Tag Archives: Obamacare

Mold a new reality, closer to the heart.

In this edition: Rush in retrospect, Wal-Mart and McDonald’s on public assistance, the turning points in the journey to oligarch rule, Hobby Lobby says “corporations are people, my friend,” and have religious freedom.

Closer to the Heart

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the Heart

Written by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Elwood Peart, Peter Talbot
Recorded by Rush, 1977

Read more lyrics: Rush – Closer To The Heart Lyrics | MetroLyrics

In “Closer to the Heart,” Rush offers just four stanzas to make their point. The “men who hold high places,” the “blacksmith and the artist,” and the “philosophers and ploughmen” must each work to create this new reality. Then the artist can captain the metaphoric ship to the chart that the everyman creates as the society moves closer to the heart, and by inference, away from the selfish and material in life.

Rush was never a favorite band of mine (sorry guys) because at this point in time I was getting into the British New Wave and the dramatic renderings of the prog-rock groups clashed with the back-to-basics sound of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, and a little later Joe Jackson, The Pretenders, Blondie and the Talking Heads. I’m not alone in this, check this article on why Rush is the most hated rock band (including their lack of appeal to female fans, characterized as a “low clitoris count” at concerts). However, in retrospect the band gains appeal for me. The power trio lineup, the intelligent lyrics, and the theme of the plight of the individual against the pressures of conformity have all fermented well in the barrels of time. Now that I’m not hearing “Tom Sawyer” every 15 minutes I can settle back to enjoy them once in a while. Add in Neil Peart’s lyrics involving humanism, the journey of understanding the nature of life, and the metaphysical elements and I’m right there!

The themes Rush developed more than 30 years ago were in response to a world just revealing itself. They could not have envisioned that 6 members of a certain family would have an amount of wealth equal to 40% of the rest of the American population and that the corporation that provides such wealth–the largest employer in the U.S.–would offer its employees tips on subsidized healthcare and housing paid for by taxpayers. (Wal-Mart in case you didn’t pick up on it.) Check out this video of another large (700,000 U.S. employees) low-wage employer’s internal site advising employees to stretch food budgets by breaking food into smaller pieces and selling gifts on eBay for extra cash.

In the last post I wrote on the topic of lost American ideals. Americans seem less inclined to care about the environment, the growing problems wrought by income inequality, and the loss of privacy we face. It is as if we are a defeated people willing to accept numerous indignities as long as we can keep our lives rolling along with moderate success. I think it’s clear how we got here and I think it’s clear how we regain our strength.

These are the “turning points” in my take on things:

1981 – Ronald Reagan convinces everyone “government is the problem.” Before that people operated under the assumption that it was just bloated and corrupt. Reagan Democrats and old farts of all stripes believed his earnest demeanor was authentic and turned against government. The wealthy would-be kings and corporate America seized on the opportunity to start fighting unions, privatizing whatever they could get their hands on, gambling with workers savings and livelihoods, reviving the greed that 65 years earlier had filled factories with child workers and 120 years earlier filled fields with slaves, cutting away at the safety net for the poor, and taking a lot of momentum out of upward mobility.

1994 — Following mid-term elections, Newt Gingrich became the first Republican Speaker of the House in 40 years. Gingrich and Dick Armey wrote, and heavily publicized, a “Contract with America” offering many proposals that became law under Democratic President Bill Clinton and a template for today’s GOP Representatives. Gingrich, as Speaker, piloted the House to two government shutdowns (5 full days and 21 full days) and was successful in impeaching Clinton in the House, although it was overturned in the Senate. Under the leadership of Gingrich and the principles of the Contract with America, Capital Gains taxes were reduced, welfare was reduced and even eliminated for mothers 18 years old and younger, prisons were funded as sentences became harsher, payments for UN peacekeeping operations were cut, tort reform benefiting corporations in product liability suits was instituted, and citizen’s protections against illegal search and seizure were weakened. Conflict between the parties on Budget talks was nothing new, animosity toward a president of the opposing party was not new, but Gingrich’s disdain for compromise and disregard for the essential role of Congress, purely on ideological grounds, was new, ugly, and precedent-setting (and is currently being repeated).

