Friday, October 11, 2013

Paul Ryan, New Democrat

Okay, scratch that last post about the two sides of the Money Party probably not being able to make a deal to save the world and screw the people before Default Apocalypse. I spoke/wrote in haste and despair. Paul Ryan has emerged from the ashes of defeat as the New Democrats' (a/k/a Wall Street/centrist branch of the party) wet dream, a knight in shining armor to help forge the grand bargain with Barack the Feckless. Ryan, almost universally lambasted in the past few years for his fraudulent Budget to Nowhere, is now being hailed by "moderates" as the latest hot new pragmatic star.

You know you're in trouble when Paul Ryan emerges from anywhere. But even without his august presence now suddenly eclipsing that of Ted Cruz, the Democrats had already started their current negotiations with the Ryan budget. Austerians are now going to deal with austerians.

Ryan is beginning to sound like Obama. In a Wall Street Journal (paywalled) editorial, he wrote of the need for "modest reforms to entitlements" and was careful to deny that this equates with any Grand Bargain. Both sides of the Money Party now realize that the phrase "Grand Bargain" has a negative connotation for those they are trying to screw.

From what I can glean from the corporate media, talks are back on to kick the debt ceiling can for another six weeks or so -- right up until the usual hectic holiday time, when nobody is paying much attention and all the political players will be anxious to do anything and sign anything in their haste to blow town for their Christmas vacations on the slopes or the beaches.

The good news, of course, is that the almighty Koch machine might be losing some of its steam and a few of its well-oiled parts are crumbling and falling by the wayside. These polluting plutocrats are finally being forced to distance themselves from their own decades-long crusade to destroy the government. The bad news is that the almighty Pete Peterson plutocrats of Fix the Debt are taking up the slack, still slithering around like giant boa constrictors, ready to put the Wall Street squeeze on the squeezed Republicans. The bad news is that the now-weakened Tea Party was the only thing standing in the way of the last Grand Bargain attempt by Boehner and Barack in 2011. As I responded to Paul Krugman's column today,
All it will take to destroy the Tea Party movement is that magic moment when the co-opted astroturfers suddenly connect the dots between their misery and their libertarian heroes' sedition. Grandma's Social Security check is M.I.A. Junior breaks a bone, and the local E.R. has closed for lack of government reimbursements. Uncle Joe's heart medication kills him because FDA inspectors were furloughed, and Big Pharma just can't seem to resist cutting corners with quality control.
Of course, the ultimate irony is happening right now. People are getting sick from eating salmonella-tainted chicken -- all because of the dangerous game of chicken the GOP is playing. Even before the shutdown, the government cut back on poultry plant inspectors, leading the Southern Poverty Law Center to issue a dire warning. You know that our democracy is in deep trouble when a group known for exposing domestic terrorism and hate groups warns that even our sustenance is an imminent threat.
And you know that when even "liberal" pundits start viewing Paul Ryan as reasonable, willing to help the president out with "entitlement reforms", the real progressives need to start coming out of the closet, pronto. It's not enough to "just say no" to the extremists.
How about an end to the carried interest deduction and a tax on high speed trades to fund education and infrastructure? How about scrapping the cap on FICA contributions to protect retirement into perpetuity?
We have to fight fire with fire.
Although Obama is pretending to adhere to his pledge not to be extorted with the threat of default, he is perfectly willing to be extorted with the government still shut down. Putting furloughed federal employees back to work is not a condition for slashing the safety net. At least, not according to the latest leaks. Stayed tuned, but don't stay too riveted. It's bad for your health, and it makes you feel like a yo-yo that keeps getting played.


Fred Drumlevitch said...

Most readers of this blog are probably familiar with something called "Cat Turd Cake", sometimes more politely referred to as "Kitty Litter Cake". Whatever its name, it actually consists of Tootsie-Rolls (or chocolate cookie dough shaped to resemble cat turds) as inclusions within a cake.

So in the world of alimentation, we may see a disgusting name, but a delicious and wholesome product.

In contrast, in the world of politics, we routinely see favorable names such as "Grand Bargain", "National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform", "New Democrat Coalition", or whatever the latest smooth-sounding, approval-evoking label, applied to political legislation/agreements/ideologies that are, upon inspection by anyone with a heart and brain, absolutely disgusting. It's standard propaganda technique, but unfortunately, one that too-frequently works on at least a portion of the populace.

