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Archive for Thursday, October 18, 2007

GOP lacks health care ideas

October 18, 2007

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My conservative brethren in the op-ed commentariat have made a disquieting discovery: The Republican candidates for president are saying nothing that addresses the economic anxieties of the American middle class. Both David Brooks and Michael Gerson, writing last Friday in The New York Times and The Post, respectively, expressed a mixture of amazement and horror at the disdain that the candidates display toward broadly centrist proposals to bolster Americans' economic security, and at the candidates' apparent indifference to their need to craft such proposals of their own.

"The Democrats propose something" such as expanding health care coverage for children or providing federal matching funds for 401(k) accounts for families of modest means, bemoaned Brooks, "and the Republicans have no alternative." Gerson grumbled that the candidates were taking gleeful potshots at the "baby bonds" notion - providing newborns with small savings accounts - that Hillary Clinton briefly floated, despite the fact that the idea has won support from the right as well as the left.

In fact, with the honorable exception of long-shot candidate Mike Huckabee, the Republican field seems content with an economic program that comes down to opposing whatever Hillary Clinton proposes. Rudy Giuliani, campaigning hard to convince the Republican base to overlook his heresies on such cultural hot buttons as abortion rights, seeks to win over the faithful by claiming the mantle of Hillary-Basher Club Champion. A tax credit for parents struggling to pay their children's college tuition? Matching funds for 401(k)s? Baby bonds? Crazy notions all, not because of their substance - Rudy can't be bothered with their substance - but because they were proposed by - get this - Hillary! The GOP crowds roar.

As a road map to governance, this is both dim and skimpy. President Giuliani, Romney, McCain or Thompson can reliably be counted on to be against whatever Clinton is for. Beyond that, if we total up their domestic and economic policy proposals, they intend to do almost nothing at all.

Romney will punt to the states the problem of the decreasing willingness of employers to provide health insurance. Giuliani says everybody should just buy their own policies - and if the insurance companies don't want to sell to the sick or middle-aged, that's just too bad. John McCain focuses on the rising costs of treating chronic diseases rather than the declining level of coverage. Fred Thompson wants to take a whack at Medicare.

What unites these positions is more than just a common opposition to Hillary's (or John Edwards' or Barack Obama's) proposals for universal coverage. They also adhere to the fundamental Republican laws handed down by Goldwater and Reagan: All government interventions on behalf of the people are inherently wrong. They erode freedom. The market can do a better job of whatever it is that needs doing.

What the Republican field fails to realize is that the America that Goldwater and Reagan defended against the presumed predations of government no longer exists. When Barry and Ronnie walked the earth, most Americans had enduring relations with their employers (ensured, in many cases, by a union contract), and their employers often provided them with health benefits and a pension. Clearly, the private sector that Barry and Ron extolled while denouncing government ain't what it used to be, and Americans know it.

Somehow, news of this transformation has not reached the Republican candidates, who still rail against government assistance to help Americans pay for college and health care and offer glowing affirmations of free trade. Nor has it reached the Republican Party or the conservative movement more generally. The serious postmortems for President Bush's ultra-Reaganite and uber-Goldwateristic plan to privatize Social Security - the questioning of the sanity of such a proposal at a time when employer-provided pension plans were dropping like flies - have yet to be conducted in conservative circles. Indeed, Fred Thompson is still mumbling about cutting Social Security. Ol' Fred may have slept through 2005 but did the entire party?

The Republicans' problem isn't just the silence of their candidates. It's the silence of their ideology, which has neglected to notice that the world has changed.

Comments

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 2 months ago

So you're either for higher taxes, more government spending, more buying of votes and more federal giveaways, or you display "indifference" to the supposed needs of the middle class? Give me a break.

This is what's wrong with this country.

kansas778 7 years, 2 months ago

"The Republican candidates for president are saying nothing that addresses the economic anxieties of the American middle class. "

Perhaps because these don't exist. People always seem to forget that the US is the richest country in the world, and no matter how much the libs try and talk about how poor we are, most just don't buy it. The average "poor" American has a car, TV, cell phone, microwave, and more and more are owning home computers with internet access. The average "poor" American would be considered middle class in Europe.