1996 — FoxNews channel launches. Funded by Rupert Murdoch and run by Roger Ailes, a Republican political strategist, the channel promotes extreme conservative thought to the point of skewering mainstream Republicans like Gov. Chris Christie and promoting the wildest extremes of the GOP (e.g. Ann Coulter). Using tools such as repetition and framing, combined with titillating graphics and bootylicious contributors, the channel successfully functions as the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. Of course, this was all it was intended to be: an outlet of extreme conservative viewpoints that went well beyond what an already corporatist press was willing to promote. Entire media organizations developed just to identify and document their misrepresentations of Democratic policy and politicians. How did the channel get to the point of being available to 85% of cable and satellite customers? Rupert’s wealth allowed the station to pay cable systems on a per subscriber basis (rather than the opposite) to give the station an audience it would otherwise not have developed so quickly.

2001 – The September 11th attacks leave Americans shaken. Acts of terror, particularly against the World Trade Center, provoked urges for retribution, misdirected hostilities to immigrants in the U.S. and Muslim people everywhere, created strong feelings of jingoism (the feelings and beliefs of people who think that their country is always right and who are in favor of aggressive acts against other countries). We’ve now endured years of war at a great human cost (for all parties) and a great financial cost. We’ve built massive government entities in Homeland Security and the NSA. We have less privacy and less liberty than we did just 12 years ago and it wasn’t taken from us, it was given away. For many, the world was turned upside down and confidence in our safety and security was threatened. Then (in 2003) the Bush administration capitalized on this insecurity–even fearfulness–with the political decision to waste blood and treasure in Iraq in order to secure access to Saddam’s oil fields. Lawmakers understood this to be some sort of retaliation and most went along with the program. Every death in Iraq and Afghanistan produced dozens of enemies of the U.S. And gas prices still went up.

2007 – The Great Recession begins the nation’s descent into the deepest and longest Recession since the Great Depression. Unaddressed real estate bubbles and unregulated risky banking investment combined to bring the economy to the verge of collapse with millions losing their jobs. GW Bush had hoped that he could get out of town before the poop hit the spinning blades but he was splattered enough to initiate a bank bailout of epic proportions and hand his successor an economy hemorrhaging jobs at previously unseen rates (2.6 million jobs were lost in 2008 and by 2010 the total reached 8.8 million jobs lost from the pre-recession peak). If you didn’t lose your job you still felt the insecurity of the economy keenly. After 30 years of stagnant wage growth for most Americans, and an employer’s market for jobs, we quickly learned the advantage of putting up and shutting up.

2010 – FoxNews and conservative talk radio misrepresent the Affordable Care Act and other policies of centrist, corporation-friendly president Barack Obama to the point that a subset of Americans become activated to oppose his policies under the umbrella of the Tea Party. Billions are spent by Rupert Murdoch and David and Charles Koch to organize and promote Tea Party activism and Tea Party candidates. Dick Armey was pegged to run FreedomWorks, launched with $12 million from the Koch’s, to organize Tea Party branches and create the rallies that the press so adored prior to the 2010 midterms. FreedomWorks paid a million to Glenn Beck for his ongoing endorsements, and an undisclosed amount to Rush Limbaugh for the same. Many middle class people were easily led by these professional talkers to direct their anger against government, Obama, or liberals instead of to the group most responsible for their problems: the powerful multinational CEOs and the super-rich who were busy moving the workers share of income into the pockets of CEOs and dividend checks of investors.

Wolves at the door.

Step by step, those who are too greedy and selfish to understand the concept of acting for the greater good, (the enlightened self-interest that de Touqueville found in America in the 1830s), have shaped the country to our detriment (and their benefit). We are rudderless in many ways because we have surrendered national values.

