"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

July 27, 2009

Pretty much what he said:

The System At Work

by Hunter - Sun Jul 26, 2009 at 10:00:04 AM PDT

The GOP goal is to kill healthcare reform outright; their strategists are saying as much. Not to kill single payer or a public option, but to kill the whole notion of reform. The legislators tasked with coming up with alternative plans declared, this last week, that none were needed; Senator Inhofe muses out loud about how much his party might be helped if they can manage to stop reform outright.

I suppose it is worth pondering the how and the why of such things. Do they earnestly believe that there's absolutely nothing that needs to be done about health care in this country? Are they so transparently in the pockets of the lobbyists that they are willing make a bold stand on "everything is fine", when a mere look out the window says it's not?

It's puzzling that such a stance could even be remotely effective. Everybody in America seems to hate their insurance provider, at least everyone who has ever had to use it because they actually got sick. Everybody knows how bad getting actual healthcare has become in this country; everybody has stories of being screwed roundly by their insurance, or not being able to get insurance in the first place, or knows someone else who has had worse experiences.

And yet even in something with such widespread support, all you have to do to foul up the works is (1) invoke partisan pride, so that all the other conservatives or Republicans will simply oppose whatever-it-is out of reflex, and (2) make up a bunch of scary-sounding bullcrap, much of it provided by the insurance companies themselves, and hork it up on television via friendly hosts and anchors. (And again -- transparently. The very same scary-sounding phrases or made-up statistics make it into twenty or fifty or a hundred different political and pundit mouths in a single day, with not even an attempt to disguise the obvious commonality of the source.)

Consider it: this is all it takes to possibly stop something that has, what, 80 or 85% of the public behind it. And it's yet another example of how a single industry, spending not all that much money in the grand scheme of things, can very, very easily counter the collective will of the entire population. And how entrenched the notion is, among the majority of politicians, and pundits, and anchors, and political hangers-on, that that's not only fine but the way things should work.

It seems increasingly easy to understand why there's an culture of mistress-banging and airport-bathroom-handjob-seeking and prostitute-visiting, among our leaders. They truly believe themselves above normal morality or normal law by virtue of their positions. The same mind that can demand moral perfection in others, when it comes to sex, has absolutely no problem preaching those things to others while doing the exact opposite themselves, because they are different from others. There's no contradiction in their minds: they're powerful, so they're a special case. Arrests can be made by the dozen, in New Jersey, and it seems hardly noteworthy. Rush Limbaugh can be caught with illegal prescriptions, after years of railing against drug users, and it does not so much as put a scratch in his Four Hundred Million Dollar career. Rules exist for others; laws exist for others; morality exists for others; personal power or personal advantage is the only goal worth seeking.

After twenty years of the same fight on the same healthcare issues, one thing is transparently obvious, from the pronouncements of the supposed leaders of the opposition: whether or not anyone in America is truly needing of healthcare, from a practical, economic, moral, ethical, or any other standard simply does not enter the debate. I personally do not expect many of these politicians even have an awareness that other people might have medical needs different from their own, or not have insurance like their own insurance, or not be as connected or as well-off; that requires a level of awareness that few of them can even bother to credibly pretend at. The question among our supposed leaders and brilliant minds is only how can this debate be used to extract personal or career advantage for them. If we kill healthcare reform, who will "win" the politics of killing it? Who will have an easier time being elected, or find themselves on television more often?

There's no moral calculus at all, for people like Kristol, or Inhofe, or Gingrich, or other supposed leaders. None is pretended at: none is cowed to. There's no good or bad, there's no long term vs short term -- nothing. And it's among both Republican and Democrat, and it has become increasingly easy to see which are which. Gingrich can have his affairs, and you can't. Our leaders can visit their whores, but you're a dirty rotten sinner if you do. They can have healthcare, because that's just how things work, pal. You can't -- at least, not if there is personal, political advantage to them in preventing it.

It's not even corruption, because "corruption" implies they know they're doing something wrong. It's a complete amorality. This same group of people, this same party of high-minded No, this same party of constant scandal, constant national security blunders, constant deficits, constant manipulations is going to kill healthcare reform because it helps them get cash or influence; they will happily attempt an impeachment of a president for denying an affair while having and denying affairs by the dozens themselves; they're going to ditch the wife and their duties and fly to Argentina to get laid because it makes them happy, and that's all that matters. If it causes problems later, shed some tears and make it go away. (If you're Sarah Palin, pride of Republicanism, hell -- you don't even have to do your actual job. You can pull a Carrie Prejean, bail on all your duties and just wander off to give speeches to promote yourself, and if anyone has a problem with it it's because they don't understand how great you are.)

