Posts Tagged ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’

Can you say "Delusional"?

Can you say “Delusional”?

Yes, we know we sound like a cracked record. We keep blathering on about the fact that the GOP is living in cloud cuckoo land.

But as far as we are concerned, the collapse of one half of America’s political system into internal civil war, the result of which is holding the whole of Congress and government to ransom, not to mention costing a small fortune and throwing innumerable people out of work, is genuinely worrying.

Here’s another example. Two of the most senior Republicans talking utter, patent nonsense to each other, caught on a so-called “Hot mic”. Rachel Maddow’s comments on the incident are a short, telling, and utterly required read.

You can either watch this very revealing video over at Rachel Maddow’s site, or here.

And before someone says, “What’s it got to do with Australia?” the simple answer is “If the Americans don’t get back to governing themselves, and especially if they don’t agree a new debt ceiling and damned fast, they may default on their borrowing and usher in a Global Financial Crisis that would make the last one look like a bloody tea party.” Pun intended.

The only good that will come of all this nonsense is that as the weeks and months pass, it will become increasingly clear to Americans both that Obamacare is actually a great reform – flawed, but a huge step forward – and at the same time that the Republicans are really going slightly barmy, refusing to accept a bill that was been freely passed three years ago, the implementation of which an election was (emphatically) won on, and which the Supreme Court (packed with Conservatives, by the way) has said is legal.

These factors combined may clean the worst of the right wing loonies out of the GOP, starting with the mid-terms in 2014.

Let’s just hope we still have a world economy by then.

He's a little confused, poor dear.

He’s a little confused, poor dear.

The government shutdown debate used to be about something specific: Linking the government’s funding to Obamacare’s defunding. Now it’s about something else. But what?

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., [told the Washington Examiner].

“We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

And I don’t know what that even is.

On the one hand, you could say it’s just a throwaway line. Representatives say empty, tired things every day. But quotes have a life of their own, and this one is already being hailed online as the perfect embodiment of the GOP’s bargaining position: equal parts resolution and deep confusion.

Forty-eight hours into the shutdown negotiations, one Republican stalwart’s official position is that he no longer has any idea what he’s negotiating for.

The disrespect sentiment echoes vintage Newt Gingrich, who famously bragged in 1995 to have shut down the government partly because President Clinton forced him to sit in the back of Air Force One on a trip to Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral. “It’s petty,” Gingrich said then, “but I think it’s human.”

Thursday is day three of the shutdown. Something will end the stalemate.

Who knows what that even is.

(From The Atlantic)

micheleAs noted by Talking Points Memo, last weekend Michelle Bachmann unwittingly revealed exactly what’s wrong with the GOP’s approach to negotiation with the President and the Democrats, how ruthless the Republicans really are, and how they are prepared to put their personal political agenda ahead of the country’s needs – even to the point of shutting down Government, at huge cost – personal and financial – to many of the American people.

Here’s what the genuinely awful Bachmann said to the Washington Examiner, explaining why she and other far-right Conservatives do not fear a Government shutdown. The bottom line is: They think this is their chance to stop “Obamacare”.

“There is a very large group of us who believe that this is it, this isn’t just another year, this isn’t just another CR fight,” Bachmann told the Examiner’s Byron York. “This is historic, and it’s a historic shift that’s about to happen, and if we’re going to fight, we need to fight now.”

“This isn’t just another bill,” Bachmann said. “This isn’t load limits on turnip trucks that we’re talking about. This is consequential. And I think the reason why you’ve come to this flash point is that this is an extremely consequential bill that will impact every American, and that’s why you have such passionate opinions. And we’re not giving up and we’re not caving in that easily.”

Bachmann also – in her terms – dismissed concerns about congressional brinksmanship, which some contend has a negative effect on the U.S. economy.

“I don’t get upset about brinksmanship,” she said. “That’s what negotiation is. I was a federal tax lawyer. That’s all I did – negotiation. And in negotiation, you usually don’t get anywhere until the final five minutes, and then everybody realises OK, we’re going to have to break and actually make this thing happen. That’s how negotiation works.”