Can we ask the questions that matter? What happens to the unskilled or lower skilled workers when the factories close? Should we retrain them, can we retrain them? What happens to the children of poor parents who have no early childhood support (educational, ethical, nutritional, emotional)? Can we expect them to find the way out of poverty? Is it good for the economy to see dividends going up while real wages are going down? Should the gap between CEO wages and average workers salaries be widening or closing? What happens when the seas rise, the desert overtakes productive land, and we find ourselves rebuilding again and again after violent storms? What happens when the temperature’s slow rise changes regional ecology, or deadens the oceans, or makes the air unbreathable? Should we sit and watch nature die because we didn’t want to put a price on carbon emissions?

LB_Rule

I think I could have added Citizens United to the list above, but I had the sense that it was only extending the problem of “bought” politicians, not the primary cause of it. Last week the Supreme Court agreed to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and many see this as part 2 of Citizens United. In that case, the Supreme Court said that corporations were people and money was speech, and therefore corporations could not be limited in political donations under free speech principles. The Hobby Lobby case, rather innocuous when viewed as the fight of a corporation against mandates to provide coverage of contraceptives, extends Citizens United to say that corporations have religious freedom as well. The owners of Hobby Lobby use the protections afforded by incorporating, but then balk at the responsibility to follow federal law with the premise that the corporation should be afforded freedom of religion protection under the Constitution. Not only that, but the exception is not based on religious beliefs generally, but their own zealot belief that Plan B One-Step prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb and is tantamount to an abortion. In the fashion of zealots, they misunderstand the functions of this pill as it does nothing to stop a fertilized egg from implanting. If Hobby Lobby was pacifist and wanted to avoid paying the share of taxes that finance the war in Afghanistan, how would that go over?

LB_Rule

Well, I just remembered the promise (to myself) to end on a relatively positive note. So here I go. The good news, on a topic where good news has been hard to find, is on Obamacare. According to the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, the growth in health care spending (since Obamacare was passed in 2010) has slowed to the lowest rate on record for any three-year period since 1965. “If half the recent slowdown in spending can be sustained,” the report says, “health care spending a decade from now will be about $1,400 per person lower than if growth returned to its 2000-2007 trend.” Additionally, health care price inflation is at its lowest rate in 50 years.

The ACA also had many measures to curb spending on Medicare (which is 16% of the federal budget). Benefits were not reduced (they improved in fact) but spending was reduced through various measures to tighten up payments and experiment with alternatives to the pay-for-procedure model that creates incentives for healthcare organizations to perform more procedures and tests to make more money.

Projections suggest we will save $147 billion on Medicare and Medicaid over the next 6 years. These changes will reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion from 2013 to 2022.

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Every road is a lonely street, I cry like a baby.

In this edition: Blue-eyed soul. Black hearts. Tracking the descent of American ideals. Best politicians money can buy. To-do list: avoid copyright infringement and finish on a positive note.

Cry Like a Baby

As I look back on a love so sweet
I cry like a baby
Every road is a lonely street
I cry like a baby

1968 —  Written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and performed by The Box Tops

 Cry Like A Baby Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Memphis producer/songwriter Dan Penn contacted Spooner Oldham to write a song that would follow-up The Box Top’s success with “The Letter.” Oldham was a session organist and songwriter. Sitting in a diner, frustrated by a lack of ideas, Oldham told Penn that he could “cry like a baby” and Penn got inspired. The first verse came together as they walked to the studio, and the duo birthed a demo that night. The next day Box Tops’ singer Alex Chilton heard the demo and smiled. It soon reached #2 on the charts.

The Box Tops were a “blue-eyed soul” group from Memphis. A white group with a black sound. Singer/guitarist Chilton was just 17 in 1968. Like many young bands of the time they were mistreated by managers and road promoters and this led to their disbanding in 1970. The management company continued to release material recorded by the band, and when that ran out they created a new studio band to record using the name Box Tops. In their quest for fame and fortune, the band had ceded all control to the management and record companies. Their dream was derailed by the greed of the people they felt were going to help them.

And in case you were wondering, the strangely buzzing plucked string sound is from a sitar.

