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Day 150 (T 11/06/12) Conversations on Election Day 2012

Tuesday November 6, 2012

Summary:
Conversations on Election Day 2012; How Do You Decide? Courts & Money; ‘True the Vote’ Falsifies the Vote; Who Needs a President? Israel’s Apartheid on Palestine

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Hour 1
Jeremiah discusses Election Day decisions with our listeners today. Motivations for voting expressed: ‘lesser of two evils’, torture, jobs, and more. We have a diverse audience, listeners indicate their support for Rocky Anderson (J), Gary Johnson (L), Obama (D), Romney (R), Jill Stein (G), as well as writing in themselves for President. If you experience problems at the polls, you can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Hour 2
How do you decide on who to vote for? And how do candidates who might not even have a chance of winning, decide to run anyway?

Courts & Money. Michigan has the reputation for the most expensive and most partisan. Plus the most intense political ads for judges.

Elections are the worst way to select judges. The process leaves judges beholden to party bosses, wealthy donors, and the whims of the very, very few people who actually bother to vote. ~ ANDREW ROSENTHAL, NY Times

Andrew Rosenthal reveals that Michigan law has a loophole that does not ensure that all money spent on political ads does not have to be disclosed, if those ads are “issue” ads. This is problematic for judicial races, where conflict of interests may come into play.

A group called ‘True the Vote’ dedicated to eradicating election fraud falsifies the forms used to gain access as observers at polling locations. Irony?

Hour 3
Bill Kauffman writes:

To invest in one man quasi-kingly powers over the 13 states then, 300 million people and half a continent today, is madness. And it didn’t have to be this way. ~ Bill Kauffman The American Conservative

. Did the Founding Fathers make a mistake in creating the president.

The food crisis in Palestine only seems to be getting worse. Israel controls the access to resources, Jews are in the minority, but Palestinians are forced to rely on Israel for resources at inflated prices. Isn’t it time we recognize that what is going on there can be called Apartheid?

An Election Day Reflection

All day on November 5th I was met with Election Day posts. People looking forward to making changes, to getting America back on track, to cause the change that this country so desperately needs. To all of these people, I have a message. To everyone who has has posted something to the effect of “you have no right to complain if you do not vote” and has supported themselves by saying “the lesser of two evils”, I would like you to do something for me.

I ask that you reflect on everything you’ve ever said about politics. Everything and anything you’ve ever said during election season. Anything you’ve ever thought or believed about politics and presidential candidates. Now, I want you to think long and hard about how many times you’ve said “the lesser of two evils” over all of these election cycles you’ve been participating in, whether it be through encouraging or actual voting. How many times do you think that that same phrase has been used in our country’s history? For how many election cycles has that same idea been spread, that we need to vote for the least of the two evils to run our country, believing that that ‘lesser of evils’ will bring us out of our slump and into long-term success, growth, and prosperity?

Now think about how many times that has actually happened.
Think of all the times you’ve been disappointed by your ‘lesser of evils’. Think of all the times that you’ve vowed to change the system in the next election. Will you just at the very least consider this? Maybe if you think long and hard about this, you’ll understand why I am not voting this year. Maybe you’ll understand why I don’t plan on voting in the foreseeable future.

Do you get it now? It doesn’t matter what you say, which of the ‘least evil’ you select and support. Just because you select the least does not mean that you do not select evil, and it certainly does not mean that you have selected the best. The politics of America have been corrupt for decades; we all know it, and we all openly admit that politicians are crooked criminals. And yet every two years, we bamboozle ourselves into believing that somehow, someway, this year is gong to be different. If only we can get them in this term, then everything will be fixed: we’ll be on our way back to the once-great America that we dreamed of, that the Founding Fathers envisioned for us to enjoy.

But it won’t change. The status quo will remain the same. The two-party paradigm will hold strong, and the change that we so desperately seek will be put aside by the powers that be for things that they knew they were going to put on their priorities list all along. They have already been bought out long before you cast your ballot, and they will do whatever it takes to keep the money flowing. This fake choice cycle will continue on ad infinitum unless you actually do something productive for change.

Voting is the LAST thing you should be doing to encourage and foster change in this country. Talk about the issues in a meaningful way with everyone you meet. Pose those hard questions and don’t take bullshit answers as being acceptable. Ask why. Demand support for positions. Don’t settle for those ‘politics’ answers that we so often hear at debates. Become active, pass out fliers and hold debates. Create a club to talk about topics. Meet up with friends at a cafe and chat for a few hours about those pressing questions that all too often divide us. Encourage an intellectual base, and you will get educated leaders.

If you actually want to help change America and you want to vote, I urge you to vote third party. I don’t care what party it is, I don’t care why you do it. If a third party candidate gets at least 5% of the popular vote, that candidate will receive federal funding for the next political election. That means more money to spend advertising, pointing out the flaws of a closed two party system (one that’s really only a single party in the first place). If you REALLY want to see some change, start locally. Look at your state legislators. Hell, look at those in your city who make decisions. Making big changes starts locally.

If you really want to take control of America’s fiscal policy, America’s energy crisis, America’s endless wars, then vote for a senators and state representatives who are aligned with your values. The idea that the President is the one who does these things is ludicrous. The dynamic is certainly different now, but the President isn’t the only one who influences the decision. Congress needs to be reigned in. Congress is the one you should be looking at, wondering what in the flying fuck they are up to. The President is the least of your concerns if those are your three major issues.

