The Right Wing Health Care Shell Game

Republicans in Congress, with the House leading the charge under the guidance of Paul Ryan, are conducting a great game of three card Monte with the American public.

The proposed American Health Care Act is a joke.  It’s like Diet Obamacare and everyone with half a brain understands that fact.  It is also the type of bill that is so neutered yet destructive enough that it is finding strange bedfellows in opposition like the entirety of the Democrats in Congress and Rand Paul.  If you ever thought Rand Paul would be a dissenting vote on Republicans’ attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act raise your hand?

Now the spin begins.  Republicans and Donald Trump are trying to sell the idea that the goal is cheaper health insurance.  This is a farce because cheaper health insurance generally does not cover any health care.  If something is cheaper it usually means one of two things: someone else is picking up the tab or you are getting less coverage.  It is a zero sum game.

Under the Affordable Care Act the federal government was subsidizing your health insurance if you were so qualified to receive subsidies on the individual market.  Under the American Health Care Act you will just receive less coverage.  “But it is cheaper!” Paul Ryan will scream with Ayn Rand-esque shrillness.  Yes, just like a regular cab rear wheel drive F-150 is less expensive than a crew cab four wheel drive F-150.  Both trucks are F-150s, but one is cheaper because it has less content.  Everyone understands why those two trucks are priced differently and people will understand why health insurance is cheaper under Paul Ryan’s plan when they discover it covers no actual health care.

Thankfully, after seven years of claiming to work on a replacement for Obamacare and despite Donald Trump’s promise of amazing coverage for everyone Republicans have shown their utter lack of vision and leadership on the issue by producing a piece of crap bill.  Furthermore, provisions in the bill that would be windfalls to multi-millionaire CEOs and other rich people just show who the paymaster of the Republican Party really is in 2017.

Paul Ryan is Coming for Your Health Care

Paul Ryan, the wunderkind of the right wing, finally saw fit to release his proposed “replacement” for the Affordable Care Act.  Let me sum it up for you:

  1. If you relied on the individual market or Medicaid for health coverage you will get less. According to Paul Ryan you will like it because the free market will warm your insides with the fiery glow of Ayn Rand’s ridiculous ideology.
  2. If you relied on Planned Parenthood for any health services you are screwed because Paul Ryan hates Planned Parenthood. This is red meat thrown to a conservative base that might have a hard time supporting the bill, but can now hide behind the fact that it defunds Planned Parenthood.  Imagine the member of Congress going back to angry constituents, “I realize you are getting less health care, paying more, and even being denied coverage but we defunded evil Planned Parenthood.”  Look for this to be Ted Cruz’s defense when the human blobfish eventually goes along with passage.
  3. If you are wealthy you like this bill. Why?  You will pay less in taxes.  It is the right wing salve for the soul.  Got an HAS?  You will get to sock away more money under this plan.  The problem with this part of the plan is that poor people are living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to fund an HAS for future health obligations.
  4. The bill keeps the popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act that deal with keeping your children on your insurance until age 26 among others, but I suspect that these provisions will be weakened or removed entirely as the bill works its way through committee and reconciliation assuming it gets that far in the process.

Republicans do not understand how people actually live.  Asshats like Jason Chaffetz subscribe to the old Ronald Reagan “Cadillac driving welfare queen” when saying bullshit like this:

Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.

This is the first shot in a war that Paul Ryan intends to fight over the government providing any sort of assistance to anyone other than the rich and corporations.  Remember, Paul Ryan only has eyes for…

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Friday Linkage 3/3/2017


Damn, March already?  Where did the winter go?  Oh right, winter is going to be a shorter and shorter season as climate change robs us of snowy days and Donald Trump fiddles while the world burns.

On to the links…

Social Media Are Driving Americans Insane—The greatest thing I have ever done is disengage from Facebook.  I maintain an account because there are some businesses that require a log-in to view their content due to age restrictions, etc. but I do not maintain any sort of up-to-date presence.  Consider disengaging as well for the sake of your soul.