Several things came up in the past week or so that has me ready to cry like a baby. Healthcare.gov’s issues are touted by everyone (Left and Right) as “Obama’s Katrina.” The only truth in the analogy is that it is very effective in reinforcing the perception that government can’t get things right–a great boost to people who want to make government small enough to drown in the tub (see Grover Norquist). SNAP benefits (food stamps) were cut in November and nobody seems to care that benefits are reduced for 22 million children and 9 million people who are elderly or disabled. The super-typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippine province of Leyte. As many as 10,000 may be dead and over 600,000 people have been displaced. At the same time, the Warsaw Climate Change Conference is barely reported. Thirty members of Greenpeace are being held in a Russian jail because they climbed an offshore drilling rig in the arctic with banners and ropes. The Executive Branch and State Department remain silent on the topic (and this reeks of cowardice). The troubling thing is that the issue of the worsening climate doesn’t make a blip on the mental radar screens of a seemingly hypnotized American people who can’t seem to get it into their heads that 150 years of dumping CO2 into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels has consequences. Media has something to do with this as instead of paying people for investigation the news is simply reported as “this side says this and that side says that” and false equivalency abounds.

Those skeptical of climate change believe that there is no problem–it’s just natural cycles or manipulation by those that would benefit from a carbon market. What they don’t realize is that the energy companies employ between 3 and 8 lobbyists per member of Congress. The oil and gas industry spends $150 million per year lobbying politicians. They have spent $260 million in campaign contributions since 2000. While 75% of that goes to Republicans the industry was also a huge contributor to the Obama campaigns. By purchasing these politicians they may well be exchanging their profits today for a livable world tomorrow. What do the oil and gas companies get for their money? Freedom from pesky regulation, $4 billion in annual tax breaks, and continued profits–about a trillion dollars over the past decade for the top companies. And they don’t even thank us while they pick our pockets. (Perhaps a sexually oriented metaphor would be more appropriate?) The tens of millions the American Petroleum Institute spends on PR provides quite a return. It makes you wonder if the truly soulless can enjoy their ill-gotten gains? Of course they can. Lie about climate science by day, count your 30 pieces of silver at night.

While the Right likes to claim that the Koch Brothers are simply baseless scapegoats of the Left (they know that Al Gore and George Soros are the REAL threats LOL) yet we find Koch Industries at the top of the lobbying lists. The Kochs spent $122 million of their oil billions on Americans for Prosperity, a tax-exempt conservative political organization JUST IN 2012. They are focused on funding more local races to put Tea Party conservatives in charge of towns and counties across the country. Their money is important to Republicans generally–they either receive it or a candidate “primaries them” bankrolled by these anti-democratic maniacs. Their money funds much anti-Obamacare advertising through support of extreme right-wing groups.

I would say that 40 years ago most Americans understood that we needed to control the pollution of air, food, and water. Now, we’ve somehow been led to the place where we will no longer fight for controls against these terrible attacks on the environment. We not only lay down for polluters but we mindlessly believe that globalization is necessary, Medicare and Social Security are unsustainable for the U.S., the military can do no wrong, and that we can trust the efforts of private sector corporations over public sector civil servants.

How did we get here? I believe that it started out with Ronald Reagan duping socially conservative Democrats and business owning Republicans into trusting his ideology that what was good for business was good for everyone. Before that, Americans had more skepticism about where to place their trust. They understood that labor and management had a pact that neither would be sacrificed for the benefit of the other. Moreover, they understood (as Henry Ford did when he doubled the wages of his employees in 1918) that the success of the worker was a way to maintain the economic ecosystem. Communities need the consumption and civic participation of workers as much as the oceans need plankton.  Companies need a stable motivated workforce or they squander energy on training and recruitment. Post-Reagan we raced to the place where in the name of globalism we have sent tens of millions of jobs overseas. Since labor is a market, we now have more workers than jobs to employ them (and few opportunities for low-skilled workers) and the result is that pay is flat or declining. High supply means low prices.

