It struck me the other day that, once the government starts claiming that it’s unfair that women pay more in this life than men do precisely because they are women, and then goes the extra step and makes a third party — the employer — pay those costs, the sky’s suddenly the limit on what one can demand:
Impressed by the ill-informed hysterical reaction that my “real me” Facebook friends had to the Hobby Lobby decision, I explained to them that the decision is very narrow and will not (a) ban contraceptives across America and (b) lead to anti-gay lynch mobs. Here’s a slightly revised version of my Facebook post, which still failed to satisfy their paranoia and inability to understand the law. I’ve also added a little hypothetical that might open their minds. (No, don’t say it. It’s improbable, but not impossible, that a DemProg mind can open).
The Hobby Lobby decision addresses one thing only: whether an administrative rule conflicts with a long-standing law.
In 1993, a Democrat Congress passed, and a Democrat president signed, the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (“RFRA”). RFRA holds in relevant part that the federal government may act in a way that substantially burdens the exercise of religion only if it can establish that its action is the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling government interest. Nothing in the Act distinguishes between individuals and corporations.
The administrative rule at issue is the edict from Health and Human Services (“HHS”) mandating that all corporations affected by Obamacare must provide their female employees with unlimited access to all contraceptives available on the market.
Hobby Lobby is a closely-held, family-run corporation. The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, has a strong Christian faith, and is open about the fact that it runs its company in a way that is consistent with the family’s religious beliefs. These beliefs affect every aspect of the way in which Hobby Lobby is run, whether it’s the fact that even the least of Hobby Lobby’s employees gets paid an hourly amount that’s almost twice as much as minimum wage, or the fact that many of the store’s craft products come complete with little crosses attached to them.
Hobby Lobby has long provided comprehensive insurance for its employees. As part of this insurance, it makes available to its employees 16 different types of contraceptives. Moreover, Hobby Lobby has never said (a) that it would stop covering contraceptives entirely or (b) that contraceptives should be outlawed in America. Instead, it made a very narrow protest to the HHS mandate: It objected to the fact that the mandate would force it to offer, not 16, but 20 contraceptives to its employees. The additional 4 contraceptives are or can be used as abortion-causing agents. The Green family’s religious faith means that it is adamantly opposed to abortion, which it considers murder.
The HHS mandate put Hobby Lobby in an impossible position: It could either use its own money to pay directly for abortifacient drugs or it could pay $475 million a year in penalties. It was this dilemma, it argued, that constituted a substantial burden on its exercise of religion under RFRA. Put another way, Hobby Lobby argued that it faced a Hobson’s choice: directly fund something it opposes on core religious grounds or go bankrupt. On these facts, the Supreme Court agreed that Hobby Lobby had satisfied the “substantial burden” requirement under RFRA.
There was something else that the Supreme Court accepted as given: For purposes of the ruling, the Supreme Court accepted as true HHS’s claim that forcing corporations to pay for their female employees’ contraceptives (simply because the Obama administration says it’s unfair not to) serves a compelling government interest.
(As an aside, I was thinking about this “unfair” point. According to my DemProg friends, the demand that corporations pay for contraceptives arises because it’s not fair that women have to shoulder these costs, while men don’t. Let’s put aside the fact that the DemProgs can’t explain why it’s fair that corporations must bear contraception costs. The really important point is that, if the reason to force corporations to shoulder the burden is so that women don’t have to pay more in costs related to their unique biology just because they are women, corporations should also be required to pay for tampons, sanitary pads and, most importantly, chocolate, all of which are costly menstrual necessities that burden women, not men. Additionally, corporations should be entitled to learn which employees have gone through menopause, so as to scale back on those uniquely feminine costs. And now back to the Hobby Lobby case…)
With the Supreme Court having accepted that Hobby Lobby had proved that it was being significantly burdened and that HHS had proved a compelling government interest, the sole issue before the Court was whether HHS was using the least restrictive means to advance its compelling interest. Based on this single, limited issue, the Supreme Court concluded that HHS’s birth control mandate did not meet the RFRA test. The Court had a very simple metric for proving this conclusion: HHS itself handed the Court proof that there was a less restrictive way to serve this compelling interest.
HHS created this less restrictive contraception mandate when religious non-profit organizations objected to paying directly for contraceptives and abortifacients. HHS said that religious institutions could avoid the mandate by signing a document stating that their religious beliefs prevented them from complying with the contraception mandate. With this document, the onus shifts to the insurance company to apply the mandate. (The Little Sisters of the Poor are challenging this workaround on the ground that it cannot apply to self-insured entities. Likewise, even if the religious entity has a third party insurance company, the insurance company will simply increase its rates, with the result that the money for the contraceptives and abortifacients will still come from the corporation that has religious objections. The Supreme Court’s eventual decision should be interesting.)
With HHS having already figured out a less intrusive method for getting “free” contraceptives to women, the Supreme Court held that the same workaround that applies to religious non-profits can apply equally well to closely held corporations if the owners have a sincere belief in a core religious issue. And that’s it. That’s the whole Hobby Lobby decision.
