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No, Mr. and Mrs. Newly Insured, I Expect You to Suffer (And Possibly Die)!

[ 86 ] March 19, 2015 |


The Republican budget presents a clear Republican health care plan:

The Republican Party’s greatest health-care triumph is that it has managed to pass off its position on health care as some kind of undefined work in progress rather than a decision that has been made. Six years after the start of the health-care debate, Republicans keep telling reporters that they’re working on a plan. (Jeffrey Young has a hilarious, frequently updated timeline of the perennially just-over-the-horizon Republican Obamacare replacement plan.) In fact, the Republicans do have a health-care plan: It is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with what we had before Obamacare. They don’t want to admit that’s their plan, but it is. It’s right there, in the new budget released by House Republicans this week.

As we’ll get to in a second, the boldfaced bottom line is actually too charitable. I also enjoy the discussions with the reformicons who want to deny that the Republican offer to those who would be uninsured if the ACA is repealed is “nothing.” (Can you tell the con artists from the conned? When it’s bad faith all the way down, is the distinction even relevant anymore?)

The reasons for the lack of candor are not hard to discern:

Worried about the number of Americans who still don’t have health insurance? If House Republican leaders get their way, the number will be much bigger — maybe even twice as big.

That may sound ridiculous. But health care analysts tell The Huffington Post that it’s a fair interpretation of the proposed 2016 budget that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, released on Tuesday.

The Republican budget would, in fact, be worse than the status quo ante, because “block grants” are weasel for “savage cuts to programs than benefit the poor”:

And Obamacare repeal is only the first way in which Price’s health care agenda would increase the number of uninsured. Turning Medicaid into a block grant, as the House budget seeks to do, would mean ending the program’s current guarantee: that, as more people fall into the program’s eligibility guidelines, the federal government will provide more money. Under a block grant scheme, by contrast, the federal government would start giving states fixed sums of money with which to administer the program. Given the funding levels Price’s budget appears to set, the money almost certainly wouldn’t keep up with demand for the program.

In reality, these block grants are huge budget cuts by another name. States would find it impossible to maintain the Medicaid rolls at those funding levels, and start removing people from the program as a result. How many? Price’s budget doesn’t provide the same level of detail that Ryan’s early budgets did. But the proposals appear to be very similar. And an estimate of Ryan’s 2012 scheme, put together by researchers from the Urban Institute and published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, suggested that by 2022, turning Medicaid into a block grant would reduce the number of people receiving insurance through the program by between 14.3 million and 20.5 million.

Again, this would be on top of the people who would lose insurance thanks to repeal of Obamacare. Add the numbers together and, come 2022, something like 60 or 70 million people who would have gotten insurance through either Medicaid or Obamacare would no longer have it.

And let’s remember the very real consequences involved:

This is more personal for me than usual. Scary, too. There are no guarantees in life, and there’s no guarantee that MoJo will employ me forever. If I lose my job, and Republicans repeal Obamacare, I will be left with a very serious and very expensive medical condition and no insurance to pay for it. And I feel quite certain that Republicans will do nothing to help me out.

But all the freedom!

“They’re Going to Want it Back”

[ 28 ] March 19, 2015 |
Mig-15 v. F-86 Sabre (Udvar-Hazy).png

“Mig-15 v. F-86 Sabre (Udvar-Hazy)” by Elliottwolf – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Absolutely fascinating long read on one of the first North Korean MiG pilots to defect:

But before they showed him off to reporters, they decided he needed some coaching. On one especially touchy subject, they coached him to lie. A well-dressed American in civilian clothes (whose name No never heard) asked if he had ever seen American fighter jets in Chinese airspace. Of course, No replied, he had seen many American Sabres shoot down MiGs on takeoff and landing from Manchurian airfields. The well-dressed man said that if a reporter asked about these incursions in Manchuria, No must say he had seen nothing.

For his part, Ike disliked defectors, wanted to send the MiG back to the USSR, and didn’t want to pay the $100000 that the pilot was owed.

California Water

[ 47 ] March 19, 2015 |

California refuses to deal with its water shortages in any kind of serious way. It’s so bad that even the articles yelling at California about how to take it seriously don’t really even themselves because they leave out agriculture, which is far and away the largest consumer of the state’s water. That said, this implicates us all because so many of the fruits and vegetables we eat, especially in the winter, come from California.

A follow-up to the Seattle restaurants/minimum wage story

[ 27 ] March 18, 2015 |

A reader sends along a link to this Bethany Jean Clement piece in the Seattle Times.  Clement, in a refreshing act of journalism against her employer’s editorial interests, asks the restaurant owners about this, and all four openly repudiate the assertion that the coming minimum wage increase is a ‘factor’ in their decision. One owner in particular expressed some annoyance at being made a poster child for right wing nonsense:

We were never interviewed for these articles and we did not close our … location due to the new minimum wage,” Kounpungchart and Frank said in an email. “We do not know what our colleagues are doing to prepare themselves for the onset of the new law, but pre-emptively closing a restaurant seven years before the full effect of the law takes place seems preposterous to us.”

