Won’t Get Fooled Again…and Again.

As readers of this blog know all too well, the debt ceiling “cuts” just passed are, for the most part, much less than meets the eye, particularly in the immediate future.  But, of course, the debt isn’t the issue and never was.*

No. Not even in a little bit.

Rather, all of the last month or so was a set up for this:

Thousands of Tea Party movement activists are expected to descend this month on town hall meetings across key battleground states as part of an intensifying campaign ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

Their priority is a plan to slash Medicare costs proposed by House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which could gain momentum now that a debt-limit deal between President Barack Obama and Congress has made potential Medicare cuts a centerpiece of the deficit debate.

A new congressional committee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in spending cuts by November 23 is expected to focus on Medicare, and the program would see automatic cuts if the committee failed to reach agreement, or if Congress did not approve its recommendations by December 23. Market values of companies that depend on Medicare spending fell more than 10 percent in a sell-off on Wall Street after the agreement.

“The August town halls are going to be, potentially, a referendum on Democrats who don’t care and Republicans who’ve dared to offer real policy solutions, particularly on things like entitlements,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the small-government advocacy group organizing the initiative.

Freedom (sic) Works is, of course, this grass-roots organization.

Which means that one can readily translate the phrase, “real policy solutions” as “transfer payments from most of America to the richest few.”

But of course, these are the serious people in this discussion.  Just ask them:

“The Ryan plan is the only one out there so far, and what we need is an adult conversation with all politicians talking about the real issues,” [said Kibbe]

Yeah:  like those adult conversations that attended the discussion of health care last time around.

Also, note the big lie at the heart of this claim:  (a) that the Ryan is a “policy solution” despite the fact that it neither saves any real money on either the budget nor in health care spending society-wide  (as opposed to federal spending on health care);  (b) that it is the only plan out there; and (c) that it has anything to do with fiscal prudence.

Not exactly, as Jon Chait writes at the link above:

…this more modest deficit reduction would mask a very large redistribution of wealth–and not the kind Republicans always accuse Democrats of trying. The tax cuts, which include reductions in the top rate, would overwhelmingly benefit the rich. The spending cuts, which include a huge reduction in Medicaid spending, would primarily affect the poor.

So calling the House Republican plan a deficit reduction scheme is a very misleading description of its likely effect for the first decade. You’re better off calling it a regressive redistribution plan that happens, as a side effect, to reduce deficits by a small amount. Or you can just call it “flimflam,” like Paul Krugman did.

And, of course, that’s what has always been the goal:  to repeal the New Deal, and transfer to the kind of folks funding Greedhead Freedom Works all the wealth thus no longer wasted on the undeserving poor, the middle class, and, hell, just about everybody.

So: our job is to show up, and shout — in person, in letters to the editor, and in communication to our representatives, relevant committee chairs and the White House:  no tax cuts in any deal.  Tax reform as a 1-1 or better fix for the deficit reduction to which we are now, sadly and prematurely, committee;  and touch neither Medicare/Medicaid nor Social Security.

We need to say it over and over again:  cost controls as part of a Medicare reform package are fine (as Krugman himself argued for in the first round of Ryan nonsense).  Amazingly, that’s just what happens to be one of the major ideas within the one truly serious policy plan out there on this subject, the health care reform package already passed.  It’s why IPAB exists, for one thing, and it’s why, as David Leonhardt pointed out, President Obama and his allies constructed a health care approach that turns on taxation of the rich to cover the cost of a program vital to the middle class and the poor.**

I urge everyone who has raced to conclude that Obama is no better than the GOP alternatives to go back to that Leonhardt piece and remember why that’s simply bullsh*t.

Obama, for all his errors and his damnably frustrating inability to make the bully pulpit ring, believes in the New Deal.  He grasps the importance of economic equity not simply as a matter of justice, but as a hard pragmatic necessity if we are to create a sustainably wealthy society.  He has defended the importance of government and governance in the maintenance of truly civil society.  Your modern GOP does not accept any of that.

I remember trying and failing to talk Naderite friends out of their “the two parties are the same” nonsense in 2000.  We cannot survive doing that to ourselves in 2012.  And, just to get started, this summer we’ve got to shout down those who shout to sell out our parents, our children, our communities and ourselves to fund the mansions of the rootless rich.

*except for the truly credulous.

**BTW — one of the best pieces of media news of the last several years is that Leonhardt will take over the Washington bureau of The New York Times as of this fall.  He’s in the Village but not of it, and if he leads the Washington coverage of the Times as well as he’s performed on his own economic beat, that’s a very good thing.

Image Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Schlemihls [A Loser] in the loneliness of the room, before 1938






148 replies
  1. 1
    freelancer (iPhone) says:

    I Fucking hate August. It used to be my favorite month. Goddamn.

  2. 2
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Which means that one can readily translate the phrase, “real policy solutions” as “transfer payments from most of America to the richest few.” “check your wallet, and nail down everything that can be stolen.”

  3. 3
    slag says:

    I can’t believe I just got linked to Newsbusters. Have you no shame, Tom L?

  4. 4

    If the Teahadists want to run on cutting Medicare, I say bring it on.

  5. 5
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @freelancer (iPhone): Now that my birthday is almost over, I can go back to not being all that fond of the month too. Hot, muggy, Shark Week, stupidity in politics. Oh well, at least the NFL is gearing up.

  6. 6
    Steeplejack says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    [. . .] Leonhardt will take over the Washington bureau of the New York Times as of this fall.

    I hadn’t heard that. It is excellent news. I agree that his economic reporting has been stellar the last few years–fact-based and almost Krugmanesque in his willingness to demolish the Republicans’ bullshit claims.

    Also, the link detailing FreedomWorks’ funding is sick-making. Ugh.

  7. 7
    Tom Levenson says:

    @slag: I do have shame, am shamed, and apologize. Link fixed.

  8. 8

    @freelancer (iPhone):
    I miss the shark attack scares, remember them?

  9. 9
    slag says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Happy birthday!

    I had no idea Shark Week was still going. I used to love it as a kid because I found it very informative. But then, the older I got, the dumber it seemed to get. All shockumentary no documentary. How is it now? Same?

  10. 10
    slag says:

    @Tom Levenson: S’alright. And thanks!

    ETA And yes, I did end up clearing my cache after that. You never can tell what you might catch over there.

  11. 11
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @slag: Thank you and I have no idea what is going on with shark week. My wingnut cousin in AZ put something up about it on Facebook and that is all I know.

  12. 12
    NR says:

    Obama, for all his errors and his damnably frustrating inability to make the bully pulpit ring, believes in the New Deal.

    Remind me again, who was it who put Social Security and Medicare cuts on the table in the debt ceiling negotiations? Who was it who suggested raising the Medicare eligibility age?

  13. 13
    General Stuck says:

    Great post

    As readers of this blog know all too well, the debt ceiling “cuts” just passed are, for the most part, much less than meets the eye, particularly in the immediate future. But, of course, the debt isn’t the issue and never was.*

    Not it is not about the deficit and never was. It is about the young gun wingers in the House and some in the Senate, that are on a plutocrat driven mission to capture the immense wealth that lies within The New Deal programs, and to either coop the ACA or more likely, just kill it dead.

    It is all about the money, but it is also more and more about destroying liberal institutions and the pol benefit they provide for democrats.

    They want to privatize and drain the treasury of the money they and rich people believe all belongs to them. And always has. And then decide, if, or how much to be doled at for the general population, depending on rates of returns and overall profiteering. Or the whims of the stock market

    Cantor said it today, right up front and seeming fearlessness or stupidity of squeezing that third rail. They are so full of themselves right now, and confident they can make the switch from government contained and controlled entitlement programs, to a private industry one.

    But the idiots set themselves up, or were set up by Obama or other dems, to create a commission that almost certainly will be a battle of wingers going full bore to steal these social programs for their wealthy masters, and democrats not letting them. ending in a stalemate.

    Then, the automatic penalty cuts of 1.5 trillion will be evenly made between defense and medicare providers. Both of which are progressive wins.

    And we give up about 900 billion in generic cuts across the board except for medicare and medicaid. Or any other social program.

    But of course, I am but a humble Obot, so there is that.

  14. 14
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @NR:

    Remind me again, who was it who put Social Security and Medicare cuts on the table in the debt ceiling negotiations? Who was it who suggested raising the Medicare eligibility age?

