So, the GOP is not lockstep behind Trump, that’s refreshing…

March 30, 2017

Building onto my just previous post, it is encouraging to see that the Republican Party, who seemed to have made a strange and dangerous choice in choosing Donald Trump, who holds no identifiable ideology nor has any history in governing, and who is obviously ignorant of a wide variety of public policy issues (it just has not been his world), as their standard-bearer, seems to now have the guts to challenge Trump.

At the same time, it is encouraging to see Trump fight back.

The ultra conservatives and the moderates within the GOP, for diametrically opposed reasons, defeated the president’s anti-Obamacare bill, and now Trump has warned the party and challenged the conservatives, saying that if their obstructions to his agenda persist the party will suffer.

Meanwhile, I am not sure what the Democratic Party strategy is or should be at this point. It could play the just say no game that the GOP has done to it for the last eight years or it could take advantage of the rift in their rival party and try to work with moderates.

But, whatever the case, it is refreshing to see that congress is feeling pressure from constituents, perhaps other than the usual lobbyists — like they might actually be reacting to real public opinion. We will see.

My previous post follows:

About President Trump’s inability to broker a deal on healthcare and make good his promise to do away with Obamacare:

It may be simply a matter of it being a lot easier to make deals in the world of business and real estate where one uses appeals to the greediness of others than the world of public policy where the goal is (or should be) to actually help people and evenly distribute services.

Also, it may be that people who decry wasteful government spending don’t find anything that benefits themselves personally — Obamacare? — wasteful. It’s just that stuff that goes to other people.

Mr. Trump is what we always knew he was: a huckster.

The Wall Street Journal is saying that despite the cries that he would be like Mussolini or Hitler (I was among that crowd), our system of checks and balances have so far prevented that.

Well, at least there is something hopeful.

It is going to be a long four years, though, if it lasts that long.


Write off Huckabee, rude Ted Cruz, and look for a moderate Republican…

June 6, 2015

Okay, so write Mike Huckabee off the list as someone with a chance to win the presidency. Never really cared for him, but I tried to appreciate him nonetheless — kind of folksy, down home, and maybe more level-headed and fair-minded than your average evangelical, well so I thought.

But just coming off posting my thoughts on how transgender makes me uncomfortable even though I accept some people are just that way and that they have as many rights, or should have, as all of us, I wince when I think of a grown up man, as Huckabee, who was once governor of Arkansas, saying such a silly thing as if he had been hip to the transgender thing when he was in high school he would have claimed he was really a female, in his soul, and showered with the rest of the girls. Yeah you can tell a joke in private maybe, but he thinks he’s running for president (and for a politician these days, nothing is private). He can’t be serious. No one is going to take him seriously — or at least not nearly enough people to elect him. Candidates need to heed the Miranda warning: everything you say can and will be used against you.

Ted Cruz poked fun at Vice President Joe Biden. I mean who hasn’t? but when he is grieving the loss of a son? And Cruz was apparently not man enough to apologize in person — he sent out a tweet or a Facebook posting or something, as I understand it. Another not ready for the big job (ever).

As the Republicans try to sort things out among a mob of candidates (some announced, some announcing, some expected to announce — all very confusing) Hillary is said to be dropping in the polls and is facing some challenges on the Democratic side, but it is hard to imagine her not being the eventual candidate, except Clinton and scandal just seem to go together. And Hillary just has one of those personalities that seems to come across as inauthentic (I’m not sure what it is).

But in the end I still see Hillary versus someone who will come across as a moderate Republican, dull perhaps, but moderate. Neither a flaming liberal nor a hardcore conservative has ever won the presidency in my lifetime (which began in 1949).

Yeah Barack Obama was the great black hope and it was hoped among the liberal set that he was the great liberal hope — but something happened, he became president of all the country. He did push through pseudo version of socialized medicine, and while I am not at all sure how successful that will turn out to be over the long run — it is quite an accomplishment when you stop to think the idea dates back to at least Teddy Roosevelt (the progressive Republican back in the early 1900s, or if you want to go overseas, to Otto von Bismarck of Germany, who I believe first proposed government health care for the populace. Even Teddy Kennedy could not get the job done during his lifetime.

