The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

How the owners of a society play with their property | William Blum

Something important to note:

The Supreme Court of the United States has just upheld the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Liberals as well as many progressives are very pleased, regarding this as a victory for the left.

Under the new law, people can benefit in one way or another depending on the following factors:

Their age; whether their income is at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level; whether their parents have a health plan; whether they use tobacco; what state they live in; whether they have a pre-existing medical condition; whether they qualify to buy health insurance through newly-created market places known as “exchanges”; and numerous other criteria … They can obtain medical insurance in a “competitive insurance market” (emphasis on the “competitive”); they can perhaps qualify for various other kinds of credits and tax relief if they meet certain criteria … The authors of the Act state that it will save thousands of dollars in drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries by closing a coverage gap called the “donut hole” … They tell us that “It keeps insurance companies honest by setting clear rules that rein in the worst insurance industry abuses.”

That’s a sample of how health care looks in the United States of America in the 21st century, with a complexity that will keep a small army of lawyers busy for years to come. Ninety miles away, in the Republic of Cuba, it looks a bit different. If you feel sick you go to a doctor. You’re automatically qualified to receive any medical care that’s available and thought to be suitable. The doctor treats you to the best of his or her ability. The insurance companies play no role. There are no insurance companies. You don’t pay anything. You go home.

The Affordable Care Act will undoubtedly serve as a disincentive to the movement for single-payer national health insurance, setting the movement back for years. The Affordable Care Act was undoubtedly designed for that purpose.

And lest you think Blum doth protest too much, let me draw your attention to this snippet from former Cigna Executive and whistleblower Wendell Potter:

I was still head of corporate communications and a member of the public policy team at Cigna when [former Aetna CEO, Ron] Williams began speaking out about the need for an individual mandate. Many in the industry, including my former CEO, Ed Hanway, were initially skeptical, so Williams set out to convince them he was right. He argued that if Democrats took control of both Congress and the White House, which was looking increasingly likely, they would set their sights on the insurance industry. They most certainly would attempt to ban many of the industry-wide practices that enabled insurers to be so profitable, such as refusing to sell coverage to people with preexisting conditions. If that were to happen, the best way to guarantee that insurers wouldn’t be saddled with just the sickest Americans would be to get the Democrats to agree to a requirement that everybody, including the youngest and healthiest among us, buy private coverage if they weren’t eligible for a public program like Medicare or Medicaid. The government would also have to agree to tax credits or subsidies to help low- and moderate income Americans pay their premiums.

Before long, the CEOs of the other big insurers were indeed on board. They came to realize that if Democrats would agree to an enforceable mandate and premium subsidies, their companies would be getting billions of dollars in new revenue every year — forever.

“Victory”.

(Source: theamericanbear)

How the owners of a society play with their property | William Blum

Something important to note:

The Supreme Court of the United States has just upheld the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act. Liberals as well as many progressives are very pleased, regarding this as a victory for the left.

Under the new law, people can benefit in one way or another depending on the following factors:

Their age; whether their income is at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level; whether their parents have a health plan; whether they use tobacco; what state they live in; whether they have a pre-existing medical condition; whether they qualify to buy health insurance through newly-created market places known as “exchanges”; and numerous other criteria … They can obtain medical insurance in a “competitive insurance market” (emphasis on the “competitive”); they can perhaps qualify for various other kinds of credits and tax relief if they meet certain criteria … The authors of the Act state that it will save thousands of dollars in drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries by closing a coverage gap called the “donut hole” … They tell us that “It keeps insurance companies honest by setting clear rules that rein in the worst insurance industry abuses.”

That’s a sample of how health care looks in the United States of America in the 21st century, with a complexity that will keep a small army of lawyers busy for years to come. Ninety miles away, in the Republic of Cuba, it looks a bit different. If you feel sick you go to a doctor. You’re automatically qualified to receive any medical care that’s available and thought to be suitable. The doctor treats you to the best of his or her ability. The insurance companies play no role. There are no insurance companies. You don’t pay anything. You go home.

The Affordable Care Act will undoubtedly serve as a disincentive to the movement for single-payer national health insurance, setting the movement back for years. The Affordable Care Act was undoubtedly designed for that purpose.

