• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    riverdaughter on Fitness month.
    Beata on “Kiss Me Deadly”
    eurobrat on My Minority Opinion on Simone…
    eurobrat on My Minority Opinion on Simone…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Fitness month.
    centaur on Well, that was fun while it…
    riverdaughter on Fitness month.
    riverdaughter on Well, that was fun while it…
    centaur on Well, that was fun while it…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Well, that was fun while it…
    William on Well, that was fun while it…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Nothing to see here in Florida…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Nothing to see here in Florida…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Republicans, please don’t help…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on My Minority Opinion on Simone…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    August 2021
    S M T W T F S
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

    • Tornado night
      I spent a half-hour tonight sitting in the hallway, waiting out a tornado warning. It never hit here (I don’t think we got more than a sprinkle of rain) but it did hit the Hellmouth, where I used to live north of here. It hit the local mall, and took down a nearby car dealership … Continue reading Tornado night
  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Open Thread
      Use comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts. Facebook Twitter WhatsApp LinkedIn
  • Top Posts

Fully Raw Cannibals and My Obamacare Nightmare

Re: Conservative reactions to marriage equality, Atrios wrote the following last week:

Marriage equality was supposed to be a “conservative” gay rights issue. And, yes, more lefty queer people (speaking generally) weren’t initially thrilled with it becoming the central gay rights issue of our time. As homophobia is the last truly acceptable bigotry (deeply held sincere beliefs!!!), conservatives were never going to be on the correct side of that issue, no matter how many times Glenn Reynolds tells us that Dick Cheney was a gay marriage pioneer.

Unfortunately, homophobia is not the last truly acceptable bigotry. It is far more likely that fully raw cannibals will achieve acceptance and equality before women do.

***************************************

Now that Sebelius has taken the fall for the fiasco that is Obamacare, I thought I’d relate my own experience with it. Disclaimer: I am not a Republican. I don’t hate Obamacare because it is a government program that saps “freedom” (aka tax money) from Jahb Creaturz. No, I am in favor of a national health care policy that uses the best practices that other industrialized countries have put in place. You know, universal mandates for individuals AND employers, cost controls on the medical industry, public options. I was brought up on military medicine and if it was good enough for my sister with chronic severe asthma, by golly, it’s good enough for me. I don’t need frills.

Anyway…

I recently attended a younger cousin’s birthday party. My relatives sat around and compared plans. This group was a mix of ages, employment situations, number of dependents, personal wealth. The bad news for the Democrats is that no one likes Obamacare. Not one of them. In Pittsburgh, the effect of Obamacare is pronounced because two major insurance carriers in the region are battling and one of them, UPMC, refuses to contract with Highmark BC/BS. That leaves Highmark customers scrambling to find new doctors and praying that if they do have an emergency, they don’t get carted off to one of the ubiquitous UPMC hospitals where they will get socked with a massive out of network price structure. They played nicely before Obamacare but no more.

The problem of insurance plans is particularly acute for those of us who fall into the precariat class and Obamacare falls severely short there. Let me explain from my own experience.

Last year, I got a full time job. Unfortunately, it was a temp position. Temp positions mean no benefits and because it was pre-Obamacare, I paid premiums that were out the wazoo. Because it was a position in an academic lab that was facing economic stress from the sequester, it only lasted until December. Thank you, House of Representatives, Senate and Executive branch. At that time, I could no longer afford the $992/month premium on my health insurance policy. Fortunately, my now non-existent salary meant that kid now qualifies for Medicaid. Ok. Kid taken care of. Great. Now for me.

I went on the Obamacare website and looked for a new policy from my existing carrier. By the way, my carrier called me to tell me the “good news!” that due to Obamacare, they could shave the cost of my old policy down from $992/month to $750/month! Isn’t that great?? The new policy came with supercool new features too. I tried to explain to the customer service rep that I was between jobs and $750/month for a healthy person my age was out of the question but I don’t think she was really listening. I decided to try for a subsidy.

On the healthcare.gov site, I saw some policies in the $400-500 range with reasonable $1000/year deductibles. Great! With the amazing subsidies I’ve been hearing about, I should get a pretty reasonable rate. But I found that there’s always a glitch to these sites or something that needs to be explained to a real person so I decided to apply on the phone instead. This was a mistake.

