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Five Hypocrites and One Bad Plan

Posted on Mar 29, 2012
AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Supreme Court is so full of it. The entire institution, as well as its sanctimonious judges themselves, reeks of a time-honored hypocrisy steeped in the arrogance that justice is served by unaccountable elitism.

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My problem is not with the Republicans who dominate the court questioning the obviously flawed individual mandate for the purchasing of private-sector health insurance but rather with their zeal to limit federal power only when it threatens to help the most vulnerable. The laughter noted in the court transcription that greeted the prospect of millions of the uninsured suddenly being deprived of already extended protection under the now threatened law was unconscionable. The Republican justices seem determined to strike down not only the mandate but also the entire package of accompanying health care rights because of the likelihood that, without an individual mandate, tax revenue will be needed to extend insurance coverage to those who cannot afford it.

The conservative justices, in their eagerness to reject all of this much needed reform, offer the deeply cynical justification that a new Congress will easily come up with a better plan—despite decades of congressional failure to address what is arguably the nation’s most pressing issue. In their passion to embarrass this president, the self-proclaimed constitutional purists on the court went so far as to equate a mandate to obtain health care coverage with an unconstitutional deprivation of freedom; to make the connection they cited the spirit of a document that once condoned slavery.

These purists have no trouble finding in that same sacred text a license for the federal government to order the young to wage undeclared wars abroad, to gut due process and First Amendment protections, and embrace torture, rendition and assassination, even of U.S. citizens.

Now they hide behind the commerce clause of the Constitution to argue that the federal government cannot regulate health care coverage because that violates the sacrosanct principle of states’ rights. If the right-wingers on the high court consistently had a narrow interpretation of federal power over the economy, there would be logic to the position expressed by the Republican justices during the last three days of questioning. Of course, the court’s apparent majority on this has shown no such consistency and has intervened aggressively, as did the justices’ ideological predecessors, to deny the states the power to protect consumers, workers and homeowners against the greed of large corporations.


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We would not be in the midst of the most severe economic meltdown since the Great Depression had the courts not interpreted the commerce clause as protecting powerful national corporations from accountability to state governments. Just look at the difficulty that a coalition of state attorneys general has faced in attempting to hold the largest banks responsible for their avarice in the housing disaster.

The modern Supreme Court has allowed the federal government to pre-empt the states’ power to protect homeowners, whose mortgage agreements were traditionally a matter of local regulation and registration. The court has no problem accepting Congress’ grant of a legal exemption in the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that allows the bundling of home mortgages into unregulated derivatives.

The court has vitiated the power of the states to control interest rates, even though quite a few had explicit provisions in their constitutions banning usury. The result is that loan-sharking by banks that can claim to be engaged in interstate commerce is constitutionally protected, which is why there are no limits on mortgage, credit card or personal loan interest rates.

The sad truth is that President Obama and the Democrats brought this potential judicial disaster upon themselves. In light of what has been said this week in the Supreme Court, it seems inevitable that the linchpin of the 2010 reform—mandated coverage—will be thrown out, probably along with the crucial accompanying reforms. Forget coverage for the young and those with pre-existing medical conditions. The Democrats will protect themselves from this reversal by arguing that all they did was copy the program that this year’s prospective Republican presidential candidate implemented when he was the governor of Massachusetts.  Mitt Romney’s plan included the dreaded mandate that he and the Republican justices condemn.

How ironic that Barack Obama’s health care agenda would be in a far stronger legal position had the president stuck by his earlier support of a public option. Clearly, our federal government has the judicially affirmed power under our Constitution to use public revenues to provide a needed public service, be it education, national security, retirement insurance or health care. Obama’s health care reform should have simply extended Medicare and Medicaid coverage to all who wanted and needed it—no individual mandate—while allowing others to opt out for private insurance coverage. That’s an obvious constitutional solution that even those die-hard Republican justices would have a difficult time overturning.

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment

NML—- I’m not arguing for the heck of it, but to establish what I consider a
cardinal point.

and I’m not confusing anything with asserting that fire fighting is an example of
people finding banding together to fight fires to be a good idea and not a
voluntary and not mandatory response to the needs of others.

when the volunteers gathered to fight the fire at Fred’s house and Ferdinand
didn’t show up, Fred had no right to demand that Ferdinand pay for part of the

In the same way, if you have pain in the guts, you’ve not the right to stop a
passing physician and demand treatment as a matter of right.


I entirely agree with you that we’re tied together as a society and that it’s in
allour interest to treat each other well, but must insist that we have no natural
right to demand by way of natural right.

Our expectations are by way of social norms and legal rights. We should hope
for more, but persuasion and agreement are central in turning our desires into
reasonable expectations.

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By - bill, April 3, 2012 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Ed and NML, what you describe as (apparently) ‘innate rights’ I consider to be needs, pure and simple.  As I asked before, where could ‘innate rights’ come from or be defined save from/by some higher authority (to which you do not appear to be appealing)?  Surely not simply from our own heads:  there are FAR too many different ideas about what constitute ‘rights’ for that to work.

On what basis do you suggest that they merit the term ‘rights’ rather than ‘needs’ (unless you’re happy to define ‘right’ as ‘any pressing need’, and in that case, exactly how and where is the line defined between ‘sufficiently pressing’ and ‘insufficiently pressing’ as came up in my car example?)?

Shared definitions are required to be able to discuss issues productively.  If we don’t share the definition of what a ‘right’ is (and where it comes from), then most of what has been said so far on this subject has likely been wasted (albeit still interesting).

NML, nothing whatsoever said here in any way has suggested that “it is not REALISTIC (my emphasis) for a society to provide police protection, to put out fires or to respond in our common defense so long as the conditions weren’t caused by society. There is no EXPECTATION (again my emphasis) for me do assist a person who lays bleeding in the street because I didn’t cause it.”  Rather, it has been suggested that there is no INTRINSIC OBLIGATION (see ‘innate right’) for society (or an individual) to act in this manner even though most may very well choose to do so.  This simply reflects the freedom of societies and individuals to make their own decisions in areas that they do not choose to codify into law - a freedom which seems to me to be clearly a desirable practice for at least SOME decisions (so once again the issue is where one draws the line if not by mutual agreement rather than some appeal to a ‘higher authority’, whether religious or philosophical).

The distinction I’ve been trying to draw is between what we might well all agree constitute desirable characteristics of societies and individuals on the one hand and some kind of absolute (and therefore to me mystical/religious/whatever) appeal to a definition of what at least some of these characteristics MUST be on the other.  I’d much rather try to agree about the former and let majority opinion (perhaps qualified by good old horse-trading in some areas of contention) define which such characteristics should be codified into law and which should be left to individual choice, because there’s no way I’ll ever agree about the latter (nor do I see any reason why agreement about it should be necessary or even desirable).

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By no mans land, April 3, 2012 at 10:57 am Link to this comment


You are confusing the mechanisms we use to express social characteristics
with the characteristics themselves. Even before fire departments people
banded together to fight fires. They didn’t do so out of an innate sense of
municipal procedure, but out of common welfare. The establishment of fire
departments is simply a systematized maturation of that activity and need.
The human right is to have a society that responds to our common welfare,
be it a fire, an enemy, or in care of our sick, hungry injured and dying
without inflicting added harm.

It seems we’re debating for the sake of debating at this point, which is
always a circular process. If we cannot agree that individual sovereignty is
not a mechanism to destroy a sense of commonality but rather a reason for
the community to value the individual, I’m afraid we won’t be able
accomplish much more here. The individual and the society are not
mutually exclusive. One does not exist without the other. That is a natural
relationship and with that natural relationship comes an innate ,
naturalexpectation of reciprocity. Neither are passive participants in the
relationship. That innate expectation of the society by the individual to help
provide for our common welfare, security and sustenance in a manner
commensurate with its capacity is the very basis for the relationship. It is a
natural right because that very reason such a relationship exists, whether
the municipalilty formally recognizes it or not.

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

NML—- “to provide for the common defense “was decided upon at the
beginning…. professional public police forces and fire services WERE NOT and
were added on public consent that the costs for these things would be
borne by the taxpayers.

they weren’t declared to be established as a matter of right…but as good ideas.

universal healthcare funded by the taxpayers is a good idea rather than a natural

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

Ed—- I’m not at all saying that labor costs aren’t part of the equation. I’m saying
that you can’t say that it’s THE determinative part . It ain’t necessarily so.

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By Ed Romano, April 3, 2012 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

All the textile mills in New England were built along rivers like the Merrimack…..Lowell, Lawrence, Fall River. Manchester. The mills generated their own power for electricity and heat….. As the principal industry in these cities the mill owners set the tax rates for themselves….Nice try, but no cigar. You are trying to argue that cheap labor does not effect the bottom line of capitalist enterprise. This is   myopic in the extreme.

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By no mans land, April 3, 2012 at 8:27 am Link to this comment


“society may have an obligation to act so as not to injure you,
but an expectation that society owes you goods and services
for conditions that society didn’t cause to befall you also does
not follow.”

Under such an umbrella we can surmise that it is not realistic
for a society to provide police protection, to put out fires or
to respond in our common defense so long as the conditions
weren’t caused by society. There is no expectation for me do
assist a person who lays bleeding in the street because I
didn’t cause it. Such an arrangement defies the very reason
for having a society which is nothing mire than himans who
have banded together in their common interest to survive
and thrive. Without that most basic ingredient of
commonality, there is no society. It disintegrates.

To the contrary, all conditions are caused by society because
that is the context in which we exist and that all human
activity takes place in.

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By no mans land, April 3, 2012 at 8:27 am Link to this comment


“society may have an obligation to act so as not to injure you,
but an expectation that society owes you goods and services
for conditions that society didn’t cause to befall you also does
not follow.”

Under such an umbrella we can surmise that it is not realistic
for a society to provide police protection, to put out fires or
to respond in our common defense so long as the conditions
weren’t caused by society. There is no expectation for me do
assist a person who lays bleeding in the street because I
didn’t cause it. Such an arrangement defies the very reason
for having a society which is nothing mire than himans who
have banded together in their common interest to survive
and thrive. Without that most basic ingredient of
commonality, there is no society. It disintegrates.

To the contrary, all conditions are caused by society because
that is the context in which we exist and that all human
activity takes place in.

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 8:11 am Link to this comment

NML—- it’s quite a long way from felling cheated on an insurance deal to saying
that the injustice is caused because of a natural right to having healthcare
provided to everybody.

it simply doesn’t match up….........

having society provide a reasonably decent set of conditions is also different from
saying that society owes you a duty to treat any illness or injury that befalls you.

society may have an obligation to act so as not to injure you, but an expectation
that society owes you goods and services for conditions that society didn’t cause
to befall you also does not follow.

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By no mans land, April 3, 2012 at 7:48 am Link to this comment


The foundation of any contract is that innate sense fairness and social
justice I describe. It often takes the form of contractual arrangements in
our society, but is certainly not confined to the 1 inch margin of an 8 1/2 x
11 document. That expectation of justice, fairness and security is present in
every social arrangement on the planet. It is not based on legal contracts
anymore than a child’s expectation to be cared for and nurtured by a
paerent is.

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 7:27 am Link to this comment

———I’m not sure we can compare the intuitive sense of injustice that comes
from being denied health care with being denied a car——-

the sense of injustice is excited by being denying something for which we’ve
contracted and paid, if denied by an insurance companies…it’s contract rights that
have been scanted…not natural rights.

