The Real Obamacare “Tax”

“It’s a TAX!”

I was watching Fox News yesterday as the SCOTUS ruling upholding Obamacare’s individual mandate came to light.  Commentary was all over the map for the first 30 minutes, but then began to rapidly zero-in on the accusation that this was now a tax on the middle-class. They had found their message, and from then on sang out in perfect harmony. It was kind of amazing.

“(Americans will) like it even less when they understand it’s a tax,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told Fox News.

One curious element is that nothing related to the mandate is different today than it was last week—excepting the label. The notion that people’s view of the mandate will change as a result of a renaming is a blatant play to the ignorance of the audience.

Still, even if we accept the new label of “tax”, is it really a new financial burden on the middle class as conservatives are saying?

For those who are currently uninsured and financially able to afford healthcare, Obamacare will impose a new financial drain. Although, in return they get health insurance. We can call that a tax if you like.

But on the flip side, those who are currently insured are presently picking up the tab for the uninsured through higher insurance premiums and medical costs. Getting the uninsured into the pool lowers policy rates for the rest of us. This is even more true as other popular provisions of Obamacare, such as preventing coverage denial for pre-existing conditions, comes into force. The net result of this is a lowering of the financial burden on the currently insured, which is a significant majority of citizens.

If forcing the uninsured into the pool is a tax increase, then it only seems fair the reduced costs to the insured be considered a tax cut.  At worst, this is a wash. At best, the tax cuts for the majority will significantly outweigh the tax increase to the minority.

Will there be individuals who will pay more as a result of Obamacare? Sure. But many more of us will pay less. So it’s pretty hard to argue in aggregate that this is a tax increase on the middle class.

The Mythical War on Religion

I Want You to Pay for AbortionsReligion is under attack in America—at least this is part of the ongoing narrative from the far right.  It fits with the themes that Obama in particular and liberals in general are out to destroy the foundational institutions of the country.

It is in the context of this narrative that Michelle Malkin gets her panties all in a bunch over the new Health and Human Services directive that all employers must abide by federal guidelines to include legal contraception as part of their employee medical insurance, including employers such as church run hospitals, schools, and universities. (The churches themselves are still excluded)

Somehow, this translates to a government mandate that churches have to pay for abortions.  Bishop Paul Loverde didn’t mince words when he called the U.S. Department Health and Human Services order “a direct attack against religious liberty. This ill-considered policy comprises a truly radical break with the liberties that have underpinned our nation since its founding.”

Before I call “bullshit”, let me connect the dots.  Since the late 90’s, legal contraception has included Plan B or the morning after pill.  If you’re of a mind to view an unimplanted fertilized egg as a baby, then this becomes abortion.  So do a lot of other things, but that’s not important right now.  Further, strict Catholic doctrine holds that contraceptives of any kind are not allowed.  Hence the claim that the HHS directive is an attack on religious liberty.  Oh, and the HHS is part of the executive branch of government, so this is an order by Obama, who is evil and out to destroy us, one baby at a time.

Ok, all together now… “Bullshit!”

It is this sort of conflation that gives Conservatives the reputation of snake oil salesmen.  There are arguments to be had here, but this ain’t one of them.  For example, you might reasonably argue:

  • Plan B should not be a legal contraceptive
  • HHS should not require contraceptives to be covered by employee medical insurance
  • The government should make no regulations on medical insurance

Fine.  Have those battles.  (Actually we did have those battles, that’s how we got here.)  But recognize, the actual argument being made is that religious run organizations are exempt from following the law in cases where they disagree with it.  It’s wrapped in the cloak of religious freedom because that issue gets people not really paying attention (and that’s a scary big bunch of them) all in a tizzy.  The larger point gets muddled because the word “abortion” is tossed around, and everyone loses their frickin’ mind.

But suppose the fictional Church of Bob declares that all girls be deflowered by the minister upon reaching menarche.  Pretty clearly no sane person would advocate that the church get a child abuse waiver because it’s part of their doctrine.  What if the Gospel according to Bob dictates that no followers will pay taxes, or no followers will enter the military?

