Rick Perry Didn’t Save Texas From Obamacare

Rick PerryRick Perry is running for president. Personally, if I had had a “whoops” moment, I would go hide out on my “farm” for the rest of my life and research ways to induce retroactive amnesia. But I don’t think that Perry is smart enough for that. He probably thinks that anything is possible because Richard Nixon went on to become president after saying, “You don’t have Nixon to kick around any more.” (As I’ve discussed in the past, that was actually just an awkward Nixon joke and actually quite charming.) But clueless Rick is out making the nation know that he can do for America what he did to Texas. And so this week, he was in New Hampshire making his case. The New Hampshire Journal reported, Perry: In ’16, Americans Will Want “Someone Who Has Been Tested.”

Martin Longman noted one very interesting part of the article:

Perry proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which he called “another example of one-size-fits-all coming out of Washington, DC.”

I love that line. It is Republican boilerplate. But it is also meaningless. There are two important aspects of this. First, how is Obamacare one-size-fits-all? One might say that with regard to a single payer system. But Obamacare simply makes the current insurance based system more affordable. People who couldn’t afford healthcare on the open market are now helped. And everyone is helped in a different way. Now personally, I’m not thrilled with Obamacare because in one way it is one-size-fits-all: it depends upon insurance companies. And they don’t add any value to the healthcare that the whole system is meant to provide. They are a relic of times long gone. But that’s not Perry’s problem. Perry’s problem is that Obamacare is a government program and, in his mind, that means it is one-size-fits-all.

The second aspect of this is simply that if a federal government program is by definition one-size-fits-all, so what? Social Security is one-size-fits-all and people love it. Medicare is far more one-size-fits-all than Obamacare, and people are very happy with it. Perry’s claim that Obamacare is a one-size-fits-all program is the usual Republican rhetoric. All he’s actually saying is that Obamacare is doody pants — he doesn’t like it but has no real reason why that’s the case.

Perry also said, “Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured, but that’s what Texans wanted.” But that’s not really true. Most of those uninsured would very much like to have insurance. It is just that the conservative Texas government is against it. In fact, Texas passed a law making it hard to become a “navigator”: a person who helps people use the healthcare exchange. And 20% of the people in Texas are uninsured — the highest rate in the nation. Meanwhile, roughly 40% the Texas residents have a favorable opinion of Obamacare — which is roughly what it is nation wide.

Perry continued, “They did not want a large government program forcing everyone to purchase insurance.” But the truth is that regardless of what Texas wanted, they still have a large government program forcing them to purchase insurance. What the spiteful Texas legislators and smiling, bespectacled governor did was make it harder for Texans to get the benefits of the program — including stopping the working poor from getting healthcare at all. These are, in addition, programs that Texas has already paid for. So this isn’t about “freedom”; it is about good government. And Rick Perry and his pals have decided to take a noble stand for bad government.

Let me clarify what Rick Perry has accomplished. There is a large government program called Obamacare. The people of Texas pay for that program. In addition, the people of Texas are required to purchase health insurance or they are penalized by the government. To help the people of Texas comply with this new law, the federal government is giving money and support to the state. Rick Perry has made it hard for the people to get that support. He has also refused to allow many of the people who live in Texas to get free healthcare paid for by the government.

Basically, Obamacare can be cut in two: the bad parts and the good parts. Perry hasn’t been able to do anything at all to shield Texas from the bad parts of Obamacare. But he has done a great deal to limit the good parts of Obamacare. In other words, he has managed Obamacare in the worst possible way for the residents of Texas. And now he is going around the nation claiming that his terrible policies are something to be proud of. And Perry is not alone. Republicans the nation over have accomplished nothing in their fight against Obamacare except harming their own constituencies. And no one has really noticed it.

I would like to see this brought up in a debate. “You say you have fought against Obamacare, but the only thing you’ve done is stop your people from getting benefits they’ve paid for. All the taxes and requirements still apply to Texans. How does this make Texas a freer place?” I wonder what Perry would answer, “Whoops”?