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By Ed Romano, April 3, 2012 at 6:57 am Link to this comment

Bill, Good. I think nature does endow its creatures with benefits that suit them for life on the planet, claws, camoflage, eyesight etc. Also things like water and a possible foor supply….To say that humans do not have a right to water is for all intents to stop the dialog in its tracks. God need not enter into the picture. An appeal to the nature of the existence we are plunged into will suffice….  Now it’s all well and good to say that society can define rights and obligations that will lead to it’s successful functioning. Societies such as the Roman Empire devised such a system.It enacted laws and customs that were detrimental to large numbers of human beings,including slavery.It kept order at home by providing the “citizens” of Rome with bread and circuses. Why would I admire a system that is devised to benefit a minority at the expense of the majority? Societies always claim that the “rights” it extends are for the benefit of everyone. Are the rulers going to admit that the system they administer is for their benefit alone?
Exploitation demands a measure of order in society.
People are not easily exploited in chaos. When we hear our “leaders” talking about the benefits of liberal democracy… trying to spead the system to other lands, it isn’t because they are interested in the humanity of people living in Boola Boola. It’s because the exploitation of those people and their resources goes more smoothly under a democratic system than it does where the nation is ruled, for example, by regional kings and war lords. If the agents of the system in Washington don’t give a rat’s ass about the plight of its own citizens living in places like the South Bronx , Newark . Appalachia, etc. how do we arrive at the idea that they are concerned about the well being of foriegners ?
  You brought out the fact that we were both wage earners. I mentioned that I was one only to provide a small example of what I was getting at. Of course, I know that you cannot argue about the totality of the system from a single person’s experience. It WAS my experience that started me on the road of inquiry regarding the nature of the system I found myself plunged into. But nothing I have read or witnessed in my long sojourn has lead me to believe that I am wrong. We live in a system that is designed for the well being of a ruling economic minority. If the majority get a few bones thrown to them at times it is only so that system can continue to flourish in an orderly manner….and ,as we are now witnessing, the rulers will try to retrieve those bones when they think it’s safe to do so….. I am not so philosophically rareified as to miss the obvious fact that there are some societies that are more human than others. Ours is head and shoulders above that of Nazi Germany for example. But in essence they both were founded for the benefit of a ruling minotity that could maintain its power by exploiting the majority…..Whew ! Time for breakfast in the land of the free.

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By no mans land, April 3, 2012 at 6:44 am Link to this comment

I’m not sure we can compare the intuitive sense of injustice that comes
from being denied health care with being denied a car. It’s a spurious
comparison that becomes self-evident when the exercise is no longer

Nor can we compare social contract theory to a religion simply because its
observable and often quantifiable. It need not be taken on faith alone. We
need look no further than our own prisons for evidence of broken

People have an innate expectation from the society they are a part of. Part
of that expectation is that the society nurtures a safe and healthy
environment for themselves and their children. that expectation is
proportionate to that society’s capacity to care for and nurture. We would
not expect a primitive tribe to be able to provide brain scans for example.

Back to your car example, it is possible to say that if life orbited around the
automobile to such a degree that not having a car causes undue harm, then
yes, the automobile starts to become one if those necessities for life that
society should help provide. Some states already do something similar in
providing cell phones for those under the poverty line to help them find
work. It’s really a living wage issue, which I do believe us also a human
right. We ought to be able to afford to live in our society.
The two really aren’t comparable. The denial of healthcare is something far
more basic and primordial: the causation or tolerance of unnecessary
physical harm.

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

She—- Rawls was a follower of Hobbes and not the Utes.

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By heterochromatic, April 3, 2012 at 6:24 am Link to this comment

ER—-  electric power is cheaper to purchase outside the Northeast; moving the
factory closer to the raw materials save transportation costs; heating the plant is
less expensive in a warmer, Southern climate; building a new plant allows for safer
conditions and newer machinery: the Southern states have a smaller tax rate than
the Northeastern and those states offered further tax concessions to induce
industry to set up in their area.

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By Ed Romano, April 3, 2012 at 5:44 am Link to this comment

Hetero,  Half a dozen good reasons hey? Let’s hear them, and please don’ invent them ./

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By Shenonymous, April 3, 2012 at 4:37 am Link to this comment

Something from your post Lafayette, March 30 6:56 am, that stuck
with me for a few days now is the idea of Social justice, which seems to
transcend further discussion of whether or not we are born with rights or
if they are devised somehow after birth!  I suppose on one level the
distinction is important if wanting to know how humans come about to
have rights.  But seems more pertinent to the present social condition, is
the conceptual notion that all people deserve equal economic, political
and social rights and opportunities.  It is egalitarianism reified.

The idea of social justice also permeates a large segment of religious
society because it was a reactive religious concept based on Aquinas and
codified by the Catholic Church to dilute 19th century second
reformation seen in widespread “liberal” social and political conduct.

Taking his cue from the utilitarians, Bentham and Mill, as well as Locke,
and Kant all rolled up together, John Rawls, wrote in his Theory of

“Each person possesses an inviolability founded on
justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot
override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of
freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared
by others.”

In other words, he fused the utilitarian and moral duty together.  Rawls
gives two logical premises on which to base a fair and just society:

The citizen agrees to be represented by X for certain purposes,
and, to that extent, X holds these powers as an agent for the
citizen, and where X agrees that enforcement in a particular
social context is legitimate, the citizen, on that account, is
bound by this decision because it is the function of the agent
to represent the citizen in this way.

Of course the obvious criticism would be that there is no objective
standard of social justice.  Utilitarians argue that there is no epistemic
(no authority from absolute knowledge) for the possibility of the idea.

Social justice is an idea that Social Darwininsts say ought to be opposed
because it promotes the least “fit” to reproduce.  This is really called
dysgenics, and hence should be opposed. 

Machiavelli wrote that any ideal of social justice is simply and funda-
mentally a mere excuse to maintain the status quo… ironically of

So, to appropriate the term, if there is to be any “social” justice, justice
that applies to each and every person, then we have to ask if there are
basic principles that all people everywhere have an elemental value.  This
seems to be the basis for all arguments for egalitarian doctrine.

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By - bill, April 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment

As an aside, Ed, since leaving the nest I’ve never depended upon anything BUT wages for a living - though I’ve been fortunate in having had interests and opportunities that led to above-average wages and am very conscious of that when trying to develop a better understanding of how societies do (and should) work to support a good life for those less fortunate than I have been.

If I’m correct in recalling that you’re a religious person (you certainly don’t wear it on your sleeve, but IIRC you mentioned it once) that may help explain our differing views on the subject of ‘innate’ rights.  I don’t see any reason to think that a person arrives in this world with any more (or fewer) ‘innate’ rights than, say, a mouse does - which is to say none whatsoever - because to believe otherwise would necessitate, I think, a belief in some higher authority in a position to confer or at least define those ‘innate’ rights.

However, I do believe that it’s VERY useful for a society to define rights (and obligations) that will lead to its successful functioning, though don’t see any reason to think that one society’s definitions can INTRINSICALLY have any more validity than another’s save, perhaps, when both societies can agree on a common definition of what constitutes ‘success’ and one of them works noticeably more successfully than the other does.

If people believe that labor should never be a salable commodity that would seem to lead to something like communism.  If people believe that it’s OK for groups (but not other entities) to use their own cooperative labor to generate exchangeable value that would seem to lead to something like traditional socialism.  If people believe that one should be free to sell (and others to buy) one’s labor as they choose, that would seem to lead to capitalism.

But those all put the cart (an ideology relating to labor) before the horse (the kind of world you want to live in).  Even people who more or less agree about what kind of world they want to live in often have radically different ideas about what economic and political systems should be used to get there.

I’m not a fan of ideology.  So ‘mixed’ systems like those in Scandinavia (or like ours COULD be without changing a single line in our Constitution or most of our basic laws) tend to appeal to me, because they allow a fair amount of latitude in HOW people who more or less agree on the kind of society they want to live in can individually work to get there.  But to function well such systems tend to depend quite strongly on an engaged electorate in control of a democratic government (rather than the other way ‘round), because (as you and others have pointed out) any society which allows significant inequality of wealth runs the danger of having the wealthy take control if its government does not remain vigilant and true to its obligation to promote a good life for all.

You did not grow up in the kind of ‘mixed’ ‘social democracy’ that I just described, so trying to extrapolate from your own experience to what conditions COULD be like in a society which mitigated the vigor of capitalism with strong controls upon it to make that kind of exploitation impossible may be risky.  I certainly wouldn’t ask you to take the possibility that a much better world could still retain significant aspects of capitalism on faith, but I would ask you not to rule that possibility out completely - because that kind of ideological division is a significant part of what keeps those of us who may have very similar views about the kind of world we want to live in from getting together effectively enough to create it.

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By heterochromatic, April 2, 2012 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment

——- I live in the northeast. This was once a world center of the textile
industry. Many brutal stikes by labor took place here by workers trying to
alleviate the miserable and death dealing conditions caused by the mill owners.
By 1950 they had finally reached a point where the wages they recieved were
substantial to eke out a life that was a few steps above brutal. Then the textile
industry here, in toto, pulled up stakes and went south seeking cheaper labor.-


considering that the reasons for having those mills in the Northeast were a
hundred years gone, and considering that there some half-dozen good reasons
for relocating them other than the hourly wages of the workforce, perhaps
you’re not quite correct.

partially, but not really.

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By Ed Romano, April 2, 2012 at 7:53 pm Link to this comment

Bill, I would say that societies are man made , and all societies, with the possible exception of hunter gatherers, have been hierarchical…that is the folks on top live there by expoiting the labor of the folks on the bottom. The “rights” granted by society only go so far as not to infringe on the perogatives of the ruling class. When they begin to do that the rulers quickly withdraw them. Human beings by the fact of being born into this world do have rights that can be infringed on by other humans and sometimes by nature itself. But the norm is , for example, that a person has a right to water, because their life depends on it. So it is with food and shelter. These are the basics. They can be witheld by society,but society is not the grantor.
  To deny that capitalism is in its very essence exploitative is at best, ( I mean no disrespect to your belief) to be unconcerned with its obvious nature , and at worst an apology for inequity.
  I live in the northeast. This was once a world center of the textile industry. Many brutal stikes by labor took place here by workers trying to alleviate the miserable and death dealing conditions caused by the mill owners. By 1950 they had finally reached a point where the wages they recieved were substantial to eke out a life that was a few steps above brutal. Then the textile industry here, in toto, pulled up stakes and went south seeking cheaper labor. The city I live in was labled in the early 50’s the most depressed city inm the nation. If their profits were not dependent on sweating it out of labor why did they go south ? But, of course, the southern workers eventually became organized ..... I had an uncle who was nearly killed by mill owner goons for helping to organize those southern workers. And then , in more recent times, the capitalists abndoned those southern workers and went overseas looking for workers they can pay starvation wages with no benefits and no safety regulations…. India, Bangladesh, Indo china…This is the face of capitalism Bill. You can try to justify it by appeals to market conditions or competition or the needs of the stock market, but as my wife is fond of saying….it is what it is.
  As far as the belief that capitlaism is fine as long as labor has a fair shot at equity….I think I’m probably right in thinking that you never depended on wages for a living. Years ago I worked in a warehouse in Chicago. The wages were barely subsistent and the workload was always being increased. A favorite saying of the supervisor was, “If you guys don’t like it, there are plenty of guys out there looking for a job.” The problem with that is that any place else you went looking for work the exact same bull shit prevailed….. I know the exception does not prove the rule…..But in my long career as a blue collar lump humper this was the rule and not the exception.
  You may be right that I didn’t totally grasp your meaning in the post that brought this on….I think I can say the same thing about your reply to me. This is a topic that would require a long debate, but I don’t think I’m wrong in thinking that it would not result in any common understanding. But I do appreciate many of the ideas you post on these forums and look forward to more. ( I’m falling asleep here ). Onward.

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By - bill, April 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment

I don’t believe you understood my post, Ed:  it said nothing whatsoever about what people might be JUSTIFIED in doing, just about what made sense to consider a ‘natural right’.

My main point was that societies define what rights are (i.e., that no such thing as a ‘natural right’ exists).  The examples you provide simply help clarify that:  if societies don’t accord the ‘rights’ that people may feel they should have, they’ll often find ways to rectify the situation by hook or by crook, hence it’s often in society’s best interest to accommodate them such that such occurrences are minimized - for the good of all.

I have no intrinsic problem with your shooting someone who you feel is encroaching upon your rights, just as I have no intrinsic problem with him or her shooting you first to prevent that from happening.  But I do think it’s in society’s interest to find ways to prevent most people from feeling that they have to resort to violence and crime, and to define ‘rights’ that help in this effort.

I’m afraid that we do disagree about whether capitalist use of labor is by definition exploitative - as long as both parties have alternatives available to them and hence are not ‘captive’ in the market.  Does off-shoring manufacturing make sense for corporations?  Very often it does.  Does that necessarily constitute exploitation?  I don’t think so:  for every American worker who has to find another job, some foreign worker in a country where the cost of living is sufficiently lower that salaries can be much lower as well without necessarily being ‘exploitative’ gets a more decent job than they’d otherwise have and is usually grateful for the opportunity.