My Facebook explanation was clear enough that those who have been brainwashed into being terrified by the Hobby Lobby decision had only two defenses left. The first was that religious fanatics will use the decision to justify myriad things such as banning birth control nationwide, revoking the rule that corporations must pay for women’s contraceptives, and refusing to hire gays (a fear based upon this letter from a religious leader who clearly hadn’t read the Hobby Lobby decision himself).
The second defense, which I’ll address in the remainder of this post, was that the entire decision is wrong because, as a predicate matter, it treats a corporation as a person. “Corporations aren’t people” my DemProg friends cry, as they’ve been programmed to do since the Citizens United decision. In other words, Hobby Lobby has no conscience and therefore cannot be treated as a conscientious objector.
I came up with a hypothetical scenario — a probable hypothetical scenario — that should have DemProgs insisting that, yes indeedy, corporations can and should be people — or, at least, Leftist corporations can and should be people.
The year is 2026. Since 2020, Republicans have majorities in Congress and a president in the White House. The wars in Syria and Iraq long ago merged, starting a conflagration that constantly threatens to spill over into every region of the world. The result is the Islamist caliphate equivalent of the Cold War, with the U.S. trying to put out small Islamic fires all over the world in order to de-fang the Sunni and Shia monsters without having to engage them directly on American soil.
The military is more central to American life and survival than ever. Defense costs have therefore skyrocketed, so Republicans went looking for new ways to equip the military. To this end, they noted that America’s business class was arguably benefiting most from the military’s efforts, because businesses were able to carry on and profit primarily because the military kept the Islamists far from American shores. It therefore would be logical for corporations to subsidize a significant part of the war effort.
Based upon this reasoning, in 2022, the Republicans successfully passed a new law, known as the Act for an Affordable Military (“AAM”). The Acts’ supporters affectionately call it “Adopt A Marine.” Its detractors refer to it disdainfully as “America’s A Monster.”
AAM goes far beyond traditional military funding, which relied upon tax revenues funneled to the Pentagon. Instead, AAM directly engages corporate America as an essential part of equipping the American military. Immediately upon the Act’s passage, the Pentagon was tasked with creating rules under AAM (a 3,200 portmanteau document written in vague and broad terms) that would shift onto corporations primary responsibility for equipping troops.
The Pentagon immediately issued a rule mandating that henceforth every corporation will be responsible for outfitting Marines with everything a Marine at war could need: uniform, pack, weapons . . . the whole megillah. Moreover, the number of Marine Gear Kits (or “MGKs”) that a corporation must assemble will be equal to the number of employees the corporation has. Thus, a corporation with ten employees must put together 10 MGKs, a corporation with 50 employees must put together 50 MGKs, and so on. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2012 Obamacare decision, this kind of . . . ahem . . . “tax” (i.e., forcing taxpayers to purchase a product, even if they don’t want it themselves) is perfectly legitimate.
Corporations that fail to comply with the MGK mandate will be assessed an annual tax equal to $10,000 per MGK, with no maximum cap. That means that, if a corporation with 50 employees refuses to put together its designated MGKs, it will pay an annual penalty of $500,000. A corporation with 30,000 employees could find itself on the hook for $300,000,000 annually. Again, the Supreme Court’s 2012 Obamacare decision legitimized this “penalty” for failure to “pay” the “tax.”
Something else has changed now that the Cold War against the new Caliphate is being carried out by Republicans: The DemProg peace movement is resurgent. Two of the most active peaceniks, Sol and Luna Giggleweed started out in their home office in 2020 (when Republicans finally re-took Congress and the White House following Elizabeth Warren’s ill-fated four-year presidency), designing, creating, and marketing bumper stickers, window signs, mugs, toilet paper . . . anything that could advance the pacifist cause.
With business booming, the Giggleweeds incorporated, calling their new business “Pacifists United Together Zone” or “PUTZ.” They now have 50 full-time employees working in their green-compliant factory in San Francisco’s SoMa district.
Thanks to the Giggleweed’s business acumen, you can now walk into any trendy store and buy one of PUTZ’s $25 king-size mugs emblazoned with “Live Peacefully or Die.” If that’s too expensive, for $10 you can get a set of 10 bumper stickers reading “Peace : The New Caliphate Wants It Too.” PUTZ also manufactures the usual complement of sweatshirts with peace signs on them; posters urging people to “Visualize World Peace” or “Pray for Israel’s Destruction”; and the ever-popular Naughty Underwear set, in both multigender and cisgender versions, with “Make Love, Not War” glitter-stamped on the crotch.
For the Giggleweeds, peace isn’t just a gimmick to make a motive; it’s also their core ideology. Both Sol and Luna attended the Bush-era anti-war protests, and they oppose Republican-led wars with every fiber of their DemProg beings.
Significantly, even the Giggleweed’s faith is driven by their pacifism. They are ardent members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (aka “PCUSA”). In 2018, PCUSA’s governing board formally voted that “We, the PCUSA, oppose all wars, except for those wars dedicated to Israel’s destruction.”
Nobody quite knows how it did it, but PCUSA asserted that this vote reflected a core religious principle derived from the Books of Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1 Chronicles. PCUSA’s revised doctrine is immune to challenge thanks to the tattered remnants of the First Amendment (which, in 2018, was amended to state that “Except as to matters of human sexuality and gender identity, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .”).