Low wages results in an elevated demand for cheap goods. Like from Wal-Mart. Except that Wal-Mart finds its low prices by forcing companies with American factories (like Rubbermaid, Levis, and Master Lock) to close their U.S. facilities and send those jobs to Asia to provide items for cheaper than the price we would be willing to pay for them. So the whole thing is a vicious, community-destroying cycle. But if you keep the masses occupied worrying that they might slip into poverty then they are unwilling to risk anything that threatens their shitty jobs and 2% raises. A debased and defeated work force is the easiest to take advantage of.

So depressing. Let’s get over it together. Have you seen this quote?

“Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.”

Hear more below.

From a Bill Moyer’s interview of Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo , “If there’s injustice in the world, those of us that have the ability to witness it and to record it, document it and tell the world what is happening have a moral responsibility to do that. Then, of course, it’s left up to those that are receiving that knowledge to make the moral choice about whether they want to stand up against the injustice or observe it.”

https://soundcloud.com/smileyandwestshow/kumi-naidoo-from-greenpeace

Knowing that such sentiments exist and that they have meaning to a large number of people is a comforting thing. Like tomato soup in Chicago in November.

More on the steps that led us into this descent next post. I will now be quoting only a verse of the songs that launch my blog posts. I wanted to collect a few things together (e-book style) and then I realized that in order to fit a fair use standard for copyrights I would have to restrict the lyrics to the relevant part. Luckily other sites have no qualms and I will link to their content as I did above.

Take care and do right.

Lefty

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You can go your own way

In this edition: Don’t care? Repeal Obamacare. I had to pause the video and count Buckingham’s fingers because there just seemed to be too many. The Ryan Budget is one bad mother– watch your mouth! Shaft! GOP Hypocrisy! Hey it rhymes! Moon, June, Loons…

Go Your Own Way

Loving you
Is it the right thing to do?
How can I ever change things
That I feel?

If I could
Baby I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won’t take it from me

You can go your own way…

Tell me why
Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up’s all you wanna do

You can go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way.

– Written by Lindsey Buckingham, performed by Fleetwood Mac

Go Your Own Way was the lead single released from the 1977 classic, Rumours, from Fleetwood Mac. It was the group’s first top ten hit in the U.S. It is believed to be about the relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Other big airplay songs from the album were Don’t Stop, Dreams, and You Make Loving Fun.

The members of Fleetwood Mac were experiencing emotional upheavals while recording Rumours.  Mick Fleetwood (the 6′ 5″ drummer) was going through a divorce. Bassist John McVie was separating from his wife, keyboardist Christine McVie. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were ending their relationship of 8 years. Because they were trying to capitalize on the success of their previous album, Fleetwood Mac, and maintain career momentum, the band had to keep their personal lives separated from their professional lives in the studio, which must have been quite a feat.

Many of us were unimpressed by Fleetwood Mac and the soft rock turn that followed the addition of Nicks and Buckingham. Still, Lindsey is definitely an artist of high caliber. He’s unaffected, self-taught, and doesn’t read music. But due to his lack of training he invented the playing styles and tunings that would enable his “orchestral” expression. Check the video below for solo work in concert from 2006.

The excitement for rock fans at the time came from the British New Wave with musicians like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson, Graham Parker and their American counterparts Blondie and Talking Heads. But it would be silly to look down on a group that has sold more than 50 million albums and features veterans of the 60s British blues scene as well the outstanding finger-picking of Buckingham.

That would be like a politicians looking down on the 50+ million Americans who voted for Obama last year and reaffirmed their comfort with his policies, and still going their own way. (Progressives, don’t jump at that “comfort” statement. It leads to my point, but doesn’t take into account the flaws of his policies on drones, energy, etc.) Yet a political party continues to flaunt “the will of the people” and return again and again to minority POVs.

This is what I’m talking about: Attached to the Senate Budget Bill last week was an amendment from Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s that would repeal Obamacare. By itself, that may be understandable since campaign promises have been made. Still, it was the !36th! repeal attempt in the Senate. The House has similar numbers of bills, passed with the Republican majority, but were simply theater as the Democratic Senate would not move the bills forward and in any case, the President would veto repeal.

