Monday, November 17, 2014

Fascism On the Homepage

It arrived draped in the Red, White and Blue Cross flag. And the New York Times, which only last week noticed that democracy had collapsed, has today taken a giant logical leap forward and observed that fascism has come to America and taken its place.

The Gray Lady only got one thing wrong in the headline "Health Law Turns Obama and Insurers Into Allies," and that is in the application of the present tense. Obama and the insurers were allies from the get-go, as they connived behind closed doors to remove the public option from the equation and the president continued to lie with impunity about this fact to the American public. Obama's faux populist modus operandi, as we all should have realized by now, is to decry "fat cats"with his smirking mouth and then grandly reward them with his corrupt actions.

Writes health beat reporter Robert Pear,
With the health insurance marketplace now open for a second year, President Obama will be depending more than ever on the insurance companies that five years ago he accused of padding profits and canceling coverage for the sick.
Those same insurers have long viewed government as an unreliable business partner that imposed taxes, fees and countless regulations and had the power to cut payment rates and cap profit margins.
But since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the nation’s largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in their Medicaid enrollment.
(Stop the presses and start lobbying the Pulitzer judges!)
 The insurers in turn have provided crucial support to Mr. Obama in court battles over the health care law, including a case now before the Supreme Court challenging the federal subsidies paid to insurance companies on behalf of low- and moderate-income consumers. Last fall, a unit of one of the nation’s largest insurers, UnitedHealth Group, helped the administration repair the website after it crashed in the opening days of enrollment.
(The hand that stirs the ladle in the tainted kludge soup.)
So much money is at stake that insurers may soon be on a collision course with the Republican majority in the new Congress. Insurers, often aligned with Republicans in the past, have built their business plans around the 2010 law and will strenuously resist Republican efforts to dismantle it. Since Mr. Obama signed the law in March 2010, share prices for four of the major insurance companies — Aetna, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth — have more than doubled, while the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has increased about 70 percent.
(You almost feel sorry for the GOP hypocrites, agonizing between the rock of destroying ObamaCare and the hard place of relinquishing all that cash.)
In addition, the Affordable Care Act has engendered growth in the role of private insurers in Medicaid. The law expanded eligibility for Medicaid, and most of the new beneficiaries receive care from private health plans under contracts awarded by state Medicaid agencies. As a result, Medicaid enrollment is up more than eight million, or 15 percent, in the last year.
In a survey of 10 insurance companies, Joshua R. Raskin, an analyst at Barclays, reported that their revenues from the Medicare Advantage program were up about 10 percent this year. UnitedHealth Group’s Medicaid enrollment surged by nearly one million people, or 24 percent, in the last year, said Stephen J. Hemsley, the chief executive. At another large insurer, WellPoint, the expansion of Medicaid “is proving highly profitable,” Christine Arnold, a managing director of Cowen and Company, wrote in a recent report.
You may remember that WellPoint was actually the architect of the 2,000-page law. Its lobbyist, one Liz Fowler, spun through the revolving doors from the insurance cartel to dictate the terms and conditions to her apprentice, Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus. And once the bill was finally rammed through, Fowler strolled on over to the White House to help Obama craft its actual (and it turned out, abysmal) implementation. And then it was through the revolving doors again for the talented Ms.Fowler, for a stint with Johnson & Johnson. (Price-fixed drugs and medical supplies.) Jonathan Gruber of #StupidGate and comic book fame has nothing on this versatile princess of fascism. As Glenn Greenwald wrote of her, "It's difficult to find someone who embodies the sleazy, anti-democratic, corporatist revolving door that greases Washington as shamelessly and purely as Liz Fowler." 

Unless, of course, it's Barack Obama. It's still early days in his fascistic career, he's still young, and his solid gold revolving doors await him.

As I responded to Paul "Conscience of a Neoliberal" Krugman's latest shameless shilling for Democratic Party crumbs equaling "good government"  and dismissal of #StupidGate as a fake scandal -- including what he misleadingly calls "health reform,"
It's not "health reform" -- it's a piecemeal reining-in of the predatory insurance cartel. And although the premiums may be holding steady, the Affordable Care Act is anything but for many people. Deductibles and co-pays are through the roof.
Health care in America is just like the lottery. It's the luck of living in the right state and picking the right plan at the right time. You're not a patient who gets treated. You're a consumer who goes shopping. Some people will be "covered" and others will still go bankrupt when they get sick and can't afford a $5,000 annual deductible on a $20,000 income.
That "fake scandal" that Paul Krugman refers is, of course, being used for nefarious political purposes by the GOP. But the fact remains that MIT economist and ACA consultant (to the tune of $400,000)  Jonathan Gruber not only called people stupid -- he admitted that the law was made deliberately opaque. Politicians were more interested in making this delayed "reform" seem deficit-neutral than in ensuring that everybody got covered. Politics trumped the public good. And that IS a scandal, no matter which side of the neoliberal duopoly you're on.
The fact remains that least 40 million Americans remain uninsured, and will continue to needlessly sicken and die in the richest country on earth. We have the most expensive medical care in the world and still rank a shameful 51st in life expectancy.
That is the scandal.
Government will succeed when we get Single Payer.


