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By Tom Cushing

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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Playing Games

Uploaded: Oct 7, 2013
We have a few days left before the end of the world as we know it, so why not play a game? It'll be alMOST as much fun as being in the Congress. See if you can match the apocalyptic quotation with the speaker. Here we go:

1 -- "This bill opens the door and invites the entrance into the political field of a power so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants."

2 -- (The legislation) "will lead to deteriorating service. Washington bureaucrats will invade the privacy of the examination room. We are on the road to rationed care and that patients will lose the freedom to choose their own doctor."

3 -- "If (we) don't stop this legislation, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was like in America when men were free."

4 -- "?why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts and ration(s) of cigarettes and beer?"

5 -- "This is one of many attempts to Sovietize America."

a. Ted Cruz
b. John Boehner
c. Michelle Bachmann
d. Sarah Palin
e. Pat Robertson.

All done? Here's the thing: the first and last quotes were from Republican opponents of the original Social Security bill, in 1935 (James Wadsworth, Silas Hardy Strawn). The middle quotes were taken from the Medicare debates of the 1960s (Wall Street Journal, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater). Sorry. But in each case, the question might be asked of each GOP speaker: how'd all that doomsday rhetoric work out for you?

It's important to keep that hyperbole in mind when considering the immensely better financed, developed, focus group-tested, rehearsed and delivered lines of the current merry little band of ObamaCare opponents. A good rule of thumb is that if you hear an attractive word used prominently by more than one speaker, it's a plant by this well-planned and polished assault on the government (link).

The best current candidate: "a conversation" – how non-threatening, reasonable and collaborative does that sound? But as Mr. Gershwin taught my grand-daddy, also in the 1930s, some statements should be taken with a grain of salt, because "it ain't necessarily so." As in most things, better to focus on what folks actually DO, than on what they Say.

So, why have Republicans fought so hard, for so long, against programs that have vastly relieved old-age and disability suffering of so many fellow citizens, that work pretty well (indeed, Medicare is the only cost-based health-care in the country), and are hugely popular with just about everybody else? Why would they now spread such disinformation, and threaten to destroy the full-faith-and-credit of the entire nation in the hope of derailing one law?

Part of that answer lies in global, diametrically opposed viewpoints between conservatives and liberals about what government is, and should do. More about that later in the week. And more specifically, as Conservative columnist Ross Douthat puts it:

" ? what you're seeing motivating the House Intransigents today, what's driving their willingness to engage in probably-pointless brinkmanship, is not just anger at a specific Democratic administration, or opposition to a specific program, or disappointment over a single electoral defeat. Rather, it's a revolt against ? what many on the right see as forty years of failure, in which first Reagan and then Gingrich and now the Tea Party wave have all failed to deliver on the promise of an actual right-wing Answer to the big left-wing victories of the 1930s and 1960s — and now, with Obamacare, of Obama's first two years as well."

"? This time, no matter the risks and costs and polls, there are small-government conservatives who intend to dare — because only through a kind of wild daring, they believe, can the long-term, post-New Deal disadvantage that the cause of limited government labors under finally be overcome."

So it's a last stand against a law that Must be opposed, not because it's unpopular, but because, like its predecessors in the '30s and '60s, it will be embraced and built-upon, once it is implemented and understood. It's apparently a war they see as holy, and with a zealot's blind spot, one that they think they can either win, or accept martyrdom.

Unfortunately, we are All in this boat together, they are imperiling All of us, and I, for one have no desire to play That game. As Douthat concludes: "If this attitude sounds more like a foolish romanticism than a prudent, responsible, grounded-in-reality conservatism — well, yes, unfortunately I think it pretty clearly is."

Synopsis: GOP doomsayers inveighed against Social Security in the 1930s, Medicare in the '60s and now ObamaCare. The tiny House minority that is steering the ship-of-state of-all-of-us toward Niagara sees this as a do-or-die mission to reverse 80 years of progressive government. Unless you want that, GOP moderates, you'd better tell them, soon. They won't discover it on their own.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 7, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Tom Cushing is a registered user.