I just ask that you all think long, hard, and critically about the decisions you are all about to make on this election day. I know I did.

How Far We’ve Fallen

How far we’ve fallen from the kind of people who laid the foundation to this great country we live in.  I’m sure that if the Founding Fathers are aware of what passes for governance and politics in this country they would be absolutely shocked and disappointed.

Many people have this image of the Founding Fathers as a group of courageous men unanimous in their beliefs of what needed to be done to lay the foundation for this country.  Courageous?  Certainly.  Unanimous in their beliefs?  Absolutely not.  They had different ideologies and beliefs.  But, they also had the willingness to set aside their ideologies and compromise where needed for the good of their young nation.

After all, this country was founded on the basis of compromise.  The Constitution is not our first guiding document for this country.  Before we had the Constitution we had the Articles of Confederation; a document that gave power to the states with a weak central government.  Those circumstances led to a weak confederation and European powers England, France, and Spain licking their chops over the states they planned to divide among themselves when the United States collapsed.  Here on this side of the Atlantic our Founding Fathers saw the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation and began discussing a new document–the Constitution.  But, there arose a disagreement about whether to pass the Constitution immediately as it read and those who saw the need to strengthen the Constitution by including other provisions–what we know as the Bill of Rights.  Those favoring immediate passage told those who were holding out for the additional provisions that if they agreed to pass the Constitution as is, the provisions they wanted would be added as the first amendments to the Constitution.  That’s exactly what happened.  Both sides gave a little, and we ended up with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights because of compromise–that ten letter dirty word in today’s political world.

If you study the papers of the Founders and the history of the that time you learn that Hamilton and Adams were urbane businessmen who favored a strong central government.  At the other end of the spectrum was Jefferson, who was pro-states rights and a farmer by profession.  In the middle was our first President, George Washington, a politically moderate elder statesman.

There was an excellent editorial in the July/August issue of the AARP Bulletin titled “Try Greatness, Not Meanness” which forcefully made that point about how the Founding Fathers built this country:

“In life these four great men did not like one another.  Journals of that time are full of stories of their conniving and bitter rivalries.

Yet look at what they accomplished when they set aside their vanity, ideology and shortsightedness; a federation of distinct regional and economic interests bound by core principles and liberties upon which a carefully balanced national government could function and thrive.

We’re deep into a campaign season that amounts to a 21st -century explosion of vanity, ideology and shortsightedness.  Angry divisions with no interest in compromise have picked sides and launched a seemingly endless barrage of costly and inflammatory advertising.”

Look back a few years to the days following the 2008 election in which Barack Obama was elected president.  As was pointed out in an article in the September 3 issue of Time magazine titled “The Party Of No“, from the get-go the Republicans had no interest in working with Obama and the Democrats in Congress to solve the many serious  problems we faced ind the midst of the Great Recession; they were interested only in defeating him and making him a one-term president.  Who can forget Republican Senatre Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a remarkable moment of candor, stating that his number one priority in the coming congressional session was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.  Less well known, but equally telling, was a statement made by Congressman Pete Sessions in a presentation to a Republican leadership conference when he posed the question “If the purpose of the majority is to govern, what’s our purpose?”  Sessions answered his question by telling the audience, “The purpose of the minority is to become the majority…. That is the entire conference’s mission.”

Sessions couldn’t have been more wrong.  Yes, the Republicans were in the minority following the 2008 election, but they still had a role in governing this country.  Their role was to do as the Founders had done;  set aside what would benefit them politically and work with the Democrats to solve the serious problems this country faces.  They adopted the strategy of opposing anything and everything President Obama tried to do, even if it meant opposing something they had proposed or supported in the past.  The individual mandate in Obamacare was first proposed by the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, and a major part of Mitt Romney’s health-care reform plan for Massachusetts; but when it came time to vote on Obamacare not a single Republican voted for it.  Republicans pound the drums for tax breaks for small businesses, but when Obama’s jobs bill, which included many tax breaks for small businesses, came up for consideration last year it was blocked by the Republicans.

The Republicans will accuse Obama of showing a lack of leadership, and claim that his plans have failed, but the fact is the Republicans have shown themselves to be a disloyal opposition that has refused to work with Obama and the Democrats in governing this country and solving the problems we face.  Congress cannot work when one party refuses to do the job they were sent to Washington to do and govern this country.  And please understand that when I call the Republicans a “disloyal opposition” I am not saying they are disloyal to the President.  What I’m saying is that they are being disloyal to this country by placing their political interests above the job they were sent to do—govern this country.

And to be fair, the hands of the Democrats are also dirty.  They have also been guilty of putting politics above responsible governing and doing what’s right.

Consider for example, what Nancy Pelosi said when she became Speaker of the House.  She said that investigations of the Bush administration for possible wrongdoing was “off the table”.  Now, there was fertile ground for investigations.  There was the redefinition of torture to permit waterboarding, and the warrantless surveillance  of American citizens in this country.  But, investigating possible wrongdoing in those things would not be done.  Why was investigating the Bush administration taken “off the table”?  Most likely because Pelosi knew that there would be a day the Republicans would be able to investigate a Democratic president.  She refused to do the right thing, investigate and let the chips fall where they may, because that could have political repercussions in the future.