    Your mama?

  15. 15
    Lolis says:

    @gocart mozart:

    Yes, this would be a huge gift to all Democrats and President Obama. My mom told me about this earlier and I said it was the best news I had all day. It still is.

  16. 16
    Lolis says:

    @NR:

    Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. We have to judge Obama by what he did. He did not put Social Security or Medicaid on the table. He put up a 2% cut to provider benefits in Medicare, something Democrats have never opposed.

    By the way, Obama explicitly said any of his changes to Social Security would be set up so that thh savings go back to the Trust Fund. That is very different than how Republicans want to cut SS so they can destroy it.

  17. 17
    Anya says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Happy Birthday!

  18. 18
    freelancer (iPhone) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    And college football.

    http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/t.....007046901/

    The Husker/Badger game should be a good one.

  19. 19
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Anya: Thanks.

  20. 20

    Thousands of Tea Party movement activists are expected to descend this month on town hall meetings ^in their Medicare-funded power wheelchairs.

    Fxxxd.

  21. 21
    Tom Levenson says:

    @freelancer (iPhone): Does anyone but me find it stupidly funny to imagine a Minnesota-Wisconsin game played entirely underground. (Badgers v. Golden Gophers).

    Yeah, I was afraid of that.

  22. 22
    slag says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Huh. I had no idea Facebook was still going….

    I kid.

    Many happy returns to you and yours!

  23. 23
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    “The Ryan plan is the only one out there so far, and what we need is an adult conversation with all politicians talking about the real issues,” [said Kibbe]

    The true issue for the teabaggers is that the President is a Democrat, and is near.

  24. 24
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tom Levenson: Have you been drinking? Of course, now that you have mentioned it, I can’t help but find it stupidly funny.

  25. 25
    Tyro says:

    The question is… does the Democratic party care enough to deal with these town-hall disrupters from FreedomWorks, or are they just going to let them take over the month of August and hope against hope that they go away?

  26. 26

    @Omnes Omnibus: Of course I’ve been drinking. At a wine collector friend’s house. Much goooood Barolo.

    Does that explain it?

  27. 27
    freelancer (iPhone) says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I find that hilarious. Stupid, absurd things greatly amuse me. Also, totally unrelated, Holy Grail is on IFC right now.

  28. 28
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Does that explain it?

    Probably not.

  29. 29
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @freelancer (iPhone): Great. A channel I don’t get.

  30. 30
    burnspbesq says:

    @NR:

    Remind me whether any of those things were in the final deal.

  31. 31
    Donut says:

    The question is… does the Democratic party care enough to deal with these town-hall disrupters from FreedomWorks, or are they just going to let them take over the month of August and hope against hope that they go away?

    Oh. I think you know the answer to that. National neo-liberal Democrats find the ‘baggers so icky, but are also strangely attracted to them and even admire their zombie-like relentlessness.

    So, yeah….they are likely just gonna give us a redux of August 2009.

    Gonna be awesome to behold. Forreals.

  32. 32
    Martin says:

    Reposted from 2 threads back:

    Eric Cantor is a dick:

    “The rest of us have got ample time to try and plan our lives so that we can adjust to reality here when you look at the numbers,” Cantor said. “Again the math doesn’t lie.”

    So, where are Medicare dollars spent and why are costs rising so quickly? It’s not inflation, and it’s not entirely waste. Some is. Some is overcharging, high physician salaries, etc. But some is a broader trend that can be fixed if we pull our heads out of our asses.

    1/3 of all Medicare spending is diabetes or diabetes-related – either testers and insulin to amputations, mobility devices, loss of vision issues, etc. Another 40% is related to chronic heart disease issues.

    All told, about 75% of all Medicare spending is primarily related to obesity and/or smoking related issues, and that 75% of spending is incurred by 10% of Medicare participants. Are we dealing with smoking issues? In some states. Are we dealing with obesity issues? A little, but the problem is getting worse, not better.

    Bottom line is that Medicare is going to get worse even if we solve all of the cost issues that can be solved unless we deal with smoking and obesity in a serious way. Want to know why southern states are welfare states for federal spending? They soak up way more Medicare dollars per person because they’re fatter and much more likely to smoke.

    The nations ‘death panel’ is the continuation of tolerant smoking policies and dietary attitudes. Whether Medicare or a private system to replace it, either we need to cut smokers and obese folks loose from healthcare, charge them a LOT more to participate in the system, or provide adequate incentives for people to stop that behavior. Fix that problem, not even entirely, but cut the obesity rate and smoking rate in half, and the Medicare problem is solved. Not easy. Controversial as hell and painful, but it’s got to happen.

    LA Times has a nice story related to the problem.

    We need to consider something radical. Rather than means-testing for income, put a financial burden on those who smoke or are obese, and do it while people are paying into the systems, not when it’s too late to repair the damage. Insurance companies have had premium surcharges for smokers for decades. One way or another, it’s got to happen.

  33. 33
    cursorial says:

    Isn’t this a don’t-throw-me-into-that-briar-patch moment? As far as I can tell, even if the Tea Party funding comes from Koch brothers corporate types, the energy, and votes, and calls come from angry old people who are either on Medicare or will be soon. As Angry Black Co-citizen implies, why don’t we just get out of the way and let a civil war among its beneficiaries proceed?

  34. 34
    lacp says:

    So…to counteract Tea Party rabies, we should all be burning up the lines to Congresscritters/WH/etc., etc. That sounds like good advice, except for one thing: wasn’t that the reason the SooperSeecretMiniCongress was created in this debt ceiling bill? Just to insulate the rest of the usual suspects from public criticism when it came time to whack the social safety net?

  35. 35
    Suffern ACE says:

    @cursorial: Did the moneymen who run things yank the collars of the republicans in the debt ceiling negotiation? I wouldn’t bet on the seniors showing up since they might think their benefits are safe.

  36. 36

    @lacp: You don’t think they talk to each other?

  37. 37
    toschek says:

    Tom, I love you because you’re a thoughtful guy and everytime you post here or at your own site I will deeply read each piece and forward it on to my friends, “conservative” and “liberal” alike, but I just cannot agree with you when you say that Obama believes in the New Deal. From the things you link and say I don’t think that deep down you feel that Obama really believes in those things either.

    Personally, I think Obama seems like a really nice guy and I’d much rather have a drink with a moderate small R republican like him than a raving fucking asshole like Bush, but at the end of the day it’s the same destination, Obama is just taking the byroads to get us there.

    I’m going to stop going all negative now and say how much I’m enjoying your book :/

  38. 38
    Redshift says:

    @Tyro:

    The question is… does the Democratic party care enough to deal with these town-hall disrupters from FreedomWorks, or are they just going to let them take over the month of August and hope against hope that they go away?

    Well, it will certainly be fascinating to see how many people sit around and shake their heads if they don’t “deal with it.”

    Why exactly is this someone else’s problem? This is a problem that can be dealt with by the grassroots, more effectively than anyone in charge. Yes, it will help if they put out the call, but that’s not the most important part. Last time around we got blindsided, but by the time it had been going on a while, when my congressman had a town hall, we had people out to more than match them. It wasn’t pleasant, but it works. Since they’ve chosen to warn us and we have more idea what Koch money can do now (and they’ve been stupid enough to make it about Medicare), it’s up to us to make sure more of us show up than them.

  39. 39
    LongHairedWeirdo says:

    Tax reform as a 1-1 or better fix for the deficit reduction to which we are now, sadly and prematurely, committee; and touch neither Medicare/Medicaid nor Social Security.

    I would suggest this that the need for tax revenue is coupled with the notion that this is a *crisis*. To suggest that the wealthy would refuse to help out in this *crisis* is insulting to them. Always, always, always, when facing a *crisis*, the wealthy have taken a stand and chosen to help the nation that helped make them wealthy.

    Because if it’s not worth a modest tax increase, it sure as heck isn’t a crisis.

  40. 40
    Nutella says:

    @cursorial:

    Yep, the idea that the Tea Partiers want to reduce MediCare is too, too weird since most of them are on it.

  41. 41

    @Donut 31:

    “National neo-liberal Democrats find the ‘baggers so icky, but are also strangely attracted to them and even admire their zombie-like relentlessness.

    So, yeah….they are likely just gonna give us a redux of August 2009.”