This Video Will Make You Believe in Climate Change—It’s not like someone reading this blog does not already believe in the impacts of climate change.  Take a moment, watch the video, and forward the link on to someone who might be on the fence.  Just avoid that Trump supporter in your office who reacts to everything with a spittle laced tirade.

The Pruitt Emails: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry—Scott Pruitt is a tool of the oil and gas lobby.  Plain and simple.  Any decision he makes as the head of the EPA is tainted by his close ties with oil and gas companies.

Exxon just Decided to Keep a Big Chunk of its Tar Sands in the Ground—Did you hear that?  It was the faintest sound that oil companies know that difficult to obtain sources of oil are not going to be economically viable in an economy where renewables and efficiency are the name of the game.

Why Oil Prices will Never Return to $100 a Barrel, in One Chart—I am not going to say never like the title of the article, but the underlying supply and demand curves do not favor high priced oil:

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The Blue Collar Job of the Future Is Solar Panel Installer—Coal mining is dead.  Automation, natural gas, and coal executives killed the coal miner’s job.  Installing solar panels and working on wind turbines are the blue collar replacement you have been seeking.

Palo Alto’s Repair Café Aims to Combat Throwaway Culture—The world needs more of this kind of cooperation.  How many of us have something that is in need of a small repair that we are incapable of doing?  How many of those slightly broken items could have a long life ahead of them?

How a Pacific Island Changed From Diesel to 100% Solar Power—Islands are our renewable energy laboratories because the electricity grids tend to be isolated and expensive to operate.  Lessons learned from these projects can be applied to larger grids on the mainland.

Pumped Hydro Storage Could Secure 100% Renewable Electricity For Australia—Think about pumped hydro storage as a huge, fairly efficient battery that can be deployed to regulate the intermittency of renewables.

Vacant Lots Provide More Ecosystem Services than Backyard Trees—In the book The New Wild the author makes the same point that vacant, disturbed land is a valuable ecosystem in an era when all landscapes have been shaped by human hands through climate change.

This Anarchist and ‘Anti-Fascist’ Activist is Using Facts to go After the Far-Right Fringe—You are free to say whatever you want in this country and the government cannot impinge your freedom for doing so, but that does not mean private citizens need to put up with your shit.  Daryle Lamont Jenkins is an American hero for making sure that these reprehensible scumbags cannot hide in their little alt-right spider holes.

Infographic Explains Why Coffee and Tea are so Good for Us—Ahhh, infographics.  Like salve for my soul:

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Having “Access” to Health Insurance is the Latest Right Wing Bait and Switch

Over the next few weeks you are going to hear a lot of right wing talking heads spout off about ensuring “access to health insurance” in whatever plan they happen to be promoting at the time.  However, access to health insurance is not the same thing as being able to obtain health insurance.

Bear with a thought exercise for a moment.  Everyone in the United States has access to a Chevrolet Corvette.  However, only a small percentage of the population of the United States can actually afford a Chevrolet Corvette.  Access does not equal the ability to obtain.

The example is facetious and it does not go far enough.  No one needs a Chevrolet Corvette for transportation when a Chevrolet Sonic will do just fine in most cases.  Yes, it is a completely different car but it provides basic transportation.  Again, a large segment of the population cannot obtain a Chevrolet Sonic even though they have access.

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act millions of Americans were denied access to health care based on pre-existing conditions.  Now, Republicans are likely to not totally scrap the prohibition of denial based on pre-existing conditions but it is likely to be modified in a way that benefits health insurance companies in denying you coverage.  Therefore, Republicans will have preserved “access to health insurance.”  See, they are looking out for the little guy.  Aren’t you relieved?

Beyond accessibility is the issue of affordability.  Under the current system, which again is defined by the Affordable Care Act, health insurance for lower income individuals is subsidized.  Makes less money and you qualify for a larger subsidy.  According to Republican logic this is evil.

