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“Something To Celebrate”: Affordable Care Act Gives Workers Freedom, Republicans Enraged

Since I wrote about postal banking this morning, I’ve decided to continue the day’s shameless, lowest-common-denominator clickbaiting by talking about a new Congressional Budget Office report and the Affordable Care Act. Hang on to your hats.

With all the hype of a new Beyonce album, the CBO dropped its latest report on government finances and other related topics, which includes the news that the deficit has dropped to its lowest level since Barack Obama took office. This may prove inconvenient for Republicans still invested in fomenting deficit panic, but they’ll be helped by the fact that most Americans actually believe the deficit has gone up in the Obama years. According to a new poll from the Huffington Post, not only do 54 percent of people think so, but 85 percent (!) of Republicans think so.

In any case, the part of the CBO’s report that’s getting more attention is their projection that as a result of the ACA, the labor force will be reduced by 2 million in 2017, rising to 2.5 million in 2024. Unsurprisingly, Republicans rushed to the trumpets to shout that “Obamacare is going to cost 2.5 million jobs!!!” even though that’s not actually what the CBO said. Even news organizations who ought to know better made the mistake; earlier today, a headline at the Washington Post‘s web site read, “CBO: Health Law to Mean 2 Million Fewer Jobs” (it has since been corrected to read, “CBO: Health Law to Mean 2 Million Fewer Workers”).

The important thing to understand about the reduction in the labor force is that this is exactly what was supposed to happen. When you eliminate “job lock,” where people who’d like to leave their jobs can’t because if they do they won’t have health insurance, a certain number of people are going to take advantage of their newfound mobility. In some cases you might be able to construe it as a loss to the economy, say if a productive full-time worker cuts back to part time because she can. But in many cases it’s something to celebrate: an American exercising their freedom.

Imagine, for instance, a couple. The wife is a lawyer in private practice; the husband is an accountant at a large firm. Since she’s a cancer survivor, he has stayed at his job for the health insurance it provides, because if he didn’t they wouldn’t have been able to get coverage, what with her pre-existing condition. But now, he can make a different choice. And it happens that her business is doing pretty well, and he’d rather stay home with the kids and work on his novel than be an accountant. So he has the freedom to quit his job, and they can still get covered. When he does so, he’s no longer in the labor force. But that doesn’t mean there’s one fewer job in the economy. His firm will just hire someone else.

That isn’t to say there will be zero net loss to the economy; without his income, the couple will probably spend less. But their children may also grow up happier and more well-adjusted, and who knows, he might write the next great young-adult dystopian fight-to-the-death trilogy with the extra time he has between 9 and 3 every day. These are good things.

That’s just one kind of person who leaves the labor force because of the ACA; there will also be lots of people who leave jobs to start their own businesses, and some who decide to retire early because now they can. If people are making those decisions freely—just like people have the freedom to do in every other advanced economy in the world—it would be crazy to think of it as something to be lamented.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 4, 2014

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Freedom, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Insurance And Freedom”: How Many Americans Will Be Denied Essential Health Care In The Name Of Freedom?

President Obama will soon release a new budget, and the commentary is already flowing fast and furious. Progressives are angry (with good reason) over proposed cuts to Social Security; conservatives are denouncing the call for more revenues. But it’s all Kabuki. Since House Republicans will block anything Mr. Obama proposes, his budget is best seen not as policy but as positioning, an attempt to gain praise from “centrist” pundits.

No, the real policy action at this point is in the states, where the question is, How many Americans will be denied essential health care in the name of freedom?

I’m referring, of course, to the question of how many Republican governors will reject the Medicaid expansion that is a key part of Obamacare. What does that have to do with freedom? In reality, nothing. But when it comes to politics, it’s a different story.

It goes without saying that Republicans oppose any expansion of programs that help the less fortunate — along with tax cuts for the wealthy, such opposition is pretty much what defines modern conservatism. But they seem to be having more trouble than in the past defending their opposition without simply coming across as big meanies.