James F Traynor said...

Listening to, reading all this, dancing between the the raindrops to survive financially (so far successfully), I have come to admire, increasingly, the character of Hannibal Lecter, not the monster of The Crying of The Lambs but he of the novel Hannibal. Still a monster, but a much more explainable one. Imagine serving thin slices of his own brain to a narcotized and appreciative Ryan. A delightful image. Savage? Oh, yes. But so comforting.

Pearl said...

I just had a phone call from my sister-in-law who is in her early seventies
and lives in New York State and was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer.
Due to decisions by Medicare that yearly mammograms are not covered unless
there has been a problem, it would not have been found so early if her
excellent doctor had not investigated a lump she found in a recent physical
examination and the radiologist not been alert.
I have written comments several times to articles about the cutbacks for
cancer checkups for people of all ages involving breast, prostate, etc. as
many do fall through the cracks and the cutting back for younger women
regarding mammograms is especially unacceptable with many unhappy stories
I feel that my sister-in-law has a good chance to survive this. She has
already had a lumpectomy and will go through the usual radiology and drug
procedures. Others are not so fortunate. Even in Canada the regulations are
more lax than I like on this issue.
And for those without the funds to get the kind of care others are fortunate to find and pay for, many unnecessary deaths result. And I got my dig in about Obama and health care as she thought he is doing the best he can in that area.
Yes, money makes the world go round on the vulnerable backs of others.

Zee said...


I'm working from an awkward tablet, so I can't provide the usual, carefully-edited response that I would like. But, IMHO, here's the bottom line: Even if OUR nation—or ANY nation—spent its ENTIRE GDP solely on health care, there would STILL be people—such as your sister-in-law—whom we love but who will not receive the tests or treatments that we would hope for.

There will ALWAYS be a “cost-benefit” analysis as to who lives and who dies, unless INFINITE RESOURCES suddenly become available to all. Doesn't matter whether the “insurer” is a private healthcare insurance company, the U.K.'s National Health Service, the Canadian government or our own Medicare, that's just the way it will be.

At the revered age of 90, should YOU be eligible for an annual mammogram? I happen to think that you should be. But will the Canadian government, or Medicare, depending upon who is covering you, agree? Evidently, they've decided at the age of 65, such tests just aren't “cost-beneficial” any more. So sorry.

Should I, at the comparatively young age of 63, be eligible for an annual PSA
(prostate-specific-antigen ) test? Some doctors think that it will only “confuse” me and make me ask for cost-inefficient, “unnecessary” tests, while I happen to think that they just may save my life; but what the hell do I know? I'm neither a physician nor politician.

The bottom line is, when you totally cede your health care decisions to someone else, you'll probably get less than you think you—or a loved one—deserve.

For my part, I'd like to have SOME control over the final result. But what do I, as a mere Conservative, know? According to Progessives, my health care should be decided by wiser, Progressive, rule-worshipping thinkers. Viva la “cost-benefit analysis!”

But I think that Sarah Murnaghan might beg to differ with you.

At last report, she seems to be doing OK, Kathleen Sebelius and her rules not withstanding.

Do we conduct a plebescite regarding the health and welfare of each and every individual, your sister-in-law included?

Pearl said...

Dear Zee: Thank you for taking the time to tell us your thoughts about
health care, costs, questions, etc. One thing, at 90, I have not been
eligible for mammograms, pap tests and the like for a number of years which I don't mind. It would be too late to do anything about it if they should find an abnormality. But a woman in her early 70's like my sister in law who is a very active person and helping raise her grandchildren deserves to get
care to keep her healthy for a number of years, god willing. Nevertheless,
people of young age, middle age, etc. deserve to have their health
monitored. Remember, it is more expensive to have people become seriously ill with neglect which then costs the system so much more. If we can find trillions of dollars to run wars and nations into the ground, surely we can cover costs for tests which are not complicated such as involving prostate cancer when a simple blood test can be a warning sign.

