Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How the Grinch Stole Obamacare (2015 update)

Last year at this time—in keeping with this blog’s holiday tradition—I wrote about how the GOP, cast in the role of the Grinch, tried again to stop Obamacare from coming, counting on the Supreme Court to overturn the law.  I predicted then, maybe with more hope than confidence, that the Supreme Court would disappoint the Grinch, by upholding the Obamacare subsidies on a 5-4 vote.

 It turns out I was wrong—the Court, as we now all know, upheld the subsidies and the law on a 6-3 vote!  That doesn’t of course mean that the anti-Obamacare forces will desist in their efforts.  So here’s the 2015 updated version—all intended to be in good (non-partisan) fun!

Every Dem
In the Congress
Liked Obamacare, a lot ...

But the GOP
Who sat to their right,
Did NOT!

The GOP hated ObamaCare! (Some called it treason)!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be their base is far to the right.
It could be, perhaps, that money is tight,
But I think that the most likely reason of all
Is Republicans like their government, small.

Whatever the reason,
Their base or their views,
They stood there on Christmas Eve, hating it all,
Staring down with a sour, disapproving frown
Because they’d been so sure that in 2015, they’d bring it all down.

"We control the House, and the Senate!" they had said with a sneer.
“Our chance for repeal is coming! It's practically here!"
They growled, with their fingers nervously drumming,
And told the Tea Party, “Obamacare’s demise is finally coming!"

For, in 2015, they knew...

...They were finally freed
Of having to get things past old Harry Reid,
With Mitch in charge, they’d slay the Obamacare beast.
And then they'd feast! And they'd feast!
Because “socialized” medicine, you know, they can’t stand in the least!

And the more they thought of finally prevailing,
They started to worry, about possibly failing.
Obama can veto our plans, strike them all down
We can’t let him stop repeal from coming!
... But HOW?"

Then they got an idea!
An awful idea!

"We know just what to do!" They laughed in their throat.
“We just need the Supremes to strike it down, on a 5 to 4 vote!"
And they chuckled, and clucked, "What a great GOP fix!
We'll sue Obama and let the court do the trick!

"We’ll say that Congress never planned for the subsidies to apply,
In the GOP states that want Obamacare defied,
Who cares about the facts, or legislative intent?
As long as we can persuade five judges to relent
And strike the subsidies down, for better or worse,
We can get it tossed out, chapter and verse.

"Pooh-pooh to Obama!" they were heard to be humming.
"Soon he’ll find that the end is finally coming!
When the court rules against him! We know just what he’ll do!
His mouth will stay open a minute or two
And Barack Obama will cry BOO-HOO!

"That's a noise," grinned the GOP,
"That we simply must hear!"
So they paused. And the GOP put a hand to their ears.

And in June they did hear a sound rising over DC town.
It started out low, and then got quite loud,
But the sound they heard from the White House wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

They stared down at the Washington Post headline
And the GOP popped their eyes!
Then they shook! And they shook,
What it said was such a surprise!

On a 6-3 vote, the Roberts Court
had again upheld Obamacare, made their case naught,
In 2015, they HADN’T stopped ObamaCare from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the GOP, even with all of the Koch brothers’ dough,
Kept puzzling and puzzling: How could it be so?
Obamacare came despite our winning the midterm election!
It came though the pundits said it was an Obamacare rejection!
It came even despite the demands of Senator Cruz,
It came despite the ranting by our friends at Fox News,
They puzzled three hours, ‘till their puzzler was sore.
Then they thought of something they hadn’t before!
“Maybe ObamaCare,” they thought, “means something more.
Maybe it really is about getting healthcare to the millions of poor.”

And what happened then…?
Well … in Washington they say
That the GOP took heart
And vowed to fight on anyway!
“We can still kill the law, if we win the White House
Obamacare’s rejection
Will come from the 2016 election!
…and then, WE OURSELVES …!
Will feast, feast and feast!
As we finally carve up the Obamacare beast.”

Happy holidays to all, and my best wishes to you and your loved ones for a healthy, safe, and prosperous New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2015

“When logic, and proportion, have fallen sloppy dead”

These lyrics are from Jefferson’s Airplane’s White Rabbit, the classic 1967 psychedelic song based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (and a thinly veiled reference to the rampant drug use of the times).

