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How Obamacare Actually Paves the Way Toward Single Payer


Last week the liberal documentary-maker Michael Moore prompted indigestion across the progressive wonk community by pronouncing Obamacare “awful.” In a New York Times op-ed, he bemoaned the way the president’s law preserved the health insurance industry rather than replacing it with a Medicare-for-all style single-payer system. The good news, Moore conceded, is that the previously uninsured (and often previously uninsurable) can get finally get coverage. The bad news is that their coverage will often be lousy and pose an enormous financial burden. He ended by calling for activists to lean on state politicians in an effort to beef the law up.

I happen to agree with Moore’s basic sentiment. For-profit health insurance is on some level morally offensive—at least when it’s practiced the way we Americans practice capitalism. With a few tantalizing but mostly unrepresentative exceptions, the longstanding aim of health insurers has been to weed out sick people, and to weasel out of paying for treatment if they somehow get insurance, so that the companies could boost their share price, lavish income on their executives, and plow money into annoyingly saccharine TV ads. To its everlasting credit, Obamacare genuinely tries to whip the insurers into shape—making it illegal to deny coverage to sick people, or to withdraw coverage when healthy people get sick, among other much-needed reforms. But you still have to be skeptical of middlemen who historically spent a mere 60 cents of every dollar individual policy-holders sent them on, you know, health care.1

And yet I’m still much more sympathetic to Obamacare than Moore. He thinks it’s awful. I consider it a deceptively sneaky way to get the health care system both of us really want.

How? Allow me a brief digression: In 1991, Congress created the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which funded screenings for women who earn up to 250 percent of the poverty level. What Congress didn’t do is provide money to pay for treatment if the tests came back positive. The policy seemed sadistically cruel: Suddenly thousands of women would discover they had a life-threatening illness while realizing they could do nothing about it. Both Moore and I would have surely denounced the law. But it soon proved to be a shrewd, if unintentional, opening move. “Almost from the moment it was implemented, there was pressure to take the next step,” says Harold Pollack, a professor of social policy at the University of Chicago. “They constructed a sympathetic and organized constituency … with an actionable grievance.” Congress approved the money for treatment in 2000.


Tea Party debacle implodes: Liz Cheney quits senate race

Yes, nepotism, carpetbagging and cruelty to her sister hurt -- but Cheney’s troubles show a movement near its end


OK, Liz Cheney was a carpetbagger from Virginia who had little to sell in Wyoming besides her father’s connections. Still, Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter was not nearly as ludicrous a Senate candidate as Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, or Joe Miller of Alaska, or Sharron Angle of Nevada, or Joe Buck of Colorado, or…well, you get the point – all of whom won their 2010 Tea Party primaries against respectable conservative mainstream Republicans.

That was 2010. On Sunday the 2014 midterm season began with Liz Cheney calling off her doomed Wyoming Senate primary campaign against conservative Mike Enzi, citing unspecified “serious health issues” in her family. We sincerely hope those issues are resolved soon.

But the Tea Party’s health issues are also a problem. Despite Cheney’s high-profile campaign troubles, she had a lot of political assets that lesser 2010 challengers couldn’t rely on – and yet those candidates won anyway. Cheney is leaving the race trailing Enzi by more than 50 points. 2014 is going to be an unpredictable midterm election, but Cheney’s failure suggests it’s not going to be a cakewalk for come-from-nowhere Tea Party candidates — or opportunists like Cheney who pretend to be Tea Party devotees.

Sure, Cheney only moved to Wyoming in 2012, and she had that embarrassing screw-up with her fishing license. Probably the biggest blow to her candidacy was her high-profile, classless row with her sister Mary over gay marriage. Liz took to Fox News to say she didn’t support gay marriage, even though she’d attended Mary’s to wife Heather Poe – and Mary and Heather took to Facebook to chide Liz for either cruelty or hypocrisy, depending on what she really believed, which ultimately no one seemed to know.


Democrats May Get Their Own Destructive Tea Party Movement

By Dean Obeidallah

The rise of Bill de Blasio and Elizabeth Warren shows the progressive wing is powerful and angry. How soon until their fans pick primary fights with the old guard?

Is this the beginning of the end of Democratic Party unity? Will we see primary challenges to incumbent Democrats who are viewed as not being liberal enough? How far are we from moderate Democrats be labeled as “DINOs”—Democrats in name only?

Only time will tell, but there is a growing possibility we will see “Tea Party” Democrats in the near future. They wouldn’t be conservatives like the Republican Tea Party members, but they would share the same dogmatic commitment to ideology and aversion to compromise. If you think Congress sucks now, just imagine how horrific it would be if there were Tea Party Democrats facing off against Tea Party Republicans!

The leaders of the resurgent progressive wing of the Democratic Party include the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, who has vowed to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to fund more social programs. There’s also Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who recently suggested (not advocated) that the minimum wage should be $22 an hour. And President Obama also seems to have joined this movement with his recent push to address income inequality and raise the minimum wage—both of which Obama is expected to name as priorities in his State of the Union address later this month.