American Traitor Roy Moore

Sarah PosnerIn June, 2011, when Roy Moore was flirting with a run for president, he paid a visit to Heritage Community Church in Severn, Maryland. Moore was at the time best known having been removed from his position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, a result of his refusal to comply with a federal court order to remove a 2.6 ton monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court. For this, at Heritage Community Church, Moore was a hero, and the assembled crowd relished his meandering, homespun disquisition on the sovereignty of God’s law over the laws created by men.

Moore is in the news again — and again, it’s over his defiance of the authority of federal courts to decide matters of constitutional law. His claim that a federal district court’s ruling striking down Alabama’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage is invalid, and his subsequent order to Alabama’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, stem from the same ideology that drove his Ten Commandments spectacle: that politicians, judges, and the “tyranny of men” are trying, unconstitutionally, to subvert God’s law…

That showdown between God and government is at the heart of Moore’s claims that he is on the side of righteousness and the federal courts on the side of an anti-God, unconstitutional “tyranny.” Moore believes there is a separation of church and state — but he believes it’s one that distinguishes America from royal monarchies. In other words, the government is separated from the church in that the government is barred from running the church, and it can’t tell the church what to do. Public schools, in his view, are “controlled by government,” and impose secularism; he favors tax credits for homeschooling because that’s “the right of the parent.” …

Moore, who graduated from West Point and served in Vietnam, is fond of reiterating the he has sworn to uphold the Constitution against enemies, both foreign and domestic. He readily agreed that America has been overtaken by enemies within. “Our government is infiltrated with communists, we’ve got Muslims coming in and taking over where we should be having the say about our principles.” And more: “I’m not so sure some in government don’t want to destroy our country.” …

Moore… favor[s] the election, rather than the appointment of judges, to guard against the judicial “tyranny” they claim is undermining the Constitution, and therefore, God’s law. A woman in the audience, who said that Obama was not qualified to be president, based on another IOTC-promoted claim that he was not a “natural-born citizen,” asked, “how do we prevent people who don’t worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from holding political office in America?”

To his credit, Moore admitted there’s no way to stop that, because “it’s up to the people” to elect leaders. In Alabama, where judges are elected, that has meant the voters gave Moore another chance to turn their state into an embarrassment.

—Sarah Posner
Close Encounters With Roy Moore

We Are Not Afraid of Scott Walker

Scott WalkerEd Kilgore brought my attention to a new conservative meme: liberals are afraid of Scott Walker. Now that Republicans everywhere are excited by union busting, education destroying, rich people’s tax cutting wunderkind Scott Walker, Democrats must be afraid of him. After all, he’s won several elections in a blue state. The American people must be just all excited to vote for him. California will go red in 2016! It will be Ronald Reagan 2.0! Happy days are here again! And why not?! It isn’t like the American worker really has anything more to lose at this point.

Let’s just start with the idea that Walker’s golden boy status is going to last for another year and half to get him nominated. I don’t buy it. Ultimately, the guy just isn’t that interesting. His big advantage is that he is clearly a favorite of the big money Republican donors. And that may be enough. But his recent makeover really has nothing to do with that. He was always really loved by these people. And I suppose the Republican voters will go along with him. But there is no reason to think that he poses any special threat to the Democratic Party. It really won’t matter if the Republicans nominate Walker or Christie or Bush. It’s all going to be the same thing.

The comparison with Chris Christie is particularly apt. Even at the height of his popularity in New Jersey, Christie still wouldn’t have won his own state in a presidential race. There are two aspects of this. First is the fact that people think differently about governors and presidents. Liberal leaning voters will go with a “moderate” Republican as governor when they wouldn’t consider the same candidate for president. Look at Mitt Romney. He was governor of Massachusetts. And in 2014, the Republican candidate won the governorship by two percentage points. Yet in 2012, Romney lost the presidential election by over 23 percentage points.

The other issue is that more people vote during presidential election years. Republicans get an extra advantage in governorships by running in off year elections. Scott Walker became governor in 2010 and then was re-elected in 2014 — two very good years for Republicans. If he gets the Republican nomination for president in 2016, he will lose the state of Wisconsin — and he will lose it badly.