Gaah. The link marked "(link)" was not included. Here it is: Web Link A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning.

Sorry for the omission.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Tom says Medicare is wildly popular. Of course it is. The average retiree receives more than $100,000 in Medicare benefits than they put into the system. Who doesn?t like free stuff?

If you actually made people pay for the Medicare benefits they receive, would they still like it?

What happens when we run out of money and can no longer pay for Big Government programs?

Tom mocks the early GOP ?doomsayers.? But Tom?s victory is premature. We are headed for a fiscal Niagara Falls. At some point we will not be able to borrow $1 trillion per year to pay our bills. And it will get ugly.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm

S-P: I'll pretend that your comments address the current ill-conceived, thoroughly planned and carried-out, made-up crisis.

You can't just draw straight lines that intersect -- someday -- and declare the end of the world -- effective today. There are hundreds of factors that contribute to Medicare's costs, and many must be addressed. Nobody's denying that. The only denial is to legitimize the extortion tactic currently being pursued by the addled know-nothings of the extreme Right.

Doomsday was predicted by Malthus, and by various soothsayers before Social Security and before Medicare, and now before the ACA. Yet somehow, we're still here. It's disappointing, I guess. Human beings have ways of addressing and solving problems -- their common theme is that none of them involve extortion.

Posted by Dave Whather, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 7:32 am

Blame repub blame repub blame repubs blame repubs blame repubs blame repubs blame repubs blame repubs blame repubs blame repubs blame repubs blame repubs

Bammy good---bush bad. Bammy good...bush bad..Bammy good..bush bad Bammy good bush bad!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Matty, a resident of Blackhawk,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 8:34 am

Tom - Give me a break... The Lib side uses the opposite rhetoric in this debate with "words used prominently by more than one speaker" like "holding the country for ransom", "... hostage", "extortion"... etc. Like those inflammatory words are not also rehearsed talking points for the Dem minions, staffers, press/talk show shills, etc... You cannot seriously be that obtuse to deny that.

Meanwhile, the Senate/POTUS are being JUST AS OBSTRUCTIONIST as the GOP by not passing the numerous House funding bills proposed for all of the rest of the government affected by the Continuing Resolution minus the pieces/agencies that fund the ACA. The parks WOULD be open and other services WOULD be in place had the apparently blameless Dems done so....oh but they get such praise for digging THEIR heels in the dirt... so righteous... puhlease!!!

De-funding Exec Orders, statutes, laws by the 'power of the purse' in the House (especially) is a legal and often used defense against the majority party in power(BOTH PARTIES!!).

While the non-discretionary (Medicare, Exchanges, etc) funds are locked in (another minion talking point shoved down everyone's gullet), there is a LARGE chunk of the ACA's funding implementation across numerous agencies that is still in the hands of Congress...which starts in the House. Assuming this renowned source (New England Journal of Medicine) is accurate, "The ACA contains 64 specific authorizations to spend up to $105.6 billion and 51 general authorizations to spend 'such sums as are necessary' over the period between 2010 and 2019. None of these funds will flow, however, unless Congress ENACTS specific appropriation bills."

While the NEJM doesn't advocate the current practice, they and others foretold the de-funding playbook 3 years ago when Republicans took over majority of the House...many who were elected for the express purpose of gutting the ACA. So why the ghastly surprise?!?! There are plenty of discretionary pieces to either specifically not fund or repeal from a new Continuing Resolution. The 'power of the purse' defense is another 'check and balance', which is how a Constitutional Republic is constructed. It is always the majority party in power at the time that is constrained by these checks and balances that wants to run roughshod over the other party while they have the current leverage and advantage (i.e. gee...maybe how the ACA got passed in the first place during the slim time frame when Dems had both chambers and the POTUS).

Posted by C. R. Mudgeon, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

A very disingenuous article, Tom.

As Matty said, above, the hyperbole and rhetoric on both sides has been high, as is almost always the case with politicians.

