Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Long Con Continues: Eric Cantor and Mitt Romney’s Shameful Lies about the Vote to Repeal

by Nomad
Following the news that the Supreme Court had declared the health care reforms, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican congressman from Virginia, announced that the House Republicans would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act on July 11. According to CBS report:
Cantor said that the continued debate over the health care law is "all about this election and whether this law is going to go forward or not... Mitt Romney will be the one that will, frankly, get the health care that most people want back on track."
Attempting to transform what would normally be considered a humiliating defeat into campaign rhetoric for the Republican challenger is an understandable, even bold, maneuver but it does sound strangely detached from reality. Obamacare was actually based on the plan that Romney as governor enacted in Massachusetts. This puts him in the rather idiotic position of calling for a repeal of a healthcare plan he once supported and hailed as his victory when he was governor.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the president of somehow sneaking a tax on the American people.
"The president of the United States himself promised up and down that this bill was not a tax," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "This was one of the Democrats' top selling points, because they knew it would never have passed if they said it was a tax.
McConnell paints a pretty picture of trusting Republican congressmen jilted and betrayed by the president. In fact, these politicians are not paid to take the president's word on things when he "swears up and down."  Taking a president's word on things is how America found itself in Iraq, after all.
Not surprisingly, by the end of Thursday, the dreaded word "tax" was on every Republican lip. Because, as everybody knows, taxes are bad, bad, bad, even when they benefit the whole country.
Unsuccessful Republican VP candidate, Sarah Palin -never one to miss an opportunity to tweet a vacuous remark- said:
“After the July recess, I expect Congress to come in and rescind this tax. They have the power to adopt and enact a tax. They also have the power to rescind it.”
This from a woman who could not name one Supreme Court decision she disagreed with? As usual, her lack of knowledge about how the legislative branch actually functions is extremely embarrassing for everybody.. except for Palin herself. 
The Democratic response?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday. "It's time for Republicans to stop fighting yesterday's battles."

Lies and Taxes
In the CBS interview, Eric Cantor had more to say:
Cantor noted that the court upheld the mandate on the basis that it amounts to a tax -- even though Democrats during the health care debate promised not to raise taxes on anyone. "They also said you'll be able to keep the health care you like under our program, which we know is not the case as well," he said.
This was considered a tax by the Supreme Court and not by the president or his administration. It wasn’t presented that way for the simple reason that nobody- not the Democrats or the Republicans considered it to be a tax. The Supreme Court found it would technically qualify as a tax. 
Cantor and the others fail to mention that, in fact, President Obama has cut taxes by $3,600 for the average middle-class family over the last three and a half years, and the Republicans fought him nearly every step of the way.

According to the independent Congressional Budget Office, 19 million people will receive tax credits -- worth an average of about $4,800 each -- to help afford health care. These tax credits will finally put health insurance within reach for millions of American families. In short, Obamacare cuts taxes for middle-class families. 
However more interestingly, Cantor continued to repeat the same lie about your healthcare choices. There’s nothing under the Affordable Care Act that says you will not be able to keep your present health care. As this official source explains:
During the health reform debate, President Obama made clear to Americans that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it.” He emphasized that there is nothing in the new law that would force them to change plans or doctors. Today, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury issued a new regulation for health coverage in place on March 23, 2010 that makes good on that promise by:
  • Protecting the ability of individuals and businesses to keep their current plan; 
  • Providing important consumer protections that give Americans – rather than insurance companies – control over their own health care. 
  • Providing stability and flexibility to insurers and businesses that offer insurance coverage as the nation transitions to a more competitive marketplace in 2014 where businesses and consumers will have more affordable choices through Exchanges. 
The rule announced today preserves the ability of the American people to keep their current plan if they like it, while providing new benefits, by minimizing market disruption and putting us on a glide path toward the competitive, patient-centered market of the future.
Of course, Cantor knew this. Through that smug plastic smile, he simply lied. 
The only truth to the remark is that employers could change insurance companies for their employees but that was true before the reforms. This possible change in employer-based coverage would represent a small number of the total number of being affected by the new law. In the past, employers had a smaller number of insurance options so, as more options for employee coverage expand with more affordable choices, some business will inevitably prefer to change their insurance coverage. For both employers and employees, that's not be a bad thing.
Rule Number One:
Always be suspicious when a Republican uses phrases like “we all know” or “everybody is well-aware that..”

*    *    *    *    *    
The Real Repeal Deal
So what about this repeal? With the possibility of leaving millions of American uninsured and providing a major headache for businesses, it’s worth looking into whether a repeal of the ACA is even remotely possible.

Scenario One, before the election. Even if it should pass the House, it will die a pathetic death in the Democrat-controlled Senate. And should it somehow make it past that obstacle, the repeal would have to signed by the president. Presumably they are banking all their hopes on Romney being elected. That would mean, even if the Republicans should win the election, nothing would be done until after January. Until January 2013, the law will stand. 
There is a very real time crunch. By that time, governors must decide whether they are going to commit to the plan or not. (They are not forced to, according to the court. But governors will be under strong pressure to take the federal money that would pay for coverage for millions of low-income people.) If they do not opt-out, then the governors have to have a preliminary plan to show how they will incorporate the new healthcare into their state budgets. 
With less than six months away, states must show the Department of Health and Human Services that their health insurance marketplaces or exchanges, where people can choose their own policies, will be operational so individuals can purchase insurance coverage by Jan. 1, 2014.
By all accounts, the Republicans have put themselves into a very sticky situation. It is, in fact, a catastrophic blunder by the Republican party. 

