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Monday, July 06, 2009

Inside the Republican Brain

Phrenology chartA couple of weeks ago, President Obama made an argument I wish more people would make. At a press conference, he was asked if a public option for health insurance would "drive private insurers out of business."

"Why would it drive private insurers out of business?" he answered. "If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality healthcare, if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government -- which they say can't run anything -- suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical."

It's not only insurance companies who say this, it's Republicans. As always. cognitive dissonance rules supreme on the right. There's no way that government can possibly do something better than the private sector -- that is, until the only argument against a government program is that government will do it better than the private sector. Then all bets are off, a core argument of conservative philosophy is abandoned, and we're supposed to believe that everything we were previously told of the supremacy of the private was wrong.

It amazes me that the small minority who still consider themselves Republican can manage this logical origami. When Sarah Palin resigned, she said, "Life is too short to compromise time and resources... it may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: 'Sit down and shut up,' but that's the worthless, easy path; that's a quitter's way out" And we weren't supposed to notice that she was quitting. If you're a Republican, two entirely contradictory concepts are able to exist in the same skull.

We saw the same thing throughout the Bush administration, where we were told that we had to fight wars to "keep Americans safe." Over four thousand service members died in the Iraq war alone -- did we borrow some other country's military for that? If not, we lost more Americans in Iraq than we did on 9/11. And the Iraq war was supposedly started to protect us from another 9/11. Doesn't seem like the best math in retrospect, does it? That's probably why military funerals and the returning coffins were practically a state secret -- it's hard to argue that you're keeping Americans safe when they're returning from a war in boxes.

These mental gymnastics are nothing new. Ronald Reagan demonstrated this cognitive dissonance when he admitted to a scandal without admitting to a scandal. "A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages," he said. "My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." If you can wrap your head around that and get it to make any damned sense at all, you probably vote Republican.

Given history, I think we can easily write off Republican arguments as BS. The arguments don't even have to have any logical consistency within themselves. So expecting there to be any continuity between separate arguments would be foolish. First, we have to privatize everything government does, because the private sector is superior to government in every way. Then, we've got to keep government out of an industry, because government would put all of these superior private companies out of business. Pick a belief and stick with it, because believing everything is pretty much the same thing as believing nothing.

But that's not the case here. Republicans believe what's convenient to believe -- or, at least, they make the most convenient arguments. What they really believe is that the interests of corporations are more important than the interests of the consumers. The problem is that voters are consumers, so you have to put things in a way that isn't 100% honest. You have to get people to vote for screwing themselves.

This corporatism is a bipartisan belief, infecting both parties, but the GOP has the more severe case. If you doubt that, show me a pro-labor Republican or two. Show me the Republican who believes that government's role is to police and regulate industry.

So the public option is a bad thing because government is just too good at competing in the insurance industry. At the same time, government can't do anything right. Government insurance would be the worst thing ever, because you'll find a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor, instead of an insurance company bureaucrat. An insurance company bureaucrat is better than a government one. Don't ask why, because there is no answer to that question. It's like sending Americans to die in a war. That keeps Americans safe. It doesn't make any sense, it's just an argument that enough people will fail to think about. And when you fail to think something all the way through, when you stop thinking once you've reached the conclusion you're most comfortable with, then you've attained that state of Zen that is Republicanism.

And once that argument is shown to be false, you're supposed to forget anyone ever made it. If a bill with a public option reaches the president's desk, you'll be expected to forget that anyone predicted with absolute certainty that it would destroy our health care system. When it works out great and private insurers drop prices to compete with the public system, we're supposed to forget that this was never going to happen in a million years.

"Make no mistake about it, the president is for this strongly," Sen. Chuck Schumer said yesterday on Face the Nation. "There will be a public option in the final bill." A health care reform bill is going to leave a key senate committee with a public option included. 72% of Americans back a public health care plan and would be willing to pay more in taxes to get it.

Meanwhile, the private health insurance industry is dumping $1.4 million a day lobbying against it. In the end, the question here is who will win out -- the corporations or you. Republicans would argue that both would win if the public option were written out of a final bill, but it's hard to see how anything could change without one.

And I suppose that's the point. If we get the same damned thing as always, if the status quo is maintained, you'll be told that this is a win for you. Everything you were so unhappy with before will be what you'll be expected to be grateful for now.

It doesn't have to make sense, it's Republicanism. Just turn your brain off, forget logic and consistency, and be happy.


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mancko said...

"It's obvious this article has no clue what the real argument is."

My friend who is a fairly staunch republican said this to me. The real argument being:

"The real argument is not that the gov't health plans are going to put the private plans out of business because they are so efficient and well run. The gov't plans will put the private plans out of business because they will undercut private prices. Also, the gov't will put an extra tax on any private health plans, making them unsustainable."

How much truth is there to this? Is there evidence to back this up? These are rhetorical questions, but I don't know where to start. The bill I suppose.

Wisco said...

-The real argument is not that the gov't health plans are going to put the private plans out of business because they are so efficient and well run. The gov't plans will put the private plans out of business because they will undercut private prices. Also, the gov't will put an extra tax on any private health plans, making them unsustainable.-

This argument is hampered by the fact that Republicans support the idea of non-profit co-ops. The idea of the co-ops is that they'd undercut the insurance industry's plans and bring down costs through competiton.

In other words, what's a bad thing when government does it is an excellent idea when a co-op does it.

