Monday, October 28, 2013

The Website Is Only a Component of Obamacare; Problems With the Website Don’t Mean that “Obamacare Is a Failure”

Ever since the federal government’s site went online on October 1, we’ve heard about problems that people are having accessing the site. The sorts of problems being described are inexcusable; there is no reason that the website couldn’t have been designed properly and tested thoroughly before going “live” on October 1. To paraphrase an old cliché: “If we can put a man on the moon…”.

However, there is one thing that is absolutely critical to note about the problems with The website is not Obamacare! Rather, is the tool designed to implement one component of Obamacare. But as with so many other things related to the Affordable Care Act, those who oppose it have continued their pattern of lying about the law in order to stoke public fear and anger. So, I found myself feeling the need to remind people what the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) does, the point of the insurance exchanges, and why problems with the website are not evidence of a “failure of Obamacare”.

First, as opponents of the ACA like to remind us, the bill that was passed into law was a thousand plus pages. Ooh, scary. But the point is that the law includes many, many provisions other than the exchanges. Provisions which are designed to, you know, help people. For example:

  • The Affordable Care Act provides that insurance companies cannot deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Problems with have nothing to do with implementation of this prohibition.
  • The Affordable Care Act provides that young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they are 26. Problems with have nothing to do with implementation of this requirement.
  • The Affordable Care Act provides that insurance companies cannot cap insurance benefits with lifetime caps. Problems with have nothing to do with implementation of this prohibition.
  • The Affordable Care Act provides that insurance companies cannot terminate coverage when a beneficiary becomes ill. Problems with have nothing to with implementation of this prohibition.
  • The Affordable Care Act provides that insurance companies must include certain preventive treatment and screenings (such as mammograms) within insurance coverage and without payment of a co-pay or deductible. Problems with have nothing to do with implementation of these requirements.
  • The Affordable Care Act provides that insurance companies that spend too much of the income earned from premiums on costs other than payment of benefits must provide a refund to those that they insure. Problems with have nothing to do with implementation of these requirements.
  • The Affordable Care Act gives states the ability to expand Medicaid rolls dramatically, with the cost of that expansion being paid 100% by the federal government for several years (after which the federal government will pay 90% of that cost). Problems with have nothing to do with the decision of some states (like Indiana) to refuse to expand Medicaid.

Get the idea?

But there’s actually much, much more at work here, too.

One of the memes that we hear repeatedly from those who oppose Obamacare goes something like this: “If Obamacare [or the exchanges] are so good, why doesn’t ______ [insert “President Obama” or “Congress” or the name of any other public official] get insurance through Obamacare?” The problem is that this criticism completely ignores the very purpose of the exchanges. The insurance exchange (or the exchanges operated by the states; more on that in a minute…) aren’t intended to replace existing employer-provided healthcare; rather, the exchanges are designed to provide affordable access to health insurance to those who don’t have employer-provided care and who previously could not afford to purchase individual coverage. Due to economies of scale and increased bargaining power, employers (especially large employers) have been able to get coverage for employees at much less expensive rates than most individuals could obtain when shopping for just themselves or their families. Think of it as the difference between buying wholesale versus retail.

The purpose of the exchanges was to provide a “one stop shopping” site for those seeking to purchase insurance and, due to the nature of the exchange, to use market forces to drive down premiums. Where one individual couldn’t negotiate a lower price from an individual insurer, the hope is that hundreds of thousands (or millions) of shoppers choosing between plans that must provide certain benefit levels will be able to act as a giant group for which the insurance companies will lower premiums when in active and evident competition with one another. In other words, the exchanges exist, not to provide insurance to those receiving it from their employer, but to help the millions of uninsured Americans access affordable health insurance. And the US government, like most other large employers, provides health insurance for its employees. So there is no reason for President Obama or Congress to give up what they have an purchase insurance on an exchange; they are not the intended recipients of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

Don’t forget that a critical component of Obamacare is to provide subsidies to allow people to purchase health insurance. So when you hear discussion of what premiums may be for insurance coverage purchased through an exchange, be sure that the premium number that you are hearing includes the calculation of any available subsidy. If the subsidy isn’t included in the discussion, then you’re not really comparing proverbial apples.

There is something else that is critical to remember about the purpose and functioning of the exchanges. Recall that the Affordable Care Act gave states the right to set up their own exchanges. Some did. California, New York, and especially Kentucky (in addition to other states) set up their own exchanges and, by all accounts, are having a quite successful implementation of the exchanges in their states. But many states, like Indiana, chose not to create their own exchanges and, rather, elected to allow the federal government to be responsible for the exchanges for their states. Thus, Indiana could have set up an exchange; it could have been specifically tailored to the needs of Hoosiers. Perhaps it would have functioned as well as the exchange that Kentucky created. But the federal government had to create an exchange for all of the states that didn’t set up their own exchange. Hmm. I wonder which is more difficult: An exchange for a single state or an exchange for dozens of states, each with different insurers?

And let’s not forget that the Republicans made every effort to stop the implementation of Obamacare. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that the Supreme Court had ruled Obamacare unconstitutional in 2012. Can’t you hear the screams of outrage from Republicans if the Obama administration had spent significant sums of money creating the exchanges or website for a law that was declared unconstitutional. Similarly, if Mitt Romney had won in 2012 and followed through with his promise to repeal Obamacare, there would have been similar screams of outrage from Republicans about money spent toward the implementation of Obamacare. Keep this in mind when you hear Republicans talking about the administration having three years to create the exchanges. Not really.

I also want to touch briefly on some of the really bad analogies that have been drawn with regard to the rollout of and the suggestion that it is a sign of the failure of Obamacare. I’ve seen the rollout compared to the Iraq war and to the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Heck, in response to one of my posts on Twitter, someone made the comparison to a nuclear attack on the United States: “The current #Obamacare situation is more like someone programmed our launch codes wrong & enemy missiles will B here in 5”. Seriously. Let me offer the following response: The failure of a website, designed to allow people to purchase health insurance is not akin to a war or to a failed government response to a natural disaster that led to the deaths of thousands. And it certainly is not analogous to a nuclear missile strike. But those are the analogies that opponents of Obamacare have to stoop to in order to continue their efforts to mislead and frighten.

Think of it this way: We didn’t abandon space exploration when three astronauts died in a fire on Apollo 1; we didn’t surrender to the Confederacy after losing the first few battles of the Civil War; and most importantly, we didn’t abandon President Bush’s Medicare Part D program when its initial rollout was plagued with problems. But those programs weren’t the signature legislative achievement of President Obama. A Democrat. A black Democrat.

I think that the problems with are terrible and I don’t know how the system could have been designed and implemented so poorly. But is not Obamcare. It is merely a component of Obamacare; it is a component of Obamacare that will be fixed (maybe soon, maybe not, but it will be fixed). In the meantime, all of the other components of Obamacare are functioning and are helping people. And even the exchanges are working in states that adopted their own (and at the federal level for those who choose to register via phone or paper, apparently). One problem in one part of the law does not evidence that the entire law is a failure.

But don’t let truth stand in the way of a good scare tactic; after all, Halloween is just a few days away.

If you hear someone tell you that “Obamacare is a failure”, tell them why they’re wrong. And tell them why. See how they respond.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Right’s Reaction to a Republican’s Vote to Avoid Default

Since being elected in November 2012, Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) has voted with her Republican colleagues in the House 96.8% of the time. In fact, she is ranked as the 10th “most Republican” member of the House caucus. Rep. Brooks votes with her Republican colleagues 2.6% more often than the average Republican. And just a few weeks ago, Rep. Brooks generated some controversy when she used her franking privileges to send her constituents a flyer touting her opposition to Obamacare and her efforts to repeal it. So, I think that it’s fair to say, by any objective measure, that Rep. Brooks is a “real Republican”.

But then, last week, after supporting the government shutdown and efforts to defund Obamacare, Rep. Brooks chose to act the part of a sane, responsible representative, and voted to end the shutdown and prevent a default of US government obligations. And, on the basis of that one vote, she is now viewed by many of her constituents as a traitor, liar, or RINO (Republican in Name Only) and will likely be challenged from even further to the right.

Shortly after casting her vote, Rep. Brooks posted the following statement about her vote in favor of ending the government shutdown and preventing a default (emphasis in original):

Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) released the following statement after voting in favor of legislation to prevent default and open the goverment [sic]:

“I believe surpassing the debt ceiling would harm Hoosier families, adversely affect the stock market and damage America’s position on the global stage. Default puts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid payments at risk and could trigger another downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. I did not come to Congress to perpetuate this type of uncertainty. Governing is about making responsible choices. I believe voting to prevent a default on our debt and open our government is the responsible choice.

I remain committed to reducing our national debt and protecting Americans from the President’s failed healthcare law. The bill I voted for today gets us closer to accomplishing these goals by requiring bicameral budget negotiations, preserving Budget Control Act (BCA) spending cuts and ensuring income verification will be enforced for individuals receiving Obamacare subsidies.

This plan is far from perfect but it achieves meaningful progress by requiring budget negotiations to begin in earnest, giving us a real opportunity to put our country on a path to fiscal stability. Both sides must now come together to fix our broken budget process, eliminate wasteful spending, increase efficiency and lower our $16.7 trillion national debt. Senator Reid and his colleagues must come to the table ready to admit the status quo is no longer acceptable.”

The legislation funds the government through January 15, 2014 at the $986 billion level established through the BCA and suspends the debt ceiling until February 7, 2014. It forces the President to verify income levels of Obamacare participants, a provision of the law the Administration previously decided not to enforce which will save an estimated $250 billion in fraudulent payments. It also sets up bicameral budget negotiations that must conclude by December 13. The measure passed the House this evening.

