Ozark Billy And A Big Block Of Cheese

Okay. The House of Representatives has repealed the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance reform law that is increasing in popularity even as I write.

Southwest Missouri Republican Ozark Billy voted for repeal.  In fact, he made his first speech on the floor of the house and he was true to form.  From the Springfield News-Leader

In his 61-second speech, the Springfield Republican called the recently enacted health care law “a big block of cheese,” saying that people he’s talked to don’t want that cheese; they “want out of the trap of government-run health care.”

Now, I don’t know if he was referencing Andrew Jackson’s famous “1,400 pound, four foot in diameter, two foot thick block of cheese” that he received as a gift.  But I do know that it doesn’t surprise anyone that Ozark Billy had food on his mind. 

And by the way, Long told a good old Ozarkian fib when he called health care reform, “government-run health care.” Would to God it were, but unfortunately it is merely a refinement of our employer-based, for-profit,  private in$urance industry. 

So far, Ozark Billy’s first speech brought us a “Billyism” and a falsehood.

The News-Leader also reported that our folksy congressman uttered the following in his floor speech:

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but that’s exactly what the majority tried to do last year by using 10 years of taxes to pay for a six-year program.

It’s never been fully explained to me why anyone would think you could make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, but it has been explained to me that the second half of Ozark Billy’s goofy statement is false.

Perhaps he cribbed it from Eric Cantor, who claimed a few weeks ago that the law, “offset 6 years of benefits with 10 years of tax increases,” which itself was rated a very generous “half true” from renowned fact-checker Politifact. But Long’s construction—”a six-year program”—is patently false.  Notwithstanding the vote in the House, the program will be around a lot longer than six years. Unless Republicans agree to a single-payer system or something.

So, Ozark Billy’s first speech brought us two Billyisms and two falsehoods. Not a bad start and not bad for 61 seconds.

The News-Leader also quoted something our congressman said after his vote:

“…I felt that I needed to go down and weigh in,” he said.

I don’t recommend that Ozark Billy.  Especially after that big block of cheese thing.


Speaking of a big block of cheese, eastern Oklahoma Congressman Dan Boren also voted for repeal. Wikipedia says this about Mr. Boren:

He is a member of the Democratic Party.

In 2009, Congressman Boren, an NRA board member, told a gathering of the gun enthusiasts the following:

It might surprise you that I am a Democrat.

Nope. What surprises me is that Mr. Boren continues to claim he is a Democrat, despite little supporting evidence.

Of those Democrats who voted against health care reform last year (including Mr. Boren), 13 remain in Congress, and it is  noteworthy that ten of them supported the law yesterday.

As a public service, I thought I would provide part of Mr. Boren’s explanation for his vote yesterday:

..a clear majority of my constituents want this law repealed and replaced with a more workable solution.  It is in that spirit that I supported a full repeal.

I could find no poll that demonstrated Mr. Boren’s claim that a “clear majority” of his constituents supported repeal. I did find the most recent statewide poll, which showed that only 37% favored repealing the entire law.  Perhaps eastern Oklahoma is different from the rest of the state, but I doubt it.

In any case, Congressman Boren stated that not only did his constituents want to repeal the law, they wanted it “replaced with a more workable solution.”  Indeed, Republicans campaigned last season partly on the  promise to “repeal and replace.” 

As a tribute to the Republican victory today, I will perform another public service and provide my faithful readers with a comprehensive presentation of just exactly what the Republicans have proposed to replace the law that Mr. Boren and Ozark Billy voted to repeal. I will even put it in a handy box, so you won’t miss it:


Why Obama Is Not A Lefty

I expect right-wing media in this country to say ridiculous things about Barack Obama, like, say, he is a communist, a socialist, or just an average leftist who is way out of touch with “mainstream” America.  On the adult-less right, anyone slightly left of Rush Limbaugh is a muddle-headed moderate, a leftist sympathizer, or worse.

But one even hears such talk among those who are not committed reactionaries.  On Morning Joe, for instance, it is a given among many of the regular guests that Obama has governed from the far left and voters smacked him down this November for doing so.