PUTZ employees are as devout as the Giggleweeds. Indeed, many of them came to the Giggleweed’s attention during the Bush War protests. Without exception, all of the employees belong to PCUSA or affiliated faiths. Their strong anti-war beliefs (unless, of course, the war is waged against Israel) infuse every aspect of their lives. They are grateful to work at PUTZ, a corporation with a business model that puts pacifism on the front line, so to speak.
For these reasons, the Giggleweeds and their PUTZ employees were horrified when AAM became law and, even worse, when the Pentagon explicitly passed to corporations the responsibility for providing MGKs. PUTZ therefore joined with PCUSA and other like-minded churches and mosques, which are also on the hook for MGKs, to object to the mandate that they directly invest in MGKs or pay a substantial penalty to help fund the “Republican Anti-Caliphate War Machine.”
The Republican establishment was unmoved by anti-AAM protesters. Instead, it took great pleasure in reminding the protesters and litigants that, thanks to agitation from this same cadre of people in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, Congress in 2016 (Year One of Elizabeth Warren’s disastrous administration) amended RFRA to state explicitly that it does not apply to corporations, regardless of the corporation’s size or whether it’s publicly traded or closely held. There is no way out for the Giggleweeds and PUTZ: they either put together MGKs for the Marines, or they pay $500,000 so that someone else can put the MGKs together for them.
To the Giggleweeds and their ilk, the Republicans have only one thing to say: It’s always nasty when your own chickens come home to roost.
Because my husband is an ardent Jon Stewart fan, he’s also a John Oliver fan and instantly started watching Oliver’s new solo HBO show, Last Week Tonight. Moreover, because John Oliver appears to be slightly less doctrinaire than Stewart (which means that NPR ludicrously tries to cast him as a centrist), not to mention obviously more intelligent, I occasionally watch too in order to get the view from the Left.
Sometimes, Oliver manages to get it right, as happened last night when he pointed out how ridiculous it is for Obama to announce that the U.S. will invest $500 million in Syria’s “carefully vetted moderate militias.” Oliver also got deservedly positive press from across the political spectrum for his rant against the FCC’s proposed net neutrality rules.
Most of the time, though, Oliver’s just a garden variety DemProg with a nice British accent. His most recent show was no exception. For example, Oliver went on a lengthy attack against Uganda’s anti-gay laws. I hold no brief for anti-gay laws, but I find the DemProgs’ recent obsession with them disgustingly hypocritical.
For decades, sharia-governed countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc., have had the harshest anti-gay laws in the world. In the Palestinian territories, while the laws aren’t officially on the books, they’re routinely carried out, with the result that gay Palestinians are desperate to get to Israel, where they’ll safe. Why so desperate? Because in the Muslim world, the punishment for homosexuality is death and Muslim governments and militias aggressively execute those sentences.
Despite the egregious, and well-publicized, human rights offenses against gays in the Muslim world, DemProgs have been absolutely silent. They may love gays, but not enough to challenge Islam over the issue. I’ve searched, but cannot find any evidence that either Jon Stewart or John Oliver ever addressed homicidal Islamic homophobia on Jon Stewart’s show. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
What this means, of course, is that DemProgs will get exercised about homophobia only when it’s safe to do so. Neither Russians nor Ugandans are going to hunt DemProgs down and decapitate them as the end to any argument. Moreover, the attack on Ugandan homophobia gives DemProgs a nice double whammy, because it allows them to make blanket condemnations of Christianity while they’re at it — again, knowing that the attacked Christians will pray for their souls, rather than behead them.
Uganda reflects the DemProgs’ usual moral cowardice and hypocrisy. The attack on the Hobby Lobby decision is worse, because it’s profoundly intellectually dishonest. You can watch the video and then I’ll address the two worst logical fallacies packed into just a few minutes of Oliver’s mildly amusing and completely wrong rant (Warning: Not Safe For Work):
Oliver’s preliminary attack is made directly against Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, a closed corporation owned by Mennonites, that makes parts for kitchen cabinets. Oliver acknowledges that Hobby Lobby is a tightly held family corporation, that the owners are open about the integration between their faith and their business, and that their faith leads them to treat their employees exceptionally well, and to be extremely charitable. Of course, Oliver cannot end on that final note, so he then crudely attacks Hobby Lobby for selling products that customers can put to obscene or dangerous uses.
Oliver then accuses the Conestoga Wood owners of hypocrisy because they don’t want to pay for drugs and procedures that take a human life. He makes the nonsensical argument that their products can be used to kill people, so that they should have no standing to argue that the government cannot force to kill.
Both these arguments are red herrings, meant to district the audience from the intellectual failing in his core argument. That argument, which flows from his direct attacks on Hobby Lobby and Conestoga sounds so reasonable on its face that many will miss how dishonest it is: Oliver claims that Hobby Lobby’s and Conestoga’s objections to the Obamacare birth control and abortifacient argument indistinguishable from the usual complaints people make about government expenditures: “What these companies are arguing is that the sincerity of their beliefs should allow them a line-item veto over federal law. But government is not an a la carte system what you can pick and choose based on your beliefs.”
Having said this, Oliver then shows a short montage of people saying “I don’t want to pay for” such things as “Israel policies,” war, and “Mexican prostitutes.” The audience laughs uproariously, understanding that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are just more whining taxpayers, indistinguishable from others who object to paying taxes to fund American policies.