An even more egregious example came recently when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to inject himself into the presidential campaign by refusing to act on a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House which dealt with auditing the Federal Reserve; choosing instead to claim that he had been in contact with someone who claimed to have proof that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes for several years—a contention for which he offered no supporting evidence.

To understand why I consider this to be an egregious example of playing politics rather than governing it’s important to understand why that legislation was overwhelmingly supported in the House.  Let’s take a look at the Federal Reserve.

The Fed was created in 1913 in response to bank panics which had occurred.  Functions of the Federal Reserve include serving as the central bank of the U.S.; supervising and regulating banks as well as protecting the credit rights of consumers; managing the nation’s money supply; and maintaining the stability of the financial system.

There have been several criticisms of the Federal Reserve.  It has been alleged that the Fed caused the Great Depression and is partly responsible for the Great Recession of 2007; as well as that it is ineffective in its role of supervisor and regulator of the banking industry; that it has been responsible for booms and busts in the economy; and lacks transparency.

It is clear that the Federal Reserve impacts every one of us in many ways, yet according to the law that established the agency, it is not under the supervision of Congress or the White House.

There was legislation passed in 1978 which established that the Fed can be audited by the Government Accountability Office, but there are several restrictions as to what the GAO can audit in the Fed.  How sweet is that?  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to tell the IRS if they choose to audit your tax return that they can look into your business expenses but not your entertainment expenses or charitable contributions?  In essence, that’s exactly what the Fed has been able to do.

Given the important functions of the Federal Reserve, the criticisms which have  been made of the agency, and the fact that it is unsupervised by Congress and the White House, legislation which would allow a real audit of the Fed would seem to be a good thing.  But Harry Reid put more importance on playing politics than advancing this legislation which would have provided some transparency into that very secretive agency.

No one’s hands are clean in this.  Both parties are guilty of putting  politics over responsible governance.  Have we and the national leaders we send to represent us in our nation’s capitol  totally lost our way?  Are we incapable of learning from our past and seeing that the way things are today is not the way it has to be or should be?’

I will close this by quoting once again from that editorial in the AARP Bulletin:

“John Adams could just as easily been talking about today when he wrote in 1776 of his fears that the Continental Congress’ decisions would be dictated by ‘ noise, not sense; by meanness, not greatness; by ignorance, not learning; by contracted hearts, not large souls.’  His conclusion is appropriate today as it was  then:  ‘There must be decency and respect and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank or we are undone.  In a popular government this is our only way.’  Decency, respect and veneration produced compromise and a foundation that has endured for 236 years.  We are surrounded by noise, meanness and ignorance.  The measure for our leaders must be their ability to rediscover that proven formula of sense, greatness and learning.’

We should not; and indeed cannot settle for anything less.

Romney Has An Ipod

The following is a response to a couple of things someone posted to my personal Facebook wall as I was commenting on Mitt Romney’s GOP acceptance speech.

I made a comment making fun of Romney’s polished attempt to appear to be hip with younger voters when I posted, “Romney just proved he’s so hip by mentioning his Ipod.“ Then I commented on Romney’s criticism of Obama’s record on the economic recovery, and hyperbole fluff statement made by Romney on “restoring the promise of America.” The FB thread is located here.

I wanted to respond to couple of the comments by someone. Being that it involves quite a bit of explanation exceeding Facebook’s 8000 character limit, I’m posting it here instead.

A reply to my post goes like this:

Your killing me Jim! You are a funny man…OK but seriously..Living off the teat of society is so college and hippie….I mean really? Time to put on big boy pants and support yourself and stop blaming others as to why you and others feel so deprived…support yourself, look to no one but yourself to survive and help others along the way..its pretty simple..Oh and stop blaming others for your lack of intestinal fortitude, it’s so liberal and out dated. Oh and PULHLEESE…Bush has been gone for 4 years …stop blaming him, It’s Obamas mess that he created, stop blaming everyone else and own up….

But the second post, seems to be more informed, and eludes to a really good point about Ron Paul/Lieberman.

Agreed Jim…but the lesser of 2 evils at this point is by far Mitt. Nobody outside the 2 major parties stand a chance due to the organized crime they call Republican/Democrats. Just ask Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) who was ostrasized by the DEM’s…. and Ron Paul….BOTH stand -up guys, but threaten the mafia…I mean government and were casted out. Until we take our government back…by force.. we are destin to the Russian election…who THEY think we should vote for. In the meantime, I don’t need the government stealing…..er I mean taxing me out of my ass and giving it to who they hope will defend them when the revolution comes. Both of these guys are a joke, but at this point, only 1 has proven it so far.

FAIR & BALANCED v TRUTH & LIBERTY
Even though I was commenting on Romney, please do not take that out of context. I posted on his speech, because last night was his night to speak at convention. Taken at face value, out of the context of everything else I’ve been saying, I can see how one might think I’m taking sides in the attacks on Romney. However, it’s not Obama’s convention, and he’ll get his turn and you can be sure I’ll be writing parenthetical remarks to many of his talking points as well. I may or may not post it on Facebook, but it will certainly be discussed on PaleoRadio.

