. But these flashes of public discontent were mostly ignored by the White House, and here we are, five years later, with essentially no Wall Street villain having had to worry about seeing the inside of a jail cell. Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein are richer and more powerful than ever.

I’m hardly the first to notice the difference between how not only society, but also the state, treats the powerful and the rest of the public. Salon alum Glenn Greenwald has made the same point, as has MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. But while it’s a point well worth repeating, I don’t bring it up in order to shed light on the past but rather to sound a warning about the future. Because as bad as accountability norms have already become in the United States, there’s ample reason to worry that they’re soon to get even worse.

For an example of how this might be, consider the recent, much-talked-about essay in the Wall Street Journal by billionaire industrialist and right-wing donor Charles G. Koch. The piece is an odd one, residing somewhere between a talking-points-filled press release and a list of conservative maxims that are too hoary for all but the dullest politicians and the most thoughtless ideologues (despite his political activities, Koch is much more the latter). It’s littered with pablum about liberty and “the principles of a free society,” and is defined by the kind of sloppy, lazy thinking that lays claim to “dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom” without acknowledging that, in the real world, disagreements over the proper application of these universally agreed upon values is the essence of democratic politics.

As Koch goes on, however, it begins to make quite a bit of sense, his inability to recognize the basic mechanics of American democracy. It’s not merely that he’s an unsophisticated and unoriginal thinker (though he certainly is), it’s that he truly doesn’t understand what democracy even is. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the brief, passive-aggressive section of the essay in which Koch defends himself against unnamed “collectivist” bullies. Responding to a fusillade of criticism sent his way by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Koch complains that “collectivists” reject “a free and open debate” and “strive to discredit and intimidate opponents” like himself with “character assassination,” just as “so many despots” and Saul Alinsky did before. (Small consolation, I suppose, that Koch is self-aware enough not to actually call his opponents Hitler, choosing instead to merely make the implication.)

Beyond his comically exaggerated sensitivity, what Koch’s mini jeremiad shows is that the man can’t quite fathom the idea that free speech is not the same thing as freedom from critical speech. At no point in his many attacks has Harry Reid — or any other Democrat of significance, for that matter — said anything about Koch’s private life or soul. Throughout, the criticism has been directed toward his politics and the groups he pays to promote them. Reid has said that Koch wishes to establish a political status quo that shields his power and wealthy from scrutiny or competition. Reid cannot authoritatively speak to what goes on inside Koch’s brain, but his interpretation of Koch’s motives is hardly outside the realm of acceptable discourse in American politics. Keep in mind that ours is an era in which politicians malign the the poor as having bad values, bad habits, bad families and bad minds. People infinitely less influential than Charles Koch, in other words, routinely suffer much worse.

Then again, Koch, in so many ways, isn’t like most people. Unlike most people, he can directly reach any Republican politician in the country by simply picking up the phone. Unlike most people, he can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on misleading attack ads and cynical, quixotic campaigns to persuade young people to forego health insurance. Unlike most people, he can take advantage of Citizens United in order to funnel countless millions through shadowy outside groups, largely obscuring his political activities and denying Americans the right to know whose interests are being represented when a politician swears to fight higher taxes on the wealthy and roll back regulations on industrial pollution. Unlike most Americans, Koch can now take advantage of McCutcheon, the Supreme Court’s sequel to Citizens United, which lifted aggregate caps on political donations and took us one more step closer to having no limits whatsoever on how America’s wealthiest citizens can use their largesse to influence the political process.

And that, from all appearances, is how Koch and his ilk like it. With Republicans in Congress stymying any attempt to make political donations transparent, so people at least can follow the money, and with the conservative Supreme Court widely considered to be far from finished destroying campaign finance law from within, Koch can rest easy knowing that his power will remain not only overwhelming but also little understood. He can go on supporting politicians who thwart Medicaid expansions one minute and funding outside groups who castigate Obamacare for not covering more people the next. He can keep bankrolling anti-Obamacare ads that stretch the truth so thin as to render it translucent. He can keep polluting our air, contaminating our water and destroying our environment without having to even pay for the privilege.

