Lemmings of Missouri

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Obama Administration

I see that my state-of-origin, Missouri, voted overwhelming to nullify the health care reform law, in particular the individual mandate. The ballot proposal to nullify the law, Proposition C, passed everywhere in the state except for Kansas City and St. Louis.

Now, I know the state pretty well, and I know that in some of those counties at least 20 percent of the population is below the poverty line. Further, in big chunks of the state the the kind of jobs that come with full benefits are scarce.

So there’s little doubt that many of the people who voted for Proposition C in Missouri yesterday have no health insurance, have no hope of getting insurance, and are not getting medical care they need. They are also poor enough that when the time comes for them to purchase insurance through the exchanges they will benefit from all kinds of subsidies or will be able to enroll in Medicaid for the first time.

For example, let’s look at Washington County. According to Wikipedia, the per capita income there is $16,095. The median income for men is $27,871; for women $18,206; and for families $38,193. All of those incomes fall well below the cutoff for subsidies. According to the Kaiser health reform subsidy calculator, a median Washington County family with four kids and a 40-year-old head of household would get a tax credit for 82 percent of their anticipated annual premium, leaving them with an actual expense of $1,757 annually, or just under $145 a month.

And I wish it were lower, and I wish it were a direct subsidy and not a tax credit, but you know Republicans like their tax credits, and Republicans insisted that the for-profit insurance companies get a big enough cut so the CEOs can vacation in France. Which has better health care than we do.

But without the mandate, the premiums would be higher for everyone, and we’d be back in the same death spiral pattern we’re in now, with younger and healthier people dropping insurance, leaving the older and sicker in a shrinking risk pool with rising premium costs, causing more people to drop insurance, etc.

The state is far more conservative than it used to be. I haven’t lived there since about 1977, and back then a reasonably progressive, New Deal Democrat like Stuart Symington could do very well. I guess all those years of listening to Rush have done their job. Now the elites of the Right jerk their chains, and the people of Missouri do their bidding.

I understand there’s little chance Missouri would be allowed to opt out of the health care reform law, unless Republicans retake enough advantage in Congress to rewrite or repeal the law. And I’m sure the lemming voters of Missouri will do their best to make that happen. The state motto should be changed from “show me” to “which way to the cliffs, oh master?”

Update: John Cole writes,

Though I’m sure we’ll be hearing how it’s part of a groundswell against Obama and Congress, I’ll take the simpler explanation that everyone wants to eat cake, but nobody wants to get fat. Mandatory insurance is the unpleasant part of HCR that makes the whole thing work, and it’s not surprising that the least palatable part of the bill is unpopular.

Maybe, but I think it’s more likely My Fellow Hillbillies were whipped up by rhetoric about sending a message to Obama and not letting the Gubmint control my health care. Some of those people aren’t getting any health care, but they’re ready to do without rather than have any part of it tainted by connection to the Gubmint, until they turn 65 and can collect Medicare. And then it’s OK, as long as Gubmint keeps its hands off Medicare, because Medicare comes from Jesus, or maybe the health care fairy. Nah, probably Jesus.

Lemmings, I tell you. Stupid, ignorant lemmings. They’re charging for the cliffs as fast as they can charge, and they’re trying to drag the whole country with them.

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34 Comments

33 Comments

  1. joanr16  •  Aug 4, 2010 @8:58 am

    Yesterday I heard a MO state senator explain why she sponsored the bill: “The government has no right to force private citizens to buy something with our own money.” That was her entire argument.

    Um, driver’s licenses? Car insurance? Infant car seats? Smoke alarms in dwellings? Etc.?

    Sigh.

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 4, 2010 @9:35 am

    Well, you can lead horses-asses to water, but you can’t make them think…

  3. Anniecat45  •  Aug 4, 2010 @12:37 pm

    It’s not just health care, either. My 80-year-old uncle was hysterical earlier this year about his taxes; he listens to Beck Limbaugh et al and had heard all about Obama’s tax hikes and was worried that he would owe a lot of money.

    As it turned out, he got a REFUND.

    Did he interpret this to mean that he should take Beck, Limbaugh etc. with a grain of salt, and at least check what they say against other sources? No, of course not; he still listens to them because “they tell the truth” — in other words, they ring his emotional bells — and THAT’s what’s so horrifying to me about the followers of Beck/Limbaugh. They do not reinterpret anything in the light of new, hard, accurate information or events. I would call a refund of tax payments hard information, but even that didn’t even make him skeptical.