Well, Wellthisiswhatithink has a message for Bachmann. That is not what negotiation is about, nor how it works well.

That’s called “oppositional disorder”. And if that’s what you learned as a lawyer, well, it’s just one more testament to the sick state of the American legal system. Of course, you did work for the IRS, so renowned for understanding the other side’s point of view in any dispute.

Anyhow: you are opining that you refuse to concede anything until the very last moment. Yet even then, there is no overt commitment that your side will be making concessions, too. That’s why this style of negotiation is called “Win-Lose” – for this negotiation to work, you are essentially saying, then “you”, my opponent, have to give in, and I have to win. That’s only one type of negotiation, Congresswoman, and it’s a pretty poor one.

That level of aggression in negotiations characterises people who do not really care about compromise, who don’t much care about the consequences of their own actions, and are prepared to push the point so far that they may end up walking away rather than concede anything.

It’s macho negotiating – old fashioned, full of bull**** posturing and usually limited to what Americans charmingly (and accurately) describe as “dick swinging exercises”.

How sad it is that a certain type of woman in politics seems particularly enthusiastic to engage in such nonsense … they seem determined to outdo the men in their obduracy. Bachmann, Palin, Thatcher, Gandhi, Bandaranaike. The list is unedifying, and it usually ends in tears. As opposed, say, to the example set by women like Golda Meir or Aung San Suu Kyi, who both combined genuine toughness of resolve and political skill without any apparent need to ape the worst excesses of testosterone fuelled nonsense from their male colleagues.

(Indeed, and notably, when millions of Arabs departed the newly formed State of Israel in 1948, Meir memorably called the exodus “a disaster”. What a difference to the current Israeli leadership.)

Anyway, a Win-Lose strategy, also known as distributive bargaining, is based on an attempt to divide up an amount of resources, resulting in a win-lose situation. When choosing this strategy, one always takes on an adversarial or competitive view. The focus is on achieving immediate goals, with little or no regard for building future relationships. Little time or energy is needed in resolving conflicts using a win-lose strategy, because few if any creative solutions are considered.

Bachmann and her Tea Party colleagues are crossing their fingers and hoping they don't wear the blame if Government gets shut down. In our estimation, they're wrong.

Bachmann and her Tea Party colleagues are crossing their fingers and hoping they don’t wear the blame if Government gets shut down. In our estimation, they’re very wrong.

Generally, one or two fixed solutions are presented and a decision or choice is expected almost immediately.

Some negotiators that employ the win-lose strategy engage in manipulative tactics to trick or force the other party into a decision. In this regard, Rachel Maddow’s argument that the Republicans have been set on this course for more than five months is instructive.

This strategy is only ever of any use in situations where achieving short-term goals is more important than maintaining or building a long-term relationship. Think about it this way. If one member of a couple was using this strategy to decide what to watch on TV, one of them would more than likely say something like, “This is the movie I want to see. Take it or leave it.” There would be no real discussion about the wants and interests of both parties. The resolution would be reached either by diktat or after some fierce arguing. Good luck resolving the next discussion happily.

A Win-Win strategy on the other hand – this strategy is also known as integrative bargaining by the way – focuses on both parties achieving their primary objectives without either feeling they lost. Prior to going into a negotiation you must choose if this is the strategy you want to take on. The goal is to collaborate and generate one or more creative solutions that are acceptable to both parties. This strategy takes more time and effort to prepare for, but allows you to continue on a long-term relationship with the other party long after the negotiation is over.

The problem for America, and for the Republicans, is that because the Republican base has move markedly towards the extreme right, they cannot start to construct such a strategy with POTUS, the Executive, and the Democrats because they essentially refuse to countenance the basic tenet of the Affordable Care act, which is that all Americans should have, as a basic legal right, access to affordable healthcare.

