Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Banned for life

Clipped from the Clippers website:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Freedom is slavery.

Maybe it was inevitable that the claim that the federal government acts as the oppressor of individual and states' rights would lead to a place that claim often takes us. Cliven Bundy, a scofflaw rancher who has refused to pay grazing fees for his cattle for years, became an unlikely hero for those looking for an example to support the right wing narrative of the jack-booted federal government trampling on the rights of free Americans. Hundreds of gun-wielding sympathizers flocked to his cause, forcing a showdown with federal agents trying to collect some of the unpaid grazing fees. Here the irresistible force of the overreaching federal government met the immovable object of the Second Amendment-loving defenders of individual rights, and the federal government (at least for the time being) backed down. 

Then, just as the right begins to savor their temporary triumph, Bundy goes and spoils it all by being caught on tape telling us what he really thinks

Some of Bundy's supporters are starting to distance themselves from his remarks, but others are still sticking by him, claiming that he hasn't been properly media trained to express himself in less inflammatory ways. They are right, of course. The more polished spokesmen for the view of the lazy (black) city dweller trapped in poverty as a result of government handouts--people like Congressman Paul Ryan, for example--have learned to couch that argument in more neutral terms so that it doesn't sound quite so blatantly racist. But Bundy comes right out and argues that black people were better off in slavery. He believes that the government is oppressing people by enabling some to scrape by without working, and that they were more free when they were forced into private involuntary servitude.

In historical terms, what needs to be understood is that the argument that the federal government acts as the oppressor of individual and states' rights has always been predominantly about slavery. That's where this narrative came from. The rebels who fought the federal government in the Civil War were essentially fighting for the right to keep slaves. After the Civil War, when the losing side attempted to justify the rebellion, they adopted rhetoric about states' rights and individual freedom against an oppressive federal government. They continued to employ that same rhetoric for a hundred years to attempt to justify segregation and discrimination. Cliven Bundy is only the latest proponent of these views. How helpful of him to make clear exactly where those views come from, and where they lead.

In case I'm still not making myself clear, let me put the point another way: Cliven Bundy starts out as a somewhat dubious exemplar of American individualism standing up to the tyranny of the federal government. Now that we have discovered he is also a racist, his defenders will try to argue that those reprehensible views have nothing to do with the validity of his fight against the federal government. And some on the left might mount an ad hominem attack on him for expressing those opinions, in a way that Bundy's defenders will justifiably view as illegitimate. It's as if we had discovered that he is a pedophile, or a wife-beater, actions that would tarnish his image but would not affect his argument. To look at Bundy's expressions of his feelings about government assistance to black people from either perspective is to trivialize the issue. We should instead recognize that Cliven Bundy's feelings about race cannot be separated from his feelings about the federal government, most likely forming the very core of his hatred of the federal government. Otherwise, why did we he even bring the issue up? What is it about the federal government that gets people like Cliven Bundy so worked up in the first place? It's not just the federal government's taxing power. Every level of government taxes people, yet Bundy doesn't de-legitimize his state and local governments the way he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the federal government. No, the only answer that squares with history rests on the federal government's threat to the property interests of white people, and by that I mean slavery, a power the federal government asserted first by freeing the slaves, then by acting legally to abolish discrimination, and finally by trying to improve the economic condition of poor people, especially poor black people. That last power is what Bundy finds worse than slavery itself.

Until we start coming to terms with the scars left by this nation's 350 year struggle with slavery and race relations, we are never going to get at the root of the problems represented by Bundy's mini-rebellion.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

FACT SHEET: Affordable Care Act by the Numbers

The Affordable Care Act is working.  It is giving millions of middle class Americans the health care security they deserve, it is slowing the growth of health care costs and it has brought transparency and competition to the Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • 8 million people signed up for private insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace. For states that have Federally-Facilitated Marketplaces, 35 percent of those who signed up are under 35 years old and 28 percent are between 18 and 34 years old, virtually the same youth percentage that signed up in Massachusetts in their first year of health reform.
  • 3 million young adults gained coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act by being able to stay on their parents plan.
  • 3 million more people were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP as of February, compared to before the Marketplaces opened. Medicaid and CHIP enrollment continues year-round.
  • 5 million people are enrolled in plans that meet ACA standards outside the Marketplace, according to a CBO estimate. When insurers set premiums for next year, they are required to look at everyone who enrolled in plans that meet ACA standards, both on and off the Marketplace.
  • 5.7 million people will be uninsured in 2016 because 24 States have not expanded Medicaid.
  • Health care costs are growing at the slowest level on recordSince the law passed, real per capita health care spending is estimated to have grown at the lowest rate on record for any three-year period and less than one-third the long-term historical average stretching back to 1960. This slower growth in spending is reflected in Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. 
  • CBO projects the deficit will shrink more and premiums will be lower than expected: CBO previously estimated that the ACA will reduce the deficit by $1.7 trillion over two decades, and, just this week, CBO concluded that lower-than-expected Marketplace premiums and other recent developments will cut $104 billion from our deficit over the next ten years. The CBO report also projects that lower-than-expected premiums will help to save $5 billion this year, and that lower premiums will persist in the years ahead, remaining 15 percent below projections by 2016 (the only year in which CBO provides a precise estimate).
  • Medicare spending growth is down: Medicare per capita spending is growing at historically low rates.  This week, for the fifth straight year, the CBO reduced its projections for Medicare spending over the next 10 years – this time by $106 billion.  CBO projects that Medicare and Medicaid costs in 2020 will be $180 billion below its 2010 estimates.  Recent economic research suggests that the ACA’s reforms to Medicare may have “spillover effects” that reduce costs and improve quality across the health care system, not just in Medicare. 
  • Up to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions – including up to 17 million children – no longer have to worry about being denied health coverage or charged higher premiums because of their health status.
  • 71 million Americans with private insurance have gained coverage for at least one free preventive health care service such as mammograms, birth control, or immunizations in 2011 and 2012.
  • In 2013, 37 million people with Medicare received at least one preventive service at no out of pocket cost.
  • Approximately 60 million Americans have gained expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and/or federal parity protections.
  • Since the health care law was enacted, almost 8 million seniors have saved nearly $10 billion on prescription drugs as the health care law closes Medicare’s “donut hole.”
  • 105 million Americans no longer have to worry about having their health benefits cut off after they reach a lifetime limit.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Civil rights

President Obama speaking at the LBJ library in Austin, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Seven million sign-ups

It's official. Obamacare hit its enrollment target! Proof that people actually want affordable health insurance. Who could  possibly be against that?