But there is a more important issue. That is just the political science of it. Within limits, there are no good candidates and no bad candidates. There is no doubt that Scott Walker is a good enough candidate. If the economy tanks in the first nine months of 2016, the Republican candidate will win the presidency, as long as he isn’t some freak. So sure, if the Republicans nominate Louie Gohmert or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin, then they will lose. Scott Walker isn’t in that league. But few Republicans are. That doesn’t make Democrats fear him. And that’s because Democrats aren’t idiots. They don’t expect that the Republicans are going to nominate a true loon. So Scott Walker worries us as much as any “mainstream” Republican. And at this point, that isn’t much at all.

Speaking as a Democrat, I can tell you want scares me: the American electorate. These are people who don’t understand anything about economics. These are people who vote for whichever party they associate with good economic times. If the economy is doing well, they vote for the party that is in office. If the economy is doing poorly, they vote for the party that is out of office. This doesn’t make any sense at all. I don’t like the idea that the party in control of the nation is based on random chance. That’s what scares me. But Scott Walker? Give me a break!

The Nightly Show Not Keeping It 100

Larry WilmoreThe other night on The Nightly Show, all the guests were asked the same question: if there was some random human and the guest’s favorite dog drowning and they could only save one, which would it be? One person picked a dog. Another picked the human, but because she’s allergic to dogs. And the other two equivocated. I found that shocking. I’m very fond of dogs. But I don’t think for a minute that any of those people would actually save a dog and let a fellow human being drown. It jut wouldn’t happen.

There are laws against animal cruelty. But as far as I know, there are no laws against humanely killing your own dog. Murder of a human is pretty much the most extreme law that one can break. There are even laws against assisted suicide in cases of people dying from an extremely painful cancer. So it just isn’t the case that we as a society would save the dog — cute and smart as it may be.

I know that I’m kind of obsessed with the “Keep it 100” segment on The Nightly Show. But it really is a stupid segment. It is the least honest thing on the show. People consistently do not keep it 100. They pander to the audience and to the other guests. It is too often the case that Larry Wilmore wants to hear a particular answer and so it is only that answer that is judged as having kept it 100. But sometimes it is the case that the “safe” answer is also the truthful one.

But by far the biggest problem I have with the segment is the assumption that an answer quickly blurted out is more authentic than one where the guest has to think. The implication is that what the guest is thinking about is how best to finesse the answer. But the truth is that a good question should take time to think. On this episode of the the show, Anthony Anderson was given “weak tea” simply because he took too long to answer. This is anti-intellectual nonsense that is beneath the level that The Nightly Show is clearly aiming at.

In a previous show, one of the guests was asked if she would kill Antonin Scalia thus assuring same sex marriage, if she knew she could get away with it. The guest gave a perfectly fine answer to the question. But I thought about what my answer would be and I am sure that I would be given weak tea. The truth is that killing Scalia is a fantasy of mine. Really: I think about it far more than is healthy. Just the same, I know that I would never do it. It is very simple: even though I think Antonin Scalia is a terrible person who makes our society far worse than it would otherwise be, he is still a human being. I could never kill someone for an abstract reason.

So what does it mean to “keep it 100”? I’m afraid that on The Nightly Show it means to just say the first thing that comes to your mind. It is your gut reaction. It is not the truth writ large or small. And it trivializes what are often deep questions. If Larry Wilmore wants some kind of gimmick to get people to say outrageous things, he should find something else. Because outrageous comments are very rarely truthful. And equating the two only coarsens public discussions of important matters.

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Giovanni Battista PiazzettaOn this day in 1682 (or maybe 1683), the great Italian Rococo painter Giovanni Battista Piazzetta was born. He started off as a Baroque painter, but moved in the direction of the more open and and free-wheeling style of Rococo. Most of his work was scene painting. He did both religious and secular work. So let me present an example of each.

First is Idyll at the Coast. It was painted rather late in his career in 1741. But despite the fact that it is nominally a landscape, the focus is all on the people. And then there is the whimsical touch of the cow peaking its head in — like the 18th century equivalent of photo bombing. Of course, Rococo was known for its wit and I think we see rather a lot of it in this painting:

Idyll at the Coast - Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Here is The Assumption of Mary from 1735. What I especially like about this is how the painting gets lighter the closer we get to heaven. It’s a really beautiful piece:

The Assumption of Mary - Giovanni Battista Piazzetta

Happy birthday Giovanni Battista Piazzetta!