Anonymous said...

The reason the government can put private companies out of business in a direct competition is firstly, due to their propensity to operate at ruinous deficits, they essentially have unlimited amounts of (our) money. Since companies have to (absurd, I know) operate at a profit in the long run, they simply cannot compete against an entity that can spread its losses amongst the entire tax base. Secondly, since the government can and will set policy, they can change the rules mid-game to suit their own advantage.

The Federal government operates nothing (of consequence) at a profit. And that is what it all still boils down to. When governments get involved in trying to make everything equal for everyone, they only succeed in making everyone equally miserable. If you are okay with that, this isn't the country for you. Well, it didn't used to be anyway.

M said...

Ha ha...

This is a brilliant post!

The Healthcare insurance industry profits from denying people access and those that have access can be dropped at their whim.

That's some racket, huh?

Meanwhile, they invest in tobacco stock which invests in advertising and lobbying to keep selling people a highly addictve product that will eventually put them at the mercy of the Insurance industry who can then turn around and claim you're uninsurable because your cancer was caused by your smoking.

The food, the air, the water, and the soil are all poisoned by corporations who all go about their business of incrementally sickening people at which point they can be denied health care for some preexisting condition, like acne.

The government already has a public option. It's called medicare and it works just fine. We also have emergency rooms that serve as defacto public healthcare to the uninsured. The system keeps driving up premiums and ends up costing the government too much money as it is.

Chuck Grassley recently told someone if they wanted the same healthcare he gets, government healthcare, they should "get a job with the federal government."

There's another Republicanism you could use, Wisco, if you think about it for a moment.

Who cares about the health insurance industry?

72%, and probably more, of Americans.

Fuck em'.

They're so fucking powerful, they can issue you a death sentence with a denial stamp.

They should stop calling it "insurance," too. That's another PR pile of shit scam.

Like tobacco telling you their product is safe for decades, even finding some quack doctors to play along, the health insurance mob warns us all of the dangers of "socialized medicine."

Motherfuckers we've already got that and it works.

They're scammers running a racket. A spiderweb of a racket and someone's got to do something to slow their obscene profits at the hand of the dying and denied.

The time is now and who cares if it puts health insurance companies in a position where they'll just have to cut back on CEO bonuses and compete with someone, or something, other than the racket they've instituted with their industry partners in crime.

Nobody, other than funeral parlors, should profit so richly from death in the name of "free enterprise" without going to prison.

mancko said...

@ Wisco

Yeah, but, that doesn't answer the concern really. I mean, I see what you're saying, but anonymous, by the logic that he puts forth, is absolutely correct. If government can operate at a deficit and companies have to make a profit, then the government can conceivably run the businesses into the ground.

The question is why, and in whose interest is it to do that? And is that something that the administration wants to do? Republicans would say yes, absolutely that's what they want, they want us to be socialists. I'm not convinced that this is the case, but if it boils down to gut feelings then we might as well not have the argument.

M said...

"by the logic that he puts forth, is absolutely correct. If government can operate at a deficit and companies have to make a profit, then the government can conceivably run the businesses into the ground."

Few things come to mind.

Operating on deficits is a Republican phenomenon.

Nobody asked or cared how we were going to pay for Iraq. They just did it. $3 trillion. For oil companies.

I digress.

The U.S. Postal Service hasn't put UPS or FED EX out of business. On the contrary, those are two of the most profitable companies in America that arose from competing with the post office.

There are still private schools that do quite well, despite a criminally under-funded public school system.

Here's a kick. Private armies and security forces like Xe, formally known as Blackwater, have managed a profitable slice of the security forces pie, competing with other countries' own militaries.

There's some more examples of companies competing with government's services that were the birth of necessity.

Government health care is another example of necessity, picking up the pieces of a stupid and greedy free market that has failed to compensate for such shortcomings.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Wisco, you are excellent at making bald liberal assertions with no real facts to back up your arguments. Iraq was for oil? Spare me the liberal talking points, I have heard them. Do you have evidence? Are you next going to tell me that the moon landing was staged, or that Bush planned Sept. 11th?

As far as USPS, and public education are concerned...The fact that the private sector is beating the government does not justify its presence. The private sector can and will be more efficient that the government. That doesn't matter. The government has no right or business being there to begin with. Where are those power enumerated by the founding documents?

“Operating on deficits is a Republican phenomenon.” HA. How about our current administration? What about the bailouts and so-called stimulus? Let’s spend our way out of financial trouble. Show me one instance where that has succeeded before.

M said...

I'm not Wisco.

Iraq was for oil? Spare me the liberal talking points, I have heard them.

A few headlines and brief summaries:

"On June 30 major companies - including Exxon, Shell, BP and Total - will gather at Iraq's oil ministry in Baghdad for a two-day meeting to take part in the first bidding round for oil service contracts."

"An oil consortium led by British Petroleum has won a contract to develop a large oil field in Iraq, as dozens of international firms compete for the rights to the nation's oil and gas reserves. BP, along with China's CNPC, secured the contract for the Rumaila oil field on Tuesday, the largest of Iraq's six oil fields on offer to foreign and state-owned companies."

"Later this year, Iraq is due to offer another set of fields that are even more appealing since they are undeveloped."

Yeah. You're right. What a crazy idea. Idiot.

M said...

"Some things never change"

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

-Smedley Butler 1935