Some other comments:

- Using SS and Medicare as "success stories" is ignoring reality on multiple levels. They were "successful" back when the ratio of "payers in" to "recipients out" was high. But with that ratio down to roughly 3:1 NOW, and heading toward 2:1, these programs are unsustainable in their current form.

- Even for people who entered the work force 30 years ago, SS and Medicare have been bad "investments" of their money. Even if my SS contributions over the years had been put simply into government bonds, I'd be able to get a lot more out when I started receiving benefits. The same principle also applies to Medicare, although it implies the funding of a long-term healthcare account of some kind. Would some people need to be "forced" to contribute to their own accounts? Maybe. But it would still be a better deal than SS and Medicare. And this is ignoring the opportunity to do something that is just slightly more aggressive with the investments. But what about the poor, you say? Even if some of my "contributions" were siphoned off to fund a benefits pool for very-low income and disabled people (which I'd be in favor of), I'd still be better off with almost any other form of "investment".

- Let's not even start talking about Medicare fraud, as well as the latest trend of phony disability claims. When the government is the administrator of benefits, they fundamentally don't care that much about rooting out fraud and waste. It's just "OPM" (Other People's Money). Obamacare fraud - the new frontier!

- Despite the above, I don't see much evidence of Republicans ("moderate", or even the dreaded Tea Party...) trying to "reverse 80 years of progressive government". No, it's more like trying to stem the tide a bit.

Interestingly enough, while we are busy becoming more socialistic over time, other nations are trying to figure out ways to become less socialistic, based on prior lack of success.

There ARE problems in our current healthcare system(s) that needed to be addressed. I would include in these problem areas the need to deal with pre-existing medical conditions (providing a reasonable avenue towards coverage, for those with pre-existing conditions), and the cost shifting that results when people with no insurance (and also no money or assets) can still receive care. There are actually elements of Obamacare that I like. But it's taking the wrong approach. I actually think that the architects of Obamacare know that it will to some extent "fail", in that costs will go up significantly for a large majority of Americans. Then we will see the Dems arguing that the cause of the higher costs is having insurance companies still in the picture. The answer? Single-payer healthcare, run completely by the government. It may take a couple/few years for this to happen, but it is coming.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm

CRM, your comments on Social Security illustrate the gap between pragmatic liberalism and ideology based on theory instead of how things actually work in the real world. If you had invested your FICA contributions in government bonds you **might** have come out ahead; but you wouldn't have done that, would you? No, it's more likely that you would have put it into the stock market in 2001 and sold in 2002, got back in in 2007 and sold in 2009. Or leveraged your savings by investing in multiple "can't miss" real estate investments in 2006. If not you, millions of other Americans, in which case we'd have millions of people with no money and too old to work, who we'd have to support somehow. Taxes not high enough for you? Think what that would cost.

Social Security is a system where people pay in all their working lives and get some money to live on when they're old, regardless of how foolish they are financially. Guaranteed. It's "insurance" and expressly labeled as such. And the worst case scenario if nothing is changed in the SS system is that benefits will drop to 75% of their current levels in 2033. That's still better than all actual, plausible alternatives. Social Security is a pragmatic response to the way real people actually behave in the real world.

I get the fact that in theory, we're all above average, and we would all save and invest wisely. I've actually done that, but I know many affluent, well educated people in their 60's with absolutely no savings whatsoever. This isn't surprising; 60% of Americans have less than $25,000 in savings and investments. SS is all they're going to have to retire on. You can be judgmental and say, "Well, let them starve." Practical minded people understand that we're just not going to do that. So pragmatists design a system which ensures that the majority of people who won't otherwise have enough to live on in retirement will get a check every month. They won't live large but they needn't starve.

Pragmatism. It's what made me abandon the ideological allure of Libertarianism and accept the reality of practical, liberal programs designed to address to real world, real people problems.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm

We could have insured every single person with a pre-existing condition for a mere $5 billion per year. Web Link Democrats have used this popular issue to justify government intrusion into the ENTIRE $2.7 trillion healthcare industry.

