Facts and Other Left Wing Talking Points

Here's our debate over shutting down the government over Obamacare in a nutshell.

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Here’s our debate over shutting down the government over Obamacare in a nutshell. Last evening, John Hawkins of Right Wing News tweeted:

Matt Lewis likes the idea:

Hawkins rejoins:

Lewis:

But, I responded, it makes no sense:

Lewis more-or-less agrees:

Seeing this as reasonable, I reply:

Lewis is again reasonable, so I continue engaging:

At which point, I go off to bed.  Hawkins retorts:

Up again this morning, I rejoin the conversation:

Hawkins retorts:

Confused as to how FactCheck.org, USA Today, and Yahoo Finance are equivalent to Daily Kos, I persist:

Hawkins wins the day with this:

Sensing that  facts are useless in this argument, I disengaged.

There are many arguments to be made against Obamacare. Having opposed the legislation throughout the process, I’ve made many of them.  But the “Congress is exempting itself” argument is plain silly.

The facts of the matter, for those interested in such things, are these. Congress, like most large employers, provides subsidized health care for its full time employees. In this case, it’s the same coverage that I get: enrollment in the  Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which provides a menu of coverage options, with the employer (in this case, the taxpayer) picking up 75ish percent of the tab and the employee the rest.  Since it already provides coverage for its employees, then, Congress wouldn’t be impacted by Obamacare at all.

Except that it is. The law actually requires that Congressional staff come off FEHBP come the beginning of next year and join the exchanges created by Obamacare. Until and unless there’s a flight to push people off employer funded care and into the exchanges—which I think likely—Congress is essentially alone here. Basically, the exchanges would be for people who are unemployed or otherwise not covered by employer health plans and those employed by Congress.

But, as I note in short form in the Twitter exchange above, it would be perverse, indeed, for a law designed, however imperfectly, to widen the number of Americans covered by health insurance to disadvantage a class of people already covered; namely, Congressional employees.  They, alone among all federal workers, would have to pay one hundred percent of their insurance premium. So, Congress is trying to fix the law to make its own employees whole–covering the same 75 percent of the premium that they’re covering now under FEHBP.

I suppose one could construct an argument for why Congressional staffers don’t deserve to have the same subsidized health coverage that all other federal employees and, indeed, most American employees, get. But I don’t see how one could construe the facts of the matter as one in which these people are getting “exempted” from a law that provides a venue for the uninsured to join a group plan, given that they are already covered by a group plan.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Lee says:

    James, I am a very vocal critic of the ACA, yet am in complete agreement with you. I have attempted to make this same argument several times. People should read this:

    http://blogs.rollcall.com/wgdb/grassley-frustrated-by-fight-over-his-health-care-amendment/

  2. Phillip says:

    Go pimp for the Dems somewhere else

    I want to laugh heartily, but I recall too succinctly my own similar experiences about a decade ago. I abandoned the Republican party shortly thereafter and have moved further left ever since.

    Until and unless there’s a flight to push people off employer funded care and into the exchanges—which I think likely

    The amateur economist in me likes this idea on its face, but lacks the necessary expertise to finagle what would happen in the macro sense. Maybe I presume its a step in the direction of single-payer (which the leftist in me wholeheartedly supports), but with the insurance companies still in the mix, it gives me the heebie-jeebies as well. But then I fall into the “doesn’t go far enough” category for the ACA.

  3. john personna says:

    The way I heard it, a Republican put the Congressional “eat your own dog food” to make the ACA less palatable. Then Boehner helped fix that so that staff did not receive an effective pay cut. Then Republicans forgot all that in a “blame Obama” moment which should boggle us … if we were not so used to it.

  4. john personna says:

    If you can connect the dots … you might not be a Republican.

  5. Phillip says:

    @john personna: From the look of Hawkins’ responses, “connect the dots” is now exclusively a liberal excercise, not to be practiced by real conservatives.

  6. Scott O says:

    Sensing that facts are useless in this argument, I disengaged.

    Joyner runs away, Hawkins wins! Reality is successfully unskewed.

  7. Latino_in_Boston says:

    This suggests to me a potential way out of this impasse, however. You just need to embrace the crazy, Dr. Joyner

    Here’s my proposal:

    In exchange for a clean CR that ends sequestration and raising the debt ceiling until 2016.