The navigator asked me questions about my income, (um, non-existent? but only temporarily) and started going through the plans. They weren’t anything like the ones on the website. They were more expensive, had higher deductibles and even the silver plans sounded much more like the bronze plans. It was like the online site and the phone assistance sites were totally different. He quoted me a plan that was similar to the one I already had but it was a more restrictive HMO and the deductible is $3750/year. This was a silver plan. I asked him the price and as we were talking the price of the plan went up. Yeah, it was like buying a plane ticket. The price was changing before his eyes.

Then I asked him what kind of subsidy I was going to get. The answer: none. I was startled. Why am I not getting a subsidy?? Because, he said condescendingly, you don’t have an income and aren’t paying taxes.

I have to stop for a second, oh best beloveds, because I suddenly became livid remembering the decades past where I paid more in taxes in a year than I expect to make in income this year. That really scorched my oatmeal. Apparently, to this smug asshole, I am just a deadbeat.

Then he recommended that I just pay the penalty and skip signing up for a plan. That made me really mad. So, now I am going to be a burden on the taxpayers if my conversation with this navigator gives me a stroke and I end up in a UPMC hospital.

I considered my options. I don’t want medicaid for myself because I don’t want my heirs to end up penniless when the state of Pennsylvania swoops down to recover assets from my estate to cover the medicaid premium. This scenario reminds me of the starving Irish who had to give up the last quarter acre of land before they could get food in a workhouse. I worked very hard for decades for the house that I have. I do have money from the sale of my house in NJ in savings but due to the nature of the job market, I have to hold on to that money to pay for the now perpetually temporary nature of making a living. I have TAXES to pay to my municipality for trash pickup, libraries, roads and schools, all of which I am happy to finance.

I reluctantly signed up for the $500 plan. Then I found a job. BUT it’s only part time and, of course, it doesn’t come with bennies. I don’t know if I can get a subsidy now and until my job situation improves, I’m very reluctant to pay the premium on this crappy plan. I am now without health insurance for the first time since 1986.

But wait! There’s more!

It turns out that temp jobs and part time work is very in fashion this year. It is extremely difficult to get a full time job with benefits. There are such jobs to be had but getting through the HR filters is like tilting at windmills. (If anyone in the Pittsburgh area has an opening, let me know. I have great references.) I think I got my current part time job because I aced the online assessment test. Unfortunately, not enough sites have such assessment tests so we are forced to mind read what most job posters have in mind.

So, my relatives and I compared plans. It turns out that I have the worst plan at the highest price. One cousin had to change her doctors completely. Another cousin has a serious heart condition but hasn’t landed any work yet, so, no coverage. When his prescription from another state expires in August, he’s screwed. Another cousin just lost his job. He’d been working for 6 months but just when his health benefits were supposed to kick in, he was laid off. How conveeeeenient. Ironically, it is my self-employed cousins who have the best policy. We share the same insurance carrier but, for some mysterious reason we can’t figure out, he pays something like $450/month for 4 people and has a low deductible. It makes me wonder how the rates are determined.

The relatives that are doing well under Obamacare are the young, single male relatives. Their rates are something under $100/month. The ones who are doing the worst are the ones 45-65 and who don’t have steady jobs. The number of relatives with crap jobs is steadily rising. If you own your own business, rates seem to be fairly reasonable when obtained directly from the carrier.

And here is where the rumors start. We are all convinced that the reason there is so much part time and temp work with impending layoffs just when you reach the bennies mark is because employers do not want to have to pay benefits and Obamacare means they don’t have to. The mandate only applies to the individual. It won’t kick in for employers for another year- if ever. BUT if you can only get part time and temp work, you do not have the money to pay for the premiums. It’s a catch 22 scenario.

Was there no one running the models when this law was written??

I really wish Paul Krugman would stop crowing about Obamacare. It’s a conservative Republican plan passed by Democrats and it now has a “liberal” sticker on it, whether it is deserved or not. It has opened the door to a race to the bottom in terms of benefits and it’s going to damage the Democratic party. It was an ill considered, poorly implemented plan with long ranging consequences to the working class (that is, everyone not making an income from their investments). AND since I read the new Michael Lewis book on compromised stock exchanges, it has dawned on me that the health care exchanges are equally prone to exploit the unaware. We don’t know what our neighbors are getting in terms of plans but it seems like each premium is calculated to optimize profits for someone.