A more logical (and centrist) position for the Republicans to hold (unless they think shutting down Government is going to do them good in the 2014 elections, in which case, good luck to them and goodbye) would be something along the lines of:

“Well, Mr President, it’s been a long road, and we wouldn’t have done this ourselves, but we respect the fact that you won the election fair and square, and in the richest country in the world we agree it’s time we did something to bring everyone into the healthcare fold. But we think “Obamacare” as it’s currently constituted is overly complicated, it has made some people who can’t afford it losers not winners, and small business has genuine concerns about the effect on employment. We know you’re determined to go ahead with the change, so we’ll fund it so long as you give more businesses than you have at the moment a year’s delay, and you also give us a real chance to make valuable amendments in the next six months. It’s going to be nitty-gritty line by line stuff, but we promise we won’t try and gut the bill, and we’ll say so publicly.”

That’s what they would say if they were genuinely negotiating. But they haven’t. And in our estimation they aren’t negotiating in good faith, and they won’t. And in refusing to do so, we strongly suspect they are signing their own political suicide note. Because there is also what’s known as a Lose-Lose negotiation, of course, Ms Bachmann: and that’s when the negotiation founders almost immediately because of a total lack of willpower on both sides, and no one wins really anything.

If America goes into shutdown, the GOP will be castigated for precipitating an avoidable budget crisis by a public that is undoubtedly uncertain about Obamacare, but in repeated polls seem to also be saying “We’ll give it a go, we’ve come this far, we need to work out what it means for us personally, before we make a final call.”

In failing to recognise that, the Republican Party is showing once again that it has apparently irrevocably lost its political antennae. Thoroughly lost its way. And as such, it is in danger of losing all relevance to all except the most right wing Americans when they oppose with such implacable illogic a reform which is clearly designed to help those least able to protect their own interests, even if the legislation is flawed.

You heard it here first.

Note: Michelle Bachmann has announced she is not running for Congress in 2014. So it’s no skin off her nose if the whole thing turns to s***.

poor childI reproduce this article by Emily Hulsey word for word from the Independent Journal Review in order to show categorically that Wellthisiswhatithink is not rabidly one-eyed as regards Obamacare, and also because we believe we do our readers no service by ignoring issues when they arise just because they’re showing the side of politics we support in a poor light. Someone in the President’s office needs to answer this concern directly, Democrats must hold the executive to account, and lawmakers from both sides owe it to working people to correct the mistake promptly. There are things in the article I dislike – Obamacare is not a “terror”, that’s a nonsense. But the substantive point needs answering, and fast.

Article begins:

“family glitch” in the Affordable Care Act could cost families thousands of dollars and leave as many as 500,000 children without health insurance.

This problem is due to the way the health care law was written. The law requires that employers provide “affordable” health care to their employees; it defines affordable as “9.5% or less of an employee’s household income.” However, it does not require that employers provide “affordable” care to their employees’ families. The results are terrifying:

That can make a huge difference; the Kaiser Family Foundation said an average plan for an individual is about $5,600, but it goes up to $15,700 for families. Most employers help out with those costs, but not all.

Unlike part-time or unemployed workers, those who are offered “affordable” insurance by their employers but choose to order from the health care exchanges will not receive any government subsidies to help with the costs.

“We saw this two-and-a-half years ago and thought, ‘Has anyone else noticed this?’” said Kosali Simon, a professor of public affairs at Indiana University who specializes in health economics. “Everyone said, ‘No, no. You must be wrong.’ But we weren’t, and that’s going to leave a lot of people out.”

Thousands of people are going to be in a Catch-22 when it comes to buying insurance for their spouses and kids. Their only options will be to pay astronomically high prices through their employer or to pay astronomically high prices through the government exchanges. Many parents will simply not be able to afford it. As a result, up to 500,000 children who don’t qualify for government assistance could go without healthcare.

Here is an example of what could happen:

1. Single mom Jane works full-time for ABC Corporation. Her employer is complying with the new insurance changes required by Obamacare.