Romney has vowed- for whatever that’s worth- to repeal the law after he is elected. If he is seriously planning to run with this, he stands little chance of winning in November. 
(For a fuller examination of the unlikelihood of a repeal, an excellent article can be found here.)
In any event, a repeal of the law is not a winning position, no matter what the GOP thinks, or says to its supporters. Polls have shown that, with the exception of the mandate, Americans, by and large, like most of the provisions of the health care reform. Repealing the law means throwing out the good and the bad and starting all over. In other words, a unholy mess.
If the law is repealed, Americans will once again be faced with the possibility of losing coverage when they become ill. Seniors would again face losing financial help paying for their prescription. Insurance companies could again deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and small businesses would lose tax credits for offering coverage to their workers. In short, if Romney is elected and he somehow manages to undo the reforms, we can look forward to all of the obscene things that necessitate reforms in the first place.
One source outlines the results of this proposed repeal:
According to a preliminary analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), if Republicans were to succeed in passing the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" (H.R. 2), here are some specific numbers on what Americans stand to lose.
  • 32 million Americans would lose coverage
  • The deficit would increase by $230 billion over 10 years
  • Individuals would pay more for insurance
  • Premiums for employer-sponsored insurance plans would increase in cost.
The Republican talking heads keep referring to the ACA as a job killer. However, a recent report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) has found that repealing the health care reform would make current economic problems worse.
Repealing health reform would:Increase medical spending by $125 billion by 2010
  • Add nearly $2,000 annually to family insurance premiums by the end of this decade
  • Destroy more than 200,000 jobs in manufacturing and nearly 900,000 jobs in nonhealth care services by 2016.
  • Reduce the share of workers who start new businesses, move to new jobs, or otherwise invest in themselves and the economy
If Romney seriously believes- as he professes- that repealing the health care act will put him in the White House, then he is more than welcome to test the theory. For most clear-headed politicians, that notion sounds like the potential cause for a landslide for Obama.
No, they can’t be serious about this repeal. So, as they say, this House vote will be a symbolic gesture. Less charitably put, it is another waste of time and taxpayers’ money.

Two Theories
But, why exactly are Cantor, Boehner,  Romney and the others playing this card? 
There are two theories that come to mind. Firstly, Romney, Cantor and Boehner have bet the farm (your farm actually) on this scorched earth, take no prisoners political strategy. They have now found out a bit late that there are no brakes to this model of clown car.

The Republicans- with the Tea Party urging them on and with Fox News emboldening them every step- have vowed to obstruct in any way possible whatever progress President Obama might attempt. They were, (and still are) quite proud and open about it. They have shown no desire to work with the Democrats, to compromise or even to offer realistic alternatives. 

Now, however, it is clear how short-sighted this tactic has led them. The 112th Congress will surely go down in history as one of the worst ever put into office and whether the Tea Party supporters have the honesty to admit it or not, they are largely to blame. 

At the end of this sorry game, Cantor has no other option but to continue to bluff and hope that nobody in the Republican party is intelligent enough to notice what a failure this policy has been. 

That’s probably not taking a great risk.

There’s also a more practical side. It's really part of a long con. Insurance corporations paid out enormous sums of money in lobbying and advertising efforts. Presumably they are quite willing to pay even more until July. When the repeal votes goes down with a whimper, the GOP leadership make yet another plea for contributions and will probably re-direct the flow of money to Republican candidates and to the Republican nominee. (Romney as president will repeal this!) And, as the song says, when the money keeps rolling in, you don't ask why.

In the end, why should Cantor spoil the billionaire fantasies with the sad truth that this vote to repeal and all talk about overturning the law is an exercise in futility? Let them learn how politics actually works, the hard way. The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United will turn out to be, not merely a disaster for democracy but a financial disaster for those corporations that took a hankering for playing in the fetid mud-pit of Washington politics. 

Instead of merely soaking the American taxpayers for this waste of time, the GOP is going to squeeze as much moneyas possible from special interests too; all the time knowing, they haven't the slightest chance of keeping any of the promises to people like Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers or the 32 other billionaires, thoughtlessly scribbling their signatures on fat checks for the GOP. Write it off as "Fools and their money."

Distracting Republicans
Concerning the prolonged health care battle and the vote to repeal, the LA Times made this laughable remark with an apparent straight-face:
But the vote also risks distracting Republicans from their stated priority for the fall campaigns -- focusing on jobs and the economy.
Since the 2010, apart from this debate on affordable health care, Republicans congressmen have found plenty of things to distract them.  What with reading the Constitution on the House floor, with nearly shutting down the federal government, with the House reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto, with Congress declaring pizza a vegetable, and with Eric Cantor himself playing despicable games with disaster relief- during tornado season- the 112th Congress has found more than enough distractions to justify their salaries. (The current salary (2011-2012) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.)

And anyway, why should Congress worry about health care? It's probably hard for these elected officials to take any of it very seriously. As the LA times writes: 
Lawmakers also get special treatment at Washington's federal medical facilities and, for a few hundred dollars a month, access to their own pharmacy and doctors, nurses and medical technicians standing by in an office conveniently located between the House and Senate chambers.
In all, taxpayers spent about $15 billion last year to insure 8.5 million federal workers and their dependents, including postal service employees, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
So, it is quite natural for people like Cantor to look at health care for the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans as something of an abstraction, and only as a topic to  use to their advantage. 

Basically, Cantor can afford to be smug. Like all of the members of the 112th Congress, he's got his health care (courtesy of the taxpayers) so to hell with the rest of the country.  To hell with dying people turned away at emergency rooms because they are uninsured. To hell with sick children and seniors with empty prescription bottles.
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Now.. what do you think about the repeal vote? 

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