You don’t have to be a Republican to hate Obamacare. Democrats should be very afraid.

 

 

 

 

Does fear equal bigotry?


In the “post-racial” Age of Obama we hear a lot of accusations of racism and bigotry being thrown around, without much discussion of what those words really mean. I want to discuss the term “bigotry.”

Over at Salon, Joan Walsh had this to say in discussing the firing of Juan Williams:

Let’s be clear: Williams regularly comes to O’Reilly’s rescue, and the words that got him in trouble this time were telling O’Reilly he was “right” about his anti-Muslim views — even though he later challenged him. Williams starts out: “Well, actually, I hate to say this to you because I don’t want to get your ego going. But I think you’re right. I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.”

He then goes on to express fear when he sees Muslims on an airplane, especially those “who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” That’s bigotry, pure and simple.


First of all, this is not a discussion about whether or not Juan Williams should have been fired, nor is about anything else he or anyone else may have said. I want to focus solely on that second paragraph and the idea that fear of some racial or religious group equals bigotry.

Merriam-Webster dictionary:

big·ot·ry
noun \ˈbi-gə-trē\
plural big·ot·ries
Definition of BIGOTRY
1
: the state of mind of a bigot
2
: acts or beliefs characteristic of a bigot


Okay, well that didn’t help much. Let’s try again:


big·ot
noun \ˈbi-gət\
Definition of BIGOT
: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
— big·ot·ed\-gə-təd\ adjective


I am going to assume, arguendo, that Williams was speaking honestly. He said he experienced fear, which is a involuntary physiological reaction. We don’t choose to be afraid. You can say his fear is irrational, but even if that were true it would make it a phobia, not bigotry.

Fear is one of the most basic human emotions. It is hardwired into our brains, like an instinct. When our primal brain senses danger it triggers a “flight or fight” reaction. This involves three parts of our brain – the thalamus, the amygdala and the hypothalamus. Sometimes it involves the hippocamus and the sensory cortex too.

Those of you who have taken an anatomy class know that none of those five parts of the brain are where we do our heavy thinking. The primal part of our brain is kinda like BIOS is to your computer. But just like you can “flash” a BIOS chip we can do some reprogramming to our primal brain.

The problem is that part of or brain will reprogram itself. In fact, it’s supposed to if it’s working correctly. It’s actually pretty adaptable in some ways.

Let’s go back in time to when one of our primitive ancestors (Oog) sees his cousin (Og) get killed and eaten by a cave bear. Now Oog never saw a cave bear before, but his amygdala has now listed cave bears on Oog’s flight or fight trigger list.

From now on, whenever Oog sees a cave bear he will be afraid. Not only that, but his primitive brain will tell him to be afraid of things that look similar to cave bears, like saber tooth tigers. Oog doesn’t have to think about any of this, his primal brain does it all on it’s own.

So jump forward a million years or so to today. Oog (who now has a good job doing commercials for GEICO insurance) turns on his television and sees a couple jumbo jets hitting the Twin Towers. He sees Muslims chanting “death to America” and all kinds of violence associated with Muslims.

His primal brain sees all that stuff too, and lists “Muslims” on Oog’s flight or fight trigger list. But Oog doesn’t just watch the news, he watches television and movies. When he does he often sees fictional depictions of violent scary Muslims.

While Oog’s higher brain recognizes these depictions as fiction, his primal brain sees them as real. So when Oog encounters a Muslim in real life his primal brain is telling him to be afraid, no matter what his higher brain might be saying.

Now obviously, feeling fear is not the same thing as burning a cross on somebody’s lawn. We need to judge people on what they do and say, and not on their involuntary physiological reactions.

I’m not defending Juan Williams. With a fat new $2 million contract in his pocket he doesn’t need my assistance anyway. But calling him a bigot because he honestly admitted to feeling “nervous” doesn’t help anything.

Remember Obama’s Greatestest Speech on Race EVAH? It was supposed to start a national conversation on race but I don’t see a whole lot of dialoging going on.

