Browsing the blog archives for December, 2013.


Hate as a Virtue, Part I

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Religion

I started to write this post a few days ago, when I saw this at Washington Post. Basically, it says that people who say they hate everybody in Washington (as opposed to just the people they disagree with) overwhelmingly vote Republican.

Lots of people weighed in on why that might be true — people may not like Republicans but agree with Republican policies, for example. I propose another reason — that there is a subset of our population who believe it to be virtuous to hate everybody in Washington. To admit that maybe you don’t hate everybody in Washington is a sign of weakness, that someone is duping you. Many teabaggers, for example, will speak ill of the Republican Party even as they cheer Republican antics and vote for Republican politicians.

So as a sign of intellectual independence, they thump their chests and declare they hate everybody in Washington, because that’s what their peers expect them to say. It’s a variation of groupthink, in other words.

(To be fair, these folks have their counterparts on the Left; for example, those who continue to say that President Obama could have gotten us a single-payer healthcare system if he had just tried.)

Since then we’ve had a lot more hate fests on the Right. The Duck Dynasty nothingburger scandal reached a height of absurdity when an Illinois businessman running for Congress called the DD paterfamilias Phil Robertson the “Rosa Parks of Our Generation.”

And for a jaw-dropping argument that intolerance of his intolerance is oppression, because his intolerance is just the spice that makes life interesting, do see Mark Steyn. But keep the Pepto-Bismol handy.

The version of what Robertson said floating around on the Right is that he was just expressing what the Bible said about homosexuality and had added that it was not for him to judge. See? He’s not a bad guy. But if you look at Robertson’s actual comments, what he said was vile and, yes, judgmental. This is a cheap hatemonger’s trick; say hateful things and then add the qualifier “but it’s not up to me to judge” or “let God sort ’em out” or some such, and that’s supposed to cancel out what you just said. This is a variation of the “I was just joking” qualifier that’s supposed to make it OK to wish someone to eat poison and die.

This takes me to my subject, which is hate as a Christian virtue. For at least a subset of Americans who self-identify as Christians, it seems their “religion” is mostly about hating people. Of course, they qualify this by saying they “hate the sin but love the sinner,” but that’s just the qualifier they tack onto hate speech aimed directly at the “sinner,” not the sin.

And, of course, if you are even halfway acquainted with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, you would know that Jesus frequently cautioned his followers to not hate anybody, even enemies (see Matthew 5:43-48). Well, OK, you’re supposed to hate your parents for some reason (Luke 14:26), but I suspect that wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

Most of the really alarming stuff haters use to justify hating, including homosexuality and racism, is in the Old Testament, although a bit of the anti-gay stuff comes from St. Paul. However, there is data that shows Jews are one of the most liberal and tolerant religious demographics in America. According to Pew Research, 79 percent of American Jews (and 82 percent of American Buddhists, btw) think homosexuality should be accepted. By contrast, only 26 percent of Evangelicals, 24 percent of Mormons, and a whopping 12 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses agree with that. And by more contrast, a small majority of Catholics and “mainline” Protestants put themselves in the “accept” category. So there’s no consensus among Christians on this point.

What’s really happening — and I see the same thing happening in Asian Buddhism, so I’m not just harping on Christians here — is that people drag their cultural biases and bigotries into church with them. And because they lack the moral courage to admit that, often, their biases are immoral according to what Jesus actually taught, they twist religion around to justify the biases. So you end up with Bizarro World Christianity in which not being allowed to discriminate against others is religious persecution.

Seriously, for a subset of American Christians, their religion is all about the hate, and Jesus is a big permission slip to hate, revile, and persecute whomever they wish. Put another way, hate speech isn’t hate speech if you mention the Bible or Jesus in the paragraph somewhere. You can say any vile, hateful, inflammatory thing you want, and the mere mention of Christianity along with it washes the statement of all impurity and is supposed to put you beyond criticism. And if it doesn’t, that’s religious persecution. It’s just like what happened to Rosa Parks.

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The Rage Generators

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Obama Administration

By now you’ve heard about the fellow from the television, um, series, Duck Dynasty, who said some hateful things about homosexuality, likening same-sex sex with bestiality and terrorism. He also suggested that all non-Christians are terrorists and murderers and that African-Americans were happier under Jim Crow laws.

