Obamacare: The new myths in town!

October 10, 2013

Understanding the Affordable Care Act

As it slowly becomes evident that death panels – with President Obama dressed as the grim reaper in a Che Guevara t-shirt – just aren’t going to happen; as it slowly becomes clear that there will be no ‘forced home inspections’; when all evidence points to full time work not at all destroyed in socialist flames by the Affordable Care Act… then it becomes predictable that new myths begin to take shape. New poorly constructed, desperate myths that nonetheless go unanswered attach themselves to the general ‘understanding’ of the Affordable Care Act, and so are given time to fester in the collective mind of the United States. There are two new myths in particular that are so easy to discredit, that this will likely be my shortest article in a very long time.

Healthcare.gov costs the taxpayer $634mn!!
One new myth that has sprung up and instantly perpetuated by Tea Party writers this week, is that Healthcare.gov has cost $634 million to build. $634,320,919 to be exact. In fact, it’s been reported by news agencies around the World. News Max reported it as fact. The Daily Mail here in the UK reported it, and the story also appears on the ironically named “Examiner”. If they’d have lived up to their name, they’d soon realise that the story is in fact, false.

According to usaspending, the figure of $634,320,919 to CGI, Inc, was paid over a period of five years – between 2008 and 2013 – for 114 different transactions. One of those contracts was Healthcare.gov worth $93.7 million when originally won. There is no mention on whether the cost was over or under budget on that one transaction. But the fact remains, Healthcare.gov did not cost $634,320,919.

The Tea Party website referenced above perhaps gives us a glimpse of just why they’re beginning to invent new rumours, backed by weak research, in order to undermine a law that – coupled with the shutdown and an ever decreasing Republican polling number (they are now polling 1% lower than the percentage of Americans who believe in Bigfoot) – could very well lead to a Democrat House elected in 2014. It is desperation:

“Unlike some Americans, I actually want the Obamacare exchanges to succeed. I’ve given the state-specific options a try (there are 15 of them, including Washington D.C.’s) and they seem to greatly simplify the process of buying healthcare. And the rates do appear to come in far lower than what many people without health insurance from an employer have had to bear until now. It’s not government-run healthcare. There are no death panels. And, from what I can tell, the world will not end if more people have health insurance – quite the opposite, in fact.
What I cannot stand is a nation that has vast technological resources in its citizenry spending $600 million of our collective money to slap together a product that, thus far, has only managed to waste people’s precious minutes.”

– Here, they admit that under the Affordable Care Act rates are far lower, it isn’t government-run, there are no death panels, and it is working to help people. All of a sudden, they’re fine with all of that, and they laugh the myths off as almost whimsical (despite spending three years insisting that those Obamacare myths would burn America to the ground), but now it’s the cost of the website that they’re truly opposed to, having spent….. no time whatsoever concerned about it until yesterday.

Less than 10 people have signed up for Obamacare!
Yesterday, Buck McKeon (R-CALIF) told CNN that he’d heard rumours (always good to be thorough in your research) that fewer than 10 people had signed up for Obamacare. He’d read it somewhere. And so on that basis, he thought he’d tell the entire Nation, regardless of how true that claim was. Predictably, much like the Healthcare.gov cost rumour, this one is also completely false.

As of Wednesday, Kentucky, Maryland and Washington State released data showing that over 16,000 had so far signed up. Connecticut has 1,426 applications, New York officials report 40,000 have signed up. 16,311 had completed applications, and another 27,305 have partially completed applications in McKeon’s own state of California.

In fact, Washington State, despite having a lot of glitches on roll out day for its Washington Health Plan Finder marketplace, the state had 9,452 sign up rather quickly, with a further 10,497 submitted applications but not yet enrolled. 20,000 in less than a week.

Now, maths has never been a particularly strong point of mine, but I am quite sure, after conducting lengthy sums, that we can conclude that more than 9 people have signed up on the healthcare exchanges so far. And they still have five months and three weeks to sign up. Republicans appears to be shocked that 30,000,000 didn’t all sign up on day one. It’s an odd planet they inhabit.

So you see, whenever a new Obamacare myth surfaces, instantly posted on ‘reputable’ media outlets, and is left unchallenged, it grows misplaced anger and fear which inevitably leads to genuine concern among certain sections of the US population who simply do not see any reason to doubt six or seven media outlets seemingly confirming what their Representatives are saying, and suddenly, Ted Cruz is elected and the government is shut down. It stems entirely, from misrepresentations and completely invented logic. The shutdown is therefore a product of misplaced fear, constructed by a constant stream of right winged opportunists. And with polls showing a Republican slide into oblivion, there is only one thing to say: Congratulations GOP… you built that.


Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates III

September 6, 2013

3

The third in the FD series on Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates, will be focusing on California’s 1st & 25th Congressional Districts, in the battle to gain the 17 House seats for a much needed Democratic majority.