    This same uncle was astounded to learn that last year’s Obama tax credit for people making less that $75,000 was the first tax cut I’d ever benefited from. He believed Bush’s tax cuts benefited everyone.

  4. GoingLikeSixty  •  Aug 4, 2010 @12:41 pm

    Only 23% of Missouri voted! A fact that is being overlooked in all media reports.

  5. Andy Waschick  •  Aug 4, 2010 @12:43 pm

    I live in the city of Saint Louis, and we did all that we could to prevent this. I suspected it was a lost cause, however, and I was correct. Missouri has always had this Kansas City & St. Louis vs. The Hinterlands struggle, and more often than not we find this boat anchor of provincial fear and intolerance tied around our ankles as we try to drag ourselves towards progressive goals. Somebody has the keep the lights on for civilization, though, and we’ll continue to do whatever we’re able.

  6. Tom Mathers  •  Aug 4, 2010 @12:53 pm

    So in other words, we know what’s good for you, even if you don’t. You may need to rethink this strategery going forward, I think.

  7. kagerato  •  Aug 4, 2010 @1:11 pm

    It’s completely unsurprising that the individual mandate is unpopular; mandates are always unpopular. People hate to be told they must do something.

    Our big problem here is that what we needed was an overhaul of the “health care system”, that is, medicine in this country. What Congress passed was a mild health insurance abuse reform.

    Simply put, it is doubtful that, even if you put every eligible person into the system, costs will be reduced by nearly as much as necessary. The actual causes behind expensive medicine are rather:

    (1) Having a large and entirely unnecessary middleman between patients and doctors. That is, insurance companies. Their raison d’être is to produce profits by denying treatment. In effect, to corrupt and manipulate health for the gain of a few. The cost of having essentially a racket of lawyers sitting between citizens and medical providers is difficult to overstate. It segments the market into competing fragments, preventing proper cost sharing. It forces people to seek treatment from a limited selection of doctors and hospitals, preventing any real competition on cost, quality, or indeed quality for cost.

    (2) The growth in chronic disease and the ever-increasing array of treatments for chronic diseases, each more expensive than the last (though not necessarily any more effective). If you add the costs together of all forms of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and other “treatable” illness, you’ll find that’s where the vast bulk of the money goes. Because the fact of the matter is we don’t have cures for any of them. That’s our fundamental problem. Now ask yourself what the most plausible reason is for lacking cures for those diseases is, given that many other diseases (whether infectious or chronic) do have cures. If your answer was because the medical research budget is a miserably small fraction of medical costs in this country, BINGO.

    (3) Patents on medicine and biology. This one is just absurd. By establishing twenty year monopolies on particular chemicals and constructs, we’ve made medicine artificially and arbitrarily more expensive. Instead of the cost of a pill being just slightly more than what it takes to actually produce it (usually by the tens or hundreds of thousands at a time), the cost is whatever the monopoly producer believes will make the most money. The justification for patents is supposed to be to increase innovation and productivity. The only way you can fairly see patents as having accomplished that goal is if you think having thirty different variants of erectile dysfunction drugs is a good thing. In reality, patents are vastly inflating the cost of medicine while contributing little to the development of any drug which can’t produce a sizable and ongoing profit. That is, they create a disincentive to seek cures for illness and an incentive to seek drugs which treat symptoms alone, and don’t even do that perfectly. Most fundamental medical research is funded based on government grants already; there is no reason why that can’t be sustained and expanded without patents. There is no justification for anyone to profit off the illness and misery of other people.

  8. joanr16  •  Aug 4, 2010 @1:21 pm

    Tom, here’s a “strategery” you can try: drive without car insurance and rear-end somebody at 35 mph. Then, after your license is suspended, try driving without one.

    Or, you can read the preceding comments and learn that only 23% of Missouri voted, and that the anti-HCR side argued nonsense.

    Anyone can choose not to think.