Dean Obeidallah explains what happened next:

Robertson’s comments led A&E, the network that airs his megahit show, to suspend him indefinitely. They didn’t fire him. Nor did A&E pull Duck Dynasty off the air. They didn’t even say they weren’t going to pay Robertson. Bottom line: A&E acted swiftly to save the brand of Duck Dynasty, a show that generates millions in ad revenue for the network. A&E made the right call.

However, this measured response outraged many on the right. Some took to Twitter to scream that “freedom of speech” is being destroyed. GOP USA has blasted A&E.

Obeidallah and Steve M both point out that when somebody associated with the Left says some hateful, jerky thing on television, usually they lose their jobs. Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin come to mind. Yet not a peep out of the Right about “free speech” in those cases.

And for the record, when an employer sees an employee doing something that will likely hurt the company brand and cost the company money, the employee is lucky to keep his job at all. I don’t see this as a free speech issue.

The richest response must be Erick Erickson’s. Just a taste:

A & E has now joined much of mass market culture in the Western World in picking sides in a fight — tolerance for gay rights, but not for Christians expressing honest answers to questions asked of their faith. The only surprise is that the Christians of Duck Dynasty could last there as long as they did. A&E has as much right to do this as you have to turn the channel. But they have clearly aligned themselves against us in the culture wars.

The world is at war with Christ and those who put their faith in Christ. The silver lining of this act is that many Christians who decided they could sit on the sidelines and not have to care will have a wake up call — particularly millennial Christians.

Don’t miss Alex Pareene’s hilarious spoof of Erickson (written before the Duck Dynasty flap), which ends:

Now I’ve just said a lot of vitriolic, mean-spirited things about Erickson, and obviously he deserves every one of them, but now is the part where I adopt a pious tone and talk about Christ and scripture for a paragraph. Christ teaches us to forgive our enemies, after you “joke” about the ones who were murdered by death squads.

It must be noted also that on the same day the Right rose up in solidarity in defense of the Duck Dynasty star, they are also engaged in a hate frenzy over “pajama boy,” a young man who posed in an Obamacare ad from Organizing for Action while wearing pajamas. They are so outraged by the photograph that they’ve identified the young man and are attacking him personally. Because they don’t like the way he looks.

Um, have they focused their eyes on Erick Erickson lately?

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Jesus and the Money Changers

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Obama Administration

The American Right really doesn’t like His Holiness Pope Francis (hereafter HHPF). And we’re talking a big chunk of them; not just Rush accusing HHPF of being a Marxist. Patrick Daneen (in defense of HHPF) writes at The American Conservative:

Since the release of Evangelii Gaudium there have been countless articles and commentary about the economic portions of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation. Some of the commentary has been downright bizarre, such as Rush Limbaugh denouncing the Pope as a Marxist, or Stuart Varney accusing Francis of being a neo-socialist. American conservatives grumbled but dutifully denounced a distorting media when Pope Francis seemed to go wobbly on homosexuality, but his criticisms of capitalism have crossed the line, and we now see the Pope being criticized and even denounced from nearly every rightward-leaning media pulpit in the land.

Not far below the surface of many of these critiques one hears the following refrain: why can’t the Pope just go back to talking about abortion? Why can’t we return the good old days of Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI and talk 24/7/365 about sex? Why doesn’t Francis have the decency to limit himself to talking about Jesus and gays, while avoiding the rudeness of discussing economics in mixed company, an issue about which he has no expertise or competence?

It’s probably the case that the American Left is overreacting also, for example, by making HHPF into a gay rights hero mostly for taking a pass on a chance to say something homophobic. Note that the recent replacement of an American anti-abortion cardinal with a more moderate one in the Congregation of Bishops probably has more to do with proposed reforms of Vatican bureaucracy than with abortion.

Still, he seems a breath of fresh air compared to the last guy. Having never been Catholic I tend to ignore popes, but Benedict just put off bad vibes, as far as I’m concerned.

Elizabeth Stoker has an interesting evaluation at The Week, in which she says that European and other political conservatives who don’t live in the U.S. are just fine with Frank. It’s only American conservatives who can’t process that a man can be pro-Christian and anti-free market at the same time.

Since outlining his vision for the Catholic church in late November, Pope Francis has endured an amount of criticism from the American right wing commensurate only with the praise piled on by the remainder of global Christianity. For most, Francis’ moving exhortation to spread the gospel and engage personally with Jesus was a welcome and invigorating encouragement. But for many right-wing pundits in America, Francis’ call to relieve global poverty through state intervention in markets was unconscionably troubling.