He can keep being unaccountable.

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, April 5, 2014

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Reared In The Game”: On Our Highest Court, A Former Lobbyist Guts Campaign Finance Reform

For a large and bipartisan majority of Americans, the increasing power of money in politics is alarming, but not for the conservative majority of the United States Supreme Court, whose members appear to regard the dollar’s domination of democracy as an inevitable consequence of constitutional freedom — and anyway, not a matter of grave concern. Expressed in their decisions on campaign finance, which continued last week to dismantle decades of reform in the McCutcheon case, the Court’s right wing sees little risk of corruption and little need to regulate the flamboyant spending of billionaires.

Given the behavior of certain conservative justices, such as Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito – who flout the rules that govern partisan behavior among lower-court judges – it is easy to regard their rulings as partisan cynicism. But there is also an element of willful naiveté when the conservatives claim, for instance, that corrupt donations will be exposed by the instant transparency of publication on the Internet. Any reporter who has covered elections can attest that there are dozens of ways for wealthy donors to avoid public scrutiny until it is much too late to matter.

But if right-wingers like Scalia and Thomas are simply pursuing ideological objectives, what about Anthony Kennedy, the Reagan appointee from California who was long seen as a moderating influence and a “swing vote”? On the issue of campaign finance, Kennedy has marched along with the majority, seeming just as fervent in his urge to destroy every regulation and protection against the “malefactors of great wealth” erected since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

It was Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, which dismissed the notion that corruption will arise from unlimited political campaign contributions because they will all be disclosed. “Citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests …and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” he wrote. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

But if any Supreme Court justice knows how ridiculous that sounds, it must be Kennedy – whose own background as a corporate lobbyist and son of a lobbyist has been forgotten in nearly three decades since his Senate confirmation in 1987.

Yes, Kennedy was a respected appellate court judge before Reagan appointed him to the high court. But before that, he grew up and then worked as an attorney in Sacramento, where his father became a “legendary” lobbyist in a state capital renowned as “freewheeling” (a polite term that means “routinely corrupt”).

His father, Anthony “Bud” Kennedy, was a backslapping, hard-drinking partner in a powerful lobbying law firm run by one Arthur “Artie” Samish, “the “secret boss of California” who finally went to prison on tax charges in the mid-1950s, while young Tony was studying to enter law school. Samish liked to brag that he had amassed more power than anyone else in the state, including the governor, that he could buy any legislator with “a baked potato, a bottle, or a broad,” and that he was able to “unelect” any lawmaker who didn’t vote his way.

The major clients of Samish and Kennedy were racing, entertainment, and liquor interests, notably including Schenley Industries, then run by J. Edgar Hoover’s mobbed-up pal Lewis Rosenstiel. When Bud Kennedy died suddenly in 1963, young Tony was only two years out of law school. But he went into the family business and inherited his late father’s clientele.

While Kennedy always insisted that lobbying was only a “sideline” in his law practice, his billings were substantial – the equivalent of hundreds of thousands or more in today’s dollars. In 1974, he pushed through a bill for Capitol Records that saved the company (and cost the state) millions in sales taxes.

How did he do it? The same way that special interests work their will today – by doling out huge wads of cash to lawmakers on behalf of his clients. The single largest recipient of Kennedy lobbying largesse, according to the Los Angeles Times, was a legislator who introduced a bill to benefit the opticians’ lobby that Kennedy himself had drafted (it passed). He gave that guy alone about $6,500 in campaign contributions over six years, or roughly $40,000 in today’s dollars.