California’s 1st Congressional District:
Between 1873 and 1875, California’s 1st Congressional District was represented by a man born just twenty miles away from my house here in England. Charles Clayton, from Derbyshire, England, was a progressive who served the district well. It is a district that has swung between progressive to conservative ever since. In 2012, the district became Republican, after Doug LaMalfa polled an impressive 14.2% higher than his Democratic challenger. And so, in 2014 it is going to take a big swing if the Democrats are to retake California’s 1st.

The Republican incumbent LaMalfa is as conservative as a legislator can be. On his website, he states:

“In repealing Obamacare we will immediately overturn the $718 billion cut made to Medicare.”

– The worry the Republicans raised was that the proposed cut to the Medicare Advantage program, would mean less seniors signing up for the program, and insurers cutting benefits. The Heritage Foundation suggested that enrollment on the program would halve by 2017. Unfortunately for the GOP, the exact opposite has happened. The number of people signing up for a Medicare Advantage program has grown by 30% since 2010, and 9% since 2012. The cuts that LaMalfa spoke of, were intelligently conceived, designed to incentivise, and have worked. LaMalfa can keep bleating the same tired GOP line if he wishes, it based on nothing but misinformation and fear.

LaMalfa is another very anti-women Republican. He opposes abortion entirely, and voted No to reauthorise the Violence Against Women Act. Putting the health, and the lives of women at risk, whilst calling himself ‘pro-life’ is wholly incomprehensible to me. He is also one of those pro-lifers that endorse State funded execution. And in August, he voted in favour of the ‘Stop Government Abuse Act‘, a nasty little Act that allows government agencies to place senior executives on leave without pay whilst they’re investigated for misconduct. Effectively punishing people, taking away their livelihoods, even if they’re later found innocent.

LaMalfa supports amending the California Civic Code to state that human life begins at conception. This is an example of Republicans basing their support of such a vital issue that concerns the health and wellbeing of women everywhere, on religion. There is no reasonable or scientific excuse for believing that human life begins at conception. It is a religious teaching, and as we know from the Founders, the US is a secular nation, that must base its laws on reason, and not base its laws on religious considerations.

On the subject of the embedded principle of church & state separation, LaMalfa supports posting the 10 Commandments in public schools, and abstinence only sex education. Like his lack of reason over human life, LaMalfa also ignores the evidence to suggest that abstinence only sex education fails miserably. The Centers for Disease Control reported that teen pregnancy is at its lowest level since 1946. Dr. Lawrence Friedman, the director of adolescent medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine said:

“That doesn’t mean there is less sexual activity. There’s plenty of sexual activity — oral sex and mutual masturbation and other things that don’t produce pregnancies. There is more awareness of the negative effects of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

– Education works. Abstinence education doesn’t. We know this, because despite an overall drop in teen pregnancy, Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate; and uses abstinence only sex-ed as the State standard. New Hampshire has the lowest teen birth rate; and uses a comprehensive sex-ed program. You want to lower abortion rates? Why not start having a commendable, reasonable and coherent policy on sex education.

LaMalfa heavily supported Prop 8, and worked to pass the ‘Protection of Marriage Act’. Another attempt to break down the walls of separation between Church & State.
LaMalfa is opposed to any restrictions on gun purchases.

So, that’s women, Federal employees, gay couples, the Founders, victims of gun crime, and teenagers, that LaMalfa does not particularly care for.

The Democratic challenger to LaMalfa’s title, is Heidi Hall. Hall describes the reasons she chose to run for Congress:

“As my children are grown, I have watched this country veer from a land of opportunity towards a country of greed, inequality and dysfunction, leaving women, children, local communities, and our own environment last on a long list of items to be protected.”

– The issues she lists – especially women, children, and a land of greed – can most certainly be somewhat attributed to the beliefs and politics of LaMalfa and his Republican Party contemporaries.

Hall is dedicated to much needed campaign finance reform. Her website states:

“Our democracy can only function if we have an open exchange of ideas, but corporate cash threatens to drown out all other voices in the process.”

– The reason campaign finance reform is vital for the health of the US Republic, is simple. If we take Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as an example. According to Oil Change International, McConnell had voted in favour of big oil companies 100% of the time during the period 2005-2007. In 2011, McConnell decided to push for the extension of the Keystone oil pipeline, by adding it onto the end of a bill designed to extend year-end payroll tax cuts for middle class people and families. Yes. Senate Republicans would vote down tax breaks for struggling people, unless the Obama Administration succumb to Republican demands for the pressing ahead with the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Senate Republicans insist that they support the pipeline for the sake of American jobs, and energy independence. I’m sure that must be the case. It can’t possibly be anything to do with the fact that the recipient of the most Oil and Gas contributions in between 2011 and 2012, was Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, racking up an astonishing $583,550. His main contributor, being Exxon Mobil, at $48,000 for that period. In fact, McConnell is the biggest benefactor from Exxon’s generosity in 2011-2012. In 2013, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson publicly urged the Obama Administration to press ahead with the Keystone pipeline extension.
McConnell is a good friend to big oil. On the actual day of the debate on the so-called “Repeal Big Oil Subsidies Act” – an Act designed to end the tax breaks afforded to the wealthiest oil companies in the World of up to $24bn – in 2012, McConnell received $131,500 from oil donors in Midland, Texas. The Act failed by filibuster. One of many very dubious filibusters promoted by McConnell since the Republicans lost the Senate in 2006.
Draw whatever conclusions you so wish.

