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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Once Again, Supreme Court Blesses The Ever-Ongoing Corporate Takeover Of America

Corporate Takeover

The "right" is sorely pissed off at the Supreme Court this morning, especially that "intellectual" branch of righties known as Libertarians.

This sends a clear signal, of course, to the professional "left" in this country that all is well in the checks-and-balances charade that our government has become.

It is in a clarifying moment such as this one that I am reminded why the "left" in this country ran screaming from the "liberal" label and adopted "progessive" as the more grown-up way of describing themselves. This dates back to when William Jefferson Clinton was fighting the neo-liberal good fight and bending over backwards to show Big Business that the "left" was now mature enough to play ball with them.

We got NAFTA and the repeal of Glass-Steagall for their troubles, and a thousand other tiny cuts that has all but destroyed an effective left-wing opposition in this country. Today, the true "left" is abandoned to the streets, where the corporate media can have a field day derogating them with abandon, often using labels - anarchists! - which have been in their turn destroyed in a like fashion, the machinations of manufactured consent striking chords of perfect harmony in the dark symphony that has become political discourse in this nation.

"Has become?" My bad. This has been going on for far too long to treat this as a recent development.

In any case, to keep this short because my anger is making it very difficult to compose complete sentences at the moment:

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts - who is apparently the new darling of the professional left - has upheld, along with the rest of the more, shall I say, "liberal" aspects of the healthcare bill, the enforcement of purchasing a private-sector corporate product that has been foisted upon us for decades. A corporate product that has had little if any pressure for cost-containment placed upon it by us, "us" being the government that is supposed to be the "corporate" face of the public will, the government that is supposed to be more concerned with the general welfare than the profits that can be garnered by leveraging a human need. We will be commodifying oxygen the air we breathe soon now (it's already too late for water, if you haven't noticed.)

Regardless of the tedious celebrations that we might have suffered from the libertarian right, if this provision had been struck down, there would have been meaningful pressure upon the other two branches of the government to provide a truly public-spirited plan for the health and well-being of its citizens (single-payer/public-option/Medicare-for-all.) Perhaps that is a bit naive, but us moon-batty left-wingers are crazy that way.

As it stands, the Idiocracy cheers this righteous blow for "progressivism."


  1. I would have to describe the cost containment features of the healthcare act as questionable rather than non-existent.

    The Act contains a provision requiring insurers selling to 50 or more individuals to spend at least 85 percent of premiums on "care and quality improvement". If they don't, they can be made to issue rebate checks to insured who paid premiums in excess of that.

    Conceivably this might put downward pressure on premium increases, and that in turn might put indirect pressure (via insurers) on health care providers (e.g., hospitals, doctors) who negotiate rates with insurers. On the other hand, if provider fees increase, premiums can increase proportionally without violating this provision. Whether the law has loopholes that can be exploited also remains to be seen.

    There is also a 40% excise tax on "high-cost" health insurance, which should discourage the market from offering it or at least relying on it. I don't have the definition of "high-cost" handy.

    The third element of cost control is "Rate Review", which means "your insurance company can’t raise rates by 10% or more without first explaining its reasons to your state or federal Rate Review program" according to the government's website.

    First, this allows them to increase the rate by 9.9 percent a year and that's far in excess of general inflation.

    Second, enforcement will depend on the teeth given to overseers. Note that states can opt to regulate instead of the federal government. Many, including Arizona, already are, at the behest of insurance companies, who seem much more confident in what they can get away with under a Republican legislature and governor than under President Obama and federal staff workers. The federal government can step in if the state oversight program is deemed "ineffective" but that is a recipe for delays, disruptions, lawsuits and behavior by states that is technically compliant but which defies the spirit of the Act.

    It's much easier to emend these types of loopholes, however, than to pass a whole new act.

  2. As for the idea that striking down the law would have forced Congress to consider more sober options (e.g., a single payer medical care system), they've already been down that road and this was the compromise. It only happened because the Democrats controlled Congress with a near supermajority in the Senate and were able to lasso a tiny handful of moderate Republicans to support the act so as to prevent the Republicans from using the filibuster to kill the bill. (There were methods to circumvent this, but the Obama administration chickened-out, claiming that the law would lack legitimacy if normal legislative methods were bypassed.)

    With the law passed, the public now has a chance to learn, through direct personal experience, the many benefits of the law.

    They will also learn that some of the criticisms (financial hardship due to compulsory purchase of insurance) do not apply to those who cannot afford insurance costs.

    The legal requirement to purchase insurance does not apply to those whose insurance cost equals 8 or more percent of their income; it also does not apply to anyone who doesn't have to pay taxes because of low income.

    Finally, anyone not excluded from compulsory purchase who falls within 400 percent of the poverty line can receive a subsidy on a sliding scale. The poverty line for a family of three in 2012 is $19,090 so the subsidies exist (albeit in much diminished form) up to $86,000 for such a family. An overly generous phase-out, if you ask me.

    This means that even if rising costs demonstrate the need to reform the law or change the system more fundamentally, the public will already have become used to, reliant upon, familiar with, and fond of the many benefits available to them. At that point conservative politicians will have a much more difficult time foisting their phony "reform" options on the public or repealing the law through legislative or executive means. Unfortunately, the best parts of the law do not take effect until 2014 after both presidential and upcoming congressional elections.

