Monday, June 11, 2012

Why Republicans Are So Hellbent on Destroying Health Care Reform

Republicans’ aggressive obstruction of the Affordable Care Act has mystified me at times. I’m pretty sure I get it now, though.

The catalyst was Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ comment over the weekend that now would be a good time to abolish public sector unions once and for all. A light went on for me. There’s a connection.

This is fundamentally about the relationship between you and your employer.

Forget this Tea Party nonsense about Obama’s “socialism,” or his birth certificate. Forget abortion, same-sex marriage and gun rights. Forget immigration. Let’s even set aside taxes. The mainstream Republican elite is all about the party’s corporate base, and its mantra is about maximizing value to shareholders. Peel away all other layers and that’s the essence of the GOP. These people are professionals. Teabaggers and evangelicals vote; corporations pay the bills.

This is my first post since
November 4, 2008. 

Corporations try to be rational about their costs, which is why so many jobs are outsourced to low-wage countries. Nevertheless, companies appear to see value in locating some operations in the US. The problem with this, however, is the cost of maintaining American workers’ standards of living. We’re not cost-competitive.

Republicans, on behalf of their corporate backers, have long wanted to change that. They began making real headway in 1981, when the Reagan Administration, in its true defining moment, fired over 11,000 striking air traffic controllers, banning them from federal jobs for life. This was not just a blow to public sector organizing; it was the beginning of the end for unions generally. This is of a piece with a core conservative strategy: To hold down labor costs in the US by shifting the balance of strength in wage and benefit negotiations as far as possible toward the side of management.

Not long ago, General Motors sought to blame its poor financial performance on its health care obligations to its employees and retirees. For each car that rolled off its assembly lines, GM said, about $2000 of the price came from workers’ health care benefits. One might think this would make companies like GM strong backers of universal, single-payer health care, which would shift the burden of health benefits off the backs of employers altogether, making them more competitive with companies in countries with single-payer or heavily subsidized systems. But no. It doesn’t work that way here.

How much have you given up just to keep your present corporate job? Ever thought about ditching it and starting your own business? What stopped you? What stops a lot of people isn’t the lousy economy – it’s health care. Buying insurance as an individual or a small start-up is daunting. It’s nearly impossible for a lot of freelancers. Health insurance binds you to your employer. Haven’t had a raise in three years? Fed up with long hours, doing what used to be two or three people’s jobs, doing without niceties like IT support? Hey, at least you’ve got health insurance. Sure, the co-pays keep going up, but at least they can’t dump you altogether because of your migraines.

It matters, strategically, to your employer to have you dependent on them for your benefits. It keeps you complacent and willing to accept a much weaker negotiating position when it comes to your own future. Perhaps this is what makes it so attractive for globalized corporations to maintain operations in the US – Europeans do strikes and boycotts. Americans have never gotten the hang of those things – this in a county where a typical CEO makes over 400 times what an average worker makes, a ratio an order of magnitude larger than anywhere else in the developed world.

Corporate executives and their shills in Congress have no trouble squaring this with their consciences. No, it isn’t only Republicans. The erosion of workers’ positions toward their employers, in good markets and bad markets, has been a Republican project since the Nixon Administration (the folks who midwifed the birth of Managed Care in the US). But since 1968, only two US Presidents have not been parties to this undertaking: Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.

This helps to explain the relentlessness of conservative campaigns to destroy the reputations of these two men. 

If you’re not an investment banker or a C-level executive, it should underscore the importance of supporting Barack Obama’s re-election.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Time's come.... unflop the flag.

Congrats, America.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I Have Been Censored

Taking the woman at her word, I went to and did as she asked tonight: I wrote a response to her blog post, in which she says:

"This has always been your campaign, and tonight, there's no one I want to hear from more than you. I hope you're as proud as I am of what we've done and that you'll take a moment to share your thoughts with me now at my website."

My comment was critical. I said she had blown an opportunity to be the unifier she promised to be, and to yield the stage to the nominee of the Democratic Party. I said the speech she gave was eloquent, but not the one Democrats or the country needed to hear. It's what I felt as she spoke tonight. It was not the worshipful pap that everyone else seems to be posting, but she asked for feedback, and I gave it.

