No, Wait! This Is What I Really Want!

I try not to comment on purely political issues, but sometimes they are just too infuriating.

Over the last few days, Max Baucus has been leaking “his” health care proposal, which should be made public. Regular readers will know I’m no fan of Max Baucus, whose main goals seem to be killing the public option (I know, it’s not as big deal as it’s made out to be, but it isn’t irrelevant) and cutting subsidies to poor people. But supposedly, the whole point of the Baucus/Group of Six approach was that it would result in a bipartisan bill that could clear the Senate. The tradeoff was very simple; a plan that isn’t as good as it could be, but one that could pass.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported two of the three Republicans in the Group of Six, Charles Grassley and Michael Enzi, are against the Baucus proposal, and even Olympia Snowe wants changes.

The Republican demands:

  • Not shifting some of the increased Medicaid costs onto states. To be clear, the federal contribution to the new Medicaid costs will be higher than the federal contribution to existing Medicaid costs; Medicaid is already jointly funded. Still, though, this seems like a reasonable objection to me, since it is just hiding part of the cost of the bill by shifting it to the states.
  • No (or lower) new fees and taxes on “health insurance companies, clinical laboratories and manufacturers of medical devices,” which are part of Baucus’s plan to pay for subsidies (which he has already cut relative to the other bills). Again, this is reasonable as long as the Republicans have some other way of paying for the subsidies; if they just want to cut the subsidies, that sounds like a tactic to kill the bill altogether, because without significant subsidies health care is simply unaffordable for the middle class and the whole thing breaks down.
  • A prohibition on using federal subsidy money for abortions. This is a clear revival of the culture wars. The only way I could see to implement it would be to say that anyone who gets a subsidy cannot get an insurance-funded abortion – which means that poor and middle-class people can get abortions if they have employer-based coverage (which is subsidized by the employer health insurance tax exemption), but not if they have subsidized individual coverage (which is subsidized directly). How that is a good policy outcome escapes me.
  • A five-year waiting period before legal immigrants can receive subsidies. More culture wars. We should want legal immigrants. Legal immigration is one reason we do not have the looming demographic problems of Japan and Western Europe. A large and increasing proportion of the graduate students at American universities are foreign citizens; we should want them to stay here. My parents are immigrants. Simon is an immigrant.
  • No individual mandate, according to Grassley. Where has Grassley been the last three months? An individual mandate is the glue that holds all of reform together – because if private insurers can’t charge higher premiums to the old and sick, they need the young and healthy to come into the market. A health care system has to have a redistributive component, or it will be simply unaffordable to the people who need it.
  • Olympia Snowe also has an idea about allowing private insurers to offer national plans.

Sorry that took so many words. Because my main point isn’t that these are stupid objections – only some of them are – but this: what were you doing for the last two months? These are not new issues, or they shouldn’t be. Grassley is criticizing Baucus for pushing forward according to some “Democratic” timetable when they need more time. Time for what? It’s not like there is new information coming in.* Grassley is really using one of the oldest negotiating tactics in the book – drag things out, pretend to go along, wait until the other side is running up against time pressure, and then escalate your demands. And now Baucus has nothing to show for his supposed third way of bipartisan negotiations.

Either Grassley is using Baucus to (a) pretend he is interested in a bipartisan bill so he can (b) blame the breakdown on Democrats, forcing them to (c) try to pass the bill on their own, which is more difficult than it would have been in July. Or Baucus … Baucus has some trick up his sleeve that I can’t see that will make him come out of this looking good. (I’m no expert on Congressional politics, so he very well might.) Or the entire Group of Six is being played for fools by the rest of the Republicans. Check this out, also from The New York Times:

“Most Republicans have been deeply unhappy with the Democratic health care proposals so far, and Republicans on the Finance Committee were said to be bracing for two possibilities: a partisan proposal that they were going to oppose, or a bipartisan proposal that they were going to oppose.

“The Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said he would be surprised if any Republicans ended up backing the proposal by Mr. Baucus.”