Francis’ message likely raises American conservative hackles because the American right wing has invented such a convincing façade of affinity between fiscal conservatism and Christianity over the last few decades. Though free markets, profit motives, and unrestrained accumulation of wealth have no immediate relationship with Christianity, the cross and the coin are nonetheless powerful, paired symbols of the American right wing. Catholic conservatives thus must carve a way around Francis’ difficult insistence that governments be harnessed toward the relief of poverty, not the creation of it.

Now, you’d have to be pretty far down the rabbit hole not to see how weird this is. In the Gospels, Jesus never said a dadblamed thing about abortion, or homosexuality, and not much about sexual conduct generally. But he talked a lot about helping the poor and the sick. One might even argue that his famous attack on the temple money changers was an anti-free market act.

But American wingnuts are slamming HHPF for being too political. In their minds, threatening to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights is not political; but asking governments to take care that the poor are not utterly trampled by unchecked, rapacious greed is political. OK.

Back to Patrick Daneen–

These commentators all but come and out say: we embrace Catholic teaching when it concerns itself with “faith and morals”—when it denounces abortion, opposes gay marriage, and urges personal charity. This is the Catholicism that has been acceptable in polite conversation. This is a stripped-down Catholicism that doesn’t challenge fundamental articles of economic faith.

And it turns out that this version of Catholicism is a useful tool. It is precisely this portion of Catholicism that is acceptable to those who control the right narrative because it doesn’t truly endanger what’s most important to those who steer the Republic: maintaining an economic system premised upon limitless extraction, fostering of endless desires, and creating a widening gap between winners and losers that is papered over by mantras about favoring equality of opportunity. A massive funding apparatus supports conservative Catholic causes supporting a host of causes—so long as they focus exclusively on issues touching on human sexuality, whether abortion, gay marriage, or religious liberty (which, to be frank, is intimately bound up in its current form with concerns about abortion). It turns out that these funds are a good investment: “faith and morals” allow us to assume the moral high ground and preoccupy the social conservatives while we laugh all the way to the bank bailout.

That was in The American Conservative? Wow.

Back to Elizabeth Stoker:

Though they claim Francis’ message arises from an unduly political place, their arguments rely on a uniquely American political frame rather than a Christian one. Limbaugh, Shaw, and Douthat may claim to object to Francis as Christians, but they argue against him first and foremost as conservatives invested in the free market.

Douthat, for example, argues that global capitalism has been responsible for an overall reduction in poverty. But Francis’ exhortation never called for an elimination of capitalism, only that states, as creations of humankind, be structured so as to alleviate the poverty that arises after capitalism has done its work. For Francis, all institutions created by humanity — and yes, distributions of wealth are created, not spontaneous — must be intentionally shaped to further just goals. Since Francis’ notion of justice is informed purely by the teaching of Christ, just goals include establishing an equitable distribution of wealth that alleviates poverty and contributes to peace.

By now we have more than two centuries of real-world experience showing us that Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” theory is hooey, and that unregulated markets are easily corrupted by greed and become toxic to national and global economies. But for all their howling about wars on Christmas, American wingnuts have more faith in free markets than they have in God. Their God is a weenie who can be driven out of classrooms by Supreme Court decisions, and who requires constant prayers and praising and public displays of the Ten Commandments just to do his job of, you know, God stuff. But free markets (blessed be They) can perfectly spread the blessings of capitalism without intervention of humans, apparently because free markets are ordained by heaven and are not human creations.

Good luck, Frank. You’ll need it.

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The Peasants Are Almost Revolting

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Obama Administration

Polls are showing really strong support for raising the minimum wage. The most recent Quinnipiac poll showed that even a slight majority of Republicans favored raising the minimum wage, with 69 percent of respondents overall favoring it. I don’t know if there are polls asking this specific question going back over the years, but my guess is there wasn’t this much support for raising the minimum wage until very recently.

Of course, as we saw a year ago with gun control, just because a whopping majority of Americans want something doesn’t mean Washington will respond.

Paul Krugman writes that our growing income inequality is not only holding back the economy; it’s skewing government as well

This is especially clear if we try to understand why Washington, in the midst of a continuing jobs crisis, somehow became obsessed with the supposed need for cuts in Social Security and Medicare. This obsession never made economic sense: In a depressed economy with record low interest rates, the government should be spending more, not less, and an era of mass unemployment is no time to be focusing on potential fiscal problems decades in the future. Nor did the attack on these programs reflect public demands.