(I do not, however, feel that it makes any sense for our government to pursue policies that ENCOURAGE off-shoring, and over at least the short term it may well make sense to pursue policies that discourage it in order to moderate the disruptive effects it can cause.)

Capital depends upon labor, and labor depends upon capital.  Unless one truly is captive to the other (because no other options are available to them) it’s symbiotic rather than exploitative in my book.  So experienced workers can hold a company hostage because they can’t easily be replaced (but even so at some point their demands may make replacement the better option), while a company can hold workers hostage because no other comparable employment is available nearby (but even so at some point the workers may elect to leave because over the longer term it seems the better option to them).  That’s assuming that companies are free to replace workers and workers are free to seek other employment, of course, which is why I’m a fan of strong social safety nets (including policies which effectively redistribute some wealth) to keep workers from feeling captive and not that great a fan of mandated worker-retention policies to keep companies from feeling captive.

I understand (I think) that your view is more ideological - that labor should not be a salable commodity, period - than the practical market-based situation that I described above.  That’s a perfectly reasonable viewpoint, but if that’s your objection then simply stating it would avoid having to discuss whether capitalistic use of labor is intrinsically ‘exploitative’ in nature rather than simply something you don’t believe should occur.

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By heterochromatic, April 2, 2012 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

If I’m in need of some Earthly thing I would shoot anybody who stood in my way of

Sounds right.

as well, anyone building a factory where I’m not and where I can’t find
employment…..owes me an explanation.

Sounds right.

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By Ed Romano, April 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

Bill, For the sake of discussion I’d like to propose a slightly different point of view….sure to raise a few hackles, but it does describe the mind set of a growing number of people in this country. ...  “Rights” given or guaranteed by a governemnt can and are easily withdrawn whenever the government thinks it’s in its best interests to do so….An example might be the right of free speech which was withdrawn by the government from those who criticized US involvement in WW1. The writer Truman Nelson, active around the time of the Vietnam War said that the Bill Of Rights is fine on paper until you really them. Then they disappear…. But my understanding is that human beings need access to the earth and its goods in order to survive. I would not argue with anyone who said I didn’t have such a right. In time of need I would simply shoot him. And if a government has allowed a society to develop wherein it is a disadvantage not to have an automobile, and does not provide a person the means or the opportunity to obtain one legally, I see nothing wrong with them stealing one….The government has been sitting idly by while the corporations in the country have been dismantleing the nation’s manufacturing capability. This was, and is, being done so the corporations can take advantage of cheap labor overseas. Those who deny that capital lives by exploiting labor must try to explain this. Of course, it can’t be explained as being moral. It would be like trying to square the circle….Now, the people who are being pauperized by these corporations , with the help of governement collusion, cannot be critized morally if they decide to strike back and take what they need to bring them up to the standard of living a modern person needs to function in a decent manner. Certainly,most of those who are still able to live life decently under the present circumstances are not likely to agree with this idea. But their not agreeing with it has nothing to do with whether or not the disinherited are justified in their actions…..

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By - bill, April 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment

Hmmm, No_Mans_Land.  One could certainly make a pretty good case (at least in many specific circumstances) that lacking the resources to have regular use of an automobile places one at a sufficient disadvantage in this society to constitute a form of ‘harm’ (to be sure nothing like as severe harm as lack of health-care can be, but nonetheless non-negligible harm).

Does that mean it may be reasonable to steal a car (claiming that having one is part of the ‘natural right’ not to be ‘harmed’) if society does not take it upon itself to ensure that everyone has access to one, or that having regular access to a car should be considered a kind of extended ‘natural right’ not to experience ‘harm’ from ANY source?

I would assert not, and I would assert that while one might sympathize - very strongly - with someone who lacked the wherewithal to obtain needed health care for a desperately ill child and therefore broke the law to try to resolve this predicament this does not in any way logically make access to health care any kind of ‘natural right’ against experiencing ‘harm’ from ANY source in Locke’s philosophy - just something which enlightened societies that are sufficiently wealthy to DEFINE such a right should very seriously consider (for pragmatic reasons if nothing else).

In any event, I think Locke’s whole concept of ‘natural rights’ is quasi-religious poppycock, and that rights are purely human constructs that a society defines (one would hope in the process of trying to achieve the greatest ‘good’ as they see it).  Is life even a right?  Clearly death-penalty advocates don’t think so - and there are enough of them in our society that it is not a right, just something we GENERALLY try to protect by our laws, even though beyond any shadow of a doubt we have the societal resources to avoid using capital punishment if we chose to (hence it’s not a resource issue, as providing universal health care could be in a much poorer society than ours is).

I suspect that trying to define access to health care as some kind of ‘natural right’ may be counter-productive:  the people who might agree with you ALREADY support providing universal health care, whereas those whom you’d like to convince might balk at the idea of defining it as a ‘right’ but might accept it as just a very good idea to enact for practical as well as humanitarian reasons.

Our country’s founding documents were very careful to keep the ‘rights’ which they referred to very few and very abstract in nature.  When the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution it did not enumerate rights that would be PROVIDED to the people (e.g., like a ‘right to health care’ would be) but rights which the government was prohibited from infringing upon.

A few ideas to chew on, anyway.

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By Shenonymous, April 2, 2012 at 5:40 am Link to this comment

No_Man’s_Land, April 1 at 7:16 pm
heterochromatic, April 1 at 7:41 pm
- bill, April 1 at 9:56 pm
I agree with -bill there is no provision in Locke for healthcare rights. 
heterochromatic is also right, which I see this a.m. you also agree
No_Man’s_Land so it looks like we are all in agreement.  We should
also pay attention to that inborn care humans have for each other
that offsets the inborn tendency to dominate which leads to war
which is why we just don’t have war everywhere every minute of
each day.  Watching animals in their natural habitat we can see that
if they are in the company of their family, sometimes extended, they
are mostly peaceful although they war sometimes as well, when it
comes to mating rituals, but do not let outsiders come too close as
the warring instinct takes over.

The conflict of whether to abide by a particular society’s laws when there
is no provision for extenuating circumstances such as for a health care
that is not affordable becomes a problem in an increasing ratio to the
degree of the size and complexity of the society.  We are evolving more
and more to understand how to solve these kinds of problems we are
facing.  It takes a while perhaps a generation before the effects are seen. 
Even though humanity is in a real mess right now, I am optimistic that all
the upheaval will tamp down to a better humanity when it calms down.

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By no mans land, April 2, 2012 at 3:52 am Link to this comment


On its face I’d say you’re right. It implies that we have a natural right not to
be harmed. Yet if there is an expectation to participate in a society and that
society expects you to live by its laws, then denial of healthcare is a form of
harm, as is bankrupting people who do receive it. By placing people in such
a position, we are forcing to choose which law or norm they should abide
by. For instance, do I let my child die or comm. it a crime in order to get
him the care. In doing so, we incite people to harm others in their society
in some way. It could be the refusal to pay a bill, theft, or some other illegal
activity that satisfies the need or natural right to protect ourselves and our
health. We pit natural law vs inherited law in such instances simply by
virtue of having been born into that society.

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By - bill, April 1, 2012 at 10:56 pm Link to this comment

Without getting into the question of whether Locke’s political philosophy (as described in her link) is at its root based on anything more substantial than beliefs about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, Shen’s statement of his 2nd ‘natural right’ does not imply that health care is a birthright:  it does not in any way require people to help each other, just not to harm each other.

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By room206, April 1, 2012 at 9:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In advance of the Supreme Court’s review of Obamacare and following China’s Vice President XI Jinping trade meeting with Obama in February, China has announced a phasing out of its practice of harvesting condemned prisoner organs, and switching instead to donated condemned prisoner organs. This will settle the ongoing WTO-GATT anti-dumping dispute, and allow additional supplies to reach the world markets anticipated to be needed once Obamacare is fully implemented. 
Separately, Dick Chaney is reported to be doing remarkably well with his new heart. Oddly, doctors say he refuses to eat any hospital food and has been clandestinely smuggling in orders of General Tso’s chicken and Moo goo gai pan.

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By heterochromatic, April 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm Link to this comment

“healthcare” is not a birthright in any sense beyond that it’s right that you take
care of your health.

beyond that, you have the right to expect that you won’t be refused treatment
when purchasing medical services.

expecting that other people will attempt to make you immortal because you seem
like a nice person is not a reasonable expectation.

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By no mans land, April 1, 2012 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment


Great summary of natural vs inherited or naturalized rights. Locke’s second
natural right you mention I find highly relevant to the current discussion
though it does seem to support my healthcare as a birthright treatise. Your

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By Shenonymous, April 1, 2012 at 8:09 am Link to this comment

About as contrite as I can be… is the site where I
found support for some of my opinions. Visit the website if interested
in further reading about Locke, or better yet, get his books. I already
gave one site where to find some of his works for free online.  Then
you might want to get John Stuart Mill at the same site, just click on
his name in the column on the right.  His Utilitarianism is relevant as
a counterargument to the present topic of natural rights.  A distinction
has been made that inheritable rights are those where a person has a
right to inherit some material property and have protection from
confiscation by other than the one who inherits.  Natural rights would
be those that are universal and genetically determined through natural
selection.  In other words, you are born with these and are in accordance
with natural laws. 

Locke determined there basically are three natural rights all of which
come about through some agreement within a society:

1.  regarding liberty and property – the right to equal liberty permits
one to dispose of one’s person and possessions as one chooses.

2.  the right to life, not to be harmed in any degree in one’s life, health,
liberty, or possessions, which institutes the same duties for others not
to cause such harm.  This is a protective right, in other words, the right
guarantees protection by the society/state.

3.  Because these rights are morally enforceable, they engender the
further power of the right of self-defense, and punishment against
those who break the laws.

I agree with 1 and 2 but not all of 3.  I would say the power of the right
of self-defense is reasonable, for if you cannot defend yourself then the
right to life loses meaning.  But an admonishment must be made regarding
punishment against transgressors to be mitigated by the seriousness
of the crime. For more on Locke, see

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By Ed Romano, April 1, 2012 at 8:08 am Link to this comment

I think it was Imax who wrote that we ( or I ) should stick a little closer to the topic of health care here. So here’s a little something I came across at 3 a.m. when I was having trouble sleeping.
  ...If the corporation did not believe that economic gain was more important that people’s lives, why did tobacco giant Philip Morris report to the Czech Republic that tobacco use was good because it resulted in “health-care costs savings due to early mortality”.    Jamie Court,  Corporateering,  Penquin Books ( 2003 )

  But, of course, as we learned recently,...
“Corporations are people too, my friend….Oh, yes they are.”... Guess who this Dolt is going to represent if he defeats the Dolt who’s in there now ?
  Now that I have satisfied the health care folks maybe I can slip a little comment in regarding these United Corporations Of America. It’s actually another quote from Court’s book…
  The corporation has today arranged prevailing logic to advance the corporations’ freedoms, often at the expense of the individual’s…..The problem with logic is that it multiplies.If one buys into a single socially questionable premise, then all the rational outcomes of that premise are accepted as reasonable. The growing social power of corporations from the 1980’s onward is advancing a new logic that emphasizes the commercial over the social, the corporation over the individual, the thing over the person…. 
  It’s encouraging that a writer like Court sees the problem we are up against, but he is a late comer
to the party. What he is describing has actually been the fact of the matter long before 1980.

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By oregoncharles, March 31, 2012 at 11:35 pm Link to this comment

Speaking of cynical:

The Mandate is enforced with a tax penalty.  In other words, people will pay a special tax for not being able to afford medical insurance.  And that revenue will help pay for the other programs.

That’s cynical, especially when they also insist that the Mandate will “provide coverage” of the uninsured - but less than half of them.  I guess the rest of the uninsured will be paying the tax.

That’s the Democrats for you.  Deeply caring.

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By McullenNE, March 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

heterochromatic, No I pay no attention to the supposed entertainers of the world.

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By heterochromatic, March 31, 2012 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment

Cullen—- people take Wolf seriously enough to read her books?

are you also stepping up and answering the Wolf call for a boycott of some pop
singer or something named Katy Perry?

