Archive for March 19th, 2012
Hurray for Health Reform By PAUL KRUGMAN
It’s said that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies. If the same principle applies to legislation, the Affordable Care Act — which was signed into law two years ago, but for the most part has yet to take effect — sits in a place of high honor.
Now, the act — known to its foes as Obamacare, and to the cognoscenti as ObamaRomneycare — isn’t easy to love, since it’s very much a compromise, dictated by the perceived political need to change existing coverage and challenge entrenched interests as little as possible. But the perfect is the enemy of the good; for all its imperfections, this reform would do an enormous amount of good. And one indicator of just how good it is comes from the apparent inability of its opponents to make an honest case against it.
To understand the lies, you first have to understand the truth. How would ObamaRomneycare change American health care?
For most people the answer is, not at all. In particular, those receiving good health benefits from employers would keep them. The act is aimed, instead, at Americans who fall through the cracks, either going without coverage or relying on the miserably malfunctioning individual, “non-group” insurance market.
The fact is that individual health insurance, as currently constituted, just doesn’t work. If insurers are left free to deny coverage at will — as they are in, say, California — they offer cheap policies to the young and healthy (and try to yank coverage if you get sick) but refuse to cover anyone likely to need expensive care. Yet simply requiring that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions, as in New York, doesn’t work either: premiums are sky-high because only the sick buy insurance.
The solution — originally proposed, believe it or not, by analysts at the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation — is a three-legged stool of regulation and subsidies. As in New York, insurers are required to cover everyone; in return, everyone is required to buy insurance, so that healthy as well as sick people are in the risk pool. Finally, subsidies make those mandated insurance purchases affordable for lower-income families.
Can such a system work? It’s already working! Massachusetts enacted a very similar reform six years ago — yes, while Mitt Romney was governor. Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who played a key role in developing both the local and the national reforms (and has published an illustrated guide to reform) has surveyed the results — and finds that Romneycare is working pretty much as advertised. The number of people without insurance has dropped sharply, the quality of care hasn’t suffered, and the program’s cost has been very close to initial projections.
Oh, and the budgetary cost per newly insured resident of Massachusetts was actually lower than the projected cost per American insured by the Affordable Care Act.
Given this evidence, what’s a virulent opponent of reform to do? The answer is, make stuff up.
We all know how the act’s proposal that Medicare evaluate medical procedures for effectiveness became, in the fevered imagination of the right, an evil plan to create death panels. And rest assured, this lie will be back in force once the general election campaign is in full swing.
For now, however, most of the disinformation involves claims about costs. Each new report from the Congressional Budget Office is touted as proof that the true cost of Obamacare is exploding, even when — as was the case with the latest report — the document says on its very first page that projected costs have actually fallen slightly. Nor are we talking about random pundits making these false claims. We are, instead, talking about people like the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, who issued a completely fraudulent press release after the latest budget office report.
Because the truth does not, sad to say, always prevail, there is a real chance that these lies will succeed in killing health reform before it really gets started. And that would be an immense tragedy for America, because this health reform is coming just in time.
As I said, the reform is mainly aimed at Americans who fall through the cracks in our current system — an important goal in its own right. But what makes reform truly urgent is the fact that the cracks are rapidly getting wider, because fewer and fewer jobs come with health benefits; employment-based coverage actually declined even during the “Bush boom” of 2003 to 2007, and has plunged since.
What this means is that the Affordable Care Act is the only thing protecting us from an imminent surge in the number of Americans who can’t afford essential care. So this reform had better survive — because if it doesn’t, many Americans who need health care won’t.
© 2012, agentleman.
A man, the ancient fable tells us, is known by the company he keeps. In a presidential primary, the endorsement game is one of the great spectator sports. Every four years comes the parade of politicians, preachers and a smattering of politically inclined demi-gods of popular culture stepping forward to endorse one or another of the presidential candidates.
Some are positioning themselves for a prime slot in what they hope will be a future administration. Others are making a statement to the folks back home about the authenticity of their ideological credentials. A few have designs on the levers of creative destruction in their own political party. And that’s before we get to the washed-up rock ‘n’ rollers and comedians who are clearly just looking for a gig, or relevance, or both.