Uh, well, no.  He has not only not governed from the far left, a good case can be made that he has, in so many ways, governed from either the center-right, or, sad to say, the right-right.

Here are some examples of Obama’s often-conservative governance:

Health Insurance Reform

Obama’s signature accomplishment to date is health insurance reform, the Affordable Care Act.  He is proud of that achievement, as all Democrats should be, since it cost them a lot to get it passed.  And Republicans say they are committed to repealing it and replacing it with God only knows what.  In fact, tea partiers absolutely hate it and give it as an example of Obama’s fondness for socialism.

Except that it’s not. It’s not even close.

I heard today that the health insurance companies, normally fond of Republican enthusiasm for exclusively protecting corporate interests, are lining up to urge Republicans to slow down in their efforts to repeal health insurance reform.  From NPR:

“No one has said what this bill would be replaced with,” said Richard Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “But doing away with this would certainly be the wrong thing. … People have been gearing up for some time, well before this actual bill got passed, to make these changes locally, and have invested a lot.”

The truth is that the Affordable Care Act may have helped save the private insurance company from the profit-killing effects of a growing number of uninsured Americans.  According to Jonathan Oberlander at the University of North Carolina:

“Usually we think of the health industry as being in alliance with Republicans and opposing more government intervention in the health care system,” Oberlander says. But you have to ask why did the industry support the health reform law in the first place?”

He says the reason is that the more people there were without health insurance, the more that threatened the industry financially. In other words, its entire business model was about to fall apart.

So, we can conclude that the new health care law, with its insurance mandate that will drive many new customers into the arms of the private insurance industry, is far from being a left-wing dream.  And besides all that, the basic structure of the Affordable Care Act is very similar to what Republican Mitt Romney approved of when he was governor of Massachusetts.  In fact, it is more conservative than RomneyCare, as Jonathan Chait points out.

And largely forgotten is the health care overhaul legislation offered by Republicans in 1993 in response to Clinton’s attempt to reform the system.  It has striking similarities to what eventually passed this year.  For a comparison, go here and look for yourself.

There’s simply no way the new health insurance reform law can be interpreted as a move to the far left.  Sorry.  But, then, I don’t expect members of the media, especially on sound bite political shows, to mention that very often.

The War in Afghanistan

Obama has tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan and has exponentially increased the number of drone strikes in Pakistan.  He has, essentially one-upped the Bush administration, so much so, that as Politico points out, Mr. Bush had good things to say about Obama’s strategy:

“I strongly believe the mission is worth the cost,” Bush wrote in “Decision Points,” which comes out Tuesday. “Fortunately, I am not the only one.”

He expresses gratitude that Obama “stood up to critics by deploying more troops, announcing a new commitment to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, and increasing the pressure on Pakistan to fight the extremists in the tribal areas.”

Again, sorry pundits.  Obama’s war policy is Dick Cheney on steroids.

Financial Reform

Other than health care reform, there isn’t anything the left-wing of the Democratic Party has been more upset about than the financial reform legislation passed this year.  The left claims the law won’t do much to stop the practice of using “too big to fail” as an excuse for bailing out Wall Street gamblers.  In this, they have common agreement with many tea partiers. 

Even an admittedly liberal bright spot in the reform law—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—has received criticism because President Obama refused to fight to install Elizabeth Warren—a hero on the left—as its head.  They fear that without her in charge, the “Banksters” will have their way with Obama’s rather conservative Treasury Department.

So, even financial reform turns out to be a frustratingly moderate approach to reigning in an out-of-control financial industry.

The Stimulus Plan and Lower Taxes

The New York Times reported recently:

In a New York Times/CBS News Poll last month, fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that the Obama administration had lowered taxes for most Americans. Half of those polled said they thought that their taxes had stayed the same, a third thought that their taxes had gone up, and about a tenth said they did not know. As Thom Tillis, a Republican state representative, put it as the dinner wound down here, “This was the tax cut that fell in the woods — nobody heard it.”