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By MCullenNE, March 31, 2012 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment

Sodium:It looks like that the Supreme Court is acting as an effestive catalyst to lead the U.S.into Mussilini’s corporatism.

In her book,“The End of America”,Naomi Wolf describes in fascinating details how fascism takes over a country/society initially by means of increments,meaning:little by little,until enough supports are generated for the open fascist challenge,not fearing a set back,which Wolf called the “Fascist Shift”,to take over power in the society or a country. The catalyst for reaching the “Fascist Shift” is certainly the legal system of any society or a country. In case of the “great?” United States of America,the “Fascist Shift” will take place,as long as the Supreme Court keeps passing verdicts similar to the verdict that has already been passed: “A Corporation is a Person.”

Has not reached the finality of that stage yet,but it is clear,at least to me, that America is heading towards that end whose ultimate end,meaning end of all ends,is really unkown. 

I think you summed it up quite well Sodium-Na. I am very afraid of what is happening in this country and it seems most people don’t care but maybe they just don’t get it. Now I need to read Naomi’s book but I know it will scare the crap out of me. As Joe Baegent said American’s vote against their own interest. Very sad. I miss Joe’s opinion essays terribly.

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By Shenonymous, March 31, 2012 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

You could do with some real references and writing something of
substance about the topic yourself oakland steve instead of just
dwelling on your eagerness to bash at me. Maybe that is all you
are good at? 

You are right though. I was in too much of a hurry to give some
historic basis for natural laws and rights.  I happen to know the guy,
Tuckness, who writes about Locke for SEP.  But that is no excuse.  So
I’ll have to write directly to him and tell him I restated him in a blog,
and send him a copy of what I wrote. I always paraphrase what I’ve
read, which is what I expect my students to do when they use my work. 
Perhaps you don’t understand the word paraphrase?  SEP was not my
only reference as I have my own library.  Seems like I am too rushed
these days and need to slow down.  So I am really grateful this came
up as I made a similar omission the other day, it was a transposition
of authors, but nevertheless it is not my style.  Far as I am concerned
anyone may check out what I write anytime they want. 

Oh… are you offended by obscenities?

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By oakland steve, March 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment


At least this last, obscene response of yours was your own, and not lifted off the internet. I’d imagine that the Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy would appreciate an attribution, don’t you?  LOL f’sure f’sure…?

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By Shenonymous, March 31, 2012 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment

The feeling is mutual steve of oakland.  I also have a natural middle
finger which is for you alone.  My comment about keeping a happy
attitude was for No_Man’s_Land and BR549 alone.  LOL f’sure f’sure

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By oakland steve, March 31, 2012 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment


My lack of respect is toward you alone. 

Your over-the-top response is fabulous, and I’d love to address your very thoughtful positions.  After reading it, however, I find that, as a sideliner, I need to clear my machomuscular head with fresh air.

“LOL I will keep a happy attitude.”


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By Shenonymous, March 31, 2012 at 5:42 pm Link to this comment

Gee steve from oakland, You can think what you bloody well want. 
Your disrespect not for only me, but BR549 and No-Man’s_Land
shows your conceit.  BR549 and No-Man’s_Land are excellent
thinkers and men enough to engage in civil discourse, and are not
at all reticent to say when they think they are being put upon, whereas
you are flexing your machomusclar head.  I give them much credit for
not taking the pathetic road you have as a sideliner.  Perhaps you need
to brush up on your discussion manners. 

According to philosophical scholars, Locke is not the end all of the
ideas about natural law, natural rights, and I am making a distinction
about inherited verses man-made rights.  Leo Strauss and Peter Laslet
saw Locke’s theory of natural law reeking of contradictions where in
one book Locke appeals to innate ideas and in another negates the
possibility of innate understanding.  Locke is also said by Strauss, and
many in agreement, to have “defended a hedonist theory of human
motivation, see his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
(downloadable at )
and their claim is that he agrees with Hobbes about the essentially
self-interested nature of human beings.”  They also made the claim that
Locke, “only recognizes natural law obligations in those situations
where our own preservation is not in conflict, further emphasizing that
our right to preserve ourselves trumps any duties we may have.”  Three
other philosophers, 20th c. John Dunn, Richard Ashcraft, and James Tully
believed that it is natural law, not natural rights, that is primary. Thus
through them we enter in to the world of duty, or deontology.  Their
view was that when Locke articulated the right to life, liberty, and
property, he principally was making a point about what duties people
have toward each other.  Such duties as not to kill, steal, or put others
in slavery.  Most scholars furthermore argue that Locke advocated in his
Two Treatises (and a look at the text bears it out) did recognized a
general responsibility to assist with the preservation of mankind, which
included a commitment to charity particularly to those who have no
other way to procure their subsistence.  I agree with this latter but it is a
separate issue of whether such is natural law that humans come by as an
innate impulse or if we develop such as obligations learned through life
experience or taught.  There is much to say about this subject and this
may not be the venue to take it to the depth it requires.

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By heterochromatic, March 31, 2012 at 4:39 pm Link to this comment

———“Congress has the power to impeach, convict, and remove
justices from the bench.  However my guess for Congress to
do so in today’s political climate, the Supreme Court would
rule it unconstitutional.”

Not too damn likely that they would try that.

should there be sufficient evidence to impeach and convict, the other Justices (and
the rest of the political establishment) would pressure the guy/gal to resign prior
to a House vote for trial.

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By oakland steve, March 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment


I infer that you’ve spent time teaching children (or those whom you’ve treated as such) from your tone of voice in addressing BR549 and others.  It’s not an appealing gambit, I must say. 

Perhaps you do not perceive the existence of the philosophy of Natural Law and Natural Rights.  Do you need to brush up on your John Locke? 

Addressing those who embrace those notions as if they are simply unable to distinguish between the physical and metaphysical is not advancing the discussion.

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By Shenonymous, March 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment

BR549 – Perhaps you do not perceive the difference between what
is naturally endowed, that is come into this world with (not all come in
as healthy specimens), and what is created by humankind within the
scope of their societies.  Rights are protections for what might be
seen as needing protections such as property rights, freedoms of
various kinds:  speech, religion, etc., and also protection for what
can be determined to be naturally possessed, but rights per se are
not anything natural, for who or what would grant them?  The genes? 
We would get ourselves into the morass of an infinite regression if we
were to go down that road.  It is wholly natural for living beings to
strive for health as that would ensure continuation of the species, but
it is a stretch to say it is a right, when it is a natural condition. 

Birthrights are such things as socially determined rights laws of
inheritance, i.e., bestowing kingships or land grants according to the
laws of the land bestowing or granting such, or family fortunes.  Say
there is a familial disease, hemophilia, and a child shows up with it,
would we say they had a “birthright” to it?  Or the genetic disposition?

No-Man’s_Land - Some agreement some not.  I do not agree that
being born into any particular society means that devised protections for
physical conditions are inherited through some endowment of nature
(genetic).  These are inventions of each society as they see what it means
to have health.  I.e., the various diets of some societies may not be seen
as promoting more health than others.  To force people to consume what
is thought to be unhealthy would need protections, i.e., human rights, or
laws.  And I can see where our language can get sticky.  If you want to
say individuals in that particular society have inherited the requirements
by virtue of being a member of the society, then yes they are rights since
laws of inheritance commands the perspective.  Those really are
manmade laws.

Have we fallen into an abyss?  LOL I will keep a happy attitude.

Making distinctions particularly fine distinctions can be fun and some-
times really worth the effort so that we humans can find agreement
through our reasoning rather than through physical or verbal fisticuffs.

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By no mans land, March 31, 2012 at 11:33 am Link to this comment


I would at that by virtue of being born into that society that such
requirements are inherent. I disagree with Socrates that simply because an
individual was nurtured by a society that the individual has a carte blanch
responsibility to adhere to that society’s norms or laws. Whereas he
believed that a person has implicitly agreed to the contract expected of
them by that society if they choose to remain a part of it, I argue it an
unrealistic expectation for someone born into it to know anything other
than that society without outside exposure. In that sense, human or legally
imposed contracts are not chosen but hoisted upon a person simply
because that person was born. However, even a person born into slavery
can intuit the injustice of their condition. That intuition is a sort of
instinctive contract or expectation. In that sense, the social contract we can
surmise is born into us and exists whether granted by humans or not.

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By BR549, March 31, 2012 at 11:27 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous and No_Man’s_Land,
Health Care may NOT be a birthright, but it SHOULD be. If a society is truly responsive to the needs of its less unfortunate (to the point of also assisting those less fortunate to transition out of that state) AND those in charge have been actually paying attention to the duties they had swore an oath to efficiently perform, yes ........... it SHOULD be.

There really is no excuse why a country with as much wealth as we once had should not have been able to care for all of its citizens, that is, of course, unless there was another agenda going on beside that being sold to the American people, and that, I argue, is why nothing ever truly got better, no matter which of these two parasitic parties gets into office. Any time we seemed to make some headway in the legislature with some issue, it was only because we, as a people, had lost twice that behind closed doors while the public was never or insufficiently informed, AND that those rat-bastards in the legislature had postured themselves to rape their own population while keeping everyone ignorant. Enter Charlotte Iserbyt, Reagan’s first term Senior policy advisor in Education Development, and her book, “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America”.

Is the entire legislature guilty? Of course not, but there are far too many corrupt legislators to effect any meaningful change to counter the Trilateral Commission’s (including the CFR and Bilderberg Group) stated objective to dissolve the US Constitution. Their 2010 objective was, how shall I say it, “complicated” by the rapid rise of informational dissemination in the internet and it comes as no surprise that the government is now trying to peddle its argument that it has to “protect” us through further regulation. Israel and the US developed the Stuxnet virus to sabotage Iranian nuclear development but then used the same argument to convince us that we need to be protected. From whom?

Meanwhile, people are quibbling over idiosyncrasies in health care reform in true “arrange the deck chairs on the Titannic” fashion.

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By no mans land, March 31, 2012 at 11:00 am Link to this comment


Thank you for the respectful dialogue. I think we’re coming from the same
place and perhaps its just a difference of terminology. I do subscribe to
social contract theory as opposed a socratic apology. As such, when I said
we exist I simply meant that we survived as species. I view society as a
requirement for that survival and that there are certain requirements that
the individual and society have in relation to one another for that to exist.
Birthright is probably the wrong word and its better defined as a

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By Shenonymous, March 31, 2012 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

We shall have to agree to disagree, No_Man’s_Land, March 31
at 7:52 am - which in this environment, if it is civil, it is most welcome.
It is a way for ideas to progress.  Not because anyone is “stupidly
wrong,” as is often name-called by some on these threads.

By describing something as a birthright, I understand that to mean it is
genetic, given by nature.  In contrast, rights are given by humans once
they see protections are required to be spelled out for the sake of the
good of the society.  And of course, the health of the society is seen s
needing protection, from those who feel the need to plunder.  Other
than that distinction, I agree with everything you said about healthcare. 

I’m not so sure it can be known why we exist, epistemologically
speaking, but we can always speculate, which we, as a race, have
done since the cave.

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By no mans land, March 31, 2012 at 8:52 am Link to this comment


Loved your post. Absolutely fabulous points. I do however think that
healthcare is a birthright. Every human being who is part of a society has a
right to expect that society to help him or her thrive and survive. It is why
we formed societies in the first place and is a concept more fundamental
to the human condition than even the enumerated rights in constitution.
Even in our most primative and tribal times, an expectation that being a
part of that tribe would bring some value and security to our lives was the
cornerstone of society itself and once that expectation breaks down, the
society itself breaks down. People have a birthright to expect that of their
society with anything that the society has the capacity to provide, be it
food, clothing, shelter or help for its sick, injured and dying. It is the very
reason and perhaps the only reason we exist.