HOW I BECAME A PALEOCRAT
It is easy to assume that if I am critical of Romney, that this automatically places me in the Dem camp. That is the problem of partisan politics in our country, it creates a false paradigm that everyone is an either or between an R or an D. So I will give some background on my worldview evolution in regard to politics.

In my teens and 20′s I viewed myself as a Republican mainly because of cultural presuppositions and voted as such. I shifted away from Bush due to him ignoring a genocide of which he had the resources and legal authority to intervene upon and his subsequent hypocritical words at the grand opening of the Holocaust Museum. My thought of Clinton at the time, with his saxophone on late night TV, was ‘who is this goofball?’ Bush – hypocrite (twice over), Clinton – goofball, Perot – great charts.

During the Clinton era I gradually became more intentional about politics, but in doing so, I slowly began to buy into the idea of partisanship. I first ran for political office in 2004 and with the partisan paradigm as the prevailing worldview in our culture, even though I felt more like an Independent, and ran as a Democrat caving into the belief that Independent candidates do not have a chance.

During that time period of direct involvement in politics, I also served as the organizer of a grassroots group. From time to time, through this activity, I became aware of the Party pressure to squash the truths we were realizing as a grassroots group, in the interest of propping up the Party. By the end of my first run for office (I was not elected), I had become more entrenched in the partisanship. In addition to my campaigns, I worked as a Communications director on a couple of Congressional campaigns (Dems) and advised a State candidate (Dem) on speech writing.

Also during this time of direct political involvement, I became acutely aware of big problem in the local scene (later I learned it was a problem across the nation/world). And that was (and still is) that the bias of the local established media. Biased in their selectivity over which races to cover or not cover, in the way they downplayed/up-played some aspects of local races, in the ways they misquoted people, in the ways they got only one side of the story, in the ways they allowed partisan wonks to manipulate the message via the local media and in the abdication of getting beyond the horse-race to serve the public with coverage that gets to the heart of the heart of the matter.

And yet, I had been studying the propaganda machine of the Republican Party, and the psycholinguistics of propaganda in general, so that by the time I went back to college in 2008, because I still embraced the partisan paradigm, I was fully prepared to become a propagandist for Democrats.

Then something wonderful happened when I returned to college. I changed my major to psychology to journalism, and my views were further challenged and reshaped by the collision of two notions: the role of the press and the false dichotomy of partisan politics.

THE ROLE OF MEDIA
I came to understand that the press has a historic and Constitutional duty to be liberal. Not liberal by the definition of Bill O’Reilly, (albeit there is left-biased media such as Thom Hartman, just as their is right-biased media such as Bill O’Reilly) but liberal in the root meaning of the word, which is to protect liberty by seeking the truth. In doing so, being liberal includes having a critical truth-seeking eye toward all politicians.

In taking this position, inevitably people with their Party blinders on will get mad at the media/press, whenever we reveal truths which may threaten the power-hold their Party has or is attempting to have. Because I used to embrace a partisan position, now some people in the Dem Party have a hard time when I might cover Ron Paul’s visit to West Michigan, the Occupy movement’s criticism of Obama, or when I have an unwillingness to promote a particular candidate over another one. Some of them seem to think, because of my prior work with them, that I am obligated to helping them stay on their message.

For the most part, most of the established media plays into the partisan game, especially when you have less than a dozen corporations or people who control 90% of the most prevalent media. Brittany Spears becomes more important than the details of someone’s economic plan, because the company that owns the news channel, also owns Spears’ music label. And, somewhere tucked into that plan, the corporate office or a subsidiary has something to gain by the economic policy. It’s not entirely the news corporations’ fault either, few of us have the time in our busy, recession impacted lives to pour over boring economic plans until we can’t take it, take it, take it no more.

REDEFINATION OF TRUTH
The greatest influence in the call to make “seek truth” as my top priority in journalism, was inspired by the way by a guy who was a Republican who served in the Iraq invasion. He is now is a journalist and and documentary maker. You may have seen him in the movie called, “Control Room,” I’ve met him in person.

Recently, the NYT, took the time to study Romney’s tax records -the two years that he did release. The NYT, typically disparaged as a Party-liberal newspaper, found that Romney indeed has been paying his taxes for the past 10 years. This is an example of the media being truth-liberal. Regardless of who it helps or hurts, the NYT researched and published the truth… this is what journalism is supposed to be. People on the left, are not going to be happy about this finding, the people on the right will post it all over their Walls, but perhaps not until FOX covers the story. The partisans pick and choose which stories and media outlets they will promote merely to promote their definition of truth.

A great deal of our society’s effort it seems is involved in the redefinition of truth. Truth, it seems, by and large in our culture, is not ‘truthiness’, but rather a set of often hypocritical policies and imaginary ‘facts’ in order to promote a certain world view, with convoluted explanations for the exceptions.

And if someone does not agree with another person’s political truth, three things are promised to occur:
1. The person who does not agree is told to shut up. “How can you call yourself an American, if…” “Well you must not care about…” “If you don’t like it here, move to Russia”

2. There will long term consequences for the person’s life, involving either an eternal burning sensation or the weight of a millstone around one’s neck, giving the professors of their own truth, permission to condemn, reject and ostracize that person, instead of engaging in an honest dialogue.

