I’m Gonna Stick A Pin In Some GOP Nonsense Today.

I can’t seem to look away from the ongoing wreck that is Conservatism in America today. I want to, I just can’t muster the courage to ignore it. There are several favorite tenets to GOP orthodoxy we keep hearing in the media and I find it curious but not surprising that no-one ever publicly pushes back on these fallacies.

1) Trickle down economics: The idea that if we can rain the maximal amount of transfer of wealth to the already wealthy, that there will be scraps enough falling from the table so that the poor can tat them into bootstraps big enough to graduate to “the middle class”. Google Kansas. I’ll wait.

2) An unregulated Free Market is the BEST. THING. EVER. and the solution to poverty. This is the biggest, juiciest wet dream of Libertarians and Conservatives alike. Never mind that it doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. I’ve been challenging folks to provide me an example of a completely sustainable free market operating anywhere at any time in history. So far, crickets.

This brings me to the big lie being spread like runny manure on a spring day that unfettered competition in the healthcare and insurance industry will LOWER PRICES and IMPROVE quality of care. COMPETITION! What a good idea on paper if you work for a Koch brothers think tank. The trends are all running in the opposite direction.

Paul B. Ginsburg testified before the California Senate Committee on Health on fostering competition in consolidated markets:

Health care markets are becoming more consolidated, causing price increases for purchasers of health services, and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future despite anti-trust enforcement;
Consolidation in health care has been increasing for some time and is now quite extensive in many markets. Some of this comes from mergers and acquisitions, but an important part also comes from larger organizations gaining market share from smaller competitors. The degree of consolidation varies by market. In California, most observers believe that metropolitan areas in the northern part of the state have provider markets that are far more consolidated than those in the southern part of the state. Insurer markets tend to be statewide and are less consolidated than those in many other states. The research literature on hospital mergers is now substantial and shows that mergers lead to higher prices.
The trend is accelerating for reasons that are apparent. For providers, it is becoming an increasingly challenging environment to be a small hospital or medical practice. There is more pressure on payment rates. New contracting models, such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), tend to require more scale. The system is going through a challenging transition to electronic medical records, which is expensive and requires specialized expertise to avoid pitfalls. Lifestyle choices by younger physicians lead them to pursue employment in large organizations rather than solo ownerships or partnerships in small practices.

The environment is also challenging for small insurers. Multi-state employers prefer to contract with insurers that can serve all of their employees throughout the country. Scale economies are important in building the analytic capabilities that hold so much promise for effectively managing care. Insurer scale is important to make it worthwhile for providers to contract with them under alternative payment models. The implication of these trends is an expectation of increasing consolidation.

This isn’t just happening in medicine, but across all businesses in the US. Media, Big Oil, Pharma, Wall St. etc. Selling insurance across state lines isn’t going to increase competition. It will increase the number of scammers who sell policies that cover nothing essential, and eventually consolidation will swallow them up like Wells Fargo et al did the small banks in the mortgage industry.
Auto insurance is sold in all 50 States, that’s competition, right? “Free market” right? Insurance premiums should be next to nothing. Well, if memory serves me, I paid around $300 a year for full coverage in my 20’s now I’m paying almost $600 a year for liability only. I’d love to hear from anyone whose payments went DOWN. Didn’t happen. Ain’t gonna happen. That’s because in reality it’s a captive, closed market. The rates are determined by what maintains profit, and the exact same model is used in health care. Insurers and hospitals don’t want competition and they spend millions in lobbying to prevent it. They can charge usurious rates because medical care can’t be exported like manufacturing. The US pays more for medical care than any other country on the planet. If conservatives truly wanted competition they’d vote for laws allowing patients to buy medicine available outside the country. They just shot a bill down as recently as January this year.

Quote Intercept

The Senate voted down the amendment 52-46, with two senators not voting. Unusually, the vote was not purely along party lines: 13 Republicans joined Sanders and a majority of Democrats in supporting the amendment, while 13 Democrats and a majority of Republicans opposed it.

One of those Democrats was New Jersey’s Cory Booker, who is considered a rising star in the party and a possible 2020 presidential contender.

In a statement to the media after the vote, Booker’s office said he supports the importation of prescription drugs but that “any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.”

This argument is the same one offered by the pharmaceutical industry. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which lobbies against importation, maintains that it opposes importation because “foreign governments will not ensure that prescription drugs entering the U.S. from abroad are safe and effective.”

The safety excuse has long been a refuge for policymakers who don’t want to assist Americans struggling with prescription drug costs. Bills to legalize importation passed in 2000 and 2007, but expired after the Clinton and Bush administrations refused to certify that it would be safe. The Obama administration also cited safety concerns when opposing an importation measure in the Affordable Care Act.

The Republicans and Corporatist Democrats love regulations that preserve profit and the status quo. That’s why we must wrench their grubby paws from the levers of power without further delay. It may already be too late, I don’t know. I do know it won’t happen inside the current power structure.

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What Would Jesus Drive? WWJD

More Thursday giggles:

Posted in atheism, humor, Post weakly | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Knock Knock.

You: Who’s there?
Me: Orange
You: Orange who?
Me: Orange who glad this post isn’t about Trump?

Meet Senator “Don’t Say Gay” Hensley From

He’s the infamous advocate for a “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would ban schools, administrators, and even students from discussing anything related to homosexuality. Senator Hensley, who has been a lawmaker for 15 years and happens to also be a medical doctor, took up the mantle of pushing the ugly legislation. He also pushed a Tennessee bill that would allow discrimination against LGBT people and atheists by mental health students, allowing them to refuse to treat people, as part of their required training, if they expressed a deeply held religious belief.
Senator Hensley is a mighty Christian warrior fighting against gay children in schools, and fighting against gay children and adults who want counseling. And now he’s even fighting to prevent same-sex couples from having children, by sponsoring legislation “from the Tennessee Family Action Council that would make children created using donor sperm illegitimate — an attempt to make it harder for gay and lesbian parents to establish paternity.”