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By Shenonymous, March 31, 2012 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

While Health Care is not really a “birthright,” good health is.  It is
the natural legacy of all living things to have the healthiest lifetime
possible.  It is our resistance to self-centeredness, the quality that
is partly inborn and partly learned of unselfish concern for the welfare
of others.  True altruism, caring for others than oneself that conforms
with the highest degree of compassion, is at the essence of the
discussion on this forum.  So how do we as individuals bring to each
of our consciousness this virtue?  For surely altruism is a virtue where
lacking feeling for others must be a pitiable state of the human mind. 
This is the discussion that ought to precede any speculation on what
could be done, for if it is unknown why one ought to take care of our
fellow humans, then it is a mere exercise in intellectualism to deliberate
various possible solutions.

sallysense provided a valuable link about the income of the
Supreme Court Justices. Not for any reason but to put a face on
the reality that these are men and women who have just as much
avarice as any politician. As one of the commenters at that article
put it so eloquently:

“Congress has the power to impeach, convict, and remove
justices from the bench.  However my guess for Congress to
do so in today’s political climate, the Supreme Court would
rule it unconstitutional.”

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By Ed Romano, March 31, 2012 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

Imax, I meant no offense. You get a little gun shy after spending time in these forums…..especially since my ideas are not part of the All American, flag waving mainstream.

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By Ed Romano, March 31, 2012 at 8:15 am Link to this comment

Imax, Buddy. Believe me I’m not trying to belittle your ideas. But you asked me a question at the beginning of your post that seemed designed to put me on the proverbial spot. If all you got out of my reply was the idea that I hate republicans ... well,
I think you missed the entire explanation I was trying to give to your question….. I don’t hate republicans. I am not a hater of human beings. I DO hate what they stand for politically and economically. I also hate the idea that I may be complicit in the fact that my country has over 900 military bases spread around the globe, I hate cancer,toxic waste, hip hop music ( organized noise ), winters in the northeast, five rainy days in a row and a few other things. I used to hate nazi’s, the Klu Klux Klan, the singing of Paul Anka and the New York Yankees. But age has mellowed me out a bit. Be well.

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By IMax, March 31, 2012 at 7:46 am Link to this comment

Ed Romano,

1. I’m a voting democrat who just finished viewing a panel discussion regarding the Supreme Court and health-care issues on ‘Up With Chris Hays’ on MSNBC.  I happen not to trust FOX News.

2. I believe bigotry gets in all our way.

3. Given the subject I had thought this an opportunity for many people, with many varying ideas, to discuss the issue of health-care (as opposed to discussing how much you fear, hate, and want nothing to do with republicans). 

I apologies for addressing you directly.  You can trust I’ll not attempt it again.

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By Ed Romano, March 31, 2012 at 7:09 am Link to this comment

Imax, Why do you bother writing to me if I am so far in the dark? Of course, I know that the programs you mention are at risk of manipulation and being crippled by government intervention. How can we, with a straight face, talk about the cost of these programs while we are spending each year over HALF of all revenues collected on the military ??????  What I’m describing is the DELIVERY of those services NOT the fact that they are underfunded and detested by the Vampire class. The delivery of services like Medicare and Social Security are always under attack by the Vampires. They believe the money being spent is better in their pockets….. You want to talk inefficient??? Where would the people who depend on Social Security be today if the Republican plan to “privatize” the system had been in effect when that highly efficient organization down there on Wall Street collapsed in 2008… Where would they be??? A lot of them would be sleeping at night under their local bridges and spending their days diving in dimpsters for something to eat….
  You ask if I am more concerned to see an end to capitalism than I am about the health care issue. The demise of capitalism would be a blessing for the whole human race, but we’re not going to see that happen. With a super human effort ( which we’re probably not going to see either ) the inhuman grasp of American corporations might be brought under some control to the benefit of the majority. I am concerned about capitalism because the problems we face as a society can’t be properly addressed while the interests of the capitalists remain primary, and that includes health care.
  We are witnessing the capitalists stooges in Washington have a manure fit over the passage of this farcical thing called ObamaCare. Imagine what their response would be if a universal health care program was enacted that included everybody and kicked out the profit makers ??? May I sincerely suggest that you stop getting your talking points from sources like Fox news and tune in once in awhile to outlets like Democracy Now. Onward.

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By Arabian Sinbad, March 31, 2012 at 5:08 am Link to this comment

By Arabian Sinbad, March 31 at 3:54 am

May I suggest a better name for this article:

“Five Old Farts And A System That Smells Terribly Rotten.”
As a follow-up to the above statement, I wanted also to add:

Isn’t this the ideologically rotten system that handed a second term to the most evil George Bush, thus preparing the ground for the 9/11 and the savage wars that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan?!

In my book, George Bush is not only the most evil man in modern human history, equal to Hitler if not worse. But this evil Supreme Court which appointed him and thus enabled his evil and savagery is equally culpable!

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By vector56, March 31, 2012 at 5:08 am Link to this comment

In a way this who thing is a kind of Kabuki theater misleading us into fighting for ObamaCare (a Insurance Company bail-out thinly disguised as Health Care reform).

The individual Mandate like the “Pay Roll Tax Holiday” were both dreamed up in the basement of the Heritage Foundation. Naomi Klein pointed out this tactic in her book “the shock doctrine” of slipping in unpopular ideas in times of crisis. Aside from the oblivious self inflicted economic crisis there is also the “shock” to about 40% of White America that a Black man was actually elected president. Ironically, this “Trojan horse” (Obama) seems to be working to push through all of the old Heritage Foundation ideas while his Republican counter parts “pretend” to resist.

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By Arabian Sinbad, March 31, 2012 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

May I suggest a better name for this article:

“Five Old Farts And A System That Smells Terribly Rotten.”

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By no mans land, March 31, 2012 at 1:36 am Link to this comment


There is definitely an inherent risk in placing more power in the hands of a
corrupted system but I think we need to understand that government
corruption is only half of that equation. Someone is doing the corrupting
and that someone are those who currently control our healthcare system
as it is now. There is no person less powerful than someone who is
excluded from participation. So while yes I agree that many things are
broken, I’m not prepared to deny a person medical care because our
campaign finance mechanisms now require a constitutional amendment to

This is a fairly short but good example of why I believe in a national
healthcare system and how powerless a person can be made when both
the public and private systems fail that person. And we should be clear,
both systems failed this woman in magnitudes of order. From disaster
response, employment, the insurance system and childcare, to living
assistance and mental care, on down to the emergency room and the
jailhouse. Perhaps they’ll get her funeral right but having just come through
a funeral myself, that will probably cost her family thousands of dollars as

(if we think healthcare is expensive, try dying! But that’s a diatribe for
another time.)

After reading this a friend of mine from our army days who is currently
studying abroad said something that never in my life did think I would hear,
especially as a child of the cold war. “I prefer the Ukrainian healthcare
system. At least everyone gets treated.”

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By no mans land, March 31, 2012 at 1:05 am Link to this comment


When I said inefficient, it was intended to be taken within the context of a
market based system. In that context, no I don’t think it works well. To put
it simply, its not good for markets. For the government and the tax payer
however, it is quite efficient. The program is at risk because we expect it to
bend and adapt to the market. The market is making it insolvent because
the market must profit from it. Not sure if you caught my earlier post, but I
argue for a true government takeover of healthcare modeled after the VA.
The market has its place but some things really ought to stay in yhe public

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By - bill, March 30, 2012 at 11:30 pm Link to this comment

Several points:

1.  A single-payer system is nothing whatsoever like a government take-over of the “health-care services industry” in this country (which would result in a system like the UK’s):  it’s merely a take-over of the health-INSURANCE system in this country (i.e., an extension of Medicare which would leave actual services in exactly the same hands they’re in now - profit and all).

2.  The current Medicare system has an overhead of roughly 5% (frequently-quoted lower numbers - 3% is commonly seen - don’t take into account some ancillary expenditures).  The current private insurance industry has an overhead of well over 20% (up from a bit under 20% in 2008) - and Obamacare will only dial that back to 20% (or 15% for large plans - in both cases about what it was in 2008).  Furthermore, having well over 1,000 private insurers drives up PROVIDER costs by about 10% simply to handle the resulting paperwork required to deal with all their individual quirks, so the net saving achievable over Obamacare (even when the ACA’s overhead limits become enforced, which they aren’t yet) is about 25% of every health-care dollar that would otherwise be funneled through private insurers.

3.  Medicare used to have a significant problem with fraud which drove up its EFFECTIVE overhead (though still not to anything approaching private insurance levels).  Obamacare instituted long-overdue much-improved oversight in this area which is in no way related to the rest of the ACA (and clearly should be retained if the rest of the ACA is scrapped) - because without such fraud reform the bill as a whole would have been such an obvious budget-buster that it would have been laughed out of Congress (so having that around to throw in was convenient - one almost might wonder whether nothing had been done about it earlier in anticipation of needing something like that).

4.  A single-payer system creates additional opportunities for savings (e.g., better coverage of preventive strategies and negotiated provider prices).  The real bottom line, though, it that it’s a proven model both in this country (for seniors) and abroad (for everyone) that saves a great deal of money while improving overall health outcomes.

5.  Social Security has even less overhead than Medicare (since it really does mostly only print checks).  The “IOUs” in its Trust Fund are U.S. Treasury Bonds backed by “the full faith and credit of the U.S. government” in precisely the same way that the Treasury bonds held by private citizens and international lenders are.  When they need to be paid back to help support the baby-boom retirement bulge that is just beginning now this can be done without affecting the national debt by a penny, because they are ALREADY represented in the national debt (just as other Treasury bonds are) and thus can be redeemed simply by issuing new bonds in the same amount to other lenders while the Trust Fund bonds are retired.  Raising the ceiling on FICA taxes such that the Trust Fund accumulation would be based upon 90% of national income (as the mid-80S Greenspan Commission reforms planned and Congress passed) is all it would take to continue scheduled payments through the end of the long-term planning horizon (currently 2086).

6.  By contrast, Medicare indeed needs more serious bolstering - but extending it to cover everyone would result in sufficient overall savings to make it solvent as well for the indefinite future as long as it kept an eye on cost containment.

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By IMax, March 30, 2012 at 10:11 pm Link to this comment

Ed Romano,

I ask this very sincerely.  Is it fair for me to believe that health-care is not the issue which you are most passionate about but, rather, the elimination of capitalism?

Separately: Social Security and Medicare may be efficient at printing checks.  But I personally can’t imagine seeing Social Security as efficient if the U.S. Legislature places dozens of OIU’s in that “Lock box”.  Particularly a box which receives less receipts as the the U.S. population ages. This stuff comes due one day, ya know?  There must be a better way to archive the same high ideals and goals.  And goodness grief, Medicare can’t be seen as efficient while facing unfunded liabilities in the neighborhood of $36.4 trillion.  I mean, honestly, efficient?

Have you ever attempted to return money to Medicare or call attention to an overcharge?  It can’t be done.


There is no eliminating profit.  Not in the United States or any continent on the planet.  We can’t afford to believe health-care services in Europe, or anywhere else for that matter, are not profitable for industrialists and entrepreneurs.  Would it not be a great deal less straining on the treasury if we as a whole payout only for the 40 million Americans who do not have or cannot afford insurance themselves?  So that they too are given the same opportunity to choose their own insurance and health services?

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By IMax, March 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment

No_Man - “Cumbersome as it may be, I do feel that placing a government that is accountable to the people places that control in their hands. Admittedly, for that statement to be true we must first repair our broken democracy.”


I couldn’t agree more.  So what adjustments do we make if the U.S. is not currently experiencing a form of governance which is accountable to the people?  Is it wise to expand and codify the grip of the few who are most in control of Congress, Commerce, Banking and the Military over the entire health-care services
industry as well?  Health-care industries as a whole represent 1/7 of the U.S. economy. 

The entire notion of single-payer appears the antithesis of the original ‘Occupy’ message.  Less collusion and corruption between government and Wall Street.  Not codifying that corruption into law.

If every individual in the the United States could decide for themselves their own private insurance and health services the entire industry would adapt VERY quickly to catering to real people (as apposed to a government bureaucracy or bloated HMO).  People who scrutinize their own bills and demand quality and value.  And the savings to the treasury would be enormous if all who could afford it paid their own and all who cannot would qualify for assistance so they too can receive the services they themselves choose.  Would this not enormously change the current health-care system, while giving real people real and authentic power over their health-care?