Republicans are still citing, with pride, how they blocked healthcare reform attempts in the Clinton years, an action which directly led to the runaway healthcare costs between then and now. In the Clinton years, 95 cents of every dollar paid in premiums was paid out again for medical care: now it's plummeted to 80 cents, the rest going to administration and profits. But they're proud of this result, and not defensive at all, because whether it be twenty years ago of twenty minutes ago, the whole debate hinges, for them, on what political advantage can be squeezed out of it at any given moment of time, and not on what effects their actions might actually have.

If it means your mother can't get her medicines, or means you can't see a doctor, or your injured child gets wheeled out of the hospital just as soon as they are stabilized, with absolutely no long term care whatsoever, they don't just not care: it doesn't enter their heads.

That is what is so striking about our governance: it is increasingly devoid of even the pretenses of public good. The notion that we should reform healthcare in this nation because it needs reforming is nearly a comical argument; the only relevant or even commonly debated question is who will gain or lose from a strictly political fight to achieve or block the effort. Regardless of popular opinion it can be absolutely assured that whether or not you believe American citizens deserve a more rational healthcare system is entirely dependent on which party you belong to.


muckdog said...

Do they earnestly believe that there's absolutely nothing that needs to be done about health care in this country?

As a fiscal conservative, I identify with the "blue dog" democrats and the fiscal conservative republicans on this one. Obviously, I don't really care too much about what the Progressives or social conservative republicans have to say about anything.

Two concerns: Cost and quality.

As the CBO has said, the current plan will increase the deficit and not save anything. We'll spend far more than we are spending now. I'm one to think that when the government says "It will cost $1 Trillion," that the actual cost will be closer to $5 Trillion. Government estimates usually understate costs. Or just don't anticipate costs or growth.

The second concern is quality. CNN had some doctors and patients from England on recently. They ration care. So does Canada. So does France. So does Massachusetts! It's impossible to add 45 million patients to the existing supply of doctors, nurses, and facilities and not expect ramifications to the nation's ability to provide health care. The result will be longer waits and increase costs. It's just economics.

Does something need to be done? Sure. But Obama's #1 job right now should be the economy. He should be focusing like a laser beam on getting unemployment back to 5%. Gee, that'd give a lot of folks the means to buy health care right there.

Just a take from a fiscal conservative.

Mike said...


So your ass, from which you extracted your "5 Trillion" figure, is a better resource than the government's financial analysts? Wow, I'd really like to see it.

You imply that 45 million uninsured Americans is a burden on society. That's the Conservative mantra: people who cannot help themselves must be ignored or encouraged to go buy some bootstraps. It's not a burden, it's a travesty of monumental proportions, an embarrassment to all of us (who care) and a disgrace to humanity.

Once you Conservatives start showing an inkling of compassion for suffering Americans, the rest of us will start taking you seriously. In the meantime, we'll continue listening to you just to reassure ourselves that we're not shadowboxing.

muckdog said...

I didn't say 45 million people are a burden to society. I said adding that many to our infrastructure would be an oustanding demonstration of Econ 1A's supply-demand. Costs would go up, waiting times would lengthen.

I don't need to pull any numbers out of my ass. Just look at Massachusetts:

-- The program has so far cost 30 percent more than anticipated.

-- It already has a $9 billion shortfall projected over the next two years.

-- Costs have risen 41 percent since the program's inception, well outpacing the rise in healthcare costs nationwide, which stands at 18 percent.

-- We thought this program would mean fewer people would go to hospitals, which is the highest cost any insurance plan has to pay. In fact, fewer people are not going to hospitals.

-- A Harvard study shows 60 percent of state residents are unhappy with the plan. The most unhappy? Those whom it should be helping the most -- those making $25,000 to $50,000 per year.

-- To cut costs, the program is now having to kick out legal immigrants.

And what about wait times?

There is, as would be expected, a noticeable variance by city. Boston is the noticeable outlier, with an average wait time of 49.6 days versus the 20.5 day average overall. Why would the wait be so long in Boston?

Merritt Hawkins has a theory: "Long wait times in Boston may be driven in part by the healthcare reform initiative that was put in place in Massachusetts in 2006. The initiative succeeded in covering many of the state’s uninsured patients. However, it has been reported that many patients in Massachusetts are encountering difficulty in accessing physicians. Survey results support these reports. Long appointment wait times in Boston also may signal what could happen nationally in the event that access to healthcare is expanded through healthcare reform. Increased demand resulting from improved access to care for approximately 47 million uninsured people can be expected to extend doctor appointment wait times in many markets."

Mike said...

How can you project the results of a program in a state containing 2% of the country's population to the country as a whole? That's horrible statistical analysis. Plus, the programs already aren't even the same in structure, and the national program is still being designed in Congress. You state "facts" that don't even exist. Come back when you have something constructive to say.

muckdog said...

I don't care if you get angry at me. But it doesn't make sense to get angry at the truth. That's just what tends to happen with government estimates. I don't know why the government is horrible at estimating costs. Maybe it's difficult to forecast or anticipate human behavior.