Let’s all sigh christian faaaaamiilee vaaaaalues together now. Oh and “objective morality” and “ten commandments” too. What’s Joey been up to lately Monty? I’m sure he’s setting a good example for all us heathens to emulate, right? Right?

Not so much.

A doctor and his younger nurse fall in love. They continue their torrid affair even after his ex-wife tips off the nurse’s husband, a local politician, to the salacious goings-on. As the divorce moves forward, discovery turns up that the nurse is not just the doctor’s employee and his lover, but his patient, with a predilection for pain pills. And, oh, she’s his second cousin, too. Around the same time that spring, Gina Hensley took out an order of protection from the senator, alleging he hit her with his car, twice. He denied it, and she eventually withdrew the claim.


Why did I ever become an atheist? The good Senator’s living by the Republican Jesus creed of “Do unto others until you get caught, then deny wrongdoing, and eventually beg forgiveness.”
What a good gig if you can get it.

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On the Lighter Side

I have no idea if this will load or not. I hope so. It’s too funny to pass up.
Click the first link.


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Same Sex Marriage: Settled Law or Not?

The same lack of situational awareness that brought us Cheeto Mussolini to the very very White House is going to bring us the gradual erosions and losses of voting rights, women’s right to choose, and the right for same sex couples to have the same legal protections afforded to heterosexual couples by the legal institutions the State defines as marriage. Many are going to ask themselves how this happened. They’re going to discover that winning isn’t always winning unless the victory comes through understanding and consensus rather than a majority rule. As we’re discovering, being in the majority must be maintained over time in spite of shifting demographics. Small majorities breed simmering resentments that build over time and manifest in ugly ways when they regain control for various periods. It’s the same struggle atheists face with the religious. We can either win them over with reason or eventually outnumber them. Neither outcome is very likely in the short term future.

History does repeat itself. No clearer example presents itself than the State by State “in the trenches” warfare the religious have waged against abortion. And they’re winning. All over the US, access to legal abortion for the poor is being reduced. [A quick footnote: The wealthy never lose access to abortion even when they publicly oppose it, because it’s just a quick flight to the “health spa” in places that actually have policies that comport with the 21st century. If they were forced to live by the same rules they impose on others, the world might look quite different.]

I suggest we are living in a growing shadow apartheid State. The shackles just aren’t that obvious yet. The poor and disposessed are joining ethnic people in State sanctioned mechanisms used to lend the appearance of legitimacy to what white America calls “correcting unacceptable social ills” like “LAW and ORDER”, “THE WAR ON DRUGS” and coming soon to a State near you, the criminalization of debt and poverty. Mass incarcerations and asset forfeitures are on the rise. People who aren’t compliant and useful to consumer driven Capitalism will find themselves in debtors prison. Go to prison, lose your vote. Those that think this isn’t already in motion should have a look around you.

All of which brings me to the fine State of Texas, home of religiously inspired policies like dead women being used as incubators for unviable fetuses. And if there’s one thing they can’t stand, its the gay assault on the bronze age death cults notion that marriage is a religious institution for heteros only.

This from Salon recently:

If the court were to rule against same-sex couples, it would prevent city employees — such as firefighters, sanitation workers, and librarians — from adding their legally wedded spouses to insurance. Jessica Jones is the wife of a police officer in Collin County, located on the outskirts of Dallas. Jones, 29, works for a children’s advocacy center that doesn’t offer benefits to employees. An unfavorable decision would remove her from her wife’s insurance. The couple are raising two children together and are planning to have another child through artificial insemination. If Jones carries the baby, the child would be uninsured.

…chipping away at marriage benefits for same-sex couples is the exact same political maneuver the right-wing accused liberals of doing for decades — pushing a political agenda through the court system. The council member called it “hypocrisy.”

“When the judiciary affirms civil rights in a way that the GOP does not like, they call it ‘judicial activism,’” he said. “When the judiciary affirms things they do like, it’s just fairness.”

But Ken Upton, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal, believes that the legal team behind the case has more than benefits for same-sex couples in Texas on its mind. Jared Woodfill and Jonathan Saenz, the attorneys representing the Houston complainants, are aligned with some of the most consistently anti-LGBT forces in the state. Saenz is the President of Texas Values, a right-wing organization that believes “homosexual marriage [is] waging war on marriage.” Woodfill was the spokesperson for the campaign to repeal Houston’s nondiscrimination ordinance in 2015, which falsely portrayed trans people as dangerous predators targeting young girls.

Upton explained that the ultimate goal of Woodfill and Saenz is to get Pidgeon v. Turner in front of the Supreme Court. If Texas judges decide in favor of the petitioners, there’s likely to be an immediate stay on the ruling, which would require further action from SCOTUS. And if Texas upholds same-sex benefits, the complainants would have the ability to appeal that decision. The latter scenario has become more enticing with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, a conservative Constitutionalist, to the nation’s highest court.

Woodfill told the Texas Tribune that “given the changing composition” of SCOTUS, he believes the court — especially if more spots on the bench open up — could reverse its earlier decision on marriage equality. “Ultimately, I would like to see Obergefell overturned,” he said.

There you have it. Queers can stay involved or end up back in the closet and worse. I’ve lived the worse and I’m not anxious to go back to it.

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