Specifically, the time-honored practice of attacking beneficiaries of government programs as undeserving malingerers doesn’t play the way it used to. When Ronald Reagan spoke about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, it resonated with many voters. When Mitt Romney was caught on tape sneering at the 47 percent, not so much.

There is, however, an alternative. From the enthusiastic reception American conservatives gave Friedrich Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom,” to Reagan, to the governors now standing in the way of Medicaid expansion, the U.S. right has sought to portray its position not as a matter of comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted, but as a courageous defense of freedom.

Conservatives love, for example, to quote from a stirring speech Reagan gave in 1961, in which he warned of a grim future unless patriots took a stand. (Liz Cheney used it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article just a few days ago.) “If you and I don’t do this,” Reagan declared, “then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” What you might not guess from the lofty language is that “this” — the heroic act Reagan was calling on his listeners to perform — was a concerted effort to block the enactment of Medicare.

These days, conservatives make very similar arguments against Obamacare. For example, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has called it the “greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime.” And this kind of rhetoric matters, because when it comes to the main obstacle now remaining to more or less universal health coverage — the reluctance of Republican governors to allow the Medicaid expansion that is a key part of reform — it’s pretty much all the right has.

As I’ve already suggested, the old trick of blaming the needy for their need doesn’t seem to play the way it used to, and especially not on health care: perhaps because the experience of losing insurance is so common, Medicaid enjoys remarkably strong public support. And now that health reform is the law of the land, the economic and fiscal case for individual states to accept Medicaid expansion is overwhelming. That’s why business interests strongly support expansion just about everywhere — even in Texas. But such practical concerns can be set aside if you can successfully argue that insurance is slavery.

Of course, it isn’t. In fact, it’s hard to think of a proposition that has been more thoroughly refuted by history than the notion that social insurance undermines a free society. Almost 70 years have passed since Friedrich Hayek predicted (or at any rate was understood by his admirers to predict) that Britain’s welfare state would put the nation on the slippery slope to Stalinism; 46 years have passed since Medicare went into effect; as far as most of us can tell, freedom hasn’t died on either side of the Atlantic.

In fact, the real, lived experience of Obamacare is likely to be one of significantly increased individual freedom. For all our talk of being the land of liberty, those holding one of the dwindling number of jobs that carry decent health benefits often feel anything but free, knowing that if they leave or lose their job, for whatever reason, they may not be able to regain the coverage they need. Over time, as people come to realize that affordable coverage is now guaranteed, it will have a powerful liberating effect.

But what we still don’t know is how many Americans will be denied that kind of liberation — a denial all the crueler because it will be imposed in the name of freedom.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 7, 2013

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Freedom, Health Care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin Assembly: Cameras Are Dangerous, Guns Still Allowed

Eighteen people were arrested Tuesday for using cameras in the Wisconsin Assembly gallery, including the editor of The Progressive magazine, Matt Rothschild.

Rothschild and others had gone to the capitol to protest a series of arrests in recent weeks of individuals who carried signs or took photos or video in defiance of an Assembly ban.

“We ought to have a right to take a picture,” Rothschild said.

Guns Yes, Cameras No

The protest was organized through a Facebook event called “Concealed  Camera Day at the Capitol!” The event coincided with the implementation of Wisconsin’s new concealed carry law, which allows residents to carry a concealed firearm — including inside the Assembly gallery.

Stephen Colbert said Governor Walker was bringing “a new freedom to America’s dairyland” with the concealed carry law, but said people would not see “images of gunfire in the statehouse” because of the camera ban. “Thank God. Cameras are dangerous,” he said.

On the agenda in Tuesday’s session was a bill to institute the Castle Doctrine, a “shoot first, ask questions later” bill that gives a person immunity from civil and criminal liability if they shoot another in self defense in their home, work, or vehicle. The American Legislative Exchange Council also has a model Castle Doctrine bill — see the side-by-side here.