Well, there you have it. The one thing that makes me hopeful is that Baucus’s reputation rests on his getting something out of his committee, so I expect he will do it one way or another, whether it is with zero or one Republican vote. But a massive raft of concessions to get Olympia Snowe’s vote (and maybe lose some liberal Democrats) doesn’t sound to me like a brilliant legislative tactic.

* Actually, there is new information, and it isn’t good. There were the Census figures on the uninsured and the decline in employer-based coverage, and now there is the new Kaiser Family Foundation study showing that, once again, insurance costs rose much faster than inflation overall. (We wrote about the previous version of that study here.)

By James Kwak

60 thoughts on “No, Wait! This Is What I Really Want!

  1. Actually it makes perfect sense, we’re just not used to Obama’s legislative style. He said he wanted to be bipartisan, and by golly, he’s being bipartisan. The fact that this assiduous bipartisanship has resulted in a totally non-viable bill that nobody wants is fine, because it proves something, not unlike a scientific experiment, and nobody can say that the Dems haven’t reached across the aisle. But the president knows just as well as you and I that this cannot be the real health care bill, and it isn’t, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

  2. Sorry, I couldn’t really focus on the piece, since the whole way I was scratching my head over how you can have a mandate without a strong public option (i.e. round up a conscript market for a feudal racket) and not have that simply open up an absolute free-fire zone for the insurance gangsters to raise rates and deductibles to the stars (and accelerate every other predatory practice), now that they wouldn’t even be competing with non-participation.

    (Needless to say, I don’t accept “regulation” as the answer. I believe the jury’s in on how well piecemeal regulation of an entrenched ultrapowerful feudal sector works. “The definition of insanity…”)

    (And I won’t belabor how utterly morally offensive on a human level it is to many of us to be forced at gunpoint to fork over money to thugs we revile and want eradicated completely. I know technocrats are confused by such human “sentiments”.)

    Progressive Block! By now it’s the only hope for this round.

  3. The Republicans have never, repeat never, been interested in passing health care reform. They want Obama to fail, full stop. They didn’t support the stimulus, they didn’t support Medicare, and they aren’t about to change their stripes now.

    The time to get this done was in February. That Obama and the Democrats are now faced with lousy alternatives is not at all surprising, and it’s a total failure of political leadership.

    I’d like to see an up or down vote in the Senate on the public option and/or bringing everyone into Medicare. Let’s find out once and for all which party Senate Democrats belong to!

  4. At this stage, I think it’s become useless. I think one point Paul Krugman made in one of his columns very early on in this debate was that without a real public option, you won’t have the necessary leverage against the insurance corporations to lower costs. So right there you’ve probably lost over half the war.

    Then add in no tax increases, which means the plan isn’t funded.

    So right there you’ve blown two gigantic holes into the whole purpose of health reform. What is the point in signing such a bill??? And what good will it do Democrats to sign it, when it makes no affect on the steep upward sloping cost curve of health care?

    I think Senate Democrats have the verbs “negotiate” and “bend over” confused. Could someone please remind them who is the majority party now??

  5. The Republicans have never, repeat never, been interested in passing health care reform. They want Obama to fail, full stop. They didn’t support the stimulus, they didn’t support Medicare, and they aren’t about to change their stripes now.

    I think the point of the Gang of Six is, and always has been, to prove that. Baucus lay down and let the Republicans walk all over him for months and when they were done walking all over him, they kicked him in the head in front of God and everybody. Nobody but a hard-core dittohead can still believe that the Republicans are acting in good faith, and that was the point of the whole political theater.

    Obama can’t shove the Republicans aside without first having them prove they deserve it – David Broder would faint, and as hard as it is to understand, enough people apparently listen to David Broder that Obama needs to take them into account.

  6. It seems to me that the Democratic “leadership” doesn’t want a health care reform bill any more than the Republicans do (and for the same reason) so the Democrats are trying to disguise that fact by coming up with totally unsatisfactory solutions they know won’t get off the ground. The Republicans know this and are simply not helping the Democrats in their deception.

