The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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Archive for the ‘Legislation’ Category

Answering Questions: A Response to BrokeSnake

Posted by ALmod on October 29, 2009

In response to Five questions that linger for me about Health Care reform:

My apologies to BrokeSnake for not simply leaving a comment, but there is a character limit, and so I’m taking this opportunity to answer him on my own blog.

1.  Do people want good, low price health care or more government control?

Well, here’s the rub.  You can’t have good, low price health care without more government control.  We know that doing nothing certainly won’t give us good, low price health care.  That’s obvious.  And while I’ve seen folks argue that less government control might work, consider that we already allow them to be exempt from anti-trust laws (a government control).  Look at the good that’s done us.  It’s eliminated competition for them, and we’ve got health care that is more expensive than in any other country and isn’t guaranteed– even if we’re paying for it.  That scenario alone should tell us that these companies at the very least need to be subjected to anti-trust laws so that they are forced to compete with each other, but that’s a type “government control.”  Even without a public option, you’ll still at least need some government regulation to improve the situation.

2.  Is the guarantee to all Americans a service that will provide all of us with free health care?

No, and it never has been.  The idea that there was somewhere a guarantee for “free” health care actually comes from opposition talking points.  Even proponents of a single-payer system will tell you that it isn’t free.  Of course, you might have some gullible loony somewhere that believes there’s some public services fairy that waves her wand and gives us police protection and public schools, but most people with an iota of common sense realize that nothing is ever free.

The actual goal is not free health care.  The goal has been better quality health care with a cheaper price tag.  That’s a realistic goal that’s been implemented in too many other countries for us to say it’s impossible here.  Americans deserve it.

3.  If affordability is the issue, what the hell is wrong with Medicaid?

Affordability is one issue, but it’s not the issue.  While the cost of health insurance is too high to be acceptable, many people are still able to afford it and will actually buy it.  The problem is that many of those people cannot get insurance because the insurance companies refuse to sell it to them.  Or some buy it but get dropped after they get sick.  Let me repeat that for you.  People who are able and willing to pay for health insurance and some who actually have insurance are the ones who most need reform because there are too many cases where the insurers will only cover a certain amount and then drop you or they will refuse to cover a treatment that you thought was covered.

Back to the affordability thing.  Let’s say that you are dropped.  Let’s say that you can’t afford insurance.  In order to qualify for Medicaid, your income cannot exceed a certain amount.  Therefore, you are encouraging those people to be less productive so that they can get medical coverage.  Do we really want that?  Add to that, when you have government providing coverage for the sickest, oldest, and poorest Americans, it guarantees a profit to insurers.  It’s basically a government subsidy for a private corporation.  Why not instead do what other governments do and require private insurers to offer coverage to everyone and allow the pool of younger, healthier patients to offset the cost of the older, sicker ones?  Meanwhile, those who actually do have a lower income can receive a tax credit so that they can purchase a private plan and keep that money flowing through the private sector rather than the federal government.

But again, it’s not the poorest among us who are suffering the most.  As you pointed out, they’re covered by Medicaid.  The larger issue is in fact the middle class and the stability, quality, and affordability of the coverage that they pay for.

4.  How would a government option not be a monopoly?

Before I answer this question, let me say this.  I am not a health insurance executive.  The profits of a private corporation are not my concern.  For me, it is much more important that, should someone in my family become seriously ill, we would not have to sell our home or declare bankruptcy and could instead focus on that person getting better.  There are some things more important than corporate profits, and it does no less than infuriate me that someone who is not an executive of one of these companies would actually argue that corporate profit is the REAL important issue.

