Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Real Scandal: Akin Means It, Missourians Will Still Vote For Him

legitimately stupid
Two things on Republican responses to Akin:

Using the wrong words in the wrong way would indicate that the message conveyed was not the message intended.   The message conveyed by Akin was that he believed women who are “legitimately raped” can’t get pregnant.  It is pretty clear that he intended to say women who are “forcibly raped” are less likely to get pregnant. He even said in his first apology on Mike Huckabee’s show that instead of “legitimately raped” he meant “forcibly raped.”  Oh, okay.  How is that better?  The outrage is still there, the science is still junk. 

Compare this to the faux outrage about Barack Obama’s statement from a few weeks ago, the one where he slipped in the phrase “if you’ve got a business” before returning to a phrase about building roads and bridges – “you didn’t build that”.   The message intended tangentially related to businesses; it was about government’s role in infrastructure that all businesses could take advantage of.  But the message – conveyed in a billion Republican-funded ads from now until November – was that Barack Obama doesn’t think business owners built their own businesses.  Ha ha, Barack, gotcha! 
If the punditocracy is playing “gotcha politics” and deliberately misinterpreting Akin’s words, it serves only to turn a false and offensive statement into a false, offensive, and ludicrous statement. 

You know who is immune from Missouri-based non-storm?  Ben Smith of Buzzfeed.  Akin's views may be out of the mainstream of America, but they fit right in with the mainstream of religious conservative thought.  And the conservative voters of Missouri are the only ones that Akin is beholden to.  

All this scorn from “establishment Republicans” plays right into his hands.  It’s like the whole of America’s political journalists forgot what happened two years ago when the cranky Tea Party ran on a platform of setting fire to the Washington establishment, and they won!  Or even how Claire McCaskill herself manipulated the Republican electorate in Missouri just a few weeks ago by calling Akin a dangerous outsider, knowing this was just the sort of label that would get right-wingers to vote for Akin over more electable opponents.  And now he’s supposed to be in danger of putting the entire state of Missouri in jeopardy of falling into Democrats’ hands?  Everyone knew he was going to say some crazy shit at some point in this campaign.  Claire McCaskill sure knew it!  I mean, all I’m saying is that Missouri’s Republicans all knew what they were getting when they voted for Akin in the primary, so I don’t think Missouri is any more or less “in jeopardy” than on primary day.  Of course he's sticking it out, Scott Brown et al.  Your condemnation only fuels him!

 My hope is that widespread exposure to Akin’s words will increase Democratic turnout in Missouri, because it’s not like Republicans aren’t going to show up anyways. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Obamacare, Ryancare, it's the Same Damn Concept!

I was listening to an episode of the Diane Rehm Show today (because I’m a senior citizen of course) and the topic was Paul Ryan’s budget.  They got into a discussion about Medicare and the “premium support” plan that Ryan’s budget would eventually implement where elderly individuals would be given a stipend to purchase insurance in health exchanges which would be regulated by the government.  You know, the policy that would “end Medicare as we know it”.  Predictably the Republican in the discussion, Grace Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, voiced strong support for Ryan’s plan, while the Democrat in the discussion, Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, voiced opposition.   Later on in the discussion, the topic switched to Obamacare, a plan that would give poor individuals a stipend to purchase insurance in health exchanges which would be regulated by the government.  The roles were reversed.  Jared Bernstein touted this plan, calling it “the right way” to solve America’s health care problems, while Grace Marie Turner expressed concern over Obamacare’s drastic cuts to Medicare service providers.  

Since Paul Ryan was selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Democrats have worked to expose the bad parts of Ryan’s premium support plan.  It will ruin the existing system as we know it and will lead to higher deficits in the future.  What are the arguments Republicans have long made against Obamacare?  That it will ruin the existing system as we know it and will lead to higher deficits in the future.  

How can we as Democrats defend Obamacare but condemn Ryancare? This doesn’t make sense to me.  Democrats rail against Ryancare about how the cost of the support stipend won’t increase each year at the rate of medical inflation, which will lead to seniors having to pay out-of-pocket for coverage they used to get for free.   But the rate of increase of the Obamacare stipend for poor people in the exchanges is tied to the poverty rate, which does not increase at the rate of medical inflation, and everyone is paying out-of-pocket for coverage already.  You know what one difference is between the two plans is?  Ryancare actually has a public option in its exchanges (Medicare).

So Paul Ryan seeks to get rid of a system with a guaranteed benefit in order to replace it with a system of government-regulated capitalism.  And Barack Obama seeks to get rid of a system of exploitative corporate shadiness in order to replace it with a system of government-regulated capitalism.  I can see that each party is motivated to defend the direction in which the proposed systems are moving, but they’re both ending up defending government-regulated capitalism using basically the same arguments for and against.  

As Ezra Klein points out, "[this] has left the two parties in a somewhat odd position: Democrats support the Republicans’ old idea for the under-65 set but oppose it for the over-65 set. Republicans support the Democrats’ new idea for the over-65 set but oppose it for the under-65 set."

This leads to confusion and hypocrisy.  Here’s the hypocrisy: the aforementioned Grace Marie Turner defends “programs that give us a great model” featuring “seniors making choices from among competing private plans”, but she also thinks Obamacare’s exchanges, which feature people making choices from among competing private plans, features too many “complex and onerous bureaucratic rules” that throw up “barriers to competition and consumer choice”.   And on the other side: Barack Obama has labeled the system that joins a mix of private insurance options with one public option (Medicare) as “thinly veiled social Darwinism”, but when he proposed creating a health insurance exchange joining a mix of private insurance policies with one public insurance policy (the Public Option), he characterized it as a system that would “provide more choice and more competition,” one that would “keep the policies affordable”.  

Is it possible for people to be both for market-based health care reforms and against market-based health care reforms?  I guess so, because everybody is.