    Obamacare will treat all of Congress like it does any other federal employee, the death panels in Obamacare will be abolished, any person here illegally will be banned from getting welfare, any non-citizen who the tea party can prove has been illegally voting will be immediately deported, all people running for the Presidency must make their birth certificates available for public viewing in a particular place for a certain amount of time prior to the election, IRS employees are banned from going door to door taking away people’s guns, US law supersedes sharia law in every instance in all states, any UN treaty that restricts gun ownership must be approved by Congress first, and by a supermajority in the Senate.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Sensing that facts are useless in this argument, I disengaged.

    As a chemistry prof I know of liked to say, “Why you botha’? Why you botha’? (for the accent, he was Chinese)

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Latino_in_Boston: You’re a real dreamer, aren’t you?

  10. Liberal Capitalist says:

    John,

    You can’t reason with a Teapublican Hateriot.

    They know what is best for this country, and will create it from their self-constructed view of reality.

    I too tried to engage what I though were reasonable logic-based co-workers in a reality-based discussion… but facts just sent them into a further tizzy. when confronted with facts, it quickly becomes ad hominem… and any other red herring to attack, attack attack.

    With them, its become a religion, and facts no longer weigh greater that their faith. Sadly, their fait- focus has become myopic, so even obvious logical fallacies in their own day-to-day lives are ignored.

    DEFEAT OBAMACARE !!! …but leave my college-age kid and wife with pre-existing conditions keep their coverage.

    LOWER TAXES !!! But make damn sure that we keep the military funded with 50% of our tax revenues… and social security and Medicare better be there when it’s my turn. (also: Why are he roads so shitty… someone should fix that!!!)

    The hate and intentional ignorance is swirling faster and faster, making even greater gravity toward the TEA talking points, attracting those that love to hate… They feel they are winning!

    But, like any black hole, they will become that singularity into which nothing escapes… until they become a single point that disappears into nothing.

    What will happen to all those recovering Republicans? What 12 step program will bring them back from the edge?

    (… and how will they deal with the continuing democratic majority for the rest of the 2010’s ?)

  11. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    The John Hawkins’ of the world are not persuadable. Ideology does that, and it ends in tragic stupidity in which there are no national wins for a generation. At least.

  12. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Is it possible that the shutdown could be your personal catalyst for putting reason over tribal identity?

  13. rudderpedals says:

    Isn’t it surprising that Chuck Grassley is not at all at fault. Good old gentleman farmer, that Chuck.

  14. steve s says:

    The Party of Stupid was made for people like John Hawkins.

  15. steve s says:

    (and superdestroyer, and JKB…)

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Latino_in_Boston:

    This is (sadly) the most sensible proposal I’ve seen yet. When you meet crazy people on the street do you argue with them? No, you agree that their tinfoil hat is necessary to keep out the CIA’s death rays, and simply sidle away.

  17. EddieInCA says:

    With all due respect, Dr. Joyner, this is nothing new. The GOP has been on this path for a long time. It’s EXACTLY because of people like John Hawkins – who is very representative of the majority of the current GOP mindset – that many of us have questioned your continuing tribal loyalty to the GOP.

    The poitical party of which you believe you are a member no longer exists. The real party – the current REAL GOP – is only a shadow of the party which you believe exists.

    The party of Reagan and GBush the Elder, no longer exists.
    The party of Eisenhower no longer exists.

    Your GOP is now the party of Ted Cruz, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, etc.

    And as long as sane and moderate conservatives such as yourself keep enabling the crazies and giving them cover by rationalizing their bad behavior, the GOP will continue to be radicalized to the right.

  18. Latino_in_Boston says:

    Here’s how you do it. Call up Louie Gohmert and propose it. Pretty soon King and Bachmann would be behind it. Is the GOP establishment really going to try to argue with the base? It’d be genius.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    Every Republican position is based on just this sort of BS.
    Health Care.
    The economy.
    Gun control.
    Anti-Choice.
    AGW.
    Name an issue. The Republican position is based on total nonsense.

  20. Nick says:

    Your twitter exchange reminds me of Colbert on the Bill O’ Reilly show:

    I spend so much time in the world that is spinning all the time, that to be in the no-spin zone actually gives me vertigo.

  21. PJ says:

    @Latino_in_Boston:

    Here’s my proposal:

    LINO.

  22. PJ says:

    I’m sure as hell not going to give up the right for dead illegal immigrants to vote on the sharia law death panels deciding which tea party members should be killed with the weapons the IRS has confiscated thanks to the UN ban.

    It took the Democrats super majorities in both chambers to be able to set this up. It’s not up for discussion.

  23. dennis says:

    Sensing that facts are useless in this argument, I disengaged.