  7. “Grassley is really using one of the oldest negotiating tactics in the book – drag things out, pretend to go along, wait until the other side is running up against time pressure, and then escalate your demands. And now Baucus has nothing to show for his supposed third way of bipartisan negotiations.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the Republican plan all along. With how much money Baucus has taken from the insurance companies, it was probably his plan too. The attention span of most Americans is in the one to two month range. (I had a history teacher once who said that 60% of all people forget 60% of all information in 60 days.) If the players wait longer than that, they can just start the debate over, and it’ll look as though the Republicans have never been a party to the Democrats planning process.

    Anyone ever seen that movie Momento? Same principle.

  8. When I read your observation that: “the new Kaiser Family Foundation study showing that, once again, insurance costs rose much faster than inflation overall. (We wrote about the previous version of that study here.)”

    I went back to look at that previous post, in which you note that: “according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the average annual premium for family coverage has already increased from $5,791 in 1999 to $12,680 in 2008 — a 9 percent annual increase — and a study published in Health Affairs forecasts that national health spending will grow at an average annual rate of 6.7 percent until 2017.”

    Don’t we have some apples and oranges here? On the one hand, inflation measures the movement in the price of a given basket of goods. Thus “inflation” in the cost of health care would measure the rising cost of purchasing that fixed basket of health services. However, the premium for a health insurance plan may represent the cost of insurance against a broadening or greater basket of health care services provided by “family coverage” over the years. Precision in the use of economic terminology has too often been lacking in the whole discussion of this issue.

  9. I’m a self-insured person desperate for insurance reform (this country is not remotely interested in health care reform, it seems, just this inadequate “insurance” reform that seems to be a boon to insurance companies, but not so much for me.)

    I have a huge stake in this debate, in that I’m one of those few consumers who actually knows what my health care/health insurance costs (and it’s A LOT)…

    What I see resulting from this “reform” – we’re adding the uninsured to the “system” – a system is one of the least cost-effective systems man has ever devised.

    As I understand it, we’re going to fund treatment for all these additional consumers in two ways:

    A) tax employers on policies that cost more than $22K. Now I’d LOVE to see figures on just how many of these policies are out there – I have to think outside of the gilded neighborhood of Wall Street, there are not many. And I’m sure that when faced with a tax, employers will simply drop these expensive policies in favor of the cheaper ones.

    B) The universal mandate, which will require everyone to buy a policy – taking money out of the middle class, whose wages have been stagnant for many years, and adding clients to the insurance companies – great for their bottom line.

    To help people like me, we’re going to create an “exchange” – open to just a few people, limiting its ability to negotiate good rates – leaving me pretty much in the same crappy little boat I’m in today.

    I REALLY hope I’m wrong and that my premiums come down considerably once reform passes and I no longer have to worry about being one diagnosis away from “uninsurable….” The gloom persists, however.

  10. However, the premium for a health insurance plan may represent the cost of insurance against a broadening or greater basket of health care services provided by “family coverage” over the years. Precision in the use of economic terminology has too often been lacking in the whole discussion of this issue.

    I think you need to go back and reread your 348 page summary of exclusions to your insurance plan.

  11. No Friend, you don’t get it. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley solved this problem months ago.

    Turn up the volume, listen and watch Republican Senator Chuck Grassley’s answer to the problem in the link just below. You can hear the empathy in his voice for those with less insurance than ALL U.S. Senators and U.S. Congressman currently get. See, what Republicans often forget to mention is, when it’s provided to ALL U.S. Senators and Congressman, they think federally sponsored health care is EXTREMELY efficient.

  12. We’ll wind up with mandated insurance, no public option of any kind, no rescission protection, and no price caps on doctors or insurance companies. So basically things will continue as they are right now with skyrocketing premiums and medical costs and massive insurance company profits. We’ll just have more people in debt or jail for failing to pay the extortionists at the insurance companies.

  13. I’m sure there will be some sort of rescission protection. This is just a guess, but I think it’s likely that the practice of rescission will be replaced with the practice of significantly raising premiums or otherwise altering coverage in instances of “fraud” or “misrepresentation” or whatever excuse the insurance companies use.