The tax cut nobody heard of was in the Recovery Act stimulus plan passed by—and only by—Democrats.  It was a $787 billion bill (CBO now estimates it will cost $814 billion). Of that total some $275 billion (now projected at $290 billion) was for tax cuts for 95% of Americans. Get that?  Tax cuts.  For cutting taxes. You know, those things Republicans believe are major stimulants of economic growth, at least when Republican propose them.  When Democrats propose them, they somehow fail to stimulate growth, but that’s another subject.

Tax cuts comprised about 36% of the Recovery Act stimulus plan and it received ZERO Republican votes.

Now, it is widely known that President Obama and the Democrats took the approach of including such massive tax cuts in the stimulus bill—despite there being arguably better ways to spend the money—in order to get bipartisan support.  In other words, they made the bill much more conservative—and thus less effective—than it needed to be, since Republicans didn’t support it anyway.  Most people on the left believe the bill was too small and wrongly designed to appeal to Obama-must-fail Republicans. 

So, we can conclude that much of the stimulus package represented essentially Republican tax-cutting ideas, hardly part of any leftist agenda I’ve ever heard of.

The GM Revival

Remember last year when the right-wing told us that Obama was fulfilling his desire to socialize America by stepping in to save General Motors?  Never mind that the GM bailout begun under Bush.  And never mind that Congressional Republicans had no problems bailing out bankers.  It was just union workers they had a problem helping.  As John McCain said, the GM-Chrysler bailout, “was all about the unions.”  Except that the unions were forced to sacrifice, too. 

And in the end, yesterday’s IPO, the second largest in history, saw Obama’s socialist stake in GM drop from 61% to around 33%.  Damn! I bet he’s pissed about that:

We are finally beginning to see some of these tough decisions that we made in the midst of crisis begin to pay off.

Okay, so he’s not pissed.  Why not?  Why isn’t he furious that he doesn’t actually control GM anymore?  Because he’s not a bleeping socialist, that’s why.

Anyway, leave it to the Wall Street Journal to put in perspective the GM comeback and the government’s role in it:

The most important step may have been the government’s efforts to stock GM with a new management team, to shake up its corporate culture and refocus the company on making money.

Making money?  Obama wanted GM to make money?  Huh?  What kind of left-winger is he?

Small Business Tax Relief

Including the Recovery Act, Obama has cut taxes on small businesses eight (8!) times since he sat his socialist keister in the Oval Office.  Additionally, eight (8!) more small business tax cuts have been stalled in the Senate because of Obama-must-fail Republican recalcitrance.

The Employee Free Choice Act

Despite widespread fear among the business class, Obama hasn’t done one damn thing to get the EFCA passed. It’s hard to remember now, but when Obama-the Communist assumed office, the EFCA was the Holy Grail for organized labor. So much for Obama’s radical agenda for unions, which, the right told us, would destroy America.

Budget Deficits and Debt

Who was it that appointed the deficit reduction commission?  Oh, yeah.  It was that radical spender, Barack Obama.  And he will have to answer for it, as Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson make the rounds and explain to us that although the wealthy made off with billions and billions at Wall Street casinos, and although the financial system had to be bailed out by taxpayers, the pain of budget cuts will fall on average Americans, who will have to work harder and longer for less.  Rah, rah, Comrade Obama!

Free Trade

Despite resistance from the left, particularly unions, Obama is pursuing free trade policies and trade agreements with trading cheaters all over the globe.  

War On Drugs

California had on its ballot this November an initiative that would have legalized marijuana. Surely, every leftist in America, and most libertarians, favored the measure. Yet, the Obama Justice Department made it clear that it opposed Proposition 19 and that it would “vigorously enforce” all federal laws related to dope smoking, no matter the outcome.  No one can possibly argue that a McCain-Palin administration would have acted differently.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Despite favoring repeal of the military’s ban on openly homosexual service, President Obama had a chance to end the policy by simply refusing to appeal a federal judge’s decision last month that prohibited the government from enforcing or applying the ban.  Of course, it turns out that the administration did appeal the decision, thus irking homosexual activists everywhere. 

Why would he do that?  Because he takes his job as head of the executive branch seriously.  And the executive branch is charged with enforcing the law, whether the president likes it or not. That, my friends, is conservative governance.

Guantanamo Bay

It’s still open.  Any questions?