Now, let me direct you to the salary for the faculty of Harvard University.  Take a gander here as well.  That should at least in part answer your question.  Those are not crappy salaries, and yet this is a private institution in direct competition with a government option.  If you ship a package, you don’t have to do it through the USPS.  Companies still get sprinkler systems and hire security guards and get surveillance cameras in spite of public fire departments and police departments.If your objection is that a corporate exec should not have competition so that he can make a $12 million bonus instead of a $3 million bonus, then I’m sorry that I can’t see eye to eye with you.  Now, there’s no doubt that these companies would make a lot more money if government equivalents did not exist; however, they do in fact exist and do quite well.

But if you are seriously arguing that we should not inject government competition into the mix that would encourage lower costs and better care simply because a health insurance executive would earn $2 million a year instead of $12 million, then I can’t sympathize with your argument.  They can compete.  They just won’t be able to compete and make obscene profits at the same time.

5.  If we were not happy with the service, how do we change it?

The same way you change it now.  Seriously.  Have you even looked at the contents of what’s being proposed?

There would be a large variety of plans offered– all by private insurers.  And if you add the public option, it would be as simple as adding one more insurance company to the list.  You can get coverage through your employer or on your own.  One cool change is that if you have a good plan through your employer that you like, you can keep that plan should you go elsewhere or start your own small business.  The same variety will still exist.  Selecting those offered through the proposed Health Insurance Exchange will look like this.  (That link, by the way, is the system used by members of Congress and federal employees.)  Of course, packages will still be offered outside the exchange, and you are free to purchase one of those if you like, but plans offered within the exchange have a minimum set of benefits that must be covered and must have a cap on the amount that you will pay out-of-pocket.  Those plans must also be fully portable and cannot be dropped due to health or age.  Insurers can offer as many benefits as they like and as many different kinds of plans as they like as long as they cover those minimum benefits.

Additionally, if your income is within a certain range (most of us), then you’ll receive a tax credit to help you purchase insurance through the exchange.  Basically, the only real change is that your insurance companies will be required to offer more plans that meet certain standards, and you’ll be offered the opportunity and assistance in purchasing them.  In essence, you’ll have even more variety to choose from than you do now.

Posted in Bama Bloggers, Blogroll, Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Answering Questions: A Response to BrokeSnake

More Epic Fail: Denying Infants Health Insurance

Posted by ALmod on October 16, 2009

He’s four months old. It’s not like there’s anything he could have done to cause himself to be particularly chubby.  His mother isn’t overweight.  As Jon Stewert put it (paraphrased by me), it’s not like his mother’s breasts are named Ben and Jerry.

Posted in Corporate Craziness, Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on More Epic Fail: Denying Infants Health Insurance

Epic Fail: Could someone please teach the private insurers how to lie properly?

Posted by ALmod on October 15, 2009

Again with releasing extremely misleading reports that fact check themselves?

The newer study was conducted for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, which also says its findings on premiums would be different if it factored in other aspects of the bill…

Posted in Corporate Craziness, Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I guess they weren’t that lucky, after all…

Posted by ALmod on October 15, 2009

So yesterday I talked about how AHIP was about to get a lot uglier and how their attempts of late seem to be really backfiring on them.  Somewhere between revoking the health insurance of a congresswoman’s child for a torn eardrum and releasing a report that fact checked itself and ended up giving itself a D on the truth-o-meter, the health insurance industry just kind of lost it.  With all the shooting they’d done to their own steel-toes, I was a bit curious as to how well their aim would be once they got bigger guns.  I ended with a line from Dirty Harry, asking if they felt lucky.

I suppose not.

Here’s the ad:

And here’s what FactCheck.org says:

As we’ve written previously, it’s true that about 10 million seniors are on Medicare Advantage, as the ad says, which means they’ve chosen to get their benefits from a private insurer instead of through the fee-for-service route that 78 percent of Medicare recipients use.

…We don’t like to take out after an ad that is technically accurate, but this one implies that seniors in Medicare Advantage would suffer far more than they actually are likely to under the pending legislation. An on-screen graphic says that they would see a “50 percent reduction in extra benefits.” That’s true, but the reality is that even those who leave the program will never receive less in benefits than anyone who is in fee-for-service Medicare, or nearly 80 percent of seniors.