And speaking of health care, I think if the Republicans could come up with a realistic candidate with wider appeal across the electorate — and maybe he or she is already here, but has not enunciated the right message yet — they could well win this one, but they probably won’t and it will be president Clinton– Madam President. Oh, and speaking of health care — I meant to say if the Republicans were to win they could improve Obamacare instead of causing more hardship by abolishing or weakening it. Do something for the people and keep on winning elections, what a thought. You’re welcome.


Wednesday’s high court hearing on Obamacare about politics more than law…

March 4, 2015

I want or wanted to write about the latest challenge to Obamacare, presented in a Supreme Court hearing today, and I at times past had thought I would have liked law school, but this has me wondering about that because I cannot seem to get a handle on this case, at least not in the legal context, other than it involves the seemingly literal interpretation of one clause standing alone in a voluminous statute vs. interpretation of the clause within the whole context of the law itself.

But what I do understand is the fact that the case is really just a continuing political struggle between those who believe in some form of universal health care on the grounds it benefits society as a whole and, too, is morally correct and those who apparently believe otherwise.

And more to the point, this is a political struggle between Democrats who tend to support all types of social programs to help the populace and Republicans who are somewhat less inclined to do so but who at the same time would support using public tax dollars to subsidize private capital (and I realize what I just wrote seems partisan on the liberal side of the equation, but I only mean to say we’re talking more of a political struggle here than prudent public policy).

—————–

And while going back over what I posted I read portions of the Supreme Court transcript from today (Wednesday, March 4, 2015) and got tired of wading through the legal gibberish and word play — I mean I know this is how law is decided, but  it seems to have little to do with coming up with policy to do good for the American people — form without substance.

But it occurs to me that perhaps what might result from this is that the high court will once and for all clear the challenges to the health care law and let it succeed or fail on its own. It seems doubtful to me that even this court with its conservative majority would end up handing down a ruling that would throw the whole system into disarray and cause trouble for all parties involved: supporters, opponents, and even the indifferent. I think a ruling is expected in June. Don’t know what the outcome will be of course…

——————

If it were only the fact that one clause, a few words, was sloppily written, it could be amended. But the opposition, all Republicans (isn’t that correct?), would rather gut the law. They do not believe in universal health care but rather health care for those who can afford it (and who thus “deserve it”).

Surprisingly, the conservative Chief Justice Roberts saved the day for Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) in the last challenge, disagreeing with his conservative colleagues on the bench.

This time around his position is reportedly unclear because he had virtually nothing to say. However, conservative Justice Kennedy (who has a history of going between the conservative and liberal sides, a swing vote) seemed to indicate, according to reports, that he might not go along with the plaintiff’s arguments challenging Obamacare. No one knows what is in his mind, or course.

The troubling thing in all of this is the fact that history so far has shown that Republicans as a whole have no desire to implement any type of health care program (except of course Romney did on the state level but opposed it on a national level, but conservatives don’t trust him anyway). Obamacare opponents have presented no credible alternative plan that I am aware of.

I personally continue to think it would have been wiser to expand Medicare to cover those who could not be insured otherwise due to economic inability.

And I have little patience for those who simply just wait for something bad to happen to them with the idea that if worse comes to worse they can check into an emergency room and the taxpayers will foot the bill but in the meantime pay nothing. Someone has to pay for them.

I also think it is important for health care consumers to have to pay something or sacrifice something — you need to have some “skin in the game”, otherwise you tend to waste vital and scarce resources.

There is no such thing as free health care. Someone pays for it.

So in summary, the current challenge, as the last one, is all politics and has little to nothing to do with constitutional or legal issues.

If congress as a whole was more responsible, it would have not passed such a complicated law which its members did not understand in full and at the same time would be ready to amend it if there are inadvertent errors in it.

In the end, though, voters may have to step up to the plate and make their desires better known.

Because they don’t, congress responds to the pressure of big money and special interest groups and lobbyists.

P.s.

I did not bother to summarize or brief the exact case in question here, although perhaps I should have. I may go into more of that with my opinions later, but for now the above seemed the important issue.

P.s. P.s.