Frank went so far as to send a note to the author of the Washington Policy Center post saying: “Our business model is conducive to the changing times and we would appreciate it if you did not make assumptions about our business to promote your political values.”

As a point of clarification, the absurdity of the original Seattle Magazine story becomes even more clear if we look at the implementation schedule. The minimum wage in Seattle is presently 9.47, up from 9.32 on January 1st (Washington has an annual inflation adjustment for the minimum wage). On April first the implementation of Seattle’s minimum wage begins, but for employers with under 500 the minimum compensation goes to 11.oo an hour, but the minimum wage for tipped employees only goes to 10.00. So it’s a 53 cent increase in most cases, and 1.53 in the case of non-tipped employees making bare minimum.

And Now, the Punchline

[ 43 ] March 18, 2015 |


Of the many ways one could react to the Daily Tucker’s rule forbidding bloggers from criticizing people who pay Tucker Carlson, this is one of them:

Carlson’s noisy (and controversial) aspiration to build an institution on an equal journalistic footing as The New York Times would appear to be abandoned.

Right, until yesterday it was entirely plausible that Tucker Carlson was building a peer of the New York Times. But now that he’s forbidden Mickey Kaus form attacking Fox News from the right, one may have to start questioning his heretofore unassailable integritude.

Rule 35 Links

[ 34 ] March 18, 2015 |

Oh, hai, readers. Here are some links for your Wednesday afternoon…

The New Gilded Age, Again With the Bushes Edition

[ 80 ] March 18, 2015 |

Jeb Bush comes out against the federal minimum wage.  I believe he’s supposed to be the “moderate,” “mainstream” option in the Republican primaries…

NYU’s Sellout for Gulf Oil Money Looks Worse and Worse

[ 18 ] March 18, 2015 |

New York University, supposedly a bastion of education and academic freedom and whose president John Sexton came on strongly against BDS because of academic freedom issues, made a deal with the United Arab Emirates to open a campus in Abu Dhabi. The reason was obvious: cash. And NYU, supposed bastion of education and academic freedom, is willing to compromise on every mission other than making cash to make this happen. First, there was the terrible wages and working conditions of the migrant labor used to construct this campus. Now, the United Arab Emirates is banning NYU professor Andrew Ross from even entering the country because he reported on those labor issues! What do you think the response of NYU will be? Oh I think we all know the answer–cash another check.

The invention of the $250,000 law degree

[ 40 ] March 18, 2015 |

This is a followup to an earlier post about the exploding cost of legal education over the past few decades.

I’m employing the University of California Hastings law school to illustrate both how much that cost has gone up, and why. The latter question is the focus of this post.

Hastings’ total tuition revenue plus its state appropriation is a good rough proxy for the school’s annual operating budget over time. (Until the 1980s the school had essentially no other sources of revenue. Since then, it has gradually developed significant sources of auxiliary income, from endowment and annual gift income — the school didn’t even have a development program until the 1970s!– and from renting housing to students, which it began to do in the 1980s. The income from these sources largely offset lost revenue from tuition discounting, which essentially didn’t exist prior to the 1990s).

This graph thus illustrates, in constant dollars, the growth in the cost of operating the school: Read more…

Worker Safety in Fast Food

[ 33 ] March 18, 2015 |


This report shows just how unsafe working conditions are in the fast food industry. 79 percent of fast food workers were burned in the last year and 58 percent received multiple burns. Given the relatively open kitchen of the fast food restaurant, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why as there is a lot of open vats of oil and not a lot of protections for workers. 67 percent of workers were cut, 34 percent were hurt lifting heavy items and 23 percent fell. Perhaps more disturbingly, a full 12 percent of workers claimed they were assaulted on the job last year, although the report does not explore this in much follow up detail. Moreover, employers do a terrible job of dealing with these injuries, especially the burns, where employers give the equivalent advice of “shake it off and keep working.” 33 percent of burn victims reported managers suggested rubbing condiments on the burn instead of getting burn cream.

Ladies, They’re on to Us

[ 95 ] March 18, 2015 |


“As ridiculous as my statement is going to sound…” No, doooooooo go on, young futurist.

This Day in Labor History: March 18, 1871

[ 10 ] March 18, 2015 |

On March 18, 1871, the French military attacked the worker movement in Paris with the aim of retaking the city for the nation’s government. Workers foiled the military’s invasion and ten days later they formed the Paris Commune. This socialist workers movement controlled Paris for two months and was the first revolutionary challenge to European government in the industrial age (which 1789 really was not in France). It would start the long tradition of revolutionary movements based upon working-class radicalism that would help to define the next century around the world.

