Conservatives, Obama, Obamacare — November 19, 2013 at 7:06 am

The GOP shrugged: pitting Obamacare “makers” vs. Obamacare “takers”


“When one gains, another loses.”

There is one very unfortunate aspect to the roll out of the Affordable Care Act. The tiny percentage of people who are being forced into new policies happens nearly all at once and at the very start of the roll out. The overwhelming benefits of having more Americans insured and covered by decent health care insurance don’t really begin until January 1 and, even then, will take months or, in some cases, a few years to manifest themselves. In the long arc of history, that’s fine. In the short 24-hour cable news cycle, though? Not so much.

Those who oppose the ACA are latching onto the plight of the 3% of Americans who will need to move to new policies, sometimes with higher costs to reflect the new requirement that they actually cover you if you are sick or injured rather than being what Bill Maher calls “hospital gown policies” because they don’t cover your ass. It’s no surprise. Up until now the only thing we’ve seen from Obamacare are a handful of positives. They’ve literally had nothing to complain about.

When the website rolled out like a jalopy with two flat tires and an overheated, Obamacare opponents seized on that as evidence that the entire concept was flawed and needed to be scrapped. But, now that the website is actually starting to work (it is for 90% of users) and the exchanges are starting to function as they should, opponents have had to change tactics. The latest attack has two parts: (1) Obama LIED! about you being able to keep your health insurance if you liked it and (2) people are having to pay more for their health insurance now to cover all of those lazy slackers who didn’t have health insurance before.

The first one, that Obama lied, seems to imply something that we all know isn’t true: that anything at all would have changed if the president had said, “A small percentage of Americans will pay more for their coverage because what they have now is so shitty that you’d be better off just putting your insurance premiums in a bank account which puts the rest of us on the hook when you get sick or hurt.” If he had said that, does anyone really believe anything would have been different? Would these anti-Obamacare zealots have worked harder to prevent it from passing? Would there have been 65 attempts to repeal it in Congress instead of just 47? Of course not. It’s simply something to justify their ill-informed antagonism that keeps them from having to admit this is actually about denying President Obama and the Democrats a victory.

The second part, that people forced out of their current policies are paying more to make up for the moochers who now get free or subsidized health insurance, is something just starting to creep into the discussion and it is, to my mind, more insidious. It is, in fact, an extrapolation of segregationists pitting newly freed slaves against poor whites in the 19th century and of the Republican’s so-called “Southern Stategy” of the 20th century which used racist hatred for black Americans to win elections.

Although I had been catching whiffs of this odious meme for several days, it was this tweet that got my attention:

A response to Amy’s excellent (and now viral) story about her success with and the savings she will enjoy thanks to competition on the healthcare exchange, this tweet’s message that health care insurance in this country is a zero sum game was echoed in the many trolling comments on her piece. It’s utter nonsense, of course. The prices for policies are not set by the government and, more importantly, insurance companies aren’t subsidizing the premiums of one group of customers by raising the price on those with the lousiest coverage they offer.

But, wow, does this argument work with the people who hate Obamacare simply because they despise the president. Rather than having to admit that (and having to explain WHY while denying they are racists), they can simply point to the fact that some people are benefiting while a small fraction of people are not and draw a connection that does not exist. For the tea party cohort who slavishly following the Objectivist teachings of Ayn Rand as set forth in Atlas Shrugged, this touches a spot in their brain that sends stimulants into their bloodstream. It’s Rand’s theories of “makers” versus “takers” playing out in front of their eyes.

Republicans have been setting the stage for this argument to play out for several years. In 2011, Paul Ryan put it this way:

Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state. Before too long, we could become a society where the net majority of Americans are takers, not makers.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a similar message:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

It’s a view that says life is a zero sum game. If someone wins — like poor people or black people or brown people or lazy people — then someone else, probably YOU, loses.

Meanwhile, the insurance companies are laughing all the way to the bank. They are doing what they have always done: shifting policies around, canceling some, creating others, in order to maximize their profits. Only now they can blame the ACA. A common excuse they use is that they are now forced to cover maternity care so they have to drop you from their plan and jack up your premiums by several hundred or even thousands of dollars per year with the new plan that does cover maternity care. This has those who don’t plan to or cannot have children outraged. They don’t realize that they are being fed an excuse that allows the insurance company to engage in some good old-fashioned American profit-taking at their expense. It’s exploitation, pure and simple.

It’s ironic that these so-called free market Libertarians and Republicans want a free market for things like privatizing government services and schools to for-profit corporations but have no interest in free market competition when it comes to health insurance. But that horse has left the barn and, when the dust settles and the exchanges really begin to work, people WILL begin to have more options and that competition will keep prices under control.