  14. Baucus has betrayed everyone, … the senate, the public, his party, all Americans. It is despicable, he and Grassley are reptilian. Baucus has always had a private agenda, duh…. and it is to strenghten corporatism. His rotten soul is bought, paid for, and owned by the insurance companies.

    Schrew all this…

    for an interesting read, check out Thomas Friedman in the NYT’s today on solar energe and Applied Materials.

    The light at the end of the tunnel you are in is a freight train — and you will not have time to turn around and run out the other way. So really, who cares if your quad bypass or hip replacement won’t by paid for by the government when your 65. We actually should be in favor of Death Panels.

  15. You are dead on when it comes to legal immigration. We need the pipeline open because I might want to get Medicare coverage and someone will need to be working in the country to pay the payroll tax. After us boomers all die off they can switch back to standing watch over the fortress walls and dumping hot oil over the side.

  16. President Obama assures us his health care plan would not cover illegal aliens. While that statement is misleading, it cheered Democrats, who want to pass a health-care bill – any health care bill.

    Meanwhile, Republican Representative Dean Heller said, “Congress should do everything within its power to curb abuse. Requiring citizenship verification for enrollment would ensure only citizens and legal residents receive taxpayer funded healthcare,” which cheered Republicans, who use the law and citizenship as excuses to exercise xenophobia.

    When Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, agree on a major principle, we need to tremble. Here are some thoughts on this frightening situation:

    Despite all the claims, no one knows how many illegal aliens reside in America. Depending on whom you believe, the number could be anywhere between 12 million and 70 million – from 3% of the U.S. population to 17%.

    Despite all the claims, no one knows how much income tax, Medicare tax, Social Security tax, sales tax, property tax and all other taxes they pay. Some right-wingers claim the illegals pay no taxes, which is ridiculous on the face of it. No sales or property taxes? No income, Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from their paychecks? No excise taxes, like gasoline tax? Please let me know their secret. We all might like to try it. Many illegal aliens pay taxes out of deportation fear. Many pay out of a sense of obligation and morality. Many pay for many reasons.

    Despite all the claims, no one knows the degree to which illegal aliens may or may not “steal” jobs from American citizens. Usually the jobs in question are at the low end. We don’t hear doctors or lawyers complaining that illegal aliens have stolen their jobs. Who does most of the low-end jobs in America? Disproportionately, blacks (aka African Americans) and Latinos (aka Mexican Americans). Who are the complainers? Mostly the right-wing whites, who wouldn’t take those jobs under any circumstances.

    Despite all the claims, no one knows the net economic contribution made by illegal aliens. Conservatives claim it’s very little. Liberals tell us about all the industries that depend on illegal aliens.

    So, despite much heat, shouting and claims, no one knows the fundamental facts of this debate. It’s like arguing religion. Everyone believes strongly, but no one has facts.

    We do know this, however. When illegal aliens don’t have insurance, they use emergency rooms, for which we citizens pay, or they get sick and become a burden on society, for which we also pay.

    We also know that people who pay tax are entitled to government services. So to deprive all illegal aliens of federal support is unconscionable and may be unconstitutional.

    We also know illegal aliens are not going home. They will be here with us until they die, as will their children and their children’s children. Of course many of these children, and most of the children’s children will be born-in-the-U.S.A. citizens. Shall we deny these American children health care? Shall we deport their parents?

    We also know illegal aliens are people. They have families. They love each other and they love God. They go to churches. They build; they clean; they bathe; they plant; they reap; they cook; they eat. They have hopes and fears and pride and regrets. They revere the living and mourn the dead. They are very much like you and me, except fate has not given them that piece of paper we were so fortunate to have received, most of us merely by the accident of being born in the right place. They are not monsters or criminals, any more than we are.

    Most right wingers are Christians. Are we naive to expect Christians to be more Christian toward their fellow human beings?

    We don’t know what President Obama really believes. He’s a politician. But it is sad to see a President pander to the xenophobes who espouse hatred of a minority, under the guise of law, especially when there is so much we don’t know.

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

  17. Is this a useful argument for increasing legal immigration: we should encourage more legal immigration because a majority of the graduate students at American universities are legal immigrants.

    What kind of an argument is this for legal immigration?