Oliver weaves these topics together so skillfully that someone who isn’t paying attention might miss the fact that there’s a difference between tax dollars being pooled together and spent on a variety of things (and more on that later) and a government mandate ordering people to open their wallets and pay directly to the purveyor of something they find religiously objectionable. The two things are entirely different, with the latter being a direct affront on an individual’s sensibilities. (And, although Oliver would prefer to ignore this fact, closely held corporations are a business structure through which individuals operate.)
As an aside, and one that gives even more weight to Hobby Lobby’s and Conestoga’s objections, one can make a very good argument that most of the federal government’s tax dollar expenditures vastly exceed the Fed’s mandate. The Founder’s understanding was that tax dollars would be used for traditional government operations: defense, transportation, a functioning judicial system, public health, etc. Under this reading, those Americans who object to non-traditional government expenditures are correct. But most certainly those who object to being forced to pay for a product that clashes with core doctrinal sensibilities are correct under both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which is the law the Supremes used in deciding the case) and the First Amendment.
No matter where you are in America, the definition for fraud is pretty consistent: Making intentional misrepresentations to people in order to induce them to change their position to their detriment and your benefit. Since October 1, growing numbers of Americans are realizing that they have been the victims of fraud on a spectacular scale, thanks to Obama and the Democrats. That’s why it’s so ironic that Republicans have suddenly decided that Obamacare is here to stay.
As an example of people’s growing disaffection, I offer a Facebook thread from true blue Marin County. In order to protect people’s privacy, I’ve changed their names and slightly altered wording so that a computer search cannot tie this post to their Facebook accounts. Subject to that non-substantive massaging, the following is an entirely accurate replay of a post a Marin friend put up this morning, followed by comments from friends and neighbors (myself included):
Unhapppy Customer: My Blue Cross insurer is now the worst. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am, because I used to get wonderful insurance from this company. Thanks, Obamacare!
Friend 1: Oh, dear. That’s my insurer too.
Friend 2: I get my insurance from [a non-Blue Cross company]. I make too much money to get an Obamacare subsidy, but I cannot afford very good coverage. I make too much money for Obamacare, and not enough to afford really good coverage. I just had an outpatient surgery the other day, and it’s going to cost me almost $9,000.
Unhappy Customer: I’m really sorry to hear that, Friend 2. I also don’t get subsidies, so I have to pay for everything. The promise was free preventative care, but that’s not what’s happening. Instead, I’ll have to pay out-of-pocket if I want to see my long-time doctors, because none of them are in the Blue Cross network.
Friend 3: I couldn’t agree more. I used to like my Blue Cross Plan. Under Obamacare, though, almost none of my medications are covered. Worse, my deductible has gotten so high, it’s the same as being uninsured for most things.
Friend 4: It wasn’t the recession that killed America’s middle class. It’s Obamacare that’s doing the job.
Bookworm: It’s shocking that, back in 2009, people actually believed the government could mandate vastly more coverage (a lot of which people don’t want), plus huge subsidies, while simultaneously lowering everyone’s premiums by $2,500 per year, not to mention promising that they could keep their doctors and their hospitals.
It’s especially amazing that we were supposed to believe all this could happen when it was overseen by the same state and local governments that destroyed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and that gave us the wonders of the DMV.
The con should have been obvious, but everyone was so swept away in the rapture of the moment, they couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge the problem.
Since I put the above into this post, someone added the usual comment insisting that we should go to Medicare entirely. She backed off, though, when I pointed out rampant fraud in Medicare (do we really want more of that?), as well as the fact that those countries that have single payer have better access but worse outcomes. I then suggested to everyone in the thread that the open market, where consumers are more in touch with costs — a marketplace without layers of employers, insurance, and government regulations — could lead to both better service and lower costs. The person in favor of Medicare actually thought that the open market wasn’t a terrible idea.
I’ll keep you posted if any other interesting comments pop up on that Facebook thread.
The Marin Independent Journal is something of a joke as an investigative paper. People in Marin read it, not to get high-end analyses about news and policy, but, as is true for all small community newspapers, to find out what’s going on in their neighborhood. Sometimes, though, what’s going on in the neighborhood is a sufficiently important issue that it deserves to be broadcast widely. It is to the IJ‘s credit that it’s bringing to its readers’ attention yet another problem with Obamacare, and not one I’ve heard discussed elsewhere; namely, the fact that, when you go in for surgery, even if your doctor is on your insurance plan, the anesthesiologist, whom most people first meet only within a couple of hours of surgery, may not be.
The IJ’s report starts with the story of Marianne Michael, a local Marin woman preparing for back surgery. More savvy than many medical consumers, Michael knew that the anesthesiologist wasn’t actually part of her surgeon’s practice group, and that she would receive a separate bill. Before surgery, therefore, she decided to do a little investigation to find out if her insurance would pay her the anesthesiologist:
Much to her surprise, Michael discovered that Anesthesiology Consultants of Marin was not in her network. Michael has also attempted to determine whether other medical groups serving Marin General are covered by her insurance, without much success.
Michael said information on Anthem Blue Cross’s website indicated that the Marin Hospitalists Medical Group was also outside Blue Cross’ network of providers for Covered California customers.