Surveys of the very wealthy have, however, shown that they — unlike the general public — consider budget deficits a crucial issue and favor big cuts in safety-net programs. And sure enough, those elite priorities took over our policy discourse.

See also Bill Moyers, The Great American Class War: Plutocracy Versus Democracy.

I don’t know if most Americans realize that food stamps and other forms of public assistance from taxpayers actually benefit corporations. Joan Walsh writes it’ s not just Wal-Mart and McDonald’s —

One in three bank tellers receives public assistance, the Committee for Better Banks revealed last week, at a cost of almost a billion dollars annually in federal, state and local assistance. That’s right: One of the nation’s most profitable, privileged and high-prestige industries, banking, pays a sector of its workers shockingly low wages and relies on taxpayers to lift them out of poverty. In New York alone, 40 percent of bank tellers and their family members receive public assistance, costing $112 million in state and federal benefits.

Bank CEOs get multi-million dollar bonuses as profits soar, while millions of tellers are so poor they get welfare. Something’s wrong with that.

Revulsion at subsidizing profitable corporations that pay poverty-level wages is helping fuel a wave of long-overdue organizing and protest on behalf of low-wage workers, from the fast-food strikes that have swept the country to Wal-Mart protests this holiday season. Taxpayers recoil at the notion, but so do many workers themselves. “I thought I could make it on my own. That didn’t happen,” Wal-Mart worker Aubretia Edick, who makes $11.70 an hour and still gets public assistance, told the Huffington Post. That’s why she joined a one-day strike. “Wal-Mart doesn’t pay my salary,” she said. “You pay my salary.”

The U.S. now has the highest proportion of low-wage workers in the developed world, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

My sense of things is that at least some people are waking up to this. But are enough people going to wake up soon enough?

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Guns and Crazy

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Obama Administration

We’ve passed the first anniversary of the Newtown school massacre. In this past year investigators have learned that Adam Lanza was not just bit odd or withdrawn. He was seriously warped and putting out flashing 90-foot neon signs that he was potentially dangerous. His mother kept buying him guns because, in her mind, an interest in shooting was the only “normal” thing about him.

I will say one thing in Nancy Lanza’s defense, which is that the United States health care system does not offer enough for people with severe psychiatric disease who need long-term, closely monitored care. That’s mostly because there’s no way to wring a profit out of the seriously crazy. Even if you have money and good insurance, sometimes the medical-care infrastructure you need just isn’t there.

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The Budget Deal

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Obama Administration

My first impression of the budget deal was pretty much, meh.

Krugman writes,

So, about that budget deal: yes, it was a small victory for Democrats. It was also, possibly, a small step toward political sanity, with some Republicans rejecting, provisionally, the notion that a party controlling neither the White House nor the Senate can nonetheless get whatever it wants through extortion.

But the larger picture is one of years of deeply destructive policy, imposing gratuitous suffering on working Americans. And this deal didn’t do much to change that picture.

On the other hand, Dave Weigel thinks the Dems won big

It’s largely the story of the deficit shrinking, Democrats denying Republicans any shot at entitlement reform, and Republicans—who would never admit this—realizing they needed to stop looking like the antagonists who were ready to inflict massive casualties to force through spending cuts. It is a massive victory for Democrats, who took Social Security and Medicare cuts out of the conversation after two years of “Washington” insisting that they needed to happen.

And it’s also the funeral of Fix the Debt. No one’s taking selfies at this bash. Fix the Debt, the iconic “just use this current panic to cut entitlements” pressure group, spent at least $43 million to influence the conversation. Its reward: bupkis. . . .

. . . If liberals want to thank anyone for the stasis that killed debt mania, they should thank the conservatives who held out on a 2011 bargain and the consultant class that did basically nothing with all the money provided by debt-hawk business interests.

I take optimism wherever I can find it.

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Are Baggers Here to Stay?

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Obama Administration

Democracy: The Journal of Ideas has a symposium on whether the old Republican/business establishment can take their party back from the Tea Party. Or, perhaps, the movement will lose steam after 2016 and we’ll more than likely have a white president again.