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By Ed Romano, March 30, 2012 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment

No-Man, I’m not quite sure if you are saying that the Medicare Progam is inefficient, but studies I have read show that is not the case.Like the Social Security system it is very efficient.  What is inefficient is the cumbersome arrangement of insurance for profit schemes that prevail at this moment. Health care for profit is the root of our health care problem, and no attempt to disquise that changes the reality.

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By no mans land, March 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment


I certainly hope you’re wrong but i must admit that there is every possibility
of a capitalist society slipping back into a feudal state as Hedges often
articulates. It’s a frightening scenario. Beyond that and assuming we don’t
slip back into feudalism, by definition evolution is its own slow process of
metamorphosis that is unencumbered by force of political will. It just
happens. In the interim, let’s hope it doesn’t go out with a bang and do our
best not to let that happen.

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By no mans land, March 30, 2012 at 4:45 pm Link to this comment


I appreciate the respectful dialogue and to be honest no I did not study the
report to my fault. What I do know is that Medicare has been successfully
administered for quite a long time but it will not continue to succeed if we
don’t want it to.

Perhaps I wasn’t clear but I do agree that it is inefficient in a market
context. No argument there except for the legitimacy or morality of the
context. I would add though that there is a fundamental difference
between fixing problems with a program and doing away with it entirely.
We wouldn’t do away with trial by jury because there are problems with the
way we select jurors.

Finally, I guess we have different visions of what empowers the 99%. From
my perspective, I have no control over something I cannot afford. Nor do I
have no control when a service is considered a right of private ownership.
Cumbersome as it may be, I do feel that placing a government that is
accountable to the people places that control in their hands. Admittedly, for
that statement to be true we must first repair our broken democracy.

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By - bill, March 30, 2012 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

I confess that I don’t have QUITE as bleak a view as you do, Ed:  my take is that through the ‘60s and perhaps even well into the ‘70s while there was a hell of a lot wrong with this country on average things were getting at least a LITTLE better and had been on average since the mid-‘30s, while for the past 3 decades they’ve been getting worse again.

Getting rid of the sell-outs each and every election is only part of the strategy:  it also requires encouraging decent replacements to start percolating up through the party primaries to replace them.  Currently this is ineffective because once those bright new faces get to D.C. they instantly get gang-banged by the established leadership into going along to get along, but if that leadership is first sufficiently weakened then the new brooms may have a chance.

Or, to put it another way, I think the puppet masters have significantly tightened their strings (leashes) relatively recently, and if we can loosen them by showing those we elect that they will instantly lose their political careers if they let themselves get puppeted then SOME actual reversal of course may be possible (and that a kind of positive feedback may then be able to build up, much as the positive feedback of increasing corporate domination has caused things to go so quickly to hell over the past decade or so).

Pollyannaish, perhaps, but until I see something with better prospects of success it’s all I’ve got (as I think you also observed) - plus the other parallel efforts, of course, since they too MIGHT bear at least some minor fruit as well (why the Greens can’t develop into a more effective force remains a mystery to me:  they’ve had absolutely golden opportunities for the past 3 years to capitalize on Obama’s treachery and haven’t seemed able even to recognize that opportunity, let alone run with it - here on the Internet even if the mass media studiously ignores them).

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By Ed Romano, March 30, 2012 at 2:54 pm Link to this comment

Bill, I see where you’re coming from. I just don’t see how it’s going to make any difference who we put in there since ALL the choices we are given from the two parties primarily represent the interests
of the vampire class.I have been on this merry go round since Adlai Stevenson ran against Eisenhower. ...first a Republican snake…then a Democratic double talker…then a Republican…followed by a infinitum…and this seesaw ride has finally brought us to the point where the stink of our national latrine is almost unbearable.I understand the frustration as well as anyone…You’re thinking, what the hell can we do? This is the only option we have.
I don’t know the answer, but I’m fairly certain
that as long as we play their game…nothing is going to change, because we keep talking
about throwing the puppets out instead of dumping the puppet masters.

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By - bill, March 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

The problem, Ed is that we haven’t really TRIED consistently throwing the bastards out when they betrayed us:  while the Republican landslide of 2010 was sufficient to give them control of the House and quite a few state legislatures and governorships (which below the national level was somewhat unfair, given that state and local officials hadn’t had any real say in how the national establishment of their party was behaving), the percentage of national elected officials who retained their positions was still pretty high.

Had we managed to switch every national office that was up for election two years ago (I don’t think Republican officials were serving the interests of their constituencies any better than Democrats were), I think THAT might well have gotten their attention.

I’m all for simultaneously pursuing other strategies too (e.g., activities like OWS and more traditional progressive pressure groups get my support and if the Green party ever managed to get its act together and start looking even as promising as they were looking a dozen years ago I’d join them in a second), but REALLY keeping our national elected officials on their toes if they want more than one term in office just MIGHT start to do some good as well if we pursued it relentlessly.

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By Ed Romano, March 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

Oh Bill, Your not saying- throw the rascals out are you ?- What’s the difference if the only alternatives we ever get to choose are from another pool of rascals? How many times do we have to throw the bastards out before we begin to get something like justice? I’m sure you’ve heard the definition of insanity as ....doing something over and over in the same old way and expecting a different result…..But this just a mild objection….You’re post of 10:52 masterful. Prepare to have it ignored.

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By - bill, March 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment

Hmmm, BR - if Obama wasn’t ready to be criticized for failing even to TRY to enact ‘an end to business as usual’ and ‘change we can believe in’, then he probably shouldn’t have emphasized these goals so heavily during his campaign.

Fortunately for him, we have a far less radical mechanism than a ‘dirt nap’ available to us to repay him for such treachery about 7 month from now.  Not that Romney will be any better, but if we start letting politicians know that their first such betrayal will be their last then eventually we may begin getting somewhere.

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By BR549, March 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment

bill, March 30 at 8:30 am
“Obama apologists who claim that no better health-care package could have passed Congress because of the filibuster threat are conveniently ignoring the fact that a strong public option (e.g., extending Medicare to cover anyone who wished to buy into it at cost) COULD have passed without the threat of filibuster in the reconciliation package that was passed just after the ACA itself to
‘improve’ it.”

If any president went to the trouble to inform the population about how corrupt the legislature was and how much it was linked to the medical and pharmaceutical lobbies, the people would would be furious and that president would probably wind up taking a dirt nap; compliments of all those arrogant politicians who didn’t like the status quo changing.

The only reason their is any argument over health care at all is because so many socially disconnected parasites are busy trying to carve up the carcass before the baby is even born. If the benefit to the American people was the desired outcome, everyone would have been on the same page a lot earlier and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

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By sallysense, March 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

unhealthy health judging…

how fair stands any ruling from our highest court in the land…
when its justices won’t address their own conflicts-of-interest…
and how does conscientiousness exhibit impartial characteristics…
once endeavors lose earnestness at the start of hearing business!...

two judges accepted honors at a dinner supported by legal counsel…
another bench member helped propel the main body in question…
two others exceed the limit in owning company related stock…
so what else gets ignored for a lack of recusal to rest on?...

(and here’s link for supreme court justices personal finances)...

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By - bill, March 30, 2012 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

When I post something that I’m not prepared to substantiate, Lafayette, I try to make its nature very clear.

The best overview I know of about this subject is (follow the links several levels deep as well, which include primary sources).

Subsequent verification of the ‘deal’ has also appeared in and

A very active discussion of exactly what can and cannot be passed via the reconciliation process occurred two years ago this month in places like HuffPo and FDL - including examples of previous health-care legislation (e.g., COBRA) which has passed via reconciliation.

Incidentally, Obama’s abject failure to take advantage of the strong Congressional majorities he had BEFORE the mid-term elections to enact REAL progressive legislation (plus his numerous activities to further Bush II policies in areas like civil liberties, military adventurism, and corporate friendliness) makes any claim that he was hobbled AFTER that point somewhat dubious.  For all he cared about the mid-terms one might suspect that he figured that running against a partially Republican-controlled Congress might be to his advantage in 2012 - and to hell with whoever was up for election in 2010.  Of course, that kind of back-fired in the special Senate election in Massachusetts in early 2010, forcing him to go the reconciliation route which he had wished to avoid (one might guess because it reopened the potential to pass the public option which he had already dealt away in that back room the previous summer).

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By OzarkMichael, March 30, 2012 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

No_Mans_Land said:

Capitalism will not go out with a bang, but a whimper. Perhaps the workweek will slowly dwindle or perhaps personal ownership of computers will offset ownership of jobs by large meat-eaters. Though the pace of evolution may accelerate, that evolution must take place nonetheless.

The metaphoric swirl is so colorful, the flow of images followed one after another. I especially liked part about the “large meat-eaters”, it made me think of Michael Moore.

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By Ed Romano, March 30, 2012 at 10:53 am Link to this comment

Lafayette,  The bill we got was the best we could hope for ??? The term Obama Care is misleading. All during the “debate” he was missing in action. His henchman, Rahm (?) Emmanuel, a former shill for the medical insurance industry was insistant that no bill be passed that threatened the industry’s interests.
Obama himself, doing a brilliant two step, said that his initial belief that a single payer system was the best solution ( before his election ) said it was not a viable option once he became president. So, once again the interests of capitalism prevailed over the needs and desires of the majority….What is going on at the moment in the Supreme Court should really take place on Saturday Night Live as the Republican stooges pretend to be seriously considering legal arguments about the legality of the health care fiasco. Personally, I think the best we can hope for is that they throw the whole mess out so that we can start the arguments anew….But even if that happens there is virtually NO chance that anything will be enacted that does not leave the medical industry, as it is now constituted,intact. But it makes for a good comedy show….even if we’ve   seen it before.

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By IMax, March 30, 2012 at 10:43 am Link to this comment


We’ll have to agree to disagree on the long-term viability of Medicare.  Did you happen to study the 2009 Medicare Trustees Report I cited?

Market driven health-care services.

Eight years ago, in my small metropolis of just over 300,000, an MRI cost $475.00.  There was only one MR imaging company (5 locations) in the entire city.  Today there are three MRI services (13 locations) and the rate has dropped to $125.00.  Not only has the price dropped but the quality of all local MRI machines in the city have increased.

When Medicare sets a price for a service it may remain that price for 15-18 years.  It’s very difficult to renegotiate a set price with Medicare. - Slow, cumbersome, and grossly inefficient.

Put the power and control of health services directly in the hands of the 99%.

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By Ed Romano, March 30, 2012 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

No-Man, It is always good to run across a kindred soul in what often seems like a lonesome wasteland. Your scenario, regarding what the future capitalism is creating for us, offers a prediction worth considering. But,as with all best laid plans, the future always seems to have its own ideas. Marx is justly famous for his analysis of raw capitalism, but his predictions for the future have been disastrous. And we notice that it is predictions that the apologists for capitalism always point to as examples of failure. His analysis they won’t go near with a 50 foot pole….I would offer a point of view that differs from yours in this respect…I don’t believe capitalism will go out with a whimper. Historically, the ruling classes have always hung on to the bitter end.I also see the situation approaching “critical mass” as you put it, but my prediction ( I’m prejudiced so I think mine is more realistic)is that a military dictatorship will be the force that upholds the system in its last attempts to prevail.
When we consider the fire power at the disposal of the agents of capitalism…the siezure of power will not be as simple as it appears on paper….One thing I think anyone who is not part ostrich must sense is that the system we are living with cannot carry us very far into the future without bringing unthinkable disasters down on us. Onward.

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By Lafayette, March 30, 2012 at 10:01 am Link to this comment


bill: Obama apologists who claim that no better health-care package could have passed Congress because of the filibuster threat are conveniently ignoring the fact that a strong public option (e.g., extending Medicare to cover anyone who wished to buy into it at cost) COULD have passed without the threat of filibuster in the reconciliation package that was passed just after the ACA itself to ‘improve’ it.

Please confirm the source of this information.

If true, it is very sobering. I’ve not seen that reported anywhere. Open my eyes ... show me where that info is referenced/corroborated.

Or is it just your opinion ...


Yes, I am an Obama apologist. Out of necessity because his opponent is likely to be Romney. I’m prepared to continue to hope for improvement.

I’m from Massachusetts. I know what flip-flop did there - he’s so obsessed with becoming PotUS - he’ll likely say/do anything to get it. Even kiss Adelson’s ass, with the Koch Bros. in the photo-op.

