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Truth or Consequences – But Not Both!

By Brian | November 18, 2009 | Share on Facebook

As we move toward the passage of a health care bill, the opinion polling isn’t necessarily getting more useful, but it is certainly getting more entertaining.

Our friends at the Associated Press do their best impression of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” routine:

A ban on denial of coverage because of pre-existing medical problems: 82% in favor

A ban on denial of coverage because of pre-existing medical problems that would probably cause most people to pay more for health insurance: 43% in favor


Everyone should be required to have at least some health insurance: 67% in favor

Everyone should be required to have at least some health insurance, or face a federal penalty: 28% in favor


All companies should be required to give their employees at least some health insurance: 73% in favor

Companies that don’t give their employees at least some health insurance would face a fine: 52% in favor

So, to sum up: require coverage for more people, but don’t raise my premiums and don’t penalize in any way those who ignore this new requirement.

Ah, democracy…

Topics: Political Rantings | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Truth or Consequences – But Not Both!”

  1. Janet says at November 18th, 2009 at 12:31 am :
    I can only think in cliches in response to this – there’s having cake and eating it too, and there’s lies, damn lies, and statistics. So many Americans are like Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” – they think they’re low maintenance, but they’re really high maintenance.

  2. Jeff Porten says at November 18th, 2009 at 2:17 am :
    False dichotomy, IMO. People like “mandatory” but don’t like “penalty”, which creates polls like the above only so long as you funnel everything through a private market. Only way to get mandatory is to impose penalties.

    OTOH, with single-payer or universal Medicare, or some such, you get all the mandatories you like, and you amortize the costs over the entire population. One-to-one correlation between increased benefits and personal fines go away — leaving an endless debate over taxation, of course, but that’s got little to do with the above.

  3. Janet says at November 18th, 2009 at 8:47 am :
    Agreed that what it says most about is push polls. But I still think it says something about Americans wanting everything but not wanting to pay for it, too. We chose very consciously to move to a town with the highest taxes of any local community (one of the distinctive things about CT is how much fiscal power is still vested at the level of the town – all 169 of them have separate fire services, school systems, zoning boards, police forces, etc – lots of autonomy, no economies of scale, among other issues) because we wanted the services those taxes would buy us (including great public schools). To continue my close-to-useless When Harry Met Sally analogy, I’m high maintenance but at least I know it.

  4. Brian says at November 18th, 2009 at 1:59 pm :
    It’s easy to blame the polling method, but I think the sentiment that’s out there remains the same. Jeff’s poll would say, “Everything’s mandatory (yay!); there are no fines/penalties (yay!); and oh, by the way, we’re raising taxes (boo!)”

    The real issue is that we, as a country, all seem to agree that health care is, generically, a good thing, but we also all agree that the busines case for it stinks – you either wind up with increased regulation, higher premiums, higher taxes, coverage restrictions, or some combination of the above.

    When you ask the real question: “Do you want health care reform given the inevitable financial ramifications?” then public opinion gets a lot softer – sometimes moreso than the humanitarian inside of us is comfortable admitting…

  5. Jeff Porten says at December 1st, 2009 at 12:36 pm :
    Wait, what? I can’t believe I let you get away with this for two weeks. Everyone does not agree that the business case stinks for reform; that’s the central argument of single-payer. The business case stinks only if you stipulate that we need to adhere to the aspects of our broken system whereby people who do not provide health care continue to profit from health care.

    I can think of a dozen ways to finance health care that don’t involve taxes, and if you call them taxes anyway, then you’re using Luntz language and he’s won the argument, not you.

  6. Brian says at December 1st, 2009 at 6:07 pm :
    There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada’s — where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everybody. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end employer-based systems and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.

    I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both these approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch.

    President Barack Obama
    – Remarks to the Joint Session of Congress
    – 9/9/09

    The statistics in my original post suggest that everyone agrees the business case stinks.