    I mean, if we had really small numbers of legal immigrants in the US, than the majority of the graduate students at American universities would be American citizens.

    Could I then make the argument: we need more American citizens because a majority of graduate students in American universities are American citizens?

    It seems to me your argument is not really useful or persuasive.

    Maybe you should argue something more like: we need more legal immigrants because they’re smarter and harder working than dull, indolent American citizens who neither qualify for, nor work hard enough, to attend their own graduate schools.

    Then the argument would really have some persuasive power. Whether it would be correct is another question.

  18. no comment – just want to continue reading your comments
    it is getting more fascinating the longer I do it

  19. Another note on legal immigrants and US graduate schools.

    The fact that legal immigrants already make up a significant and growing fraction of the American university graduate student bodies can be used as an argument *against* subsidies for them and their families. They don’t need the help.

    If government policies should encourage equal access to American universities, one can argue that US citizens need the subsidies, not immigrants. After all, US citizens are underrepresented in US graduate schools.

    Maybe it’s better to ask: how can US policies and government programs better prepare and support American citizens who are, or want to be, graduate students in American universities?

  20. John and Tom live next door to each other. John is a U.S. citizen by birth. Tom is an illegal alien. Both are taxpayers.

    Should the government deny Tom the medical or educational services it gives to John?

    If Tom is denied these services, should his already-paid tax money be returned to him?

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

  21. This bill as announced is just horrible. Not only does it mandate everyone to buy health insurance or risk penalties, it doesn’t lower premiums for older people, it permits them to be raised something like 5 times.

    George McGovern was right. Just write a one line bill saying that everyone is covered under Medicare and work to make Medicare right for everyone, including the bottomline in our budget. Maybe if everyone had a stake in the bottomline, we’d be motivated to do more to take care of our personal health.

  22. Yes, Tom should be denied these service; no, already-paid tax money should not be refunded to him.

    The expenses you incur in committing a crime are not refunded in the event the crime is foiled.

  23. Yeah that’s possible, but how is that any better than rescission in the case of no price caps or public options?

  24. There is only one Republican demand: that Obama’s proposal fail.

    Everything else is simply situational opposition. If the proposal included taxes on high incomes, the counter would be taxes on insurance plans. If the proposal included taxes on insurance plans, the counter would be expenditures from general funds (income taxes on unspecified people). If the proposal included expenditures from general funds, the counter would be budget neutrality.

    There is nothing Enzi could have been given that would make him say “yes, I support this,” because his primary objective is to ensure that nothing passes (his secondary objective is to reward his donors, but the status quo treats them just fine).

  25. Switch from income tax (requiring a SSN) to national sales tax, and immigrants will be paying all the same taxes we do. At that point, I won’t care if they’re here illegally…. in fact I won’t see the point of making it illegal. So long as they pay their taxes, I don’t mind them being here.

    Now if they want the full benefits, they should be required to become a citizen (including the requirement to learn english; I wouldn’t move to any other country thinking I didn’t have to know the local language), which means we would need some reform of the process for becoming a citizen. It’s a process that needs reforming anyway though.

    Apparently my opinion is not nationalist (read as xenophobic/racist) enough for most conservatives I’ve talked to though.

  26. “Maybe if everyone had a stake in the bottomline, we’d be motivated to do more to take care of our personal health.”

    But then we’d have absolutely no need for politics…the game would be over. No more vote buying = no more voters.

    I’d like to see health care reform. Wake me when we get to it. Health insurance reform will do little good for anyone but the insurance companies.

    If I can’t afford health insurance now will the government give it to me via a tax credit/ rebate…yes, I think that is the way it will be. But, I will still be unable to afford deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. I still am SOL for health care. Insurance companies should be very happy about that.

  27. I forgot to mention that Tom has two small children, one born here and one not born here. You seem like a compassionate American, perhaps even a compassionate American Christian. Do do you suggest withholding medical services from the child not born here? What would your church recommend?

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

  28. Or at least prevent jobs from going abroad.

    Take IBM. The offer their American employees, many of whom have PhDs, the opportunity to work in India or Nigeria “under local conditions.”