And lest you think Blum doth protest too much, let me draw your attention to this snippet from former Cigna Executive and whistleblower Wendell Potter:

I was still head of corporate communications and a member of the public policy team at Cigna when [former Aetna CEO, Ron] Williams began speaking out about the need for an individual mandate. Many in the industry, including my former CEO, Ed Hanway, were initially skeptical, so Williams set out to convince them he was right. He argued that if Democrats took control of both Congress and the White House, which was looking increasingly likely, they would set their sights on the insurance industry. They most certainly would attempt to ban many of the industry-wide practices that enabled insurers to be so profitable, such as refusing to sell coverage to people with preexisting conditions. If that were to happen, the best way to guarantee that insurers wouldn’t be saddled with just the sickest Americans would be to get the Democrats to agree to a requirement that everybody, including the youngest and healthiest among us, buy private coverage if they weren’t eligible for a public program like Medicare or Medicaid. The government would also have to agree to tax credits or subsidies to help low- and moderate income Americans pay their premiums.

Before long, the CEOs of the other big insurers were indeed on board. They came to realize that if Democrats would agree to an enforceable mandate and premium subsidies, their companies would be getting billions of dollars in new revenue every year — forever.

"Victory".

That [some people benefit from a law] cannot ever be the standard for judgment. The standard must focus on the primary or major effect of the legislation: on what lies at the heart of the bill. What lies at the heart of the health ‘reform’ bill is a massive transfer of wealth from ‘ordinary’ Americans to an already hugely wealthy and powerful insurance industry via the mandate system, which is made still worse by being a subsidized mandate system (which means that taxpayers are robbed at gunpoint twice). As a result, the legislation in its totality is, right, a piece of shit.

About Helping “Some” People

I post this with the full knowledge that the court was not the place to win this battle, but let’s be honest about what the ACA actually accomplishes. For some people.

America’s past is full of laws that help “some”, but not all, of its citizens. Enough. We have to keep pushing for single-payer healthcare for everyone, even if it means at the state level. Vermont did it - with bipartisan support - through their state legislature. Wherever it can happen, we need to push. The ACA corporate give-away is not a “win”, but a really shitty step towards (maybe backwards) from a humane healthcare system.

Or tell me to be a “realist”.

[The] longer one clings to the preferred story, the stupider one becomes. This is why the truth or falsity of the stories we tell is so critical, and why our methodology matters so much. If a story that is central to our view of ourselves fails to comport with the facts, and if we refuse to give up or even question the story, this necessitates that we block ourselves off from more and more information that might “undermine” that story … Rather than eagerly seeking out further facts and trying to find out if a given story remains accurate or needs to be significantly revised (and sometimes even jettisoned altogether), we will lower our heads, narrow the scope of our inquiry, and progressively restrict the kind of data we permit ourselves to examine and even acknowledge. As time goes on, our intellectual curiosity steadily decreases. We won’t want certain facts and information, because we might have to wonder whether particular cherished beliefs are correct.

Choosing Blindness and Stupidity, and About Helping “Some” People

In those cases where the preexisting and preferred narrative is crucial to a person’s sense of self-worth (and often, when it is critical to their livelihood), it is close to impossible that a fundamental reassessment of that narrative will be permitted or seriously considered. The only direction psychologically is steadily downward: the frame of reference constantly diminishes, and the person becomes less and less able to address any issue accurately and truthfully. Neither “side” has a monopoly on this fundamental failure — and even though both conservatives and liberals furiously deny that they act in this manner, their own commentary and behavior reveals the truth on a daily basis.

Constitutional law | Reclusive Leftist

I’m discovering now that some left-wing bloggers don’t understand the Court’s job in a case like the Affordable Care Act. These bloggers believe that the ACA is bad policy; they would much rather have single-payer healthcare. I agree with them on that. However, these bloggers also seem to think that because the ACA is bad policy, it would have been better for the Court to strike it down. This is a profound misunderstanding of the Court’s role.

The job of the Supreme Court is not to determine whether laws are desirable or effective. The job of the Court is to rule on constitutionality. The Affordable Care Act was challenged as being unconstitutional: its opponents charged that Congress did not have the power under the Constitution to enact the legislation. The only way the Court could strike down the ACA was by finding it unconstitutional.

The Affordable Care Act is not unconstitutional. The legal challenges to it consisted of right-wing intellectual garbage largely cooked up in the past few years explicitly to oppose Obamacare. In contrast, the Administration’s triple arguments for constitutionality (under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Taxing Clause) all fit comfortably within longstanding jurisprudence. There’s a reason that legal scholars could see no constitutional problem with the ACA when it was passed; there wasn’t any. (I again urge everyone to read Justice Ginsburg’s concurrence, which is a model of clarity on the legal issues and reasoning involved.)