Well I read paragraph after paragraph of the petitioner’s brief or whatever (the argument supporting the Obamacare challenge) and it just makes one’s head swim, or at least it does mine — and that is not to say there is no merit. So then what?

I mean what the challengers really want is to end Obamacare. So let congress do that legislatively (not that I would support that).

And I can’t seem to end this post because I failed in consolidating the issue into something understandable.

It does seem apparent that a lot of things were said to make the hard sale on the bill that ultimately became the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Opponents charge deliberate deception. They found a whole in the whole program via one clause and hope if interpreted their way it will in effect gut the whole program.

 

 

 

 


Each party almost dies and then is reborn; some thoughts on issues

November 15, 2014

Blogger’s Note: What follows is a slightly revised version of a recent post, deleting a somewhat meaningless intro:

Every time one of our two major political parties suffers a major loss at the polls, the political obituaries are written — that is that one of them is dead or dying.

But they always come back to life.

I think one problem is that neither party represents the just plain middle of the road working people. One party prefers rich people and people who make money out of nothing and on the backs of others and the other party bends over backwards to help people who contribute nothing but does so in the name of helping the less fortunate. So the broad base of the electorate must thrash back and forth looking for someone to represent them.

Currently the Democrats are in shock over losing so big in the mid terms. And the Republicans, who won big time, taking control of the senate and adding to their majority in the house, are in disarray, with the ongoing internal struggle between the party mainstream and the so-called Tea Party.

If we had a parliamentary system the Tea Party might become a power in its own right,  but in our constitutional federal structure we seem to only be able to accommodate two major parties, with an occasional independent lawmaker who still must figure out whether to caucus with the Democrats or Republicans.

I think the Democrats lost because so many people are frustrated and maybe not all for the same reasons. But what else can you do if you are not satisfied with the government you have or the way things seem to be going? You vote someone or some party out and the other in. In addition, maybe some of the incumbents forgot that all politics is local, especially in mid terms. You have to take care of the home folks, and let them know it.

I have little complaint. The economy, I don’t know. My personal economy is fine. That is to say any problems I have are mostly of my own doing and I am resigned to live with that. I am fortunate to have full-time employment and have had for years. Since I am not in the upper tax bracket, taxes are an annoyance I suppose, but not a major problem. I personally think the income tax could be done away with and should be because too much time and effort and expense is put into collecting it and auditing it and so on. And it is highly unfair, in that so many people pay and so many others do not, due to questionable loopholes and downright cheating. But something would have to replace the income tax — national sales tax, value added taxes, as examples.

Foreign policy: I simply think the United States is a superpower and should act like one and that we don’t dare lose that status because then we would lose control over our lives, and there are those who would want to even scores. But we cannot afford to get bogged down in wars and we cannot expect everyone in the world to live like us. We can set the example and let the rest of the world figure out what they want to do. There are times when we have to act in our own interests and we must use everything at our disposal or be prepared to.

Social issues: we are in a time of profound change in social ways and mores. Much of it is good. And really government should not have to be overly involved in the personal lives of citizens. Birth control and sex lives are personal issues and unless there is some compelling public interest they should stay personal.

And I will say this about homosexuality: I accept that it is a fact of life — some people are apparently born that way, and to the extent it does not interfere with the lives of others not so inclined it is a part of personal freedom. But that does not mean we have to promote it in our schools. Children should not be taught to embrace or revile it. They need to be aware of it. It would be nice if politicians ignored it and quit using it as something to distract voters from other issues.

Obamacare: Another thing the Republicans, the tea baggers in particular, use as a smokescreen to cover up their own weaknesses. I mean it is simply a program to provide health care to the American people. Whether it is good one or not, time will tell. And yes, it can be changed if need be. It could even be rescinded in total, in theory anyway. But that would seem to do nothing more than add confusion to something that is already deeply confusing. There is really no such thing as free health care. I mean someone has to pay for it. It is in everyone’s interests to have all of us healthy. And to the extent we can, we should all pay our share. How we go about doing that is a question. But a vote was taken and a bill was passed and we have what is referred to as Obamacare, but is technically called the Affordable Care Act. Those politicians who are so smug and so critical of Obamacare and call is socialism didn’t mind you and I paying for their health plans did they? For my own part, Obamacare has not affected me directly, as far as I know, and I suspect that might be the same with a lot of people. To some, however, it may well have opened up an opportunity to have some kind of a health plan.

