DB: The following was written by Ken McGlothlen over the course of the last couple of weeks. I’ve known Ken since my undergraduate days. We both attended the University of Washington, in Seattle, and met in 1988 or 1989 on this thing called, variously, “bb” or “kcbs”, which was just as it sounds: a bulletin board system limited to UW staff and students. It, along with Usenet, was our introduction to what we now call “social media”. Politics were discussed at length, as one might imagine.
I just want to say this up front: It’s gotten acutely embarrassing to be a Republican and a conservative.
Both terms have been usurped by a party which doesn’t adhere to them anymore.
Instead, that party tossed aside most of its ideals in favor of an increasingly and relentlessly dystopian, hypocritical, mean-spirited and hysterical polemic that denigrates anyone who does not conform to narrow religious, ethnic, and economic standards.
So you can imagine my difficulty with moving into an area of the country that’s saturated with Tea-Party juice.
I’ve been avoiding reading the local newspaper for some time, but I had wanted to follow the local election results, and cracked one open—and my head promptly exploded.
It’s not like I didn’t know the general attitude in this area. I mean, I am conservative. I was raised conservatively. But these people don’t seem to know what the blithering blinketyblank “conservative” actually means.
Among other things, it means basing one’s view on actual fact, reasoning that view out using a logical process, and not making completely wild claims. (I know you haven’t seen conservatives like that for a while now, but we’re out here.) Healthy skepticism runs in our blood. We aren’t denialists—if anything, we accept that reality is what it is (though perhaps we occasionally get a bit complacent about that).
Yes, I understand that there are people that are uncomfortable with the government stepping into what they see as private enterprise. Never mind that this has been a fact of American life since before the Constitution was ratified; never mind that this has been upheld by the courts for centuries now. I understand why people are upset about that . . . and yet, the bottom line is that, when corporations create powerful conglomerates, reduce competition using dodgy means, and misbehave, do you really expect private enterprise to solve a problem that private enterprise created?
I’ve worked in businesses, large and small. I also spent some time working with some really remarkable people at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Yet I am constant regaled with the axiom that “private enterprise is always more efficient and cost-effective than government.” I’ve worked for both, I can definitively tell you that incompetence and waste is a universal problem. I have seen private enterprise waste millions of dollars on political strife and petty quarrels. I have seen talented government scientists come up with new understanding for how ocean currents work for a few tens of thousands of dollars, which could lead to billions of dollars in additional commerce and transportation improvements.
Sure, people like easy answers, but that was never a Republican ethic. We were known for embracing hard truths and understanding subtlety. We were known for careful analysis and cost-effective intervention, for a lightest possible effective tread on difficult-to-manage problems.
But then, it’s not like we didn’t have black marks against us. McCarthyism. Nixon. But it wasn’t anything like the Teapot Dome scandal, right? Or the perpetration of segregation? We were about trying to maximize freedom while trying to watch for any undue imbalance of power, right? We reined in corporate abuses . . . for a while, and when we didn’t, we paid for it with The New Deal and no Republicans in office from Hoover to Eisenhower—and we were lucky with Eisenhower, frankly.
So when I cracked open that newspaper, and read the headline “Obamacare is the most oppressive legislation ever” on the second page, my brain detonated.
It was a letter to the editor from one “Robert Wassman,” and it led off, right there, in black and white, “Obama’s 2,700 page Obamacare is the most oppressive legislation our government has ever passed.”
Really, Mister Wassman? The most oppressive? More than sending Japanese into detention camps? More than depriving Americans of habeus corpus? More than warrantless wiretapping? More than the Alien and Sedition Act? REALLY?
It takes such a breathtaking lack of perspective and historical knowledge to write this, and such an astounding absence of common sense that I’m amazed he had any neuron ticking over at all.
In addition, the scent of serial liar Betsy McCaughey is redolent here—she’s the one who came up with the false claim of 2,700 pages (it’s around 900 in its finished form), and she’s the one who’s still flogging that “death panel” nonsense.
In his screed, Mr Wassman writes “Obama claimed it would reduce health care cost $2,500 per family. Instead the cost is up about $3,000.” Turns out? Totally false. Seriously, totally false. False. Not true. False. Falsy falsy false falsity false false.
Here’s an example, one I’m reasonably familiar with: me. Three years ago, I was paying $550/month for a health-care plan with a $10,000 out-of-pocket annual. Now, thanks to the PPACA and the health-insurance exchanges, I can pay less than $300/month for a health-care plan with a $6,600 out-of-pocket annual.
Lessee . . . that saves me . . . oooh, carry the four . . . $7,400 a year, should I reach the out-of-pocket annual limit. Even if I didn’t require anything at all, it would save me $4,000 a year.
Of course, that’s just the health insurance; what does the PPACA cost me per year at the moment in taxes? Turns out that in my case, that would cost an extra $2,000 a year. So even if I required no medical care, I’d save $2,000 a year.
If it came with, say, budget cuts in the military (do we really need to outspend the next ten-highest military budgets—Russia, China, the UK, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil? can’t we leave Brazil out of it?), it wouldn’t even cost that much.
But even the original claim Mr Wassman makes is questionable. Yes, in 2007, Barack Obama had a plan to reduce health-care costs around $2500 per family; I have little reason to doubt that. He talked about it frequently on the campaign trail. I don’t know what that plan was, but I know it wasn’t the plan that passed, which represented a considerable compromise, more closely paralleling conservative preferences for keeping the health-insurance industry in private hands rather than push for a single-payer plan (though it added some necessary reformatory regulation into the mix).
All this took me around ten minutes to find out—time which Mr Wassman didn’t care to spend. No, he’d rather parrot talking points written by someone else, and hold the president accountable for a figure predicated on a different proposal entirely. It would be like hearing someone claim that they can drive from Seattle to LA in under 12 hours in a car they’ve designed, handing them a 25-year-old Volvo that has two or three of the cylinders that occasionally shut down, and then complaining that it took longer than twelve hours.
I hear from many, many of my friends about how they are going to save money thanks to the PPACA. I hear from several of my friends how relieved they are to be able to afford health insurance after going several years without.
There will be some people in borderline cases that won’t save money, that’s true—it happens with every system change. But that doesn’t negate the tens of millions of Americans who will actively benefit from this.
And it’s certainly not enough reason to flagrantly shriek hyperbolic lies to vilify it.
Compared to a single-payer plan, the PPACA is actually a fairly conservative plan. Hysterical cowards like Mr Wassman want to believe that it embodies the end of our nation.