She also posted the statement on her Facebook page. Unfortunately, a review of the 282 comments posted to Facebook (as of about noon on October 21) shows just how far out of touch the Tea Party is (both with the rest of America and, perhaps, with reality). Read these comments and note a few things: (a) how often President Obama is referred to as a Marxist, Socialist, dictator, or some similar title; (b) how often Rep. Brooks is referred to as a traitor, of having committed treason, or of having “sold out” Indiana or America; (c) how frequently comments claim that a default wouldn’t actually be, you know, a default; (d) how often Rep. Brooks is accused of lying; and (e) how infrequently those who supported a “no” vote (that would have led to a default) offer any sort of explanation or way out of the situation (beyond a generic “cut spending”). I’ve highlighted a few of my “favorite” comments in red.

    Emma Baumann You caved & are a coward! (4 likes)

    Michelle Wall Very disappointed :( (4 likes)

    Judy Sergent Cline Traitor....hope Garrison grills your ass next time you are on his show. Hope you enjoy your short lived time in DC, cause you will be ousted in the next election. (2 likes)

    Carolyn Potts Padget Kantz I am very saddened and disappointed in your vote. We have to stop this insanity at some point. Things are only going to get worse. I am truly at a loss of words. I have always respected you greatly and what you have done. I have felt like I represented in the past, but not now. Harry Reid wins, yet again. Deeply disappointed. (3 likes)

    James M. Graham You've let us all down. You and your cohorts. Do NOT expect to get my vote next time. (4 likes)

    Mary Rogers are a sorry piece of work. WRONG vote. (3 likes)

    Mary Lou Winters I'm sorry you and the other republicans caved. I think you were all wrong. (4 likes)

    Rick Miller It's a shame you chose to vote just like every other Democrat who is supporting this President. (3 likes)

    Michael Fields I have to say that I am extremely disappointed in you. I had such hope that you would stand for what is right instead of everyday politics. I really thought you would be different. (5 likes)

    Jodi Campbell Herd Very disappointed. Especially since I campaigned for you. Hopefully a better candidate will run against you in the primaries. (4 likes)

    Dan Girt I am sorry that you decided to vote with the socialist. I guess you are moving to the left and maybe it is time to move on to a new more consevative rep. (5 likes)

    Peggy Christel Khoury You need to be more like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul & Mike Lee. So do it@ (4 likes)

    Steve Thom You caved, and I can no longer support you. I will work to make sure you don't survive the next primary election. You, madam Congresswoman, will be a one-term wonder: we'll wonder why we ever voted for you in the first place. There would have been no default. That's bogus. The Treasury takes in almost three times the amount of money required to service the debt each month, so unless Obama was willing to unlawfully order the Treasury not to pay the interest on the debt, there would have been no default, only the inability to borrow additional new money. Say all the right-sounding things you want, but your actions have spoken louder than your words. You have not represented your constituent's wishes and beliefs, and you will be held accountable. (8 likes)

    Eric Basas Taylor Very disappointed....yet another Indiana Congressman who chose the path of least resistance & failed to put the people of Indiana first. (8 likes)

    Roger Robinson Another traitor! (6 likes)

    Barbara Moore You lost my confidence and my vote. (5 likes)

    Jonathan Tharp Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks, can you please explain to me why the republican party put us through all of the drama for the past two weeks if the outcome was only to give the democrats more power and weaken the republicans position of support for the american people? (8 likes)

    James Gregory Thomas The GOP must be willing to actually suffer, at least in the short run, for having done the RIGHT thing. So much of what goes on in Washington reminds me of the betrayal scene of William Wallace in "Braveheart". The brave and bold are abandoned by the craven and greedy. Rep. Brooks, I'm not saying you're either of the latter, but you need to strive to be more of the former. There are other battles coming up. Be on the right side of history with your votes, even if your political career isn't. (4 likes)

    Justin Krowel Now she needs to be challenged! Hard decision to leave your principles to do the easy thing! (5 likes)

    Ted Andrews I' very disappointed with you on this vote. Lets fast forward to January and another debt ceiling fight. Obama and the Dems WILL NOT compromise or negotiate. You will compromise everything, just like tonight. Don't you see the pattern?? (2 likes)

    Dawn McNally McGrath Beyond disappointed with your vote. There's no excuse for you siding with an out of control government. I will not vote for you in the next election. (3 likes)

    Larry Downes I'm extremely disappointed. Don't count on any support from me going forward. (2 likes)

    Mark Sassman Sr Good luck next election, you have outright lied by stating there was going to be a default. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would have forced a balanced budget that you can only give lip service to. Have you considered the consequences of what the additional debt will bring? (2 likes)

    Gardner Matthew You are a disgrace (3 likes)

    Shawn Ybd I am glad I moved, and you no longer represent me in Congress. (2 likes)

    Jim Morgan Sure you do, I so miss Dan Burton it was great having a real conservative who I knew I could count on always. (4 likes)

    Michael L Smith You call yourself Conservative? That is a funny joke, at least now we know who needs Primary opponent as they FAILED to do as those you Represent wished. Chalk you and Senator Coats up to being in the same class as John McCain, aka part of the Reason America is being destroyed, has the debt it does, and the Constitution meaning littler and litter everyday. I hope you're happy with yourself. Makes perfect sense to me to take over a huge portion of the GDP when we're in debt to our ears. Way to set an example for younger generations on how to manage money, the wrong example. (2 likes)

    Mike McHone Sorry Mrs. Brooks, you let your fellow Hoosiers down. And I'm sorry I voted for you. Next item up you'll be voting on a bill to grant over 11 millions illegal immigrants amnesty. But then again over 22 millions Americans unemployed what is another 11 millions. (3 likes)

    Henrietta Lea Willis You're a flat out liar! How about the lowest increase in Social Security in years? But you still get paid after you leave office? Why? We could save a lot of money getting permenently rid of the financial burden of paying reps after they retire ! Just wait until next election. (3 likes)

    Ronald B. Carrell Disappointed. Your vote did not represent me. Should my vote in November 2014 represent you? (6 likes)

    Cindi Davis Kiner Very disappointed. And it seems like I'm in the majority here! If I were you, I would be very worried about the next election. (1 like)

    Janice O'Hern Deeply disappointed....I expected more from you (1 like)

    Sherry McEntee Butler Just lost my 2014 vote (1 like)

    Mike Pohl So how will you vote the next time the Dems refuse to engage? "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me" (4 likes)

    Betsy Johnson Harvey You must take us for fools. We know better. Don't get too comfortable, you'll be home sooner rather than later. (4 likes)

    Mary Heath It would have been Obama's choice to default and according to the constitution, he is not allowed to default. I also heard that the reason that we could have been downgraded was because Obama was threatening a default. We bring in enough money to pay the interest on our national debt. Just how does Obama plan to verify income on Obamacare? I don't believe a single word he says. He has lied too many times. Sorry I don't believe a single word about how "we must come together to fix our broken budget Process, etc.... This government has no conccens about not wasting taxpayers money. This government is so corrupt and Marxist and not enough people in Congress has the guts to stop it! (4 likes)

    Mary Heath Republicans who voted to go along with this insane spending, only care about fitting in with the establishment and being invited to their social events. (2 likes)

    William Pedigo Ralph Butler conservatives did not fold. Republicans rather so called Republicans folded. Too many people still don't relize that the the Republican patry has been hijacked by Progressives in disguise. They call themselves Moderates, and some call them the Establishment Republicans, those of us true Conservatives call them Sellouts and Spineless. If this crap hasn't proven the point that Conservatives, Constitutionalist, Libertarians, and Independents who believe in having a small federal government that exercises fiscal discipline snd responsibility need to come together and form a third party. As Conservative Constitution Defending Americans we must realize the Republican National Committee by latge part do not represent the way we believe. If you doubt that just look at who the members of that committee are and who they keep supporting to run for office. (2 likes)

    [Note: The previous posts and their “likes” were as of about 2:00pm on October 18; the following posts and their “likes” were as of about 1:00pm on October 21.]

    Ken Marshall Turncoat (1 like)

    Carolyn Harvey Lundberg Pathetic. (1 like)

    Michelle Wall I can't support you anymore.... (2 likes)

    Tony Azcona I don't care about your statement. You voted against Hoosiers. You deserve to lose your office in the next election....and it will happen. If you vote like a RINO, you are no better than a Democrat. (4 likes)

    Arlan Landey Before this vote, you were only 70% compliant with the Constitution which you swore to uphold and protect. How do you look yourself in the mirror each morning knowing that you have breached your oath and continue to vote against the values of those who elected you? You have lost my vote forever. You are not to be entrusted with the office you hold. (3 likes)

    Amy Herman Shame on you for caving. Plenty of monthly income to pay our debt. Obamacare is a farce. I hope your on it just as you have imposed it on Americans. This may have been our final stand. Shame on you. (2 likes)

    Mike Flanery Disappointed (2 likes)

    Micah Mitchell Highly disappointed in the lack of backbone ultimately shown by so many Republicans! This effectively showed the President that he can get anything he wants & never negotiate with you, because you will just negotiate against each other. He effectively took over the budget process tonight, and will do so from now on. Also, I can't believe you joined the "default" talk. Actual default could NOT have happened unless Obama violated the Constitution (Article I & the 14th Amendment, Section 4) more brazenly than ever & Chose not to pay our actual obligations, which only require about 10% of the monthly tax intake. That's how he wins! He simply lies over & over until, first the media, and eventually Republicans start repeating & believing it. Disgusting & disheartening... (8 likes)

