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“The Right Only Needs The Presidency”: The Right And Left Both Want Radical Change. Guess Who Is A Lot Closer To Getting It?

One of the subtexts of both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating contests is how much change can realistically be expected in a political system characterized by partisan polarization and gridlock. Bernie Sanders implicitly accuses the last two Democratic presidents and the Democratic Establishment candidate for 2016, Hillary Clinton, of excessive timidity and an insufficient commitment to thoroughgoing economic and political change. Ted Cruz explicitly accuses his Republican Senate colleagues and presidential rivals of surrendering to liberalism without a fight.

As Paul Krugman notes in his latest column, these demands for boldness are an old story in American politics, and also depend on sometimes-hazy, sometimes-delusional theories of how change happens:

[T]here are some currents in our political life that do run through both parties. And one of them is the persistent delusion that a hidden majority of American voters either supports or can be persuaded to support radical policies, if only the right person were to make the case with sufficient fervor.

You see this on the right among hard-line conservatives, who insist that only the cowardice of Republican leaders has prevented the rollback of every progressive program instituted in the past couple of generations …

Meanwhile, on the left there is always a contingent of idealistic voters eager to believe that a sufficiently high-minded leader can conjure up the better angels of America’s nature and persuade the broad public to support a radical overhaul of our institutions. In 2008 that contingent rallied behind Mr. Obama; now they’re backing Mr. Sanders, who has adopted such a purist stance that the other day he dismissed Planned Parenthood (which has endorsed Hillary Clinton) as part of the “establishment.”

Krugman asks the right question to advocates of Big Change: How, exactly, is it supposed to occur? Progressives certainly do not want more “bipartisan compromises” than Obama contemplated, and for years Republicans have embraced super-lobbyist Grover Norquist’s cynical comparison of bipartisanship to date rape.

One idea, of course, is that inspired by the concept of the “Overton Window”: that you can move the range of acceptable policies and thus the center of discussion by opening the bidding on any given topic with a more radical proposal. To use the most common example, Democrats might have gotten a more progressive health-care law enacted in 2010 if they had first proposed a single-payer system instead of a private system with a public option. The trouble with that example is that it was Democratic senators, not Republicans, who opposed the public option, the Medicare buy-in, and other progressive twists on Obamacare. With Republicans opposing any action at all, that’s all it took. Now some left-bent folks would say this shows why “centrist” Democrats need to be removed from the party. But that takes time, and as 2006 showed, even a primary loss cannot necessarily remove a Joe Lieberman from office.

Another thing you hear from Bernie Sanders himself is that the political system is fundamentally corrupt, and that progressive change can only become possible if the moneylenders are thrown out of the temple via thoroughgoing campaign finance reform. But that will require either a constitutional amendment — the most implausible route for change — or replacement of Supreme Court justices, the slowest.

And then, as Krugman himself notes, there are “hidden majority” theories that hold that “bold” proposals can mobilize vast majorities of Americans to support radical action and break down gridlock. Few are as easy to explode as Ted Cruz’s “54 million missing Evangelicals” hypothesis, but the belief of some Sanders supporters that Trump voters (and many millions of nonvoters) would gravitate to Bernie in a general election is not far behind as the product of a fantasy factory.

You could go on all day with left-right parallelisms on the subject of radical change, but progressives should internalize this fact of life: The right is a lot closer to the left in possessing the practical means for a policy revolution (or counterrevolution, as the case might be). Whereas the left needs constitutional amendments and overwhelming congressional majorities to break the political power of wealthy corporations and other reactionary interests, the right only needs the presidency to reverse most of President Obama’s policy breakthroughs. And assuming a GOP presidential victory would almost certainly be accompanied by Republican control of both parties in Congress (which is not at all the case for Democrats), a budget reconciliation bill that cannot be filibustered could briskly revolutionize health care, tax, and social policy without a single Democratic vote.

So if radical change comes out of the 2016 election, it’s more likely to be a wind blowing to the right than to the left. And that’s worth considering as Democrats choose their leadership and their agenda.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 22, 2016

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Jeb Once Again Turns To His Apple Watch”: A Wrist Gadget As Part Of His Vision For A Replacement Healthcare System

Jeb Bush caused a bit of a stir last week, telling an audience that he intends to destroy the Affordable Care Act, replacing it with a “consumer-driven” system, part of which includes his new Apple Watch.