BigAl 7 years, 2 months ago

No sir. What we need is some sort of control. I run a small business and health insurance premiums are my single largest growth expense. Every year, year after year, health insurance goes up 25%, 30% and more. This is NOT an exaggeration. While this goes up, benefits go down. A lot of people have this paid for them but a lot of people don't. I have people that can no longer retire simply due to the cost of health insurance. It has gotten out of hand folks. And believe me, this IS hitting the middle class. Hard. I want to continue to pay for this insurance but I simply cannot continue at this rate. Neither can my employees.
I think it is time for at least some government control over this industry. I don't have the answers. Health insurance needs some sort of control. We cannot continue down this path of runaway costs and less benefits. Can't do it. I'm not looking for any handouts. I am looking for fairness and affordable health insurance. If that means government control over the health industry, then so be it.
Don't tell me that inflation is ONLY 2% when health insurance alone is causing me extreme difficulty in keeping the door open.

BigAl 7 years, 2 months ago

Sorry for the rant. I also don't think this is a liberal or conservative problem. This is a problem for all of America. Just ask anyone that is running a small business and trying to provide insurance for their employees.

Bubbles 7 years, 2 months ago

Here is an idea. Take responsibility for your own health.

I will take responsibility for mine.

Is that too tuff to understand liberals?

Mkh 7 years, 2 months ago

kansas778 (Anonymous) says:

"The Republican candidates for president are saying nothing that addresses the economic anxieties of the American middle class. "

"Perhaps because these don't exist. People always seem to forget that the US is the richest country in the world, and no matter how much the libs try and talk about how poor we are, most just don't buy it. "

Ah yes, the ignorance of the American citizen, totally unable to understand economics...but I'm sure there is a football game on somewhere to watch.

The middle class is crippling andi it's only a matter of time before it collapses, but that is the ultimate goal. It amazes me how many people don't understand the issues of a Falling Dollar. We are Not Rich! We like to pretend and appear to be rich, but in reality this country is flat broke and always going farther and farther into the red.

The middle class doesn't own a car, they don't own a house....a bank does, and chances are their debt is owned by a foreign country such as China.

The stock market is Not Healthy...so do even start in with me there. What people don't realize is that because the Dollar isn't worth anything anymore it takes much more money to buy the same amount of stock. Therefore it appears as if tons of new money is being invested, but it is not. In a true valued dollar, the market is really only at about 8,000.

The rate of inflation is skyrocketing, but the morons on CNBC want you to believe it's not, because they are looking at the governments own numbers, which purposely remove core rates increased such as Energy and Food, or basically anything that spikes with inflation.

In short, our entire economy is a house of cards....It's Not Real! Everything you see people buying all around you is not Real, and it's all about to crash. Literally. Our government is broke and the Middle Class is about to be out on it's a$#.

This is not an endorsement of increasing government health care though. The problem with simply increasing the role of the governemnt is that will surely lead to increasing the cost of insurance for everyone.

kansas778 7 years, 2 months ago

logicsound: "This is the most insane argument I've ever heard. If you're talking about someone who owns all those things, then you aren't talking about the "poor". You're confusing "poor" and middle-class."

Sounds like it doesn't it? But that really is what the average "poor" person in America has. The stereotypical poverty you think occurs is actually quite rare. According to the government something like 37 million Americans are living in "poverty" but what are their lives actually like? 46 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. Only six percent of poor households are overcrowded The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.) Nearly three quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars 97 percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions. 78 percent have a VCR or DVD player. 89 percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR, or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.

llama726 7 years, 2 months ago

"The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)"

Yes, Americans do like bigger houses and homes, but we are not in Europe, so drawing comparisons to Europe is folly, unless you'd like me to start listing the amounts of their taxes that are spent on real social services, including education, health, etc. They are generally way healthier than us, they walk more than we do but that's not the only reason- they all have medical care. They pay more taxes, oh no! They also pay less for medical costs, so it evens out in the long haul. By the way, check out how their education systems compare to ours. Much better. But, we do need a 65% military federal budget to fight that big conventional war with.... Uh... ???