Sure, there are some who applaud the rise of the new left. E.J. Dionne Jr., for example, wrote last week: “The return of a viable, vocal left will actually be good news for the political center.” He may be correct—this could be good for the political center. But it may not be good for the Democratic Party, at least if success is measured by electoral victories.


Marco Rubio Is Wrong: The War on Poverty Worked

By Michael Tomasky

On the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s initiative, Marco Rubio says it failed. After all, poverty still exists. But the policies did succeed—Democrats are just afraid to say so.

So now Sen. Marco Rubio is trying to join Rep. Paul Ryan’s conservative bleeding-hearts club band. The Florida senator is releasing a video timed to Wednesday’s 50th anniversary of the launch of the war on poverty to declare said war a failure and launch his own. Woot woot. That isn’t necessarily stupid politics, at least as a general election strategy for 2016. How the guy who’s already alienated the wingers on immigration expects to make it through the primary season trying to get conservatives to care about poor people is another question, but that’s his problem.

Our problem is when conservatives like Rubio talk gibberish: “Isn’t it time to declare big government’s war on poverty a failure?” No, it isn’t. It’s high time to say the war on poverty was a success. A wild success, indeed, by nearly every meaningful measure. But no one thinks so, and a big part of the reason is that most Democrats are afraid to say so. They’d damn well better start. If we’re really going to be raising the minimum wage and tackling inequality, someone needs to be willing to say to the American people that these kinds of approaches get results.

You may have seen the big Times piece Sunday that looked back over the half-century war on poverty, kicked off by Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 State of the Union address. The article noted that in terms of health and nutrition and numerous other factors, the poor in the United States are immeasurably less immiserated today than they were then. But it did lead by saying the overall poverty rate in all that time has dropped only from 19 to 15 percent, suggesting to the casual reader that all these billions for five decades haven’t accomplished much.

What’s wrong with thinking is that we have not, of course, been fighting any kind of serious war on poverty for five decades. We fought it with truly adequate funding for about one decade. Less, even. Then the backlash started, and by 1981, Ronald Reagan’s government was fighting a war on the war on poverty. The fate of many anti-poverty programs has ebbed and flowed ever since.



Scalia’s golden chance to kill unions

A "sweeping" ruling could force "Right to Work" on every U.S. public sector worker, Harvard's Ben Sachs warns


A Supreme Court case to be heard this month could deal another body blow to the embattled U.S. labor movement. The case, Harris v. Quinn, offers the court’s conservative majority a chance to make so-called “Right to Work” the law of the land for millions of public sector workers.

And it targets one of the most effective ways unions have grown their ranks – getting governors to classify the growing ranks of taxpayer-funded home care workers as public employees with unionization rights – and a decades-old precedent that the 2012 Knox v. SEIU case suggests justices may be itching to overturn. If the Court strikes that 1977 (Abood) precedent – that workers in union workplaces can be required to pay fees for “collective bargaining activities,” though not for “ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining” – unions fear further defunding, diversion, division, and discrimination will follow.

To consider the case, Salon called up Harvard Law School professor Benjamin Sachs, a former union attorney and founder of the On Labor blog. A condensed and edited version of our conversation follows.

What is at stake in this case? How broad a ruling do you think we could see?


GOP’s ulterior motive on unemployment: Economic sabotage?

There's more to Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits than conservative principles


Congress returns from the holidays in earnest today, more than a week after allowing emergency unemployment compensation to lapse for millions of jobless Americans, which raises the critical question of what lies behind the GOP’s reluctance to do the obviously correct thing.

Senate Democrats hope just a handful of Republicans will break away from the opposition later today, to pass legislation that would renew the lapsed benefits, and pressure John Boehner to follow suit, but they’re having a hard time finding the votes.

What gives?

It’s tempting to attribute the GOP’s skittishness to the right’s broader aversion to subsidizing poor people, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. At least not entirely.

Congress has never cut off these benefits when unemployment has been as high as it is right now, and the long-term unemployed and the chronically poor aren’t equivalent populations. So there’s got to be more going on than just conservative indifference.


From Nixon to Paul Ryan: How right-wing radicals deceive America

By shifting the spectrum of debate, here's how America's rightward march has been normalized throughout history


From Nixon to Reagan to Gingrich to Bush to Paul Ryan and Chris Christie today, leaders who’ve shifted America to the right have been aided by moderating misrepresentations. In the case of Reagan, it was not just the man, but conservatism itself that received the flattering reinterpretation. That was a difference that mattered; it goes to the heart of why Reagan is the American right’s touchstone. But the more general process of misrepresenting and reinterpreting increasingly radical ideological figures as if they were normal, everyday pragmatic problem-solvers is one that’s been a repeated leitmotif in America’s political trajectory since Richard Nixon’s political resurrection in 1968.