    Edward McIlwain Susan, I am very disappointed in your vote tonight to increase the size and scope of the federal government, and to continue the "pork-barrel" policies of the past that we elected you to help end. I understand the Republican members of the House, yourself included, were placed in an untenable position, but I cannot believe that you represented the feelings of our district well with your support of the president's bill. There wasn't even any discussion or attempt to remove the $2B payoff to Sen. McConnell in the House! There is no possible way to defend this! The threat of default is a false premise, and we all know it. The tax on medical devices does serious harm to Hoosier companies and their employees. The requirement of financial proof of eligibility for obamacare subsidies is already law. None of the provisions of this bill that you helped pass will benefit Hoosiers or America, in fact it will hurt us all! Susan, you are still my Republican Congresswoman, and I will continue to support you, but I cannot help but think that the time and effort, the blood sweat and tears that I have expended in the effort to elect conservative representation to the House in Indiana's Fifth District has been for naught. I cannot imagine that men of the caliber of Bud Hillis or Steve Buyer, or Danny Burton would have supported the Senate bill, and I am very, very sorry that you felt it necessary to do so! (5 likes)

    Brent Silveus Good for you honey. I hope tbey vote you out ASAP. (4 likes)

    Terry Schuck Bull hockey, it never goes away in Washington D.C. It has gotten too deep for the landfills to take it. Indeed, it seems D.C. is the landfill for the stuff. (1 like)

    Peter Langfield Extremely disappointed. At least Mitch McConnell got an earmark appropriation for his treasonous vote. Not voting Republican again.... it's time for a third party. (3 likes)

    Kenny DevilDoc Williams You not only sold out Indiana but betrayed America I will not be voting for you or any other Republican in 2014. If the Republican party is going to roll over and give the Democrats everything, every time we might as well vote a straight Democratic Ticket come 2014 & 2016. At least then maybe something, ANYTHING will get done in Washington for a change..... You DISGUST ME,,,, WORDS CAN NOT CONVERY THE BETRAYAL THRUST UPON THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY (5 likes)

    Richard Buyme Way to go, siding with Democrats to kick the can down the road for the 82nd time! Get ready to get voted out next election. (4 likes)

    Coffee Trader We miss Dan Burton already! (4 likes)

    Coffee Trader What's so hard about 'voting' for spending cuts? Another long winded line of BS that makes your vote look even worse! It's not like we're asking you to freeze & starve all winter at Valley Forge like George Washington and his troops! (5 likes)

    Andrew Moore You just ceded you constitutional power of the purse to the executive. Now all the executive has to do is refuse to negotiate and threaten default and he then can make Congress do his bidding. Your vote helps accelerates the transformation from a constitutional republic to a socialist democracy with power consolidated in the executive branch. (4 likes)

    Coffee Trader Glad I voted for David McIntosh in the 2012 primary. (1 like)

    Jim Herr Very weak (2 likes)

    Parker King Nice job explaining your submission to the monarchists. Once again in our history, liberty is a minority movement. (3 likes)

    Keith Barber You state now that you did not come to Congress to perpetuate this kind of uncertainty, but for the last several weeks you have done precisely that. You are treating your constituents like idiots with your effort to have your cake and eat it too. Well, we will be idiots if we reelect you. (3 likes)

    Scott Pearce You voted against indiana...I will no longer support you (3 likes)

    Doug Duell While I may not live in your district I am close enough to maybe help whoever is brought in to run against you in the next election. Shame on you. (4 likes)

    John Toennies I will work to primary you as well. America lost tonight. (3 likes)

    Jon Sparks Default is such a lie. By law we have to pay our debt...just means we have to cut this out of control government! Luckily for us 2014 is coming and you lost my support. (4 likes)

    Kate Tanguy Herr Typical politician! Thanks for raising our debt!!! (2 likes)

    Dave Dawson You statement is full of lies and inaccuracies. You have become worthless and irrelevant. Per the Constitution we must pay our bills. Try reading it. There was no shutdown. Non-essential personnel is not a shutdown. There never was going to be a default, unless you planned on joining the list of criminals that were going to cause the default. You are now part of the problem. You are a Progressive and are pandering to the Marxists. You are giving aid to the enemy. Please step down now and let us find a true American that love this country to take your place. I did not vote for you the in the primaries and if you run again, I will not vote for you in the election, should you get that far. (1 like)

    Dave Dawson Yes, I would rather have an honest Marxist than a lying traitor represent me. (1 like)

    Pam James I can't believe your traitors vote.You are a do not care about your constituents at are OUT! (2 likes)

    Jerry Peyton Until all of Washington realizes we have a spending problem we are headed down a nasty trail and the American people are stuck with commitments established by congress and the president that they do not want! (1 like)

    David Giffel It's like when your child is a drug addict.. you continue to buy them drugs so they cannot feel pain during the withdrawals. Susan, you are an enabler. (2 likes)

    Gail E. Trammell I disagree with your vote. We are just one step closer to financial collapse! (2 likes)

    Jacque Bick Beck Disappointing. (1 like)

    Kate Tanguy Herr Ms. Brooks. Your job plain and simple is to be a voice for the 5th district of Indiana. After reading the comments it looks as if your vote does not represent your constituents. You took it upon yourself to vote the way YOU felt. How YOU wanted, not as a OUR voice. YOU violated your oath to our district and to the constitution. My question is why vote yay? Why not vote nay? You would have saved face and represented what your district wants! This just shows us you will do whatever DC wants and not what Hoosiers want. (2 likes)

    David Giffel "The measure also approves back pay for all federal workers".. Nice vacation for the Federal workers. (2 likes)

    Gail E. Trammell I am disappointed that you voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling! Sorry that you caved! (1 like)

    Mike Mahoney What has happened is that the President was handed the one power in Article I that was meant for situations such as this. I was pretty sure this would be the play acting all along. Since you and the rest of the House have decided that you don't know how or need to use the powers the people granted to the House of Representatives for exactly a time such as this, I believe it is shown to be time to find representatives who do. (2 likes)

    Mike Mahoney Oh, one other important message. Don't bother trying to rally this troop with messaging. I hear your excellent messaging. I see your total inability to follow through. Promises in the future will fall on deaf ears. The promise of 2010 has been broken. Never again. (1 like)

    Gary Hayes Brooks has cooked her goose for me as well as many others, no way I would ever vote for this Rino. I am betting she will never win another election. (1 like)

    Randy Fox So we trade one bad scenario for another possibly worse scenario. Meanwhile the healthcare mandate rolls on. It is unfortunate that we have been sold out by our leaders. People should remember to vote and remember how your current leaders handled this situation. (1 like)

    Mel Arnold What you do speaks so loudly that I can't hear a word you are saying. You just voted to give a lawless administration more power and embolden them to take what little freedom we still have left as you belly up to the public pocketbooks. You lost two supporters in this household! (4 likes)

    Toasted Oats I hope you enjoy your one term as my representative, and your lifetime pension. One question though, what did you get for selling out? I mean in the senate Mitch McConnell got 3 billion for his state. At least tell me you milked something for your district? (2 likes)

    Pat Bledsoe Yes you are one of the biggest problems you sold that's out (3 likes)

    Kristi Morrison The "Tea Party" has nothing to do with this. It is something trolls interject into any thread to try to discredit the truth for people who have no idea. Ms Brooks had stated she was for the people in her district and America, and then she backed out. O controls the intimidation tactics such as cutting off food stamps or blocking off monuments. Congress does not stand up and make it stop. If Congress and Senate will not stop him it is a dictatorship. (7 likes)

    Chuck Dulla you and your kind are the problem, not the solution. like always, you kicked the can down the road again for another couple of months. i'm looking forward to donating to anyone that primaries you. shame..... (3 likes)

    Brent Coleman Your party did such a poor job of communicating the situation to the people. You allowed the media outlets to spew falsehoods over and over. You didn't mention the 1200 waivers Obama issued to the ACA or the 19 delays issued to the ACA or the over 40 missed regulatory deadlines. You could have stood up for the working guy and pushed on to get him the same delay granted to big business. You could have pointed out that there is adequate money flowing into the government to pay our governments obligations. There was no need to panic and buy into the default talk. There would have been some prioritizing needed but that is why you have the big staff and make the big money. You allowed the Dems and the media to govern the discussions. We could have been OK with eliminating waivers entirely. But no, your party went along and we the people lost. (3 likes)

    Aaron Longdon You caved! It is time for Speaker Boehner to go. There would have been no default unless Obama chose it. There is plenty of revenue to service the debt. Your vote to raise the debt ceiling IS POLITICS AS USUAL! I live in your district and I am very disappointed along with LOTS of others. (4 likes)

    Jon McPheron you are a socialist! quit now and save the embarrassing defeat later (1 like)

    Troy McClain There was never going to be a default. This is not political cover. You had an opportunity to stand with Hoosiers and vote against this, yet you committed political suicide.
    The last time we increased the debt ceiling we had a credit downgrade as a result. How can uncontrolled spending be spun as anything beneficial? You have also now handed Obama even greater power essentially bypassing Congress on further increases in the debt ceiling.
    Your vote was a betrayal to all of us. Enjoy what is left of your term. (4 likes)

    James Andrew Browning does it really matter if we defaulted or not? you say you voted this to keep social security and everything else from getting hurt, maybe im wrong but if goverment keeps spending and spending getting us even more in debt will it not get hurt anyways? and our future generations be worse off than us now? And please tell me how in the hell obama care is going to help the american people you and every other damn political figure out there is out for themselfs you all act is if you care about the people but reality is tour there for yourselves!

