Saturday, June 30, 2012

What's In a Word?

Calhoun’s Cannons for June 30, 2012

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
                                      Lewis Carroll,  “Through the Looking-Glass”

            Tax?  Mandate?  Penalty?  Broccoli? Hmmmmm. Such are the unnecessary problems created when you live in Grover NorquistLand. But Chief Justice Roberts sussed out the verbal hairs to be split and split them: No to the commerce clause, yes to the taxing power of Congress.  And, Poof! Obama Care became constitutional because a mandate by any other name is a tax.  And the Apocalypse, to hear some members of Congress, will commence today.  (Happily, you’ll at least have medical insurance coverage so you can repair your skull that was injured by the falling skies.)
            Because all the Republicans in Congress have sworn a blood oath, not to the Constitution, but to a wealthy corporate lobbyist named Grover, the rest of congress and the country has to twist itself into a pretzel to get anything done that requires any expenditures that might, conceivably be called a “tax.”  So nothing becomes straightforward and we end up playing semantic games. Facts become mere opinions, our politics and policies become incoherent and we are turned into a nation of liars shouting fake slogans at one another.
            This state of affairs makes Frank Luntz very happy (and very rich.)  Luntz, the most dangerous man in America, is a Republican pollster/political strategist and wordsmith extraordinaire who uses focus groups to winkle out the most effectively deceptive buzz-words and phrases that will conceal whatever he’s hired to conceal.  It’s fakery at a very high level.  And his most effective winkled-out fraudulence will become Republican talking points, run through the great 24/7 news cycle noise machine to be amplified up and down the line until it becomes received wisdom; Truth, in fact.  Or, as Stephen Colbert calls it, “Truthiness.”
            Remember “Death Panels?”  Perfect example of the kinds of lies we now have to swim in daily.  The real (factual) provision in the Portable Care Act would have paid a doctor for a consultation with his patients to have a serious end-of-life care discussion and go over all options (and limits and costs) available to them so they and their families could make decisions about what they wanted for themselves.  That’s all that was. 
            But that provision in the health-care reform act would have been helpful, would have  actually done something good for real citizens, might even be popular, which meant it also might offer some benefit to the opposing political party.  So, of course, it had to be lied about, demonized and destroyed, even if it hurt real people in real time. 
            And so it goes. Our discourse is full of false narratives, fake “facts, and hysterical rhetoric.  Nobody can speak truth any more.  Real facts are too dangerous.  They might benefit one political party over another.  Never mind that facts might benefit the citizens.  They no longer matter.  Not in Frank LuntzLand.  Not in Grover NorquistVille. In that world, the only thing that matters is winning.  And nobody bothers to ask, “Win what?”
            We spent years caterwalling about our lousy health care system.  People were going bankrupt paying hospital bills, people with “preexisting conditions” were unable to get health insurance at any price, insurance premiums and health care costs were rising to unsustainable levels and our hospitals were now being overburdened with the growing numbers of uninsured who showed up in the very expensive emergency rooms.
            Clearly, some sort of health care reform was needed.  But from day one, the fakery kicked in as any honest attempt at reform, from the single-payer expansion of Medicare for All, expansion of Medicaid for more uninsured, or any regulations on the insurance industry and Big Pharma, was falsely labeled “the government takeover of healthcare,” and promptly swept from the table.  
            And so we ended up with a for-profit, overly expensive cobbled together mess that few people liked, (or understood, or bothered to read) and twisted ourselves into semantic knots full of “mandates” and “penalties” and “broccoli,” because nobody could use the “T” word honestly.
            Thus we have turned ourselves into a nation of idiots.  I mean, how can you have a sane discussion about health care reform when millions of people happily receiving Medicare are simultaneously raging about “socialized medicine.”  The reality disconnect there is too large to bridge. And it’s now become impossible for people to understand that if you want things, even good things that benefit you and your family, you actually have to pay for them and that payment is called a “tax,” and it’s O.K.  It’s how government gets big things done. Everybody gets in the pool, everybody participates, everybody pays a little, and roads get built, public schools open, and bridges rise.
            And a slightly better national health care system gets underway with possibilities for great improvements ahead. If, that is, people can get their heads out of NorquistVille and LuntzLand and stop believing that shovels are teaspoons.  


Anonymous said...

i hate frank luntz.



Anne R. Allen said...

"You’ll at least have medical insurance coverage so you can repair your skull that was injured by the falling skies" LOL.

You're so right that if we hadn't been so controlled by the Emperor Norquist, we could have had a tax in the beginning and just gone to Medicare for all instead of perpetuating the greed-based medical system. The one that pushes people to have unnecessary, stress inducing tests and pay $200 for an asthma medication that used to cost $7 over the counter until they used a loophole in the clean air act to re-patent.