The dawning of Obamacare has resulted in confusion over which medical groups supplying ancillary services to the hospitals — anesthesiologists, radiologists, pathologists and hospitalists — have contracted with Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross to serve their new Affordable Care Act customers. The insured with these plans must pay substantially more for any service provided by a doctor outside their insurer’s network of providers.
Once the confusion is lifted, it’s clear that Obamacare’s newest customers are screwed (emphasis added):
In fact, Blue Shield’s exclusive provider organization (EPO) customers in Marin must pay 100 percent of the cost for out-of-network services.
To recap: People in Marin, like most previously insured Americans, are accustomed to the fact that, if they’re insured and if they have surgery, their insurance pays for it all: surgery, hospital, and anesthesiologist (subject to whatever deductible they owe). In the new regime, though, they’ll be lucky if their policy pays for the surgeon and hospital. In addition to the deductible (usually higher under Obamacare than before), they’ll find themselves out-of-pocket, often to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, for the anesthesiologist and other independent service providers affiliated with their surgery. Surprise!!!
Moreover, thanks to Obamacare, this disastrous, expensive, stealth change isn’t limited just to new “Covered California” (i.e., Obamacare network) customers. Instead, it applies to everyone, regardless of whether they purchased insurance in the remaining marketplace or through Obamacare:
It isn’t just people who purchased insurance through Covered California, the state’s health care insurance exchange, that stand to be affected by the coverage muddle. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies were required to offer plans that mirror their Covered California plans. These plans have the same network of providers as the Covered California plans. Michael said she purchased her insurance directly from Anthem Blue Cross.
(One presumes that the sole exception to this is those lucky enough not to have been amongst the 160,000 people kicked off of California’s Kaiser network. If you’re a Kaiser member, Kaiser offers everything in-house.)
Bad as the above is, according to the IJ, it doesn’t stop there but, instead, gets even worse for Californians (the vast majority of whom enthusiastically supported both Obama and Obamacare). Thanks to an Anthem Blue Cross snafu, customers pursuing the list of networked doctors were misled to the tune of almost 1000 doctors who were erroneously identified as being part of the Anthem Blue Cross Obamacare-compliant network. In other words, vast numbers of those who signed up with Anthem Blue Cross because they were trying to keep their doctor (and didn’t Obama promise that they could?), ended up with a policy that probably costs more; that almost certainly has a higher deductible; that, through fraud or negligent misrepresentation, doesn’t allow them to keep their doctor; and that doesn’t cover significant parts of their costs.
Obama was boasting about the 8 million who signed up. He’s going to regret that boast, because it appears that America is soon going to have 8 million dissatisfied customers, not to mention the millions more who, even though they didn’t sign up, have been left with insurance contracts that, by law, must be just as bad as those offered under Obamacare.
One wonders how much longer Marinites and other Blue Californians can maintain the cognitive dissonance that tells them that Obama is the best president ever and that Obamacare has bent the cost curve down, bringing affordable, high quality health care to everyone. On a daily basis, the reality of their own lives is proving that all of this is a lie. Also, one wonders just how craven (stupid? corrupt? evil?) Congressional Republicans are when they say that Obamacare is here to stay, and that they are powerless to revert America’s health care back to a free market dynamic.
(And please don’t get me started on the House GOP’s promise to pass amnesty. Just let me say that, if I had a Republican representative in the House, I would be on the phone to his office every single day letting him know in the strongest possible terms that I would do everything within my power in his district to destroy his political career and to make sure that, should he ever set foot in his district again, he couldn’t get a job as dog catcher, street cleaner, or McDonald’s clerk, all of which forms of employment are way too honorable for him.)
The old advertising adage holds that “It’s not the sizzle, it’s the steak.” Rightly or wrongly, I’ve understood this to mean that, even if a brilliant advertising campaign gets a product into consumer’s homes, if the first purchasers end up not liking the product, you’re not going to get a second wave of purchasers. Instead, you’ll get a second little swell, followed by a trickle, followed by nothing but a dead-in-the-water product.
Eugene Robinson, however, who has been one of Obamacare’s most stalwart cheerleaders, thinks sizzle is all one needs when it comes to evaluating Obamacare’s merits and popularity. In a rah-rah column celebrating Obamacare’s triumph, Robinson boasts about how the numbers of uninsured have decreased by millions. (For purposes of this post, we’ll ignore that when it comes to Obamacare most of the millions who bought Obamacare on the exchanges were the previously insured who were kicked off their beloved policies by . . . Obamacare. We’ll also ignore the fact that people didn’t voluntarily step up to buy this sizzling new government product; they were forced to do so. And lastly, we’ll also ignore that the largest number of new insureds are now covered under Medicaid, which isn’t real insurance. Picayune details, right?):
A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, despite all the problems with the HealthCare.gov Web site launch, 12 million people who previously lacked insurance will obtain coverage this year. By 2017, the year Obama leaves office, the CBO predicts that an additional 14 million uninsured will have managed to get coverage .
And so it goes for another 14 boastful paragraphs: The numbers don’t lie! More people have insurance! Republicans are mean-spirited idiots! (Robinson is writing for the WaPo, so his language is more refined than that, but the point is the same.) What I didn’t see anywhere in Robinson’s victory dance was a discussion about the steak behind the sizzle.