What’s stunning about this year’s crop of endorsers of Republican presidential candidates is the torrent of venom, mendacity and absurdity that spills from their mouths and pens — not to mention the fact that most of these endorsements have been warmly received, and none have been rejected. There’s also a peculiar dichotomy of styles represented: They either hail from the priggish, uptight wing of the party that loathes popular culture as coarse and sinful, or they represent that coarse and sex-laden culture. The thing they have in common? Hatred — of somebody who’s not like them.
The Obama campaign may have a Bill Maher problem, but compared to the smorgasboard of slander and contempt on display by the GOP’s great wits, Maher’s garden-variety misogyny seems almost quaint. That the corporate media have failed to note most of these quotes — or to challenge the candidates on accepting the support of these luminaries — speaks less to any willful complicity than to the fact that “hatefully insane” has become the new normal.
Sixteen years ago, Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign had to let go of campaign co-chair Larry Pratt, president of the Gun Owners of America, just because Pratt once gave a little lecture to a gathering of white supremacists. Today, Mitt Romney shows no intention of rejecting the endorsement of a racist who said that President Barack Obama should “suck on my machine gun.”
The list below is hardly definitive; one could surf the Web for days, racking up an epic stack of crazy and worse from endorsers of one or another of the Republican candidates, but at some point, one just needs to get on with writing the dreaded listicle. Presented below, in reverse order of their prospects (according to delegate counts) for seeing their endorsed candidate actually win the Republican presidential nomination, are the endorsers who have uttered some of the most jaw-dropping words I’ve stumbled upon.
REP. RON PAUL
One might expect the neo-libertarian, anti-war, states’ rights, racist newsletter-publishing congressman from Texas to have some intriguing endorsers, and he doesn’t disappoint. For a minimal sampling, we highlight here a misogynist and a nihlist.
Rev. Chuck Baldwin: After serving as the Constitution Party’s standard bearer in the last presidential election, in which he won Ron Paul’s endorsement, Baldwin has returned the favor. The Constitution Party, with which Paul has a close relationship, is essentially the political organization of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. Although not quite a Christian Reconstructionist himself, most of Baldwin’s views comport with those of the hard-core religious movement, which ultimately seeks to make biblical law the law of the land. (That would include the stoning of adulterers, the execution of non-celibate gay men — you get the idea.) One of Baldwin’s grand laments is the dissipation of what he calls “masculine culture,” and the disappearance of a certain kind of man from the American landscape: “A man committed to manly virtues. A man who is the head of his home and knows how to control and discipline his children.” In a 2006 essay, Balwin blamed the “problem” on women:
It seems that most Christian schools and church Sunday Schools (and probably Christian homes) are controlled and dominated by women…The overexposure of young boys to women leaders is taking a serious toll on their masculinity…boys are constantly taught to submit to feminine leadership. Independence and assertiveness are considered evil, when in fact, any man worth his salt must, by definition, be a man of independence and strength.
And then there are all of those gay-ish people making gospel music:
Many of today’s popular Christian entertainers (and that’s all many of them are) are markedly soft and effeminate in appearance, voice, mannerisms, and actions.
Doug Stanhope, comedian: For something completely different there’s Doug Stanhope, whose video endorsement of the Texas congressman is right up there on the endorsement page of RonPaul.com, just like Baldwin’s. Stanhope is known for almost never performing without an alcoholic beverage in his hand (or in his mouth).
But there are other videos, like this one from a “performance” in Leeds, U.K., where he responds to an audience that is trying to boo him off the stage after he goes on a bizarre rant about abortion:
“You’re the reason I fucking don’t care about people. You could all die in front of me and I wouldn’t even flinch, I’d just move on with my act…”
At a nightclub appearance in Scotland, Stanhope talks about his visit to a potato processing plant staffed mostly by Polish immigrants, noting that the young women spot-checking the potatoes for flaws are “hot.” He continues (at around the 3:08 mark):
“You can’t get a hot chick to do shit in the States. You just want to say — and I couldn’t, ’cause it would sound rude, with broken English — but you want to just nudge ’em and go, ‘Why are you countin’ potatoes? Suck a dick. I’m not tryin’ to be rude, but, for God’s sake, suck a dick — just one dick. One dick is worth, like, a thousand potatoes.”
So far, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has hit the jackpot in picking up endorsements from a couple of eccentric wacky also-rans: Herman “9-9-9″ Cain, and the neo-secessionist Texas Gov. Rick Perry, both of whose rhetorical foibles are well known. But Newt’s stable of endorsers also includes an anti-gay crusader and a xenophobic TV has-been who wants to bring his version of God back into the public schools.