    James, teach me that long-suffering with the unreasonable! You went five attempts more than I would have. After a couple attempts to engage with no reasoned feedback, I’m usually out. That last line of yours I quoted? Sublime! LOL

  24. It is quite clear that a lot of people do not understand the way this legislation works. There is an awful lot of fear surrounding “being forced to sign up for Obamacare” without any clue as to whom it would be that would have to sign up and what it is that they have to sign up for.

  25. Lenoxus says:

    Not only is “Obamacare” (if the word is used to mean the exchanges and not the ACA as a whole) mainly just for people without insurance (or with really bad insurance), but they aren’t even required to get it, specifically. They just have to get some kind of insurance. Which makes sense if you think about it, since it would be arbitrary to say that people who are now uninsured no longer have the ability to buy insurance as they please.

    This fact has lead to that Koch-funded group with the creepy-Uncle-Sam ads to ignore a middle ground: “You should stay off Obamacare… just pay the fine instead!” when an alternative is to just buy your own insurance from outside healthcare.gov (and option that is looking attractive to me right now, as it happens). But if they’re going to insist on a civil-disobediance route, then they shouldn’t just target the young/healthy who happen to be uninsured now, since that’s just arbitrary. They should target everyone with this message. Quit your insurance and just pay the fine to Uncle Sam, America! Stick it to the ACA! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

    Anway, the whole “make Congress play by the same rules!” thing is like if a new law passed that paid for the insulin of all American diabetics, and the Tea Party insisted that all members of Congress should be injected with insulin too. And then members of Congress, stuck between two difficult situations, compromised by adding a provision that then draws the insulin back out, restoring things to normal. Which of course looks terribly unfair to the uninformed; why does Congress get a special “undo the insulin” provision?

  26. stonetools says:

    Perkins and Lewis obviously are giant d!ckheads. The problem is millions of voters sent people like Lewis and Perkins to Congress, where they can actually do damage with their delusions. I say again, the only solution is to sweep the Tea Party idiots out of Congress next year, and send Perkins and Lewis back to the Bircher convention circuit where they belong.

  27. al-Ameda says:

    The Republican Party has become that person on the bus, on the subway, or walking down the street who is agitated and incoherent, that person whom you go to great lengths to avoid – no eye contact, cross the street to get away from, move to another subway car, etc.

  28. EddieInCA says:

    I am fortunate enough to have insurance through the Motion Picture Fund. It’s pretty decent insurance – my copays are low, and it covers Medical, Dental and Vision. However, the cost of adding my wife to the plan was $650 per month due to a minor pre-existing condition. Her BP, Cholesterol, Heart, White Count, etc, are all great. She’s fit and very healthy. Yet her “pre-existing” condition means we are paying $650 per month for her coverage.

    Last Friday, we jumped on to https://www.coveredca.com/ and looked at the options for her. We found out we can get great coverage – the platinum – for $312 per month.

    We signed up. Can’t wait for it to kick in.

    Anecdotally – my brother-in-law in Idaho – die hard Anti-Obama(care) Repubican – signed up as well for him and his famiy. They will be saving almost $400 per month between his wife and my two nephews.

    We had a conversation about this…. and get this…. he blames “Obama and the Democrats for failing to get the message out as to how people like him can save money.”

    When I confronted him with the right-wing lies he has been listening to, he again reiterated that the Dems and Obama are to blame for him not knowing how the ACA actually works.

  29. Todd says:

    And this is a perfect example of why OTB is virtually the only place on the Internet that I even bother to discuss politics any more. I enjoy a good debate, but it’s nearly impossible to have a rational discussion with people (even friends) who are so brainwashed by their infotainment choices that they’re no longer capable of differentiating facts from propaganda.

    Occasionally I’ll still engage (usually on Facebook) with my friends who are only mildly infected (usually because they don’t care much about politics) when they innocently share something that’s obviously false. But even then, there’s a very good chance that one of their more “engaged” friends will (loudly) show up to show me the “error of my ways” … usually accompanied by a link to someone like Todd Starnes (lately, he often turns out to be the source of some of the most outrageous lies the people I know tend to spread).

    When we get to the point in our discourse where websites like Factcheck, Politifact, and Snopes (while certainly not infallible) are regularly derided by some as “left-wing”, it’s quite obvious that the shark has long since been jumped.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    We had a conversation about this…. and get this…. he blames “Obama and the Democrats for failing to get the message out as to how people like him can save money.”

    I actually think there’s something to this. These guys don’t do a good job selling. They got OBL fer chrisakes. Imagine if Bush/Cheney had been capable of doing that? We never would have heard the end of it.
    Look at the accomplishments of this administration… Yet you would hardly know it. And I think it’s to their detriment.