Okay, now go back and read that again.   Read it a third time if you need to.  I’ll wait.

The cuts that AHIP is talking about come from a portion of Medicare where seniors pay private insurers for their services– not the standard government version.  In other words, AHIP is saying that they are going to be cutting their coverage for seniors– not the government.  This is their attack add against health care reform?  “Yay for us!  Boo for government!  We’re going to cut health care coverage for seniors!  Yay!  Theirs stays the same!  Boo!”  That is your big, bad argument?  Seriously?

Posted in Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on I guess they weren’t that lucky, after all…

Ugly? You haven’t SEEN ugly.

Posted by ALmod on October 14, 2009

Robert Stein has a great writeup on how we ain’t seen nothing yet as far as health insurance interests rallying opposition to reform.  Now that Congress will be working on a final bill for the full vote of both houses with all sorts of ways for it to be hacked into pieces and put back together again, you can easily predict that industry interests will be in overdrive to kill it.

Stein does an excellent job of summing things up here:

The saddest part of the spectacle in the coming weeks will be the near-impossibility of a rational public conversation about the issue in a time when TV ads will make “Harry and Louise” look like “The Waltons” and the staged public outrage will make the Tea Parties look like tea parties.

Indeed.  Though we can only hope that their moves of the past few weeks are signs as to exactly where health insurers might be headed.  They seem to have become quite pro at shooting themselves in the foot lately.

The fact that Beth McCaughey was outed (and then resigned after being owned in an interview with Jon Stewart, of all people) as a lobbyist and Rick Scott (head of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights) was openly the same Rick Scott who had to step down as the company he led pled guilty to one of the largest cases of insurance and Medicare fraud in history wasn’t even HALF as humiliating as the report AHIP released last week.  It was laughable enough at face value.  To start with, AHIP stands for America’s Health Insurance Plans.  This is the group who funded a report that basically contradicted every single other report out there.  Not only was it incredibly misleading by only reporting on measures that (migh, maybe, possibly) increase costs while ignoring the gazillions of other measures that would lower them, but it even said that it was misleading in the very footnotes of the report!  The report also was their way of saying that, left unchecked and without competition, private health insurers would increase their premiums– quite possibly giving their own argument as to why a public option might be needed to compete with them.  Shot one fired.  Shot two fired.

Then, without any prompting by FactCheck (or so they say), the company that compiled the report for AHIP comes out with a statement in which they fact check themselves and state that their report is extremely misleading.  You can’t make this up!  Shot three fired.

But the biggest hit to the health insurance interests has to be the story of Rep. Jane Harman— a Blue Dog Democrat.  You’ve heard of the Blue Dogs, right?  The Blue Dogs would be the reason why the Dems are not currently passing the most liberal piece of legislation they can muster despite their overwhelming majority.  Well, Harman became a much bigger proponent of a public option when that which has been happening to so many insured Americans happened to her own 27-year-old son.  He was dropped from his health insurance for– get this– a torn eardrum.

As Del put it (and I’m paraphrasing), we can probably assume that they forgot to mark his file with a big, red Post-It that said, “Do not revoke.  His mother is a congresswoman.”

Laura Sanchez was already on board, but I’m sure that Rep. Harman’s story will resonate with other mothers and fathers (and grandmothers and grandfathers) who call themselves Blue Dogs.  The uninsured and the poor aren’t the majority of the people who need good reform to pass.  They aren’t even close to being a majority.  The insured middle class are the ones getting the worst deal until something changes.  (After all, we’re the ones stuck with those private insurers who openly admitted that they’d want to raise their premiums while they have no real competition.  The poor and elderly already have government options.  And I’m sure that middle-class bankruptcy can’t be good for the economy.)  Shot four fired.