    Yep. I remember Dave Lindorff, who is as Left as they come, swooning over the Tea Party when they began interrupting the town hall meetings on Healthcare Reform. He loved it–why? Because of course, it would kill the bill being worked on, and then a new one would rise phoenix-like from the ashes.

    And he also defended Joe Wilson screaming, “You lie!” at President Obama, because, well, Obama was a liar…or some other bulls**t.

    “I remember trying and failing to talk Naderite friends out of their “the two parties are the same” nonsense in 2000. We cannot survive doing that to ourselves in 2012.”

    That’s a cold, blunt truth, Tom. It had better be seared into our brains between now and Election Day of 2012. No more “two parties are the same” bully-bull, no more “staying home to send a message!!” Guess what–they failed. Understand that the Repubs are willing to bring the entire country down and that, for all his flaws, President Obama and more Democrats in the House and the Senate are the only bulwark we can have against the GOP. Ignore this because you’re lost in your dreams of some spotless knight beating Obama in a primary and bringing on some progressive paradise and all you’ll find come 2013 is a full-on nightmare.

  42. 42
    Tyro says:

    Why exactly is this someone else’s problem? This is a problem that can be dealt with by the grassroots, more effectively than anyone in charge.

    Oh, bullshit– grass roots, my ass. That’s just an excuse for people to shake their heads and lament, “well, yes, we’re losing now, but if we would just organize!™ we would win!” No. The party needs a coordinated strategy to contact activists, give them an agenda and set of locations to attend, and get them prepared to deal with the upcoming teahadist onslaught. No one is interested in fighting for people who don’t want to defend themselves.

  43. 43
    Jennifer says:

    @Tyro: I say let the teabaggers have the town halls. They’re all old people and I’m having a hard time picturing them showing up to scream about how they demand their Medicare be cut.

    But if they do, it will be amusing, and it won’t happen anyway.

    Much more likely is that when the Koch Brothers reveal to them their marching orders, the monster they’ve created will turn on them. Not for long, of course, because they hate brown people and liberals even more than they love their government programs, but allowing them to poison the well now rather than a year from now is so much the better as far as I’m concerned. I say we should start planning our own ratfucking operations for townhalls held by teabagger congressmen in August 2012, when it will more likely do some good, and let them have August 2011. It’s too damn hot anyway; maybe next August it will be cooler.

  44. 44
    brettvk says:

    @Martin: As a nonsmoking but marginally obese person, I support the idea of a Medicare surcharge for me.

  45. 45
    Donut says:

    We need to consider something radical. Rather than means-testing for income, put a financial burden on those who smoke or are obese, and do it while people are paying into the systems, not when it’s too late to repair the damage. Insurance companies have had premium surcharges for smokers for decades. One way or another, it’s got to happen.

    Martin, not intending to get belligerent, just asking, how are you gonna get away with an obesity and smoker surcharge when poor people are more likely to smoke and make poor diet choices (or in many cases, have fewer and fewer good diet options available)?

    You’d basically be instituting a regressive tax, maybe? I dunno…

  46. 46
    Mattsky says:

    I urge everyone who has raced to conclude that Obama is no better than the GOP alternatives to go back to that Leonhardt piece and remember why that’s simply bullsh*t.

    Obama’s alternative was so good that his budget proposal got zero votes in the Senate.

  47. 47
    toschek says:

    @tyro

    Point blank, grassroots works if there are committed people doing it. We stopped a corrupt ballot initiative where I live that would have granted a really shady developer a percentage of tax revenue, no upkeep fees and no commitments to build schools or other necessary services when they would have added at least 40,000 people to our population.

    I used to be cynical about such things, but not anymore.

  48. 48
    sfinny says:

    Well, I’m checking for any townhalls with my teabagger rep. Then have to figure out the appropriate sign and attire. Sigh.

  49. 49
    burnspbesq says:

    @Martin:

    Rather than means-testing for income, put a financial burden on those who smoke or are obese, and do it while people are paying into the systems, not when it’s too late to repair the damage.

    That is, with all due respect, idiocy. Nothing more, nothing less. Or have you forgotten that susceptibility to Type II diabetes and all sorts of cardiac pathologies have a strong genetic component? I should get fucked for picking the wrong ancestors? Thank you very much, but I respectfully decline.

  50. 50
    Martin says:

    @brettvk: It’s not an idea I offer lightly, but I honestly don’t see a way to avoid it.

    Obesity and smoking will quite simply destroy Medicare, short of some technological miracle. We can either try and contain the costs on the back end and either let people go untreated, demand that they cover much of the cost of that treatment, or cut the payment rate for that treatment to levels that are quite likely unreasonable. Or we can contain the costs on the front end by giving people a choice – pay more into the system if you want to smoke or be overweight – or stop smoking, lose weight and pay less. I hate to introduce ‘sin taxes’ here or refunds for not being fat, but these problems desperately need to be fixed, and fixed now. We’re avoiding directly dealing with the problem, and that needs to change before the GOP further turns the debate into some nebulous fiscal mismanagement problem.

  51. 51
    BruinKid says:

    @Jennifer: With climate change, August 2012 will probably be hotter than August 2011.

    But I’m rather confused by this. FreedomWorks expects to tell their followers, many of whom ARE senior citizens, to go to these town halls hosted by Democratic Congressmen to demand that Medicare be CUT??

    I can picture the intense booing and catcalls coming from the audience now, but this time, it won’t be directed at the Congressmen.

  52. 52
    Kyle says:

    Medicare just needs to stop subsidizing Hoverrounds for the morbidly obese. That will leave half the teatards stuck at home right there.

  53. 53
    WyldPirate says:

    @Martin:

    We need to consider something radical. Rather than means-testing for income, put a financial burden on those who smoke or are obese, and do it while people are paying into the systems, not when it’s too late to repair the damage. Insurance companies have had premium surcharges for smokers for decades. One way or another, it’s got to happen.

    I don’t disagree with your post necessaarily. You are quite factually accurate. There is, however, a larger problem.

    While it is true that chronic, preventable diseases make up a large portion of medical expenditures, we all die of something. While this may sound trite, it still has bearing on the cost issue.

    Much of the expenses incurred through Medicare are in the last 6 months of life. Moreover, those expenses are often incurred w/o much improvement in the quality of life; in other words, people (and their loved ones) who insist on using extraordinary means to extend life.

    What I’m getting at is that the attitudes of people will have to change as one will either contract cancer from accumulated mutations with age or one will be enfeebled with dementia or just enfeebled and require a lot of nursing home care–which is hugely expensive.

    What will happen (I think) with what you suggest is that there will be a huge improvement in the quality of people’s lives in old age if obesity and diabetes rates (and the associated chronic and debilitating illnesses) are reduced. That in and of itself will be a huge improvement. However, many of the costs will just be shifted to later in life.

  54. 54
    Jennifer says:

    @BruinKid: God, let’s hope it’s not hotter next August. It was 114 in Little Rock today. Highest temp ever recorded here. Right now it’s down to a brisk 94.

  55. 55
    Suffern ACE says:

    @BruinKid: Many of their followers are over 55 and are might be under the impression that the ryan plan only is about saving the program for their children. Sig cuts to medicaid for seniors might motivate them more.

  56. 56
    Redshift says:

    @Tyro:

    That’s just an excuse for people to shake their heads and lament, “well, yes, we’re losing now, but if we would just organize!™ we would win!”

    And your “does the Democratic party care enough” is just an excuse to say it’s their fault, not yours, if you don’t get off your ass and get to your local town hall. Fuck that.

    Yes, it’ll be stupid if they don’t anticipate the problem and work to get sane people to come out. But it will be even more stupid if the people who are actually directly affected don’t put in some effort. They’re not the only game in town.

  57. 57
    ruemara says:

    The frank truth of the matter is, Democrats and Progressives don’t put their money and their dialing hands where their mouths are. And considering how many people on my supposed side think recommending not voting and sitting out the process is a real tactic…I’m freaking surprised we get anywhere at all.

  58. 58
    Martin says:

    @WyldPirate:

    What will happen (I think) with what you suggest is that there will be a huge improvement in the quality of people’s lives in old age if obesity and diabetes rates (and the associated chronic and debilitating illnesses) are reduced. That in and of itself will be a huge improvement. However, many of the costs will just be shifted to later in life.