Dear Senator McCaskill

Sent this e-mail today, hoping against hope:

Dear Senator McCaskill,

As D-day approaches for health care reform, I urge you to ignore the fear mongers and support not just the current, modified version advanced by President Obama, but I also urge you to sign the letter circulating among your Senate colleagues pledging to vote for the public option, as a way of keeping honest the insurance industry.

I realize this is a tough vote, since Missouri is one of those states that isn’t wild about Obama or the reform effort at the moment, but a public-option reform bill, once it is explained, will become popular over time.

And even if it doesn’t become all that fashionable here in Missouri, it’s my belief that once in a political generation politicians like you get to cast votes that really mean something, historically speaking.

Now, is your time.  It’s not the time to worry about the politics of your vote, as many are likely urging you to do.  Now is the time to begin the process of wrestling control of our health care system from the profiteers and make America—including Missouri—a better place to live.


Duane Graham

Joplin, MO.

Reform? Who Needs Reform?

As most know by now, WellPoint Anthem Blue Cross has sought to increase health insurance premiums in California, even in the face of possible health insurance reform.  But a survey conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund points out that WellPoint has applied for double-digit premium increases in more states than just California:

The recent news that WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross health insurance company in California wanted to increase premiums for individual policyholders as much as 39 percent is further evidence the current health system is not sustainable. And a survey by the Center for American Progress Action Fund found that California isn’t the only state where WellPoint is hiking individual premium rates by double-digit percentages. In fact, double-digit hikes have been implemented or are pending in at least 11 other states among the 14 where WellPoint’s Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are active: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York,Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The survey lists Missouri in the following way:

Missouri: No data available. WellPoint did not respond to CAP Action requests for data.

You have to admire an industry that is so confident in its lobbying power that it can continue its race to bankrupt Americans without fear of anyone stopping it.

The LA Times reported this morning the following:

Congressional Democrats on Wednesday accused the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross of putting profits ahead of policyholders, saying the giant insurer sought to rid itself of costly sick customers to maximize income as it lavished generous salaries and benefits on top executives.

Oh, yeah?  Well, what are you Congressional Democrats going to do about it?


It is time we framed the issue of how to reform our health care system in moral terms: 

Do we want our health insurance supplied by profit-minded CEO’s, who command huge salaries and bonuses based on their ability to squeeze the life out of the sick, or do we want our health insurance supplied by the same people who supply life-giving health insurance to our senior citizens?

Now that is framing the issue.

Anyway, here is the latest on the Democrats’ sometimes-quixotic effort to bring some morality to our health care system.  Some folks have figured out that Medicare is comfortably popular, and maybe therein lies a way to convince people that the so-called public option is not the death-panel monstrosity that the half-governor Palin said it was.  We can now call it Medicare Part Everybody.  Voila!

The idea that health care reform ought to include a public option, that is, a government-administered insurance program similar to Medicare, has run into stormy seas, and it’s not just Republicans who are weary and seasick, but some Democrats have been queasy over the idea, too.

Now, maybe with the Medicare Part E idea, Democrats can overcome the Palin-Limbaugh-Hannity-Beck-[insert favorite demagogue here]-wing of the Republican Guard and start making some progress in wrestling with the devil of death-bed profiteering.

Look, it’s no secret that the American people generally have a healthy skepticism toward government involvement in the affairs of mankind, preferring the private sector to take care of most of their needs, like supplying Budweiser and bullets.  But what Republicans try to deny, and Democrats often fail to point out, is that when it comes to health insurance, people do want the government involved.  That’s why Medicare is so popular.

It turns out that when it comes to matters of life and death, people who aren’t independently wealthy prefer the discernible hand of government to Adam Smith’s invisible, frequently grifting private hand, which all too often belongs to a health-insurance Artful Dodger, whose focus is on the company’s financial health, not on the health of its clients.

geico-geckoNow, all we need is for President Obama to jump with both feet on the idea of Medicare Part E. 

Who knows, maybe one day Blue Cross will just be a jazzy Christian band gigging at a patriotic Tea Party, protesting government-sponsored auto insurance.

Look out GEICO.

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