Now, right about now I feel like it’s that scene in Dirty Harry and Clint Eastwood is asking…  If you count McCaughey and Scott, did they fire five shots or was it six?  I’ve lost count.  So if you’re the health care industry and you’re about to start aiming that gun about chest or head level, you have to ask yourselves one question.  Do I feel lucky?  Well do ya… punks?

Posted in Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Be careful what you wish for. (You just might get it.)

Posted by ALmod on September 28, 2009

Not too long ago, the right wing argument against health care reform went something like this:

  1. We don’t want single payer.  Canada and the UK are scary.  We want private insurance.
  2. We don’t want a public option.  We want the private insurers to be able to profit, and we don’t think private insurers can compete with a public option despite the number of other private services that do just fine in other areas with public options.
  3. Have you met Mitt Romney?  Isn’t he wonderful?  Isn’t his health care plan wonderful?
  4. We want a bill that pays for itself.
  5. We want the Democrats to include our ideas in this health care reform.

Be careful what you wish for.  You just might get it.  That wonderful Romney plan that Republicans seemed to love just a couple months ago?

“Unlike Democratic proposals that would give Americans the choice of joining a government-run health care plan, Massachusetts has no public option. Instead, people in the state are required to buy private insurance, and the poor get subsidies.

“Analysts say “Romney care” is basically “Obama care” minus the public option.”

That last line is actually true.

Now the house bill has turned into a national version of RomneyCare– particularly if no public option is included.  So how are the right wing masses taking the idea that the federal government might require you to purchase private insurance (and actually enforce that)?  Well, see for yourself.  Some are now even saying that a single payer system is preferable.  Right wingers arguing in favor of single payer?  Has the world gone mad?  Nope.  The right just got what they asked for and then suddenly realized that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

It seems like they’re finally starting to grasp the whole reason why such reform is necessary.  Yes, people need insurance, but that’s only part of the problem.  This issue is just as much about people who already have insurance as it is about those who don’t have it.  For those of us who are already insured, it’s about giving us better care and lowering our costs.  A big chunk of those costs come from when the uninsured receive treatment and can’t pay up.  That is passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher cost.

The right already knew that a significant portion of the uninsured was made up of people who could afford it but weren’t purchasing it.  We know they knew because it was a point they made frequently— then.  We know that they like personal responsibility because it was something they argued for– then.  We know they don’t like the idea of having to pay for someone else’s health care, particularly if it is the result of their own irresponsibility, because it was something they said frequently– then.

So here we have an idea that says that if you can afford health insurance you must buy it.  You must pay for your own treatment instead of burdening the rest of us (again, if you can afford it), or you will have to pay the consequences.  Oopsie.  Maybe that whole forcing personal responsibility idea wasn’t such a good idea, after all– at least not when it’s forced.  But then you’d be back to having the responsible parties paying for the irresponsible ones.  You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.  But the idea of just having a plan where everyone is covered seems a lot better than putting people in jail for not giving money to a private corporation.  Again…  Oopsie.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the Baucus bill, but I do realize that there’s no perfect sunshine and rainbows solution, and I also realize that some options are better than others.  Pun intended.

Unlike Democratic proposals that would give Americans the choice of joining a government-run health care plan, Massachusetts has no public option. Instead, people in the state are required to buy private insurance, and the poor get subsidies.

Posted in Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Be careful what you wish for. (You just might get it.)

You really can’t make this stuff up…

Posted by ALmod on September 15, 2009

For those using the “no federal dollars for illegal aliens” rallying cry against health care and are holding up Joe Wilson as your newfound hero, there’s something you should know.

However, in 2003, Wilson voted to provide federal funds for illegal immigrants’ healthcare. The vote came on the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which contained Sec. 1011 authorizing $250,000 annually between 2003 and 2008 for government reimbursements to hospitals who provide treatment for uninsured illegal immigrants. The program has been extended through 2009 and there is currently a bipartisan bill in Congress to make it permanent.

