Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday Potpourri: Troubled Teabaggers edition

What's troubling teabaggers Dec. 4: Rachel Maddow is joined by David Shuster to talk about the origin of the word "teabagger," and conservative discomfort with that label.

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Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino played her usual role on Fox News yesterday, trashing economic recovery efforts. Most of her comments were easy to dismiss, but a couple of remarks stood out.

She noted, for example, that White House officials "try to claim that the stimulus bill worked and I just look at all the polling data and no one believes it." In other words, it doesn't matter what's true -- it matters whether people can be misled into believing things that aren't true. (That is, of course, why Fox News exists.)

As much as I'd like to think otherwise, there's probably something to this. We know the stimulus has been effective in rescuing the economy from collapse; we know the stimulus has helped create as many as 1.6 million jobs; we know the stimulus has produced economic growth for the first time in a year; and we know that if we'd listened to Republicans at the height of the crisis, there'd be no talk of recovery. But if "no one believes it," there are minimal political benefits.

Similarly, Perino called the notion of saving jobs that would have been eliminated a "cockamamie scheme," which "everyone knows" is "fake."

Now, those of us who've watched Perino over the years know that the poor thing is a few watts short of a light bulb. But, again, her larger point about perceptions is rather sound -- what's real matters less than what's believed.

With that in mind, I suspect Democratic leaders and officials would be wise to disseminate this report from ABC News last night far and wide.

Remember, as far as conservatives are concerned, none of these jobs should exist right now, and the smarter move would have been to impose a five-year spending freeze at the height of the economic crisis.

Indeed, to listen to Perino, the notion that some jobs were going to be eliminated, but the stimulus prevented the layoffs, is so complex a concept that it's literally unbelievable.

  • sgwhiteinfla adds:
    Really, if anything, that's just proof positive that it doesn't matter what reality is most of the time in this country, its all about perception. And of course its also points to the failure of our mainstream media to report the truth rather than employing horse race coverage.

    Its very very depressing.

Think Progress: Blue Cross Blue Shield Lobbyists Quietly Helping Extreme Effort To Declare Health Reform Unconstitutional

ThinkProgess has documented how the private health insurance industry is waging a duplicitous, “two-faced” campaign to kill health reform. Because the industry understands that the public views it in a largely negative light, the industry presents itself as proactively working hand-in-hand with legislators to produce reform. However, behind the scenes, the industry is coordinating a massive effort to kill all reform — employing attacks from front groups, allied politicians, think tanks, lobbyists, and right-wing media.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which is a lobbying group representing 39 independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, is also engaged in this two-faced campaign. Like most of industry, the BCBS Association says it fully supports the concept of health reform, but continually demands drastic changes to the bills in Congress. Some have begun to question the BCBS Association’s claim of support given its new study attacking reform legislation in the Senate. The criticism of BCBS is bolstered by a new revelation that BCBS Association lobbyists are helping to orchestrate a right-wing movement to invalidate all of health reform.

Yesterday, the BCBS Association released yet another industry-sponsored study to distort health reform and falsely claim that premiums will skyrocket because of the legislation. However, the nonpartisan CBO reported earlier this week that under the Senate health reform bill, “most Americans would pay the same or less in premiums.” A New York Times editorial yesterday criticized BCBS Association’s study, and noted correctly that it is yet another example of the private insurance industry doing whatever it can to frighten Americans.

But while the study certainly damages BCBS’ credibility, BCBS is involved in another anti-health reform ploy that they do not bother to promote on the BCBS website. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), founded in 1973 by conservative activist Paul Weyrich, is a DC-based front group which helps state lawmakers craft corporate-friendly legislation. As the Atlantic has noted, ALEC developed template health care “states’ rights,” legislation to declare aspects of health reform unconstitutional. ALEC has promoted this “tenther” legislation using its network of mostly far right Republican state lawmakers. The bills, which have been adopted in some form in 24 states so far, aim to invalidate federal regulations of health insurance, the public option and the individual mandate using the Tenther Amendment.

According to the ALEC website, the resolution was developed by a three member task force of industry representatives. One of the of the members is Joan Gardner, who is executive director of state services with the BCBS Association’s Office of Policy and Representation. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Christie Herrera, the director of ALEC’s health task force, confirmed that Gardner played a pivotal role in crafting this anti-health reform states’ rights initiative. Herrera told us that Gardner’s unique position at the BCBS Association brought “great knowledge” to the issue, and that Gardner voted to press forward with the campaign.

Part of the reason the BCBS Association has claimed that it opposes the reform bill in its current form is because of what it perceives as a weak individual mandate. However, the BCBS Association-supported ALEC campaign depicts the very notion of an individual mandate as “anti-freedom.” So either way the Senate acts, BCBS will be able to trash the bill and try to kill reform.

Private insurers have already been caught using a stealth lobbying firm to send employees to rowdy town halls (and radical tea party events), sharing lobbyists with slash-and-burn anti-health reform attack groups, and paying a number of conservative pundits who regularly appear in major media outlets to slam health reform. Now that it is clear that BCBS helped write the script for the radical tenther movement, any claim that the industry supports reform must be viewed with heightened skepticism.


Regular readers may have noticed that I've been keeping track of Joe Lieberman's evolving rationales for opposing a public option. The Connecticut senator is so opposed to letting some consumers choose between competing public and private plans that he's willing to kill the entire bill over this one issue, but his reasoning keeps changing.

Believe it or not, we're up to seven arguments over seven months, none of which makes sense.

In June, Lieberman said, "I don't favor a public option because I think there's plenty of competition in the private insurance market." That didn't make sense, and it was quickly dropped from his talking points.