Yesterday, by chance, I went outside to get some sun in our garden at my
retirement development and there was a man sitting there wearing dark
glasses and with 2 canes by his chair. We started to chat and he told me he was 92 years old, was blind from macular degeneration and had hip problems and had recently lost his wife. But he was content, had children that visited him and liked our establishment. The only thing that troubled him was that he felt that it was wrong for him to be taken care of when he felt
the costs were coming from his children's taxes. I couldn't ask him if he would rather die, but I felt he might have liked to have that choice. I told him that he had paid into the tax system, raised his children, etc. but I could understand how he felt. It touched on the fact that should I get really ill, I would prefer to have the choice of having my life ended compassionately rather than linger, cost the system and worry my children. That is a choice that we older people, with the help of doctors and family should have. It would ease my concerns if I felt that was possible and I support any attempts in the U.S. and here to make that decision without
legal repercussions for friends and family.
I digress from the original topic but it is part of reducing costs when one
has no quality of life. The largest problem now are the costs for covering health needs of the elderly with all the miracles of medicine and technical advancements.
But you are right, Zee, who makes the decisions for us and how is it figured out for the benefit of all?

Needless to say, there are many improvements that can be made, especially without abandoning citizens who cannot afford top notch care. The NYTimes
has been printing many excellent articles along these lines. Today they had an article about the costs of providing advanced medications for everyone and how can that be resolved.
It is a never ending battle between life and death; war and peace and which are the most important issues in our lives.

Noodge said...

@ Zee: You are always free to have whatever test you want done. The question is, how much is going to be covered by your insurance. And you're correct: it doesn't matter who the insurance provider is, there are always going to be limits to what your provider will actually provide.

The question is, do we want an insurance system that provides insurance for some but not for others? I think not. I believe we should offer every citizen a certain basic amount of medical insurance. The government, ostensibly,exists for the purpose of guaranteeing our rights while working to promote the general welfare, and a system that guarantees everyone basic health insurance is part and parcel of that effort.

But just because there's a limit to what your premiums will cover doesn't meant there's a limit to what you can purchase. Those of us who are better off will always be able to purchase supplemental policies that provide for things that Medicare, or Blue Cross, or Cigna won't. The key is to make sure everyone has a certain minimal amount; just how much that is is a question for negotiation regardless of who's providing the insurance.

The big point, though, is that we do not ever "totally cede (our) health care decisions to someone else," no matter who's paying for the insurance (assuming we have insurance), and we certainly don't cede those decisions to some greater extent by choosing to have the government provide our insurance.

Anonymous said...

Zee, how's you naiveté been doing? Seems healthy enough. And I'd definitely have my psa tested every year, 63 or no. I survived prostate cancer because of it and a digital by a good internist. I was 67 at the time. And 15 years later no recurrence, after a prostatectomy by an experienced surgeon at a teaching hospital.

James F Traynor said...

Sorry, that Anonymous was me

Zee said...

Just to clarify, I'm very much in favor of single-payer for this country, but only with the stipulation that supplementary insurance be available for those who want it and can afford it, just as it is with Medicare today.

It's my understanding that "private insurance" is fairly new in Canada, (circa 2006) and then only because of a Supreme Court decision. I don't have my usual resources available, but as I recollect, there were dire predictions that that decision would destroy the Canadian health care system, which hasn't come to pass.

The point I was trying to make--unsuccessfuly--is that I firmly believe that there are people out there who really DO want "one size fits all healthcare" and WILL try to impose that on us if we don't watch out.

Zee said...


Glad to learn that the PSA test helped you beat the illness that has taken the lives of several of my friends.

I hadmy annual physical in July and yes, my doc did thePSA test, too.

Pearl said...

James: I am so glad you made it and are healthy and well. As you know my
husband didn't and I think he had an agressive form of prostate cancer and
as I have also mentioned I am donating a large sum to the Toronto advanced Cancer work now underway. They are trying to discover why some patients recover after surgery and others don't. I tell every male friend and relative to have regular check ups and blood tests even in their 50's as my son does with his father's history and I keep my fingers crossed.
So glad you survived to become such an important contributor to Sardonicky.
Keep well.

Zee said...

Regarding private health care insurance in Canada:

Fred Drumlevitch said...

The so-called "free market" doesn't work for health care. Here are two examples of why achieving proper yet affordable medical care (at least in this country) is NOT just a matter of "single-payer" per se, "Obamacare" via insurance, or the availability of supplemental insurance on top of some accessible-to-all national health care:

Zee said...


I guess I would hope that once the Federal government becomes the major health care insurer, prices for treatments and prescriptions would drop owing to the power of volume negotiation and purchasing.