So what’s the point? It’s kind of a mystery for grown men and women to act that way. Are they so cynical that they think that such displays cement the loyalty of followers? Do they expect a miracle? Divine intervention? Whatever it is, they just can’t quit. They keep holding the votes. They continue to act as though it isn’t settled. The news they didn’t get is that the law was passed, the Supreme Court addressed it, and the voters gave Obama the nod. It’s settled.

Obamacare is certainly not perfect. If you really want to reduce healthcare costs then you create a system where there’s a single payer, (no need for doctors to have large billing staffs), and allow commercial insurers to manage it as not-for-profit entities. And this was never going to fly. So instead, the administration went with the concept that Richard Nixon proposed and the conservative Heritage Foundation filled in 23 years ago. The concept: everybody in.

Most of the alternative plans work well for people who are already in the system. The lack of compassion seen in that camp is rather startling. By advocating for high deductible, lower cost plans for the uninsured they ignore the fact that people won’t go to the doctor if the expense is significant and they are already living paycheck to paycheck as 68% of Americans are. This increases the overall costs in the system by allowing many routine and treatable conditions to become  acute and costly. Not only that, but why should the poor be put in the position of ignoring symptoms and self-imposing a death sentence when other Americans are getting the early treatment they need? Like those that insist that our budgetary woes require cutting Social Security and raising the age for Medicare the lack of human empathy makes one’s skin crawl.

On top of all that, many are motivated by the fact that they believe that it is morally wrong for the haves to provide for the have-nots, even though this type of cooperative social behavior is consistent with both our species and our nation’s history. George Lakoff of framing fame explains that here.

It’s interesting that the GOP has championed clean votes on bills but continues to tack unrelated amendments without consequence.  The programs they publicly decry are privately lobbied for. This article details some of the hypocrisy. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) placed a hold on every single one of the 80 administration appointees who had been cleared for approval by Senate committees, explaining that he thought the Obama administration had a bias against his home state. He feared that defense dollars for tanker aircraft were going to bid and might not flow to his home state.  The senator felt holding up all nominees would place maximum pressure on the administration to ignore other contract bids.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) campaigned against the stimulus, and asked for the funds on behalf of constituents. His vice-presidential run seemed to be revolving around outrage that Obama was cutting $700 billion from Medicare but his budget leaves those cuts intact. He also leaves all the other Obamacare tax provisions in place but without the actual healthcare benefits they were designed to pay for.

The American people really dodged a bullet with that guy. He’s a zealot without a trace of self-reflection and not the leader he claims to be as evidenced by his steadfast dedication to ideology over public opinion. So while his constituents (and the rest of America) support Medicare and Social Security, he wants to shrink them. While the components of Obamacare resonate positively when detailed to the general populace, he wants to abolish it. His idea is that he should not be held accountable to his constituency because he is a leader and a leader changes the polls, not the other way around. The truth, Congressman, is that you are elected to represent your district. You need to act according to their wishes and needs. But, there’s nothing wrong with you attempting to move opinion. It’s just that you need to wait until the polls agree with you before you try to change the laws.

Believe me Congressman Ryan, a 25% maximum tax rate sounds good. You just haven’t told us how we can get there with the benefits and services we currently enjoy. Undefined tax loophole closing has the stench of snake oil. You hide big reductions for food stamps, college tuition aid, child nutrition programs, and other programs that help the least among us by lumping them together in large categories hiding the detailed costs.  In addition to the millions who would lose insurance from repeal of Obamacare would be the millions you would add to their ranks by cutting eligibility for Medicare. Your idea of premium support is a little wacky. Substitute premium support for a “serial DUI driver” for “85-year-old with health problems” and “car insurance” for “health insurance” and you may have the light bulb go off. Premium support for unattainable coverage means no coverage.