2. Jane is told that her employer will be switching health insurance plans in January. She learns that her premiums will be about the same as they have been – about 9% of her total income. However, the premiums for her children are expected to double.

3. Now unable to afford coverage for her children under her employer’s insurance, Jane decides to shop through her state health care exchange, only to learn that those prices are even higher. She uses the exchange’s subsidy calculator, but it informs her that she doesn’t qualify for any government help since ABC Corporation offers coverage to its employees.

4. Jane realizes that she has no way to provide health insurance to her kids. She makes too much, in the government’s eyes, to qualify for Medicaid or CHIP. She cannot afford the premiums offered by her employer, and she cannot afford individual plans without qualifying for a subsidy.

This is a “glitch” in the law, and it is fixable. All Congress has to do is change the language of the healthcare law in one of two ways:

  • Require employers to provide “affordable” insurance to employees and their families, not just employees, OR
  • Require the government to offer subsidies to dependent family members who do not have access to “affordable” healthcare through an employer.

If the law is not fixed by the time the employer mandate rolls out (and let’s not kid ourselves here), thousands of families will have zero access to affordable health insurance for their spouses and children. This glitch is just another casualty of the terror that is Obamacare, but it is an especially painful one.

When I was in school, our teachers drilled into our head the mantra, “Always double-check your work.” The lawmakers who supported the Affordable Care Act failed to double-check the work. It was written in haste and carelessly passed into law.

The Democrats put party lines and political carelessness ahead of their commitment to pass laws that will help, not hinder, their constituents. Now the American people – children – are the ones who will pay for their irresponsibility.

It is always a matter of amazement to many that in the richest country in the world, so many live in grinding poverty, and many of those people are in work. Yet every move to raise the minimum wage for workers is met with howls of protest. (And not just in America: the syndrome is repeated everywhere.) But this pic illustrates how the public in America misunderstand what’s really at stake, as opposed to the populist bias against low paid workers.

Makes one think. no?

Makes one think. no?

In a general sense, it has always fascinated me how every rise in the standards for the poorest working people is invariably met with two canards from the politico-business community … “People will lose their jobs, employers wont be able to afford it!” and “the market should decide!”

Lloyd George and Churchill, then allies in the Liberal Party, shared a reforming zeal.

Lloyd George and Churchill, then allies in the Liberal Party, shared a reforming zeal.

Those were exactly the cries when David Lloyd George introduced the People’s Budget in the UK over a hundred years ago, and again when the UK brought in National Insurance … and you hear the same waffle today about Obamacare – not from those who will benefit, of course, but from those to whom it doesn’t matter, directed against those for whom it desperately does.

But time and again, when working people DO make an advance, people aren’t thrown out of work, businesses somehow keep making mega bucks, and we also know that left to its own devices the market invariably acts as if workers have no real rights or needs at all.

I think we need to seize back these debates in our own homes, around our own dinner tables, and with our friends and neighbours and work colleagues. In short, it’s time we recovered our decency.

We seem somehow to have lost, more’s the pity, the simple idea that it is the legitimate role of the state – acting collectively on our behalf – to support and empower the least powerful in our community, not with hand outs, but with hand ups. So they may look after their own, and so they may make a full-hearted contribution to our society and our economy. The most important hand up you can give anyone is a job, with a reasonable living wage.

I grew up as a member of the working poor, albeit in a nice neighbourhood of a genteel seaside town.

My father died when I was 2. Mum had little or no money put by, and worked long hours to ensure we had everything we needed. My older (adult) brother, who had fallen on his feet, topped up our household income, or we would have been in dire straights indeed.

From the age of 14, I never had a school holiday when I didn’t work. I wasn’t working for pocket money. I was working to make a genuine contribution to our household income. I was a part-time wage earner: my age was irrelevant.

Never asked for charity, nor yet social security. Just wanted a decent days pay for a decent day's work. When did we give up on that principle?

Never asked for charity, nor yet social security. Just wanted a decent day’s pay for a decent day’s work. When did we give up on that principle?