—————-

I wrote that preceding paragraph several days ago. About Obamacare not affecting me: I don’t know. I recently made changes to my own health coverage involving the fact that I am on Medicare and that my company insurance premium would jump too high because of my age. So like so many other people, I now have Medicare (for which I do pay a certain amount — it’s not free you know) and a privately-purchased (not from my company) supplement. I noticed that after I changed my insurance information my doctor sent me a bill for my past visit a lot quicker than normally. I have no idea whatsoever whether this had anything to do with Obamacare, but I did get the impression from comments from the office staff that they are not big fans of Obamacare. But I am not on Obamacare. But I think doctors are worried it is just another way of squeezing their own income.

And I have written this before, but we have a dearth of statesmen. We have pretty boys and girls and many blowhards.

Hopefully someone will emerge for the 2016 presidential election who will catch our imagination and who will actually have some substance. I for one would prefer proven experience.

I think we ought to go back to older, more mature leaders. On-the-job training is not a good thing for someone to be leader of the free world. Meantime Obamacare opponents are challenging the Affordable Care Act Law over the wording about federal subsidies. It would take another and more carefully thought out post to explain this one, but I’ll just say that really some people just oppose any scheme that would help who they see as “other people” and not themselves. But in reality Obamacare probably helps more people than it might hurt. And like I said, it can be amended.

 


Obamacare false promise could be biggest political blunder ever…

November 18, 2013

Sometimes someone says or writes something that I just can’t put into my own words better (well quite often), so with that in mind I just have to dash off this quotation ripped right out of an article in the Huffington Post, with attribution following:

“The ancient Greeks liked to say that character is fate. The colossal mess that Obamacare has become reflects both the character of the legislation and that of the president who sponsored it. The Affordable Care Act, as a government mandate for people to purchase private insurance with an array of possible subsidies, had too many moving parts. It was an accident waiting to happen. As many of us wrote at the time, Medicare for All would be simpler to execute, easier to understand, and harder for Republicans to oppose. But this was not to be. Instead we got a program that was poorly understood by the public because it was almost impossible to explain and even harder to execute.”

Those words were written by Robert Kuttner, co-founder and editor of “The American Prospect”.

I have not even read the entire article. I am going to in a minute and then later add to this post. I still have hope for Obamacare at this time but continue to be amazed at its poor implementation and sometimes ask myself: “what were they thinking?” And I am glad to hear that others were thinking: “why not Medicare for all?” (well, I actually have suggested an expansion of Medicare for those who could not get insurance any other way).

And now I will finish that article…

Well, that was quick. I read it and it was interesting. If I interpreted it correctly on first read I think one of his points in the body of the piece was that comparing Obamacare to the success of Social Security and Medicare was not an apt comparison because the former were public public, while the latter is something called private public, in that Obamacare is a partnership and really a subsidy to the private insurance industry.

And in my own words I would say that, yeah, private enterprise can be more efficient at times (and maybe most of the time), but it has to stand on its own two feet and be private.

And I am tired of writing about Obamacare and will move on to something else soon.

Okay, one more thing: if Obamacare falls, it’s death knell will have been the cancellation of private insurance policies despite the claim by Obama that such would not happen. It does not matter if it is only a relative minority that affects or whether in reality they could get better and more cost effective insurance via Obamacare. The argument that Obamacare would destroy private insurance, would be a government takeover, a move toward total socialism, was one of the primary weapons Obamacare opponents have used. They have to be overjoyed that in some instances their projections seemingly are coming true. This could go down as the biggest blunder in politics ever. If the Republicans did not have so many crazies in their party, they could already count on total victory. And they might wise up and clean house yet.

P.s.

Here is a link to the full Kuttner article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-kuttner/obamacare-republicans_b_4293314.html

P.s. P.s.