Romneycare was a bad idea, and it's no better with Obama's name on it. But maybe now we can call it a "tax" we can go about fixing it so we don't continue to have the world's most expensive--and least effective--health care.

Billy Dunne said...

Ann, the Democrats, as usual, have done an extremely lousy job fending off the bogus attacks on the Affordable Care Act. They got eviscerated a few summers ago by the lunatics calling themselves patriots, sending the weak-willed for cover. Remember the public option? I understand the reality of politics and compromise and all, but I also know a good defense is a strong offense. Democrats have even taken to referring to the act by the derisive term of "Obamacare." They just don't seem to get it. Palin is still trotting out her "death panels," and although Democrats might consider her irrelevant, buzz words like that stick with the woefully ignorant voting masses. David Plouffe is now calling on all Democrats to go on the offensive regarding health care and taxes. What odds do you give of this actually happening? If the amount of defections to the convention in Charlotte this summer is any indication, I'll say the odds are again very, very low. Democrats have no one to blame but themselves.

Sandra Gore said...

Having lived for years in countries that have "National Health," I simply can't understand what all the fuss is about.
When you're diagnosed with cancer in Denmark, the only thing you have to worry about is getting well. You don't have to give "paying for it" a single, momentary thought.
And by the way, the care is very good - certainly as good as anything I've seen in the US. Better in many ways.
5 days in hospital for a birth. 10 days for a C section. A nurse who visits your home regularly to make sure baby is thriving - and gives you great practical guidance. I sure had a lot of questions and anxieties with my first child.
I loved it when nurse Grethe showed up with her commonsense advice.
And EVERYONE gets this excellent assistance, regardless of social status. Danish babies are as equal as man can make them.

Anonymous said...

How much is the Danish annual income tax?

Anonymous said...

Does Denmark allow illegal immigrates to have state medical?

Churadogs said...

/donna sez:"i hate frank luntz."

Yeah, but you have to admit, he's really, really good at what he does. It's just that what he does is evil.

Billy sez:"David Plouffe is now calling on all Democrats to go on the offensive regarding health care and taxes. What odds do you give of this actually happening?"

Uh, about, well, zero? Dems seem to have ADD or something. Can't keep focused. But if people actaully want decent lower cost healthcare they've got to push for it because the insurance companies and Big Pharma are going to be pushing the other way.

Anon sez:"How much is the Danish annual income tax?"

Interesting question and one that we should ask ourselves as well. i.e. how much do we pay for our healthcare, including extra costs to cover the uninsured, how much overcharges for "profit" and jacked up pharma costs & etc. Add all that up then maybe can compare.

Anon sez:"Does Denmark allow illegal immigrates to have state medical?"

Don't know but your question raises a very interesting thing I've noticed in "conservatives:" They would rather kill an entire program, for example, no matter what it is, and thereby harm millions of "legitimate" people, just to kill off a few illegals. That fear of the dreaded other must be so profound. Burn the house down and kill the whole family because one neighbor kid stole a muffin. Soooo interesting. There's new studies out on the physical/psychological differences between "conservative" and "liberal" brains and the differences are real, are brain-based and hard-wired in. It's really fascinating.The subtext of your question points to that issue.

Mike Taylor said...

wanted to let you know - today I received my 2012 Social Security Stimulus
It contained two tomato seeds, cornbread mix, a prayer rug, a machine to blow smoke
up my ass, 2 discount coupons to KFC, an "Obama Hope & Change" bumper
sticker, and a "Blame it on Bush" poster for the front yard. The directions were
in Spanish.

Watch for yours 

Churadogs said...

Mike, Why tomato seeds? And why directions in Spanish? If you're implying that it's for "illegal immigrants," (Heh-heh, dog whistle) they don't qualify for Social Security, remember? Unless, they're using fake ID, actually have an SSI account ( based on the fake ID) and have been paying into SSI from their wages just like everyone else has, then they would qualify for SSI, just like you and I do since we've been paying into that insurance program for years, just like they have.

Which raises a question about the dog-whistle question above my last comment, about "illegal immigrants" and health coverage in Denmark. What's the difference between an illegal immigrant who's paying FICA taxes on his wages (so his employer won't get caught)but who doesn't have health insurnance and a citizen who's paying FICA taxes on his wages but who also doesn't have health insurance. Both of these hypotheticals are freeloading off the rest of us because neither of them don't have health insurance.

Yes, I know, dog whistle music. Sigh.