Hall’s commitment to incredibly important campaign finance reform, and her understanding of the issues facing local communities and infrastructure requirements, children, and women, and how greed rather than opportunity is a major concern; are all decisively important issues that voters should consider when voting in California’s 1st Congressional District election in 2014. These issues are far more important than wasting endless time and money on symbolic votes to repeal ‘Obamacare’. Heidi Hall’s website can be seen here.

California’s 25th Congressional District:
Staying in California, this time reaching the 25th district, we are greeted with Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He is getting older, and may not run in 2014. But let’s assume that he does (there’s no reason to believe he wont).

McKeon is strongly opposed to government programmes designed to prop up an economy in recession. But his principled stance against government spending doesn’t appear to extend to military spending. He opposed proposals to cut defense spending and specifically, cuts to contracts with General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin & Boeing. On a side note, and naturally completely unrelated to the above…. in 2012, McKeon’s biggest campaign contributor was Lockheed Martin (and in 2010), to the tune of $65,750. Next, was General Dynamics, with $60,000. Another, was Boeing, at $31,750. Defence aerospace, is the top industry that contributes to McKeon’s campaign.
To save the defence budget, McKeon favours $1tr cuts to Medicare and Social Security. I’m sure Boeing and Lockheed completely agree.

McKeon voted No on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
McKeon voted Yes on a proposal for a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Like LaMalfa, he wishes to infect the secular Constitution with Christian tradition.
McKeon voted Yes on the horrendous law banning gay adoption in DC. The belief is that a stable family environment can only come from a family with a mother and father. This, again, as is usually the case with Republicans and social issues, is based on religious belief and has no basis in reality. According to the American Psychological Association Policy Statement on Sexual Orientation, Parents, & Children:

“there is no reliable evidence that homosexual orientation per se impairs psychological functioning. Second, beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation.”

Similarly, The American Psychological Association said:

“Research suggests that sexual identities (including gender identity, gender-role behavior, and sexual orientation) develop in much the same ways among children of lesbian mothers as they do among children of heterosexual parents”

– Therefore, McKeon’s hate for gay people is based on nothing but religiously-induced bigotry. He is also lowering the number of available loving households for children needing to be adopted. He is harming not only gay couples, but children. (He laughably refers to himself as ‘pro-life’).
McKeon also voted No on enforcing against homophobic hate crimes. McKeon absolutely despises gay people. He believes heterosexual men have the right to designate how a gay man or woman chose to live their life. Their happiness, is dependent on what McKeon believes they should be allowed to enjoy. And if they are hatefully attacked in the street, McKeon sees no problem with that.
The Human Rights Campaign scored McKeon a pathetic 0% on gay rights voting.
The ACLU scored McKeon just 7% on civil rights voting.
Rated 0% by the LCV, indicating anti-environment votes.
Rated 10% by the ARA, indicating an anti-senior voting record.
Buck McKeon is just horrific. There is absolutely nothing I can find in his record that is redeeming. Anti-civil rights, anti-separation of church & state, anti-women, anti-environment, anti-senior, pro-perpetual war.

McKeon’s opponent for 2012, will be Lee Rogers. Rogers lost by less than 10% in 2012 to McKeon, due hugely to the negative campaign waged against him by the truly reprehensible McKeon campaign, and he intends to change that in 2014. Rogers is scientifically (and so, rationally) minded, is a podiatrist and co-founder of the Amputation Prevention Center. He won 1st place for outstanding research from the American Podiatric Medical Association in 2007. Rogers echoes the theme of other Democratic candidates running for Congress in 2014, by wishing to end the political chaos in the House that has resulted from three destructive years of Republican rule:

“In the time since the 2012 election, we have seen an unimaginable rise in partisanship, inaction, and dysfunction in Congress. … I’m running to find a way forward through the deadlock on Capitol Hill.”

– I can’t find where he sets out his positions, but then, we’re still a year away from November 2014, and so I expect to see more soon. Judging by his tweets, he is socially liberal, supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage over here in the UK, and calls out Congressional misbehaviour and vicious rhetoric on abortion. He appears rational and a much needed voice in Congress. A decisive change from the McKeon years. The very fact that McKeon has such terrible ratings when it comes to civil rights, and his dubious campaign finance sources, it seems imperative to me that McKeon not be afforded more time to devour the rights of minorities and children in the way that has dogged his career so far. Rogers’ website can be see here.

Vote Heidi Hall for California’s 1st Congressional District in 2014.
Vote Lee Rogers for California’s 25th Congressional District in 2014.

See here for FD’s focus on Florida’s 2nd, and Illinois’ 13th Congressional Districts.
See here for FD’s focus on West Virginia’s 2nd, and Colorado’s 6th Congressional Districts.