3. And as it that’s not enough, there will eminently dire consequences as well. Yellowcake, mushroom cloud, daisy girl…

4. Oh, and fourth, if you are not with us, then you are against us. So you media people, you really should only report on positive stuff from your embedded positions. In January, I attended a Michigan Press Association conference where Gov. Snyder was the keynote speaker. He told the audience in so many words, that he only wanted us to report on the positive things he’s doing.

Don’t question the “truth” they will say. My President knows things we don’t know, and we just have to trust that killing a few million people is a good thing. Let’s throw God into the mix, because you are not supposed to question God, right… so yeah, God wants this war too. They will also say that your President isn’t even a natural born citizen, or he’s not a true Christian or that the stars line up to indicate he’s bears the mark of the beast. Politicians, particularly within the partisan system, refuse to be honest with themselves and they make up lies about the “other side” (that’s assuming there really is an “other side”). And often lies based on imaginary beliefs which conveniently cannot be proven, but are quite convincing when supplied with a good narrative. All of this sets the minds of voters up for believing in all kinds of myths promulgated by the politicians who sometimes have entirely different reasons for what they want to do, but they need us to agree with them, or perhaps they need us to believe that some sort of democratic decision making is taking place.

BACK TO THE ROLE OF MEDIA
The established media plays along with this game, by and large. But this is not what journalism is supposed to be. And because I’ve been willing to place ‘seek truth’ at the forefront of my journalistic pursuit, I’ve had to receive veiled threats, false accusations of harassment in the pursuit of truth.

The Pulitzer prize is not awarded to people to regurgitate spin.

The press’ duty is to hold the government (and by extension all public affairs) accountable to the people – all the people, and the way to do that is by revealing the truth. Ignoring the truth, publishing propaganda under the guise of truth, promoting only one side of the story or simply ignoring it – that makes the media a Party machine tool.

Nixon didn’t like this whole truth thing. Neither did did Bill Clinton; Cheney really hated it… the list goes on. The conservatives call it the ‘liberal’ media trying to equate it with pro-Dem bias (a clever twist on the true definition of liberal), and the Dems accuse the media of ‘sensationalizing’ or they attack the messenger, claiming that he/she didn’t get their facts right. Dems love their facts.

I observed this in college. Every time my college’s newspaper covered an incidence of alcohol-related fraternity violence on campus, what did the Greeks do? – They tried to steal the newspapers so no one would be able to read the truth, or they attacked the reporter, saying things like, ‘Oh, this was so poorly written (citing supposed grammatical errors). Not once did I ever hear a Greek say something honest like, ‘Yeah, things got out of hand, that’s something we regret.’ World leaders/dictators or supposedly democratically elected ones, with their pack of lies and charades want us to continue to believe their truths… and so they don’t like the ‘liberal-truth seeking press. Journalism is at times a dangerous gig. That danger reveals just how essential the free press is to a free society.

THE FALSE PARTISAN DICHOTOMY
Today, I’d call myself a Paleocrat, which is what I have listed in the About section of my Facebook profile. Among other things, Paleocrats do not accept the false dichotomy of partisan politics. We do not wear the Party blinders, nor do we allow others who do wear them to get away with controlling the message.

If you get a chance to listen to PaleoRadio, you will discover that the host of the show, Jeremiah Bannister, and I have been critical of Obama as well as Romney. We’ve consistently included perspectives which fall outside of the partisan paradigm.

For example, check out the August 30, 2012 editio In the first hour, we criticism the Dem Party’s attempt to co-opt the Occupy Movement, in the third hour we’ve got some criticism for the RNC as well.

You rarely, very rarely will find a talk radio show like PaleoRadio, because it is so much easier and lucrative to play the partisan game.

RON PAUL & THE PARTY SYSTEM
In his Facebook reply, the person mentioned of Lieberman and Ron Paul and I would say that he is quite right in pointing out they were ostracized. Something the established, corporate-owned media did not even mention, is how Ron Paul’s valid attempt to be on the GOP nomination slate was squashed. We talked about this the Thursday, August 30th episode of PaleoRadio. We are working on getting some guests on the show to talk about this in the coming weeks.

The Party System, which will be talked about more on PaleoRadio in the coming weeks, has not always been what it is today. The ‘lesser of 2 evils’ argument is an invalid compromise because we could do so much better. Until Americans break free from it, we will fail to break free from the inertia of partisanship that paints a broad brush that the guy (or gal) on the ballot with a D or an R is the Messiah and the other guy (or gal) is the AntiChrist. And then 4 years later, we do it all over again. As long as we accept the partisan system, and act as if it is the only thing we have to work with… then we will never be able to take our government back, because the partisans won’t let us.

So, I hope you get a chance to listen to PaleoRadio, you might hate us some of the time, and love us some of the time, and who knows maybe you’ll agree with us that there is a better way than partisan politics to resolve our shared quality of life concerns. Get too many of us thinking that way and Glenn Beck will find out what a real revolution looks like.