“On this device in five years will be applications that will allow me to manage my health care in ways that five years ago were not even possible,” he said. “I’ll have the ability, someone will, you know, because of my blood sugar, there’ll be a wireless, there’ll be, someone will send me a signal…. We’ll be able to guide our own health care decisions in a way that will make us healthy.”

Yesterday, campaigning in New Hampshire, the Florida Republican returned to the same subject:

“We’re on the verge of a revolution in this regard, where we’ll be able to know all sorts of things with, you know, devices like this. I got beat up by the left because I showed my, you know, Apple Phone – this device will have the ability to measure your sugar content, to measure your heartbeat, to measure whether you’re taking your drugs in the proper way. And you’ll be able to wirelessly send text messages to your health care provider or to your loved one, or whatever, so that you can get back on track.”

It seems the former governor isn’t entirely clear on why he “got beat up.”

The point isn’t that wearable tech is irrelevant (he said “phone” yesterday, but I assume he meant “watch”). It’s easy to imagine devices that can help people manage chronic conditions like diabetes. Indeed, the Florida Republican makes it sound as if these advancements are on the horizon, but in many instances, the technology already exists.

That’s not the problem. Rather, the area of concern is that Bush intends to scrap the Affordable Care Act, which would eliminate health security for millions of families, and he included a wrist gadget as part of his vision for a replacement system. Sarah Kliff added last week:

Bush endorses the idea of “someone” sending him a signal on his Apple Watch when his blood sugar is low. I like that idea, too! It would help diabetic patients, like Bush, better manage their care.

But here’s the challenge: there is not some army of benevolent people out there monitoring blood sugar. There are health-care providers who do this, and to get signed up for their blood sugar monitoring programs, you typically need health insurance. In this way, the type of consumer-powered health market that Bush describes is one that relies on Americans having access to health services – and using that access to make better decisions about their health care.

Jeb Bush didn’t get “beat up” because he pointed to his fancy gizmo; he got “beat up” because he pointed to his fancy gizmo while making the case against the existing U.S. health care system.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 22, 2015

May 26, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Delusional One-Percenter”: The Case Against Mitt Romney

Every election is a choice between imperfect alternatives. I will examine both choices in turn, but the first one, Mitt Romney, has rendered the normal analytic tools useless. The different iterations of his career differ so wildly, yet comport so perfectly with his political ambitions of the moment, that it is simply impossible to separate his panders from his actual beliefs, the means from the ends. It is easy to present Romney’s constant reinventions as a character flaw, but all politicians tailor their beliefs to suit the moment; Romney’s unique misfortune is that he has had to court such divergent electorates — first a liberal general electorate in Massachusetts, then Republican primary voters of an increasingly rabid bent in 2008 and 2012, and finally America as a whole after securing the nomination.

One can plausibly imagine Romney as a genuine right-winger, first implanted in hostile deep blue territory, hiding his arch-conservative beliefs in order to secure the brass ring he coveted before he was liberated from running for reelection and unmasked himself to his fellow Republicans nationwide as the “conservative businessman” he always was. One can just as plausibly imagine him as his father’s true political heir, covertly plotting to move his party sharply leftward, a turn he would execute only once he had burrowed undetected beneath its ideological perimeter.

The true picture is a mystery, probably lying somewhere between these points. Undoubtedly, what Romney believes in above all is himself. As a friend of his told Politico last month, at a moment when his campaign appeared hopeless, Romney approaches politics like a business deal: “Just do and say what you need to do to get the deal done, and then when it’s done, do what you know actually needs to be done to make the company a success.” (This was the reporters’ paraphrase, not the friend’s own words.)

He meant this not in the spirit of exposing Romney’s fraudulence, but in an elegiac way — a lament for a great man who would do good if only given a chance. From a certain perspective, there is an understandable and even admirable elitism at work. Romney truly believes in his own abilities and — unlike George W. Bush, who was handed every professional success in his life — has justification for his confidence. He is a highly intelligent, accomplished individual.