As Elias Isquith wrote here after Christie’s reelection, Christie is not the next great moderate hope, he’s just very good at executing what Blake Zeff identified as the GOP’s blue-state playbook, breaking with red-state conservative orthodoxy on a few secondary issues. But it takes more than a column or two to expose the emperor’s new clothes. For the moment, George Washington Bridgegate notwithstanding, Christie remains the GOP’s best hope of winning the White House in 2016, largely because he’s so good at the game that Isquith pointed out, orchestrating his own misrepresentation as a mainstream political figure. What’s more, battling against 2016 GOP rivals will only make it more difficult and more important to see beyond the illusions to what Christie is actually doing. That’s why is helps to look backward to similar figures in the past, and how they managed to so successfully deceive. And it’s not just Christie. Paul Ryan’s role in shaping GOP budget politics — and all the attendant economic fantasizing — provides another key reason why we need a far better grasp of the process of normalizing reactionary radicalism.

In looking backward, we need to keep in mind what a truly radical conservative is: “radical” comes from the Greek “radic,” meaning root. What makes for a radical conservative leader is not purity in terms of some litmus test — after all, Reagan himself pursued a sort of “blue-state strategy”: He raised taxes multiple times, made arms deals with terrorists, signed a mass amnesty law for the undocumented, etc. Rather, the test of post-New Deal conservative leadership is how much they radically shift the spectrum of debate or transform the basic configurations of political space. Indeed, superficially preserving continuity, even accepting certain liberal gains, can be an integral part of carrying out a much more fundamental transformation.

Key to this progression has been the fact that, rather than building cumulatively on successes, more often than not conservative succession has been built on successive failures — each one sold as a “common sense” way of dealing with the chaos created by previous conservative incarnation. Reagan succeeding Nixon was closest to being the exception to this rule. Nixon exploited and began consolidating the racial divisions that fractured the New Deal majority, a process briefly interrupted by Jimmy Carter, and Reagan finished that process of consolidation. He did so, however, by radically altering the tone, if not the substance. Thereafter, however, the pattern held with remarkable consistency.


UPDATED: Gay Marriage Opponents Call For Uprising In Utah

Source: TPM


The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association on Saturday organized a meeting in Highland, Utah to call for an uprising and to express their opposition to same-sex marriage in Utah, Fox 13 Now Salt Lake City reported.

"The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats," Former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack said at the meeting.

A federal judge in December struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, and courts subsequently denied the state's request for a temporary stay, which would keep counties from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples while the state appeals the ruling.

By the third stay denial, most counties in Utah were issuing licenses to all couples.


Read more: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/utah-same-sex-marriage-opponents-call-for-uprising


Thanks OldRedNeck for this info at comment 12, below:


Who is the "Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association?"

Looks like another rightwing group that is convinced the nation is in trouble and only they can save us.


From their website:

"46 Anti-American US Senators vote for the UN Gun Control Treaty"

"State sovereignty under attack"

"List of sheriffs and peace officers who say 'No' to Obama gun control"

"CSPOA being used to stop Obamacare"

The CEO (and possibly the only member) has an online store where you can buy a copy of his book: "The County Sheriff: America's Last Hope"

Pope Francis calls for fresh Church approach to children of LGBT parents

Source: AF-P/via Raw Story

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, January 5, 2014 11:56 EST

Pope Francis has called for a rethink in the way the Catholic Church deals with the children of gay couples and divorced parents, warning against “administering a vaccine against faith”.

“On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which for us are sometimes difficult to understand,” Francis said in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, extracts of which were published on Italian media websites on Saturday.

“The number of children in schools whose parents have separated is very high,” he said, adding that family make-ups were also changing. “I remember a case in which a sad little girl confessed to her teacher: ‘my mother’s girlfriend doesn’t love me’,” he was quoted as saying.

The pontiff said educational leaders should ask themselves “how can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?”


Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/01/05/pope-francis-calls-for-fresh-church-approach-to-children-of-lgbt-parents/

Keeping Tabs on Obama’s Church Attendance Is No Way to Gauge His Faith

By Joshua DuBois

President Obama has demonstrated the depth and breadth of his faith in numerous ways and in a variety of settings since taking office.

An article in the New York Times last week tallied up the number of times President Obama has attended church while in office: more than Reagan, less than Bush, and when it comes to all presidents, probably somewhere in between. The piece sought to make a broader point about the president’s religiosity based on these rough metrics--but that equation misses a lot else in the process. So I thought it might be illuminating to provide just a glimmer of Obama’s faith, a few moments out of many that stood out to me over the years of working and praying with our president.

One of my favorite memories in church with Obama was from 2007, at Brown Chapel A.M.E. in Selma, Alabama. The young senator was at Brown Chapel to worship and mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the day in 1965 when civil rights activists faced dogs and batons as they marched from Selma to Montgomery.

Obama took the pulpit to deliver a powerful sermon–one of my favorites, later called “The Joshua Generation” speech, in which he masterfully linked his own diverse lineage, the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, the journey of the people of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, and the political moment of that day.

But it was what happened before his formal remarks that really stood out to me. We staff had prepared a standard “acknowledgments card” for Obama to read, with the names of clergy, elected officials, and other dignitaries to thank before his speech. He read those acknowledgments but when he was finished, Senator Obama said there was one more person who hadn’t been recognized.

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