I haven’t read all of the articles, but at least two of them think the baggers probably will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Theda Skocpol writes,

Here is the key point: Even though there is no one center of Tea Party authority—indeed, in some ways because there is no one organized center—the entire gaggle of grassroots and elite organizations amounts to a pincers operation that wields money and primary votes to exert powerful pressure on Republican officeholders and candidates. Tea Party influence does not depend on general popularity at all. Even as most Americans have figured out that they do not like the Tea Party or its methods, Tea Party clout has grown in Washington and state capitals. Most legislators and candidates are Nervous Nellies, so all Tea Party activists, sympathizers, and funders have had to do is recurrently demonstrate their ability to knock off seemingly unchallengeable Republicans (ranging from Charlie Crist in Florida to Bob Bennett of Utah to Indiana’s Richard Lugar). That grabs legislators’ attention and results in either enthusiastic support for, or acquiescence to, obstructive tactics. The entire pincers operation is further enabled by various right-wing tracking organizations that keep close count of where each legislator stands on “key votes”—including even votes on amendments and the tiniest details of parliamentary procedure, the kind of votes that legislative leaders used to orchestrate in the dark.

Dave Weigel argues that the Tea Party doesn’t have to win elections, especially presidential elections, to keep the GOP hogtied.

But does the Tea Party’s clout depend on winning the nomination? Can’t it run the party just as well by commandeering its agenda and platform? The Tea Party is better at co-opting RINOs (“Republicans in Name Only”) and demanding their fealty to a certain agenda. Romney and McCain both made moves to the right to shore up conservatives. Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate was the most visible example (this was before Ryan’s advocacy for immigration reform morphed him into a RINO). But more telling was Romney’s endorsement of the 2011 “cut, cap, balance” pledge.

During the height of that year’s debt limit crisis, Tea Party and conservative groups from FreedomWorks to the Club for Growth coalesced around a plan: Any deal to raise the debt limit—pure political poison—would need to cut that year’s spending by $110 billion, cap future spending at a decreasing percentage of GDP, and force through a Balanced Budget Amendment that would require supermajority votes for any future tax increases. Romney endorsed this. Other Republicans nodded at whatever Tea Party fiscal demands were necessary to stave off primary challenges.

That’s how the conservative base runs the party. If it gets a candidate through the primaries in 2016, it would be a greater triumph. If another candidate co-opts the movement, they’ll grumble but take it. Whatever happens, their agenda can triumph in the nomination process as candidates lurch to the right. If that agenda doesn’t win the general election, its authors will know whom to blame. Somebody else.

On the other hand, Christopher Parker thinks that once there’s a white President again, even if that President is Hillary Clinton, the Tea Party will lose steam. It won’t go away entirely, but some will take their tri-corner hats and go home. See also Sean Wilentz on why the baggers are anti-Jacksonians.

Meanwhile, some elements on the Right are still flogging Third Way and the alleged war between Clinton and Warren supporters among the Dems. David Freedlander writes at Daily Beast,

For the past five years, Democrats have delighted as a civil war has raged over the soul of the Republican Party, with the establishment pummeled by a group of small-government Tea Party absolutists. …

…The first salvo in the Democratic war may have been a December 2 Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal by two leaders of the centrist think tank Third Way, Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler, who urged Democrats not to follow the examples of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, both of whom ran as anti-Wall Street economic populists. Cowan and Kessler called that strategy “disastrous for Democrats” beyond liberal bastions and a “fantasy-based blue-state populism.”

In Pennsylvania, John Hanger, a Democratic candidate for governor and former secretary of state’s Department of Environmental Protection, promptly called on Rep. Allyson Schwartz, the presumed frontrunner in the race, to resign as honorary co-chairwoman of Third Way. The move brought Hanger, who was previously best known for being the only candidate to support the legalization of marijuana, some much-needed attention. But Democratic strategists and activists across the country say the debate is playing out locally in ways great and small in races up and down the ballot where candidates are deciding which side of the line they are on.

If you read the rest of the article — and I don’t blame you if you don’t — Freedlander’s examples are mostly about more progressive Dem candidates beating “centrist” ones, and somebody saying this is a generational divide — the young folks who don’t remember the George McGovern wipeout are keen to move the party Left, while the older folks are more cautious.

The last claim, about a generational divide, is bullshit, IMO. It’s also bullshit that there’s a divide in the Dems that is somehow equivalent to the bagger-establishment divide in the GOP. Michael Lux writes,

However this isn’t really mainly a battle between progressives and “centrists” for the soul of the Democratic party, although there is certainly an element of that, and it is certainly understandable for reporters to talk about it in those traditional political battle terms. But what this is more fundamentally about is a battle between the biggest special interest corporations in the world, who tend to have overwhelming sway over everything in Washington, and those of us who want to confront and rein in their power.