  29. The solution is clear: deport conservatives to the Artic National Wildlife Refuge where they can be free from illegal immigrants.

  30. You would be amazed at the people who get turned away. Russian physicists with PhDs can’t even come to the U.S. to present their papers. Conferences in many disciplines have to be held in foreign countries as a result.

    While uneducated mexicans stream across the border, legal immigration is causing massive brain drain.

  31. Oh, it’s much better.

    Instead of dropping a person, the insurance company will be able to earn additional money from that person through increased premiums. The individual will not simply be able to stop paying since the law will require everyone to have insurance…

    Wait…did you mean better for us or for the insurance companies?

  32. “… poor and middle-class people can get abortions if they have employer-based coverage (which is subsidized by the employer health insurance tax exemption), but not if they have subsidized individual coverage (which is subsidized directly). How that is a good policy outcome escapes me.”

    It escapes you because you are thinking too hard.

  33. FINALLY –

    you are coming to see my (majority) point of view with regards to the illegal mexican immigration problem. The have destroyed housing, health care, employment and education…. and we can’t get Russian PhD’s into our country. God, I love this stupid place.

    Como’estas frijole? (How you bean?)

  34. never forget that the cost of living presumably are much lower there so may be it is really a good deal ;-(((

  35. I think the fact that Baucus could not get Republican support will turn into a plus, if it sours the relations between conservative Democrats and Republicans. If they had been able to get the Republicans on board then they would have enhanced their political power as deal makers. There is a good chance that they will not dig in their heels to resist a Democrat centered bill, as that would mean joining the Republicans as deal breakers. Their power within the Democratic party would only decrease in that case.

  36. That requires supporting both a completely regressive national sales tax system and believing that tax compliance is the sole metric of citizenship. I disagree with you on both.

  37. I suggest deporting Tom as quickly as he can be caught, and I suggest integrating the INS and the IRS to focus on workplace compliance and make sure we catch Tom as quickly as possible.

  38. Well, you get to live in places with lots of tropical diseases, lack of sanitation, dangerous roads, sketchy public utilities, byzantine legal systems, and deadly pollution while far away from family, friends, and your own culture, where any money you save is practically worthless in your home country. Who wouldn’t want that?

  39. There may not be statistics but many chamber of commerce types will tell you that California and Arizona run on the illegals labor, which probably means the immigration authorities are being paid to look the other way.

  40. Muy bien gabacho.

    My only point is that if you’ve already got 7 million or so illegal mexicans, maybe you could let in a few Russian scientists.

  41. sounds like you are describing people’s favourite vacationing places …
    but sadly the perks as the British soldier could count on before 1914 probably don’t exist anymore

    but seriously even under the extremely favourable financial conditions of the expats I took care of in the 70s it is for a family quite a trying experience – if you have to do it on local salary coming from a richer society phhhhh it’s going to be really cruel and don’t forget that “they” have racists too

  42. The sole metric of citizenship is citizenship. There is no other metric. You can be a mean, rotten, heartless no good bastard, with not a useful bone in your body, but if you’re a citizen, you’re a citizen. We have quite a few citizens just like that. Some are in Congress, and some vote for them.

  43. Sales tax without income tax encourages savings, which our credit driven recession shows we really could have used some more of.

    And again, my sense of “nationalism” is not quite what many flag wavers think it should be, so feel free to ignore me if I don’t think I’m something special just because the lottery of birth dropped me in the right place. Anyone that comes here, works, and puts cash in the community chest has the right to be here as much as I do, so far as I’m concerned.

    Then again, I’m more apt to see “humans” instead of race, origin, or ethnicity.

  44. It occurs to me that our path on health care “reform” could have modeled different approach to the GM/Chrysler bailouts. Instead of forcing those companies to re-structure and spending a lot of money on bailing them out and the “cash for clunkers” program we could have just let them go about business as usual and forced everybody to buy a new GM or Chrysler car. ;-)

  45. What about Jose, patiently lining up at the U.S. visa office in Quito for the last 6 years trying to get a visa to legally enter the U.S.? Fortunately, maybe Tom’s tax payments will cover the shortfall from Tim Geithner’s failure to pay all his social security taxes due while he was working at the IMF.