    The President has already ruled out the complete removal and replacement of the insurance industry, which is what you’re basically advocating above.

    And as for taxes, any money I give to the government so that the government can spend it on the country as a whole are either called taxes or function in the same way as taxes. Luntz can call them whatever he wants.

    You’re just concerned about the “Read my lips…no new taxes” moment that Barack Obama is steering himself towards in 2012…

    I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 per year, will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.

    Candidate Barack Obama
    – Dover, New Hampshire, 9/12/08
    – All three Presidential Debates (almost word-for-word)
    – First speech to Congressional joint-session, 2/24/09

  7. Jeff Porten says at December 3rd, 2009 at 9:14 pm :
    You’re just concerned about the “Read my lips…no new taxes” moment that Barack Obama is steering himself towards in 2012…

    Actually, not really. My opinion is that 2012 is going to be an Obama cakewalk, and I’ll stick by that until I see a credible Republican threat actually mounted. Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee (just had to look that up, as my brain could only come up with “Huckleberry”), and Romney just don’t seem to add up to a 2012 loss.

    And as for taxes, any money I give to the government so that the government can spend it on the country as a whole are either called taxes or function in the same way as taxes.

    No argument. The issue is that the anti-reform crowd is tending to lump any fees paid to government for healthcare as taxes, and never mind if that same money is entirely kosher by them if it’s paid to a private entity for the same service. The argument that reform will necessarily raise taxes seems to hinge on either this deceit, or a vague theory which is apparently in opposition to the CBO.

    My guess is that at some point, taxes will have to go up, mainly because we’ve been using credit cards to finance ourselves for a hell of a long time. But I don’t accept that as a standing argument against government involvement, no matter how much Grover Norquist wants me to.

  8. Janet says at December 4th, 2009 at 7:18 am :
    We can add Grover Norquist to the classic example of the KKK as ways to demonstrate my principled convictions about the right to free speech.

  9. Brian says at December 4th, 2009 at 12:20 pm :
    My opinion is that 2012 is going to be an Obama cakewalk, and I’ll stick by that until I see a credible Republican threat actually mounted. Palin, Gingrich, Huckabee (just had to look that up, as my brain could only come up with “Huckleberry”), and Romney just don’t seem to add up to a 2012 loss.

    Oh, I don’t know about that. A lot of folks who voted for him in 2008 are extremely hesitant right now (me included). He’s spent a whole lot of money and hasn’t accomplished much – yet…

    I think the Republicans are biding their time until after 2010. They can win back seats in both houses without a “clear leader.” And there will be plenty of time for one to emerge between 2010 and 2012. By then, no one will remember 2009.

    If Obama has a second two years like Clinton’s second two years, where he uses a Republican presence in Congress to unite his party behind his broader goals, rather than arguing over the nit-picky details about how, precisely, to rule the world, and those goals start to be realized in demonstrable ways (troop reductions in Iraq, sustainable economic growth, lower unemployment, true financial industry reform, just to name a few) then I think he will be unbeatable. At that point, I think the Republicans nominate Palin in 2012. It throws some raw meat to the hard right without costing them a viable candidate for 2016.

    [T]he anti-reform crowd is tending to lump any fees paid to government for healthcare as taxes, and never mind if that same money is entirely kosher by them if it’s paid to a private entity for the same service. The argument that reform will necessarily raise taxes seems to hinge on either this deceit, or a vague theory which is apparently in opposition to the CBO.

    Well, funny thing about that. “Fees paid to the government” are taxes, even if they are offset by a reduction in fees paid to a private entity. The difference is, I can choose to stop paying the private entity if I want to, but my “fees to the government” continue even if I don’t consume the service. Private entities tend not to redistribute wealth, governments (and taxes) do.

    Again – not necessarily a bad thing in all cases. But it’s certainly not deceit.

  10. Jeff Porten says at December 6th, 2009 at 7:52 pm :
    Oh, I don’t know about that. A lot of folks who voted for him in 2008 are extremely hesitant right now (me included).

