Sunday, March 28, 2010


These people lining up for medical care in Los Angeles don't exist in the Republican non-reality based universe.

I have friends who are Republicans and who are also educated and intelligent (some even have advanced degrees). Somehow they manage to get up in the morning, shower, shave, get dressed, eat breakfast, drive a car, go to work, function at their jobs, and raise their families. Yet when it comes to evaluating the rhetoric of the national leaders of their party, they somehow manage to lose all capacity for rational thought or analytical reasoning. If Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh remain skeptical of the science of global warming, that's good enough for them to oppose any meaningful efforts at reducing our carbon footprint. In my reality-based world, I look at a picture of the rapidly shrinking (North) polar ice cap, the ice sheets retreating from Greenland, melting glaciers the world over, and I don't need a scientist to tell me that something is seriously wrong with our planet. Moreover, even if it weren't, there is simply no downside to increasing energy conservation, reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and fostering the growth of new companies and industries that are "green." That's a rational point of view, and my political viewpoint has nothing to do with wanting to live in a cleaner, healthier environment.

So when the debate on reforming health insurance coverage (I refuse to call it health care reform until Congress actually, you know, decides to pass a law that will reform the care that we receive as opposed to our method of paying for it) devolved into shouts of "death panels" and "socialism" and "putting the government between a patient and his doctor," I wondered to what venue Republicans' reason had fled. Even relatively bright and non-confrontational Meet the Press staples like South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham have made remarks so absurd that I could not leave the television on another instant. On the March 28th edition of MTP he attempted to frighten seniors by falsely claiming that they would "lose their Medicare advantage" when "$574 billion would be taken out of Medicare" (the truth: Medicare benefits won't be cut by a single cent to seniors) and decrying a government plan to "take over the student loan program" (in actuality, billions of tax dollars will be saved by removing the middle man- private loan facilitators who collected fees).

Here's a question for the critics who are crying out about the dangers of "socialism" in the new health insurance reform bill: which is the more "socialist" program: Medicare or the Veterans Administration's hospitals? Answer: of course it's VA hospitals, which are owned by the government and staffed by doctors and nurses employed by the government. Medicare only involves government payment to private physicians and to hospitals (public or private) which are chosen by the patients/consumers. So if "socialism" is the real bugaboo, I would expect Republican leaders to march lockstep down to Fox News and Teabaggers' conventions and fight the good fight to eliminate free government health care for our disabled veterans.

As for the "death panels" or "government getting between a patient and his doctor," what hole have the right wing fruitcakes been living in the last 40 years? Hint: it's not the government which has decreed who will live and who will be denied expensive life saving medical procedures. If you have ever had a family member with a serious illness, you might remember this favorite phrase of an insurance company bureaucrat denying coverage: "experimental procedure." And it wasn't the government that denied people insurance coverage if they had a "pre-existing condition" or had the audacity to get so seriously hurt or ill that they used up their coverage and had to sell their house and file bankruptcy.

The Repubs next attack was on "process," since substance didn't work out for them. They accused Democrats of "ramming the bill down America's throat." Apparently, in Republican fantasy land, it is a form of "tyranny" worthy of the Nazis when the Democrats manage to get 60 votes in the Senate and a majority (218) of the 435 votes in the House of Representatives. So when the House passed the Senate bill last week, that was too much for House Minority leader John Boehner, a Republican Congressman from Ohio. Here's the actual quote from his Congressional website:

"At a time when our nation’s finances are already in dire straits, the decision of Democratic leaders to focus on a job-killing government takeover of health care rather than putting Americans back to work has only accelerated our march to fiscal collapse. While Americans were asking, “where are the jobs,” Democrats arrogantly dragged the nation through a year-long exercise to force the health care plan into law."

To those of us who passed civics in high school, when a bill is passed by a majority vote of both houses in Congress, that's called "democracy."

Mr. Boehner, having no sense of hypocrisy or history, failed to note that the "march to fiscal collapse" occurred on his watch, as the Bush Administration with the aid of a Republican controlled Senate and House managed to turn a $160 billion surplus in the last year of the Clinton Administration into a trillion dollar annual deficit. It seems a century ago in October of 2000 when Al Gore and George W. Bush debated how to spend America's surplus and how fast to pay down the national debt. When President Clinton exited and George W. Bush took office on January 20, 2001, our total national debt was $5,727,776,738,304.64 and it was going down. When President Bush left office January 20, 2009, it was $10,626,877,048,913.08 (the $5 trillion increase almost doubled the national debt in 8 years). Nor did Mr. Boehner note that the Republicans racked up that debt with only 50 Senate votes plus the tie-breaker. The 2001 massive tax and the2003 prescription drug benefit, which were funded through borrowing, sailed through Congress under the dreaded process of "reconciliation."

There's a lot not to like about the recent health insurance reform bill- most notably, the lack of a single payer plan or a public option insurance plan, either of which would save consumers and the government billions of dollars. Of course, that would require Republican leaders to drop by the reality based universe where saving tax dollars and reducing the deficit could have been accomplished if they had only deigned to participate in the process.


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