In July, Lieberman said he opposes a public option because "the public is going to end up paying for it." No one could figure out exactly what that meant, and the senator moved on to other arguments.

In August, he said we'd have to wait "until the economy's out of recession," which is incoherent, since a public option, even if passed this year, still wouldn't kick in for quite a while.

In September, Lieberman said he opposes a public option because "the public doesn't support it." A wide variety of credible polling proved otherwise.

In October, Lieberman said the public option would mean "trouble ... for the national debt," by creating "a whole new government entitlement program." Soon after, Jon Chait explained that this "literally makes no sense whatsoever."

In November, Lieberman said creating a public plan along the lines of Medicare is antithetical to "the way we've responded to the market in America in the past." This, too, was quickly debunked.

And here we are in December, and the independent senator has a new explanation, which he explained to the Wall Street Journal:

Why is he adamant? Mr. Lieberman says that while he is not "a conspiratorial person," he believes the public option is intended as a way for the government to take over health care. "I've been working for health-care reform in different ways since I arrived here," he says. "It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can't afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . . So where did this public option come from?" It was barely a blip, he says, in last year's presidential campaign.

"I started to ask some of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus, privately, and two of them said 'some in our caucus, and some outside in interest groups, after the president won such a great victory and there were more Democrats in the Senate and the House, said this is the moment to go for single payer.'" So, I joke, the senator is, in fact, as big a "conspiracy theorist" as me. He laughingly rejoins: "But I have evidence!"

This really is incoherent. First, independent analyses, including reports from the CBO, have found that public and private plans can compete and co-exist without driving the other out of business. Lieberman may claim to have imaginary "evidence," but there is no conspiracy.

Second, this wasn't sprung on lawmakers after the election; it was part of all of the major Democratic candidates' plans as far back as mid-2007.

And third, if progressive lawmakers decided this is "the moment to go for single payer," they would have proposed single payer. As it stands, they're pushing for a watered-down public option with a state opt-out.

Lieberman's "conspiracy theory," in other words, is bunk.


Yesterday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) chatted with crazed TV preacher Pat Robertson on "The 700 Club." The combined crazy quotient was enough to nearly cause a rift in the space-time continuum.

Most of the ensuing insanity was rather boilerplate -- you won't be surprised to hear that neither right-wing nutjob supports the president -- but there was one exchange worth highlighting. Bachmann shared her concerns about health care reform and its effect on the economy.

BACHMANN: This will be a job killer, which is why President Obama's chief economic adviser Christina Romer has said, if this health care bill goes through, Pat, an additional 5.5 million jobs will be lost because small business will have to shed more jobs -- they can't afford to have the jobs because they have to pay more tax to the government.

ROBERTSON: They know that when their facing 10.2 percent unemployment -- they know this is going to kill another 5 million jobs?

BACHMANN: They know this. This is their own numbers, and yet they're persisting forward.

Well, those administration officials sure are wacky, aren't they? They think addressing a dysfunctional health care system will cost 5.5 million jobs, but they're doing it anyway. The White House is obviously filled with history's greatest monsters.

Except, of course, none of this is even remotely true. Matt Finkelstein explained:

Romer has repeatedly argued that health reform is an economic necessity, and that the proposals under consideration would benefit small businesses while creating jobs. Bachmann is not only putting words in Romer's mouth but also completely misrepresenting her position. [...]

In reality, House Republicans arrived at the 5.5 million jobs estimate by making a faulty calculation based on a paper Romer published in 2007. Like they did during the stimulus debate, the Republicans misapplied Romer's previous work to suit their argument. Accordingly, the non-partisan examined the job loss claim and determined it was false.

But accuracy has no place in the debate over health care policy. What's more, it's not just the unhinged clowns repeating this bizarre claim -- House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) made the exact same argument yesterday, in print no less.

In other words, expect to hear to hear this baseless claim quite a bit in the coming weeks -- it's apparently at the top of the new set of GOP talking points.
Think Progress: Comcast: The Chamber Of Commerce Is Wrong On Health Care
In recent weeks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been stepping up its campaign against health care reform, running ads in seven states fear-mongering that the public option will increase individual costs and threaten the system of employer-sponsored coverage. It has even been “collecting money to finance an economic study that could be used to portray the legislation as a job killer and threat to the nation’s economy.”

But on Thursday, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, came out and endorsed the Senate health care legislation. CEO Brian Roberts sent a letter to President Obama saying that the “enactment of comprehensive health care reform legislation is, in my judgment, critical to putting this country on a path of sustained growth and prosperity.”

Later that day, a small group of bloggers met with Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, who discussed how important the company believes health care reform is to reinvigorating the economy. A Comcast spokesperson confirmed to ThinkProgress that the company is an annual contributor to the Chamber, but not a member of the board of directors. It is also active on a number of working groups, such as Technology and Regulatory Affairs, and a supporter of a recent broadband study commissioned by the Chamber.

However, when we asked Cohen about what the Chamber is doing on health care, he said that Comcast clearly disagrees. But Cohen gave no indication that the company was thinking of discontinuing its dues, stating that the members and national organization are bound to have disagreements:

We’re entitled to have our own opinion, and I think it’s impossible for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to only take positions that 100 percent of its members agree with 100 percent of the time.But we clearly don’t agree on health care. There may be other things we agree on, but on health care, we clearly don’t agree. [...]

You just can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the very good. Nobody wrote that you have to solve this problem in one piece of legislation at one time.

The Chamber of Commerce did not respond to ThinkProgress’ requests for comment.

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