    Well, I agree that in the end, we’re all going to incur costs at the end of life. But there’s quite a big difference in end-of-life care costs for a diabetic vs a non-diabetic, or someone who is 100 pounds overweight vs someone who isn’t. It’s difficult to tell if someone is in that 6 month window or not, and physicians are never going to be aggressive denying treatment. My MIL died from emphysema related to smoking, but she lived 10 years longer than doctors had figured, and by the time she hit Medicare, she needed an ambulance simply to get to routine doctor visits, and lived 4 years beyond that point. She was incredibly expensive to the Medicare system and it was entirely preventable. No question she would have incurred quite a bit in medical costs in her last 6 months no matter what she would have died of had she not smoked, but instead she had the smoking related costs added on top, and she had those costs from the point she hit Medicare until the day she died. it was 4 years for her. It’s 10, 20 years for others.

  59. 59
    BruinKid says:

    @Jennifer: Ouch. This is where I casually mention that here in Los Angeles right now, it’s a pleasant 65° here. :-)

    @Suffern ACE: I wonder if some of these people are smart enough to understand that distinction.

  60. 60
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Redshift: Well honestly, if you’re pissed at your rep for some reason, say the fact that he voted for the Ryan plan to begin with, you might want to go and yell at him or her, just because a good vent will do you some good.

    This one isn’t like health care reform where we went into 2009 with negotiations languishing on and on and so couldn’t decide what was “in the bill” since there was no final bill and we didn’t know who to push on a day to day level. There was an actual Ryan bill passed by the house.

  61. 61
    boss bitch says:

    The question is… does the Democratic party care enough to deal with these town-hall disrupters from FreedomWorks, or are they just going to let them take over the month of August and hope against hope that they go away?

    OR liberal groups like Rebuild The Dream, PCCC, MoveOn, the Coffee Party, the Other 98% and readers of liberal blogs can coordinate an attack? real grassroots vs. astroturf kind of thing.

  62. 62
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Tyro:

    No one is interested in fighting for people who don’t want to defend themselves.

    It’s true, no one is interested in fighting for people who don’t want to defend themselves. Since you are’t interested in defending Social Security and Medicare, I can only assume you’re independently wealthy and will be able to fund your own healthcare and retirement for the rest of your life.

    Must be nice, but at least now I understand why you think Social Security and Medicare are somebody else’s problem that you shouldn’t have to worry about.

  63. 63

    As readers of this blog know all too well, the debt ceiling “cuts” just passed are, for the most part, much less than meets the eye, particularly in the immediate future. But, of course, the debt isn’t the issue and never was.

    Of course it wasn’t about debt. Just like the Summer of Death Panels wasn’t about health care or health care insurance.

    It’s about attacking the president in order to distract attention from their own lack of anything constructive in the way of policy. It was very effective. Before the Great Debt Ceiling Crisis, the big political news was how unpopular the Ryan Plan was, and how all the Republicans had publicly endorsed it.

  64. 64
    boss bitch says:

    @Tyro:

    The party needs a coordinated strategy to contact activists, give them an agenda and set of locations to attend, and get them prepared to deal with the upcoming teahadist onslaught.

    So they should go and sign up with OFA. look, the activists can do all those things themselves. The idea that activists are going to push the administrations agenda is laughable. They keep telling us that they are done with the administration so they might as well take matters into their own hands.

  65. 65
    Suffern ACE says:

    @BruinKid:

    I wonder if some of these people are smart enough to understand that distinction

    . I think when you reach a certain age, regardless of party affiliation, if you dwell in the middle class or below, someone you know has gone through the process of the spending down of assets or managing the assets of someone in need of nursing care.

  66. 66
    AAA Bonds says:

    Obama ran on “reforming” these programs. No one can claim to have been fooled.

  67. 67
    FlipYrWhig says:

    If this plan comes to fruition, “Keep Big Government Out of My Medicare!” will have a whole new meaning.

  68. 68
    General Stuck says:

    @Marc McKenzie:

    Most excellent comment!!

  69. 69
    BlueDWarrior says:

    Here is the question I ask for those who want to primary Obama: how exactly do we actually get liberal policies implemented if we cannot ensure a liberal legislature?

    Do in the process of primarying Obama we make people who hate liberals but want liberal policies finally put 2 and 2 together to say “Oh wait, if I want liberal policies, I should elect actual liberals.”

    I think one of the greatest failings of the Left in America in general over the last 40 years have been the failure to adress the fundamental schizophrenia that exists in the electorate where they want liberal policies enacted by people who want to punch hippies, because they care about punching hippies slightly more than enacting liberal policies. I.E. the fact that people really love Generic Republicans even if they have disdain for the Generic REpublican Platform.

  70. 70
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Martin:

    Poor people are usually overweight because carbonated soda is cheaper than milk and high fat prepared foods are cheaper than lean meat and vegetables. Additionally, there’s the problem of having few to no actual grocery stores in poor neighborhoods. It’s way too easy to go all Old Testament on people who are overweight if you simply discard the economics of poor diet.

    To burden people whose poverty has forced them to either make poor dietary choices or starve with additional charges for health care is to make certain that they don’t get health care at all. It’s judgmental, oblivious to reality, and, frankly, Republican.

  71. 71
    Batocchio says:

    Good stuff, Tom, thanks.

  72. 72
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Dennis SGMM: As I understand it, poorer people end up buying calories to provide energy for their families. Proper nutrition is out of their price range.

  73. 73
    Dave says:

    Levenson, are you a professor or something? Three times in each of your posts I wish you would just shut up. More brevity, please, Jesus.

  74. 74
    Stillwater says:

    Good post Tom. Crucial post. I’m with you about this deal: the details get ironed out later, but even in broad outline it’s nothing to barricade the streets over. Personally, I think it’s actually a win for democrats, since the GOP is pinned down pretty hard on agreeing to a deal, or letting Defense get cut a bunch.

    Also, I seem to be alone in thinking that Obama and the Dems actually handled this quite well. There was no run and hide option with these ‘keep government outa my government’ nutjobs, which so many Firebaggers have wasted so much time trying to believe, so the confrontation needed to be met head on. And I think the Dems won, in the end. The policy win will show up soon enough, but the political win will take some time: Democratic Derangement will slowly settle down and once the TPers come down off the adrenaline rush of the hostage crisis, they’ll be sorely disappointed by the numbers they read.

  75. 75
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Stillwater:

    The policy win will show up soon enough, but the political win will take some time: Democratic Derangement will slowly settle down and once the TPers come down off the adrenaline rush of the hostage crisis, they’ll be sorely disappointed by the numbers they read.

    I really hope this is the way it works out.

  76. 76

    @Dennis SGMM:

    It’s judgmental, oblivious to reality, and, frankly, Republican.

    Hey, no need to call names. Uncivil.

  77. 77
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    You put it a lot more succinctly than I did. The poor buy unhealthful food because they don’t have a choice. I have been living-in-my-car poor and when I was in those straights a bottle of grape soda and a bag of chips now was a lot more attractive than saving up for Brussels sprouts.

  78. 78
    Lysana says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Bingo! “Eat better or we’ll force you to pay more” is the privilege talking. Also, obesity is not a cause of ANYTHING that kills you directly. Nobody’s proven it to be more than a corollary symptom.

    Furthermore, the number of allegedly healthy (read slim) people who wind up diabetic or falling dead of heart disease make the claims that the fat are wrecking the cost of health care nothing more than bigoted. The *unfit* may be socking it to the health care system, but fat and fit are not mutually exclusive terms. I was still solidly in the medically obese camp during my most active years of going to raves, taking long walks, and having a lot of noisy sex. But anti-fat bigots would insist I wasn’t healthy because I shopped at Lane Bryant.

    So if you want to lay a premium on anyone, sock it to the smokers, but do NOT put a weight restriction on health care costs. It won’t do anything more than screw over the already screwed as well as those who are healthy but merely fail to fit an arbitrary beauty standard.

  79. 79
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @James E. Powell:
    Heh! Ya’ got me. I come from a long line of independently poor people and my bias toward them shows – especially when someone who has no idea of what it’s like to live in poverty offers advice to the poor.

  80. 80
    Dollared says:

    @Tom Levenson: Tom, I get the idea. However, the first time you mentioned underground football for those two schools, I just thought about November snowstorms and all the vast indoor spaces they’ve built in the Twin Cities just to deal with cabin fever. Come to think of it, I think the Metrodome was about 2/3 underground….

