Obamacarelessness: Matt Miller Gets to the Heart of the Matter

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t care to write about Obamacare, but Matt Miller does and has.  Mr. Miller is what I would call a compassionate pragmatist, but he must look radically liberal to those on the right as he believes higher taxes and greater government investment in education is necessary if this country is to turn itself around.   If this post prompts further interest, you can learn a lot more about him if you check out his web site.

I mention Miller because in a recent editorial in the Washington Post he gets to the heart of what basically separates the world views of Republicans and Democrats, especially the Republican power brokers of today.   It is the differing significance each gives to the role of luck in life.  Democrats tend to think of themselves as fortunate to be where they are, while Republicans tend to think of themselves as deserving.  In turn,  Democrats tend to look at less successful people as less fortunate, while Republicans tend to see them as undeserving, or at least far less deserving then they are.

As such, despite being one of the richest men on the planet and a perfect poster child for the self-made man, Warren Buffett leans Democratic as he sees himself as having had a lot of luck in life, beginning with his being born a man in 1930s America and the automatic advantages that conveyed.  Need I add, especially for a white man.  Such advantages a Republican would take for granted.

The Republican answer to Obamacare is no Obamacare and then maybe we’ll agree to make some changes in the health care system that will somewhat benefit perhaps a million or two, rather than the 20 million Obamacare aims to aid a great deal.  And don’t remind us that the roots of Obamacare grew out of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, because we never really thought that was a good idea to begin with.

Despite its now looking like Obamacarelessness, given the lack of a real alternative, if you are well insured but relate strongly to:  “There but for fortune go I….”  it is Obamacare or nothing, for the Republicans don’t feel a need to offer anything  comparable as suggested in Miller’s piece:  Obama’s Well Insured Critics.

The Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons: A Real News Topic

These days a rediculous amount of time is being spent by news media covering the struggling roll out of Obamacare, or officially the Affordable Care Act (in case an on-the-street  interviewer tries to trick you with the question:  Which health plan do you prefer?  ….as you are walking along contemplating what to have for dinner).

WTVD News Vehicle

WTVD News Vehicle (Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue)

The perils of Obamacare are so talked about by the mainstream media that it is hard to resist saying something myself, but I will restrict it to this:  It is an important issue, but let’s wait awhile longer to see how things sort out.

Whatever mishmash is happening now is not real news, unlike the typhoon in the Philippines.   O. K. there is a little news there, but it is mostly filler like in many processed foods.   It is filled by the primary commitment of both parties to make the other party look bad and newscasters, especially the cable kind, who need to have something to talk about that they can make seem important enough for us to listen.   Those relatively few of us who actually do listen to any of them.

It is not news they report but steps forward in a narrative with a minor climax being the 2014 congressional elections and then the major climax being the 2016 presidential one.   These news junkies wish us to become addicted to politics as if we had money on a horserace (Chuck Todd and Chris Matthews of MSNBC come to mind in particular).

Here’s my prediction:  Within three days after the 2016  election, no matter who wins, Chuck and Chris et al will be speculating on the 2020 presidential election, and so it will go.   Doesn’t it seem a little crazy, all this attention upon who will win political races, when there seems such a disparity between winning elections and creating a government that works? (*1)

Oh….  Syria?  Remember how important it was a couple of months ago, what with the chemical weapons they have and the surprising deal to dismantle them?   (check out this post for a refresher).  I for one have been curious as to how that has been going, so I did a little Googling and was going to give you an update today, but figure this post is long enough as it is.  (I’ve noticed my posts have gotten longer of late).

So, I employ the popular news hook:

Is the Syrian chemical weapons deal about to explode?  Tune in to news at 11:00?

Er I mean, read my next post in a couple of days (or you could do some Google searching yourself if you’re impatient.)

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(*1) “Works” here is meant in two ways, working together and just plain working.   Check out the House calendar  (scroll to bottom) for this month and next.  It shows a combined number of days in session as 16 over the two months.   Rachel Maddow of MSNBC has raised that issue on her show, but if some reporter has directly asked Speaker Boehner (R.) to explain that lowly figure, I have missed it.

The Republican and Syrian Civil Wars, the Never Ending Budget Battle, the Ubiquitous NSA, Obamacareless, or…? OR the Chris Christie and Cory Booker Show?

I heard testerday that the President’s approval rating is down to an all time low, around 42%, though the ray of sunshine for him is that the approval of the GOP is a lowlier 22%.  We have little confidence in our national future and almost no confidence in our government, which is commonly seen as a big part of the problem, not the solution.  It’s depressing.

Where is Ronald Reagan when we need him?  No, he’s not a presidential hero of mine, but he was excellent as a cheer leader for America.   He made Americans feel good about America at a time when, like today, most of us didn’t.   Confidence or the lack of it creates its own reality.  The relationship between consumer confidence and a growing economy is a case in point.   Student success or failure in schools is another.