And what is the overriding principle that you stand by to hurt Americans in this way? Tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. The tax cuts, according to the Tax Policy Center and this Washington Post article, create a nearly $6 trillion shortfall over 10 years. Creating a budget that simply cuts revenues and programs that benefit the nation is not that great of an idea. Yet, Ryan is the guru and darling of the right. As H.L. Mencken wrote, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

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I need to get back home to cool, cool rain

Today’s musings: The Who Live! Mods and Millennials. Healthcare industry backs ACA. McCain chose Sarah but rejects Susan in confusion over the meaning of “qualifications.”

Love, Reign O’er Me

Only love can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Only love can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers layin’ in the fields

Love, reign o’er me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me

Only love can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high

Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool, cool rain

I can’t sleep, and I lay, and I think
The night is hot and black as ink
Oh God, I need a drink of cool, cool rain

Love, reign o’er me
Reign o’er me, o’er me, o’er me
Love, reign o’er me, o’er me

– Written by Pete Townsend, performed by The Who (1973)

I share this song because it’s still reverberating in my mind after catching The Who perform Quadrophenia live last Friday. Love Reign O’er Me is the final song in the 1973 rock opera. The musical theme surfaces in many of the songs–when it finally gets played in full there’s a huge emotional payoff.

The story involves a shallow and unreliable young Mod named Jimmy who takes too many amphetamine “blues”, can’t open himself to love, idolizes the wrong people, clashes with his family, and works his way toward suicide. Then, with nothing left to live for, he surrenders to the rain and finds a sort of redemption. As Townsend has said, “He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know, when it’s over and he goes back to town he’ll be going through the same shit, being in the same terrible family situation and so on, but he’s moved up a level. He’s weak still, but there’s a strength in that weakness.”

The concert featured 10 players playing like 100 and some virtual treats. Long dead Keith Moon sat in to do the “Bellboy” vocals via film (Bell-BOYYY, keep me lip buttoned down) and poor dead John Entwhistle soloed mightily from a video screen above the state in the song 5:15.

After the Entwhistle solo Townsend ripped into his own solo with a sly smile on his face. While both Daltrey and Townsend get a little ragged on vocals at times, Pete’s  guitar playing was incredible. Happy that he kept up with his mate, we saw him mouth “Fuck Yeah!” as he finished.

There’s a lot in the album that ties to our modern life. In the early 60s England was hitting the kind of prosperity that allowed youth the capital and leisure to act out as Mods and Rockers. The old days of sacrifice in post-War Britain were willfully forgotten. Style ruled over substance.

It’s possible that this kind of comfort leads us (30 years later) to the Millennials,  Gen-Y young people little plugged into politics,  highly plugged into communications technology, and with a sense of entitlement regarding employment and success, in what we Boomers (and every generation before us) learns to see and understand as cyclical developments. Boomers, having falling short of the expectations of their WWII-era parents, decided to treat their children with unconditional love and support. Little Josh never had to actually color within the lines to get approval. Now he thinks his employer is there to nurture him with a rapid succession of promotions and raises in return for average performance.

Jimmy ends up disappointed in the Bell Boy, whom he’d worshiped as a Mod leader called “Ace Face.” The former star Mod winds up working in a seaside hotel–and liking it. “Ace Face” speaks to the idea of glory days and compromise that many of us face whenever we have too much time to think.

Republicans have had time to think and Obamacare repeal apparently has less appeal. I work in healthcare and I’ve seen that the industry is mostly pro-Obamacare. So regardless of the pundits and your cousin’s husband railing against the ruinous nature of the law at Thanksgiving dinner, I thought I could share some insider’s views.

My thoughts on this started out with a newsletter piece pointing to this article at USA Today. “Weak Obama Debate Showing Hurts Health Stocks.”  Most stocks in the hospital sector tumbled between 1.5% and 2.5% after the first debate and Obama’s poor showing. Of course, when I went back to dig into this by checking stock prices after each debate and the election (as someone who makes a living doing analysis is wont to do), I saw that the market moved after each debate and after the election. But guess what, the market is always moving. I quickly remembered that Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan (a book about once-in-a-lifetime events, not ballet craziness) wrote of this. He discusses an instance where he caught the same media outlet explaining market movements in both directions using the same bit of news:

When Saddam Hussein was captured, Bloomberg News offered the following headline: “US TREASURIES RISE; HUSSEIN CAPTURE MAY NOT CURB TERRORISM”. But a half hour later, Treasuries moved lower. The headline was changed to “US TREASURIES FALL; HUSSEIN CAPTURE BOOSTS ALLURE OF RISKY ASSETS.”

