The Democratic National Convention kicked off yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina, and if the opening night is any indication of what’s to come, all those millionaires financing the great GOP propaganda machine better dig deep into their Swiss bank accounts. The contrast between the divisive “Me, me — keep your hands off what’s mine” theme of the RNC, and the uniting “We, us — nothing’s impossible when we work together” message of the DNC could not be more stark, nor could the choice confronting our nation be more important.
Unity or division would seem a clear choice, but clarity is soon lost in the murky waters of politics, where information is readily distorted into much more useful forms of communication. It takes time and effort to filter the garbage and restore the pure, clean flow of information, especially when a handful of the uber-rich are willing to use their vast fortunes to pump toxic waste into the conversation, but for all those who are willing to hear, the purification process shifted gears last night.
For nearly four years, Republicans have done everything in their power to carry through on what Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell called the “single most important thing we want to achieve” — to make Barack Obama “a one-term president.” Toward that end, they’ve resorted to obstruction and distortion unparalleled in American history, and nowhere have those efforts been more dishonest than in their smear campaign on Obamacare. Fortunately, lies don’t hold up well in the sunshine, and as evidenced by the first night of the DNC, it appears that the Democrats are finally going to shine some light.
Personally, I can’t help it, but every time I hear some person complaining about the impact of “Obamacare,” I think of that Tea Party member holding the sign saying “Government Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare!” I know that the media is rife with misinformation regarding the legislation, and propagandists in the opposition camp have used every distortion possible to discredit the law, but at some point, you’d think people would take the time to actually check a fact or two.
The latest lie being told is the story about President Obama using the law to strip $716 billion from Medicare. Of course, what the perpetrators of the lie don’t want people to know is that the cuts are not being taken from Medicare recipients but from providers in the form of future cost savings. One would think that cost control would be important for true fiscal conservatives, but evidently not when weighed against an effective political attack. The propagandists are also mum on the fact that the Paul Ryan plan for Medicare includes the same cost cuts, but what’s that little white lie when you’re so used to telling fat whoppers?
People also like to complain about how Obamacare is raising their premiums, which is obviously utter nonsense. The truth, as the Washington Post stated when assigning 3 Pinocchios to the RNC ad claiming that “Six in 10 Americans are seeing their premiums rise,” is that this would be quite a reach for a law “which largely has not gone into effect” yet. All of the most costly provisions of Obamacare aren’t scheduled to hit until 2014. And the best estimates for increases attributable to Obamacare are currently around 1.5%.
But that said, premiums are rising, and have been, quite steeply, since 2001 when they were on average 113% lower than today. Of course, premiums aren’t the only part of healthcare that’s rising. Costs are up as well, climbing to 17.3% of GDP while George Bush was president — the largest increase since 1960. And while the Bush years may have been bad for America, they were great for the medical insurers, who saw their profits soar 250% between 2000 and 2009.
Perhaps the most incredible whoppers being told are those casting Obamacare as the “biggest tax increase” in American history. It’s true that it is large, in raw, unadjusted for inflation numbers. But using any reasonable measure, such as percentage of GDP, which accounts for inflation, population growth, and all that normal stuff you’d be concerned about if you weren’t trying to distort perceptions, Obamacare is actually one of the smaller tax increases. At 0.42% of GDP, it’s about half the size of Reagan’s 1982 tax increase and less than 1/10th as large as the 5.04% Revenue Act of 1942.
Distortions mischaracterizing the “tax” component of Obamacare have become so severe that PolitiFact gave Rush Limbaugh’s claim a rating of “Pants on Fire” — a label placed on only the most bald-faced lies. And the assertion that the increases are targeted at the “poor and middle class” is even more patently absurd, as the largest single increase only applies to people making over $200,000, and most of the rest all applies to either “Cadillac” plans or is levied on manufacturers and providers.
There is good news though — people are finally beginning to look at what’s inside Obamacare, and contrary to conservative myth, they’re liking what they find. People with adult children have already benefited from the provision that allows children up to age 26 to be included on a parent’s plan. The same holds true for parents of children with preexisting conditions who can no longer be denied coverage. Seniors too are benefiting from new rules that will close the prescription drug “donut hole” entirely by 2020. Small businesses are already receiving credits to help provide coverage for their employees; Medicaid is being made available to more people in desperate need, and lifetime and annual limits on coverage, the type that may have been a death sentence for young Zoe Lihn, are both on their way to elimination.
By the time Obamacare is fully implemented, nobody will be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions, and numerous provisions will be in place to reduce fraud, increase the availability of preventative care, streamline processing, and subsidize lower income access to individual policies. The system will also include policy exchanges to increase competition, reduce costs and provide access for individuals and small businesses to purchase coverage at prices now available only to the largest customers.
Adult Americans really should take the time to find out more about the Affordable Care Act, instead of just believing the lies they’re being fed by politicians who only want to discredit President Obama and the Democrats, no matter how many people they harm in the process. And as for all those fear-mongering liars on the right, from Limbaugh to Romney/Ryan, may they be revealed as the self-serving assholes they truly are, because they may love America — it’s certainly treated them well — but they obviously don’t give a fat flying fuck about the American people.