Event organizers were clear that the protests were not about the gun laws, but instead about protecting First Amendment rights.

But Is It Legal?

The Open Meetings law includes this provision (§19.90):

Use of equipment in open session. Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting. This section does not permit recording, filming or photographing such a meeting in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants.

The statute also contains this provision (§ 19.87(2)):

No provision of this subchapter which conflicts with a rule of the senate or assembly or joint rule of the legislature shall apply to a meeting conducted in compliance with such rule.

The legal issue here appears similar to the one that arose in the challenge to Governor Walker’s collective bargaining law. In that case, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne alleged that the union-busting law should be struck down because it was passed in violation of another provision of the Open Meetings law requiring notice. In part, Ozanne’s challenge failed because the legislature had passed a rule that trumped the Open Meetings law.

Likewise, here the Assembly had a rule banning cameras and video, but under the court’s ruling in the Ozanne suit, that rule trumped the Open Meetings law permitting their use.

Despite this, both the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions have provisions protecting the right to free speech, free assembly, and a free press. “The gallery is a free speech area,” says attorney Jim Mueller, who was ticketed in October for violating the Assembly rule. “Even if there are rules against signs, they’re unconstitutional. It is our right to peaceably assemble and petition the government.”

By: Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, November 2, 2011

November 4, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Freedom, Wisconsin | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hank Williams Jr. Doesn’t Quite Get The First Amendment

ESPN will no longer air Hank Williams Jr.’s song at the beginning of Monday Night Football, it was announced today. Will MNF survive? Ha, of course it will. Nobody cares about that song. ESPN could play literally any song in the world before Monday Night Football, and the experience would be just as good. Please just don’t use this song. We can’t take it anymore.

Amusingly enough, both ESPN and Williams took credit for the split. ESPN, in a statement, said, “We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr. We appreciate his contributions over the past years.  The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue.” Williams, meanwhile, posted this note on his website, once again capitalizing whatever words he felt deserved capitalization.

“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment
Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE.  It’s been a great run.”

Williams makes a common mistake here. His “First Amendment Freedom of Speech” was not “stepped on” by ESPN. Williams was and is free to make whatever Hitler analogies he so desires. He can write a new country song called “President Obama Is Just Like Hitler” if he wants to and play it at his next concert. But ESPN isn’t bound by the First Amendment to associate with him. The First Amendment doesn’t protect anyone from the repercussions of their own stupidity.

 

By: Dan Amira, Daily Intel, October 6, 2011

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Democracy, Freedom, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Wisconsin To Wall Street, An Economic Reckoning

The comparisons were inevitable. As Occupy Wall Street gathers momentum and new allies, progressives have quickly connected it with the other headline-grabbing uprising this year: The mass protests in Wisconsin against Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on labor unions. A statement from leaders of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union, which endorsed Occupy Wall Street this week, was typical: “Just as a message was sent to politicians in Wisconsin, a clear message is now being sent to Wall Street: Priority number one should be rebuilding Main Street, not fueling the power of corporate CEOs and their marionette politicians.”

The essential theme connecting events in Madison and New York City is unmistakable. Both represent an economic reckoning at a time of grim unemployment rates and stagnant wages for middle-class Americans. “Both the defense of unions [in Wisconsin] and Occupy Wall Street, which is broader in its definition of the problem, are responding to two or three decades of increasing economic inequality and, until fairly recently, the inability of progressives to address those things,” says Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation.

But the Wisconsin-Occupy Wall Street comparison is a more complicated  one in its specifics. The two don’t fit neatly side by side and, in  some ways, bear no resemblance at all. Here is a look at how two of the  biggest populist protests of the year stack up:

The Organizers

As I reported from Madison in March, labor unions and community activist groups were, from the very beginning, the driving force in the Wisconsin protests. On November 3, 2010, the day after Republicans reclaimed the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion, union leaders began plotting how to respond to the looming assault on organized labor. And when Gov. Scott Walker unveiled his anti-union budget repair bill, and later threatened to sic the National Guard on those protesting his bill, unions marshaled their resources and called every member in their ranks. From their command center in Madison’s only unionized hotel, labor turned out more than a 100,000 supporters in a span of weeks.

