Tag Archives: Medicare

Submerged State

submergedstateNew Orleans   A frequent theme in the years leading up to the complicated and star crossed rollout of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare among the pundits, editorial writers, and commentators tried to nick the President for his weak kneed efforts to “sell” the program to the American public.  Reading Cornell Professor Suzanne Mettler’s Submerged State:  How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy, you get a better idea of not only the entrenched interests that have to be conquered to achieve any changes but also the codependency of both parties and virtually all politicians in hiding the hands of government on the real levers leading to such critical confusion that democracy itself is endangered.  In short, it’s hard to sell a product that is almost deliberately designed to be obscure.

            Mettler takes her starting point at the Tea Party absurdity of people yelling at politicians that they hate Obamacare but wanted the federal government to keep its “hands off my Medicare,” seemingly not realizing that Medicare is of course a federal program.  She marshals extensive evidence, easily available, that the complexity of government programs is such that the vast majority of Americans are also unclear that Social Security is a government program as well, even though we have now had such a federal program since 1935, a full 46 years after Germany created the first government retirement scheme.  

If Mettler were writing her book now, she as likely would have combined the farcical Medicare point with Obama’s apology for his blanket promise that, “if you liked your current policy, you can keep it,” without spending the time and trouble to explain that he was specifically not talking about the total ripoff, though sometimes cheap, policies that some people had that are vastly inferior to the requirements of Obamacare.  In this case a man had to bite the dog as well, since Obama’s one-year extension allowing these fake policies another year of life given all of the rollout troubles, severely weakened the transition required under the Affordable Care Act to such a degree that a number of state insurance commissioners refused to go with the President’s change.  Mettler would have quickly pointed out that this stumble was due to an unwillingness to confront the “submerged state” represented by the insurance companies and call them out for selling crap in the name of real protection.  Needing their acquiescence and that of their hordes of lobbyists, the President was eating crow when he should have been spitting fire.

It’s hard to argue with Mettler.  If you conceal how things really work and what they really cost and who really benefits, because having the people understand how things really work might mean the deluge, then getting them to fully understand and act under a democracy is more and more daunting.  Her argument is a healthy antidote even to the “nudgers” and “default option” approval advocates among behavioral, libertarian paternalist economists, who mean well, but are also trying to “hide the hand that throws the rock” in their case for “peoples’ own good” perhaps, but for those of us still holding out hope for democracy, it’s another rock to push up the hill.


Not Enough Votes in his Class, Romney Now Toast

Mitt Romney

New Orleans  Here’s what Mitt Romney didn’t learn at the country club and the millionaire’s ball:  when you declare class war, you better have your troops in line.  So sure when you talk to your buddies, as he did in the fundraiser video, about all of the moochers in the 47% or 99% or whatever, and how all of you moneymakers are going to kick ass, you better make sure you are talking about going out and fighting in the corporate boardroom or among big institutional stockholders or the polo fields or something, not an election where a good part of the 47% to 99% get to also vote.  You have to not just know about money, you have to be able to do simple math.

For example with 20,000,000 of those 47% are not paying taxes because all they have is social security as income, it really no longer matters what you say about social security, they now KNOW that social security, Medicare, and every last bit of their citizen wealth is fair game now if they made the mistake and voted for you and your libertarian, cheesehead bro-friend.  And, furthermore when you go after that class, you also scare the bejesus out of every other AARP dues paying, Republican leaning white and whatever voter you used to have who may be paying some taxes, but damned sure NEEDS that social security check and Medicare coverage to make it all work.  When you have David Brooks, the Republican columnist for the New York Times cringing and calling you incompetent, and Irving Kristol, a conservative bellwether on the DC policy front, distancing himself at 100 miles per hour, you just lost huge whacks of the 53% you were dreaming about months ago at the club.

Interestingly, the Times  in a series of charts pointed out that where Mitt’s 47% of freeloaders live and thrive turns out to be in some of what is left as the hardest core, red meat, Republican states in the South and West:  Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.  All of those states had between 38 and 45% non-income tax payers.  Except for New Mexico, all of them have been solidly Republican at various levels for years.  Florida was with Obama last time, and Romney may have just guaranteed that it will go with him again.  Like I said, when you declare a class war, you need to have suppressed not just the votes of some minority, poor, and elderly folks, but millions of others as well, because this is not in fact a stacked deck shareholder vote, but a real deal election where you have to get some of the 99% to actually pull the lever for your hating self.

Almost unbelievably, Obama has come from a close race that seemed depressingly like he could lose the whole game to sitting in the catbird seat where he might even have coattails given how poorly Romney may poll in November.  Yes, there’s a lot of time, but early voting is days away, decisions were already largely made and are now hardening, and Romney has finally revealed himself on domestic and foreign issues as a dangerous, dangerous dude.  Even Clint Eastwood now says in an interview yesterday, “If somebody’s dumb enough to ask me to go to a political convention and say something, they’re going to have to take what they get.”  Amen!

In Romney’s class war, he has now found himself in a class all by himself.