Rev. Don Wildmon, founder, American Family Association: Now retired from the role of head hatemonger at the anti-gay AFA (a role bequeathed to his son Tim), Wildmon has taken to the airwaves on behalf of the man who would colonize the moon. Part of the right-wing Center for National Policy, Wildmon’s decades-long jihad against LGBT people set the standard for how to use homophobia as a fundraising tool in breathless direct-mail pieces and newsletters that paint the gay-rights movement as one comprised of predators and pedophiles. Defending the Boy Scouts’ prohibition on gay leaders and scouts, Wildmon praised the Scouts for not wanting to “expose its young members to lonely sodomites.”
Early on in the history of the modern religious right, Wildmon’s AFA began targeting popular television programming as hostile to “the Christian faith.” In 1981, he offered this as a possible reason: “Most television producers are of the Jewish perspective.”
Not to mention the gays — and liberals, generally. On a July radio program, Wildmon explained:
Hollywood hates Christians. The only thing standing between, let’s just say the homosexual movement, homosexual marriage and the whole homosexual agenda, is the church. And not just the whole church but the evangelical dedicated Christians, and they are hated by the liberal-left because we stand in way, we stand in the way, of their achieving of what it is they want to achieve.
Wildmon’s commitment to traditional, till-death-do-us-part, heterosexual-only marriage does render his endorsement of the thrice-married Gingrich something of a head-scratcher. As Right Wing Watch notes:
Wildmon endorsed Gingrich, who has admitted that extramarital affairs were reasons that ended his first two marriages, despite previously arguing that “adultery is destructive to relationships, to families, and to society.”
Rev. Tim and (Mrs.) Beverly LaHaye (respectively), co-author of end-times novels, and founder of Concerned Women for America: Beverly LaHaye’s group, Concerned Women for America, was early out of the gate with the false narrative that LGBT people are out to recruit children to their sexual orientation. From Right Wing Watch:
Mrs. LaHaye warned her members that homosexuals “want their depraved ‘values’ to become our children’s values. Homosexuals expect society to embrace their immoral way of life. Worse yet, they are looking for new recruits!” (CWA direct mail, 5/92)
While Tim LaHaye is best known for Left Behind, the seemingly endless series of eschatological dime-store novels he co-authored, he’s also one of the founding members of the modern religious right.
During the 2008 presidential election season, Sen. John McCain’s campaign issued an anti-Obama ad called “The One” which seemed to insinuate that Obama was the anti-Christ. As an anti-Christ expert, LaHaye felt compelled to weigh in. In a statement issued by LaHaye and Left Behind co-author Jerry B. Jenkins, LaHaye is quoted as saying:
I can see by the language [Obama] uses why people think he could be the antichrist, but from my reading of scripture, he doesn’t meet the criteria. There is no indication in the Bible that the antichrist will be an American.
Now, about that birth certificate….
Chuck Norris, television actor, martial artist, exercise guru: He may not have had a TV hit since his bust-em-up favorite, “Walker, Texas Ranger,” but that doesn’t mean Chuck Norris has gone all quiet. He’s been writing up a storm, trying to get a biblical curriculum placed in the public schools, speculating on whether abortion might have deprived the world of its savior, fanning the flames of Islamophobia, and getting his birther thang on. Here’s Norris on the president’s birth certificate, as reported by Mother Jones:
If the birther movement is truly full of a bunch of conspiracy-fringed kooks or “zombies,” as the Los Angeles Times proclaims, then prove once and for all that you are a naturally born citizen by posting your original birth certificate. And all the controversy will fade away like the pains of childbirth.
Less than a year after Obama’s inauguration, Norris advanced the president-as-crypto-Muslim narrative, writing, “President Obama has sympathized and supported Muslims and Islamic theology, practice and culture.”
In March, Norris wrote that Christians should “work to install a Bible curriculum into your public school districts across the country.”
This year’s Christmas offering from Norris posited the notion that under the healthcare reform law Obama signed in 2010, the Blessed Mother herself might have been made to commit a most grievous sin, one that could have ended in eternal damnation for all humankind:
What would have happened if Mother Mary had been covered by Obamacare? What if that young, poor and uninsured teenage woman had been provided the federal funds (via Obamacare) and facilities (via Planned Parenthood, etc.) to avoid the ridicule, ostracizing, persecution and possible stoning because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Imagine all the great souls who could have been erased from history and the influence of mankind if their parents had been as progressive as Washington’s wise men and women! Will Obamacare morph into Herodcare for the unborn?