So I abandon the stock market angle except to say that if Obamacare was going to punish the for-profit hospital industry or insurers it certainly isn’t showing in their stock prices.

So let’s read what some industry leaders are saying about the ACA:

Susan DeVore, president and CEO, Premier: “Now that the elections are behind us, we need to, on a bipartisan basis, get back to the task of removing the barriers to transforming healthcare. The payment and delivery reforms in the Affordable Care Act provide a framework to move us in the right direction. We need to build on those reforms to align payment incentives and measurement with effective patient care. Patients and healthcare providers will be harmed by continual payment cuts unless we empower providers with the flexibility to improve care and drive out waste.”

Lloyd Dean, president and CEO, Dignity Health: “We think that healthcare in a country like ours is something this is a right as opposed to a privilege. We have been, as you know, supporters of the ACA because we acknowledge that right and we believe through the results of the election that momentum and actions will continue to full implementation of the act. We continue to believe that this will allow us to do something that is very important, which is to address and bring forward solutions to the national healthcare crisis in our country. … One thing there is no debate about on either side of the political spectrum is that the current status of healthcare, prior to some type of reform, was not sustainable. … Even if the act itself had been modified severely, we would still move forward with what we think is important to figure out a way to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, to raise the bar for quality and to increase access.

Dr. Robert Laskowski, president and CEO of Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.: “We’ve always been great supporters of the Affordable Care Act and the principle that it embodies; there’s always a few things in there that could be improved but overall the direction is clearly the right way. What the election did was clarified and made our lives simpler. … In the longer run the direction of the necessity for us to pay attention to value, to improve care and to make sure that the care is affordable to all citizens in the country—that was going to be independent of the results of the election. But there would have been rhetoric changes if the election had been different, and it would have slowed us up in the work that we need to do. So we’re happy for the clarity and think that taking care of our neighbors is vitally important.“

Dr. Donald Berwick, former CMS administrator under Obama, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress: “If Congress reads this as an endorsement from the public of healthcare reform, I’m hoping we can move into a phase of further exploration and adjustments of the law. However, the current breakdown between the House and Senate remains the same so the risk is if the opposition remains intransigent and uses funding to starve the implementation processes. … I hope that all of the states come on board (with the ACA’s Medicaid expansion). The people who would be covered under the expansion are getting care now—they’re just getting it late, when they’re sicker and their care is more expensive. For the states that turn down this money, it doesn’t solve their problem. It increases states’ burdens to care for these vulnerable people. It’s an unwise policy and it’s an incorrect moral stance.”

This is what you can take to the bank: Our current system is very expensive. We pay twice as much per capita as other developed nations and have fewer people covered and more people going broke. The incentives in the system are all wrong as we pay doctors per procedure and visit instead of for outcomes and quality. The ACA was a step in the right direction and to get to the finish line we need an honest dedication to the truth, not political gamesmanship.

LB_Rule

Bizarro World:

Senator John McCain of Arizona, said on Fox that he would be “very hard-pressed” to support Susan Rice if she were nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. In 2005, President Bush was considering a recess appointment for John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, McCain said: “I would support it. It’s the president’s prerogative.” Flip flop or pure hypocrisy?

One thing we should remember, McCain, by picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, forever disqualified himself from commenting on any nominee for any high office.

House Republicans try to drag Social Security into the budget talks.

The Boehner “counter-offer” seized on raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 and cutting back on benefit increases. Heaven forbid we raise taxes on a billionaire when we can save money by taking it away from thousands of fixed income seniors!  Why don’t they watch this and learn from their guru?

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