Sunday, April 24, 2011

Scenes from the Counter-Backlash

For those who watched with concern when Congressional Town Hall meetings in the summer of 2009 were disrupted by angry protests about health care reform and other Obama initiatives, the turnabout this year has been satisfying. We often forget that every movement provokes a counter-movement, and that backlash is one of the most powerful forces in politics. After Obama swept into power in 2009, along with Democratic control of Congress, the Tea Party Movement was born. And after Republicans took control of the House at the beginning of this year, and began calling for spending cuts and other changes, their agenda is re-energizing traditional Democratic constituencies.

So here is Congressman Ryan being booed for his unwillingness to tax the rich:



And here is Representative Duffy catching hell for supporting the Republican plan to kill Medicare:



And here is Representative Barletta also being challenged on the Republican plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program: 



These Republican Congressmen made the mistake of thinking that because a bunch of Republicans were elected to Congress last fall, the public suddenly wholeheartedly supports the whole Republican agenda. They forget that a large part of the reason for Republicans' success last fall was that Republican candidates scared voters into thinking that Democrats were going to harm the health care system. Republican candidates scored points in the last campaign by talking about death panels and Medicare cutbacks. How did they think voters were going to react when they started proposing massive cuts to the Medicare program themselves?

10 comments:

  1. Actually this seems like a good bit of political meneuvering if they play this right. They had to have known that few people would like their Medicare idea. When the budget debate starts, they can easily scrap the Medicare idea, let the Bush tax cuts run out, and say "see, we compromise. We actually want to make government work."

    I am seriously starting to wonder if the budget proposal was ever 100% serious, or if they proposed a far right plan, knowing it would never work, so that when they do make concessions they get what they were actually aiming for.

    It could be that they are idiots, though.

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  2. Like I said in mid April in response to your Medicare article/post ... Ryan's plan won't fly as is. It wasn't intended to. Similar to health care reform we will see a lot of change to Ryan's bill. This type bill and vitriolic response is what we get for having elected officials like Pelossi and Ryan that pander to extremes. Rhetorically, I wonder why more people who really care will not advocate for hope and change that is realistic; change that mends wounds; change that moves us forward. The highest political praise I have is for those who are thoughtful -- avoid histrionics. They and are read and respected by both left and right. Sometimes the left and right and center don't even know where these people stand politically from opinion to opinion because they are fair and they make sense. Fairness resonates. Why? Because realistic change can be attractive to both sides. Most of us agree on most things. America should focus less on the negative and more on the positive. The far left and right are hurting us.

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  3. I find it interesting that both of you think that the Republicans are not serious about their Medicare plan, and might just be proposing it in the hope of obtaining some benefit to them down the road that would result from a compromise. I would ask, why would they want to be associated with a plan that they know will be unpopular, and that allows the Democrats to portray them as trying to destroy Medicare? It seems to me more likely that if we arrive at a compromise down the road, the conclusion most voters would draw is that the Democrats saved Medicare from Republicans who were trying to end it. That doesn't seem like a smart strategy to me politically.

    No, it seems more likely to me that Republicans actually do want to destroy Medicare as we know it. They have opposed the program from the beginning. It is truly socialistic and goes against their principles. And it hurts them politically with an important group of voters. The elderly tend to be conservative on a lot of issues, but they appreciate their Medicare benefits and their Social Security checks, and they know they have the Democrats to thank for them.

    The Republicans' miscalculation is to think that people would rather cut government spending than keep their Medicare benefits. But the overwhelming majority would actually rather keep Medicare, even if we have to run a deficit or raise taxes to support it.

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  4. << I find it interesting that both of you think that the Republicans are not serious about their Medicare plan, and might just be proposing it in the hope of obtaining some benefit to them down the road that would result from a compromise.>>

    I am not surprised that you are so incredulous.

    << I would ask, why would they want to be associated with a plan that they know will be unpopular, and that allows the Democrats to portray them as trying to destroy Medicare? >>

    First, I am not part of the progressive 10-15% or far right 10-15%. Both groups are out of touch and I am uncomfortable commenting as I get ripped by both sides. It all makes me want to leave both in their sandboxes while they cry. But I am determined, like you. So I comment.

    But let me “guess” why they some on the far right don’t mind being associated with starting Medicare reform. The same way I guessed about Progressives and health care reform last year.

    Why would the far right care how the far left portray them if they are honestly trying to improve the future? Anymore than Dems gave a hoot what Repubs thought about health care reform and their view of a better future for America. Can I remind you about that deaf ear Democrats showed the majority of the country last November and what it cost them? Both sides will compromise on these issues.