  9. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 4, 2010 @1:40 pm

    Tom Mathers,
    Why?
    It worked so well for Republicans. Because of them, we have:
    Limited womens choice, despite polls which showed continued support.
    Given tax breaks to those who don’t need them, despite knowledgeable economist predicting how disasterous it would be – and has become.
    Gotten involved in two needless wars by painting those who didn’t support them as either cowards or treasonous traitors, or both.
    Put people on the SCOTUS who are the very definition of Corporatists, and who allowed corporations to have more bang-per-buck than you or me come election time. Which almost anyone with a working brain knows is NOT good for democracy.
    And all of this was accomplished by hoodwinking our stupid and compliant (or willing?), corporate-owned MSM.
    Jesus, all we Democrats wanted to do was make health care more affordable for everyone.
    Maybe you’re right, and if we stick to helping corporations, the military industrial complex, and the rich, we’ll be as successful as Republicans. I just don’t know how much more of that kind of ‘success’ our country can stand.
    But, what do I know. I’m not a lemming…………………………….

  10. goatherd  •  Aug 4, 2010 @1:47 pm

    Kathleen Sebelius was on “Talk of the Nation” yesterday. A few of the callers had fears that despite being near the poverty line or below it, they would have to spend money on healthcare insurance. Other anti-healthcare talking points were also common. Overall she did a pretty good job of presenting the reality of HCR. But, it was evident once again that opponents had done a great job of stoking people’s fears with misinformation. The tragedy is that it was one of the few times I had been able to hear someone from the administration field questions about HCR, when it seems I have heard various gasbags from think tanks on a daily basis.

    One joker claimed to have listened to the “Netroots” messages from Obama and Nancy Pelosi, then to have compared them to CPUSA website material and found them to be “exactly the same”. You see single payer equals communist oppression, just like in the communist dictatorships of Canada and the UK.

    One thing seems true, we’re too dumb to live.

  11. Felicity  •  Aug 4, 2010 @2:08 pm

    I’ve read that there is no penalty for not buying health insurance. Is that true?

    As to tax credits – since about 50% of Americans pay no income tax because they don’t have enough taxable income how will they receive tax credits?

  12. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @2:43 pm

    So in other words, we know what’s good for you, even if you don’t. You may need to rethink this strategery going forward, I think.

    So in other words, people are being snookered, flimflammed, sold out, or whatever else you want to call it by the Right. People are being manipulated by lies and propaganda into voting against their own interests, and it’s pretty much already killed the American Dream for most of us, but it could get even worse if people don’t wake up. I know that doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, but it’s not a “strategy.” It’s the bleeping truth.

  13. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @2:49 pm

    Andy — I grew up in the Town Formerly Known as Flat River, now Park Hills (gag; sounds like the name of a cemetery). I can remember when New Deal-type ideas were fairly popular there, or at least not run out of town on a rail. It seems to have changed a lot.

  14. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @3:48 pm

    I’ve read that there is no penalty for not buying health insurance. Is that true?

    Starting in 2016 there will be a penalty for some people who don’t purchase insurance; see Ezra Klein.

    how will they receive tax credits?

    I’m always confused by the credits and the deductions thing, but I think how it works is that if it’s a credit, it’s as if you had paid that amount in taxes, and you could claim it as a refund.

  15. Kristopher  •  Aug 4, 2010 @4:44 pm

    Tom, here’s a “strategery” you can try: drive without car insurance and rear-end somebody at 35 mph. Then, after your license is suspended, try driving without one.

    Works just fine, Joan. Illegal aliens rear end people all the time out here … and the police do nothing to them, other than wave them off. No license, no insurance, no action by local authorities. Just add “no habla inglez” to your suggestion, and you walk away scot-free.

    When you throw away the rule of law, and just do what feels good to a liberal, these things sorta keep happening.

    Oh, and Maha … just keep calling us all “ignorant lemmings”. Insulting people you want to persuade is such a good tactic. As a long time conservative, I approve of your efforts to verbally alienate Americans.

  16. Swami  •  Aug 4, 2010 @4:48 pm

    Felicity..That’s the million dollar question. Being a good friend of poverty like I am..I’m trained to understand when I hear the words” tax credit” I automatically know it doesn’t apply to me…It’s for somebody who’s making enough money to live..not just survive.

  17. Tom Mathers  •  Aug 4, 2010 @5:07 pm

    Today was my first-ever post on this blog (found through memeorandum). The point I was trying to make, fairly innocuously, was that the “lemmings” commentary, to me, read like “elites know best” which I believe is likely to be a losing proposition in the current environment. The knee-jerk response to laundry list the evils of the Right makes me think that today’s commenters are the Lemmings of Mahablog, unfortunately.