    Ty King you've just lost my vote... (5 likes)

    Del Garcia DISAPPOINTED! (5 likes)

    Larry Shaw You just proved you have chosen a long career in DC rather than representing the Hoosier state. You lost my vote!!! (7 likes)

    Libby Cyman So disappointed will never vote for you again! (6 likes)

    Tim Miller Yopur carrer may be shortened (3 likes)

    Andrew Moore Thanks for voting yourself a generous Obamacare subsidy while your constituents won't get the same treatment. (8 likes)

    Leonora Hammer Starr Hope you enjoy your first and last term in office ... keep kicking this rusty old can down the road ... your grandkids will just love you for it! INDIANA (7 likes)

    Don Gartner Very disappointed in your vote. You have just moved the problem down the road. Nothing was solved!! You will do the same thing in the next round. The Dems will play the same game and you will fall for it again. This gov't is in sad shape and we have no leadership from either party!!!!!!!! (5 likes)

    Michael Foster So then, bow down like the rest of them. We the people would rather endure the hard times in order to beat this tyrant. So now we look elsewhere for our help. (2 likes)

    George Hagan III Boo congress woman. Your failure to stand on principal is appalling. You should be ashamed siding with the dems (2 likes)

    Brian Durant I Voted Yes, giving in to the Liberals because I was more afraid of
    not getting re-elected, than I was of the people I represent and helping them overcome Obamacare. I know that now the people will have to suffer, but I've got my Healthcare intact, subsidized, and was afraid to fight any further because the "Establishment" GOP members told me they wouldn't help me if I didn't give in. The media put us on the block, and the people believed them, but we didn't know how to fight that. We did get a promise to verify all enrollees in Obamacare, but we know that won't be done, they'll do what they do at the border. And they said they'll now talk with us, I think??? (4 likes)

    Bill McLin while I am of the belief that the Obama administration relished this debacle, your view that you moved things forward, is just wrong. Someone needs to stand up and be willing to go down for the count, which the Tea Party was willing to do. Tea Party caucus is here to stay. I even agree with some of their stands, but realistic compromise has to happen. Seemed to me this was a pure "show" (2 likes)

    Aaron Alberts Come on Susan, we voted for a conservative voice, but it turns out we got a RINO. You lost my vote, you might as well join the Democrats now you closeted Obama supporter (5 likes)

    Je'Amour P. Matthew "I am a Democrat" and I am sadden and sicken you sold out to this Totalitarian Dictator and his Hench men, there is no more Republican and Democratic Party, just two different wings on the same vulture, you all have proven you will sell your soul to the special interest that has greased your palms, I am an American, I am a Patriot, I am a defender of the Constitution & Bill of Rights, and I have awaken … (2 likes)

    Charles Spidell You caved. Have fun in the next Primary. (4 likes)

    Joe Jekel You have lost my vote - you are just another sell out. I will never support you again. Sorry you made this decision. (4 likes)

    Ed Owens I'm voter in your district, have donated money to your campaign,can no longer back u since u sold out to our dictator president (4 likes)

    Aimee Nelson Ransom We the people are fed up and pissed off!! (3 likes)

    Scott Rulong I want to know how your vote squares with the desires of your constituents. You were not elected to *govern* us but to *represent* us. (5 likes)

    Debra Kerlin Skinner Disappointed in you, Rep. Brooks. (4 likes)

    Josie Ryan Congrats to federal workers who got a RAISE in the sellout deal Rep Brooks voted for. (2 likes)

    Andrew Moore At least five of the seven GOP representatives in Indiana rejected this sell-out, pork-laden bill. Primaries are in May 2014. It may be time to seek new representation. (5 likes)

    Julie Shonk You did not help anything. Your explainations do not make people continue to believe in you. Your actions for the people would have. You are a sad excuse for a human being. :( (2 likes)

    Josie Ryan Its time Andrew Moore.. for sure. Her first term and she already sold out? Good grief.. you would think she wouldnt have forgotten the people back home so quick. (3 likes)

    Tom Canavan Another RINO. We need to do our homework long before the next primary and weed 'em all out. Get these rotten apples out before they spoil the whole barrel. (4 likes)

    Jack Griffin I see you bring a sizable amount of law experience to your current position. Unfortunately, it is obvious you are well-versed in sophistry. I find it most regrettable that your background in the areas of history, leadership, finance, and mathematics are nonexistent. God save the Republic! (3 likes)

    Jim Hornaday Traitor! i was really in support of you and THOUGHT you had a spine. Caved in just like all the rest! You wont get my vote again! (3 likes)

    Linda Hedden White Wrong vote. Not my representative anymore! (2 likes)

    Terry Voorhees This isn't why I voted for you. So disappointed (4 likes)

    Darin Pratt Rep. Brooks, the only way we would default and not pay Medicare and SS is if the administration CHOSE not to pay the debt (violating the 14th amendment) and CHOSE not to pay Medicare and SS for political games. We bring in $250 BILLION/month in revenue, the payment on the debt is $20 BILLION/month. We bring in over 10 X the amount we need to pay the debt therefore, NOT A DEFAULT! (3 likes)

    Scotty LeCoq When does it stop Susan? You caved and you need to go. (1 like)

    Brian Jessen Disappointed. You said you were different. (3 likes)

    Jerry Calandrilla Loser! Time to vote you out! We sure need term limits for politicians that are wishy washy kinda like you are! (1 like)

    John Nelson Bye Susan, its been real. (4 likes)

    Rick Brown thanks for selling out fellow hoosiers. hope you lose your re-election bid. (3 likes)

    Greg Augustinovicz that's a nice letter in an attempt to justify your vote. so, WHEN WILL YOU STAND AND FIGHT?!?!? (2 likes)

    Richard Payne This is typical of all you politicians. You sell out the people that voted for you and try and justify it with a flimsy letter. Let's face the facts, you simply sold out your loyalty to your voters. (2 likes)

    Jim Morgan I am getting fed up with the Republicans acting as concubines for the Democrats. (7 likes)

    Jim Herbert You should have voted NAY. I have tried three times for an hour each time to register for ObamaCare so I can compare the cost with my current coverage. I still have not been able to get registered...not even allowed to create a username! What will happen when I decide not to have coverage because of the lost HCTC benefit and the lack of ability to register for ObamaCare? I will have to pay a penalty for the STUPIDITY of this law that is illegal and immoral. The constitution does not say TAX THE PEOPLE THAT DON'T BUY INSURANCE! (2 likes)

    Kc Harpe you are're just like McCain and Graham. you gave obama everything he wanted, without him giving us ANYTHING. did the executive branch threaten the congress? cuz you all caved and gave them everything they wanted like it was your job. you are NOT a real patriot like Senator Ted Cruzi, Senator Rand Paul, or Mike Lee. hope you are aware that you WILL NOT be in the House after the next election cycle. you disgrace the people you represent.

    Michael Barker don't even talk to us people who had faith! you and young and carson are all against the american people!! (1 like)

    Troy Gordon The vote did nothing but give up the leverage you had. The country will be in the same position in three months time, but this time around you may not have the support of the people because we will expect you to cave to the Socialists. Good luck. If you de-fund the Health Care Act, you may still have my vote. Anything short of that and my vote goes elsewhere.

    Humberto DeLuca Typical RINO. Watch her vote for adding another 30M new Dems voters (amnesty).

    Jason L. Crace Very disappointed in my Representative. Her vote today only weakened her party, weakened her party's future negotiating power, and probably screwed the party's chance to take over the Senate in 2014. Now, we might even lose the House. Ms. Brooks, you put YOUR POLITICAL CAREER before the principles you declared to preserve and the stance that needed to be taken. Why do you elected officials in D.C. continue to give this man a blank check and the opportunity to bypass Congress on spending. DO you realize that our POTUS has not presented a budget in 5 years?!?!? He is doing that intentionally so he can continue to write checks that our great-grandkids will cover so that he can implement all of his social policiies and platform with NO CHECKS AND BALANCES from Congress. Pathetic, truly pathetic. The "stock market" should NEVER come before the long-term viability of our country and the debt we seem to keep accepting. You have become the status-quo for elected officials. You will not be receiving my vote in 2014. (1 like)

    Nancy Quick Scheuermann You are my representative, and I believed you would stand strong for conservative principles. I am VERY disappointed. (1 like)

    Jenny Oldham You caved, Susan...I will reconsider my vote during the next election. (1 like)

    Coffee Trader $24 Billion lost due to the Shut down? If so, it's ample proof that our Gov't is way too BIG! Thus, a No Vote would've been the only acceptable vote! (1 like)

    Cheree Cher What happened to the demand for a "clean" bill, huh? You voted to give federal workers a RAISE plus Sen. McConnell got a Kentucky kickback of $3 billion for a DAM project. (2 likes)

    Rebecca Phillippi I am totally disappointed. There is no excuse for the way you voted.

    Cheree Cher Forgive me but how stupid or corrupt do you have to be to vote for McConnell's plan to neuter Congress and hand the power of the purse over to the imperial Executive Branch? You will be remembered for this. And that's not a compliment!

    Kathy Marie An abject failure! I hoped for more from you.

    Jeff Kostro I see next on the Obama agenda, is Amnesty for the millions of Illegal Aliens. This is linked to the ACA in a way not many have put together yet. The ACA does not cover Illegal Aliens. Now Obama Is calling for immigration reform, and wants to give 12 million illegals Amnesty. You may be wondering is "Why does this matter?" Well, illegal aliens do not have to purchase insurance, they are not effected by the Individual Mandate, but they will get Medicaid, further burdening that program. Also, Illegal Aliens could legally enter the workforce, but since the ACA exempts this group, companies DO NOT have to offer them healthcare. Do you realize the saving this will give them? 12 million people entering the American Workforce, and companies have an incentive to hire them, leaving American Citizens Unemployed. Please stand Against this and protect Hoosiers

Whoa. Deep breaths. Deep, cleansing breaths.