Posted in Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

How to Address an Issue Without Addressing the Issue

Posted by ALmod on September 12, 2009

If anything, I wonder if Democrats shouldn’t be thanking Joe Wilson right about now.

His outburst has created a discussion on the true status of illegal immigrants in regard to H.R. 3200.  And what appears to be getting through is the truth, for once.  I wonder if that discussion would have taken place had Wilson kept his mouth shut.

And so, as more and more and more people are learning that the bill actually does contain a clause (on page 143 of the bill) that specifically states that “[n]othing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States,” the argument from the right appears to have shifted more toward enforcement of such a measure (or lack thereof).  The Heller Amendment seems to be the rallying cry, in particular.  If there is concern for making sure that illegal immigrants do not receive federal money for health care then why would the measure have been shot down?

The answer is simple.  The Heller Amendment was never intended to pass.  The only reason for its existence is to be a talking point.

First we have to consider something.  The bill does in fact address how illegal aliens would be handled under the new health care system.  Not only does it specifically say that they will not be covered, but the Congressional Research Service has suggested that illegal aliens would be required to purchase private insurance to cover their expenses or face a hefty fine.  And further clarification from the White House offered on September 12 stated that they will not be able to purchase insurance through the new exchange or the public option.  (In other words, they would still be paying for their own health coverage just like many of them are already doing today.)  Verification would be required when purchasing insurance through the exchange and/or public option.  So all this considered, why on earth would an additional amendment be needed– particularly one that might cause problems for legal immigrants?  It isn’t.

So why would anyone suggest an amendment that they knew wasn’t needed?  Again, it’s a talking point.  Dr. Steven Taylor summed it up quite nicely here.

Minority member proposes amendment which it claims will do X (or prevent X or somesuch).

Majority votes it down, because they are already happy with their majority-crafted, majority-approved bill.

Minority and its supporters (e.g., talk show hosts) then claim that the rejection of the amendment is proof that the Majority is opposed to X.

However, there are any number of reasons for the rejection of the amendment, not the least of which being that it was a minority amendment to a majority bill. Why should the majority accept the amendment? Also, it is usually never so simple as X or Not X.

Still, the whole purpose for the minority in proposing the amendment in the first place was to create the X/Not X debate, as it knew from the beginning that it wasn’t going to get the majority to accept the amendment. It is textbook (seriously, this kind of behavior can be found in any text on the legislative process in the US).

I will add to that.  Assume that the majority party passes such an amendment.  At this point, the minority party can insinuate that whatever minor issue they inserted into this amendment is now something that the majority supports.  It’s a win-win situation for the party proposing the amendment– provided of course that your talking point is short enough so that the opposing response would result in a one way hash political argument.

A very similar situation has cropped up in the form of the anti-abortion argument.  Many have pointed to the Capps amendment which will mandate that the public health option cover some abortions.  But these same people overlook the fact that the exact same amendment also states that federal funds cannot be used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is in danger– situations where many Republicans have a hard time arguing against abortions.

But those who point out these problems do have a point.  More needs to be done to address these issue if in fact it’s something you believe in.  Tougher standards on abortions and hospitals that provide them.  (Even abortion advocates can agree that they want women to be safe.)  Tougher laws that address illegal immigration and reduce the number of illegal aliens that we have– thus reducing the number of them that show up in the ERs with a serious ailment and without insurance.  These things are needed, but to tack them onto a health care bill that is already very long and very complicated probably isn’t the best way to go about it.  Politicians aren’t exactly restricted to drafting and passing one bill per session.  So why not draft a separate bill to address these issues?

Because they don’t want it to pass.

Many Republicans have already made it clear that they have no intention of supporting any health care legislation regardless as to what’s in there.  Many seem more interested in making sure that the Democrats fail rather than making sure the country succeeds.  Why do I say this?  Because the only platform that I’ve seen thus far as been generic at best.  At worst, it’s been anti-Democrat rather than clearly a Republican platform of small government and strong defense.  In fact, some might find the irony in a party who goes on about how government has no business in health care and yet in the same breath insists that they should put restrictions on what can be covered, even by private funding.