  81. 81
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Dollared: The Metrodome is an evil place where bad, bad spirits live.

  82. 82
    Djur says:

    @Dave: Hear, hear! Anything longer than a Twitter post is too long for my poor eyes and brain.

  83. 83
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Djur: TL:DR

  84. 84
    Dollared says:

    @Marc McKenzie: So? That’s your fantasy. There isn’t some wave of nutroots looking to primary Obama. The real problem is the President has done an incredibly shitty job of convincing the American working class people that he is fighting for them.

    If you are afraid that Obama will lose because of the Left, you are in fantasy land. We live in fear of Obama losing because of the Republicans, the media, and Obama’s lack of any sort of positive strategy. Not because of Jane Hamsher.

  85. 85
    Cliff in NH says:

    @Jennifer:

    114 in Little Rock today. Highest temp ever recorded here. Right now it’s down to a brisk 94.

    Ugh..

    And here I am (sorry, 62.9):
    http://www.neclimbs.com/index.php?PageName=weather

    Edit: maybe you are down to 92.6 now?? …. just for symmetry….

  86. 86
    Dollared says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Mostly. The Metrodome is the worst baseball park evah.

    However, three postive memories: I watched Nebraska beat Minnesota 84-13. I saw Kirby Puckett hit his first major league home run. And I had an utter blast at game 7 of the ’87 World Series. In a small way, beating the Cardinals that night was payback for the Brewers’ loss to them five years earlier.

  87. 87
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Dollared: OTOH Freeman “catching” the ball that landed on him and winning the game vs. the Vikings there was wicked cool.

  88. 88
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Dollared:
    It’s easier and more comforting for the Obama supporters to blame some vast lefty conspiracy than it is to admit that Obama hasn’t done as well as he could have – particularly with the economy. Unemployment is higher now than it was when he took office. That’s just a fact and asking voters to sign on for four more years of seeming helplessness is going to be a very tall order.

  89. 89
    Martin says:

    @Dennis SGMM:

    To burden people whose poverty has forced them to either make poor dietary choices or starve with additional charges for health care is to make certain that they don’t get health care at all. It’s judgmental, oblivious to reality, and, frankly, Republican.

    Ok, two things:

    1) I don’t disagree that dietary issues require immediate attention as well. And back on my point the other day about the power of regulation, here’s where it can be applied as well. In particular, we need to eliminate some of the subsidies that trade near-term economic benefits for long term health costs, and we need to develop mechanisms that put some sort of societal or economic costs on non-nutritious foods over nutritious ones.

    2) That said, I’m not overly persuaded by most of the ‘people can’t afford it’ arguments. I’m trying to lose about 15 pounds. I haven’t had a soda in 3 months, but I don’t need to trade that out for some other purchased beverage. I’ve traded it out for water from my tap or a brita in the water bottle I’ve carried daily for the last 3 years, for iced tea that I make every few days at the astounding cost of about $.10 per gallon and about 5 minutes per day.

    And the honest to god truth is that what I’ve cut out of my diet in terms of calories turns out to have more than made up for any increased cost in more healthy food. I didn’t expect that to happen – I expected what you describe, but it clearly has. We’re not talking about a malnutrition problem – we’re talking about an obesity problem. The substitute for the bag of chips is not a bag of chips. Yes, the chips are absurdly cheap on a per-calorie basis, but unless that’s the bulk of your diet, we’re not trying to substitute but to eliminate. Remember, the goal is not best calorie/dollar, which unfortunately is how people view their choices – by volume. The goal is right number of calories + nutritional value per dollar, and we honestly have no real culture of that or even way to tell consumers ‘this is your best nutritional buy’. My $1 per day turkey sandwich lunch may not be the best calorie/dollar option, but it’s a very good all-around nutrition/dollar buy, without being more calories than I need, and without being more (or less) dollars than the alternative.

    I grew up in the demographic where childhood undernourishment was a real problem back in the 70s, and there were days when every scrap of food in the house went to me, so I know what it’s like dealing with these issues. But 15 years ago there were no states with obesity rates over 20%. Now all but one state has an obesity rate over 20%. That’s not a consequence of poverty – it’s a systemic problem, and if the goal is to address these long term issues, and if poverty intersects it in a way that undermines the goal, the government has plenty of tools at its disposal to address that – both on the supply and demand side.

  90. 90
    Dollared says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Oh yeah. But that place was a nightmare for the Packers, by and large.

    But I’m so old I remember asking my dad why the Packers could never tackle Fran Tarkenton. That whole lose-to-the-vikings-for-no-good-reason thing far predates the PillowDrome.

  91. 91
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Dollared: LALALALALA!!! I don’t want to talk about it. I did say it was full of evil spirits, didn’t I?

  92. 92
    Uriel says:

    @Dave:

    Levenson, are you a professor or something? Three times in each of your posts I wish you would just shut up. More brevity, please, Jesus.

    I have never, for the life of me, understood this mindset- especially not from supposedly intelligent, left leaning individuals. “U no doa compleitimexy nd nuacy! Ita maka heads hurtings! U uz less wordiz ur Iz no cares whats U thinkings!” Is the kind of crap I expect at an ‘Eric Cantor for president supermancoolguyrulezn01 2012!!!!!!’ rally. Not from people who are supposed to care about getting things right.

  93. 93
    Dollared says:

    @Martin: Martin, I’d like to change the subject.

    I don’t really think Medicare is heading for a disaster, and I don’t think we have to penalize diabetics (genetic testing at birth to set your Medicare tax rate, anyone?).

    It’s pretty simple: Let’s assume your premise, that 6% healthcare inflation will bankrupt Medicare. Now, we have four choices: 1) We can do Ryan’s plan, which is to underinsure our participants, and force most middle class people to go bankrupt before death; 2) we can have risk-based premiums, like you suggest, and just have 25% of us either go bankrupt or die, based on some blame you want to assign them; 3) or we could raise the effective tax rate on the rich from Obama’s planned 23% to something like 28%; or 4) we could adopt the Canadian, or English, or Dutch, or German health care system.

    Any one of these would work. Now I favor #3 because I think if we just “align the interests”(make the rich pay and tell them Soylent Green is off the table), they will suddenly discover that the AMA and American Hospital Association are evil anticompetitive organizations and they will run to grab Canadian health care, so we will get #4. But we can go to #4 directly.

    But you get my point? There is no need for you to sentence the obese to a life of poverty and blame. Let’s just fight harder to get a rational healthcare system, or failing that, let’s rally a majority of Americans to take it out of the hides of the rich. Doesn’t that make more sense?

  94. 94
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Dollared:

    let’s rally a majority of Americans to take it out of the hides of the rich.

    Guillotines?

  95. 95
    Martin says:

    @Lysana:

    Also, obesity is not a cause of ANYTHING that kills you directly. Nobody’s proven it to be more than a corollary symptom.

    Uh, that’s bullshit. There’s countless studies that show a direct, causal relationship between obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as a direct, causal relationship between BMI and heart disease.

    And I mention above that I don’t propose it lightly, but on our current trajectory, half of all Americans will have type 2 diabetes by the end of the decade. And your defense of obesity is exactly what was said a generation ago in defense of smoking, that it didn’t directly cause cancer/heart disease/etc. yet those arguments clearly don’t fly for you. You’re quite eager to toss them over the side of the health care ship due to their costs to the nation, while denying that obesity won’t be looked back upon in precisely the same way a generation from now. The science is no less conclusive on the economic and health costs of obesity, and smokers have also campaigned against bigotry directed toward them, using that to to muddle the debate over the health and economic implications that were so clearly being laid out. I don’t fucking care if you’re fat or not. I’m hardly a role model for good health and proper BMI. But when obesity and obesity related conditions are the prime driver of Medicare expenses, that’s not bigotry. That’s economics. There’s no moral accusation being made here.

  96. 96
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Dennis SGMM:

    Unemployment is higher now than it was when he took office. That’s just a fact…

    Unfortunately, no, it’s not a fact. Things were much worse in 2009, and unemployment is lower now than it was during the same period in 2010.

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re mistaken and just haven’t looked at the statistics recently.

    ETA: I’m not saying that things are great or that they couldn’t turn south, but it’s just not true to claim that unemployment is higher now than it was when he was elected.