Yes, people have dug deep into their pockets to buy mandatory sizzle. But by pretty significant numbers, these purchasers don’t seem thrilled with the product. The previously insured, having been forced into the system as official subsidizers, have come face-to-face with the Obamacare steak behind the sizzle and learned that Obamacare is a maggot-ridden, rotten piece of gristly meat. Their insurance premiums and deductibles have sky-rocketed and their doctors have waved them goodbye. The really sick ones, the ones who used to survive thanks to a carefully-built, delicate infrastructure of special doctors and hospitals, have found themselves flung, communist-style, back into the general ward.
Nor is there any indication that America’s poverty-stricken sick people are benefitting from the middle-class subsidizers’ downgrade to Castro-style medical care. I pointed out a few weeks ago that the word from the trenches is that the really poor have no intention of changing their ways. They like that they pay nothing per month (as opposed to a low, subsidized fee), and they’d rather get the best doc at the ER instead of the worst doc at the regular clinic. In other words, nobody wins, but the middle class loses.
Robinson seems quite convinced that the American people will be so happy that they have insurance that they won’t care that they don’t have the health insurance to go with it. The Obama administration, having forced upon them the sizzle, can go home happy without providing the steak.
Is Robinson right? Have our American expectations become so low that we’re happy merely to own a product, never mind that it doesn’t work as promised? Are we so desperately afraid of being castigated as some sort of “ist” or “phobic” (racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic) that we will no longer protest when our representatives provide us with fraud and bad service?
Currently, the greatest threat to small government is the rising numbers of illegal immigrants who Democrats hope will create a permanent lock in the Democrat vote. (And the RINOs go along because the Chamber of Commerce wants cheap labor.) The current guesstimate seems to be that, if amnesty passes, Democrats will get about 8 million newly-minted, locked-in-Democrat formerly illegal alien voters. This 8 million number works, though, only if other Americans continue to stay home.
Think about it: As of 2012, America had around 313 million people, of whom about 126.5 million turned out in 2012, a presidential election year. In 2008, best estimates were that there were about 227 million Americans who could have voted. (I couldn’t find 2012 numbers on potential voters, but I assume they’re similar.) In other words, around 100 million people stayed home in 2012.
Are all of these “stay at homes” Democrat voters? Or are there tens of millions of latent Republican voters staying home? (We know Evangelicals retreated to their homes on election days after the 80s ended.)
If the majority of non-voters like our country as it was (individual freedom, not government servitude), and wish that it could be that way again, are the events we’re facing sufficient to rouse them? If that giant can be awakened, the 8 million “bought and paid for” illegal immigrant votes will be as nothing.
Or more cruelly, are the 100 million silent Americans silent because they truly don’t care? Are they are so sedated with their continuous pop culture diet (a la the proles in 1984), that nothing can rouse them.
When I heard Trevor Loudon speak, he correctly said that Republicans don’t win votes by trying to convince Independents to side with them. Instead, they win votes by exciting their base, because an excited base becomes a parade, and others want to join in. That’s why he suggested that whoever wins the Republican primaries, or — even better — whoever’s even thinking of entering the primaries, boast a full ticket, from president down to the last cabinet member, that offers something to everyone in the base.
I continue to think that’s a brilliant idea, although I’m not invested in the ticket he proposes. It’s enough that we offer a package, not a lone man whom the drive-by media will savage. I do wonder, though, whether an exciting package, coupled with a hunk of fetid, rotten, maggoty Obamasteak, will rouse the sleeping 100 million Americans who can’t usually be bothered to get to the polling booth. And if those two things — a dynamic ticket and a horrifying “fundamental change to America” — are enough only to sway the malleable independents, rather than to reach the stay-at-homes, will the independents’ numbers be sufficient to beat back, not just the 8 million illegals, but the predictable votes from dead people and those with multiple personalities.
All of which gets me back to Robinson’s article: Is his confidence that sizzle is enough to declare Obamacare a success the result of cognitive dissonance and denial, or does Robinson have a much more accurate reading of the American people than conservatives do?
Rush opened his show today by focusing on the mainstream media’s joyous assertion that, overnight, Obamacare went from a mere 26% in support to plurality support and that, within two weeks, it went from 5 million to 7 million enrollments (with that 7 million number coming from two “anonymous” White House sources). Rush asserted, and I agree, that this is lies and damn lies, powered through by falsely derived statistics.
Even assuming solely for the sake of argument that there’s any truth to the dramatically increased poll and enrollment numbers, the numbers are still meaningless because the law has failed resoundingly at effecting its primary purpose: to insure the uninsured. As of yesterday, based upon the limited data the Obama administration has reluctantly released, only 1.7% of the previously uninsured have enrolled in Obamacare.
If the uninsured aren’t enrolling in Obamacare, who is? It seems that new enrollees consist primarily of (a) those who were insured but wanted subsidies and (b) those who lost pre-existing coverage because of Obamacare. Moreover, analyzing enrollment data, it appears that the new enrollees are weighted heavily in favor of those requiring subsidies, as opposed to those paying full fare and funding the subsidies. Even math-illiterates (i.e., the Democrat party and its MSM mouthpieces) will eventually figure out that this is unsustainable.