I absolutely agree with you that the setting of prices for medical necessities is both a mystery and a nightmare in this country, which needs to be rectified.

Three years ago when I had (dual) cataract surgery I tried to find out in advance what my out-of-pocket expenses were going to be.

The doctor's office could only tell me that it would depend upon who my insurer was/is.

My insurance company could only tell me that they would not be able to tell me until they received the actual medical "coding" for the procedure, and that would only become available after the surgery was completed.

Catch 22.

Fred Drumlevitch said...


Single payer could conceivably help, but only if genuine hardball negotiating by that single payer takes place. Otherwise, it's just single sugar daddy as far as the doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and other product/service providers are concerned.

As analogy, think "defense" department procurement and the current cost of weaponry. Yes, there has been extreme consolidation of defense contractors, which has given those contractors more leverage. But many weapons systems either would not have been developed or would have even higher costs without the U.S. as primary purchaser. (Higher cost per unit would have made development/production unfeasible and profit therefore zero). That should have given the U.S. government substantial leverage over costs, but that didn't happen. In many ways, the military contractors are the tail wagging the Pentagon dog.

To continue the analogy: doctor practices, hospital chains, pharmaceutical companies, and medical laboratories have also consolidated, albeit not quite as much as the so-called "defense" industries. It may be that in many areas, and particularly the poorly served ones, if the "single payer" tries to reject a particular bidder on the basis of cost, a large segment of the populace would not be served.

And no matter how good at negotiating that single payer may be, I still maintain that it'll take much more than that to deliver care that is both affordable and high quality. The issues raised in those two NYT articles include distribution middlemen and restrictive agreements for saline solutions, producing exorbitant markup, and the elimination of CFCs from asthma medication inhalers and the patentability of and requirement for new aerosol canisters, again with exorbitant markup. That's the "free market" allowed to run amok. I'm all in favor of safeguarding the ozone layer and reducing global warming, but those goals should be possible without making a life-and-death medication unaffordable. The U.S. government won't agree to cut back on CO2 emissions, but will mandate removing CFCs from asthma inhalers and, in the process (because of unwillingness to adequately regulate the pharmaceutical industry), make those medications unaffordable to many? Those are pathological values/priorities, both immoral and insane.

Zee said...


So, I have to ask, what is the answer, from your perspective?

Zee said...


Unrelated to anything, but how a brave young woman tells off POTUS, FLOTUS, and one of the window-dressing "first daughters."


Jay - Ottawa said...

"Austerians are now going to deal with austerians."

Right, and that definitely is the sound of axes being sharpened on both sides of the fence.

What's a voter to do? The Money Party is the root of all evil: Check. The Money Party is composed of two right wings: Democrats & Republicans: Check. Realists don't get distracted by Third Parties: Check. The realist votes either Democratic or Republican: Check. Paul Ryan could conceivably play a Blue Dog Democrat: Check. And Jim Cooper a liberal Republican: Check. RINO, DINO –– scant difference when you're talking about the big issues, like the environment, war, taxes, public education, campaign funding, financial institutions, healthcare and civil liberties.

Third parties, we are told in school and forever after, are blue sky impractical. They'll never gain any traction.

But wait, what's with the Green Party in Richmond, California?

"Few cities have taken a harder homeowner hit over recent years than Richmond, California, where home values have sunk by over half. Most city homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes can sell for. Various federal mortgage-relief efforts haven’t had much impact, mainly because they let bankers call the shots. But Richmond city leaders have launched, over stiff bank opposition, their own initiative, a plan that will use eminent domain to seize mortgages whenever lenders refuse to cooperatively reset monthly mortgage payments. Richmond’s plan has so far survived court challenges, and Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin, the nation’s first Green Party mayor, last week noted she’s busy working with other cities to build a real national movement to pressure America's top banks."

"We have to fight fire with fire." But the Progressives have lost the art of lighting matches. Here's Nader on the passion of the Tea Baggers and the lassitude of the Progressives:

James F Traynor said...

Another scam by the free enterprise thugs.

"The New York attorney general’s office found that health care providers had pressured patients into getting credit cards from one company, CareCredit, a unit of General Electric, which gave some providers discounts based on the volume of transactions."

Ah, yes, the same company that gave us Ronald Reagan and a PCB laden Hudson River. And, like the Energizer Bunny, they're still at it. Bless their hard little hearts.

ste-vo said...