    ETA#2: Okay, technically it’s higher now than when he was elected since the meltdown started right before the election, but it’s not anywhere close to that peak, and if you’re going to argue that the 2008 meltdown that originally sent unemployment skyrocketing was Obama’s fault, then I don’t see how a reasonable discussion is possible.

  97. 97
    Steeplejack says:

    OT, but I can’t find an appropriate place to drop this in. Was reminded today of the death of a relative in the Vietnam War, and that led me tonight to one of the great antiwar songs, Bob Seger’s “2 + 2 = ?”. Found this version with footage from the period, and it made me think of Stuckinred and his recent reunion. Hope he sees this.

    RIP, Uncle Dean.

    Well, I knew a guy in high school
    just an average friendly guy
    and he had himself a girlfriend
    and you made them say goodbye
    now he’s buried in the mud
    of a foreign jungle land
    and his girl just sits and cries
    she just doesn’t understand
    so you say he died for freedom
    well if he died to save your lies
    go ahead and call me yellow
    2 + 2 is on my mind

  98. 98
    Dollared says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Oh, I was thinking a more, er, rhetorical form of persuasion. People forget that there really are strong arguments for progressive taxation.

    You know who wrote the most recent book on it? Bill Gates’ dad, a lifelong Republican and one of my personal heroes. http://www.amazon.com/Wealth-O.....0807047198

  99. 99
    Dollared says:

    @Martin: Martin, you are having an argument about risk-based ratings of Medicare insurance. Shouldn’t we also double the rates for women? They live longer. How about African Americans? It’s just a plain fact that they have higher rates certain types of diabetes.

    You are surfing a classic slippery slope.

  100. 100
    Xenos says:

    @WyldPirate:

    Much of the expenses incurred through Medicare are in the last 6 months of life. Moreover, those expenses are often incurred w/o much improvement in the quality of life; in other words, people (and their loved ones) who insist on using extraordinary means to extend life.

    Interestingly, most severe skiing accidents happen on the last run of the day. If we could get people to leave the slopes just one run earlier each day we could reduce the amount of skiing-related injuries by at least 80%.

  101. 101
    Martin says:

    It’s pretty simple: Let’s assume your premise, that 6% healthcare inflation will bankrupt Medicare. Now, we have four choices: 1) We can do Ryan’s plan, which is to underinsure our participants, and force most middle class people to go bankrupt before death; 2) we can have risk-based premiums, like you suggest, and just have 25% of us either go bankrupt or die, based on some blame you want to assign them; 3) or we could raise the effective tax rate on the rich from Obama’s planned 23% to something like 28%; or 4) we could adopt the Canadian, or English, or Dutch, or German health care system.
    __
    Any one of these would work. Now I favor #3 because I think if we just “align the interests”(make the rich pay and tell them Soylent Green is off the table), they will suddenly discover that the AMA and American Hospital Association are evil anticompetitive organizations and they will run to grab Canadian health care, so we will get #4. But we can go to #4 directly.

    Well, I have to dispute two points here:

    1) Medicare is supposed to be on a trajectory for long-term solvency. ANY degree of inflation above the baseline over a period of decades will overpower flat taxation. Simply stated, the only way to keep it working is to progressively tax the rich more each year to cover the added inflation on Medicare costs. Yes, we can narrow that inflation premium, but I don’t see how we can eliminate it short of either some unforseen breakthrough in treatment of the largest drivers of real Medicare costs (which does happen) or by driving payments lower than inflation which will ultimately bankrupt the system. Even going the full NHS route will eventually fail under those dynamics. The problem is that in addition to cost inflation due to inefficiency and profit-taking, we have cost inflation due to honest-to-god increases in services that need to be delivered. We can (and must) do a lot on the former, but it won’t be enough to overcome the latter. It too must be fixed.

    2) One reason why the Canadian, Dutch, English, and German systems are more cost efficient than ours, and has better outcomes is that they have extended those outcomes all the way through life. The obesity rate in the US is 31%. In Japan, it’s 3%. Switzerland, 7%. France, 9%. Netherlands, 10%. Canada, 14%. UK, 23%. And which of those nations has the most fully soçialized system but is running into similar cost escalation as the US? The UK, the one with the highest obesity rate of the lot. We can’t simply declare that those other systems are cheaper by design while ignoring that quite glaring difference among the population, nor can we ignore that the rapid escalation of our healthcare costs/GDP has corresponded (perhaps coincidentally) with the rapid increase in obesity in this country.

    Honestly, 1/3 of Medicare spending is diabetes related. That’s astonishing. Type 1 diabetes is not a growing problem – it’s all on the Type 2 side. Even if we dispose of the economic arguments, how the fuck can we function as a society with half of the population running around with diabetes? How can we allow that to continue? Shouldn’t we address that problem? I’m not seeking poverty and blame, I’m seeking a means to reverse this trend, and tapdancing around the edges isn’t doing shit. We need to call this problem out for what it is, and it’s not 30% of the public having a glandular condition that they didn’t have a decade ago. It’s 30% of the public through a variety of factors, including personal decisions, consuming more calories than they burn, and the proposed consequence of that is the next generation of retirees won’t have any guaranteed healthcare coverage at all short of one of Ryan’s coupons.

  102. 102
    Martin says:

    @Dollared:

    Shouldn’t we also double the rates for women? They live longer. How about African Americans? It’s just a plain fact that they have higher rates certain types of diabetes.

    Can the women make a lifestyle change and become men? Can African Americans make a lifestyle change and become caucasian?

    No, there’s no slippery slope here. I’m talking about two preventable categories of conditions.

  103. 103
    Dollared says:

    @Martin: I think you are having an epidemiological concern here. We should research this massive anomaly and find a cause and a cure.

    That should not affect the policy discusion about how to fund and how to set the underwriting policies for Medicare. You can’t use those policies as a club on the obese. Look to cause and cure instead.

    And BTW, math: I proposed a 5% surcharge on wealthy income. sadly, that income segment is growing faster than the rate of medical inflation.

  104. 104
    Dollared says:

    @Martin: And please provide link on the 30% of Medicare is diabetes data point.

  105. 105
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Martin, what needs to happen is to examine WHY there is a diabetes epidemic in the country.

    The answer has more to do with the profits of agribusiness than they’d like you to know.

    This is another classic case of externalized costs, just like fracking is. If you look at the entire picture, you’ll see that incentives are wrong in multiple ways, and that the profits of outfits like ADM come at the cost to society of the medical consequences of obesity.

  106. 106
    NR says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Remind me whether any of those things were in the final deal.

    Oh, so I guess you don’t give Obama any credit for opposing the Bush tax cuts for the rich, then? After all, according to you, all that matters is what’s in the final deal, and in the final deal, they got extended. So I guess Obama never really opposed them in the first place, right?

  107. 107
    TenguPhule says:

    how exactly do we actually get liberal policies implemented if we cannot ensure a liberal legislature?

    By putting the fear of the FSM into the other side by having them suffering fatal accidents day after day until they get a clue, or we run out of disposable teabaggers.

  108. 108
    Mattsky says:

    By putting the fear of the FSM into the other side by having them suffering fatal accidents day after day until they get a clue, or we run out of disposable teabaggers.

    I’m sure Bill Ayers could help you with a few bombs in this effort. Don’t you just hate those terrorist in the Tea Party?

  109. 109
    bemused says:

    @General Stuck:

    Cantor also said a couple of months ago, “We’ve got to protect today’s seniors. But for the rest of us? We’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want America to be” from NPR News, the Capitol.

  110. 110
    Dennis SGMM says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    I’m not saying hat unemployment is Obama’s fault. I am saying that he’s the president and the state of the economy is going to be hung around his neck in 2012. Past presidents (Clinton, anyone?) were so anxious to take credit for good economic times that the president is, in the minds of many voters, responsible for the state of the economy. That’s far from being right of from being factual but American voters aren’t exactly famous for casting their ballots based on anything but emotion.