Instead I see a whole lot of yelling, with accusations of racism and bigotry being used as a weapon, mostly by one side.


There is nothing more painful to me … than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. — the Reverend Jesse Jackson



Monday: Praiseworthy Posts

Once again, there’s a time crunch this morning so this will be brief.  I found some pretty good posts around the web that I submit for your approval.  See if you agree.

  • We’re going to hear a lot about The Bloggers on the Bus, Eric Boehlert’s new book that will be released in a couple of weeks.   I am reading an advanced copy.  Eric covers the 2008 campaign and blog battle in detail and makes specific note of the misogynism of some of our former favorite blogs.  (We get mentioned in the book as part of the pro-Clinton contingent) BTD at Talkleft talked about the pervasive sexism of the 2008 in this post yesterday.  BTW, there are comments in the thread that mention The Confluence as a “quasi-racist” blog with “retroactive, resentful feminists”.  I honestly do not know what they are talking about.  The person who made this comment obviously doesn’t read us.  We don’t approve of racism at all and delete racist comments all of the time.  As for retroactive and resentful feminists, they left.
  • Natasha Chart at OpenLeft has an excellent post about political realism titled Congress Does Exactly What It Wants To.  Here’s an excerpt:

I got into an argument (you are shocked, I know) with some international relations folks over the term “realism.”

They insisted that it should be understood to mean a non-ideological position, where the world is taken as it really is. You advance your cause at all costs, screw them before they screw you, always mistrust, always press advantage.

Someone named, I believe, Omar Khoury was quoted to me. He said that, “Realists tend to treat political power as separate from, and predominant over, morality, ideology and other social and economic aspects of life.”

Isn’t that special. But that’s realism.

Anything else, anything besides the pursuit of power above all else and for its own sake is “idealism.”

By international relations standards, the default human view, the unsignified signifier, the wellspring of ideas that is itself above and separate from ideology, is a view that can only be described as a blueprint for being a completely irredeemable bastard.

This is what the Serious People of our political elite call being realistic.

I guess this partially explains the email I got from Jon Corzine’s reelection campaign that crowed about being recognized by ultimate realist, Jack Welch.  Disgusting.  But there aren’t any decent primary challengers and I can’t bear to vote for a Republican for governor.  Corzine’s going to have to renew his lease on Drumthwackit without my help this year.

Go read the rest of Natasha’s post.

  • Basement Angel at Corrente has written Defining Bigotry that explains how the Obama campaign and the media used bigotry as a weapon against Clinton and her supporters.  Here’s an excerpt:

Bigots offer up an exchange for their followers in order to justify pandering to their darker impulses. For the racists, they offered up the notion of patriotism and cultural fidelity. It’s okay to hate black people, or who ever, because they are polluting what we have achieved and you’re standing up for the best of what we are. The exchange for Obama supporters was pretty much identical – they justified the misogynist rhetoric and actions by portraying Clinton’s campaign as an attack on liberal values. Thus, in defiance of her voting record and professional accomplishments, she became a corporatist, a conservative, a Republican in Democratic clothing, or, for those objecting to dynasty, a royalist who believed that she was “entitled” to the office – all utterly at odds with liberal values, So you could engage in rhetoric as offensive as Claytie Williams’ rhetoric against Ann Richards, and still see yourself as liberal because you were supporting the history making candidate. Advancing African American progress justified the misogyny. The netroots took the bait. Without that exchange though, there was no singularly strong reason to vote for Obama, the dramatically less experienced candidate running for office in a most perilous time, over the candidate with a lifetime of relevant (if somewhat non-traditonal) experience and a resume of progressive accomplishment a mile long. What the netroots had to do – and what they did – was obliterate their awareness of Clinton’s accomplishments because Obama, save for his gift of winning elections, has so few accomplishments to his name. Justifying misogyny was the only way for him to win. And that is what he did.

And for the record, I don’t believe Clinton used race baiting against Obama.  It would have been political suicide for her to do that.  In fact, there was only one person who stood to benefit from race baiting in the campaign and that was Obama.  That’s why his campaign and friends were constantly falsely accusing the Clintons of doing it.

Yes, Virginia, he really would do such a thing.  After all, Obama is a realist.