… If you dislike the Affordable Care Act, the answer is to work towards a better legislative solution. The answer is not to have the law struck down for partisan reasons by an unprincipled renegade Court acting on nothing but its own political sympathies.

SCOTUS Blog's Amy Howe Explains Ruling in Plain English

cheatsheet:

Take a breath and read this slowly. It helped us.

In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.

(via quickhits)

It is extraordinary that “liberals,” “progressives,” “Democrats,” whatever they are, are defending a “health program” that uses public monies to pay private insurance companies and that raises the cost of health care. Americans have been brainwashed that “a single-payer system is unaffordable” because it is “socialized medicine.” Despite this propaganda, accepted by many Americans, European countries manage to afford single-payer systems. Health care is not a stress, a trauma, an unaffordable expense for European populations. Among the Western Civilized Nations, only the richest, the US, has no universal health care. The American health care system is the most expensive of all on earth. The reason for the extraordinary expense is the multiple of entities that must make profits. The private doctors must make profits. The private testing centers must make profits.The private specialists who receive the referrals from general practitioners must make profits. The private hospitals must make profits. The private insurance companies must make profits. The profits are a huge cost of health care. Paul Craig Roberts (via azspot)

(via azspot)

Our argument is that the individual mandate does not meet the goal of universality. When you attempt to use the individual mandate and expansion of Medicaid for coverage, only about half of the uninsured gain coverage. This is what we have seen in Massachusetts. We do, however, have systems in the United States that could meet the goal of universality. That would be either a Veterans Administration type system, which is a socialized system run by the government, or a Medicare type system, a single payer, publicly financed health care system. If the U.S. Congress had considered an evidence-based approach to health reform instead of writing a bill that funnels more wealth to insurance companies that deny and restrict care, it would have been a no-brainer to adopt a single payer health system much like our own Medicare. We are already spending enough on health care in this country to provide high-quality, universal, comprehensive, lifelong health care. All the data point to a single payer system as the only way to accomplish this and control health care costs. Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Plan

The Real Health Care Debate | Chris Hedges

The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in 2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages. It is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank bailout bill—some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone—for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.

But you would never know this by listening to the Democratic Party and the advocacy groups that purport to support universal health care but seem more intent on re-electing Obama. It is the very sad legacy of the liberal class that it proves in election cycle after election cycle that it espouses moral and political positions it will not pay a price to defend. And since we have no fight in us, since we will not punish politicians like Obama who betray our core beliefs, the corporate juggernaut rolls forward with its inexorable pace to cement into place our global neofeudalism. […]

[As] long as corporations determine policy, as long as they can use their money to determine who gets elected and what legislation gets passed, we remain hostages. It matters little in our corporate state that nearly two-thirds of the public wants single payer and that it is backed by 59 percent of doctors. Public debates on the Obama health care reform, controlled by corporate dollars, ruthlessly silence those who support single payer. The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Max Baucus, a politician who gets more than 80 percent of his campaign contributions from outside his home state of Montana, locked out of the Affordable Care Act hearing a number of public health care advocates including Dr. Flowers and Dr. Paris; the two physicians and six other activists were arrested and taken away. Baucus had invited 41 people to testify. None backed single payer. Those who testified included contributors who had given a total of more than $3 million to committee members for their political campaigns.

“It is not necessary to force Americans to buy private health insurance to achieve universal coverage,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. “There is a proven alternative that Congress didn’t seriously consider, and that alternative is a single payer national health insurance system. Congress could have taken seriously evidence presented by these single payer medical doctors that a single payer system is the only way to both control costs and cover everyone.”

The Supreme Court can legitimately return Obamacare?” asks a headline on the French news site 9 POK . The article slowly walks through the legal rationale behind the court’s right to wipe away Congress’s legislation. “Sans précédent, extraordinaires” reads the article. In the German edition of The Financial Times, Sabine Muscat is astonished at Justice Antonin Scalia’s argument that if the government can mandate insurance, it can also require people to eat broccoli. “Absurder Vergleich” reads the article’s kicker, which in English translates to, “Absurd Comparison.” In trying to defeat the bill, Muscat writes, Scalia is making a “strange analogy [to] vegetables. You guys, Europe is totally judging us right now. (via motherjones)

(via randomactsofchaos)

The Roberts Court Defines Itself

joshsternberg:

NYT Editorial showing some teeth. 

For anyone who still thought legal conservatives are dedicated to judicial restraint, the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the health care case should put that idea to rest. There has been no court less restrained in signaling its willingness to replace law made by Congress with law made by justices.

When Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy were selected by the Reagan administration, the goal was to choose judges who would be eager to undo liberal precedents. By the time John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. were selected in the second Bush administration, judicial “restraint” was no longer an aim among conservatives. They were chosen because their professional records showed that they would advance a political ideology that limits government and promotes market freedoms, with less regard to the general welfare.

The four moderates on the court have a leftish bent, but they see their role as stewards of the law, balancing the responsibility to enforce the Constitution through judicial review against the duty to show deference to the will of the political branches. In that respect, they and the conservatives seem to be following entirely different rules.

That difference is playing out in the health care case. Established precedents support broad authority for Congress to regulate national commerce, and the health care market is unquestionably national in scope. Yet to Justice Kennedy the mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance represents “a step beyond what our cases have allowed, the affirmative duty to act, to go into commerce.” To Justice Stephen Breyer, it’s clear that “if there are substantial effects on interstate commerce, Congress can act.”

Likewise, Justice Scalia’s willingness to delve into health care politics seems utterly alien to his moderate colleagues. On the question of what would happen if the mandate were struck down, Justice Scalia launched into a senatorial vote count: “You can’t repeal the rest of the act because you’re not going to get 60 votes in the Senate to repeal the rest.” Justice Breyer, by contrast, said firmly: “I would stay out of politics. That’s for Congress; not us.”

(Source: joshsternberg)

[The] fact that the conservative justices’ concerns are not supported by the text or doctrinal history of the Commerce Clause does not preclude five of them from using that clause as a vehicle to express and enforce their concerns. That is precisely what the Supreme Court did in the early twentieth century, when a conservative Court repeatedly invalidated progressive labor laws on Commerce Clause grounds, even though its actual objection was to any government regulation of the “free market” at all. But that path was a disaster, and was abandoned in the wake of the New Deal. Invalidating Obamacare would require nothing less than a revival of that long-rejected approach. David Cole

How ironic that Barack Obama’s health care agenda would be in a far stronger legal position had the president stuck by his earlier support of a public option. Clearly, our federal government has the judicially affirmed power under our Constitution to use public revenues to provide a needed public service, be it education, national security, retirement insurance or health care. Obama’s health care reform should have simply extended Medicare and Medicaid coverage to all who wanted and needed it—no individual mandate—while allowing others to opt out for private insurance coverage. That’s an obvious constitutional solution that even those die-hard Republican justices would have a difficult time overturning. Five Hypocrites and One Bad Idea | Robert Scheer

Partisan Confusion

My colleague, Margaret Flowers, asked two women carrying an Americans for Prosperity sign (a group opposed to Obama’s law) whether they were on Medicare. They said “yes.” “Do you like it?” Again, “yes.” “Do you know Medicare is a government program?” A confused look. “Do you know the Republicans want to end Medicare, make it into private insurance?” “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You probably support Obama”; and they started to walk away. “No, we oppose ObamaCare,” the women stopped and listened again, “We think everyone should have Medicare. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if every American could have the Medicare you have and like?” “Hmm, yes” then, more confusion in their faces.

Then, talking to the Democrats showed equal partisan confusion. I explained: “We oppose the Obama mandate because we want to end insurance control of health care. We support single payer, Medicare for all?” Response: “So do I.” I asked: “Single payer ends insurance, and Obama’s law entrenches insurance more deeply in control of health care, aren’t those opposites?” Response, obviously not understanding what ‘opposite’ means: “It’s a step in the right direction.” I ask: “How can it be a step in the right direction when it is going in the opposite direction?” No longer able to say it is the right direction, spouts another talking point: “This is the best we can get, we can build on this.” Me, trying to figure out what the Democrat thinks there is to build on, asks: “But, if we want to end insurance domination, how do we build on a law that is based on insurance?” Unable to explain it, the Democrat answers: “We can’t get what we want.” I say: “Of course, not, if people like you and organizations like yours who support single payer, spend their time advocating for the insurance industry, we can’t get what we want. But, if people who support single payer work for it we could.” Answer: “But, we have to re-elect President Obama.”

(Source: azspot)

As many of our greatest legal minds parse every word and gesture of the Justices in the ongoing Affordable Care Act-fest, we should pause to reflect what it says about our polity that (once again) nine unaccountable people in a room wield veto power over democratically-enacted legislation dealing with an issue of fundamental political and economic significance to our society. Our Platonic Guardians (via azspot)

(via azspot)