  18. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 4, 2010 @5:19 pm

    Tom,
    When you write a short comment, with a decided conservative twist, what are we to think? Maybe if you took a little bit more time explaining your opinion, we might have had a little more to work with.
    But, I guess it matters whose ‘elites’ you listen to, doesn’t it? You seem to like the conservative ones who reinforce what you want to hear, what you feel and believe, on talk radio and FOX, as opposed to those who can give you facts, figures, charts, etc.
    But then we all know, facts have a decidedly Liberal bias, don’t we?
    Maybe if you’d said something remotely interesting I’d miss you if you don’t come back. Right now, there’s nothing to miss but another doctrinaire follower of right wing media.
    If you want to come back, please do, and have something to say that isn’t a ‘talking point’ straight from those sources a mentioned. If you decide not to come back, oh well…

  19. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @5:33 pm

    Oh, and Maha … just keep calling us all “ignorant lemmings”. Insulting people you want to persuade is such a good tactic. As a long time conservative, I approve of your efforts to verbally alienate Americans.

    I am an American, and you are verbally alienating me. So I guess we’re even. You can go away now.

  20. Tom Mathers  •  Aug 4, 2010 @5:34 pm

    Decided conservative twist? Projection much?

    Here are numbers, with no doctrinaire special sauce:
    1.) 23% of voter turnout = 1mm voters, meaning it lost by around 400,000 votes.
    2.) if you get turnout in Missouri = the 2008 general, then your turnout will be around 3mm people
    3.) the split on the remaining 2mm who didn’t vote this time around needs to break 58-42 against C just to get back to even.

    To me, those are daunting odds. If you are happy with that proposition, then by all means, keep chugging along. Personally, I think you’ll need to do more than say “listen up, uneducated rubes”.

  21. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @5:35 pm

    The knee-jerk response to laundry list the evils of the Right makes me think that today’s commenters are the Lemmings of Mahablog, unfortunately.

    If you can document that our opinions are based on propaganda and fantasy, you have a right to call us lemmings. However, they are not. Unfortunately.

  22. joanr16  •  Aug 4, 2010 @6:10 pm

    Kristopher, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I pursue uninsured motorists for a living, and it’s my sad duty to report that you have no idea what you’re talking about. Your comment involves zero knowledge of auto insurance practices, police procedure, or state-by-state Financial Responsibility statutes. It does involve a heaping helping of bigotry, however.

    Tom, none of your comments are supported by anything sensible, and you’re trying to blame us for that; so, alas, you are the one who’s projecting.

  23. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 4, 2010 @6:18 pm

    Tom,
    I never said people there were ‘uneducated rubes’ there My inference was either ignorance, or some blithe disregard for your own self-interest, probably put into your heads by the 24x7x365 talk radio machine which never takes a break.
    I lived in the South, and any time of any day or night, at any time of year, you could find a replay of Rush, or Sean, or Glenn, Neil, or some other right-wing propagandist telling you that anything Democrats do lies somewhere between communism, socialism, fascism or treason.
    Back to the topic at hand – I never liked the damned mandate for health insurance myself. But, with typical Democratic cowardice or short sightedness, instead of going for a single-payer system which was the best solution, they took the REPUBLICAN approach and put in mandatates. The Republicans, typically ran away from it, as they do with with any progressive legislation that Dem’s put forth, even when it was fracking THEIR idea. Not that they’ve tried to do anything progressive since LBJ was in his first term. You might remember what that was – Civil Rights. And now, the Republicans are as far away from that, as they are another of their favorite topics – budgetary discipline.
    But, don’t question anything, don’t try to think, you might hurt yourself. Just keep on keepin’ on… You must be in SOME state of bliss.

  24. Charles  •  Aug 4, 2010 @6:20 pm

    Apparently, pointing out that lemmings are doing something stupid is a bad strategy, because they’ll take umbrage about it and double down … on the stupid thing they’re doing.

    Yeah, they’re displaying all the intelligent, thoughtful behavior you’d expect — from lemmings.

    Tom, Kristopher, take note: while I don’t necessarily agree with Maha (I read her for insight and information, not bias confirmation), she’s dead on in this case.

  25. Goat  •  Aug 4, 2010 @6:53 pm

    Even ‘rubes’ know it is not actually in their self interest to be treated as wards, incompetents, or children. It is not in one’s self interest to be dictated to by congress, even when being bribed with benefits one couldn’t necessarily purchase themselves.

    Most normal people know stealing is wrong, even if it ‘benefits’ them, because ‘benefit’ is not the metric ethical people use…..it’s wether or not the State is respecting our rights and those of other people, and notably, this does not include mandated health coverage.