I posted at about 11:35 pm. As I write this, it is 11:54 and my post has not been allowed to appear. I've been filtered out.

Apparently, if I really want to have my say, I can use this handy form at Hillary's home page:

Notice the comment box. That's the context in which Hillary will accept dissent.

I'm with Jeffrey Toobin, re: "the deranged narcissism of the Clintons."

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ugliness Begets Ugliness

Howard Dean, offering up the latest rationalizationsFeelings are hardening among Democrats. Those who go on numbly suggesting the party will heal when the nomination battle is over are whistling past the graveyard.

The bottom line: After 8 years of the neoconservative program of cynicism and neglect, Americans are just dumb enough to elect another Republican president. If this actually happens, I don't ever want to see Bill or Hillary Clinton's faces again.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

What Really Went Wrong at the ABC Debate


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My 30-Second Spot for John McCain


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Monday, March 17, 2008

A Solomonic Solution to the Democrats' Impasse

Before I say this, I want to make it clear that I'm in earnest. I tend to be a smartass, but today I mean exactly what I'm about to say.

I'm highly partisan in the presidential nominating process. I strongly favor Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, for a lot of good reasons that I'll lay out if pressed to do so. Suffice it to say for now that there are very meaningful policy and temperamental differences between the two. But those differences pale by comparison to the differences between the two alternative futures we have to choose from in November.

We can choose at least the possibility of abandoning the catastrophic neoconservative agenda of the Bush years, by electing the Democrat. Or we can embrace the Bush program by electing his heir and single remaining cheerleader, John McCain. It boggles my mind that the latter choice is even on the table, but there it is.

I feel rather strongly that another dance with the neocons is the last thing this beleaguered society needs, and that it is essential that the Democrats somehow find a way not to screw this up. But the Democrats apparently have seen the cliff, heard its mesmerizing siren song, and seem bound and determined to drive the bus, Thelma and Louise style, off into the canyon once again.

As I understand it, there is no known scenario by which Hillary Clinton can smack together enough pledged delegates to win the nomination before the convention. Barack Obama would have to win the Pennsylvania primary to do it, and that seems not to be in the cards. So we're headed for a scenario where the Superdelegates make the decision. These are mostly the party elite, and the elite have tended to lean Hillary's way -- she of the Democrats' royal family. If this is the outcome, they will have frustrated the will of the majority of primary voters and pledged delegates, an extremely risky undertaking.

If they break Obama's way, they alienate a powerful fundraising machine and neutralize a charismatic former President who, a year ago, was anticipated to be one of the Democrats' principal weapons in the general election. (Actually, that gun's already effectively spiked; Bill Clinton's just not likely to be that credible an advocate for Obama, having said the things he's said about Barack during the primaries.)

I think I have a better idea. Rather than waste several months' effort and funds on unproductive infighting between the remaining Democratic contenders, only to see it end demoralizingly in an old-fashioned brokered convention anyway, I offer a more Solomonic solution. I do NOT mean settling on a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket -- which would be an absurd-looking pushme-pullyou in any case.

I propose that they just flip a coin.

There would be no crisis of recriminations among Democrats, if the matter were simply entrusted to luck instead of the whimsy of the Superdelegates. You can't second-guess heads or tails. It is what it is. That's why the advantage in something as monumental as the Super Bowl is decided this way each year.

I propose flying the captains of the two campaigns up to Detroit, for a globally televised meeting on the 50 yard line of the Pontiac SuperDome. (This would give Michigan an opportunity to regain a stake in the nominating process without undertaking an expensive and complex do-over primary. As for Florida...screw Florida. Democrats never win there anyway.)

Let the principals shake hands and commit themselves to abide by the result of the toss. Give the coin -- an ordinary half-dollar, chosen at random from a bag of half-dollars by a Deloitte auditor -- to someone of excellent reputation: Lee Hamilton or George Mitchell, say, ideally someone uncommitted to either candidate. Let Hillary, as the underdog delegatewise, call it in the air.

One toss, no double-or-nothing. Let the world see it as it happens. Let the candidates accept the outcome with grace and dignity, shake hands, and get on with the work of defeating the Republicans instead of eviscerating one another.

I'm open to suggestions as to why this solution is inferior to collective self-immolation on the way to a cacophonous clown show in Denver. Thoughts?

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