Occupy Wall Street is not union-made. It was the anti-capitalist Adbusters magazine that put out the initial call for protesters to flood downtown Manhattan on September 17. Since then the protests have grown almost entirely without institutional support, an organic groundswell without leaders or executive boards or much structure at all. In recent days, unions have endorsed Occupy Wall Street, marched with them, and provided food, drinks, clothing, and more. But the protests remain a loosely organized, essentially leaderless effort.

Goals of the Movement

“Kill the bill! Kill the bill!” Wading among the crowd in Madison in February, you couldn’t go more than 10 minutes without that chant breaking out. It captured exactly what the protesters wanted: the death of Scott Walker’s anti-union bill. (They didn’t get it.) Later, those demands broadened to include fewer cuts to funding for education and social services by Walker and Wisconsin Republicans, but for much of the protests, it was perfectly clear what the angry cheeseheads wanted.

Occupy Wall Street so far has had no clear set of demands—and intentionally so, it seems. A post at OccupyWallSt.org demanded that supporters stop listing demands for fear of making protesters “look like extremist nut jobs.” The post went on, “You don’t speak for everyone in this.” The vague intentions have raised eyebrows, but they also have had the effect of welcoming a diverse group of supporters without alienating them. “The protesters have been eloquent in rejecting the idea that they produce ‘one demand’ and also in articulating in broad terms what they want,” says Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

Spreading the Word

Like the protesters in Iran’s “Green Revolution” and Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising, Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street have made savvy use of social media for everything from rallying supporters and organizing marches to asking for food. Take Twitter: Both uprisings have built lively, if contentious, forums for debate with the hash tags #wiunion and #occupywallstreet. So many tweets poured in during Wednesday’s Occupy Wall Street march that it was impossible to keep up.

Other forms of online organizing have been pivotal. There are more than 230 Facebook pages promoting Occupy events from Tacoma, Washington, to Marfa, Texas, to Milwaukee, just as Facebook helped energize protesters in Wisconsin. And for those who couldn’t make it in person, livestreaming has brought supporters from around the country and the world closer to the action on the ground.

Laying Down the Law

Scott Walker’s bill exempted police officers from the most draconian crackdowns on workers’ rights. That put cops in a tight spot, because it was the job of the police to contain and, when necessary, crack down on the crowds of public workers who occupied the state Capitol rotunda and protested in the surrounding streets. But throughout the months-long protests, police arrested very few, allowed the occupiers to remain inside the Capitol for weeks, and generally treated angry demonstrators as best as could be hoped. Off-duty cops from around the state even joined the protesters in Madison.

Actions by law enforcement in Manhattan against Occupy Wall Street have at some turns been a very different story, with police crackdowns stealing the spotlight. This video of an NYPD deputy inspector using pepper spray on a handful of female protesters sparked outrage, added a streak of sensationalism to the story, and was picked up by mainstream news outlets. The arrest of more than 700 people who marched on the Brooklyn Bridge last weekend similarly made national headlines, leading to heaps of criticism and a class-action lawsuit against the NYPD.

Pizza for Protesters

Supporters called in pizza orders from around the world for the hearty crew of Capitol occupiers in Wisconsin. The same is happening for those camped out in Zuccotti Park, blocks from Wall Street. Pizza: It’s the nosh of choice for American uprisings in 2011.

By: Andy Kroll, Mother Jones, October 6, 2011

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Democracy, Equal Rights, Freedom, Government, Ideologues, Liberty, Media, Middle Class, Politics, Populism, Revolution, Unemployment | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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