Canadian resident, Jane Jacobs wrote many wonderful books over the years. I think her last one was "Dark Age Ahead." here is what Wikipedia says about the book:

It has happened. Too bad for us.

Pearl said...

Jay and everybody: The problem is that everything has shifted politically to the right. Obama is not a centrist he is a conservative. "Liberals" are
centrists or worse. Progressives are a mix of liberalism and left of center
and move back and forth as the problems present themselves. Also everyone can change their direction depending on the issues at hand. The real progressives are the left wingers who have not changed their positions from the past and there are mighty few of them left unfortunately and mostly from the older generations who have not forgotten the lessons of the past. In my book
anyone who supports Obama in anything is not a true progressive. The
confusion is helped along by the deliberate labeling of everyone by those in charge. This creates the atmosphere which prevents real organizing against the right
wingers and the increase of minorities by immigration with different agendas confuses the picture even more.

Even well meaning progressive members of Congress have to watch their
statements lest they be attacked and voted out of office. Alan Grayson can
speak because he has large support from his constituents but he did lose his seat previously. He is making waves and hopefully will be able to retain his seat now and in the future. The real problems are the ignorance of the people, swayed by the media and infused with fear. An old story unfortunately.

Fred Drumlevitch said...


I'm not fully sure about the answer — which involves not only society's commitment to delivering health care and other necessities but also efficiencies and profits and motivations at every step of the chain — but I will try to organize my thoughts and elaborate on them in a comment late this week when I have adequate time.

With regard to (part of) the above, @James F. Traynor's NYT article link to that piece on high-interest medical credit cards and financing is certainly relevant. Quite aside from the issue of actual provision/payment of medical care by the government, for the moment just considering its financing: if the government can loan money to the reckless insolvent banks at essentially zero percent interest, surely they could loan money at reasonable interest rates to people for medical care!

Also relevant: "Inequality Is a Choice", a great opinion piece by Joe Stiglitz in today's NYT:

In other matters:

With regard to Malala's meeting with Obama, the article at the link provided by @Zee noted:
"The meeting was not on the president's schedule and there was no advance notice, nor any press coverage."

Yes, mustn't bring any attention to assassinations — and civilian casualties — caused by U.S. drones!!! (And the NSA was probably spying on her communications, and knew in advance that she would raise that issue).

As to the Nader article from @Jay - Ottawa: Yes, he's right about progressive inaction and the need to change that. But (if I do say so myself!) I think I said much the same thing (but with far far more detail) back in May of this year and in December of 2012 in my own blog posts, both at my blog and cross-posted by Karen here at Sardonicky:

And I was by no means the first to say those things. Progressives have been voicing the complaint — and prescription — for years.

Also @Jay - Ottawa (back on October 7, to Karen's October 5 "The Games Plutocrats Play" post): Very entertaining comment from you on the reactions of the various different medical specialists to Obamacare! Nice way to end that thread, a great punchline!

Jay - Ottawa said...

@Fred & Fellow Children of the Empire

I can't claim authorship of that doctor specialist post back on October 5-7. A Tea Bagger sent it to me with strict orders to pass it on, or else a meteor would do me injury, or something like that. I just straightened the tie on that chain letter and combed its hair and pushed it onto this stage.

As Pearl kinda says, the same person can be a conservative or a progressive or a radical, depending on the issue and its setting. As a long-standing single payer advocate under the influence of, I'm 100% with the Tea Baggers and Ted Cruz when it comes to mocking the ACA.

Nobody's yet mentioned Chris Hedges' Monday morning jeremiad. Scaredy Cats! Just because his essays keep you from sleeping nights is no reason to avoid him. Here's a peppery tidbit from Hedges on Dear Leader’s legacy.

“If we had any idea what was really happening to us we would have turned in fury against Barack Obama, whose signature legacy will be utter capitulation to the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex and the security and surveillance state.”

As a former idealist naif and middling front-line healthcare worker, I'm furious. Which explains a lot of my comments the past few years. Oh, and Hedges has a politically incorrect line about "hope," for those of you still hanging on to a shred of it as we circle the drain. One more reason not to go there for a hearty helping of despair.

Otherwise, have a nice Columbus Day. (It's Thanksgiving Day here in Canada.)