Obamacare v Ryancare: Claims & Facts

The 2012 presidential campaign is swinging into its final phase.  The Republicans just held their national convention, with the Democrats’ national convention just around the corner.  The selection of Paul Ryan by Mitt Romney to be his running mate has pushed entitlement programs to the forefront because of the controversial entitlement reforms proposed by Ryan in the Republicans’ proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The last couple of weeks we’ve heard a lot of claims made by both camps about the plans of the other guy; so I believe it’s important to look into those claims and see where the truth lies.  I will identify the claim and then pass along what I learned about the truth (or lack thereof) of each claim.

Let’s start with Republican claims about Obamacare:
(more correctly titled: “The Affordable Healthcare Act”)

 Claim:  “The President’s new health care law is emblematic of the wrong way to address the problems with Medicare:  First, the overhaul raided Medicare by nearly $700 billion to fund a new, unsustainable, open-ended health care entitlement.  Second, it created a government panel of bureaucrats with the power to impose price controls on providers in ways that would result in rationed care and restricted access to treatments.”

Fact:  Let’s start with that alleged raiding of Medicare to pay for Obamacare.  The bulk of that $700 billion comes from the gradual ending of overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans.  Since Medicare Advantge plans were created Medicare has been paying the insurance companies that provide the plans over $1,000 more per beneficiary than the insurance companies have been spending on the medical care of those beneficiaries.  That extra money went straight into the pockets of the insurance companies.  To give you an idea of why that reform is necessary, consider this:  A 2009 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that there were 10.1 million people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans in 2008.  Multiply 10.1 million b y 1,000 and you get 10.1 billion.  Medicare has been wasting more than $10.1 billion each year on Medicare Advantage plans with the insurance companies being the beneficiaries of that overpayment.  Yes, Obamacare does cut Medicare payments to medical providers and suppliers of medical goods, but the bulk of that  $700 billion comes from the gradual ending of those overpayments.

Now, as to the second point in that claim, yes, Obamacare did create a board whose mission is to develop proposals to deal with the growth of spending in Medicare, but the law does clearly spell out what those proposals can and cannot do.  Consider this provision on page 372 of Obamacare:

“(ii) The proposal shall not include any recommendations to ration health care, raise revenues of Medicare beneficiary premiums under section 1818, 1818A or 1839; increase Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and co-payments)or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.”

Obamacare also spells out the things the panel must consider in producing their proposal.  According to the law, the panel must give priority to recommendations that extend the solvency of Medicare, as well as improve the health delivery system and outcomes; protect Medicare beneficiaries’ access to services, target sources of excessive spending; and consider the effects on Medicare beneficiaries of changes in payments to providers and suppliers.

Claim:  “There are two ways to control health care spending:  Give bureaucrats the power to decide which health care services seniors can use; as the Democrats’ health care law will do starting in 2014, or give patients more power to reward providers who deliver high-quality, low-cost care (and deny business to those who fail to produce quality, affordable care) as Republicans seek to do.”

Fact: I refer you back to page 372 of the Affordable Healthcare Ace and its prohibitions against rationing care to Medicare beneficiaries.  In addition, this claim by the Republicans ignores the fact that the act mandates that more health care services such as wellness preventative care be provided to Medicare beneficiaries; and includes measures which reward doctors who demonstrate good care for their patients.  What the Republicans seek to do is to let the market govern Medicare.  Market forces may work in most economic situations, but do we want the market to determine the quality of health care we receive?

Now, let’s take a look at the Romney/Ryan plan for Medicare reform:

Claim:  The Romney/Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it.

Fact:  The Romney/Ryan plan for the reform of Medicare would leave the program untouched for those 55 years old and older.  For those under 55, beginning in 2023, they would be able to go to a newly created Medicare Exchange, where they would be given a choice of private plans alongside the traditional fee-for-service option of traditional Medicare.  The Romney/Ryan plan also features “premium support” or vouchers for seniors who need financial support to pay the premiums.  The Republicans tout the Medicare Exchange as providing seniors the opportunity to get their health insurance the same way members of Congress do; through a marketplace where they can find the best plan that meets their needs.  But, that’s where the similarity ends.

Analysts have pointed out that the Congressional plan has a funding mechanism in place that limits the amount of funding responsibility shared by the beneficiary.  Romney/Ryan has a funding mechanism that has no limits on the amount of funding responibility which would be shared by the beneficiaries.  So yes, the amount of the vouchers may increase as the cost of living increases; but if health care costs exceed the rate of inflation, seniors will be digging deeper and deeper into their pockets to pay their premiums.  From 2000 to 2011 the annual rate of inflation averaged 2.55%.  A graph in the Republicans’ 2013 fiscal budget showed that health care spending amounted to about 7% of the govenment spending as a share of the economy.  If seniors get a 2.55% increase in the amount of their voucher, but health care spending causes the amount of their premium to go up 5-6% how long do you think it would be before the average senior citizen has to dip into their savings to pay their health insurance premiums.  Another thing Romney/Ryan would do is place limits on the amount of awards in medical malpractice cases.  That’s been a Republican wet dream for years.  It must also be pointed out that the Romney/Ryan plan for reducing the cost of Medicare, as outlined in the 2013 fiscal year budget passed by the House of Representatives on a party line vote is so complex that the Congressional Budget office has been unable to score it, or determine how much it would cost.