Pearl said...

Great comment to Krugman's latest column, 'When Washington Succeeds' on the wonders of health care in the U.S. of A.

I couldn't find his column last evening and gave up writing in.I hope the next revolution starts because of the health care issues.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Pearl. One NY Times respondent said that I remind him of Merry Levov (Philip Roth's fictional bomb-throwing revolutionary) and that my "fanaticism" scares him.

Yes... when espousal of universal health care is equated with terrorism, it's not hyperbole to say that fascism has come to America. Actually it's always been around, and is just making one of its more blatant cyclical publicity grabs at the moment. Poverty and paranoia are the foods it thrives upon.

annenigma said...

Karen, you're my favorite 'revolutionary' and Pearl is my favorite 'radical'. Carry on, ladies!

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Anne, glad to have you as a compatriot.

PEAR; said...

To all of you dear Sardonickyites:

Ode by:
Arthur O'Shaughnessy. 1844–1881

WE are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers, 5
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.


Pearl said...

it is from Pearl no Pear.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Pearl that did my tortured soul a world of good. The Struggle R Us.

As a side note, I usually don't comment on David Brooks's crap columns, but his latest is a real doozy. He finally seems to have suffered a breakdown of some sort. So here's what I wrote in response, subject to censorship because I sort of hinted that he might need therapy. Actually I should have said he needs solitary confinement in Chris Christie's quarantine tent, but too late now:

Four years ago, Obama used the midterm defeat to placate the phony deficit hawks -- and look where that got his party, and more importantly, the poor and working class. Misguided austerity has increased wealth inequality and depressed wages. One in six American children is poor, and child homelessness (one out of every 30 kids) is at a record high. This is thanks in large part to the GOP literally snatching the food from the mouths of babes and stuffing their plutocratic pals to the gills with the riches that once belonged to the public, back when we still had a democracy.

Obama, let us hope, seems to have finally learned that bending over backward to please the GOP will only make them complain that he hasn't yet fractured his spine. He's been schooled, all right, but not in the bizarre way Brooks was hoping for.

And since Brooks boasts that he is privy to the back room chatter of his cohort on immigration reform, why not share the details with us proles? Their plot, if it even exists, probably involves granting the wealthy immunity from prosecution for using undocumented labor to avoid the payroll tax, workers' comp and unemployment insurance. Immigration reform in a Republican's fevered brain might even include in-sourcing some of the 30 million slaves that still exist worldwide.

Brooks is the one who needs schooling -- or better yet, a long visit to a rest home. His nonsensical blather about the tar sands pipeline alone is worth the price of (his) admission.

Denis Neville said...

If Krugman had been on the Titanic, he would have claimed “It’s unsinkable!” as she sank.

Only one-in-three subsidy eligible people purchased and paid for coverage during the ACA's first open-enrollment. It was mostly the lowest income people, the ones who paid the lowest premiums and out-of-pocket costs, who signed up.

The biggest consumer problem the ACA has is that the plans, with their high premiums, big deductibles, and narrow networks are not attractive to working class and middleclass families and individuals who don't qualify for the biggest subsidies. The ACA plans are unattractive to all but the poorest who get the biggest subsidies and the lowest deductibles.

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure that the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay. So it was written to do that.” - Jonathan Gruber

According to the Congressional Budget Office 's latest estimate, 87% of the 30 million who they project will still be uninsured in 2016 will not pay an individual mandate fine because of all of the ACA hardship exemptions. Only four million will end up paying any tax penalty, despite the law's requirement that everyone buy government-approved insurance. The result is that the penalty will raise $27 billion less over the next decade than the CBO had originally expected. Ad hoc changes made by the administration and rules written since 2012 are the main causes of the drop in the payment rate. The law forbids the IRS from using its normal enforcement tools to collect unpaid penalties.

The law included the mandate as a way to force most people into buying coverage, which would in turn keep premiums down for everyone else. Once young and healthy people realize they can exempt themselves from the penalty, there will be an insurance pool of only the sickest people, resulting in what the industry calls a premium "death spiral."

The uninsured aren't buying Obamacare because they don’t like it and it is creating a chronically uninsured class.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I can't understand ObamaCare. I can't understand who qualifies for what and how much, for instance, my husband would have to pay. And I am a fairly intelligent person. I can tell you that at least some of the people who are not accessing ObamaCare are simply too confused or intimidated by the chaos this program has become.

Brilliant comment to Kruggie and I also love your spirit of enlightenment. The David Brooks comment, including your lead up, brought me a good laugh.

Thank You

Denis Neville said...

Karen, I’m not sure what specific Brooks’ piece you are referring to and I am too weary to chase it.