I’m not going to take the time to debunk the myriad falsehoods or ridiculous exaggerations found in these comments. But please recognize that people really feel this way; they really believe the things that they say. These comments were posted under these people’s real names (well, mostly, I suspect), not anonymously. And these people will vote and they will vote on the basis of anger and of conspiracy theories and a failure to understand, recognize, or accept reality.

These are the voices that many “Republicans” will be listening to as the primaries approach in 2014 (I put Republicans in quotation marks because it isn’t all that clear that Republicans and the Tea Party are the same anymore). Would you be comfortable with elected representatives beholden to people who think and feel similar to those who expressed their outrage to Rep. Brooks? If not, then remember that come the primaries and general election in 2014, it is incumbent upon you to do something. Because if we allow those who would call Rep. Brooks a traitor or RINO to elect people who are even further to the right, then I have grave fears that we won’t recognize our country much longer.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Todd Rokita: Yet More Stupid (Who Knew That Was Even Possible?)

During the government shutdown, I’ve had cause to be extremely critical of Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana). I’ve criticized Rep. Rokita for his condescending behavior toward CNN anchor Carol Costello, his use of his own child’s illness as a political ploy to reopen certain healthcare elements of the government at the same time that he tries to eliminate healthcare for others, and for both his claim that Obamacare is “one of the most insidious laws known to man” and his ludicrous and deceitful (insidious even…) attempt to defend that statement. So last night, in my despair over the miserable performance by the Colts in their game against the Chargers, I was more than a bit incredulous to see that Rep. Rokita found yet another way to show just how stupid he is:

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita suggested Monday that not raising the debt ceiling could become a good tool for curbing federal spending, despite chances the government would default on its loans.

Rokita, an Indiana Republican, argued that the nation would not default if it prioritized paying off debt over paying for daily operations.

Even with Republicans and Democrats at odds over how to solve the ongoing budget stalemate, Rokita is one of just a few lawmakers who have publicly suggested the debt ceiling shouldn’t be raised at all. Many economists have warned the economic consequences could be catastrophic if the federal government defaults.

“We have the cash flow to meet our debt, now what we don’t have, necessarily, is the cash flow to pay our debt and then all the things that we want,” he said on WIBC-FM Monday.

Rokita added that he understood there may be some immediate pain, in the form of mass government layoffs and economic contraction, but suggested that would improve with an “explosion” in private-side spending.

“I certainly acknowledge there would be immediate pain. But again, are we living for us in the here and now, or are we living for the children of tomorrow?” he said.

“The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart lampooned Rokita earlier this month for calling a female CNN anchor “beautiful” and describing the health care law as “insidious.” But Rokita defended himself Monday, saying Stewart should look up what the term means.

Seriously. Rep. Rokita, the former Secretary of State of Indiana, thinks that failure to raise the debt limit wouldn’t be a default and would be a “good tool” to reduce federal spending. I won’t bother to ask what federal spending he wants to cut. I’m sure he wants to cut Medicaid and Social Security, probably welfare programs (like TANF, SNAP, and SCHIP), maybe even Medicare; you know, programs that those least able to help themselves need. But I doubt that he’d be voting to reduce farm subsidies or subsidies to big oil, raise taxes on wealthy Americans, cut other programs that help his corporate overlords. No.

But that’s not why his statement is so, so very stupid.

First, let’s look at default. If we reach the debt limit and run out of money, we default on our obligations, not just on loans to creditors. Rep. Rokita suggests that we prioritize (more on that in a minute) payments to pay off the debt over “daily operations”. Hmm. What might those daily operations consist of? Payments to seniors on Social Security. Payments to our soldiers serving overseas. Payments to the police who guard Rep. Rokita in the Capitol. Payment of Rep. Rokita’s salary. Payment of our customs agents and border patrol. Payment of … well, of everything that the federal government has pledge or is obligated by law to pay. (Oh, and by the way… those laws that obligate the federal government to pay for things were passed by Congress.) And as the article notes “[m]any economists have warned the economic consequences could be catastrophic if the federal government defaults” (emphasis added).


But Rep. Rokita apparently looks at things like Social Security, Medicare, and military salaries as just “things we want”.

So let’s look at it another way, with an analogy. Let’s compare the federal government to a family (which is a very inapt analogy, but it’s one that Republicans like to use when they tell us that the federal government should operate “within its means” or whatever other cliché they choose). For the purpose of the analogy, think of China and those to whom the United States owes debt obligations (bond holders) as the bank that holds the mortgage on the family’s house. (By the way, much of that debt is held, not just by China, but by American citizens via their investments and their pensions and so forth.) Anyway, let’s use Rep. Rokita’s idea of prioritizing payments to the holders of the family’s debt. So, the mortgage gets paid and thus it isn’t in default. Yeah! Um, but guess what? Because the family used the little money that it had, it couldn’t pay all of its utility bills. Or pay for a child’s visit to the doctor. Or for food. So while the good news is that the family’s house isn’t in foreclosure, the bad news is that there aren’t any lights or heat and there isn’t any food on the table. Oh, and junior’s broken arm will go untreated. Too bad, so sorry, get a job, kid.

But you see, the government isn’t like a family. First, the family can choose not to have heat or to allow junior to just suffer in pain. But the federal government has already promised to pay soldiers and retirees and deadbeat, dumb as shit Congressmen. Second, it’s likely that the family found itself in those precarious straights because of hard times, not because dad said that if mom didn’t stop taking her diabetes medications, he would quit his job and stop earning any money for the family. That’s where the House Republicans are right now. They’re the dad and they want to become a deadbeat. Moreover, unlike the family that has to fight and scrape for its money (or seek loans from highly reluctant lenders), the world wants to give loans to America because the world  knows that we’ll honor our obligations. Or it least we’ve honored our obligations in the past; before the Tea Party came to Washington intent on burning everything down.

So when Rep. Rokita suggests that if we prioritize our payments we won’t be in default, he is only speaking about defaulting on our debt obligations, not on all of our other obligations.

As to this whole idea of prioritizing payments, there are several issues. First, the Treasury Department says that it doesn’t have the Congressional authorization to decide which payments to prioritize or which payments to skip. Moreover, the Treasury Department also says that even if it did have that authority, the current government shutdown means that those individuals that might have the ability to help re-program the computers to prioritize payments are currently on furlough.

But ask yourself this: Who gets to decide which payments to prioritize? Remember that the Treasury Department is part of the Executive Branch. So what if Treasury decided to pay debt first, then Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, followed by food stamps and other welfare programs and salaries for our soldiers, but also decided to skip payments of farm subsidies, Congressional salaries, or other programs that Republicans like? Or, what if Treasury said that we’re going to prioritize federal construction or other projects (including, for example, military procurements) to districts with members of Congress who didn’t try to shutdown the government or force the country into default? Maybe we’ll only pay Social Security for people in “blue” districts of in the districts of members of Congress who voted to raise the debt limit. Would Rep. Rokita find fault with that sort of prioritization?

And Rep. Rokita doesn’t seem to be troubled by “immediate pain” like “mass government layoffs and economic contraction” because, he thinks there would be an “explosion” of private spending. Really? Like the “explosion” of private spending when the economy cratered in 2008? Oh, wait. Remember that economics think that default would be “catastrophic”. And why does Rep. Rokita think that the layoffs would be limited to the government? How many private employers rely upon government business? Think about defense contractors or those building highways, for a moment. How many people in those industries might find themselves out of work. How many teachers might be put out of work and what would be the impact on our children as class sizes swelled to unfathomable teacher-to-student ratios? (Of course destroying public education is also part of the Republican end game…) Or consider the fate of people who rely upon the government for assistance, whether disabled veterans, retirees, or the very poor. What do you suppose will happen to them? (I’d suggest watching Les Misérables…) I know that Republicans will likely tell the poor to “just get a job” while ignoring the difficulty getting jobs and the fact that many of those jobs don’t pay a living wage. And just look around you know. Banks and many large corporations are flush with cash. But they’re not engaged in an “explosion” of spending … and they’re telling Congress not to allow the debt ceiling to be breached.

Moreover, if we were to default, even if we keep paying interest on the bonds, eventually we have to actually pay off the bonds themselves. Are we going to have the money to pay for them? And what happens if we do need to borrow (for example, if we decide to wage another war)? Our cost to borrow will increase (i.e., the interest on the bonds will be higher) because of concern that we might default again. It’s also worth noting that following a debt default, there is a serious risk that the US Dollar might be abandoned as the world’s reserve currency. And to paraphrase my favorite line from Ghostbusters: “It would be bad.”

OK. I think this particular horse is dead.

Rep. Rokita has joined a faction of far right Republicans who are so obsessed with “debt” and “deficits” (well, other than debt and deficits related to things that they like or which help constituents or corporate overlords that they care about) that they’re willing to play chicken with and even collapse the world’s economy. Moreover, just as with their views on subjects like climate change, abortion, evolution, and other topics, actual things like empirical evidence, social science, and simple logic don’t hold sway. They’ve been drinking the Tea Party’s poisoned Kool-Aid (think Jim Jones…) for far too long and now, in their fevered delusional world, they’re willing to take the rest of us down with them. They’ve become economic terrorists who believe so firmly in their own cause, that they’re willing to detonate their device and to hell with the collateral damage they may cause. Because it would be good for the “children of tomorrow”.

And these very stupid people are governing our country.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Todd Rokita Attempts to Defend His Claim That Obamacare is “Insidious”

For the record, I don’t really like using the term Obamacare. I think that it is a loaded term that was coined more as a pejorative than as an honest short-hand descriptor for the Affordable Care Act. However, given that the term has seemingly become the de facto term for the Affordable Care Act and given the public confusion over the terms, I have reluctantly been using the term Obamacare with greater frequency.