"78 percent have a VCR or DVD player." $29.99 new DVD player... What's your point? Hell, it could even be a gift from a family member.

"89 percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher."

The dishwasher I don't know about, but I got a microwave for $25, and it wasn't even the cheapest. I've also seen stereos for ~$15-20 for a tabletop, or no more than $45 for an inexpensive home unit.

"Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR, or DVD player, and a stereo."

Car- Needed. A/C- Maybe not needed, but good to have. Refrigerators can be cheap, and it kinda is a vital part of a household. A stove? I guess they shouldn't heat up food. Washer/Dryer... So they aren't getting destroyed by doing their laundry at $2 per load at the laundromat, I don't see that as a luxurious thing. Microwaves are both inexpensive and helpful if you work 60 hours a week and don't have time to prepare a nice meal. TVs are cheap as hell, but I don't buy that they all have cable TV reception. The "luxury' electronics listed are cheap cheap cheap... What you've described, counting all appliances and a car, is around $7,500 of one time investments ($2500 for a used car, etc) that aren't paid monthly.

llama726 7 years, 2 months ago

If you gross $13,000 a year, but a vital surgery to save your life costs $10,000 not counting hospital stay for recovery, medications, pre-op, post-op care, IVs, anesthetics, exams, etc. Average premiums were quoted somewhere around $250 for individual, $750 for family PER MONTH for insurance. $3,000 per year, is approximately 23% of your income... That's before you see ANY medical professionals, just to have insurance. Say you're the only income earner in your house. $9,000 for medical insurance for you, your partner (if applicable) and your children. Fact is, you're not going to get insurance if you only clear $13,000 a year ($6.25 / hour, 40 hours per week, every week). Even with an employer helping with the costs, you still pay roughly $100 per month for underwhelming coverage.

It annoys me when people make broad assumptions about the working poor in this country. That they are lazy (but they tend to work more than one job, or work at a very physically demanding job), dumb with their money (because they waste it on stupid things like having a car to get to work), make poor health decisions (Yeah, getting cancer was Joe's decision, one day he was like gosh, I'd sure love some cancer), or just want free handouts (most of these people do as much as they can do for themselves).

llama726 7 years, 2 months ago

However, some jerk on the internet decided their life wasn't so bad, so their needs must not be met out of my taxpayer money. Guess what? That's not how it works. I don't want Iraq's needs, or our needs to be bombing and invading Iraq to come out of MY damn tax money, but I didn't get that choice, now did I? Now, for all you compassionate and Christian conservatives, what would Jesus spend your tax money on? Bombing Iran, or making sure all people have a resource to receive medical care? Probably bombing Iran! GOOD POINT, JESUS LOVED KILLING PEOPLE.

(except babies. He hates abortions, but that's all. War is totally cool. GO GO PRO LIFE HYPOCRISY).

Undeniable fact: Medical costs here are higher than anywhere else. Insurance is a very profitable business. Why are costs soaring? Unmitigated and unregulated business practices in a market where there isn't much choice- have coverage, and be slightly less screwed if something happens, or have no coverage, and be unable to get treatment. This isn't a third world hellhole, it's the richest country in the world. We don't care about each other. When did this happen? America used to have a spirit of teamwork, compassion for your fellow neighbor, etc. Now, we just hate people for being so whiny (and why should they have any kind of medical care? It's their own fault they're poor). A lot is made by bible thumpers of gay marriage triggering the downfall of society. A society that hates its own members is inherently destructive of itself, moreso than any other dominant social issue today. Personal responsibility and accountability my ass. When are you going to hold the corporate community responsible for their actions? Profit, profit, profit. It doesn't mean quality, it means the shareholders and executives walk away with another Porsche, while Joe Everybody slaves away for them and doesn't get the basic rights he'd get doing the same job in France, Germany, the UK, Canada....