So if anybody on the Court knows how the political and legislative process is greased in this country, that would be Anthony Kennedy. After all, he was reared in the game. And it shouldn’t deceive anyone when he sounds as if he doesn’t understand how things work or who wins in that perverse process – and how everyone else loses.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo; Author, Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth; Published in The National Memo, April 4, 2014

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Anthony Kennedy, Campaign Financing, Lobbyists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rube Goldberg Survives”: Face It Republicans, Health Reform Has Won

Holy seven million, Batman! The Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare, has made a stunning comeback from its shambolic start. As the March 31 deadline for 2014 coverage approached, there was a surge in applications at the “exchanges” — the special insurance marketplaces the law set up. And the original target of seven million signups, widely dismissed as unattainable, has been surpassed.

But what does it mean? That depends on whether you ask the law’s opponents or its supporters. You see, the opponents think that it means a lot, while the law’s supporters are being very cautious. And, in this one case, the enemies of health reform are right. This is a very big deal indeed.

Of course, you don’t find many Obamacare opponents admitting outright that 7.1 million and counting signups is a huge victory for reform. But their reaction to the results — It’s a fraud! They’re cooking the books! — tells the tale. Conservative thinking and Republican political strategy were based entirely on the assumption that it would always be October, that Obamacare’s rollout would be an unremitting tale of disaster. They have no idea what to do now that it’s turning into a success story.

So why are many reform supporters being diffident, telling us not to read too much into the figures? Well, at a technical level they’re right: The precise number of signups doesn’t matter much for the functioning of the law, and there may still be many problems despite the March surge. But I’d argue that they’re missing the forest for the trees.

The crucial thing to understand about the Affordable Care Act is that it’s a Rube Goldberg device, a complicated way to do something inherently simple. The biggest risk to reform has always been that the scheme would founder on its complexity. And now we know that this won’t happen.

Remember, giving everyone health insurance doesn’t have to be hard; you can just do it with a government-run program. Not only do many other advanced countries have “single-payer,” government-provided health insurance, but we ourselves have such a program — Medicare — for older Americans. If it had been politically possible, extending Medicare to everyone would have been technically easy.

But it wasn’t politically possible, for a couple of reasons. One was the power of the insurance industry, which couldn’t be cut out of the loop if you wanted health reform this decade. Another was the fact that the 170 million Americans receiving health insurance through employers are generally satisfied with their coverage, and any plan replacing that coverage with something new and unknown was a nonstarter.

So health reform had to be run largely through private insurers, and be an add-on to the existing system rather than a complete replacement. And, as a result, it had to be somewhat complex.

Now, the complexity shouldn’t be exaggerated: The basics of reform only take a few minutes to explain. And it has to be as complicated as it is. There’s a reason Republicans keep defaulting on their promise to propose an alternative to the Affordable Care Act: All the main elements of Obamacare, including the subsidies and the much-attacked individual mandate, are essential if you want to cover the uninsured.

Nonetheless, the Obama administration created a system in which people don’t simply receive a letter from the federal government saying “Congratulations, you are now covered.” Instead, people must go online or make a phone call and choose from a number of options, in which the cost of insurance depends on a calculation that includes varying subsidies, and so on. It’s a system in which many things can go wrong; the nightmare scenario has always been that conservatives would seize on technical problems to discredit health reform as a whole. And last fall that nightmare seemed to be coming true.

But the nightmare is over. It has long been clear, to anyone willing to study the issue, that the overall structure of Obamacare made sense given the political constraints. Now we know that the technical details can be managed, too. This thing is going to work.

And, yes, it’s also a big political victory for Democrats. They can point to a system that is already providing vital aid to millions of Americans, and Republicans — who were planning to run against a debacle — have nothing to offer in response. And I mean nothing. So far, not one of the supposed Obamacare horror stories featured in attack ads has stood up to scrutiny.

So my advice to reform supporters is, go ahead and celebrate. Oh, and feel free to ridicule right-wingers who confidently predicted doom.

Clearly, there’s a lot of work ahead, and we can count on the news media to play up every hitch and glitch as if it were an existential disaster. But Rube Goldberg has survived; health reform has won.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 3, 2014

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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