The Paris Commune came about as a result of political crisis in France. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 led to embarrassing losses for the French and Napoleon III. This led to the French abolishing their monarchy and replacing it with the Third Republic. The workers of Paris, already radicalized and far to the left of the rest of France, feared that the new government would not truly embrace republicanism and instead just be another form of oligarchic rule by the powerful. They also held the creation of this kind of order contemptible because they had already organized themselves to defend the city against the Germans with little help from the elite. Workers began establishing their own government as a challenge to the new national government. Urban French workers, especially in Paris, had grown increasingly radicalized over the nineteenth century. Socialism was much more accepted in the French working class than in the United States and the French workers were working out its tenets at the same time Karl Marx and others was figuring out its theoretical basis.

Of course, the Third Republic was not going to let a bunch of radical workers supersede its power. When the army came into Paris, the national guard refused to hand over their weapons. The government was forced to flee to Versailles. Obviously this situation was untenable but in the mean time, things got very interesting in Paris. The workers tried to run an alternative government. Louis-Auguste Blanqui, an early communist, headed this government. It abolished conscription and created a citizens’ army, which also granted the right to bear arms to all citizens. It reestablished the calendar of the French Revolution, building connections with that earlier revolutionary movement. Interest payments on debt were suspended. It issued a lot of radical statements, especially empowering radical women to play a central role in the struggle. Paule Mink (born Paulina Mekarska) had a long history of radicalism in Paris, including publishing anti-Napoleon III newspapers. When the commune began, Mink jumped into the fray to demand gender equality, arguing that all workers deserved deliverance from the oppression they faced but that was especially true of women who faced both gender and class oppression. She set up an ambulance service during the commune and also traveled to other cities around France to try and spur the movement there. One leading radical woman stated, “The social revolution will not be realized until women are equal to men. Until then, you have only the appearance of revolution.”


But the Paris Commune also struggled to consolidate power and alienated most of the remaining power structure from the old Paris. It also angered most of the rest of France. Having limited connections with workers outside of Paris and almost none the still largely rural peasantry that made up much of France, this was a urban-based revolution without consent from the majority of the theoretically governed. The communards also lacked any real way to even spread their message to the provinces, relying on vague hopes of working-class revolt than a meaningful plan.

The Commune was also incredibly fractured ideologically. Some called themselves Jacobins and directly connected themselves to radicals of old. Followers of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon wanted a loose federation of communes. Blanqui’s communists wanted to use violence to create a revolutionary state. If anything held them together, it was anti-clericalism. All church property in Paris was confiscated by the revolutionary government. The Commune captured the Archbishop of Paris and executed him on May 24.

The French government was not going to tolerate this radicalism in its capital. Finally, the army marched from Versailles. But retaking the city would be very difficult. On April 2, troops started the attack but the communards held out for several weeks. The revolutionaries had built 600 barricades around the city that had to be cleaned out one by one. The French army entered Paris on May 21 and crushed the movement by May 28. The small commune movements in other French cities were also decimated by this time. Along the way, much of Paris burned, some claim by the radical feminists of the Commune although it seems more likely that most of the fires originated from the general chaos of a civil war. The French army claimed about 887 dead; estimates of Parisian citizens killed usually revolve around 20,000, although some recent totals suggest more like 10,000. At the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the army lined up and executed 147 Commune members. About 6000 communards fled as the fighting doomed their experiment, fleeing to surrounding nations.


Paris Commune barricade after its capture by the French army.

In the United States, the Paris Commune itself did not have a major impact on American workers, but scared the capitalists, police, politicians, and journalists of the nation as it entered the Gilded Age. During the next decade, any workers’ movement in the U.S. was darkly compared to the Paris Commune as the future if these workers continued to organize. For example, the response to the unemployed organizing in New York’s Tompkins Square Park was completely disproportional with the threat these workers posed. Only wanting to march to the meet with the mayor, they were beaten by the cops while journalists screamed about the Paris Commune coming to the United States. To put this into perspective, the head of this movement was Peter McGuire, founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, even at its founding one of the most conservative unions in the United States. One can argue, as the sociologist Kim Voss has, that what placed the United States on a more anti-union path than western Europe was not anything about the American character and instead was about American employers busting heads and organizing themselves into anti-union organizations much sooner than in Britain or France. How they took the smallest American workers movement, compared it to the Paris Commune, and called for its violence repressions suggests evidence for the thesis.

In Europe, the story of the Paris Commune was one of possibility, not failure, as it provided evidence that workers could act collectively to build an alternative society, as well as the use of political violence to defend that society against counterrevolutionary forces.

This is the 137th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

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