I have heard this expression a few times of late:   The Democrats can’t  govern and the Republicans don’t want to.   Of course, the two are closely tied, as the main Republican mission since the President was elected and re-elected has been to stymie his plans, whatever they may be.   That is what not wanting to govern has meant.  On the other hand, the President and his administration has raised numerous doubts as to their ability to govern, receiving barely passing grades on most fronts, and an ‘F’ on the Obamacare roll out, a grade hopefully raised through a series of make up tests.   Hopefully, if you lean Democratic and hopefully not if you lean Republican.

Significantly, the hope of both sides is not for anything good anytime soon, but with an eye to 2014 and 2016, seeming to assume that nothing much can be done to break the gridlock until there are changes in the cast of characters.   As if those mid-term elections in 2014 and then the one for President in 2016, will radically alter the dynamics of stagnation that have become our governmental stamp.   I can imagine it happening, but it feels more like a fantasy than a likelihood.

Now we are so busy concentrating on our mess at home that we, I mean our main stream media and most of us, pay little attention to the world at large, as if we are incapable of a world vision that goes beyond a constant examination of our collective navel.  It is less and less an American world and dealing with those changes should be our central focus, not tripping each other up.

Hmm…. I guess I just needed to vent, my way of saying I don’t feel like dealing with all of this today.  I  can use a laugh or two, and maybe you can as well, so I dug out the video below made in 2012 staring New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and then Newark Mayor, now brand new Senator, Cory Booker.   If you can recall way back then, Booker was receiving a lot of national attention for a surprising number of heroic feats saving lives or at least shoveling someone out of a snow bank.

So, despite disagreeing on most things political, Republican Christie and Democrat Booker made this video, and I imagine had fun doing it.   So, today let’s put some of that “fun”  back into dysfunctional.  (You hearty band of regular blog followers will have to go to the main site to see the video.)

SMATTERINGS 10/26/13: The Nub of Some Ongoing Issues

Our main stream television media must believe we can’t handle thinking about more than one issue at a time.  All the world was the congressional budget/debt ceiling battle for three weeks or so.  Before that, all the world was Syria and their chemical weapons.  Before that, I can’t recall.   Like most Americans, I have a short memory, even shorter than most as a member of the social security set.

English: Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3...

English: Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3590 (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) on March 21, 2010, by congressional district. Click the map for a much larger image and details (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now all the world is the faltering Obamacare web site.   Of course, this is the world the Republicans want us to dwell in, while the Democrats wish to constantly refresh our memories about how obstructionist the Republicans were in regard to the extension of the budget and raising of the debt ceiling.

Meanwhile the Republican Civil War is steadily simmering en route to a boil, with many of that party angry at Ted Cruz and his Tea Party set for making Republicans look imbecilic to a majority of the rest of us with their non-plan to stop Obamacare.    Had that not been the case, they could have been focusing attention on the clownish internet roll out for weeks.

Oh, well, they are making up for lost time by holding congressional hearings to accentuate the disaster to the public mind, the “train wreck” that they “knew” to be Obamacare even before it was passed.   Well, of course, they didn’t know, and they still don’t know, nor does anyone know how this will play out overall.   ( I know, many individuals already have personal stories, seemingly more negative than positive, but the whole thing has barely begun to be rolled out.)

The Federal Debt Ceiling and Budget Extension Battle

After much struggle and gnashing of teeth, the government reopened what was closed and will remain “open” at least until January 15, when the appropriated money runs out.   Also, the debt ceiling either will need to be raised again Feb 7 or government default on federal debt payments will once again be in the offing.

In short, the political arm twisting accomplished little more than postpone the match for a few months so both sides can enjoy the holidays and rest up.    Well, there are two things that may be seen as accomplishments down the line.  One is the formation of a Senate/House committee to try to actually come up with joint budget recommendations by Dec 13.

Given the inability of the two parties to come to terms on budget issues for a few years now (except for the sequester which they forced upon themselves through inaction), it is hard to get too excited about the prospects, but the upcoming second point might help.

Point Two is what seems a clarification of the political hazards of using the threat of a government shutdown and/or a default on federal debt as bargaining chips in future negotiations.  According to most polls the Republican “brand” took a big hit through all of this because they are blamed more for causing it.  (Don’t you just love how everything has been turned into a brand these days, including each of us.)

While the Tea Party types say they will continue to use such tactics, the rest of the Republican party doesn’t look like it will fall in line next time out.

The Republican Civil War

Recently I heard that Liz Cheney called John McCain a “liberal” which among the right is like “sinner”  was used in the early days of Puritan America.   A little Googling of the issue will reveal that Republicans are deeply divided between those who think of Ted Cruz as a hero and those, like Representative Peter King of New York, who called him a “fraud.”   Of course, party leadership tries to paint this as healthy debate within the party, but when one side in a debate refuses to compromise, there is no room for resolution.  Hence, a civil war.