In the meantime, we will continue to have to battle the anti-ACA meme du jour. Don’t let anyone try to tell you that this is a “makers” vs. “takers” situation. Insurance companies aren’t raising costs on people who hate Obamacare so that they can give free mammograms to women. Insurance companies aren’t kicking Obamacare haters off their policies and into higher-cost ones so that the health insurance slackers of America can get more free stuff. It’s absurd on its face and we should all point that out whenever necessary.

I’ll finish with a true story. One of the anti-Obamacare commenters on this site got so insulting to others that I had to ban him. Before I did so, I sent him an email saying that I had deleted one of his comments and he was welcome to try again if he could do so without insulting others. He said I might as well ban him and I told him I felt bad for someone who was so obviously angry at the world. He then explained that he had lost insurance for his wife, a cancer survivor, because of Obamacare. It turns out that his wife was one of the people who was told that their policy wasn’t ACA-compliant because it didn’t offer maternity coverage. He was outraged because they are senior citizens who won’t ever have kids and they were facing hundreds and hundreds of dollars of higher premium costs every year, expenses they couldn’t afford. He would have to sell his car, he said.

Amy and I offered to help this man and his wife. We found out some information about their situation and explained to him that, by shopping around, he should be able to find suitable coverage for a reasonable price and that, with the federal subsidy, his overall costs should be lower. That’s when he told us he would NEVER take a subsidy. He wasn’t going to be a burden on society, nosiree. Instead, his wife’s employer had agreed to buy insurance for his company of less than ten people. So, instead of availing himself of the federal subsidies that are paid for a by a tiny incremental tax increase on the wealthy, he was willing to burden his wife’s boss, a small businessman who was taking a huge hit to do the right thing for his employees.

I will give people like Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, and Mitt Romney credit. These wealthy men have convinced a large number of poor people in this country that they should expect nothing from their government, even basic things like affordable health care coverage, if it means that millionaires and billionaires have to pay one cent more in their historically low taxes. As if poor people who benefit in any way from our American society are somehow the “takers’ rather than the wealthiest Americans who benefit most.

It’s a snow job of epic proportions and the exact thing that prompted the quote by John Steinbeck that “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

To quote Rick Santorum, “what a snob”.

Photos by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog

  • judyms9

    I’ve been hearing the maker/taker meme ever since John Stossel was given airtime years and years ago. It suggests that a person can be only one or the other, but in his exercise of anti-government responses to the suggestion of a subsidy, your banned commenter failed to consider that he has been a taxpaying citizen all along, has met his obligations in the social compact and has earned a return on this by way of subsidy. It’s not unlike Social Security and Medicare that we pay into throughout our working lives so that payouts will go to those who came before us, and we reasonably expect that we too will see a return on our investment. Of course, folks are always free to shun subsidies and let them go to banks, agribusiness and oil and gas companies, the biggest takers of them all.
    By the way, unless each person takes care of and supports his parents for 18 years of their lives, that person is a taker, right?
    Thanks for once again pointing out the “divide and conquer” tactic of the rightwing, Chris.

    • Thank you for your insightful comment.

    • Cogito

      Government is the greatest taker at $6.13 trillion dollars, or 37.83% of our gross domestic product. Those that reject public ownership of business want government to own business, and you can take it to the bank that Obama and Congressional Democrats want just that.

  • BPI Squirrel

    Getting a subsidy from Mrs. Banned’s boss proves that Mr. and Mrs. Banned are fine, upstanding people. If they weren’t, the boss wouldn’t help them. Conservatives prefer private charity over a government-funded social safety net because private charity allows the wealthy to sit in moral judgment over the needy and “discern carefully” who gets help and who doesn’t.

  • Martin Pollard

    Boy, the professional trolls were certainly out in force in that thread, weren’t they? GOP talking points tossed around like confetti, with nary an insightful comment (or logic or common sense) in sight. Those are the people who are helping to decide the future of this country. Makes me weep…

  • Cogito

    Marx, like Obama and his American Left said, “From those based on their ability, to those based on their need,” and we define who is who!

    Obamacare is just another tax and spend redistribution program.

    In 2013 Federal, State and Local governments will spend $6.13 trillion taxpayer dollars, or 37.83% of our entire gross domestic product, sucked from the private sector. Of that, $4.18 Trillion is redistributed using entitlement and welfare programs. That is $2 out of every $3, and represents 24.62% of our gross domestic product.

    It is about absolute power and votes.

    Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Frederic Bastiat said, “The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else.”