I’d rather Obama for PotUS. In a time of extreme political doubt, he’s the lesser of two mediocrities. And I maintain that his mediocre performance was imposed upon him by the mid-term elections - and not some sell-out to BigBucks.

It is our monetized political-system that makes for mediocre candidates.

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By no mans land, March 30, 2012 at 9:52 am Link to this comment


I agree with whokeheartedly. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything changing
until we hit a point of critical mass, which I believe is beginning to happen.
Please humor me as I run through my diatribe.

Marx’s theory of communism was more an observation of the evolution of
economies, in which he believed capitalism would play a crucial role.
Capitalism, according to him, would inevitably create the technology that
displaced the working class. At that point, the economy would no longer be
able to distribute goods and services and would render itself irrelevant.

The problem with the communist nations of the 20th century was that they
tried to skip capitalism by moving directly from feudalism to communism
through rapid and violent means. What they ended up with was merely
capitalism in which the state was the only actor. Their workforce had never
been irrelevant.

As I stated in an earlier post, we are seeing record levels of automation for
both white and blue collar workers. That automation is driving ever-
increasing levels of productivity and efficiency that are not accounted for in
employee compensation. The same thing happened during the industrial
revolution and the only solution was to cut the work week from 70 or 80
hrs per week to 40. Had we not done that, we would have a 50%
unemployment rate at a minimum.

We are fast reaching a point where the only way to create jobs is to cut the
work week again. Automation is the real reason the stimulus was
ineffective since construction and manufacturing simply don’t employ
enough people to complete ‘shovel-ready’ projects anymore. A handful of
workers can repave miles and miles of roads in just a few days.

Capitalism will not go out with a bang, but a whimper. Perhaps the
workweek will slowly dwindle or perhaps personal ownership of computers
will offset ownership of jobs by large meat-eaters. Though the pace of
evolution may accelerate, that evolution must take place nonetheless.
Eventually, we will reach a point where the work force has been so
displaced by automation, and the power of that machine-based
productivity so concentrated into greedy circles that must be more and
more tyrannical to hold onto power, our society will have no other option
but to sieze the means of production. It will sieze the machines we’ve been
outsourced by and use them to distribute goods and services in a much
more equitable fashion. What form takes exactly is anyone’s guess.

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By Ed Romano, March 30, 2012 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

Bill, Thanks for bringing the reality of the farcical health care “reform” bill into focus. If the past is prologue you can expect your contribution here to be, for all practical purposes, ignored.

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By - bill, March 30, 2012 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

Obama apologists who claim that no better health-care package could have passed Congress because of the filibuster threat are conveniently ignoring the fact that a strong public option (e.g., extending Medicare to cover anyone who wished to buy into it at cost) COULD have passed without the threat of filibuster in the reconciliation package that was passed just after the ACA itself to ‘improve’ it.

Such an extension would have met the criteria for reconcilation-bill content (it would have significantly affected the budget, and in a positive manner by reducing deficits no less).  Thus it could have passed with only 50 votes in the Senate (plus Biden’s to break a tie), and a public-option bill had already passed in the House so passage there should have been feasible.

Had the Democratic leadership wanted to push it, that is.  However, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid conspired to ensure that no such reconciliation measure was brought to the floor in either chamber.  So much for ‘they did the best they could’:  the fix was already in (and had been since Obama’s meeting with industry heavyweights in mid-2009 when they were assured that no substantive public option would ever see the light of day).

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By Ed Romano, March 30, 2012 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

Our discussions on these forums sometimes seem to me like we are inhabiting castles in the air. I’d like to try and put a little foundation under them…The system that prevails in this country has evolved into a two party system. The republicans represent the capitlists in toto. The democrats also represent the capitalists,( the party would not exist if it didn’t ) but have traditionally tried to limit capitalist rapaciousness to a degree. But the interests of the capitalists are primary and measures that would be of benefit to the majority are not allowed to interfere with primary goals of capitalism. The Democratic Party has built their political base on this tradition. History shows us that while it is inadequate, we must be grateful for the plateful, because without this opposition to the republican agenda we would not have social measures like social security. Children would probably still be going to work in the textile mills at the age of 10 or 11….But this two party system is like a seesaw. Some mild advances in the welfare of the ordinary people is sometimes realized under the Democrats, and as soon as the Republicans move back into power they begin to work to undermine the advances.
  The point of all this is to ask the question of those who are adamantly opposed to republicanism….How do you think the majority of citiizens can develop a system that eliminates it or brings it under serious control so that the well being of the majority becomes the primary goal of government ? Because,in the long run,the reforms that benefit the majority will always be inadequte and in danger of elimination so long as the well being of capitalists is primary….. With our current form of government capitalism can’t be eliminated. So we either learn to live with the system of one step forward - two steps back, or we try to change the foundation on which it depends. That will require creating a society with a radically different focus. We may think that this is not a possible or realistic goal, but we should not use such a belief to deny its validity.

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By Lafayette, March 30, 2012 at 8:07 am Link to this comment


IMax: And as much as I may like, I cannot place the failure of the public option at the feet of republicans.

Because you are not trying hard enough.

Your interpretation of the facts do not coincide with mine. But that is irrelevant.

When passed, it was clearly evident that ObamaCare was the best that the PotUS could get out of a Congress hell-bent on keeping Privatized Medical Insurance. Most people took it for a palliative - that is, a hopeful first step towards a decent plan. (The one that Hillary proposed that was blown out of the water also by the Replicants.)

The fact of the matter is that the Americans resolutely refuse to understand that National Health Systems provide as good a universal service for far less cost. And for one simple reason: HC-services are price-mandated in Europe. GPs in Europe make decent salaries (3 times the national average) but not as much as American doctors (4 times the national average).

So, Americans will continue to pay a premium price for the service, most of which will have to come out of the Treasury in one way or another.

Stoopid is as stoopid does ...

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By no mans land, March 30, 2012 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

@oakland steve,

I appreciate the value of job sharing programs. They are a unique solution
in trying times. The two are not completely comparable though. Job sharing
arrangements are based on voluntary sacrifice as a means of keeping the
business afloat. A shortened work week that recognizes gains in worker
productivity by giving those workers the same levels of compensation and
benefits for the 40 hr week at 32 hours per week, if not more. Over time,
American workers made much more money and had a higher standard of
living under the 40 hour work week than they did before it was cut from its
previous 70 or 80 hours. It’s just a matter of the market adjusting, which it
will. Not to mention that it’s more environmentally sound to have people
commuting 1 less day a week or working from home whenever possible.
Socially, its also better as parents will have more time to spend with their
children, to cook decent meals for them, and to participate in leisure rather
devoting what time they have to household chores or second jobs.

Honestly, I’m not even a fan of the 8 hour work day in many instances. It’s
an arbitrary form of management that is often based more on an
employer’s need for eyes-on control than anything.  Often, we are better
served with a productivity model as opposed to a purely time based model.
The research is in that illustrates in no small way that most employees
aren’t putting a full eight hours work on the job anyway. Give them x
number of tasks to complete that day or that week. Let them work
whenever they want. When they’re finished with their products for that
week, their time is theirs. I realize that’s not always possible but where it is,
we should incentivize it.

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By Lafayette, March 30, 2012 at 7:56 am Link to this comment


IMax: Many here feel that Medicare for all may be the solution.  I would disagree.  While it’s rarely discussed (most are simply unaware), Medicare part B faces unfunded liabilities in the neighborhood of $36.4 trillion

Yes, Medicare for all would be the most pragmatic solution.

Money is not an issue. The problematic is “values”.

European countries looked long and hard at the matter of Health Care in its post-ware reconstruction years. In terms of market dynamics, it is one of too many Consumers of HC-services seeking too few Suppliers of said services.

This results in the oligopolistic practice by which the Suppliers (HC-practitioners) set the prices. In fact, the Insurance companies could care less what the prices are because they make their percentage on total billings (paid for by the insurance premiums. 

Europe thus decided that HC-universality was tantamount to “health care is a birthright” and thus its equitable provision by means of a National Health Service must be assured.

We can write tomes about such unconscionable practices of Insurance Companies as, in the past, excluding patients with pre-existing maladies – which is malicious. Or the senselessness of the paperwork that eats up a considerable part of the budget. The key point remains, is Health Care, when you need it, so important that governments should provide it.

The Europeans decided unanimously, yes – and proceeded to build National Health Services that supply world-class preventive and remedial health-care at a total cost (all included) that is one-third to one-half that of the US. (See the OECD info-graphic here.)


So, why in heaven’s name is the Clear Evidence of more efficient European National Health Care services not obvious to the famously pragmatic (more-bang-for-your-buck) American Public?  The answer to that question is simple: Because cogency or good-reasoning simply does not matter in the face of Vested Interests (i.e., BigInsurance Profitability).

Which happens time and time again throughout US economic policy. Our bent for Bigger-Is-Better has led to the over-integration of key market segments of our economy. Which invites oligopolistic practices to prevail.

Anyone think that Health Care is “competitive” in America? Then undeceive yourself be considering this info-graphic here.

Meaning, Social Justice be damned. Profits first, your needs later (if you’re lucky!)

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By MeHere, March 30, 2012 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

Obamacare is an abomination that should not be implemented.  From Dave Lindorff in CounterPunch:

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By Jeff N., March 30, 2012 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

IMax - “Allow the 99% as much control over their own health-care services as humanly possible.”

The phrase has a nice ring to it, however vague it may be, but how does this address the issue of unaffordable costs and moral hazard endemic in the private insurance model?  A profit-maximizing corporation has no incentive to cover chronic, high-risk individuals, and the monopolistic structure of the industry does not allow for competition to lower costs to the consumer.  I guess you would propose what shenonymous is saying in her 2nd paragraph there as the solution.

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By no mans land, March 30, 2012 at 7:27 am Link to this comment


You are right to place the folly of this bill squarely at the feet of democrats,
at least while they had the opportunity. That doesn’t negate republican
complicity in the negligent homicide of the tens thousands per year they
prevent from receiving healthcare, government assistance or a living wage.
It often goes without saying, but it needs to be said, repeatedly. It needs to
be defined by what it is: murder.

Yet, before you dismiss Medicare for all, realize that whenever the
government pays for healthcare, it does so at cost. For example, a $3000
medical bill is reimbursed a total of $800. Once the government pays it, by
law neither the patient nor the government have a continued liability.
That’s that.

The problem with Medicare is that we have a government payment system
trying to operate in a market driven environment. It’s not a big enough
player to apply meaningful downward pressure on thise costs within the
market. Medicare for all brings those costs down to reasonable levels. We
just have to pay for it and a public banking system that pumps interest
revenue back into services and public investment is a good place to start.

So I don’t know what having more control does for any of the economic
dynamics of this problem when the crux of it has more to with disincentive
to provide meaningful care ar a lower cost. Opening the system up to a
purer form of market force will only cause the system to trend toward
popularity as opposed to quality of care. Doctors will continue to be forced
into niche specialties that are the most lucrative at a time when we already
have a shortage of general family practitioners.

By far, the most efficient healthcare system we have is the VA. Dollar for
dollar, doctor for doctor, pill for pill, patient for patient, paper for paper, it
outpaces any other system we have in existence and is even leading the
industry in certain types of care and administration. It’s problem is that too
much of its talent is attracted to higher paying positions within the market
nor have we seen a serious effort to boost its carrying capacity.

Whenever we pit a government service against a private system massive
amounts of turbulence are created. The entire system must be streamlined
lest we continue trying to fly a cardboard box.

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By balkas, March 30, 2012 at 7:20 am Link to this comment

as i see it, it’s the TWENTY PERCENT of americans who oppose the universal healthcare for all people and not just a few judges or
universal healthcare wld guarantee that whether a person is a billionaire, army general, congressperson, university professor,
or a nannie/houseperson, each wld receive the same care for the same disease and one wld have to wait his/her turn to be treated in
case there is a waiting list. 
and as far as know, not a single congressperson wants healthcare for all americans.
obama, himself, had explicitly stated early ‘08 that americans will not get universal healthcare.
and in spite of that fact, he got elected. i guess, he knew his people.
kucinich did cave in to the demand of the TWENTY PERCENT. i think he saw the writing on the wall: either give up the opposition to the
tinkering with or deforming/reforming/regulating the healthcare or you’re out of the congress.
however, he was ousted, nevertheless. was one cause for his removal from congress also the fact that he demanded healthcare for all?
which, of course, the TWENTY PERCENT [along with ron paul] mightily fear.
getting healthcare of equal quality of that of a general or multimillionaire is stealing, according to libertarians, republicans, and
i think obama sees clearly that same writing on the wall that kucinich saw.