BigAl 7 years, 2 months ago

Posted by Bubbles: "Here is an idea. Take responsibility for your own health. I will take responsibility for mine. Is that too tuff to understand liberals?"


That would be great with me Bubbles, except I am the one that provides health insurance benefits for almost 30 people. Now, are you telling me that I need to just drop their health benefit and let them take care of it themsleves? Believe me, my wife, my kids and my pocketbook would benefit greatly. Again, Republican or Democrat has got nothing to do with it.

boltzmann 7 years, 2 months ago

"The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)"

What an inane, stupid statement... It's like saying the average person in Kansas has more living space than a millionaire living in New York City. It's true, but irrelevant. Haven't you ever heard of population density?

kansas778 7 years, 2 months ago

llama726 what a dope you are. You think a car is a one time cost? Or a TV, microwave or a DVD player? You've got to pay taxes and insurance and gas and repairs on your car, more repairs if it's a cheap piece of crap. All those appliances cost electricity to run, and what good is a DVD player without DVDs, or a TV without cable subscription? (and if you people think sunflower is expensive, try comcast). And the cheaper stuff you buy, the more often you'll have to replace. But anyways, these "poor" Americans also tend to be younger, and thus healthier people. I'm a student and my $0 income puts me as one of the 37 million Americans living in poverty. It's a joke. The older people get, the higher their pay is. Young people starting out in life don't make a lot of money, but that doesn't mean they will be poor their whole life. 1 in 25 Americans will become millionaires, but usually not until they are old.

"Average premiums were quoted somewhere around $250 for individual, $750 for family per month for insurance."

If you are paying $750 a month for a family then you are overinsured, or must be sick all the time. I've done a search online for insurance quotes, and found plans for a family of 4 ranging from $200-600 a month, and that's in Philadelphia, in Kansas it should be cheaper. My personal health insurance is $750 a year, and so far it's been a complete loss as poor me likes to exercise and stay healthy.

Oh, and BTW, the "average" poor person in America works 800 hours a year.

jmadison 7 years, 2 months ago

If you think the government can deliver health care in an efficient manner, you haven't lived long enough. Our health insurors are a massive bureaucracy. If the government takes it over it will be a nightmare of a bureaucracy with dwindling care. Has the government ever taken over a private concern and run it more efficiently? The oligarchy of the political elite will devise a system that benefits them, while the regular citizenry will receive ever worsening health care.

llama726 7 years, 2 months ago

Good point, 50 million people should continue uninsured, and millions more underinsured. It works great. NOTHING BAD HAPPENED.

(Never try to make things better)

kansas778 7 years, 2 months ago

It's up to 50 million now huh? How big is this trumped up number going to get to? The real number of people that are 1. citizens 2. long-term uninsured 3. unable to afford insurance is around 9-10 million, or 3 % of the country. And again, these people are usually younger, and healthy, and don't require much medical care anyway.

(Never try to make things better when doing so can only make things worse)

kansas778 7 years, 2 months ago

Logicsound--I think the flu shot shortage of 2004 is evidence enough that the less government interference the better. Because the government purchases flu shots at set low prices, only two companies make them because there is not much profit in flu shots. This harmful government program is called Vaccines for Children. Now who could vote against that other than eeeevil conservatives? But anyways, there used to be five companies that made flu shots, and because the price controls took away the profit, only two make them now, and so if one has a problem with production, then shortages happen. Even if they don't, shortages happen all the time anyway, because the government decides how to distribute the vaccines, so some states get too much, and others too little.

As for the numbers in the 46 million there are almost 10 million non-citizens included in that number, and also 17.04 million uninsured who have higher household incomes than the average household http://www.census.gov/prod/2006pubs/p60-231.pdf Not to mention that of the 46 million uninsured, only 21-31 million are long-term uninsured. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdoc.cfm?index=4210&type=0&sequence=1 So, while some of these categories overlap, they leave approximately 8-10 million who are uninsured citizens who could not afford insurance.

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