Under Republican plans the current menu of subsidies would disappear and be replaced with…you got it, tax credits.  These tax credits are not based on income, but age so even if you are rich you get the same tax credit as someone who is poor.  Furthermore, these tax credits will do nothing for the segment of the population that cannot afford health insurance and does not pay taxes because they make too little income.

Make no mistake that the right wing of the right wing, known to most in Washington D.C. as the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” will probably support none of this tax credit nonsense.  The reasoning will be a word salad including the terms “socialism, communism, fascism, Obama, market based solutions, capitalism, Ronald Reagan, America, freedom, and Jesus.”  You can feel free to rearrange the words to match whatever particular politician from the Republican Party happens to be speaking.

In practice this means that whatever mechanism to ensure affordability that survives the gauntlet of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul will likely be so meaningless as to make health insurance as unaffordable as it was prior to the Affordable Care Act.  Therefore, “access to health insurance” has been limited because affordability is central to accessibility.  Do not fall for this madness.

Under Republican plans prices for plans will go up, the ability of health insurance companies to screw you over will increase, and the ability of people to actually afford health insurance will erode considerably.  However, you will have “access to health insurance” and that should make you feel all warm inside as you read that dog eared copy of Atlas Shrugged.

What’s in the Box: Nomadik February 2017

Apparently I am a difficult person to buy gifts for owing to my general lack of things that I “need” and a vehement insistence that people do not need to buy me things to celebrate milestones like birthdays.  In the absence of direction a family member went out and purchased a six month “subscription” to Nomadik.

I am a little late to the entire subscription box idea.  What started as a way for makeup aficionados to have new products delivered to their door for a nominal price relative to the retail price of the goods in the box has morphed into an entire industry.  This industry caters to every possible niche imaginable.  Nomadik is the subscription box that centers its offering around adventurers.  The target market is the type of person who travels, reads Outside, considers a ski pass to be a good investment…oh shit, that sounds like me.

So, what is in the box:

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The Parks Project “Park Watcher” beanie is a comfortable, if somewhat standard, knit beanie for those cold mornings:

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The idea here, in my estimation, is that I am being exposed to the Parks Project brand.  It’s interesting.  Parks Project sells items—usually clothing—for which the proceeds will benefit projects within a particular national park or generically the national parks in general.  Love Rocky Mountain National Park?  Buy the t-shirt and support habitat restoration.  Maybe in an era when Donald Trump is directing the federal budget such private support will become more critical than ever before.

Plus, the beanie is “Made in the U.S.A.”  In these times of Trumpian bloviating and blustering it is good to find something that would meet with the approval of the Donald.

Nomadik included three Ritual Energy peanut butter and chocolate caffeinated energy snacks:

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These little buggers claim to contain the same amount of caffeine as a single cup of coffee, which I have always found to be a problematic unit of measure given the differences in brewing coffee.  My grandmother’s coffee probably had about a tenth the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee because she used so few grounds and what was there was cut with chicory.  My friend makes a pot of coffee with about a half pound of grounds, so I imagine these would not have the same impacts.  As of right now, Ritual Energy only offers these little nuggets of caffeinated goodness in a single flavor.  My intent is to pack these for my upcoming ski trip and use them on mountain.  Risky?  Sure, but so is strapping wooden sticks to your feet and sliding down a mountain covered in frozen water.

What person do you know that spends any times outdoors that cannot find a use for another carabiner:

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The Mizu collapsible shot glass is kind of a throwaway for me:

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I rarely drink anything that would come in a shot glass sized serving preferring drip coffee over shots of espresso and IPAs over shots of Fireball.  It might however make a nice little re-gift option for my friends who do tend to favor the harder stuff.

Overall, a winner with the beanie, a couple of so-so items, and a throwaway in the shot glass.  A bonus is that included in the box were coupon codes for the Parks Project and Ritual Energy, so if you were a fan you could feed your need for a little less money.  I am interested to see what future boxes hold over the next five months, but I am not totally sold on the concept right now.