I usually don't read David Brooks's empty claptrap. But every now and then, I am intrigued enough by the teaser headline for his column to investigate. “The Agency Moment” was one such recent example. What the hell is that?

As Charlie Pierce once said, “Brooks tosses out tin pot sociology like a dime to a beggar on a steam grate.”

I was not disappointed: George Eliot’s agency moment!!!

“George Eliot was an emotionally needy young woman. Throughout her 20s, she fell for a series of inappropriate and unavailable men, craving their affection. At one point, she got herself involved in a bizarre tangle with an editor and two other women. It was like a tragic farce as the women competed for his sympathy, complete with shifting alliances, slammed doors and storms of tears…

“[One bold letter] represented a pivotal moment in Eliot’s life, with its mixture of vulnerability and strong assertion. After the years of disjointed neediness, the iron was beginning to enter her soul and she was capable of that completely justified assertion of her own dignity. You might say that this moment was Eliot’s agency moment, the moment when she stopped being blown about by her voids and weaknesses and began to live according to her own inner criteria, gradually developing a passionate and steady capacity to initiate action and drive her own life…

“I’ve been thinking about moments of agency of this sort because often you see people who lack full agency. Sometimes you see lack of agency among the disadvantaged…”

Brooks cites three guys who discovered “agency.”

“Agency is not automatic…It’s having engraved inner criteria to guide action. The agency moment can happen at any age, or never. I guess that’s when adulthood starts.”

- David Brooks, “The Agency Moment,” New York Times, 11/13/14

“Hannah Arendt said that cruelty has everything to do with abstraction. David Brooks resides in that abstraction and embodies that cruelty. In Brooks’s work, there’s nobody who goes hungry at night; there’s just the dynamism that animates capitalism. There’s nobody dying of a preventable disease; there’s the necessity of risk. There’s nobody despairing because there aren’t any jobs; there’s just creative destruction. Think of any human misery you prefer and I’m sure Mr. Brooks has an Aspen-approved euphemism that can cover it up. What a privilege all that money can buy: to live in a world without victims.” - Freddie deBoer

Brooks deserves all the scorn that is directed at him.

voice-in-wilderness said...

People try to hang on to a bit of hope, but I don't think the USA will ever have a universal single-payer system.

I see two big reasons for this pessimistic conclusion:
(1) It is pay to play in American politics thanks to Citizens United and I see no prospect of that changing.
(2) The country is dithering and delaying on many crucial issues and problems (such as global warming and infrastructure decay) -- these other problems are going to crowd out health care from getting political attention.

Karen Garcia said...


Link to Brooks:

I guess his title is a riff on The Lion in Winter, with Obama starring as untamed monarch Henry II and Brooks mouldering away in his ivory tower in Katharine Hepburn drag.

Zee said...


I was able to find your comment on Krugman's column (one or the "Reader Picks," of course!), but unable to track down the preposterous response in which you were characterized as "fanatical" or perhaps even a "terrorist" for your insistence upon "single-payer" (which I happen to fully support!). Can you help me/us out?

I ask because I have strong feelings about the increasingly free use of pejorative labels to demonize and discredit "the opposition" (whomever it may be) in our sociopolitical discourse when reasoned discussion fails.

Describing you as a "fanatic" or "terrorist" for your opposition to ObamaCare in favor of single-payer would be one such instance, viz., of a critic who has simply run out of rational arguments in support of ObamaCare and so resorts to "calling you names" in response to your criticism.

Karen Garcia said...


To find my Krugman comment, you have to click "Oldest" among comments and scroll down a-ways for mine, under which you will find all the replies. The one I referred to is from a guy from Mississippi.(or so he says.) In re-reading it, I discovered he also made an ethnic slur by describing my thoughts as typical of Latin American something or other. He used a lot of big words to try to intellectualize his bigotry. Very Ross Doucheat-ish, not to mention Brooksian.

I think there are more than the usual number of professional right wing sock puppets populating the Times threads these days. They mostly have the exact same talking points, and immigration and Obamacare seem to be their official assignments.

Zee said...


Thanks for pointing me to the reply by David L., Jackson, MS.

You seem to have gathered an interesting following in the Comment Sections of the NYT, both pro and con.

I had to look up "Merry Levov," but, no doubt, David L. was likening you to a bomb-throwing, murdering terrorist for the "crime" of doggedly supporting single-payer. Something which he claims to support, himself. Odd.

Clearly--to me at least--the comment was aimed more at you than at the issue of ObamaCare vs. single-payer. He seemed more interested in branding you, personally, as a quasi-Marxist or South American-style populist (neither of which I believe is true) than engaging in any constructive discussion or making any observations relevant to the topic.

And, of course, closing by labeling you as a fanatic and a terrorist.

Well, you're in good company. I've been called the same, though not nearly so directly, in the pages of the NYT, too.

As I said, the language of our discourse seems to be increasingly inflammatory as we run out of useful, reasoned things to say.