  3. Emil! Watchoodoin' over here?

    Seriously, welcome, and thanks for taking the time to respond to my polemic.

    For it is a polemic, and thus I take some liberties in the interests of communicating the overall point.

    Your punctiliousness being legendary, I wouldn't deign to question the facts you outline here (even if I had the patience to drill into those details - which I'm sure is an unforgivable oversight from your perspective.)

    My point regarding cost-containment was more to illustrate the difference between what price-control pressure the government could provide as a sole purchaser of treatment and pharmaceuticals, as opposed to the various and specific guidelines and triggers that can be, quite famously, loopholed to death.

    There is also a larger point, not specifically argued, but hopefully discernable in the context of the rhetoric, that I object to retaining the profit-motive in the delivery of a basic human need like medical care. This is exacerbated when it is distributed via individually-purchased insurance plans, rather than from a centralized single-payer with the ultimate in political clout. Single payer is, as the right likes to say, a slippery slope to the nationalization of this "utility." Damn right it is, I say.

    Finally, it should be kept in mind that, like the "loopholing to death," the criteria for who is entitled to relief and under what circumstances turns into quite a woolly question on the street. The tepid welfare programs offered to the poor in this country are instructive in this regard - people who are within certain margins of income are frequently confronted with exasperating exceptions to their benefits because they just barely make "too much money" for this or that relief (which ironically serves the critics of these programs because this amounts to de-facto disincentives to improving ones lot in far too many circumstances.) As a "healthy" middle-aged male in Arizona, for example, I fully expect to be exempted from benefits offered to others in similar situations as myself because of this meanness.

    For these reasons I will continue to be inclined to favor simpler and more radical solutions to the health-care problem in America over painstakingly detailed legislation that is nakedly designed to maintain the status-quo of those who profit from the system as it is.

    Roll it in with the standard progressive tax system (and raise the rates accordingly), and provide the service with no muss or fuss like the other civilized countries do. Do it better, even. I'm not required to pay an special "M-16's For The Troops" tax to support our foreign adventures, am I?


    1. Petro wrote:

      "Your punctiliousness being legendary, I wouldn't deign to question the facts you outline here (even if I had the patience to drill into those details - which I'm sure is an unforgivable oversight from your perspective.)"

      Why do I feel like Ambassador Mollari being flattered by Vir?

      Seriously, Petro, I make mistakes. Plenty of 'em, unfortunately. Already found one in my comment above, where I wrote that the health care act was passed with the help of a tiny handful of Republicans to rescue the bill from filibuster, and that Obama "chickened-out" from using technical means (a reconciliation bill) to avoid a filibuster.

      Wrong, wrong, wrong. Maybe I was thinking of early versions of the bill. Republican Senator Olivia Snowe did announce her support of the bill in October, 2009:

      But in December of the same year she voted it down in a roll-call vote:

      Furthermore, the bill as finally passed was in fact a reconciliation bill, which limits Senate debate to 20 hours, thus evading the filibuster threat. This became necessary after Republican Scott Brown won Senatator Edward Kennedy's Massachusetts seat in January, 2010 (Brown became the 41st Republican in the Senate, and with the loss of their 60 seat supermajority, the Democrats could not stop a filibuster by conventional means). Here's a decent capsule history of the legislative evolution of the law from the New York Times:

  4. All the laws in the land do not mean anything without adequate enforcement.

  5. Hey petro, how's it going?

    I would make a comment but I don't know what a polemic is.

    Like you blog.


    It's a Pole Mike
    U talk into it

  7. To wit:

    "Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said Thursday that the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care law means progressive lawmakers won't be pushing for a single-payer option anymore, though the concept will live on in their minds."

    Single-Payer Option Will Live On As 'Political Point,' Progressive Leader Says

  8. Note: see an important factual correction to my own initial comment in a reply to Petro above. (I include this because some readers skip to the end of comments in visits subsequent to their first.)

  9. Petro wrote:

    "...For these reasons I will continue to be inclined to favor simpler and more radical solutions to the health-care problem in America over painstakingly detailed legislation that is nakedly designed to maintain the status-quo of those who profit from the system as it is."

    Me too. I just think that it's necessary to get a nose under the camel's tent before the whole camel can enter, and this law is it. The law's regulatory mandates and the benefits that flow from these will convince the public of the power of government to improve their lives, just as Social Security and Medicare have. The law's (probable) failure to control costs will then convince the public to consider "more of the same only better" and that will re-open the single-payer debate on far more favorable terms than are now possible (or would be possible if the law had been overturned).

    1. I sure hope you're right, Emil!

      "Why do I feel like Ambassador Mollari being flattered by Vir?"


  10. That J. Roberts would jump ship for his corporate masters (as opposed to his idealogical masters) is no surprise. It is also surprising that Kooks think Romney won't do the same. The Heritage Institute must be very pleased with itself.

    1. Agreed. One develops or adheres to an ideology either while in the process of sincere philosophical inquiry, or as a fig-leaf for self interest.

      The latter will always betray the ideology when the two clash.

  11. Betryal does that reach the level of Blood Atonement?


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