    Sure, you and many other folks will consider a hypothetical Republican candidate. I’m just not going to be concerned until I see an actual Republican candidate whom you might vote for. If Palin gets the nod, I have trouble seeing you pulling that trigger.

    He’s spent a whole lot of money and hasn’t accomplished much – yet…

    I find this very amusing, as I keep hearing debates as to whether we’d be going through the Second Great Depression under President McCain. Arguably, this line of thinking states: “Obama politically would have been better off to let everything crash harder, and then enact a major stimulus, to demonstrate clearly what his policies had prevented.”

    Probably not, though; the man could start laying gold eggs and handing them out to the homeless, and the Republicans would complain that he was destabilizing the precious metals market.

    Anyway, consider me completely in disagreement that he hasn’t done “much”. He’s done tons. He hasn’t done as much as I’d like, but this has been one hell of a year on a bunch of fronts you’re apparently not paying attention to. Plus, of course, the vision and actions he’s taken which led to that whole Peace Prize thing.

    I think the Republicans are biding their time until after 2010. They can win back seats in both houses without a “clear leader.” And there will be plenty of time for one to emerge between 2010 and 2012. By then, no one will remember 2009.

    No, but everyone will remember 2008, which is the Republican’s big problem right now. Keep in mind that after Herbert Hoover, Democrats kept the presidency for 36 years, with the exception of the honest-to-God war hero.

    Everyone assumes that losing seats in 2010 is a done deal, but I disagree. If Reid and Pelosi continue as they are, then yes, it’s going to be bad. If they unfurled the banners and gave a reason for people to support Congressional Democrats, it’d be very different. Pelosi has the ability to get religion on this, but Reid, IMO, is a lost cause.

    like Clinton’s second two years, where he uses a Republican presence in Congress to unite his party behind his broader goals

    Look — you’ve got to stop saying this. This is a completely inaccurate misread of history. Gingrich took power and shut down Washington, literally. The Democrats did not unite behind Clinton; many of us were completely disillusioned with his centrism and faux conservativism. Best thing I can say about him is that the man always gave a good speech, and his foreign policy was a hell of a lot better than what came later.

    We don’t need a resurgent political enemy to unite the Democrats. We just need decent leadership, which we are still sorely lacking in Congress.

    those goals start to be realized in demonstrable ways (troop reductions in Iraq, sustainable economic growth, lower unemployment, true financial industry reform, just to name a few) then I think he will be unbeatable.

    Well, that’s pretty much why I think he’s unbeatable now — take all of those issues, and the Democrats have ideas on the table while the Republicans are still singing from the 2004 songbook. Until they realize they’ve lost, they’re not threatening.

    And honestly, since I’m still of the opinion that the economic rot is a hell of a lot worse than most of the happy talk around me says, I don’t think that economic growth and lower unemployment are done deals — or that those are necessarily a Democratic threat. People will vote Republican only if they have a better plan on the table. Count on Obama to steal the political thunder in early 2010 with a new set of plans which will suck the oxygen out of the system, especially if he starts the year with a health care win. (If health care loses? I can see that becoming the reason why the Democrats win seats in 2010, or only lose the conservative Dems who blocked it.)

    “Fees paid to the government” are taxes, even if they are offset by a reduction in fees paid to a private entity.

    Clarification: I meant things like Medicare premiums. Government fees which are only paid by people actually receiving the service. Those, I think we’ll agree, are not taxes, but are frequently claimed as such by the GOP.

    Private entities tend not to redistribute wealth, governments (and taxes) do.

    Please. Enough with the Beck and Limbaugh language. Private entities very much do redistribute wealth, by collecting and concentrating it. You want to exclude commerce, then let’s talk about how much money they use lobbying for government contracts and favors. Just curious: who owns the new Yankee Stadium, and who paid for it? I have no idea, but I’m guessing a few billion dollars of it came from government coffers.