  31. al-Ameda says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Last Friday, we jumped on to https://www.coveredca.com/ and looked at the options for her. We found out we can get great coverage – the platinum – for $312 per month.

    We all know that it will take time for the ACA exchanges to function smoothly, however it is well worth noting that after ACA passed, California officials charged with fully implementing the exchanges contacted and utilized the expertise of many people in Romney’s Massachusetts health care team.

    By contrast, many Republican leaders in states balked at implementing the ACA exchanges and they are now complaining that it doesn’t work. Now, I realize that the following concluding observation is logically-based and may be hard for some to understand, but …. It’s hard for something to work if you do nothing but delay with, obstruct and interfere with its implementation.

  32. Woody says:

    @C. Clavin:

    A lot of this is due to the still-incredible-to-me treatment of Fox News (a plainly political operation) as an actual news source by the Chuck Todds of the world.

    Fox reporters eagerly shape stories to fit the conservative ideal of Truth. Chuck Todds want no part of Truth at all.

  33. Stan says:

    This is a fascinating thread. There’s something frightening in the unwillingness of John Hawkins to engage James Joyner’s arguments in a rational way. I’ve had a few face to face conversations like the one Joyner had with people I know and respect that left me uneasy and frightened at the end. You bring up a point and they start saying crazy things, so crazy you wonder about their sanity. What is it about health care insurance that sets people off like this? If we have any mental health professionals participating in this discussion, now is the time for them to explain the right wing frenzy about Obama Care and about other aspects of the Obama presidency, including BHO himself.

  34. stonetools says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Look at the accomplishments of this administration… Yet you would hardly know it. And I think it’s to their detriment.

    Preach, bro. One of the problems with the Obama Administration is that they don’t realize that when you come out with a new product, you have to SELL it. When Apple first put out the iPhone, they didn’t just release the product. They told us that it was “magical” and “revolutionary.” They told us there was an app for anything you wanted to do in the App Store, etc, etc. Now people rolled their eyes at all this, but the result was that the iPhone sold-big time.
    Now Obamcare is a strange new product with great upside but with disruptive possibilities. Moreover, its been the subject of a Goebbels-like disinformation campaign from day one.
    Faced with that, you would think that the Obama Administration would counter with SOME kind of public relations campaign-something like the AARP’s “Its the most important card you carry” at least. So far they’ve done nothing. There have been no slogans, no jingles, no “elevator pitch” -only a few labored explanations by Obama.
    To be blunt , the Obama Administration’s messaging on ACA has been FAIL from day one. They need to raise their game in messaging AND implementation. They need both, not just one.

  35. steve s says:

    C. Clavin says:
    Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 11:31
    Every Republican position is based on just this sort of BS.
    Health Care.
    The economy.
    Gun control.
    Anti-Choice.
    AGW.
    Name an issue. The Republican position is based on total nonsense.

    You can actually guess what the GOP’s position on an issue is by asking, “What’s the stupidest possible opinion a person could have here?” Your guess will be pretty accurate.

  36. al-Ameda says:

    @steve s:

    You can actually guess what the GOP’s position on an issue is by asking, “What’s the stupidest possible opinion a person could have here?”

    Let’s take Clavin’s list, I’ll take a pass at it:

    Health Care – “Individual mandates are good when proposed by conservatives, bad when proposed by liberals.”

    The economy. – “Default is no big deal. Sure it might be painful but we need to go through another Great Depression, but this time the right way, without government intervention.”

    Gun control. – “315M people, 300M guns, clearly there are not enough guns.”

    Anti-Choice. “Only white men know what is best for women when it comes to women’s health and women’s reproductive choices.”

    AGW. – “It’s a fraud – we know this because it was cold in Vermont last winter.”

  37. Gavrilo says:

    Obamacare requires Congress and staff to lose their employer based health insurance and obtain it through the exchange. The law makes no provision for any subsidy. To then give Congress and staff a subsidy would be an exemption from the law as it was written. If the democrats want to change that, the proper mechanism would be to amend the law. But, since the law was passed by congress and upheld by the Supreme Court, they should just get over it, right?

  38. al-Ameda says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Obamacare requires Congress and staff to lose their employer based health insurance and obtain it through the exchange. The law makes no provision for any subsidy. To then give Congress and staff a subsidy would be an exemption from the law as it was written. If the democrats want to change that, the proper mechanism would be to amend the law. But, since the law was passed by congress and upheld by the Supreme Court, they should just get over it, right?

    Talk to John Boehner about it – he’s in charge of the group demanding changes to ACA.