The point being that in this country, it doesn’t matter (or at least it’s not supposed to matter) who you are or what group you belong to.  The law is the law.  Follow it or pay the consequences.  Work to get it overturned.  But are we really going to sit by and argue that any person or group should be exempt from any law because they don’t agree with it?

Try that the next time a cop pulls you over. “Gee Officer, you see… the thing is… I don’t believe in speed limits.”  If that doesn’t work, try claiming that speed limits cause abortions.


Boehner defends rights of Americans to be ill-informed

Speaker John Boehner
Boehner is eager to do the will of the ignorant

On NBC’s Meet the Press this weekend, Speaker John Boehner was pressed by host David Gregory to repudiate the baseless allegations of Obama being a Muslim and having not been born in the USA.  Boehner declined.  In the process, he said, “David, it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people.”

On the face of it, Boehner is merely restating what has become a tired mantra of many politicians—they are listening to the American people.  Yet the larger implications of his statement on a whole, especially in the context it was stated, are particularly troubling.

The Speaker told Gregory that people have a right to their beliefs and it wasn’t his job to tell them what to think.  However, as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.”  Where the President was born and what religion he practices are not matters of belief or opinion.  This is evidential information.  Boehner himself says he accepts Obama’s Hawaiian birth and Christianity as “facts as he understands them”.

Not only is Boehner saying he considers the views of the ignorant and misinformed to be equally as valid as everyone else, but he strongly feels that as a leader he has no obligation to lead.  He will just follow blithely where the unwitting wish.

This would merely be a comical interlude except that studies show that Fox News viewers are already the most misinformed citizens, and a Fox News insider has revealed a news culture where “facts” are routinely just made up to suit the desired narrative.  Boehner is making it all the more clear that misinformed constituents are now part of the Republican strategy.

Tea Party demands media tell the truth

Photo by Michael L. Dorn on Flickr

On Sunday, October 17th, TeaParty365 will host a rally in Manhattan focused on demanding mainstream media start reporting only accurate information.  The rally begins at the home of the NY Times at 2pm, and then will head to the Fox News Studios.

Well, I suppose in the spirit of the rally it should be more accurately reported that they will only pass by Fox on their way to their second destination, NBC’s 30-Rock, where they will protest MS-NBC.  But it’s a shame they won’t stop.

Unfortunately, the rally is only aimed at liberal media.  The rally’s mission says it will, “Send a message to these liberal media icons that you’ve had enough of their left-wing bias.”  The core premise is noble.  The news could use a lot less bias, but that should apply to both sides.  No one’s going to argue The Times and MS-NBC don’t lean left, but Fox leans just as clearly in the other direction.

Bias aside, the focus seems more on accuracy.  The rally is featuring the Media Research Center whose website prominently features a large graphic bumper sticker saying, “Demand the media tell the truth!”  However, their more benign sounding mission as “America’s Media Watchdog,” is to bring balance to the news media.  They assert that leaders of America’s conservative movement have long believed that within the national news media a strident liberal bias existed that influenced the public’s understanding of critical issues.  This contrasts nicely with Media Matters, a progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.  They should be two sides of the coin—a balanced yin and yang, and in this sense they are.  Yet looking at the respective websites yields very different experiences.

The MRC is positioning for conflict, and it wants you to join.  In addition to the demanding bumper sticker mentioned above, the site urges you to “Join the fight against liberal bias.”

The leading stories on the sight today bear the following headlines:

The headlines dealing with liberal news reports all have an air of conspiracy about them.  They position conservatives as the victims of liberal abuse.  Clicking through to the articles reveals a fuller exposition of the slights conservatives have incurred at the hands of  liberals.  Noticeably missing is any explanation of where the liberal media misrepresented the facts.  The site is demanding truth, yet offers no recent evidence of lying.  Instead, it takes umbrage at the liberal media for being mean to them.