Given the fact that the Romney/Ryan plan changes Medicare for those under 55 from a guaranteed benefit program to a premium support program that people would have to buy into, I believe it’s fair to say that Romney/Ryan does, in fact, change Medicare as we know it.

Now let’s turn to Medicaid, the program that provides medical care for those with low incomes.  The Obama administration has chosen to strengthen the program through measures in the Affordable Care Act.  The law invests new resources into fighting fraud in the program.  Obamacare also provides additional funding for states that seek to expand Medicaid to cover more of their residents; and established a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation which will test new ways of delivering care to patients.  Those methods will improve the quality of care and reduce the rate of growth in health care costs for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Obamacare also increases the amount of Medicaid payments for primary care doctors in 2013 and 2014.  The law also authorizes waivers to allow states to submit their own plans for medical care to their needy residents.

The Romney/Ryan plan ‘s approach to Medicaid reform calls for the states to be given block grants which they would use to devise their own plans to meet the medical needs of their vulnerable residents.  Here’s how the plan is outlined in ” Path To Prosperity…The 2013 Fiscal Year Budget Resolution of the House Budget Committee”:

Claim: Repairing a Broken Medicaid System
Secure Medicaid benefits by converting the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant indexed for inflation and population growth.  This reform ends the misguided one-size-fits-all approach that has tied the hands of so many state governments.  States will no longer be shackled by federally determined program requirements and enrollment criteria.  Instead, they will have the freedom and flexibility to tailor Medicaid programs that fit the needs of their unique populations.

Improve the health care safety net for low income Americans by giving states the ability to offer Medicaid beneficiaries more options and better access to care.  Medicaid recipients, like all Americans, deserve to choose their own doctors and make their own health care decisions, instead of having Washington dictate those decisions to them.

Constraining Medicaid’s growing cost trajectory by $820 billion over ten years, contributing to the long-term stability of the federal government’s fiscal condition and easing the largest and fastest growing burden on state budgets.”

I have a couple of issues with those points.  First of all, the choice of doctors available to Medicaid patients under the current program is not something that’s dictated by Washington.  The limited choice of providers that many people on Medicaid face is a result of the rate of funding given to providers.  Simply giving those block grants to the states does not guarantee that the states will provide better payments to providers, and thus result in more providers accepting Medicaid. Washington also does not dictate to Medicaid patients the health care decisions  they must make. 

I must also take issue with the claim that “Constraining Medicaid ‘s growing cost trajectory by $810 billion over ten years… (bureaucratese for “Cutting Medicaid by $810 billion over ten years”) will strengthen the program.  Look at it this way, here in Michigan we have the Mackinaw Bridge connecting the upper peninsula and the lower peninsula.  If you take away every third bridge supporting column are you strengthening the bridge?  Would you want to drive your family across that bridge?  I believe it defies logic to believe that you strengthen a program by making huge cuts in the funding for that program.

[Editor’s Note: There is also the concern that states receiving the block grants might divert those funds to pay for budget deficits or tax cuts for the wealthy. Perhaps our audience can help us find out if this is the case.]

There’s another claim being made about Obamacare that I must address.

Claim:  Obamacare imposes new regulations and requirements on small businesses that are harming their ability to provide health insurance for their employees.”

Fact:  Obamacare provided up to 4-million small businesses tax credits to help them provide health insurance for their employees.  In the first phase of this program, implemented in 2010, the tax credits allowed them to write off 35% of the employer contribution amount.  In the second phase, in 2014, that write off goes up to 50% of the employer contribution.

As I did the research for this post I was struck by how many of the core principles and provisions of Obamacare and the Romney/Ryan plan are contained in “Hillarycare”, the attempt by the Clinton administration to establish a program of universal health care in the United States.

Comparing Obamacare and Ryancare with Hillarycare

Consumer Choice
Hillarycare had as one of its core principles that each consumer should  have the opportunity to exercise choice about plans, providers, and treatments.  That’s a key principle for both Obamacare and the Romney/Ryan plan.

Sharing the Burden
The belief that the health care system should spread the costs and burden of care across the entire community is also a part of both plans.  Personal responsibility, or an individual mandate to obtain health insurance is a principle in Hillarycare as well as Obamacare and Romneycare in Massachussets. 

Resolution Process
Fair procedures for resolving disputes between beneficiaries and insurance companies was another key principle of Hillarycare that is also found in Obamacare.

Coverage Decisions
Hillarycare would have had the federal government establish what services would be provided in a comprehensive benefit package.  That’s also a part of Obamacare. Hillarycare covered family planning and pregnancy-related services, as does Obamacare (as we all know). 

Purchasing Alliances/Exchanges
Hillarycare would have established regional and corporate alliances through which people would have obtained their health insurance.  Those alliances are certainly comparable to the health exchanges which are a part of Obamacare and the Romney/Ryan plan. 

Under Hillarycare an alliance could not cross state lines, but two or more contiguous states could coordinate the operation of their alliances.  That’s also a provision in Obamacare.  Under Hillarycare the states would determine which insurance companies would be allowed to offer plans in their alliances.  That’s also a provision in Obamacare and the Romney/Ryan plan for Medicare reform. 