    Health care is a commodity, not a right, and bills like this don’t change the fact, and neither does the even more socialized coverage in other nations.

    It is still a commodity in those places, and all that has happened is exchanging the honest coin of open trade for the dishonest and corrupt one of politics, pull, and who you know or can get to pull strings for you.

  26. Goat  •  Aug 4, 2010 @6:56 pm

    “If you want to come back, please do, and have something to say that isn’t a ‘talking point’ straight from those sources a mentioned. If you decide not to come back, oh well…”

    Why don’t you address the content of a ‘talking point’, instead of acting as if discussion is merely a game to be manipulated at will?

    Wether or not something is a ‘talking point’ doesn’t deal at all with the fact that talking point or not, if you can’t address the idea, calling it a ‘talking point’ neither falsifies it nor makes it go away.

  27. alath  •  Aug 4, 2010 @6:57 pm

    ” Republicans insisted that the for-profit insurance companies get a big enough cut so the CEOs can vacation in France.”

    I agree that this health care bill was way to slanted toward the interest of health insurance companies, but I don’t see how you can possibly blame Republicans for that. The thing was passed without any Republican support, so you can’t blame anything on compromises the Democrats were forced to make to get GOP support. It was Obama and the Democrats who excluded single payor advocates from the discussion, and they’re the ones who cut the deals with the health insurance companies.

    This is our new trend. When the GOP is in power, we get a prescription drug bill that is essentially a transfer of taxpayer money to drug companies. When the Dems are in power, we get a health care bill that is essentially a transfer of taxpayer money to insurance companies.

    Americans will not get good government as long as brand loyalty (D/R) trumps the actual policy outcomes. Democrat cheerleaders and Republican cheerleaders ensure both parties will continue to have a loyal enthusiastic base no matter how lame they perform.

  28. Jenni  •  Aug 4, 2010 @7:14 pm

    I live in Columbia MO and work as a public health nurse in a nearby, more rural county. My coworkers are nearly all conservative and cannot see how they are hurting themselves.

    I actually remembering Missouri being a pretty progressive state… then it took a nasty turn. I hope to move away as soon as economically feasible. I have run out of hope and energy to fight the lemmings anymore.

  29. erinyes  •  Aug 4, 2010 @7:40 pm

    “She’s dead on in this case”
    ‘Damned right she is, and so are Joanr16 and ‘Gulag,
    I don’t know how old Tom and Kristopher are, but when you get in to your 50′, and your joints ache, and you need 2 jobs to survive, and ass hats in congress are talking about raising the retirement age to 70, and your investments have crashed, and you wish you had the cash to send your kid to school, but it has evaporated, and you talk with a milionaire friend who put 2 years in the Army and now qualifies for full VA benefits and , and Medicare, but still bitches about “entitlements” and “socialism”, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

  30. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @7:45 pm

    Health care is a commodity, not a right, and bills like this don’t change the fact, and neither does the even more socialized coverage in other nations.

    It’s because we think health care is a commodity that we’re killing ourselves as a nation, economically and literally. There is no place on planet earth where 21st-century medicine is being delivered to all but the rich by a purely market-based system. The old system is not sustainable, and the health care reform bill, which really is just insurance reform, not genuine health care reform, won’t work unless nearly everyone is insured. Hence, the mandate is necessary. Or, we can continue to pretend we can stumble along as we have been, and watch the U.S. slowly turn into a third-world shithole. But I guess that’s what “patriots” do, huh?

    The “honest coin of open trade” is a joke, right? Do you have any idea how many Americans are doing without medical care these days? Do you have any idea how wasteful and inefficient the current system is? Well, of course you don’t. And I’m done trying to explain it.

  31. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @7:46 pm

    alath — “I agree that this health care bill was way to slanted toward the interest of health insurance companies, but I don’t see how you can possibly blame Republicans for that.” Yes, you’re right.

  32. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @7:49 pm

    Why don’t you address the content of a ‘talking point’, instead of acting as if discussion is merely a game to be manipulated at will?

    Yes, Goat, please do. You’re just spewing out the usual “free market” nonsense that we’ve all heard a zillion times already, and which doesn’t exactly square with the “real world.”

  33. maha  •  Aug 4, 2010 @7:50 pm

    Troops — we’re being invaded by trolls, so I’m closing comments.

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