With a presidential candidate who has stated his personal opposition to birth control, pegged African Americans as the sole recipients of public assistance, cited John F. Kennedy’s speech on the First Amendment as something that makes him “throw up,” and declared that Satan has made significant inroads in his demonic quest to take over the United States, you’d expect him to have a whole passel full of crazy and/or nasty endorsers — and you’d be right!
From reality TV stars Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar (parents of 19, all Michelle’s) to the immigrant-bashing former congressman Tom Tancredo, to the Islamophic retired general William “Jerry” Boykin, the birther Joseph Farah and the racist and homophobic lawmaker, Sally Kern, Santorum would seem to have covered all corners of the right-wing hate coalition. Oh, and the heavy metal community, too.
Michelle Duggar, co-star of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting: This reality-TV mega-mom likely endorsed Rick Santorum because her husband told her to. Or at least that’s what I read in this excerpt from her marital advice pamphlet, The Seven Basic Needs of a Husband, as reported by RadarOnline:
- A Husband Needs A Wife Who Accepts Him As A Leader And Believes In His God-Given Responsibilities”: Husbands are commanded to govern their wives; God works through a man’s decisions — good or bad; Bad decisions reveal his needs and allow the wife to appeal and demonstrate Godly character; The more a wife trusts her husband, the more careful he will be in giving her direction; Never ask others for counsel without your husband’s approval; reassure your husband that you understand and believe that he is your God-given leader.
- A husband needs a wife who will continue to develop inward and outward beauty: How can you become more of the wife of your husband’s dreams?; discover and conform to your husband’s real wishes; explain your hairstyle to others on the basis of your submission to your authority; separate your “rights” from your responsibilities.
- Ask your husband to define your responsibilities; Ask your husband to tell you when you have a resistant spirit; dispel a backbiting tongue by silence.
Tom Tancredo, former U.S. congressman: For the overlapping racist and anti-immigrant faction, there’s twofer Tom Tancredo, the former congressman from Colorado, and Constitution Party candidate in that state’s 2010 gubernatorial election. At at 2009 Tea Party Nation convention, Tancredo called for the reinstatement of literacy tests for voting eligibility, such as those famously used in the Jim Crow days of the South to keep African Americans away from the polls. As reported by ABC News:
The opening-night speaker at first ever National Tea Party Convention ripped into President Obama, Sen. John McCain and “the cult of multiculturalism,” asserting that Obama was elected because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.”
According to the Cleveland Leader, he went on:
“People who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House…Barack Hussein Obama.”
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William “Jerry” Boykin: The religious right’s favorite general, Boykin retired after a Pentagon investigation found his statements about Islam and Christianity to have violated military rules. From a new report by People for the American Way:
[W]hen Boykin was still on active duty, he generated criticism for public comments, given while he was in uniform, indicating that he saw U.S. military engagement in religious terms, as “our God” (Christian) vs. Satan or the “idol” God he said was worshiped by Muslims.
Since then, Boykin has become a minister and hit the stump for Santorum, reiterating his belief that the First Amendment does not apply to Muslims, and that “no mosques” should be permitted to be built in the United States. PFAW’s Right Wing Watch reported these remarks from Boykin, from an exchange with AFA’s Bryan Fischer from his radio program, Focal Point:
But Islam, we need to think Sharia, it is not just a religion it is a totalitarian way of life. A mosque is an embassy for Islam and they recognize only a global caliphate, not the sanctity or sovereignty of the United States.
Joseph Farah, editor, WorldNetDaily: While Farah echoes Boykin’s anti-Islam sentiments, he gets a bit more personal when it comes to Barack Obama, whose birth certificate he refuses to accept as legitimate. On the occasion of the president’s 50th birthday, Farah penned an op-ed that called for Obama to be carried out of the White House, face down:
How long will it take to see him frog-marched down Pennsylvania Avenue?
How will this charade finally be resolved?
What steps need to be taken to see justice prevail?
Sounds a little lynchy, doesn’t it?
Sally Kern, Oklahoma state legislator: When the Republican-controlled Oklahoma state House of Representatives passed an amendment to the state Constitution last year that would eliminate affirmative action rules, Sally Kern was all in, and with her own theory of why African Americans didn’t fare as well as whites in places of employment and institutions of higher education. As reported by the Tulsa World via ThinkProgress:
Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said minorities earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative.