But many might find it hard to pass immigration legislation that seriously penalizes employers who hire illegal aliens.  Some of them might find themselves sans nanny.  And many might find it even harder to pass legislation that would ban abortions outright for any reason.  So what better way to show you tried to do something about these issues (*nudge nudge* *wink wink*) than by showboating an amendment to another piece of legislation while knowing full well that your suggestion will never make it out of committee?

So the response to the right from the left is simple, and there need be no long answers to explain why X wasn’t included.  Rather, they merely need to ask the following:

“If this issue is so important, why hasn’t Senator Y attempted to pass this as stand alone legislation that would address the issue rather than trying to tack it onto a bill he’s trying to defeat?”

I’m sure the talking heads will eventually find a way to get around that one way hash, but at least it will be entertaining to watch.

Posted in Health and Wellness, Legislation, Public Outrage | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on How to Address an Issue Without Addressing the Issue

An Idea for Those Who Favor Reform

Posted by ALmod on August 15, 2009

On the heels of my last, rather heated post, I have a rather interesting idea to “rally the troops” so to speak for the proponents of health care reform.

How about an organized effort to demand that opposing senators and congressmen opt-out of their own government health care plans?  Make ’em honest.  There’s nothing I’d love to see more than a t-shirt or two that says, “Give up my government option?  You first!”

Posted in Federal Government, Health and Wellness, Legislation | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Health Reform Opponents Adhere to Wizard’s Rules

Posted by ALmod on August 14, 2009

Brace yourselves for a long ride.

Wizard’s First Rule:

“People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”

Wizard’s Third Rule:

“Passion rules reason.”

Wizard’s Fifth Rule:

“Mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will betray a lie.”

I’m a big fan of Terry Goodkind and his Sword of Truth series.  And yes, I’ve been watching the Sam Raimi television adaptation.   But it hit me this week just how much some of his work really applies to various things in politics– particularly the opposition to health care reform, the first rule in particular.  It’s the first rule for a reason.

It still amazes me how many people have really latched onto the falsehoods being spread by opponents.  It’s so easy to get the truth, but people refuse to believe the truth.  Why?  Well maybe the lie is more interesting.  It’s much more dramatic to think that someone is going to create “death panels”, ration health care, take your money to give care to people who don’t deserve it (That would be everyone but YOU, of course.), pay for abortions with tax dollars, and turn us into the new USSR.  That’s a rather exciting notion, and it’s one that would be GREAT for a fiction novel.  Reading any of the actual proposals (because there isn’t really a single bill to be for or against just yet) is just… well… boring.  Finding out the truth– that in reality not much is going to change for the average patient, except maybe not having to worry so much about whether or not your next surgery will cost you your home– is boring.

But these lies are just that– fiction.  And yes, they’re lies.  I’m not going to soften it. These lies are currently being spread by some of my fellow bloggers– some that I provide links to over on the right side of this page.  Some of them read this blog, and you know who you are.  If you’ve insinuated any of the ones on this Fact Check article, you’re lying.  You’re helping to spread ignorance.  You’re hurting America.  Period.  If you don’t know any better, inform yourself.  Otherwise, I’m left to reason that you’re purposely misleading the public for whatever nefarious purposes.  More on that in a little bit.

Even the people who are currently railing against reform have admitted in the past that America’s current situation is less than stellar.  So much for horror stories about government systems.  We have our own in a perfectly privatized system.  We have rationing, too, if you want something else to worry about.  Nobody is claiming that a government option or single payer system would be perfect– just better.  And there’s more than ample evidence to back that up.  On average, people who live in countries with government health care pay less, live healthier, and live longer.  That’s one fact you don’t hear opponents touch.  Rather, they tend to single out one-in-a-million horror stories while the medical malpractice lawsuits in the U.S. pile up.