Some version of Romney’s own fantasy — that, once in office, he will craft sensible and data-driven, and perhaps even bipartisan, solutions to our problems — surely accounts for his political resurrection. Starting with the transformative first presidential debate, Romney has wafted the sweet, nostalgic scent of moderate Republicanism into the air. Might he offer the sort of pragmatic leadership that was the hallmark of his party in a bygone era — a George H.W. Bush, a second-term Reagan, an Eisenhower, a Nixon minus the criminal paranoia? Some moderates supporting him, like reformist conservative Ross Douthat or the Des Moines Register editorial board, have filled the many voids of Romney’s program with some version of this fantasy. It is an attractive scenario to many, and one worth considering seriously.

This hopeful vision immediately runs into a wall of deductive logic. If Romney were truly planning to govern from the center, why would he leave himself so exposed to Obama’s attacks that he is a plutocrat peddling warmed-over Bushonomics? The election offers Romney his moment of maximal leverage over his party’s right-wing base. If he actually wanted to cut a budget deal along the lines of Bowles-Simpson, or replace Dodd-Frank with some other way of preventing the next financial crisis, or replace Obamacare with some other plan to cover the uninsured, there would be no better time to announce it than now, when he could sorely use some hard evidence of his moderation. He has not done so — either because he does not want to or because he fears a revolt by the Republican base. But if he fears such a revolt now, when his base has no recourse but to withhold support and reelect Obama, he will also fear it once in office, when conservatives could oppose him without making their worst political nightmare come true as a result.

And so the reality remains that a vote for Romney is a vote for his party — a party that, by almost universal acclimation, utterly failed when last entrusted with governing. Romney may be brainier, more competent, and more mentally nimble than George W. Bush. But his party has, unbelievably, grown far more extreme in the years since Bush departed. Unbelievable though it may sound to those outside the conservative movement, conservative introspection into the Bush years has yielded the conclusion that the party erred only in its excessive compassion — it permitted too much social spending and, perhaps, cut taxes too much on the poor. Barely any points of contact remain between party doctrine and the consensus views of economists and other experts. The party has almost no capacity to respond to the conditions and problems that actually exist in the world.

Economists have coalesced around aggressive monetary easing in order to pump liquidity into a shocked market; Republicans have instead embraced the gold standard and warned incessantly of imminent inflation, undaunted by their total wrongness. In the face of a consensus for short-term fiscal stimulus, they have turned back to ancient Austrian doctrines and urged immediate spending cuts. In the face of rising global temperatures and a hardening scientific consensus on the role of carbon emissions, their energy plan is to dig up and burn every last molecule of coal and oil as rapidly as possible. Confronted by skyrocketing income inequality, they insist on cutting the top tax rate and slashing — to levels of around half — programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and children’s health insurance. They refuse to allow any tax increase to soften the depth of such cuts and the catastrophic social impact they would unleash.

The last element may be the most instructive and revealing. The most important intellectual pathology to afflict conservatism during the Obama era is its embrace of Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy of capitalism. Rand considered the free market a perfect arbiter of a person’s worth; their market earnings reflect their contribution to society, and their right to keep those earnings was absolute. Politics, as she saw it, was essentially a struggle of the market’s virtuous winners to protect their wealth from confiscation by the hordes of inferiors who could outnumber them.

Paul Ryan, a figure who (unlike Romney) commands vast personal and ideological loyalty from the party, is also its most famous Randian. He has repeatedly praised Rand as a visionary and cited her work as the touchstone of his entire political career. But the Randian toxin has spread throughout the party. It’s the basis of Ryan’s frequently proclaimed belief that society is divided between “makers” and “takers.” It also informed Romney’s infamous diatribe against the lazy, freeloading 47 percenters. It is a grotesque, cruel, and disqualifying ethical framework for governing.

Naturally, this circles us back to the irrepressible question of what Romney himself actually believes. The vast industry devoted to exploring the unknowable question of Romney’s true beliefs has largely ignored a simple and obvious possibility: That Romney has undergone the same political and/or psychological transformation that so many members of his class have since 2009. If there is one hard fact that American journalism has established since 2009, it is that many of America’s rich have gone flat-out bonkers under President Obama. Gabriel Sherman first documented this phenomenon in his fantastic 2009 profile in this magazine, “The Wail of the 1%,” which described how the financial elite had come to see themselves as persecuted, largely faultless targets of Obama and their greedy countrymen. Alec MacGillis and Chrystia Freeland have painted a similar picture.