And to add insult to injury here and through the magic of the computer I go forward in time from when this post was originally posted to now on 11-19-13. I just read a CNN story that says that President Obama cited an Affordable Care Act success story involving a woman in Washington State. But then, and we go to the story:

From CNN:

But in the days that followed that presidential shout-out, Sanford received letters from Washington state’s insurance exchange, notifying her she did not qualify for a tax credit she was originally told she would be getting.

After looking into Sanford’s matter, officials with the exchange admit they made a mistake calculating her benefits, along with those for thousands of other Washington state residents.

“The Exchange would like to sincerely apologize to Jessica Sanford and all those affected in Washington State by this error,” Washington Health Benefit Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka said in a statement provided to CNN.


I’m trying to understand, but Obamacare becomes more confusing to me…

November 9, 2013

This Obamacare thing gets more confusing all the time. Now a story I read said that in some states that have opted out of Obamacare the working poor are caught, well just like they always are, with too much income to get help and not enough to purchase health insurance on the open market.

I had thought that although the Supreme Court had ruled that states could opt out, the federal government would somehow step in with expanded Medicaid offerings, but I guess if the state’s refuse that does not happen.

It’s really all very confusing. It’s like the message one Obama disliker acquaintance of mine (hate is an ugly word) sent me that showed Nancy Pelosi’s famous “we have to pass it to see what’s in it…” line concerning the Obamacare legislation and a doctor’s purported retort: “that’s the definition of a stool sample”.

I have been trying my darndest to give Obamacare the benefit of the doubt — but I’m having doubts.

However, I am pretty certain there are bogus or misleading stories galore about people losing health care coverage over it, well, even though President Obama now has apologized to any who have actually lost coverage, being as he spent a whole campaign promising that no one would. Starting his presidency with apologizing to the world for George W. Bush (and others) and now this, he may go down in history as the “Grand Apologizer”. And I really want to like him.

A long time ago I promised to read up on Obamacare. I failed in that. I am not going to apologize, though. I mean if those who passed it into law don’t understand it, I doubt I could.

There are some big positives in Obamacare, such eliminating exclusion of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

And this law, this new way of doing health care coverage may well work out, but it is not having an easy run of it in the early going…

——————————

What follows is my previous post on health insurance:

Talking about health insurance, here’s one down and dirty:

For the second time in my life I face this dilemma:

I’m having to take some time off work due to health reasons. Problem is, my health insurance is tied to my job. I pay part of the monthly premium and my employer pays the rest. But if I can’t work my employer will drop my insurance because I will not be contributing anything from my paycheck, which I won’t be getting because I am not working. I can elect to pay the full premium myself but how am I going to afford to do that if I have no income, save for a woefully minimal one I might get on state disability (where I live, California, at least we do have disability insurance)?

Once before I was faced with this. But at that time I was in a job where my employer paid all the premium and continued to do so for more than a year that I was off work (that is not usually the case, though). Eventually, though, I was faced with the same dilemma I am faced with today. But as you can see, I survived. It helps to have family, and it helps to be on good terms with them.

Now don’t worry about me. I’m just using this as an example as to what is usually the case. I mean you have insurance through your job but when you need it because your are sick or injured and cannot work, you lose it, or are liable to, because now that you are not working you can’t afford to pay the premiums.

(And I am not addressing on-the-job injuries and worker’s comp. That is another issue.)

Having your health insurance tied to your employment is absurd, especially these days when so much employment is precarious due to the economy and all the constant changes and upheaval brought on by globalization.

To me, that’s a good argument for single-payer government health care. Of course it would not be free. It never is. But all of us pooling together and guaranteeing each other permanent coverage no matter what our current employment status is would seem to be far more practical. Oh, yeah, no one wants to government to run his or her health care because you can’t make our own decisions and government is not efficient. Well how many decisions do you make now? The private insurance companies make the decisions even more so than the medical professionals. And private insurance has to make a profit so it has to charge a lot more.

And all of this is not about Obamacare. I don’t know what to think of that. It may be a step in the right direction, albeit a clumsy one so far.

Personally I am not in any kind of crisis now. I was just using my own plight to make an argument or comment. I don’t want to go into my personal situation any further, other than to say I am still covered and have options.