But I think the lyrics also describe today’s political discourse: on so many issues, “logic, and proportion, have fallen sloppy dead.”  We live in a time when evidence is disregarded, fact checkers ignored.  When confrontation is favored over conversation.  When moderation, in tone and substance, is considered to be weakness; and over-the-top rhetoric, strength.  When you don’t just disagree with someone, you hate them, or at least, you hate what they stand for.  When social media allows people to rant and rail, and shame and bully others, hiding their identities behind anonymous Twitter handles.

Take the issue of preventing injuries and deaths from firearms.  Logic tells us that when a typical day, more than 90 Americans are killed by firearms, we have a problem and the status quo of firearms policy isn’t working.  Logic tells us that when more than 20,000 people each year kill themselves with a gun, we have a problem and the status quo of firearms policy isn’t working.   Logic tells us that when hundreds of children each year get shot or shoot others because of unsecured and loaded guns in their homes, we have a problem and the status quo of firearms policy isn’t working.  Logic tells us that when our own workplaces, malls, city streets, colleges and elementary schools are not safe from firearms-related violence, we have a problem and the status quo of firearms policy isn’t working.

Yet even the most modest of efforts to address the problem of firearms-related injuries and deaths—by allowing the scientists at the NIH and CDC to research its causes and effects, just like they research the impact of smoking on health—has attracted a storm of opposition from the NRA and politicians aligned with the organization.  In fact, at the NRA’s urging, Congress since 1996 has flatly prohibited the agencies from using any funds to conduct research on gun violence.  On December 1, ACP joined with dozens of other health-advocacy organizations to urge Congress to lift the gun violence research ban.  On December 9, we sent our own letter to House and Senate appropriators on our funding priorities that included a request that they end the research ban, and on Thursday, we issued an advocacy alert asking our members to call their representative and Senators to urge the same.  At the time this blog was posted, the fate of the ban was the subject of negotiations between House Republicans and Democrats, with the outcome still to be determined.

But what I do know is this:  all of the logic, and all of the evidence we have for allowing government scientists to research how to prevent gun violence, won’t sway those who are opposed to any and all efforts that, in their minds, might lead to restrictions on guns.  Just like all of the logic and evidence that ACP has marshaled on the broader issue of reducing injuries and deaths from firearms, and the modest and sensible and, according to the American Bar Association, constitutional solutions to gun violence that we and 59 other health advocacy groups have put forward (like closing the  private sale loophole in the federal background check system), won’t sway those who view any limits on guns, no matter how modest and sensible, to be an unacceptable assault on their freedom.

Rather, our efforts to apply logic and evidence to reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths often are greeted with vitriol.   Typical was an email we received after we sent out our  call to action on the gun research ban: “You people are pathetic. The last 3 terrorist (can I use the term) attacks were in GUN FREE ZONES. More people die in Chicago every weekend another gun free zone. What weapons are worse AR 15’s or AK 47’s. By the way ,by definition) neither one is an assault weapon. Stick to medicine you morons!”  Similarly, when I tweeted about the need for evidence based policies to address gun violence through my @bobdohertyACP twitter account, I got many mentions and retweets, but also dozens of anonymous posts that ranged from dismissive to insulting to threatening.

I have a thick skin and I am well aware that anonymous Twitter posts are not representative and can bring out the worst in people; what is more concerning to me is that our elected representatives also seem impervious to the logic and evidence on the need to reduce gun violence, just like they are on so many issues.  I am also concerned about the seeming lack of proportionality in the reaction of many of those who oppose even the most modest of gun restrictions: universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, folks, is not Nazi-style tyranny.

The United States is facing huge problems that need to be addressed through calm, reasoned discourse, informed by evidence and analysis.  Sure, we can and should have a healthy debate over how best to prevent firearms violence—each side should put their facts, their evidence, and their supporting rationales out there, let’s respectfully dissect and challenge each other, and then, let’s decide on a sensible and informed course of action.

But if in the debate over guns we allow logic and proportion to fall sloppy dead, then the status quo will prevail and tens of thousands will die as a result.

Today’s question:  Can’t we at least agree that allowing the CDC and NIH scientists to conduct research on the causes and effects of gun violence would be a good starting point?