I delivered papers, got up at 4 am and worked as a relief postman, made what must have added up to millions of cups of tea in beach cafes, sold ice-creams in a booth that was five feet by six feet in which I worked an eight hour day sometimes in blistering heat, then changed my togs and toted baskets of prawns and cockles around pubs late at night, worked as a sous-chef (including on Christmas Day), and so on.

I never took one penny of social security money.

But then, as today, I was grateful for legislation that guaranteed that I was not working for slave wages, and for trade unions who loomed in the background like avenging angels, the very mention of which would ensure management would not seek to “put one over on us”.

And assuredly, sometimes those unions went too far, or were needlessly obstructive. But many times a local union rep was a decent fellow who had a fair working relationship with the local boss, and they would work things through in a good natured way, and those with no stake beyond their labour were thus de-marginalised, brought into the process, and consulted.

My mother proudly noted that we never took a cent from any other member of the family other than my brother, and there were plenty of Uncles who could have chucked in a few bob and never noticed.

“Everything you’ve got, we paid for.” she would say, with a steely glint in her eye. “Never forget, Son, love them all you want, like I do, but you owe them nothing.”

Concern about low pay led to an unprecedented call for fast food workers in the USA to strike on August 29

Concern about low pay led to an unprecedented call for fast food workers in the USA to strike on August 29

It was that sort of home. Even then, as a die-hard lifelong Conservative, she was nevertheless deeply grateful for the representation she received at work from her Union, believing that she paid her dues uncomplainingly and deserved good representation.

As right-wing as they came, she simply didn’t trust employers to do the right thing spontaneously out of the goodness of their hearts: my Mum was nothing if not a realist.

When Friedmanite economics and the new Right (backed by the new Left, who should have known better) swept away many of these protections – when we were all, suddenly, free market capitalists – we may well have made the world more efficient. But we also made it colder, and less humane. We lost something of ourselves.

We lost our decency. Collectively. And we should all stand up and say so.

Over 100 years ago, when he introduced the People’s Budget in 1909, Lloyd George said:

“This is a war Budget. It is for raising money to wage implacable warfare against poverty and squalidness. I cannot help hoping and believing that before this generation has passed away, we shall have advanced a great step towards that good time, when poverty, and the wretchedness and human degradation which always follows in its camp, will be as remote to the people of this country as the wolves which once infested its forests”.

As we schlep wearily into the last ten days of a general election campaign in Australia between two essentially identical right wing parties, that’s the type of stuff I want to hear from my political leaders, and leaders around the world.

Whatever happened to waging “implacable warfare against poverty and squalidness”, huh?

If you want to know what it’s like for a working adult male to try and live on or just above the minimum wage in America, click this link. Oh, and by the way? McDonalds made over $5.5 billion last year.

With all due respect, it's President Obama, not King Barack, Sir.

With all due respect, it’s President Obama, not King Barack, Sir.

Ridiculously hyperbolic headline? We think not.

This fascinating Wall Street Journal article – riveting, for democrats everywhere – by a leading American jurist – again points out the worrying trend in Obama’s thinking that he is the ultimate arbiter of the law, which is discardable when it interrupts his policy agenda.

This is just the latest in a long series of over-steppings: the asserted right to kill American citizens without trial when they are engaged in terrorist activity (allegedly), the continued incarceration of detainees in Guantanamo who have been cleared of any wrongdoing, (let alone the fact it js still open anyway), the public crucifixion of Bradley Manning, the current confected fury over Edward Snowden, and the more mundane examples quoted in the article.

This latest move by Obama will neither upset left or right – the left will see it as a minor issue, the right will laud the relief to business – but as the article so appositely argues, if it is allowed to go unchallenged, it sets an appalling precedent.

In short,the message is “America: wake up”.

The slide to autocracy, by no means limited to Obama, (illegal invasion of Iraq resulting in 500,000 dead, anyone?), but certainly continued by him, carries on unchecked. This might seem a trivial matter in itself, but its implications are not.