Todd Rokita, Official Portrait, 112th Congress.jpgSo, with that out of the way, let’s move on to Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN). I’ve was highly critical of Rep. Rokita last week both for his condescending behavior toward CNN anchor Carol Costello, his use of his own child’s illness as a political ploy to reopen certain healthcare elements of the government at the same time that he tries to eliminate healthcare for others, and for his claim that Obamacare is “one of the most insidious laws known to man”. I (and others) have pointed out the evil fallacy of equating Obamacare with truly insidious laws like the Fugitive Slave Act, Nuremberg Laws, Jim Crow laws, Apartheid, and other similar examples of man’s inhumanity to man that were codified into law. But rather than walking back his statement, let alone apologizing for the inappropriate and offensive description, Rep. Rokita decided to double-down and try to defend his claim that Obamacare is “insidious”. To be fair, I’ll reprint Rep. Rokita’s explanation in its entirety:

ObamaCare: One of the Most Insidious Laws Ever Devised


  1. Intended to entrap or beguile: an insidious plan
  2. Stealthily treacherous or deceitful; an insidious enemy
  3. Operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect: an insidious disease

The Affordable Care Act is one of the most insidious laws devised. That is because it is built around a series of lies, which are now being exposed. Lies such as Americans can keep the health care they have, and that the law would make health care more affordable.

Lost Jobs:

Hospital systems like Indiana University Health have cut employees and hours due to changes forced upon the system by ObamaCare.

Fewer Hours

Schools – both K-12 and college – are reducing support staff and part-time teacher hours because of new requirements under ObamaCare

Lafayette School Corporation, Hancock and Benton County Schools cut their part-time employees to a max of 29 hours per week.

Morgan, Clay, DeKalb, Floyd, and Marshall Counties schools cut their part-time employees to 28 hours per week.

Indiana University, and Ivy Tech Community College, our statewide community college system, capped part-time hours at 29.  At Ivy Tech, this includes part-time instructors classroom  hours, limiting the access to instructors for some of our students that need it the most.

Lost Insurance:

UPS, one of Indiana’s biggest employers, cut insurance for 15,000 spouses.

Soaring  Healthcare Costs

I’ve had countless letters and emails from constituents who’ve had their insurance premiums and deductibles jump.  For example:

  • Larry Cooley in Wheatfield, Indiana reports his 2014 insurance package through Medicare Advantage saw a premium jump 86% and a deductible increase by $500.00.  His prescription costs jumped 25% too and he lost coverage on several drugs.
  • Real people like Angie May, who operates a small family farm with her husband in Indiana.  Their premiums jumped 280% from $325 per month in 2012 to $906 per month beginning in 2014.
  • In so many cases, Americans are not able to stay on the plan that they liked, despite the President’s promise.

Government Will Have More Control Over Every American:

ObamaCare is forcing millions of Americans on to government run health plans, and therefore putting the government in charge of our health care decisions.

Health care represents 1/5th of our national economy, to bring it under government control is to radically change how our private economy works

Most importantly, as Harry Reid and other Democrats have said, the real goal is to get to a “single payer” system where only the government pays for health care.  When only the federal government pays for health insurance, only the federal government will get to decide what care you receive.

ObamaCare Is A Driver Of Our Exploding Debt:

Over the next 10 years, ObamaCare will spend $1.9 trillion that we do not have.

By the end of the decade, ObamaCare spending will exceed $200 billion annually.

Already every child born today inherits over $55,000 in debt, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, federal spending on major health care programs is projected to increase significantly as a share of the economy in coming decades.

  • In 2013, federal spending on health programs will amount to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) – by 2038, thanks to ObamaCare, federal spending is projected to rise to 8 percent of GDP.

Note: It appears that Rep. Rokita sourced his definition of the word “insidious” from Perhaps because he is a member of Congress he is of the belief that he can simply copy material from another source without attribution.

Obviously, the core of Rep. Rokita’s claim that Obamacare is “insidious” is this statement: “[I]t is built around a series of lies, which are now being exposed”. Oh, really? And what does Rep. Rokita cite as evidence for this “series of lies” that are being “exposed”. First he tells us that “Hospital systems like Indiana University Health have cut employees and hours due to changes forced upon the system by ObamaCare.” But is his statement true? Remember, it is Rep. Rokita that talks about a “series of lies”. Perhaps he needs to look in the mirror before he starts accusing others of lying. For example, a story in the Indianapolis Business Journal about the job cuts at Indiana University Health mentions many factors, but Obamacare is not one of the reasons cited:

After strong growth for years, admissions at Indiana University Health hospitals in the first half of the year suddenly dipped 4.3 percent.

So IU Health executives, who were already looking for ways to cut $1 billion in expenses, decided to give pink slips to 800 employees, according to an announcement Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, however, IU Health's business is stronger than ever, with income from operations shooting up nearly 20 percent in the first half.

“With more than 50 percent of our costs related to labor, and in the face of declining reimbursements and fewer people being admitted to the hospital, we have regrettably concluded that a work force reduction is necessary,” said Jim Terwilliger, CEO of IU Health’s flagship hospital, Methodist. “This is not a decision that we have reached easily or taken lightly, and comes after great consideration.”

IU Health currently had 36,000 employees, although many of those work part-time schedules. It’s full-time equivalent workforce totals 27,000. For all of 2012, IU Health had revenue of $5.6 billion.

IU Health’s decision comes less than three months after Indianapolis-based St. Vincent Health laid off 865 workers in late June, which was part of a 5,000-worker layoff by its parent organization, St. Louis-based Ascension Health Alliance.

Hospitals around the country have been doing the same, as they worry that fewer patients and lower payments will no longer support the expensive operations they built up during a long boom.
“I believe that, as an industry, we have been inefficient,” IU Health CEO Dan Evans said during an April interview in which he announced the $1 billion cost-cutting goal.

IU Health has been able to offset its decline in hospital admissions with an 8-percent price increase and by receiving more patient visits to its outpatient facilities.

Excluding one-time items, IU Health income from operations rose 19 percent in the first half of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. IU Health pulled in $186.3 million during those six months, compared with $156.6 million the year before.

Inpatient admissions—those that involve an overnight stay—had been climbing consistently throughout 2012. But then, in January, they started to fall.

Total inpatient admissions in the first six months totaled 68,952, down from 72,057 during the same period last year, according to data IU Health released to bond investors last month.

The steepest declines came at IU Health’s downtown hospitals—Methodist, University and Riley Hospital for Children—where inpatient visits fell 6.3 percent.

Even though IU Health saw fewer patients staying overnight in its hospitals, the total days those patients stayed did not fall until the second quarter. And IU Health posted a slight increase in total patient days for the first six months this year.

IU Health outpatient visits—anything that does not require an overnight stay—rose 1.9 percent during the first six months of 2013. At IU Health’s suburban Indianapolis hospitals in Avon, Carmel, Fishers and Tipton, outpatient visits soared 13.4 percent during the first half.

“We think that the future is going to be around population health. How do you keep people healthy?” Terwilliger said. And that means keeping more patients out of the hospital.

Indeed, the federal Medicare program and private insurers are pushing hospitals like IU Health to enter new kinds of contracts in which they can earn bonuses for keeping patients out of the hospital but could suffer penalties if they spend too much to take care of patients.

That’s one factor pushing down hospitalizations nationwide. In addition, persistently high unemployment and the increasing prevalence of high-deductible health insurance plans have left more patients exposed to the high cost of a hospital visit.

What really has IU Health scared, however, is that the federal Medicare program has been reducing payments to hospitals—and private insurers are likely to follow suit. Whereas hospitals for years have claimed that Medicare payments ran about 20 percent below their costs, hospitals now are desperately trying to cut costs to make money on Medicare.

IU Health’s cost-cutting goal of $1 billion would reduce its annual expenses about 20 percent.
“Our foresight is that reimbursement rates will approximate Medicare,” Terwilliger said.

In addition to cutting jobs, IU Health also has been trying to reduce expenses by closing and consolidating programs. For example, it closed pediatric and cardiac rehabilitation programs at Methodist hospital, and now sends patients to similar programs at Riley and at its suburban hospitals.

IU Health also consolidated multiple lab facilities into a downtown facility.

“We continue to root out expenses that do not add value to our patients,” Terwilliger said.

The job cuts will be focused on IU Health's three downtown hospitals as well as its hospitals in Carmel, Fishers, Muncie and Tipton. The 800 cuts will occur in all areas of those hospitals' operations, including clinical and administrative staff.

The cuts will come from layoffs and possibly from some early retirement buyouts—something IU Health has never done before. Laid-off workers will be notified by Oct. 1 and will have their last day with IU Health near Dec. 1.

IU Health officials said they would provide outplacement services, spiritual support and severance. They declined to detail the severance packages.

Hmm. If Obamacare was to blame, don’t you think that Terwilliger might have mentioned that or that the reporter for the Indianapolis Business Journal might have done so? US News & World Report also looked at the broader claim that Obamacare was causing hospitals to cut jobs.

Cleveland Clinic officials announced this week that they would be offering 3,000 buyouts in an effort to cuts costs, citing financial pressures from health care reform as one of the reasons for their decision. More than a dozen hospitals across the country are taking similar measures, due in part to health care reform requirements, but also because of the $9.9 billion in government sequester cuts to Medicare, hospital debt and states’ refusal to expand Medicaid, the government’s health insurance program for the poor.

“For hospitals in general this is kind of the new normal,” says Eileen Sheil, executive director of corporate communications for the Cleveland Clinic. According to most recent estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hospital sector lost about 4,400 jobs in July. In May, hospitals shed 9,000 jobs, the worst month for the industry in a decade.