Friday Linkage 2/24/2017

November 9th was a day of some serious despair, but I see a lot of potential in the awakening of a progressive spirit and an exposure of the right wing’s anti-people agenda.  Yes, it will be a lot of work to make any kind of meaningful change given the dynamics of elections in the U.S.  Yes, Donald Trump is a dumpster fire in human form that happens to inhabit the Oval Office.  However, there has been a spark that has ignited a liberal fire like no other time in recent memory.

On to the links…

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lowest Since 1994—A lot of this decline has to do with the replacement of coal with natural gas in the electrical generation sector and a recession that dampened demand across a whole host of industries.  Nonetheless, the data is compelling:

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The Future of Solar Power Technology is Bright—No matter what the political environment looks like in the future, the potential of solar is very real.

Record Wind & Solar Keep The Lights On In NSW As Coal & Gas Went Missing—Renewable energy can make the grid more reliable.  This should put the argument about intermittency to bed.

Wind Technician Jobs Growing, in Iowa and Nationally—The sooner that everyone realizes that there are more people working in renewable energy jobs, like wind turbine technicians, the sooner that we can get past the narrative of coal jobs being the only energy jobs that matter.

Drilling Experts Explain why Trump Can’t Bring Back Oilfield Jobs—The jobs will not be coming back because like coal before it automation and market changes are driving the need for actual human labor down.

University of Iowa Announces it will be Coal-Free by 2025—Each power generating facility or consumer that goes coal-free is another brick in the wall in eliminating coal from our energy infrastructure.  Yes, it will take a long time.  Yes, it is inevitable if we keep up the pressure.

Petcoke Piles Gone, but Another Dangerous Pollutant Discovered in the Air—If you think that there is no place for the EPA it is likely that you do not live in a community affected by this kind of pollution.  Low income communities are at the mercy of polluters because they do not have the political clout of the Koch brothers.

Which Ski Run Is Better for the Planet?—Ski hills go out of business.  What comes after is hard to imagine as you spend your days sliding.  However, the way we develop ski runs can make a major difference for the next stage of the land’s lifecycle.

Almost Every Packaged Food Comes from These Two Companies—The merger between Kraft Heinz and Unilever may have died, but this should give you some sense as to how consolidated the center aisles of the grocery store have become.

Olive Oil Shortage Looms as Prices and Demand Rise—Climate change has come for our coffee, chocolate, and hops.  Now olive oil is the crosshairs.  When will the larger populace realize that the impacts of climate change is here.

Fifth of World’s Food Lost to Over-Eating and Waste—Food insecurity is not a question of production it is a question of distribution, availability, and affordability.  It is a god damned shame that we live in a world where a significant portion of the world’s population is overweight while a similarly large portion of the world’s population is food insecure.

Is it Time for “No Show” Town Halls?

Given that members of Congress, usually Republicans who do not want to answer questions about a far right agenda that does not mesh well with actual human beings back home, are reticent to schedule town halls for fear that they will look like schmucks maybe it is time for constituents to schedule their own town halls.

A group of progressives in Fort Collins has scheduled a town hall to talk about Senator Cory Gardner.  The organizers invited Gardner and members of his staff to attend, but they do not expect any official attendance.

We should do the same thing in Iowa.  Here in Iowa’s first district Representative Rod Blum has only scheduled some office hours in small towns and avoiding the larger, albeit more liberal, large cities of Cedar Rapids or Waterloo.

Senator Chuck Grassley is little better.  After spending a career making a big deal of visiting all 99 Iowa counties in the so-called “full Grassley” he seems to be going out of his way to avoid constituents in his most recent town halls.  Look at the list of towns: Hampton, Iowa Falls, Garner, Charles City, and Parkersburg.  Really going out of your way to meet the people, eh Chuck?

Are members of Congress so embarrassed by their own legislative agenda and the behavior of the Trump administration that they are unwilling to meet with constituents?  Looks like that is the case.