  39. dennis says:

    @Stan:

    I’ve had a few face to face conversations like the one Joyner had with people I know and respect that left me uneasy and frightened at the end. You bring up a point and they start saying crazy things, so crazy you wonder about their sanity.

    I feel you, Stan. It’s absolutely mind-boggling. I’m talking about otherwise rational people! And is it me, or do their faces really do that Smeagle/Gollum distortion effect while discussing these things?

  40. Stan says:
  41. Mikey says:

    @dennis:

    And is it me, or do their faces really do that Smeagle/Gollum distortion effect while discussing these things?

    In my experience it’s more like scary Bilbo.

  42. James, I was having similar conversations with people on and off of Twitter a couple years ago and that’s what, in part, started my conversion from being a conservative to not being one. For example, I had to put up with people locally that said that The Washington Times was part of the “liberal media”.

    Welcome to the dark side. 🙂

  43. dennis says:

    @Mikey:

    Thanks for the roaring laugh, Mikey!!!

  44. @al-Ameda: He was also the one fighting to keep the employee subsidies for Congressmen and staffers:
    http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/john-boehner-hill-obamacare-subsidies-97634.html

  45. al-Ameda says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    @al-Ameda: He was also the one fighting to keep the employee subsidies for Congressmen and staffers:
    http://www.politico.com/story/2013/10/john-boehner-hill-obamacare-subsidies-97634.html

    Thank you Tim.

    Guys like Boehner sometimes box themselves in with their idiocy. The ACA Exchanges were intended as a place for those NOT covered to go to purchase insurance. The Exchanges were not intended for people who already have coverage.

  46. David M says:

    And now Graham is pushing this nonsense, saying that any deal to raise the debt ceiling has to include the idiotic Vitter Amendment.

    This issue is transparent nonsense, but the GOP keeps pretending it’s a real issue.

  47. An Interested Party says:

    It’s rather telling that none of the usual right-wing suspects have shown up on this thread to dispute anything that James has written and/or to defend the idiocy of John Hawkins, even though they write similar things on a regular basis…funny that…

  48. al-Ameda says:

    @David M:

    And now Graham is pushing this nonsense, saying that any deal to raise the debt ceiling has to include the idiotic Vitter Amendment.

    The Vitter Amendment also includes language that requires Republican legislators to use debit cards when they use ‘escort services’.

    Vitter is a grandstanding bozo. The ACA Exchanges were intended to be a place where those who did not have health insurance coverage through their employer could purchase such coverage.

  49. Pharoah Narim says:

    @EddieInCA: He does have a slight point because messaging has been bad or really…non-existent from the Democrat side (mostly from having to play defense from crazed right-wing claims about it)

    But the bottom line is this: Right-wing nuts, Left wing useful idiots, moderate milque toasts, looney libertarians, etc ALL LOVE SAVING MONEY. I’ve already read newspaper articles where tea party nuts in the deep south are out comparison shopping on the exchanges trying to see if they qualify for a better deal. By this time next year….the talking heads will have a new boogie man to push because 25-30% of the right wing crazies will have insurance coverage through Obamacare. NEXT!!!

  50. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Stan: The first non-white person to do anything freaks white people out. What’s happened in the BHO Presidency isn’t new–its just being played out on a national stage for all to view.

    Similar delusions happened when non-whites started occupying management positions in corporate America, officer and senior enlisted positions in the military, etc When James Meridith enrolled at Ole Miss 50 years ago…..those people thought the world was going to end. In a way it did…but for the better.

  51. mike shupp says:

    Wait for redistricting after the 2020 census. That’ll give Republicans a chance to make things go right!

  52. mike shupp says:

    @Stan:

    “What is it about health care insurance that sets people off like this?”

    This is the Superbowl in American politics. Democrats have been trying to extend healthcare to people since Kennedy’s day. and Republicans have been trying to keep government out of peoples’ lives (and taxes low) since FDR’s time. The Republicans lost on Medicare and Medicaid, so some people get healthcare while they’re young and many people get healthcare when they’re old, and Republicans know every penny that pays for this was ripped from their pockets by an evil monstrous federal bureaucracy. So Democrats see Obamacare as the capstone of a mighty edifice which brings sweetness and light to all American lives. And Republicans see it as the door slamming on the subterranean vault in which all hopes of decency and independence and liberty and justice will forever be entombed.

    Kind of hard to accept compromise when absolute good and absolute evil combat.

  53. LaurenceB says:

    @Latino_in_Boston: This is brilliant. Best thing on the internets today.