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By Shenonymous, March 30, 2012 at 6:15 am Link to this comment

The election of just one conservative can change the complexion of
a piece of legislation.  Brown was one of those who changed the
chroma of the vote to not passing the public option Health Care Act. 
Lafayette has an accurate perspective.  And the facts are not much
simpler.  Bargains must be struck when the numbers aren’t there and
those are the complexities.  Yes indeedy Obama had a majority in the
Congress but he also had the fucking filibuster to contend with, or his
colleagues in Congress did.  I’m afraid your memory, Imax, might be
a wee bit fuzzy.  As the new President, Obama had to face a thousand
dilemmas going in every direction the Republicans could direct the
attention of Congress, the public, and the oppressive media who tries
to call all the shots in politics.  The list of Obama’s successes are hardly
ever mentioned by dishonest partisans.  Yup, the votes simply were
there with the BlueDogs in full regalia. The fact is that the Affordable
Care Act did get passed which was historic even if it was shy of the
public option.  I am a Democrat from the first day I registered decades
ago, and I cannot bring myself to sell this country down the river into the
arms of the Republican supported corporate elite because the President
has had an abomination of a Congress to deal with.  It’s the liberal life
for me.  I think it is a weakness of character to abandon the principles of
liberalism on account of a perplexed political situation.  Disaffection of
one part of a whole ought not to set up a reckless disregard for
consequences for other major pieces of government.

Your plan of entrusting all health care of the people into the hands of
the people is the Republican libertarian position and that would leave
millions without coverage and therefore subject to untreated illness and
death.  It is a sinister way to reduce the population by not allowing birth
control, isn’t it?

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By IMax, March 30, 2012 at 5:27 am Link to this comment

Lafayette overlooks a wee bit of history of the political dynamics at sway during the Congressional debate regarding Health Care.  Lafayette erroneously states that the election of Scott Brown caused the demise of the “Public Option”.  The facts are much simpler. 

President Obama enjoyed a Super Majority in the Congress for eighteen months and was unable to pass his landmark legislation through a democratic House and Senate.  The votes simply were not there.  Only after the 2010 election, only after copious horse trading behind closed doors to secure the bare minimum number of votes, did the Affordable Care Act pass, minus the public option.

I am a long time voting democrat.  And as much as I may like, I cannot place the failure of the public option at the feet of republicans.

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By IMax, March 30, 2012 at 4:53 am Link to this comment

Many here feel that Medicare for all may be the solution.  I would disagree.  While it’s rarely discussed (most are simply unaware), Medicare part B faces unfunded liabilities in the neighborhood of $36.4 trillion, or approximately $311,000 per household according to 2009 Medicare Trustees Report.

The underlying mission of Medicare is terrific.  I support what Medicare attempts to address, however, the machinations is obviously, deeply, flawed and must be addressed.  Expanding Medicare for all, in it’s current form, is no solution at all.

What I am suggesting is this: Allow the 99% as much control over their own health-care services as humanly possible.  Giving that power to the government (controlled by the top 1% of income earners) is a fools errand. 

The Single-Payer solution, while ideologically popular amongst some, is the antithesis of the ‘Occupy’ message.

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By Lafayette, March 30, 2012 at 4:48 am Link to this comment


RS: Obama’s health care reform should have simply extended Medicare and Medicaid coverage to all who wanted and needed it—no individual mandate—while allowing others to opt out for private insurance coverage.

As simple as that, RS, was it?

You’ve overlooked a wee bit of history of the political dynamics at sway during the Congressional debate regarding Health Care. Why did Obama jettison the Public Option? Not because he wanted to do so.

Massachusetts voters, out of consummate folly, had just filled Ted Kennedy’s seat with a Repub. This broke the Super-Majority that the Dems had to stop any filibustering of the ObamaCare bill. Let us remember that Repubs threatened to filibuster the bill, if necessary to death, if the Public Option were not pulled from it.

So, Obama had either of two options. Let the Repubs embarrass themselves by filibustering the bill to death or accept the Private Only universal insurance that would have got him the first victory in any effort, since Hillary Clinton, to pass Health Care legislation. He chose the latter, since he needed to show that, at least, he made the effort – even if the Repubs would make every effort to have their “people” on the Supreme Court inevitably quash it.


Stop blaming Obama, RS, for all the vagaries in LaLaLand on the Potomac. It makes your journalism less convincing.

Otherwise, this one was a damn fine review of our High-Five Supreme Court repub pot-heads.

(This Supreme Charade is enough to make one want to immigrate.)

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By Jaded Prole, March 30, 2012 at 4:04 am Link to this comment

Excellent Article. Obama should not have preemptively taken Single Payer off the table. Now he, and we, will suffer the consequences. Medicare for all would work but I disagree that anyone should have the option of opting out. That would undermine it just as it would Social Security.

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By balkas, March 30, 2012 at 3:51 am Link to this comment

nonavailability in US of unconditional healthcare for all people is systemic. and if you don’t change the system,
you cannot change present lack of healthcare.
the system not only allows but commands that doctors, drug companies, and other healthcare providers remain
free to do whatever they desire.
or they are ‘regulated’ by govts which are also privatized; just like almost everything else in US.
public has no say at all in how they are treated by doctors, drug companies, or even the privatized govts.
anything worth running in US is run/owned by individuals who are not answerable to anyone, but THEIR govts
it is just a cosa nostra scheme and employed against cosa mias; the latter, a mass of much disunited individuals
and without any representation in congress, w.h., judiciary, schools, media, movie/tv industry, advertising, other
but even i canada there is no universal healthcare. however, even what have cld easily be pared down because
canadian system of daily living does now allow this basis human right for all of its citizens.

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By oakland steve, March 30, 2012 at 12:17 am Link to this comment


Very good point about shortening the work week as a means of creating jobs—much like job sharing where, to avoid layoffs, fellow employees join together so that each gives up a few of his/her own hours to keep the otherwise laid-off workers on the job.

Let me add this admonition:

The next time anyone thinks about using the do-it-yourself checkout area in a Home Depot or Safeway or other anti-worker business, just keep in mind that you are ensuring layoffs of current employees and far fewer future ones.

I’m old enough to remember when pumping your own gas was not discouraged, but forbidden—for safety and other reasons.  In large corporations as late as the 1990’s, all correspondence, including memos, were typed by the department secretary or the typing pool. 

All the people who were employed pumping gas, checking oil and tire pressure; those who typed, collated and filed—are working…where?  It can happen to anyone, in any line of work. Think about those whose employment is now in jeopardy before no one is left to care when your job is threatened.

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By cpb, March 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm Link to this comment

I am also a Canadian.  The only significant problems
with our single payer system are due to neo-con and neo-
lib policies over the past few decades which have cut
taxes to corps and top 1%.  They gut the system and then
point to the resulting flaws and argue evidence of flaws
in the nature of the system itself.  Their arguments are
flawed and hollow, but so long as they control the
majority of the MSM, what’s an honest person to do?

Anyone arguing that single payer will put greater
control into the hands of the folk that fight against it
are either genuinely confused or simply trolling. 
Countless millions of dollars spent to protect billions
in profits?  Not without cause.  Not without motive. 
Not in the interests of the 99%.

You lose trolls. 

Well, no, that may not be true.  Perhaps you are
winning.  Ah well.  You are aholes nontheless.  I hope
your BS campaign comes c/w benefits.

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By no mans land, March 29, 2012 at 10:48 pm Link to this comment


I really hate bringing up long term benefits with those struggling as
working class Americans. Their needs are immediate, not a decade or two
from now. I say that only with the hope that you don’t bite my head off for
what I’m about to say.

A large number of employers already skirt providing their employees with
full time work as a way around paying for benefits. Wal-Mart in particular is
notorious for doing that. They’ve been doing it long before any health care
bill was even mentioned. It’s a downward trend among the American
workforce that is not going to abate. Even among so-called “white collar”
workers, companies are finding ways around it. Outsourcing to contractors
is one big way this is done.

My point with all of this that it’s really just a matter of time until the trend
reaches most of us. While I don’t believe that the individual mandate is
something any of us should support, I simply caution against such a line of
reasoning. It’s habitual and it won’t prevent the trend. We therefore must
recognize that trend and act upon it.

The fact that your employer is already on the cusp of cutting your hours should
speak volumes. Employers are able to justify the cuts because employee
productivity has exploded in the information age, however their
compensation has not matched the rise. Though it may seem counterintuitive because we would assume that more productive and under paid workers would walk employers away from that cusp, the truth is that as larger firms like Walmart cut those hours, others must follow suit to remain competitive. In short, they are cutting hours
because we’re so productive it just makes good business sense. They avoid the additonal
costs associated with full time employment while while retaining roughly the same amount of labor and productivity out of them..

Much of that efficiency is due to automation. At record rates, workers are
being replaced by machines and computers, a trend which also extends
into the white collar ranks. We are rapidly approaching a point where the
market simply cannot distribute goods and services to the population the
way it once could.

It’s happened in our past before as a consequence of the industrial
revolution. It’s a big part of the reason we moved to the 40 hr work week.
In short, the work week was cut because the newly automated economy
couldn’t produce enough jobs to sustain the population and if a 70 or 80 hr
work week was still the norm, we would currently have a minimum of 50%
unemployment right now.

So, to create jobs in this economy the answer is pretty simple: begin cutting
the work week again. A mere reduction of the full time work week to 32
hours could theoretically create a net gain of 20% in the job market, though it would probably be a bit less because some gains would be erased through a higher number of lay-offs that would succeed it, though only on an immediate and temporary level.

It is the harder path but it is the right one. Don’t make decisions solely on
the possibility that you’ll lose hours at work. Sooner or later you will.  The
answer is to demand a work week that recognizes the gains in worker
productivity over the last 20 years and the sad, sad fact is that the more
people have their hours cut to avoid the benefits of a full time label, the
faster that will happen.

PS: this is a great example of how such a simple problem statement can prove hugely complex.

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By mrfreeze, March 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm Link to this comment

heterochromatic - “What freeze offers is a solution for the very few.  But it’s an option, I think, which should be available where practical.  An option that will not exist under single-payer.”

“Here’s another: Tens of millions of employees, particularly ages 32-65, choose jobs which offer benefits over higher pay.”

I’m truly “moved” by your story. As for the second comment I’m quoting…...I think to say that millions of employees “choose” ANY options they’re given by their masters is overstating your case. The only reason they choose employer based coverage is BECAUSE THERE ARE NO OTHER GOOD OPTIONS. And you’ve also failed to mention the 52 million Americans who have NO health insurance coverage (many of whom are working).

In the end, your manufacturing company will, in the not-so-distant future will succumb to what all employer-based coverage face: premiums that will be paid more by the employees and less by the employers until coverage will be too expensive for both. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t hear employers dropping coverage because the premiums are too high. Also, so much for wages of employees who end up paying more out of their paychecks for insurance.

I never said I had a “solution” to this situation. Some of you obviously think the current system works fine. So be it….until it collapses, which it will. Employer based coverage is not sustainable and for 17% of our population it doesn’t exist.

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By Non-Compassionate Liberal, March 29, 2012 at 9:31 pm Link to this comment

@Shenonymous:  No, don’t root for the Individual Mandate.  I’m already covered by the VA.  But if the Mandate becomes law, my employer will have to pay into the system in general for every full-time employee.  My employer can avoid paying into the system if he cuts my (and the rest of the employees)hours to 36, as opposed to the 40 (full time) + overtime that we have now.
That will hurt us, the working class.
I realize some will benefit from the healthcare bill, but years ago, the government made a deal to cover us veterans for free—we’ll still be covered, but we’ll be making less money if our employers cut our hours to avoid a penalty.
A single-payer, or even public-option, should have been what Obama shot for. 
Not this gift to the insurance companies.

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