    << No, it seems more likely to me that Republicans actually do want to destroy Medicare ….. >>

    I left out your “as we know it” because I am a wordsmith.

    << The Republicans' miscalculation is to think that people would rather cut government spending than keep their Medicare benefits. >>

    The point is that taxes will be raised and Medicare reform will happen. The sooner both extremes jump there with most of the rest of the 70-80% of the country the better America will be served.

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  5. It's not just a question of whether we can agree on a combination of tax increases and "reforms" to save Medicare. There is a larger philosophical issue about what kind of program Medicare should be. The Republicans want to change it from an entitlement to some kind of credit or voucher program. And even though I disagree strongly with that approach, I do think it is a legitimate debate to have. And I don't think that both left and right sides of that debate can be so easily dismissed as simply being pig-headed.

    And when we talk about Medicare "reform," what we really need to talk about are reforms that neither the left nor the right nor the middle are talking about very much. For example, how do we change incentives for doctors to perform unnecessary or ineffective procedures? And how much do we spend on heroic measures at the end of peoples' lives that are highly likely to improve or extend life? But when Democrats introduced some reforms that were designed to save money, they were accused last year of taking benefits away. And when they even introduced the idea of Medicare paying for counseling for families dealing with end of life issues, they were accused of promoting death panels. So we are not having the kind of debate we need to be having.

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  6. Some very constructive comments. I appreciate that. On the other hand referring to "the Republicans" as if it is a power move for Democrats is a non starter. Democrats and Republicans in power no longer mirror most of Americans. They are both the lesser of two evils. They may _represent_ us in Congress but Congress has a 10-15% approval rating. So we should focus on the inadequacies of the far left and the far right and how they get elected in spite of themselves. Both parties suck rotten eggs. As well, if you want to zoom in on physician care/choices, I get that, but you ought to include tort reform. Most voters would agree with me.

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  7. Believe me, I am as interested in reforming the legal system as anyone. The whole system is inefficient and too expensive, and I blog on that subject on my professional blogs. But I find it ironic that a lot of the people who are yelling the loudest about tort reform are the same people who say they venerate the Constitution. Except that I'm not sure they venerate the Seventh Amendment, which to me is one of the parts of the Constitution we should venerate the most. So I'm for tort reform, as long as we preserve our constitutional right to jury trial in civil cases.

    The most important tort reform we could accomplish, in my opinion, would be to get everyone covered by health insurance. You have no idea how much unnecessary litigation is generated simply from the fact that people do not have coverage. Not to mention all of the litigation by hospitals having to go to court to get their bills paid. We could eliminate an awful lot of that waste by getting universal coverage.

    By the way, Kevin, have you had the experience of having your comments deleted by Blogger? I seem to be having an issue with that lately, and I've been trying to fiddle with the comment settings to fix it, but I'm not sure it's fixed yet.

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  8. I am not as familiar with litigation generated by the uninsured as I am with litigation generated from PI, Workers Comp and med-mal. As a treating phycian in work comp cases I was forever filling out a compromise and release, application for adjudication, declaration of readiness or stipulations with request for award. It is, by nature, a constant medical/legal battle. I also served as a QME for unresolved workers comp claims so am familiar with arguments from both sides. Nice to see the DWC has moved toward the EAMS.

    I have not been deleted by blogger. Thanks for asking.

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  9. You have to wonder, would we even need the whole workers' comp system if we had a decent system of universal coverage? But there are also a lot of plain old fender bender cases where people end up suing just so they can get the other driver's car insurance company to pay hospital bills that are not covered because the victim did not have health insurance. A lot of these cases would never even be filed if we had a reasonable health insurance system. I don't think it would be possible to design a system that is more inefficient than the one we have.

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  10. The WC system began as a compensation bargain that promised workers finacial compensation at a set rate in exchange for them not being able to sue their employers. However, it started an entire business of work comp attorneys -- both for workers and for insurance companies -- and doctors for both sides as well. The AME and QME positions were implemented as a means to have a form of medical legal arbitration. The system is in California is out of control.

    I don't agree that national health care would alter work comp claims in any way. Too much money at stake. I quit the system because it stinks to high heaven and I had to employ attorneys to get my bills paid -- usually at the cost of 25-30% of my bill and up to 2-3 years after services rendered.

    On the posts being deleted, I did have one disappear as I tried to post it -- but not after already being posted.

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