I am an avowed Obama supporter, but equally, I feel that uncritical support is essentially un-democratic. Little d, and big D.


President Obama’s decision last week to suspend the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act may be welcome relief to businesses affected by this provision, but it raises grave concerns about his understanding of the role of the executive in our system of government.

Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution states that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This is a duty, not a discretionary power. While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.

This matter—the limits of executive power—has deep historical roots. During the period of royal absolutism, English monarchs asserted a right to dispense with parliamentary statutes they disliked. King James II’s use of the prerogative was a key grievance that lead to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The very first provision of the English Bill of Rights of 1689—the most important precursor to the U.S. Constitution—declared that “the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal.”

To make sure that American presidents could not resurrect a similar prerogative, the Framers of the Constitution made the faithful enforcement of the law a constitutional duty.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the president on legal and constitutional issues, has repeatedly opined that the president may decline to enforce laws he believes are unconstitutional. But these opinions have always insisted that the president has no authority, as one such memo put it in 1990, to “refuse to enforce a statute he opposes for policy reasons.”

Attorneys general under Presidents Carter, Reagan, both Bushes and Clinton all agreed on this point. With the exception of Richard Nixon, whose refusals to spend money appropriated by Congress were struck down by the courts, no prior president has claimed the power to negate a law that is concededly constitutional.

In 1998, the Supreme Court struck down a congressional grant of line-item veto authority to the president to cancel spending items in appropriations. The reason? The only constitutional power the president has to suspend or repeal statutes is to veto a bill or propose new legislation. Writing for the court in Clinton v. City of New York, Justice John Paul Stevens noted: “There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes.”

The employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act contains no provision allowing the president to suspend, delay or repeal it. Section 1513(d) states in no uncertain terms that “The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.” Imagine the outcry if Mitt Romney had been elected president and simply refused to enforce the whole of ObamaCare.

This is not the first time Mr. Obama has suspended the operation of statutes by executive decree, but it is the most barefaced. In June of last year, for example, the administration stopped initiating deportation proceedings against some 800,000 illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16, lived here at least five years, and met a variety of other criteria. This was after Congress refused to enact the Dream Act, which would have allowed these individuals to stay in accordance with these conditions. Earlier in 2012, the president effectively replaced congressional requirements governing state compliance under the No Child Left Behind Act with new ones crafted by his administration.

The president defended his suspension of the immigration laws as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. He defended his amending of No Child Left Behind as an exercise of authority in the statute to waive certain requirements. The administration has yet to offer a legal justification for last week’s suspension of the employer mandate.

Republican opponents of ObamaCare might say that the suspension of the employer mandate is such good policy that there’s no need to worry about constitutionality. But if the president can dispense with laws, and parts of laws, when he disagrees with them, the implications for constitutional government are dire.

Democrats too may acquiesce in Mr. Obama’s action, as they have his other aggressive assertions of executive power. Yet what will they say when a Republican president decides that the tax rate on capital gains is a drag on economic growth and instructs the IRS not to enforce it?
And what of immigration reform? Why bother debating the details of a compromise if future presidents will feel free to disregard those parts of the statute that they don’t like?

The courts cannot be counted on to intervene in cases like this. As the Supreme Court recently held in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the same-sex marriage case involving California’s Proposition 8, private citizens do not have standing in court to challenge the executive’s refusal to enforce laws, unless they have a personal stake in the matter.

If a president declines to enforce tax laws, immigration laws, or restrictions on spending—to name a few plausible examples—it is very likely that no one will have standing to sue.

Of all the stretches of executive power Americans have seen in the past few years, the president’s unilateral suspension of statutes may have the most disturbing long-term effects. As the Supreme Court said long ago (Kendall v. United States, 1838), allowing the president to refuse to enforce statutes passed by Congress “would be clothing the president with a power to control the legislation of congress, and paralyze the administration of justice.”

Mr. McConnell, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, is a professor of law and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.