I never tire of pointing out the irony of the Tea Party folks always proudly defending the constitution as if it were dropped from the heavens on a tablet.  It is a remarkable piece of work but it came about through torturous compromises, the most profound being the toleration of slavery in the new republic.   “Compromise” was not a dirty word to the founders, but a necessity to establish a stable central government.

How the Republican split will play out by January is sheer guess work, but if the rift doesn’t heal (and i do not think it will), Republican moderates and Democrats may actually work together on some sort of fiscal compromise that lasts longer than a few weeks.

Obamacare

As indicated above, one reason many Republicans are angry at Ted Cruz and his posse is that in pushing for changes in Obamacare that weren’t going to happen and in turn making the party resemble the keystone cops of early film days while trying to somehow look sensible, attention was paid to their intra-party squabbles and not to the initial roll out of the Obamacare website, which turned out to be the Democrats’ own version of the Keystone cops.

Here is my take on Obamacare.   It has barely begun to be rolled out and it is not going away, so let’s just wait and see how it plays out.   When Republicans argue that it is a disaster and a majority of Americans agree, keep in mind that the right has called it a disaster from the beginning, even when it was little more than an elaborate idea.  Since most Americans, including me, know little about it, if they feel it is a disaster it is because the Republican message has been more effective than that of the Democrats.   A part of that success is because negative advertising is more effective than positive, which is why campaigns are largely made up of the former.

In man-in-the-street interviews, when asked if they prefer Obamacare to the Affordable Care Act, most people state the latter, while oblivious to the fact they are the same thing.  In terms of brands, Obamacare doesn’t look good right now.  But it is not going away anytime soon, so let’s see what happens between now and the mid-term elections in 2014.

If Obamacare really is the train wreck portrayed by the Republicans, they should come to dominate both houses of Congress, that is if they haven’t torn apart the party by then.

John Boehner: You Have the Keys to the Car. When will you drive it?

Maybe John Boehner can’t be counted upon to do the sane thing after all.   Especially as some other Republican voices are saying the default could be managed, paying off the most important things while delaying others.   They act like this is a very simple matter that can be controlled once let loose.

John Boehner - Caricature

John Boehner – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

In my previous post I praised Boehner for telling Republican colleagues that he would not allow a default of federal debt Oct 17, i. e. he would not hold that possibility as a bargaining chip.  He would not risk bouncing the world’s economy around like a basketball.

Apparently he has changed his mind. Since my post he has indicated there must be negotiations for such a bill to pass.   He now says a “clean” bill (one with no strings attached like defunding Obamacare)  to raise the debt ceiling would not have the votes to pass in the House.   However, many observers disagree with that assessment.   Around 20 Republican Representatives have said they would sign such a bill to prevent default and they, along with all 200 or so Democrats, would reach a majority of 218.

When I last wrote it seemed Boehner would use the government shutdown as his bargaining chip, while sparing the world’s nerves about the debt, but It seems he has changed his mind.   He seems to think he needs all of his chips to get some sort of face saving deal for the Republicans.   They were stuck in a corner by Senator Tom Cruz and 30 or 40 members of the House who insisted on linking both a Continuing Resolution to extend the budget and the raising of the debt ceiling to defunding and/or delaying Obamacare.

Even though many Republicans, including the 20 or so Representatives indicated above, are angry with Cruz and frustrated by his dead-end strategy, they are trying to get some sort of concessions so save face, essentially broadening their stand beyond Obamacare to their key identity issue of reducing government spending and size.

In the process they are making many empty accusations about the Democrats’ unwillingness to negotiate despite the fact that Republicans have refused for months to negotiate on these issues through what once was a normal process of appointing conferees from both houses to work out a deal between their two separate budgets.

Boehner now keeps talking about their willingness to have a conversation, but the President won’t, as if there is time now to have much of a conversation about anything of substance.   And the House has come up with several pieces of the Budget they are willing to pass individually, heart string pullers, like cancer trials for children, a disgusting attempt to make the Democrats seems heartless, as if there are not many others suffering due to this shut down, but not quite as high profile.

Underlying this struggle are memories of the last big battle over raising the debt ceiling months ago which led to the sequester which has been a victory for the anti-spending Republicans but now seems modest after Cruz and company have aimed for so much more.

I still believe that Boehner will not allow a default of federal debt and he does have the power to call a vote in the House on a clean resolution to raise the debt ceiling.  Just as he does on a  vote on a clean continuing resolution to extend the budget and “re-open” government, if he was willing to bring that to the floor,   He has the keys to the car.  The question is if and when he will drive it.

To me, that makes him the most powerful man in the world for now and maybe he likes the adrenalin rush.

Here’s what I think will happen.   One way or another bills will be passed to both extend the budget and raise the debt ceiling, but for short periods, even a few weeks perhaps, that will leave us mired in this struggle.

The can will continually be kicked down the road.  Quite likely at least to the 2014 mid-term elections.