  46. Now the Baucus bill gets to face the opposition of progressive and mainstream democrats. Its great to have the bill come out of committee so now the competing bills in both House and Senate can be worked into actual legislation.

  47. James,
    I don’t think the GOP behavior can be explained without considering some fundamental factor at play. My contention is that the GOP cannot afford to have a robust and sensible health care reform pass. It is a matter of political survival to them.


    Pretty much the whole paradigm of the GOP propaganda rest on the necessary condition that the average American must live in insecurity and fear. Fear of losing job, fear of disease, fear of the “others” (read: the poors and immigrants, Muslims etc.)

    This way, they can use what has always work well for them, that is the “blame the victim” theme.

    There is a term that sociologists developed to describe an incredibly ugly quality of human nature. The term they use is “victim blame.” Here’s how it works: Americans are fearful people. That’s why drug companies are able to sell more pharmaceuticals per capita in America than any other place in the world. It is also the reason that gun manufacturers love Americans.

    On the outside , most Americans want to project a Rambo quality of “gutsy” but “fearfulness” lies below that veneer. It is that fearful nature, according to sociologists and shrinks, that compels us to blame victims for their misfortune. It makes us feel better when we convince ourselves that bad things only happen to other people.

    Test that theory yourself. Find one of those male or female swaggering, bravado types who is always quick to project macho self-assuredness.

    Keep track of how many times they blame a victim for a rape, or a robbery, or an accident, or virtually any kind of misfortune. Note how many times they tell you that “if they were in that situation,” there would have been a happier ending. That is the nature of “victim blaming.”

    It is a mechanism that promotes false bravado as a way to help us believe that bad things will never happen to us. After all, “we,” unlike those other victims, are smarter, stronger, and more righteous.

    Conservative political policies have been built around the manipulation of that ugly quality called victim blame. If an American is homeless or jobless, if they cannot afford health care, if they lost their home in foreclosure, then surely they have done “something” to deserve that fate. Conservatives are brilliant in that they have freed us from the responsibility of being our brother’s keeper. It’s much easier to conclude that our brother is always stupid, irresponsible, immoral, and obviously not as smart, responsible and virtuous as “us.” If they had “our” superior qualities, their lives would flourish.

    Today, homeless families are the largest growing segment of America’s population. Almost half of those “irresponsible,” “underachieving,” homeless types are children under the age of six. An accomplished “victim blamer” will conclude that those homeless children are suffering appropriately for the “sins of their fathers.”

    Remove one of the biggest worry of ordinary Americans, and you’ll start to see the dismemberment of this ugly ideological and cultural manipulation.

    It is otherwise very difficult to explain the absolute obstinateness of the GOP to oppose remedies for a acute, known and widespread problem that is a drag on individuals, businesses and the economy at large.

  48. That’s awesome…and not a bad point, really. My grandpa worked for the Social Security Administration, and in his mid-80s, while living in a nursing home, he’s still got pretty decent health care. As far as I know everything’s paid for, as was the in-home care person before his needs got too great for her to do much good.

    Maybe that’s the evil plan: let insurance go down hill so badly that everyone is forced to work for the federal government.

  49. Let’s face it, Max Bogus (oops!!!) is barely a Democrat, and certainly not interested in reforming any parts of the system that have so heavily supported him politically (i.e. insurers). So we get what we expected from a committee chaired by him, essentially nothing serious. Yes, I know, it’s something, but really, c’mon!!! Having watched several of his hearings, it was completely obvious that he was really not going to listen to any witness whose testimony did not conform to what he was going to produce in the end.

    And here he is, announcing something that is really not going to lead to better health at lower costs for most, or even for anyone. It is exactly the same, and perhaps slightly worse than I expected.

    If this is the bill to be subjected to amendment on the floor of the Senate, there won’t be any headway until it goes to conference and must be “merged” with a House Bill with a public option (which polls show are popular with both the public AND the medical care community). We’ll be fortunate to get something with coops and a trigger to public option. That is probably best case.

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