From what few comments I have heard from just regular people, one of their main objections to Obamacare or any attempt at government health care is centered around having to pay for those who refuse to work but yet expect the government, and thereby the taxpayers, the working people, to pay for them.

Well here’s the deal. There will always be freeloaders and cheats regardless of the system. We need to strictly enforce eligibility standards. No able-bodied person who simply declines to work should get full coverage. We are always going to provide emergency coverage because that is our moral imperative.

We will likely have to let Obamacare play out. If the Obama administration does not get its act together it might die, but it can likely be made to work. But this deal of having your health insurance tied to your job is silly. I am surprised employers are not more in favor of unburdening themselves from it.

Hey, good health.


Despite dubious start of Obamacare, it will likely be taken for granted soon enough…

November 1, 2013

For sure Obamacare has had a dubious beginning. From all reports it could hardly be worse. And yet I have a hunch over the long run, and not all that long of a long run (a year or two), it’s going to work out fine. I’m not saying people will be singing the praises of the Affordable Care Act, that is Obamacare. Actually I imagine if it does what it is supposed to do people will just take it for granted. They will take it as their sacred right and move on to some other bitch about what’s wrong with this country.

It is perplexing that the Obama administration so savvy in using computers for campaigning could fail so miserably in setting up the computer websites for the health care exchanges. They touted them so loudly and when they were finally put into operation people were left out in computer limbo or Catch 22. On the one hand, they are told they must have health insurance or be fined, and on the other hand, they either could not even get on the website or could not navigate it successfully. And sometimes the sites just crashed.

They’re being promised that everything will be fixed by the end of this new month (November). Problem is the credibility of the administration is in doubt these days. How may times did you hear the President say “If you have a health insurance policy you like you can keep it.” Apparently that was misleading at best. It turns out in many cases insurance companies are dropping their old plans, in many cases because they don’t meet the requirements of the new health care law. And there are at least anecdotal reports of people with individual policies facing major boosts in their premiums, supposedly due to Obamacare.

But really all of this has to play out. I think the administration is trying to convey the message that regardless of what might be happening with old policies, in the future with this new law there will be total availability to everyone for health insurance and there will be a much wider variety of options to choose from. And for those who cannot afford insurance there will be a government subsidy. The government already was taking care of the poor, but a lot of people fell between being considered in the poverty class and being slightly but only slightly above that and thus not qualifying for government assistance.

And correct me if I am wrong here, but most of us don’t even have to do anything under the new law (Obamacare). If you have insurance through your work and your employer will still offer it (and that is a question for some, perhaps) then you don’t have to do anything.

Will your insurance from work become more costly? Unless you are one of the few left whose employer pays the whole premium I imagine so. But that has been at least my experience for a long time. Each year my premiums go up and the coverage is somewhat less.

(I hate to even think about it, but some time ago I had a job where the employer paid the whole bill and the insurance was great. I used much of it to fight a bout of cancer. But due to circumstances beyond my control I no longer have that job. But as I understand it, the employees now have to kick in some for their insurance, but I’m sure it’s still good.)

I think the interesting thing to be seen in all of this is will be costs of health care somehow be brought into line. Right now they operate in some kind of never never land, not a real market place. Due to the nature of health care itself it cannot be simply sold on the open market under the same economic rules as most commodities or services. And there is the moral imperative that everyone has the human right to it (from the Republican presidential debates in the last election I realize not everyone agrees with that moral imperative. I’m sorry for that. Well of course not everyone believes in God, mercy, and human dignity either).

However, there does need to be some controls on the amount of care we offer individuals who on their own free will choose to live risky life styles, such as smokers, heavy drinkers, or those who refuse to wear motorcycle helmets. The rest us will continue to pay the tab for many of those people because they often lack resources.

The provision in Obamacare that prohibits people from being excluded from coverage for pre-existing conditions is a boon to the consumer. And so is the one that allows parents to keep adult children on their plans as they finish their schooling.

I don’t think the Republican Party has made much headway in its fight against Obamacare, despite all the noise. It would do better to suggest constructive fixes to it and move on to some other area where it might excel.

Come to think of it, the greatest enemy to Obamacare might be the Obama administration itself. Let’s hope it gets its act together.