The statements I made above are data-based, although the administration’s death grip on actual numbers leaves one unsure even about the accuracy of that information. Now let me throw in some anecdotal information. I know that anecdote is not data but, to the extent this anecdote tracks the available data, it’s worth noting.
I have mentioned before that I have a friend who has pursued a very different life path from mine. We both come from extremely middle class backgrounds, but while I was able to stay economically middle class, my friend made life decisions that saw her sink lower and lower economically. She now lives in a community where, as she jokes, she and her husband are the only ones she knows who don’t have a parole officer. (A fact that relates in part to substance abuse problems rife in her community and in part to draconian prosecutorial abuse.)
What distinguishes my friend from her neighbors, aside from her lack of a criminal record, is her middle class values. She may not live the middle class life, but she still follows middle class rules, one of which is her belief that you pay your bills and you carry health insurance. Unfortunately for her, she reached a point a few years ago at which she could no longer pay health insurance bills. Quite reluctantly, she let her insurance lapse.
My friend was therefore delighted when Obamacare finally went into effect. Because her state’s exchange was dysfunctional, she had to sign up the old-fashioned way (by mail), but sign-up she did. Moreover, given her dire finances, she qualified for a subsidy. I don’t have the details, but I believe she pays $50 a month for a Gold plan. The moment her plan vested, my friend went on an orgy of doctor’s visits to catch up on all the health care (mostly standard tests and procedures) that she missed in the last few years. While I disapprove of Obamacare, she’s my friend and I’m happy for her. At least someone’s benefiting from the law.
I was speaking to my friend just yesterday about her healthcare and she offered a very interesting observation: She and her husband, the only middle class people in a sea of poverty, are the only people she knows, amongst both friends and acquaintances, who have signed up for Obamacare. The others have no interest in getting health insurance. Even with a subsidy, they don’t want to pay a monthly bill for health insurance. Even a subsidized rate is too onerous when they can get all the free health care they need just by showing up at the local emergency room. Additionally, the ER docs are usually better than any doc who’s willing to belong to whatever plan they can afford. Nor are these people worried about the penalties for refusing to buy Obamacare, since none of them pay taxes.
Not only are the people in my friend’s world refusing to buy Obamacare, they resent it. According to my friend, someone she knows abruptly announced that she’s getting involved in local politics, something she’s never done before. Until recently, this gal was one of those people who just floated along, getting by. Now, though, she’s fired up.
The reason for the sudden passion is unexpected: She’s deeply offended by a law that forces people to buy a product they don’t need — never mind that she might benefit from the product, that she would pay far below market value for the product, or that she’s too poor to be penalized for ignoring this government diktat. The mere fact that the diktat exists runs counter to her notion of individual liberty. Her view of government is that, while it’s fine if it hands out welfare checks and food stamps, it goes beyond the pale when the government uses its power and wealth to coerce activity.
Dan Meyer gave a TED talk about the fact that America’s public schools teach math in the same way that sitcoms present comedy: As a neat, meaningless package that leaves the brain unengaged throughout the process and empty at the end of it. It’s a good talk and I recommend it on its own merits. But I especially recommend Meyer’s intro (emphasis mine):
Can I ask you to please recall a time when you really loved something — a movie, an album, a song or a book — and you recommended it wholeheartedly to someone you also really liked, and you anticipated that reaction, you waited for it, and it came back, and the person hated it? So, by way of introduction, that is the exact same state in which I spent every working day of the last six years. (Laughter) I teach high school math. I sell a product to a market that doesn’t want it, but is forced by law to buy it. I mean, it’s just a losing proposition.
The audience laughed at that last line. I didn’t laugh, but I did wonder if Meyer and/or his audience understood that this laugh line applies perfectly to Obamacare.
Yep, John looks better all the while. If SCOTUS had knocked down that utopian hogwash, Demorats would be having a field day parroting about how the Repubs have destroyed America’s chance for decent health care. I don’t think the Justice was being blackmailed, I think he had contacts in Canada who informed him of the pub gossip.
And have you considered that Obama and Putin are two sides of the same fool’s gold coin? Perhaps a Euro.
History is made up of “what ifs.” Certainly Obama would be in a more powerful position now if he didn’t have Obamacare and could spend his time decrying Republican cruelty. As it is, even with all the media cover he’s been getting, Americans are getting a good look at socialism’s reality.
(An aside: I love James’ neologism — “Demorats”.)
Obamacare is the gift that just keeps giving . . . if you want to prove to Americans that Leftism works only on paper and, even then, only if you lie about the numbers. We’ve already had proven that you can’t keep your insurance, you can’t keep your doctor, you can’t keep your hospital, and you can’t keep your money. The past weeks have also revealed that you can’t keep your job.
The Democrats have tried to spin this last point by saying that people will be freed of the drudgery of work and suddenly have time to innovate. In fact, according to studies of people who were given that time to innovate (start businesses, invent things, etc.), the sudden time freedom made no difference:
More importantly, a thorough review of the available literature done by the RAND Corporation in 2010 concluded “On net, there appears to be little consensus in this literature on the existence or magnitude of the effect of health insurance on business creation.” To be sure, the same RAND report provides a new empirical analysis suggesting “that “entrepreneurship lock” for men is just over 1 percentage point relative to an annual base business creation rate of 3 percent.” But one way or the other, all these various studies represent efforts to infer the number of “entrepreneur-locked” individuals in the U.S.