    (Okay, so I just looked this up on Wikipedia, which is remarkably unclear on where the money came from after Bloomberg reneged on the Giuliani contracts.)

    Meanwhile, you’ve spent 20 years being the kind of guy who knows that taxes pay for roads, schools, armies, and clean water; all sorts of things which, even if you personally don’t use them, you like to have around. I hope that’s not changing.

  11. Brian says at December 6th, 2009 at 11:51 pm :
    Anyway, consider me completely in disagreement that he hasn’t done “much”. He’s done tons. He hasn’t done as much as I’d like, but this has been one hell of a year on a bunch of fronts you’re apparently not paying attention to. Plus, of course, the vision and actions he’s taken which led to that whole Peace Prize thing.

    Well, I’ll give you credit – just when I think you can’t surprise me, you go ahead and do it again. Even if we assume, as the site you linked to does, that he actually made 521 separate promises, they’ve got him down for keeping only 61 of them. That’s 11.7%. And some of them are of the “get everyone to stop using flourescent light bulbs” variety. The vast majority of them are marked “not yet rated,” which is consistent, I believe, with what both you and I are saying.

    As for the Nobel Peace Prize, even he doesn’t believe he deserves it. And that was before he announced the deployment of 30,000 additional troops two days before accepting the prize…

    No, but everyone will remember 2008, which is the Republican’s big problem right now. Keep in mind that after Herbert Hoover, Democrats kept the presidency for 36 years, with the exception of the honest-to-God war hero.

    Oh, please. Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet in Hoover’s time. In today’s world, people don’t remember 2008 right now. If they did, they’d be beating down the White House doors demanding that we reform the financial system that supposedly destroyed the American economy. Nine months ago, this was the biggest problem facing America. Today, the closest we’ve come to doing anything about it is cutting the salaries of a couple of dozen Wall Street CEO’s and listening to Barney Frank claim he has a bill “in the works.”

    Look — you’ve got to stop saying this. This is a completely inaccurate misread of history. Gingrich took power and shut down Washington, literally. The Democrats did not unite behind Clinton

    Sorry – my memory is better than that. In his first two years, Clinton demanded a stimulus package and was rebuffed, and insisted on healthcare reform and failed. Gingrich & crew took office in January of 1995. The shutdown you’re referring to happened almost a year later, and it eventually damaged Gingrich more than Clinton. The economy began to take off in mid-1995, coinciding with the beginning of the dotcom bubble. Clinton’s best years were his middle four – when the economy was booming and the sex scandals hadn’t reached Monica-sized proportions.

    People will vote Republican only if they have a better plan on the table.

    Oh, how I wish. Did the Democrats have “better ideas on the table” in 2006? Sometimes, a candidate loses because everyone’s pissed off at him…

    Clarification: I meant things like Medicare premiums. Government fees which are only paid by people actually receiving the service. Those, I think we’ll agree, are not taxes, but are frequently claimed as such by the GOP.

    <spit take>

    I, and everyone else who pays taxes, pays 1.45% of his/her income to fund Medicare (2.9% if he/she is self-employed). And unlike Social Security, there is no upper limit. The $250,000 & up crowd, pays $3,600 or more each year for it. It’s one of those payroll taxes President Obama specifically promised he wouldn’t raise if you make less than $250,000.

    Private entities very much do redistribute wealth, by collecting and concentrating it.

    You’re really reaching now. Name me a private entity, please, that I’m required to give a single dime to. They can’t collect or concentrate my wealth unless I want them to.

    Meanwhile, you’ve spent 20 years being the kind of guy who knows that taxes pay for roads, schools, armies, and clean water; all sorts of things which, even if you personally don’t use them, you like to have around. I hope that’s not changing.

    Not at all. I have no trouble paying taxes, nor do I have trouble with someone raising taxes, if the extra money goes to something worthwhile. My arguments against the current healthcare reform proposal isn’t that it will raise my taxes, it’s that it will help less and cost more than our leaders are currently claiming it will.

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