Harry Reid was asked whether his goal was to move Obamacare to a single-payer system. His answer? ?Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.? Web Link

The Contra Costa Times had an article in Sunday?s paper where they interviewed an Obamabot, who was shocked and sad to learn that due to Obamacare he now has to pay $10,000 more per year to insure his family of four.

He said, ?I was laughing at Boehner -- until the mail came today [with the $10,000 per year price increase]. Of course, I want people to have health care. I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally. I'm not against Obamacare. It's just the initial shock. I'm holding out hope that there will be a [price] correction over a handful of years.? Web Link

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm

In response to Matty and The Mudge, I am not surprised that the term disingenuous is on your minds. It precisely captures my own distaste for terms like "a conversation," which is intended to mask the reality that it is not-at-all a conversation that the House radicals have in mind, but a complete dismantling of the ACA.

By contrast, terms like blackmail and extortion accurately capture the reality and aptly describe the tactic employed by the Radical Right. Words matter -- they can be twisted by dissemblers or or they can convey meaning. As I've written elsewhere (and borrowed from others), this pre-fabricated 'crisis' is the exact, functional equivalent of taking your family hostage, and then demanding a conversation about what price you want for your house.

I'm guessing that both of you consider yourselves to be GOP moderates. It's time you took your Party back from bellicose fringe, lest you become nationally what the GOP is in CA -- irrelevant, far-fringe ideologues. That would be a shame -- we need a credible, center-right alternative to Democrat-thinking. The Tea Party know-nothings are not it.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Yeah C. Mudge, you should tell your party to act more like Obama. He has a 37% approval rating right now. Or maybe they should act like Harry Reid. His approval rating is 18%! Web Link

Posted by Farmer Dave, a resident of another community,
on Oct 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Farmer Dave is a registered user.

Hey, spcwt:

I notice you forgot to mention that the poll you link to also shows John Boehner's approval rating at 18%.

Is that selective quotation?

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 7:20 am

Tom?s already doing a great job bashing Republican.

My job is to point out that Obama and Democrats are losers too.

Your job is to realize it.

Posted by Matty, a resident of Blackhawk,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 8:42 am

I'm neither a moderate nor a Tea Partier, but am conservative enough, educated enough, informed enough, and experienced enough on both business ownership and health care to clearly understand that the ACA will crush small businesses in this country and that large businesses, save VERY few, will have every incentive to dump their health plans over the next 5 years and force people to these sh*t exchanges. It is pure economics... and Government never 'gets it' when pure economics are involved. Entitlements were already unsustainable going forward, and this will double down on that train wreck that is coming. Once the low-to-middle class of the Dem party understands they have been duped, it will be too late to unwind this behemoth.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 10, 2013 at 2:31 pm

spcwt, The $5B pre-existing condition program you referred to did not cover every person with a pre-existing condition and became over-enrolled once more people found out about it, despite its restrictions which included 6 months of no medical insurance before eligibility took effect.

As to the person you referred to as an "Obamabot" I take it that you are baffled by his mature response to the fact that some people will pay more under Obamacare and he's one of them. Here's a clue about how to understand that: adults understand that they have to pay their way. Sometimes they get a break and pay less, sometimes things don't work out and they have to pay more. When that happens, you can either go all Tea Party and scream and yell and hold your breath till you turn blue, or you can analyze the situation, recognize that it's less than ideal from your personal perspective but is not actually unreasonable, and move on.

I completely understand that that's a foreign concept to the right wing. When your ideology is basically "What's in it for me, now?" any program which is for the betterment of all of us for years to come has to be pretty confusing. But keep trying.

Would I like to see a single payer alternative made available? Yes. But our side didn't get that in the negotiations over Obamacare in 2009. We lost that battle. Will we return? Sure. Hopefully some day we'll have the votes and all Americans will have the opportunity to opt into a single payer plan. But will we close the government and squander billions of dollars to try to blackmail the majority into letting us have our way? Sorry - that's not in the nation's interest. For some of us, that's reason enough not to do stuff like that.

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