“We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.”
Kern said women earn less than men because “they tend to spend more time at home with their families.”
Kern also famously compared homosexuality to terrorism.
Ann Coulter, author: Ann Coulter may have been a reluctant endorser of Mitt Romney, but she endorsed him nonetheless. “You’ve got to go with what you have,” Coulter told Sean Hannity. As far as we know, Romney has said nothing to distance himself from Coulter, who made a big splash at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2007 by calling John Edwards, the former Democratic senator and vice presidential candidate, “a faggot.” (As it turns out, there were other pejoratives better suited to Edwards.)
Since making outrageously nasty claims is basically what Coulter does for a living, let’s leave aside her recent disparagement of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law School student made famous by Rush Limbaugh’s three-day verbal assault on her. (Coulter’s biggest complaints against Fluke seem to be that she had never heard of her before Rush’s self-immolating invective, and that she doesn’t care for Fluke’s haircut.) No, let’s examine a Coulter line she never expected to leave the room in which she delivered it.
In 2007, I covered a right-wing conference, for Church & State magazine, at the Coral Ridge enclave of the late Rev. D. James Kennedy. Coulter was a keynote speaker, but unlike the other religious-right eminences who graced the pulpit in Kennedy’s church, she forbade any recording of her remarks.
As I later wrote:
I watched her describe, to a church full of right-wing activists, abortion-clinic doctors and healthcare personnel who were murdered as either having been shot, “…or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure performed on them with a rifle.”
Kid Rock, rapper/singer: Perhaps trying to pick up some street cred to add to his known highway prowess (at least in the canines carting department), Romney has not only accepted the endorsement of Kid Rock; he’s had the foul-mouthed, misogynist rap-metal star play at his rallies. I haven’t seen the set lists, but I’m betting that his “American Bad Ass” didn’t make the cut for the Mittfests. However, if the Kid would only rename it “American Bad Ass the Beautiful,” perhaps Mitt would sing it for us:
I’m an… American Bad Ass
Watch me kick
You can roll with rock
Or you can suck my dick
I’m a porno flick, I’m like amazing grace
I’m gonna fuck some hoe’s after I rock this place
Super fly, livin double wide
Side car my glide
So Joe C can ride
Full sack to share
Bringin flash and glare
Got the long hair swingin middle finger in the air
Snakeskin suits, ’65 Chevelles
See me ride in sin
Hear the rebel yell
I won’t live to tell
So if you do
Give the next generation a big “Fuck you!”
Who knew I’d blow up like Oklahoma
Said fuck high school, pissed on my diploma
Smell the aroma
Check my hits
I know it stinks in here
Cause I’m the shit, shit, shit, shit, shit
Ted Nugent, rock ‘n’ roll one-hit wonder: The self-styled Motor City Madman conferred his endorsement on the Mittster after what he termed “a long heart&soul conversation,” as announced on his Twitter feed.
In the 1970s, Nugent was known for his screaming hit, “Cat-Scratch Fever.” Nowadays he’s known for misogynist, racist rants, which have done little to deter high-powered Republicans from seeking his foul-mouthed blessing. A longtime supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Nugent made quite the impression at Perry’s 2007 gubernatorial inaugural ball:
According to a report that appeared at the time in the Houston Chronicle:
Nugent appeared onstage wearing a cut-off T-shirt emblazoned with the sure-to-draw-headlines Confederate flag and shouting some unflattering remarks about non-English speakers, according to people who were in attendance. His props were machine guns.
That same year, he suggested in a night club appearance that he’d essentially like to see Barack Obama, then the Democratic presidential candidate, dead (or gravely wounded), and had some choice words for several Democratic women politicians:
“I was in Chicago last week, I said, ‘Hey Obama, you might want to suck on one of these, you punk!’ Obama, he’s a piece of sh*t and I told him to suck on my machine gun! Let’s hear it for them. I was in New York and I said, ‘Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.’ And since I’m in California, how about Barbara Boxer? She might want to suck on my machine gun! Hey, Dianne Feinstein, ride one of these, you worthless whore!”
I haven’t had the opportunity to ask Romney how he feels about these remarks from a man whose endorsement he apparently sought. One might imagine that these are not the words that Mitt would have chosen. But the endorsement, well, that’s another story.
© 2012, agentleman.