Hillarycare would have allowed senior citizens  the option of remaining in in alliance plan when they turn 65 rather than sign up for Medicare.  That’s also a provision in the Romney/Ryan plan for Medicare Reform.

Capping Employer Costs
Hillarycare had a provision which would have capped the amount an employer would have to pay in premiums for the insurance they offer their employees.  Obamacare has a similar provision. 

Privacy Protections
Hillarycare would have established national standards for the privacy protection of medical information.  That became a part of our health care system in the form of the Health Information Patient Privacy Act or HIPPA.

I guess good ideas are not the property of any political party.  It’s just that it can sometimes take 20 years oa so for those politicians to accept that maybe that idea by those other guys is a pretty good one after all.

If you want to understand the truth about the health care reform plans offered by Obama and the Romney/Ryan team  I urge you to download the Affordable Care Act and use the search tool to look up applicable provisions when questions arise.  Also go to www.healthcare.gov and look at the timeline for when key features of Obamacare will be implemented.  By all means, look up “Path To Prosperity…2013 Fiscal Year Budget Resolution House Budget Committee so you can see how the Republicans would change our social safety net.  Last, but not least, keep those fact-checking sites handy so you can check out the claims made by both campaigns about the other.

Knowledge is the key to making an educated, informed decision as to who you will support in the coming election.

Day 133 (R 8/30/12) Excuses, Excuses

Thursday August 30, 2012

Summary:
Bad Excuses People Make to Justify Bullying; Analysis of Rand Paul’s speech at the GOP Convention; Evolution & Religion in Public Schools

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Hour 1
Bullying, the bad excuses and reactions people make in response to drawing light on bullying.

Hour 2
Rand Paul attempting to frame the debate with the phrase ‘you didn’t build that’. Apparently according to Rand Paul, businesses create the roads, not government. He claims the individual is stronger than the collective… and other claims – check out Jeremiah’s analysis of the speech and how Rand Paul sells out to the GOP.

Hour 3
Creationism v. Evolution, should religion be in public school? Bill Nye the science guy weighs in… and so does Jeremiah Bannister.

Day 126 (R 8/2/12) Why Did The Chicken Sandwich Cross The Road?

Thursday August 2, 2012

Summary:
ACLU sues a school; Chick-Fil-A saga; Teamsters Gravel Strike; Romney Claims Israel has more culture while raising a bunch of campaign loot there; Harry Reid dodges by attacking another dodger.

LISTEN LIVE 3pm – 6pm EST on AM1680/95.3FM in West Michigan

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Hour 1:
ACLU sues Highland Park School system on the grounds that every child has the right to be able to read.

The Chick-Fil-A controversy continues and makes Jeremiah hungry.

Day 67: Never-The-Less & Even-So Moving Forward

TODAY ON PALEORADIO – Not necessarily in this order
1. Contraception & Abortion – Papal directives & the GOP primary platform.
2. Unionism
3. Euthanasia
4. Students suspended for organizing a walkout in defense of teachers.
5. Bullying – vote to get the movie in Grand Rapids
7. Deep Thoughts at 5: Getting beyond labels to get along, disagreeing on the path to common ground, fostering real dialogue to foster real progress.

Santorum’s Fearmongering Lies:

Related post: Jeremiah’s Vlog Response

Students Suspended for Walkout

LISTEN ON WPRR AM1680/95.3FM and online/mobile app from 3pm – 6pm EST today. Let PaleoRadio be your voice for transpartisan truth – give us a call at 616-656-1680 and be a part of the conversation. We also look forward to reading your comments below.

If you miss the show today, or you want to hear it again, you can download it tonight at PublicRealityRadio.org.

Day 55: Visibility & Voices

Tune in or listen online from 3-6 p.m. or hear it again from midnight-3 a.m. The program will be available as a free podcast later today. Call us at 616.656.1680. Tweet us @Paleocrat
Listen & Download Links

March 2, 2012
Guests: Jena Lewis and M, from the Transgender Education Collaborative.

Today on PaleoRadio: Rush Limbaugh’s inappropriate remarks at Sandra Fluke and the boycott movement against Limbaugh’s advertisers. During our second hour we hear from Jena Lewis and M of the Transgender Education Collaborative, talking about transgender issues and their Transgender Ally Open House to kick off their Transgender Visibility campaign. In our third hour we talked about Israel, and more, plus our PaleoRadio Push for Peace contest.

Day 47: Snakes in the Pews

Today on PaleoRadio, we have Jim Chase, Business Representative/ Political Coordinator at International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 406 as a guest to discuss labor and OccupyWall Street issues as well as to take your calls and answer any questions you might have about labor and Occupy.

Also today: Obama’s, Romney’s, Santorum’s, Newt’s Religion & Billy Graham. Rick Santorum’s Campaign and our visit to Santorum’s appearance in Grand Rapids. Romney’s campaign funding. Ron Paul’s flight problems & double dipping accusations. Paul Babeu outing as being gay. Article by Michael Tomasky on “There will be no Saviors for tte GOP in 2012.” Santorum’s claim that he is “Pro-Science.” Contraception & Religious Liberty Framing. Virginia’s law on pre-abortion ultrasound mandates. And Radio Talk Show Host, Autumn Smith being denied access to a Romney campaign event.

Download today’s episode