  111. 111
    kay says:

    Good post, Tom.
    I have a lot of questions. What are the “key battleground” states? Does anyone know? Does that mean battleground in terms of congressional races or in terms of presidential election?
    IMO, people who support Medicare and Social Security have to (physically) show up at these things, and it would be really helpful to know where the Tea Partiers are going. To take it one step further, I think people who support Medicare and Social Security should focus on those House seats where a Tea Party/Republican took the seat in 2010 in a swing district. Are those House members now adopting the Ryan plan? Because none of them ran on it.
    I feel as if it’s just too vague and huge and overwhelming to ask people to push back sort of…nationally. It’s a big country, and a sporadic or defused effort won’t work anyway.
    FOX News reporters are going to be selling this hard, and the rest of cable will just follow their lead. They’ll all cover it as a spontaneous populist uprising to kill Medicare. If there are two hundred tea partiers at any one town hall meeting we’ll see the same clip over and over, just like last time, and that media help really magnifies their numbers.
    I will happily go to a town hall meeting in my district, but I do think we need to narrow it down a bit. It doesn’t have to be defensive. Tea Partiers/Republicans aren’t all in safe seats, and, again, none of them ran on killing Medicare. If they’re now announcing they’re killing Medicare, they should be held accountable for that bait and switch.

  112. 112
    Brian R. says:

    So: our job is to show up, and shout—in person, in letters to the editor, and in communication to our representatives, relevant committee chairs and the White House: no tax cuts in any deal. Tax reform as a 1-1 or better fix for the deficit reduction to which we are now, sadly and prematurely, committee; and touch neither Medicare/Medicaid nor Social Security.

    Just thought that deserved repeating.

    Every single comment made in this thread is meaningless.

    Showing up at these town hall meetings is everything.

  113. 113
    kay says:

    @Brian R.:

    I agree, but it would help if it were more targeted. The Tea Party have that huge conservative think tank research advantage. They’ll know which districts to go into. They just announced it: “targeted states”. It’ll be a lot more effective to counter them if we’re not all over the place.
    I think it is going to be shocking to people who voted for them to find out that the Tea Party seeks to kill Medicare. I don’t think people voted for that. I don’t think they knew, which is not surprising, because none of the Tea Party reps told them. Cut cap and balance is vague as hell, I looked at it, it’s impossible top parse, and no one knows what a balanced budget amendment means.
    The Ryan plan is different. It’s a bullet-pointed easy to explain plan to kill Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. If they’re backing that, and they are, it’s a beautiful opening.

  114. 114
    Matt says:

    It’ll be perfect – they can just cross out “Keep the guvmint outta” off the signs and write “Please massively cut” instead… ;)

  115. 115
    Jinxtigr says:

    Obesity is about agribusiness. This is why, anytime I hear about ‘killing farm subsidies’, I think ‘oh, you mean Con Agra?’ even though I’m in Vermont where I believe there are still some traditional farmers left, though if you’ve seen Food Inc you know they’re probably still owned by Monsanto.

    I’ve got allergies and reactions to various things like ‘sucralose’ (Splenda, which is neither sucra nor an ose- it’s a chlorocarbon like DDT) and wheat gluten, so it’s easy for me to remain aware of what the American food infrastructure looks like. We get stuff that’s totally jacked with high fructose corn syrup and sucralose at the SAME TIME. Our food supply is nuts, just nuts.

    I’m not ready to blame the fat people for not resisting the entire American food industry. I have to for health reasons and it’s a huge undertaking requiring total vigilance.

    Why would a regular American question whether the offered food that trips all the right taste and scent levers, is nutritive? They wouldn’t. If it smells and tastes wholesome, get more. ‘smells wholesome’ comes in a glass test tube now and that’s the PRIMARY way you experience it.

    Tire rims and anthrax smell and taste better than food to people now thanks to the profit motive and giant agribusiness corporations developing filler ingredients to stretch food formulations, using chemistry to disguise the result- and our people are seriously malnourished, jacked and poisoned.

    Addressing that comes first before you talk of developing good dietary habits.

  116. 116
    Mike M says:

    @General Stuck:

    And Democrats not letting them? Which shit show fail parade have you been watching. They’re gonna let them, tell everybody to get used to it and then claim they should be re-elected because of The Palin. And 75% of the people on this blog will lament it was the best we could do.

  117. 117
    Jennifer says:

    @Martin: Righto on the oft-repeated “junk food is cheaper” claim. It just isn’t.

    I’m the sole person living in this household, and my monthly food budget, including food for the cat, is south of $250 per month – averages $60 per week. That’s something less than $3 per meal and I eat fresh vegetables and lean meats daily. What I DON’T eat are frozen dinners or pizzas or much else in the way of highly processed food. Even on my fairly low budget, there’s nothing in my home that contains high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils, and I buy the more expensive organic milk as well as some other organic items, have a nice strip steak once or twice per month, and continue to buy the $20-per-pound Swiss gruyere cheese I’m addicted to.

    What all this tells me is that the “poor people can only afford crap food” argument is…well, crap. People eat crap food because they either can’t plan a meal, don’t know how to cook or they’re too lazy to do it, although it is true that poor neighborhoods often don’t have good grocery stores. But that alone doesn’t explain the crap diet that over half of Americans have adopted. Hell, if I qualified for food stamps, I’d get more than enough to buy all the food I currently buy monthly, so it can be done even by the poor, though they might have to ride a bus to go to a store where more healthful foods are offered. The reasons I’m able to keep my food budget so low are simple: I don’t go out to eat more than once a month on average, and I don’t buy much in the way of processed food. And though I’ve now got a typical “middle-aged woman” body, I’m nowhere near being what anyone would describe as obese. I could stand to lose 20 – 30 lbs, but I’m no further outside my ideal range than that – which in my neck of the woods practically makes me skinny by comparison to at least half of all adults.

    For the most part, the excuses about the crap diet many Americans choose are just that – excuses.

  118. 118
    Brian R. says:

    @kay:

    I agree, but it would help if it were more targeted. The Tea Party have that huge conservative think tank research advantage. They’ll know which districts to go into. They just announced it: “targeted states”. It’ll be a lot more effective to counter them if we’re not all over the place.

    Absolutely. Even though the Koch Brothers have bankrolled the Tea Party movement, we’re not exactly unarmed here — where are MoveOn, CAP, ThinkProgress, etc. etc.? They need to step up and mobilize liberals to show up at these town halls too.

    Kibbe is an idiot on substance, but he’s right on the politics. The right is disciplined and motivated to show up and make their voices heard, while we on the left feel that if we bitch about how Obama sold us out then our job is done.

    Get out there, people.

  119. 119
    General Stuck says:

    @Mike M:

    You morons have been predicting, or more like hoping, that Obama and dems would let wingers gut the entitlements and the social safety net, and mostly out of hatred for our black president, just like tea tards of the right. And it hasn’t happened, and will not happen. Stupid firebaggers that now turn every thread into an Obama hate fest, live for taking everything and anything that Obama says to mean he not only is going to sacrifice The New Deal, but planned to all along. Utter bullshit.

    Dems nor Obama are going to do anything of the sort, and we get this nonsense all because of irrational hatred of Barack Obama from entitled progressive betters, that is no different than the tea party hatred of Obama, that spawns a non stop puke funneling of insane memes and predictions of betrayal, that never come true. And then have the gall to tell us they are Obama’s real supporters and are just keeping him honest. Bull fucking shit

    And you are too fucking stoopid to realize that the SuperCongress is a setup to end up with nothing but progressive results, when the enforcement mechanisms kick in from a stalemate. Both Pelosi and Reid have been stalwarts to protecting SS and medicare, as are all dems, even blue dogs.

    Then you have people like Dennis running around with his cracker pack buds, giving democrat purity tests on Obama supporters. As being republicans in disguise. Fucking insane, but it’s your blog now, it will be interesting to see if and how fast it will fall to NO QUARTER grade of ratfuckery in the run up to the election.

  120. 120
    Jewish Steel says:

    @Jennifer:

    People eat crap food because they either can’t plan a meal, don’t know how to cook or they’re too lazy to do it, although it is true that poor neighborhoods often don’t have good grocery stores.

    While I agree with the substance of your post, poor dietary choices have more to do with education than laziness. It’s a class issue. If no one in your community or family ever models good eating habits, you won’t adopt them spontaneously.

    And I don’t know how you encourage people to do so effectively and without being patronizing. Anecdotally, I have some doc friends who will back up everything Martin says just through observation. They tell their patients to cut it out. Do they listen? Nope.

  121. 121
    Quiddity says:

    Re:

    Obama, for all his errors and his damnably frustrating inability to make the bully pulpit ring, believes in the New Deal.

    Not for everybody!

    When it comes to receiving benefits, Obama is fine with tapering off entitlements to those better off, which is more of a welfare model and carries the risk that such programs are seen as something for the poor and not middle-class.