That’s closer to it. Among those ordinary citizens who self-identify as Democrats, I see no support for Third Way’s fiscal austerity faux centrism. Third Way’s support appears to come mostly from K Street and corporations, and even from some Republicans. They don’t speak for anyone but themselves and their funders.

Update: See Thom Hartmann, Corporate Democrats freak out over Elizabeth Warren threat

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Lessons Not Learned

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Obama Administration

I am reading about Nelson Mandala’s funeral. People are praising him for his courageous stand against ignorance and oppression. Not in attendance: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who cannot get a visa from South Africa. Why? Because China is a major trading partner with South Africa, that’s why.

And someday when the world is eulogizing HH the 14th DL, Tenzin Gyatso, they’ll praise him for his courageous stand against ignorance and oppression. It would be really nice, though, if people would just stop being ignorant and oppressive. Standing up to China and its Tibet policy while HH the 14th DL is still alive would be a start.

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Crocodile Tears

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Health Care

An article in the Financial Times warns us of a shortcoming in policies purchased through the insurance exchanges:

Amid a drive by insurers to limit costs, the majority of insurance plans being sold on the new healthcare exchanges in New York, Texas, and California, for example, will not offer patients’ access to Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan or MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, two top cancer centres, or Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, one of the top research and teaching hospitals in the country. …

…It could become another source of political controversy for the Obama administration next year, when the plans take effect. Frustrated consumers could then begin to realise what is not always evident when buying a product as complicated as healthcare insurance: that their new plans do not cover many facilities or doctors “in network”. In other words, the facilities and doctors are not among the list of approved providers in a certain plan.

(I had to check to be sure the article was written recently, and not in the 1990s, when “networked” policies were the new new thing. Yep, the date on it is December 8, 2013.)

OK, so the concern here is that people buying insurance through the exchanges, the majority of whom have no isurance whatsoever now, will not have access to some big-name facilities, which they don’t have access to now, either. Also, people might have to get used to dealing with “networked” health care, which apparently will be a new experience for lots of people even though the majority of us have been limited to some network or another for at least the past 20 years. Is that the issue?

Elsewhere, righties are snarking because the cheapest exchange policies come with high deductibles. These are the same people who have touted high-deductible policies as the answer to affordable insurance for years.

Many of these crocodile tears are being shed by people who’ve been on employee-paid group plans all their lives and have no idea how much insurance really costs. Ryan Cooper writes that maybe members of Congress will learn something —

Right now, one of the primary ways Congressional Republicans are attacking Obamacare is to cite the sob stories of Congressional staffers — and lawmakers themselves — who are having a bad experience with the law. Thanks to a bit of Republican legislative trolling that forced Members and their staffs onto the exchanges to make a political point, some are discovering that premiums are higher than they would have expected, having previously enjoyed the protection of government benefits that essentially shielded them from reality.

But if anything, the fact that Members of Congress are now having an unpleasant brush with the American health care system is a good thing. These Members are experiencing the same American health care system that the uninsured and people with preexisting conditions have been experiencing for many years. They are being forced to face the fact that American health care costs a lot, which, of course, is one of the reasons reform is so hard.

I say they won’t learn a damn thing. They’ll just assume everything was fine before the ACA passed.

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Pathetically Centrist Third Way

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Obama Administration

Paul Krugman comments on the Third Way:

So progressive Democrats have seized on an op-ed by the group Third Way — an op-ed attacking Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio for their terrible, horrible economic populism — as a way to start reclaiming the party from the “centrists”. And it’s working: the centrists are very much on the run.

Why? Part of the answer is that the Democratic party has become more progressive. But I would argue that the centrists are also suffering from their own intellectual bankruptcy.

How so?

I mean, going after Warren and de Blasio for not being willing to cut Social Security and their “staunch refusal to address the coming Medicare crisis” ??? Even aside from the question of exactly what the mayor of New York has to do with Medicare, this sounds as if they have been living in a cave for years, maybe reading an occasional screed from the Pete Peterson complex.

This is literally true, as I’ll explain in a bit.

On Social Security, they’re still in the camp insisting that because the system might possibly have to pay lower benefits in the future, we must move now to cut future benefits. Oh, kay.