Ron Stiver, senior vice president of engagement and public affairs for Indiana University Health, which plans to cut 800 employees, says the assertion that health care reform is the reason behind hospital cuts is “overly simplified.” IU Health is making cuts partially because of the health law, he says, but also because the state has not expanded Medicaid, the hospital system has fewer inpatient volumes, and payment rates for its services have been declining.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., plans to cut 1,000 positions, citing an aging population, lower reimbursement rates, a reduction in National Institutes of Health grant funding and a lack of Medicaid expansion in Tennessee.

In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that state legislatures could opt out of increasing the number of people who are eligible for Medicaid, and North Carolina is one of 22 states that has done so, a decision that resulted in Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven, N.C., closing down, according to hospital officials.

Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel from New York, the main sponsor of the health reform bill, says organizations have several other tools they could use to reduce costs, and that many businesses are blaming health reform for actions for which they don't want to take responsibility. “U.S. health costs have been the highest in the world, yet our quality measures were middling at best,” he says. “While there is no doubt that [health reform] has helped slow health care cost growth, which is beneficial to both national and household budgets, there is nothing in the law that tells hospitals to reduce staff. The fact is that patients are paying less, not more, as a result of the [health law].”

The Office of the Actuary for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services predicted that decreases like these would occur, stating in a 2010 memo that by 2019 it expected hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies would undergo a 15 percent reduction.

For a sector that employs more than 5.5 million people, according to the American Hospital Association, the numbers are likely to get worse. The pattern of layoffs and buyouts has already begun. SouthCoast Hospital Group in Florida cited federal health reform when it laid off 100 employees in mid-September. John Muir Health in California is offering staff voluntary buyouts. NorthShore University HealthSystem in Illinois will lay off 1 percent of its workforce, and Covenant Health in Texas laid off 49 employees.

The requirements that hospitals must meet in order to receive full Medicare reimbursements are having a large impact. Hospitals once were able to bill insurance companies and the federal government for services rendered, but now they have to demonstrate that those services help keep patients healthy.

The government is capping reimbursement rates for specific diagnoses and having hospitals pay to fix their own medical errors, including hospital-acquired infections. The plan is to lower inefficiencies, thereby lowering costs. “We want hospitals to do things more efficiently,” says Dr. Ross Koppel, professor of sociology and affiliate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We don't want to redo tests or subject people to hideous radiation because exam records have been lost, for example. There may be some inefficient practices that were money makers, but with a more efficient system hospitals can't get away with them.”

Hospitals with excessive numbers of readmissions for Medicare patients will face large penalties, and hospitals that serve the poor will be particularly vulnerable.

Still, hospitals are not responsible for a significant amount of the recidivism they see, according to research published in 2011 by the University of Toronto, which revealed that only a quarter of hospital readmissions were preventable.

“Hospitals have very little control over what patients do when they leave the hospital, so in that case there is an unfairness in penalizing hospitals,” Koppel says. “The hospitals may do a good job and tell patients what to do when they get home, but then the patient goes back to drinking, smoking and eating cupcakes all day.”

Sheil said hospitals will be getting paid less and still have to do more. “Nobody is immune to that, not even Cleveland Clinic,” she says.

The news appeared to be particularly devastating to a hospital system that President Barack Obama applauded only four years before for delivering exceptional care at costs well below the national norm. Still, Cleveland Clinic officials were attributing its most-recent cuts to a number of factors, and pointed out that it was continuously developing ways to be more efficient. “There are many factors, and any one isn't going to tip us over,” Sheil says.

“We're not blaming health care reform. We think it is very necessary,” she adds. “Something had to give because costs are going to continue to rise and it's unsustainable.”

I will acknowledge that in the US News & World Report article, an official from Indiana University Health does blame “health care reform” in part (he doesn’t identify either Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act by name…) but he also blames the State of Indiana for refusing to expand Medicaid, fewer inpatients, and declining payment rates. He says that blaming “health care reform” is “overly simplified”. But  not to Rep. Rokita who ignores everything else to blame Obamacare for the layoffs.

So, what do you think now about Rep. Rokita’s claim that “Hospital systems like Indiana University Health have cut employees and hours due to changes forced upon the system by ObamaCare.” Is that an example of the “insidious” nature of Obamacare … or an insidious exaggeration (or outright lie) by Rep. Rokita?

Next, let’s take a look at another one of Rep. Rokita’s claims.

UPS, one of Indiana’s biggest employers, cut insurance for 15,000 spouses.

Well, that one is actually true … kinda. But the omission of an enormously important detail is illustrative of the way Obamacare opponents like Rep. Rokita play “fast & loose” with the facts. So, yes. UPS is cutting insurance for approximately 15,000 spouses — but only spouses who work and are eligible for healthcare insurance from their own employer. It’s probably worth noting the likely source for Rep. Rokita’s half-truth. As Politifact noted in a fact check of the fake filibuster staged by Sen. Ted Cruz [R-Texas]:

Cruz said: “Just a few weeks ago, UPS sent a letter to some 15,000 employees saying, ‘We are dropping spousal health insurance because of Obamacare.’ That is 15,000 UPS employees who had insurance for their husbands and wives, and suddenly those husbands and wives are left without health insurance and being told, ‘Go on an exchange with no employer subsidy.’”

Politifact found Sen. Cruz’s claim to be false:

Cruz said that by dropping spousal health insurance for 15,000 employees, UPS left employees’ spouses “without health insurance” and told them to, “go on an exchange with no employer subsidy.”

But Cruz ignores that the only spouses being kicked off the UPS plan would be the ones who already had access to an employer-sponsored plan in their own job. This means they wouldn’t be “without health insurance” and wouldn’t have to find coverage on an Obamacare marketplace. We rate the claim False.

Rep. Rokita didn’t repeat Sen. Cruz’s false claim in its entirety, but he did omit a critical limiting element. So which is “insidious”? A plan to extend healthcare to millions of uninsured or a lie designed to frighten people into thinking that Obamacare was forcing people to become uninsured?

Rep. Rokita also describes the “countless letters and emails from constituents who’ve had their insurance premiums and deductibles jump” and then he proceeds to identify … two. I know that Rep. Rokita may not be a rocket scientist, but I would have presumed that “countless” would be a number higher than two.* In any event, I’m not going to attempt to fisk this sort of claim; I have no idea what letters and emails he has and hasn’t received; I have no idea if the stories he relays are accurate or if those relaying the stories have their facts straight in the first place; and I have no idea how many other constituents may have encountered completely different results.

Now, before I go any further, I will acknowledge that I’ve made no attempt to fisk Rep. Rokita’s claims concerning schools cutting jobs, insurance premiums going up or how Obamacare will impact the national debt. For one thing, these are very, very complicated issues (especially the debt); for another thing, there is data all of the map on these issues. For example, I’ll acknowledge that just today the State of Indiana and 17 (mostly rural?) schools have sued the IRS over applying the employer mandate to schools. Similarly, some premiums are certainly increasing, but its not clear if those increases are result of Obamacare or a continuation of the rise in premiums that we’ve seen for years (and, for that matter, has Obamacare slowed the increase in premiums?). Similarly, some projections show that Obamacare will add to the debt; yet others show that it will reduce the debt. For example, here is what Politifact said in a June 2012 examination of Mitt Romney’s claim that Obamacare would add trillions to the national debt:

[F]or claims about deficits, we consider the Congressional Budget Office, often called the CBO, to be the standard by which we fact-check claims.

The CBO said this about the health care law back in 2010: It lowers the deficit, by about $124 billion over 10 years.

And in 2011, when Republicans offered a bill to repeal the health care law, the CBO said that increased the deficit, by about $210 billion over 10 years.

In any event, what you need to remember is that Rep. Rokita used the issues of school layoffs, premium increases, and the debt as an explanation for why Obamacare is “insidious”. The issue isn’t whether Obamacare is a good law or a law that should be repealed, tweaked, or fully implemented. The issue raised by Rep. Rokita is whether Obamacare is “one of the most insidious laws known to man”.

Rep. Rokita claims (without citation) that Obamacare will $200 billion annually. Maybe yes, maybe no. I don’t have any idea. But you can’t simply divorce the cost of the program from what that money will be paying for. Obamacare gives states the option to expand their Medicaid rolls (thus offering healthcare to more of those who live in poverty) and the federal government will pay all of that cost for a few years before transferring ten percent of the cost to the states. Is that expensive? Absolutely. But the question is not just cost; the question is whether we the people think that spending that money for the purpose of providing healthcare to the poor is a good expenditure. Similarly, Obamacare will provide subsidies to assist families who are required to purchase insurance. Once again, that is also expensive. But once again, the question is not just the cost; we also have to look at the social benefit of having more people insured. Finally, Rep. Rokita’s discussion of the cost omits any discussion of savings or of increased job creation and the resulting tax revenue. If Obamacare is “insidious” because it is expensive, then I suppose that Social Security, Medicare, the CIA, and Pentagon are also “insidious” — at least by Rep. Rokita’s formulation.

These are all important issues to discuss. And they were discussed when the law was passed. They were discussed in town hall meetings across the country. They were litigated in the 2010 mid-term elections. And, most importantly, they were critical issues in the 2012 presidential elections. And you know what? President Obama ran on Obamacare and he won. By contrast, Mitt Romney ran on a platform that included the repeal of Obamacare and he lost. It’s also worth noting that while Republicans do have a majority in the House of Representatives, they did not win a majority of the votes cast for the House of Representatives. In fact, they lost by about 1,700,000 votes (about 1.9%), but because of gerrymandering Republicans have a majority in the House.

Anyway, Rep. Rokita wants us to think that these cost claims make the law “insidious”.

And that brings me to the last point from Rep. Rokita’s statement that I want to discuss. Remember that Rep. Rokita includes as a part of his definition of the word insidious: “Stealthily treacherous or deceitful” and calls the law “a series of lies”. With that in mind, recall these claims from Rep. Rokita’s statement (emphasis added):

ObamaCare is forcing millions of Americans on to government run health plans, and therefore putting the government in charge of our health care decisions.

