Friday, August 31, 2012

"I [Heart] Obamacare"

I noticed an interesting bumper sticker on the way home from work the other day. It read: "I [Heart] Obamacare" (with a cartoon heart in between). Taking it on face value, it is not that interesting. Assuming "heart"=love in this case, this bumper sticker is a simple yet astonishing admission of the driver's affection for the current administration's premier piece of legislation. Big deal, right? However, I am willing to bet that the sticker is more of a proud display of staggering ignorance than knowledgeable support.

Obamacare - AKA: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - is certainly popular among Democrats. As echoed by a popular Facebook meme, Obamacare is seen by many as a righteous assault on big insurance companies and a much needed freeing and cost-lowering benefit to the potential patient.

One might assume from the love affair some have with this legislation that Obamacare creates some kind of brand-new "free" healthcare system. It does not. In fact, not only does Obamacare compound the nature of the insurance-driven healthcare system in America, Obamacare was written and lobbied for by members of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Obamacare is a product of corporatism - a marriage of government and big business - that benefits both the government plutocracy and the special interests of the healthcare industry to the explicit detriment of everybody else. The fact is, Obamacare is anything but what is commonly assumed; its vast amount of regulations, fees, taxes and bureaucracy will undoubtedly make healthcare more expensive and generally harder to obtain. This, of course, is exactly what the pharmaceutical and insurance companies wanted.

An unfortunate widely-held misconception exists insisting that government programs somehow do not benefit the rich. To the contrary, government programs are lobbied for by big corporations. Only the richest people and the biggest corporations can afford to adhere to all of the expensive rules and regulations that fly out of Congress - driving away the competition of small and/or new businesses that cannot afford to follow all of the regulations - hence the large cesspool of lobbyists in Washington.

Since Obamacare mandates that everyone own medical insurance, all of the health insurance companies are guaranteed customers who cannot refuse their product without paying a fine (excuse me: a supposed "tax"). The pharmaceutical companies are further subsidized by taxpayers to provide "cheaper" medical care that will inevitably become more expensive as it becomes scarcer. Obamacare signaled a victory for two groups of people: the political caste, which expands its collection of dependents, and the healthcare industry, which now has a steady stream of profit and virtually no competition to drive costs down. Unfortunately, one group of people has suffered a horrible loss: the American people, who now live less freely with more expensive and lower quality healthcare.

Many did not see the potential for Obama to jump into bed with big business because he stated his support for a different program a number of times throughout the past. Now that Obama is President, we see a very different set of policies; a hypocrisy which the nightly news does not report. The wise could expect a politician like Obama to lie through his teeth about anything should it benefit him but for those who take people at their word, how could one know that Obamacare never was what they thought? Supporting a bill before one knows exactly what is in it is one thing, continuing to support it after the truth has been exposed is quite another. I doubt that those who drive around with an "I [Heart] Obamacare" bumper sticker support the kind of corporatism that birthed the law they think they love. If they actually do support such a thing, perhaps a "Special Interests 2012" or "Corporatist on Board" car ornament would be more fitting.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paul Ryan: From Ticket to Team

On Saturday, Paul Ryan was selected to run with Mitt Romney as Vice President on the  GOP ticket - now supposedly "America's Comeback Team." The pick is seen as "brilliant" by some, clearly igniting the conservative base and giving hope to some that Ryan's presence on the ticket will win over otherwise unlikely voters. However, I feel the seven-term Congressman from Wisconsin will not gain widespread support from various voting blocks. Instead, his presence on the ticket will only solidify the positions of the major political groups.

Liberals are fired up because they believe that Ryan is some kind of evil draconian budget-cutter who kills the elderly for fun. As if voting for Obama was not already set in stone for these folks, Ryan’s presence on the ticket will only solidify their 'D' vote.

Conservatives are fired up because they believe that Ryan is some kind of courageous fiscal hawk. As if voting for Romney was not already set in stone for these folks, Ryan’s presence on the ticket will only solidify their 'R' vote.

Meanwhile, libertarians understand that Paul Ryan stands for none of the things that the liberals or conservatives think he does. For example, Paul Ryan voted for (among other things):
  • TARP
  • The auto bailouts
  • Housing subsidies
  • Unemployment extension
  • A national ID card
  • The Patriot Act
  • No Child Left Behind
  • Medicare Part D

Paul Ryan is no fiscal hawk - his budgets do not touch Pentagon spending or even balance for 20-30 years! Make no mistake; Ryan has maintained a false reputation for wanting to limit government when his actions show that he believes government is always the answer. Still, Ryan adds excitement to the GOP ticket because he is a young guy who speaks well (which should make debating this guy interesting) and because his reputation as a fiscal hawk fires up both major political parties for exactly opposite reasons. The 2012 Presidential race is now officially a team sport.