The ranks of the panicked, angry rich include Democrats as well as Republicans and elites from various fields, but the most vociferous strains have occurred among the financial industry and among Republicans. All this is to say, had he retired from public life after 2008, super-wealthy Republican financier Mitt Romney is exactly the kind of person you’d expect to have lost his mind, the perfect socioeconomic profile of a man raging at Obama and his mob. Indeed, it would be strange if, at the very time his entire life had come to focus on the goal of unseating Obama, and he was ensconced among Obama’s most affluent and most implacable enemies, Romney was somehow immune to the psychological maladies sweeping through his class.

Seen in this light, Romney’s belief in himself as a just and deserving leader is not merely a form of personal ambition free of ideological content. His faith in himself blends seamlessly into a faith in his fellow Übermenschen — the Job Creators who make our country go, who surround him and whose views shaped his program. To think of Romney as torn between two poles, then, is a mistake. Both his fealty to his party and his belief in his own abilities point in the same direction: the entitlement of the superrich to govern the country.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, October 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blame Greed, Not Obama For Rise In Health Insurance Premiums

It’s Obama’s fault

Isn’t everything? I can’t believe what I am hearing and reading. Insurance companies are raising their premiums and, of course, that is President Obama’s  fault. It’s that damn “Obamacare.” Ah, no, it isn’t.

Insurance companies have been raising their subscriber’s premiums  for  years before Mr. Obama was president; actually, even before he was “Senator Obama.”

I have a family plan to cover my husband and our two children; but I also own two small businesses and cover my employees’ healthcare at both companies. The large private PPO provider who I won’t name, but has  the color of the sky in their title (ahem), has increased my premiums for both group plans and my individual family plan at least once a year  for the past five  years. And when I phone them and ask why, they don’t have an answer. They certainly don’t say: It’s President Obama’s fault and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

As a matter of fact, the president of Kaiser also stated that healthcare reform is not the reason for the increased premiums; at best,  it might contribute to 1 percent; so what is the other 99 percent?  What is the reason these insurance companies keep increasing our premiums?

How can healthcare reform increase our premiums? Due to the increased number of people being covered by the reform act (mostly children and  students who may remain on their parent’s plan), there are more people  purchasing plans, whether employers or employees, which actually brings more  money to those insurance companies. So why the increase?

Every time my plan has been increased, I have phoned to ask what additional benefits I am receiving for that cost increase; and every  time the answer is the same: none. When I ask why, no one knows. But I  know, it’s greed.

All, not some, all of the heads of these insurance companies earn millions of dollars a year in their paychecks. The insurance companies  are one  of the few in America not being negatively affected by our  economy. Don’t believe me? Check their stock prices, or  the stock  prices of most medical related companies for that matter.

Actually, the increase in premiums, whether a person has an HMO or a PPO, just helps to support the need not only for healthcare reform, but for further reform, specifically a public option.

These increases are proof that the public needs another option, an affordable option. And the mandate? That drives business to the  insurance companies, so they should be reducing the premiums. Insurance companies will say that many people are requesting a higher  deductible; of course we are, it’s a bad economy and most of us want to  pay less per month, taking the risk that we won’t end up in the E.R.  or need surgery, etc.

And according to my doctor-husband, that’s a big risk. He’s an orthopedic surgeon. Patients used to  come see him when they were in  pain—let’s say their knee hurt. Now they come when their bones are  sticking  out—when they’re chronic.

So the increased prices by the insurance companies should be blamed on the insurance companies. They  are hurting our healthcare system, doctors’ ability to provide proper care, and the economy as  well; especially when so many Americans head to the E.R. once they’re  chronic, which further bankrupts the system.

Bottom line—don’t  blame Obama. Blame the insurance companies. They’re the bad guys this time  around.

By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, September 29, 2011

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Economic Recovery, GOP, Health Care Costs, Middle Class, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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