The truth is that the lower classes aren’t hurt by lack of reform.  The middle/working class is what suffers.  The poor qualify for government programs, but the middle class simply makes too much money to qualify for most.  (The rich can afford whatever they like, so it doesn’t affect them, either.)  The way the system is currently set up, one could observe that it actually ENCOURAGES people to do worse so that they can qualify for government assistance, as the chances of hitting the lottery are very low.  It encourages a greater gap between the haves and have-nots.

So if the current system is set up to work against the hard workers of America, who make up a majority, why on earth would someone want to perpetuate support for it?  The answer is simple.  There is a mindset, a cult if you will, among certain people in power that they deserve that power and are entitled to certain benefits of that power.  And the only way for them to keep that power is for them to encourage the majority of people not in the same position as they are that it is somehow in their better interests to support them.

Wizard’s Third Rule:

“Passion rules reason.”

I know.  I know.  I sound like some government conspiracy theorist who needs to get out her tin foil hat.  But I’m not talking about the government as a whole.  I’m talking about select individuals who really do believe this.  And while there may be more than a few who don’t technically believe it, those who do have a nasty habit of gaining support, and so others may perpetuate ideas favorable to them.  Think of them as “goupies.”  And groupies can be in positions of power or member of the media and will basically parrot whatever their heroes on pedistals tell them.  And when groupies speak, “minions” listen.  (Okay, so I’m making these words up, but I don’t know if there’s really a set word for it.)  It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, and it’s a common formula in corporations and churches.  The elite order the few, and the few run the masses.  It’s more complicated than that, of course, but that’s it in a nutshell.

How do you spot it?  Well, let’s look at the Wizard’s Fifth Rule:

“Mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will betray a lie.”

So back to the privileged elite.  The deserve power.  They deserve special treatment.  They deserve entitlements.  That’s what they believe, and it’s what they want you to believe.  If you don’t believe that, then go read a right-wing blog for a week or so.  Why else would countless waves of supporters from the middle class argue against their own best interests because of a program that, they believe, will “punish the wealthy” or “punish the corporations”?  Trust me.  The wealthy and corporations have ample representation in D.C. It’s okay for you, the middle class, to stand up for YOUR rights.  Be a little bit selfish.  You’re not exactly defending the meek or the helpless, though it would be nice if you did help someone who truly met that definition.

So with all these people fighting for the rights and interests of the wealthy and overlooking the needs of the middle class, the workers, is it any wonder that those who have their minions railing against government entitlements are some of the biggest beneficiaries?  Why don’t any of those attendees of town halls held by Republican congressmen railing against government health care ask those congressmen where they get their health care?  Being on government health care must really suck for them, which is of course why they’re railing against it.  I mean, it’s not like any of them are rich enough to purchase a private plan instead.  And I know none of them would ever justify having someone else pay for their health care– like the taxpayers.  Taxpayers should not be burdened with paying for the health care of others– unless it’s someone who can already afford to purchase their own.  Yeah, that makes sense.

What is true, and what these congressmen don’t want to admit, is that the fact that they prefer the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to a private insurer is proof that the government is perfectly capable of running a quality health care option.  They just believe that they deserve it and you don’t.  I mean, just because you work for a living doesn’t mean you deserve anything.  I wouldn’t imply that.  But if you belong to an elite group that can spend billions every two years to win a glorified popularity contest– now that’s something.

The situation is reminiscent of the European caste system.  The lower classes were kept in their place by, among other things, denying them proper access to education.  Few could even read.  Nowadays, the only person keeping any American from information is themselves.  But those in power are always ready to pounce on willful ignorance– which is what brings me back to Wizard’s First Rule.

“People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”

Know your place, middle class.  You don’t deserve a health care system as good as the French or the Japanese or the British.  At least, that’s what we’re being told to think.

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