But anyway, they declare that Medicare is the bigger issue. So what’s this about “staunch refusal” to address Medicare? The Affordable Care Act contains lots of measures to limit Medicare costs and health care more generally — it’s Republicans, not progressive Democrats, who have been screaming against cost-saving measures (death panels!).

See, for example, Ruth Marcus, who sorrowed over the President’s recent economic populist speech as a missed opportunity.

Now for the tough love. On the debt and entitlement spending, Obama did not only miss an opportunity – he kicked it in the teeth. “When it comes to our budget, we should not be stuck in a stale debate from two years ago or three years ago,” he said. “A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.” Yes, the deficit is shrinking, but Obama’s snappy language evades the bigger point: Dealing with the long-term debt and entitlement spending should be a progressive goal. Over time, a debt of such magnitude slows the economic growth that the president correctly identifies as an essential element of solving the inequality problem. It diverts scarce resources from investing in America’s future to paying interest to foreigners. And speaking of resources, the growing claims on the budget of programs for the elderly inevitably pit the nation’s most vulnerable children – the very ones who the president worries are being denied the American Dream – against its seniors. Curtailing Medicare and Social Security costs in a way that protects the neediest beneficiaries ought to be a national priority. Too bad the president couldn’t – wouldn’t – rouse himself to say so. Speaking truth to power is easier when the power is not in your own party, and when your own power is at such a low ebb.

They just can’t get beyond the idea that we must cut Medicare and Social Security for the sake of the young folks. It doesn’t matter how much data you dredge up showing that cutting these programs would hurt the economy, not help it. Just let’s see how the young folks like it when they are stuck with their aging parents’ medical bills.

Charles Pierce:

They’re never going to let this go. They are like dogs with a chew toy. This one touches all the bases.I “I’m a liberal so everything I have always believed has been doomed by a glitchy website.” In the long run, Teh Deficit will eat us in our beds. Social Security and Medicare always are lumped together, even though the former does not have anything to do with the federal budget. The best thing any Democratic president can do is reject his party’s most fundamental difference with the lunatics on the other side. (You will note that Marcus treats Paul Ryan, that great fake, much more gently, wrapping him tightly in her arms against the nasty old president’s nasty old citations of things Ryan actually has said.) The problem with today’s youth is not that they can’t find work, or that student loan scams are burying them under debt, but that some greedy old person somewhere is making $1200 a month. Kicking granny onto the ice floe is “speaking truth to power.” And Ruth Marcus is a pink balloon.

Back to Third Way — there really are ties between Third Way and the Pete Peterson complex. Third Way founder Jonathan Cowan has another group he calls “The Can Kicks Back.” According to SourceWatch:

The Can Kicks Back (TCKB) describes itself as a “non-partisan, Millennial-driven campaign to fix the national debt and reclaim our American Dream.”[1]

According to the Washington Post, The Can Kicks Back is a “group of young deficit hawks making it their mission to warn the Millennial Generation about the dangers of an out-of-control deficit.”[2] The group is the champion of stunts and videos, like handing out bags of empty tin cans to reporters[3] and teaching Alan Simpson to dance Gangnam style (see video). Simpson and Erskine Bowles of the Simpson-Bowles Commission are on the group’s board, and it has the same goal as the campaign to Fix the Debt (a “grand bargain” by July 4; see below for more).

Nothing says “millennial-driven” better than Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. I can hear the violins playing “Younger Than Springtime” even now. Here’s the video cited above, btw:

Yes, I’m sure this really resonates with the young folks. (/sarcasm) It’s like watching Lawrence Welk conducting the Greatest Hits of the Rolling Stones.

SourceWatch says that The Can Kicks Back appears to be “not only a partner but a project of the Peterson-funded Fix the Debt campaign.” So, yeah, there’s your connection.

Also, too, Lee Fang found out Third Way uses a lobbying firm that also works for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Third Way calls itself “Senate-focused progressive advocacy group.” No, you don’t get to call yourself “progressive” and advocate cutting social programs like Social Security. This is like “Mercenaries for Peace” or vegans promoting the American Angus Association.

See also “Third Way Op-Ed Writer Says Elizabeth Warren’s Backing Of Social Security Plan Was The ‘Final Moment‘” and (from last year) “Third Way’s Jon Cowan: Once Again, Ginning Up Faux Youth Outrage.”

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