    Alexis de Tocqueville said, “The American Republic will endure until the day
    Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

    • So, to be clear, you believe health care is a privilege, not a right in America? And that if you aren’t a privileged American, you don’t deserve access to health care?

      Do I have that right?

      We have the highest per capita health care costs of any country and yet we rank 16th in health care outcomes. Getting more people access to better health care would help turn that around. So would a single-payer system.

      • Cogito

        To be clear, health care is not a right if your neighbor has to pay for it. It is not a privilege. It is a product for sale in the free market, and if you wish you can purchase it. At least it used to be. Now it is added to the never ending list of Entitlement Programs, on which the tax payer will pay $4.12 trillion dollars this year or 34.62% of our entire gross domestic product.
        We do pay more for health care, but because we research, and invent most treatments, drugs, therapies, and medical devices. The rest of the countries wait while we do the work. Since 1989 Americans have won 41 Nobel Prizes in medicine. The UK is second with 9, and our friends in Canada 1.
        Obamacare has nothing to do with insurance or health care.
        It is about creating legislation which can be expanded into a single payer system owned by the Politburo.
        It is about adding mega revenue with the Obamacare tax on all economic levels;
        It is about increasing the power of the Politburo by reducing the power of the people.
        It is about increasing the numbers of citizens dependent on the Politburo.
        It is about greater regulation of U.S. citizen’s behavior under penalty of fines and/or imprisonment.
        As Leftist economist Paul Krugman says, “to pay for Obamacare will require higher taxes to increase spending ability, and the death panel to reduce cost.”
        In 2013 federal, state and local governments spent $1.22 trillion on health, and second $1.11 trillion on government employee pensions. Attack those pensions. There are 58 million retirees splitting $816 billion dollar…

        • aspromised

          Where is your rage about unnecessary subsidies to megacorps, big oil? Aren’t they the “needy” that your so-called Politburo is redistributing to? So, for them, it’s a right, but for your family or neighbors it’s….? Help me out here.

          • Cogito

            They are called “employment incentives.” Most of the 144 million people fortunate to have a job under Obamanomics work for the private sector…at least for now.
            Our corporations pay some of the highest taxes, and inflated union pay and benefits on earth. The more government confiscates from them, the less they can spend on expansion, R & D,, and technology, and the more they pass on to the consumer. That is why many relocate to countries more tax friendly.
            Socialism has destroyed virtually every country where it has been tried. No reason to believe it will not destroy us,
            Vladimir Lenin said, “The goal of Socialism is Communism.” And he was right.

          • What a load of absurd happy horseshit. These are some of tho historically most profitable companies in the world. They hardly need our corporate welfare to pad their bottom lines. This comment is so off the rails as to be laughable.

          • aspromised

            This is so full of BS misleading info I wouldn’t even know where to start. How about those wretched high corporate taxes? I presume you haven’t seen the lists of multi-billion corps and their EFFECTIVE rates (i.e. ZERO or LESS). And exactly which ones are “relocating”? and where to? Europe? Australia? Those places where people earn a decent living?
            Or did you actually mean to say “hiding” their money?
            Do you really think they need YOU to speak for them? That’s hilarious!

        • Shark = jumped

  • Cogito

    Gee, Martin…..80% of Americans say Obama and his Leftists in Congress are taking the Country in the WRONG direction.
    You must be one of the minority.

    • Martin Pollard

      Why would I bother to debate a professional wingnut troll who spews nothing but talking points from the right-wing echo chamber? Go back to your bedroom, child, the grown-ups are having an adult conversation.

  • Cogito

    The Left has fallen for the second bill of rights laid down by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Google it! Next on the list is taxpayer funded home purchases.

  • Irv Spielberg

    There’s a slave, enslaved by his own arrogance and incompetence, who
    wasn’t emancipated by Lincoln – but he does live in a big house that
    Lincoln lived in !

  • Pingback: Wound up today. | randomthoughts()

  • aspromised

    Chris, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mrs Banned’s employer cares more about her than her husband does. I also suspect the accuracy of his story. What exactly is “hundreds of dollars” per year? $600 = $50/month. The caring employer could have just given her a small raise. “Sell our car”, my ass! Pffft. And did he not think the insurance company would keep raising their rates anyway, or worse, cut her off?
    And most laughable is, unbeknownst to this fool, he is in receipt of some sort of subsidy every day of his life.

  • Ziad K Abdelnour

    It is clear that we are still stuck today in the worst economic recovery
    since the Great Depression. Despite all the disinformation and market
    manipulation out there, our economic weakness has now become a top
    national security threat.

    Ziad K Abdelnour