  122. 122
    Quiddity says:

    @General Stuck: It’s spelled “stupid”, not “stoopid”. Check a dictionary next time before commenting.

  123. 123
    General Stuck says:

    @Quiddity:

    Stooopid moran. I spelled it that way on purpose, like a lot of people do for effect. And for you I even added an extra o

  124. 124
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Quiddity: Yippee, the blog commenter spelling police have arrived.

  125. 125
    Mike M says:

    @General Stuck:

    I’m sorry – is this the same Obama who was shown on the Daily Show Monday night asking a reporter in a perplexed voice “what do you MEAN the Republicans now have leverage with the debt ceiling? I take John Boehner at his word”. That was from last DECEMBER.

    Yeah – I have a lot of faith this man is going to guide us through this with no major entitlement cuts and a restoration of a fair tax code. He clearly is aware of what’s going on around him.

    And for the record, I would LOVE to be wrong on this. But I’m not.

  126. 126
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mike M: Question for you: if you are going to be negotiating with someone, do you go on TV and announce that you think the person is a dishonest scumbag with orange skin and two bottle a day scotch habit who has no control over his own caucus? Would that be helpful?

  127. 127
    General Stuck says:

    @Mike M:

    This comment is so lame to not even be worthy of a response. But I will make the effort anyways. Like I said, you folks hang on every Obama utterance for the evidence to support a preconceived conclusion. Thanks for making my point. That the president that passed HCR, after 100 years of others trying and failing to do so, is now going to sell out the New Deal.

    Idiots

  128. 128
    WyldPirate says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Unfortunately, no, it’s not a fact. Things were much worse in 2009, and unemployment is lower now than it was during the same period in 2010.

    This is a load of horseshit because of how the U-3 is calculated.

    It is calculated based upon the number of people seeking employment. Two years ago at the start of 2009, there wer several months where we lost more than 500K jobs a month.

    Now those folks went on UI and were required to “seek employment”. Many have exhausted their benefits now. They are no longer assumed to be loooking for work. thus, they have dropped out of the labor force in the eyes of the Department of Labor.

    Than you have all of the 130-150K a month reaching the age of 18 and being unable to find employment. they aren’t counted either.

    You need to go look at the BLS Labor force participation rate.. We have roughly 3 million fewer people working now than we did in 2008.

    As usual, a you stain the place with a load of bullshit spewed from your piehole in an effort to defend Obama.

  129. 129
    Dennis Doubleday says:

    Leonhardt is better than most, but he was just on Colbert and kept repeating the zombie lie that Social Security is a prime driver of our deficit. That is unacceptably uninformed conventional wisdom.

  130. 130
    Mike M says:

    @General Stuck:

    LOL – what you think he’ll do it on purpose? He’ll wander into those “negotiations” in a few months thinking he’ll get some combination of mild entitlement cuts and tax raises. By the time those fuckers are done with him he’ll be explaining why raising the retirement age to 72 and cutting benefits with no tax increases was “the best we could do”.

    Its how a single payer healthcare plan became a mandate to buy private insurance in 2014.

    Again – prove me wrong Dems!

  131. 131
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mike M: Show me the whip count that would have passed a single payer plan and then we will talk.

  132. 132
    General Stuck says:

    @Mike M:

    what you think he’ll do it on purpose? He’ll wander into those “negotiations” in a few months thinking he’ll get some combination of mild entitlement cuts and tax raises.

    Obama won’t wander into anything. This is a congress show, and Pelosi has stated publicly that she will only appoint members of the commission precommittee to not make any changes to medicare benefits. And Harry Reid, whatever you else you thing of him is a staunch Medicare supporter for not damaging that program in any way. Then we get the auto cuts to defense and medicare providers, both of which republicans lose. But you are so invested in Obama failing, you can’t, or won’t see this setup.

  133. 133
    Mike M says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Point taken – we couldn’t pass a halfway decent healthcare bill with a supermajority in the Senate, the Presidency and a majority in the House.

    I stand corrected – the Dems are doing a helluva job.

  134. 134
    General Stuck says:

    @General Stuck:

    sorry for the poor spelling, excuse is multi tasking and early morning.

  135. 135
    Nickws says:

    @Mattsky:

    “I urge everyone who has raced to conclude that Obama is no better than the GOP alternatives to go back to that Leonhardt piece and remember why that’s simply bullsh*t.”

    Obama’s alternative was so good that his budget proposal got zero votes in the Senate.

    So, you agree with the conclusions of the NYT piece being cited, do you?

    Tard.

  136. 136
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mike M: Nice pivot.

  137. 137
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mike M: You’re choosing to hear and see perplexity in that answer. I heard him being annoyed and keeping his reaction close to the vest. Versions of “What do you mean by that?” don’t _necessarily_ imply that the person asking the question doesn’t have any idea what the other guy means. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it’s a polite version of “What’s your fucking problem?”

  138. 138
    chopper says:

    if the teabaggers think the public is going to warm up to the ryan plan merely because the possibility of cutting entitlements has been put on the table, i say go for it. run on cutting medicare. please do.

  139. 139
    Dollared says:

    @Jennifer: Here is your privilege and arrogance speaking again.

    Yes, with a college education and ample resources from, among other thing, your educated circle of friends, your personal computer/internet and the books you buy, you can make superior food choices.

    When somebody is working 40 hours/wk for $9.00/hour, dealing with horrible child care, public transport, low quality housing and neighborhood, and every other indignity of not having enough money to live, they don’t have the luxury of educating themselves and making choices. So they stuff themselves and their kids with whatever gets them through the day.

    But I am very proud of you and Martin for making good choices for yourselves. Would you like a gold star?

  140. 140

    […] just to follow up last night’s post, here’s my first attempt to be heard on what might come of the Catfood Commission redux the […]

  141. 141
    Samara Morgan says:

    Dr Levenson, the GOP has become the party of white(non-hispanic cauc) conservative christian NATIVISTS. this is their last chance to take the white house.
    the death throes of an organism are rarely pretty.

  142. 142
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Steeplejack: all i’ve ever known growing up is anti-war songs.
    trent reznor(NIN), green day, offspring, killers, linkun, 30 seconds to mars…..when does it start taking effect?
    when does it start working?

    if we don’t end war
    war will end us

  143. 143
    steve says:

    I urge everyone who has raced to conclude that Obama is no better than the GOP alternatives

    if you can look at Roberts and Alito, then at Kagan and Sotomayor, and go, “Dur, I can’t tell no difference, Dur.” then I’m not urging them anything, because I’m not bothering to talk to them, because they are too stupid to understand anything.

  144. 144
    Jennifer says:

    @Dollared: Nope.

    I’d much prefer for you to go fuck yourself. After you brush up on your reading comprehension, of course.

    As I noted, poor food choices aren’t limited to the poor. There are plenty of folks who do know better and still choose to eat crap. My post addressed the fallacy that crap food is cheaper than good food. It isn’t.

  145. 145
    Mattsky says:

    @Nickws

    A tard? LOL … Your summer vacation will be over soon. I wish you the best of luck in middle school.

  146. 146
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jennifer:

    As I noted, poor food choices aren’t limited to the poor. There are plenty of folks who do know better and still choose to eat crap

    You’re right. The law prevents the rich from sleeping under the bridge equally as it does the poor.

    I love, love, love reading pissing matches over food scarcity and diet here at BJ.

    “Oh, you eat fresh veggies and lean protein? Aren’t you the fucking shit.”
    Fuck me.

  147. 147
    Dollared says:

    @Corner Stone: Sigh. One of the privileges of privilege is freedom from self awareness, I guess.

  148. 148
    Jennifer says:

    @Corner Stone: Yes, fuck you.

    If you read a post that essentially says “I know good food can be bought for less than crap food because here is what I buy and here is what it costs and that’s less than most people are spending on the crap food they’re buying” and you choose to interpret that as “look at me and how great I am,” it’s because you’re a dick, not because I said anything wrong.

    FWIW to all you dicks on the thread who are always in search of umbrage, the reason I shop the way I do is because I pretty much lived below the poverty line for the first 10 years of my career, and got in the habit of shopping the outer perimeter of the store BECAUSE IT’S CHEAPER to shop that way.

    So much for my diet being the result of “privilege.” And Dollared, how ironic that YOU would be posting about the “privilege of freedom from self awareness” after making such an ass of yourself.

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