Health care represents 1/5th of our national economy, to bring it under government control is to radically change how our private economy works[.]

Does Rep. Rokita really want to talk about being treacherous or deceitful or a “series of lies”? Really? Let’s turn again to Politifact and the winner of the award for 2010 “Lie of the Year”:

In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama’s ambitious plan to overhaul America’s health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a “government takeover.”

“Takeovers are like coups,” Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. “They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.”

The line stuck. By the time the health care bill was headed toward passage in early 2010, Obama and congressional Democrats had sanded down their program, dropping the “public option” concept that was derided as too much government intrusion. The law passed in March, with new regulations, but no government-run plan.

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn’t let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen “government takeover of health care” as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections.

Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times’ independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year’s most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann’s claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)

By selecting “government takeover” as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: “The label ‘government takeover’ has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a ‘takeover.’”

An inaccurate claim

“Government takeover” conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:

Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.

• Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up “exchanges” where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don’t have it.

• The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

• The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.

• The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

It’s true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.

Republicans who maintain the Democratic plan is a government takeover say that characterization is justified because the plan increases federal regulation and will require Americans to buy health insurance.

But while those provisions are real, the majority of Americans will continue to get coverage from private insurers. And it will bring new business for the insurance industry: People who don’t currently have coverage will get it, for the most part, from private insurance companies.

Consider some analogies about strict government regulation. The Federal Aviation Administration imposes detailed rules on airlines. State laws require drivers to have car insurance. Regulators tell electric utilities what they can charge. Yet that heavy regulation is not described as a government takeover.

This year, PolitiFact analyzed five claims of a “government takeover of health care.” Three were rated Pants on Fire, two were rated False.

‘Can’t do it in four words’

Other news organizations have also said the claim is false.

Slate said “the proposed health care reform does not take over the system in any sense.” In a New York Times economics blog, Princeton University professor Uwe Reinhardt, an expert in health care economics, said, “Yes, there would be a substantial government-mandated reorganization of this relatively small corner of the private health insurance market (that serves people who have been buying individual policies). But that hardly constitutes a government takeover of American health care.”, an independent fact-checking group run by the University of Pennsylvania, has debunked it several times, calling it one of the “whoppers” about health care and saying the reform plan is neither “government-run” nor a “government takeover.”

We asked incoming House Speaker John Boehner's office why Republican leaders repeat the phrase when it has repeatedly been shown to be incorrect. Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, replied, “We believe that the job-killing ObamaCare law will result in a government takeover of health care. That’s why we have pledged to repeal it, and replace it with common-sense reforms that actually lower costs.”

Analysts say health care reform is such a complicated topic that it often cannot be summarized in snappy talking points.

“If you're going to tell the truth about something as complicated as health care and health care reform, you probably need at least four sentences,” said Maggie Mahar, author of Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much. “You can’t do it in four words.”

Mahar said the GOP simplification distorted the truth about the plan. “Doctors will not be working for the government. Hospitals will not be owned by the government,” she said. “That's what a government takeover of health care would mean, and that's not at all what we"re doing.”

How the line was used

If you followed the health care debate or the midterm election — even casually — it’s likely you heard “government takeover” many times.

PolitiFact sought to count how often the phrase was used in 2010 but found an accurate tally was unfeasible because it had been repeated so frequently in so many places. It was used hundreds of times during the debate over the bill and then revived during the fall campaign. A few numbers:

• The phrase appears more than 90 times on Boehner’s website,

• It was mentioned eight times in the 48-page Republican campaign platform “A Pledge to America” as part of their plan to “repeal and replace the government takeover of health care.”

• The Republican National Committee’s website mentions a government takeover of health care more than 200 times.

Conservative groups and tea party organizations joined the chorus. It was used by FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.

The phrase proliferated in the media even after Democrats dropped the public option. In 2010 alone, “government takeover” was mentioned 28 times in the Washington Post, 77 times in Politico and 79 times on CNN. A review of TV transcripts showed “government takeover” was primarily used as a catchy sound bite, not for discussions of policy details.

In most transcripts we examined, Republican leaders used the phrase without being challenged by interviewers. For example, during Boehner’s Jan. 31 appearance on Meet the Press, Boehner said it five times. But not once was he challenged about it.

In rare cases when the point was questioned, the GOP leader would recite various regulations found in the bill and insist that they constituted a takeover. But such followups were rare.

An effective phrase

Politicians and officials in the health care industry have been warning about a “government takeover” for decades.

The phrase became widely used in the early 1990s when President Bill Clinton was trying to pass health care legislation.  Then, as today, Democrats tried to debunk the popular Republican refrain.
When Obama proposed his health plan in the spring of 2009, Luntz, a Republican strategist famous for his research on effective phrases, met with focus groups to determine which messages would work best for the Republicans. He did not respond to calls and e-mails from PolitiFact asking him to discuss the phrase.

The 28-page memo he wrote after those sessions, “The Language of Healthcare 2009,” provides a rare glimpse into the art of finding words and phrases that strike a responsive chord with voters.
The memo begins with “The 10 Rules for Stopping the ‘Washington Takeover’ of Healthcare.” Rule No. 4 says people “are deathly afraid that a government takeover will lower their quality of care — so they are extremely receptive to the anti-Washington approach. It’s not an economic issue. It’s a bureaucratic issue.”

The memo is about salesmanship, not substance. It doesn't address whether the lines are accurate. It just says they are effective and that Republicans should use them. Indeed, facing a Democratic plan that actually relied on the free market to try to bring down costs, Luntz recommended sidestepping that inconvenient fact:

“The arguments against the Democrats' healthcare plan must center around politicians, bureaucrats and Washington … not the free market, tax incentives or competition.”

Democrats tried to combat the barrage of charges about a government takeover. The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly put out statements, but they were drowned out by a disciplined GOP that used the phrase over and over.

Democrats could never agree on their own phrases and were all over the map in their responses, said Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee.

“It was uncoordinated. Everyone had their own idea,” Dean said in an interview with PolitiFact.
”The Democrats are atrocious at messaging,” he said. “They've gotten worse since I left, not better. It’s just appalling. First of all, you don’t play defense when you’re doing messaging, you play offense. The Republicans have learned this well.”

Dean grudgingly admires the Republican wordsmith. “Frank Luntz has it right, he just works for the wrong side. You give very simple catch phrases that encapsulate the philosophy of the bill.”

A responsive chord

By March of this year, when Obama signed the bill into law, 53 percent of respondents in a Bloomberg poll said they agreed that “the current proposal to overhaul health care amounts to a government takeover.”

Exit polls showed the economy was the top issue for voters in the November election, but analysts said the drumbeat about the “government takeover” during the campaign helped cement the advantage for the Republicans.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat whose provision for Medicare end-of-life care was distorted into the charge of “death panels” (last year's Lie of the Year), said the Republicans’ success with the phrase was a matter of repetition.

“There was a uniformity of Republican messaging that was disconnected from facts,” Blumenauer said. “The sheer discipline … was breathtaking.”

So did you get all that? More importantly, do you see what Rep. Rokita has done? In order to defend his use of the word “insidious” — a word that he defines as meaning “stealthily treacherous or deceitful” — and to support his claim that Obamacare is “built around a series of lies” — he repeats a 3-year-old lie. And not just any lie. Nope. That wouldn’t be good enough. He repeats the lie of the year in order to prove that something else is built on a lie.

Still want to talk about things that are insidious?

And it probably goes without saying, but Rep. Rokita focuses only on the cost and perceived downsides of Obamacare to argue that it is insidious. Did you see anything in his statement recognizing that it prohibits insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, prohibits lifetime caps on coverage, prohibits cancellation of coverage when a person becomes ill, permits children to stay on their parent’s plan until 26, requires insurers to give rebates if they overcharge or don’t expend earned premiums to treat those they insure, requires certain preventive care to be included in plans without the payment of an associated deductible, and many other benefits? You see, Rep. Rokita can’t possibly argue that any of those aspects of Obamacare are insidious, especially because he knows that people like those parts of the law (even those who claim to “hate” Obamacare seem to like the things that the law actually does) and because he knows that despite the Republicans’ grandstanding votes to repeal Obamacare 40 or more times, the Republicans have not offered a real plan to replace Obamacare and provide these patient and consumer protections. Rep. Rokita may claim that the law is insidious, but he can only do so by ignoring all of the good that it is intended to do.

One final point. Yes, many Democrats would like a “single payer” system of healthcare. But single payer doesn’t, as Rep. Rokita suggests, mean that “only the government pays for health care”; rather it means that the government pays for healthcare but that doesn’t prohibit individuals from paying additional premiums for supplemental care. In other words, a “single payer” system is essentially the same as Medicare, but for everyone instead of just the elderly. But to Rep. Rokita, adopting an intermediate, market-run plan while still hoping to eventually adopt a more far-reaching plan is insidious.

No, Rep. Rokita. The Fugitive Slave Act was insidious. The Nuremberg Laws were insidious. Jim Crow, Apartheid, and similar laws were insidious. But Obamacare, while it may be controversial and may be expensive, is not insidious. On the other hand, the use of half-truths and blatant lies (including a previous “lie of the year”) to support your argument … now that is insidious.

Rep. Rokita: Your words have brought shame upon yourself and upon the state and constituents you represent.

*Of course I could be wrong here. After all, then-Secretary of State Rokita testified to a Federal Court that he was unaware of any incidents of in person voter fraud in Indiana but then later testified to Congress that in person voter fraud “does exist” and that it’s “happening in Indiana”. So maybe he does have difficulty counting to numbers higher than zero.

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