Meanwhile on Media Matters site, the leading headlines are:

Three of the five Media Matters stories don’t really deal with correcting conservative news stories as their mission states.  Rather, they deal with the credibility of the Fox News network.   But at least two of the stories do actually make an analysis of a conservative story and point out the factual problems or the misleading reasoning.

In the end, it would seem that neither site stays pure to its core purpose, and both are highly biased to their respective viewpoints.  Liberals and conservatives both play games with the news and with news about the news.  However, MRC seems decidedly and uniquely paranoid.  Perhaps MRC  should rename their gathering Sunday to the March to Keep Fear Alive… oh wait… never mind.

Can liberals be manly men?

Drawing by Sam Wood

Fox News contributor Steven Crowder thinks liberalism is killing the manly man.  It’s more likely Crowder doesn’t understand what it means to be liberal.

Crowder isn’t glorifying the stereotypical testosterone-laden grog-swilling lady-killer from days of yore.  Rather, he reasonably positions a “manly man” as one setting a good example for his son—an example of self-reliance. To be manly is to be a man who can provide for his family.  This is an image most men aspire to, and one most men of any political ilk try to pass on to their sons.

Yet Crowder asserts that liberals can’t pass this test of manliness.

“Liberals don’t believe in the ultimate concept of self-reliance, which is why they look to the government for stability. Extravagant welfare programs, the near impossibility of getting fired on the public dole and an increasingly complicated tax code are all products of the same deeply rooted concept that man cannot provide for himself.”

There are two key fallacies in this assertion.  First up is the notion that liberals are looking for government to become a nanny care state.  While liberals are generally in favor of safety nets, this is very different than a belief that hard work should not be rewarded or that everyone should be entitled to coast on the government’s dime, without contributing their fair share.  Yes, there are ample horror stories of welfare queens with twelve kids who are hoping to get knocked up again soon so they can afford the new car payment.   Or stories of guys spending their disability checks out on the golf course every week.  But you’d need to look pretty long and hard to find a liberal who would defend this as appropriate rather than as an abuse of the system.

Liberals are generally in favor of programs to make sure that people who have fallen on hard times have a chance to get back on their feet.  They are usually in favor of programs to give everyone a reasonable chance to succeed by educating them and keeping them healthy.   They advocate for government funding of infrastructure development and leading edge research that provides a general societal good.  But that’s different than advocating for nanny care.

Second up is the sophistry that conservatives don’t rely on the government for anything, but rather are entirely self-made and self-reliant.  The Tea Party has become the poster child for this sort of rhetoric, but ironically many of their biggest rising stars have been unmasked as having ridden the government gravy train from time to time.  Examples include:  Rand Paul’s ophthalmology practice being over 50% Medicare patients; Sharon Angle and her husband living off his government pension which includes medical coverage;  Michele Bachmann’s family receiving farm subsidies;  and Alaska’s Joe Miller who has apparently taken advantage of about every form of government assistance available.

Worse yet is a failure to recognize that regardless of how well employed or self-reliant any of us might seem, we all, regardless of political view, depend on the government.  From roads and schools to our food supply and safety, as citizens we count on the government to provide.  Cheap and readily available fuel and energy are enabled by the government.   The government regulates and manages the money supply, interest rates, and trade to make our goods more internationally competitive.  The list goes on and on.  The point being that while there are arguments to be had over how well these services are provided or exactly which policies and regulations get enacted, we all still depend on them.  No man is an island, and no business or family is either.

Returning to Crowder’s notion of a real man providing for his family, a good parent does not simply throw money and resources at his children.  A parent’s role is to enable that child to be self-sufficient someday, and resources are spent to enable that goal.  Not all children will succeed, but as a parent, you want them all to have a chance to do so.  A liberal simply believes that there is a general good to all when everyone is enabled to succeed, not just your family.  A rising tide lifts all boats.

So who’s more manly?  A father who runs into a burning building to save only his child, or the fireman who runs in to save complete strangers?