Far more convincing is evidence of what happens after the introduction of universal or near-universal health coverage. For example, our OECD competitors all have had national health systems for decades. Yet Edward Prescott, co-winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economics, has observed that “entrepreneurship is much lower in Europe.” If universal health coverage truly had a demonstrable impact on individual willingness to take risks, this disparity seems counterintuitive. Admittedly, there are many other factors such as tax and regulatory policy that might affect these cross-national comparisons. So the most convincing evidence comes from the first empirical study ever to explore the actual impact of the a shift to universal coverage on entrepreneurship. This study of the Massachusetts health reform (“Romneycare” after which Obamacare was purportedly modeled) found the following:
The author finds significant and persistent suppression of new organization formation when controlling for organization size, sector and owner gender, and limited evidence of geographic displacement of firms across the New Hampshire border. While theory suggests mandatory insurance should reduce insurance costs and improve worker productivity, the author finds that the regulation has no significant impact on worker productivity and limited evidence of increases in insurance costs, and estimates the expected cost in terms of lost employment, sales to the local economy and tax revenue to in the majority of cases exceed the benefit.
Judging by my own life, this data doesn’t surprise me at all. When vistas of free time open before me, I don’t innovate, I become inert. More significantly, my brain slows down. While I, as a busy person, can get 10 chores done in a day, as an un-busy person, I’m lucky if I get 2 or 3 chores done. My flywheel has stopped spinning and I find it difficult to marshal the energy needed to overcome the inertia and get that flywheel spinning again. It’s entirely true that, if you want to get something done, you should ask a busy person.
Moreover, if you want to build a better mousetrap, you should probably ask a busy person about that too. It’s the busy person who has an incentive to simplify tasks. It’s a busy person who engages with the world in a way that sows and fertilizes ideas in his mind. It’s also a busy person who dreams of leisure and takes affirmative steps to create sufficient wealth to bring that leisure time about. Enforced leisure lacks all of those incentives. After all, if enforced leisure went hand in hand with creativity and innovation, Europe’s once-thriving cradle to crave welfare states would have resulted in the most dynamic economies in history, rather than in economic basket cases.
It’s true that there have always been people who, because of their great wealth, were able to indulge their passions in ways that benefit the world. Reading about these people, though, one senses that they were so driven that, no matter their station in life, they would have affected the world around them. Florence Nightingale, for example, had a calling that would actually have been easier for her to pursue if she hadn’t come from a fabulously wealthy, upper-class family. Most inventions, though, come from busy people trying to figure out a better way (Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Rockefeller) or from people who were in a line of work that let their brain float freely to another line (Albert Einstein).
This is a sort of random, ill-thought-out post. I’m confident in my core idea, but I’m not expressing it as well as I ought — probably because of the stultification of being couch-bound for so many days now. Please chime in to support or oppose my ragged thoughts.
Marin County is enthusiastically Progressive. In 2008, Barack Obama got 78% of Marin County’s votes. in 2012, his popularity slipped only slightly, to 74%. (Funnily enough, up until 1984, Marin was predominantly Republican. By 1984, the county was split equally, and as of 1988, it’s been reliably Left ever since.)
Part of being enthusiastically Progressive, of course, meant that Marin County went all-in for Obamacare and its state version, Covered California. Since 2009, with the exception of my small cadre of conservative friends in Marin, everyone else I know has supported it all the way. And if the bumper stickers I see around are anything to go by, those I don’t know supported it just as enthusiastically.
For those reasons, perhaps you’ll pardon the unseemly schadenfreude I felt when I read this article in the Marin Independent Journal:
Marin residents who have recently signed up for Anthem Blue Cross health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act may have to travel outside the county for medical specialty care.
Kelley Eling of San Rafael said she recently swapped her Blue Shield coverage, which cost her $916 a month with a large deductible, for a gold plan offered by Anthem Blue Cross through California’s new health insurance exchange, Covered California. Eling said she pays just $250 a month for the Blue Cross plan. There is just one problem. Eling said she needs to see a gastroenterologist, and she can’t find one in Marin who is part of Blue Cross’ physician network.
(Read the rest here.)
I have enough decency to feel sorry for each individual suffering from the way in which Obamacare has (quite predictably) destroyed America’s highly functioning healthcare system, even if that individual was dumb enough to support Obamacare. I also feel deep empathy for those few in Marin who had the wisdom to oppose Obamacare, but were nevertheless screwed by an uninformed, credulous and, it must be said, defrauded population. Nevertheless, looking at the matter from a distance, without taking into consideration individual dislocation, this serves Marinites right. Maybe it’s time they start re-thinking that 1988 switch in political party allegiances.
Over at JustOneMinute, Tom Maguire explains just how weak the Democrat spin is when it comes to celebrating the end of “job lock.” It’s a great post, but as quite often happens over at my blog, the real brilliance appears in the reader comments. From Ignatz:
I believe the Republican idea was to decouple insurance from employment not decouple the employee from employment.
Why do I like that? Because it sums up in one sentence what it took me an entire post to write.
Hat tip: American Thinker