FROM THE TPP TO THE ACA: Liberal applause for some horrible numbers!

TUESDAY, JULY 14, 2015

Part 2—As judged by the global perspective:
Will the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership—the TPP—succeed in “killing huge swaths of working-class and middle-class jobs?”

That’s what Rachel Maddow suggested, just one time, back in early May. But let’s face it! Within vast swaths of our own liberal tribe, we don’t seem to give a large hoot about such mundane concerns.

Dearest darlings! On our own corporate liberal news channel, the TPP has largely been ignored, except when it’s been used as a feel-good partisan toy. But that’s the way “economic issues” tend to get treated on our increasingly clownish channel.

Has the TPP been ignored? As a general matter, that’s also the way we liberals treat the various economic issues associated with American health care, including the Affordable Care Act—so-called Obamacare, AKA the ACA.

How little do we seem to care about the corporate looting which virtually defines our American health care? How little do we seem to care about the way these economic issues affect working-class people, of whom some of our hosts actually seem to have heard?

To answer those questions, let’s revisit what Chris Hayes said on his cable program last Friday night.

It’s important to note that Hayes’ remarks were perfectly accurate. On the other hand, his presentation might seem to reflect an orientation which one distinguished American statesman has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Let’s say it again—Hayes’ statements were perfectly accurate. He was correcting ridiculous statements by Judd Gregg, the former Republican senator from New Hampshire.

Hayes’ statements were perfectly accurate. They also help us make an instructive trip from the little-explored TPP to the little-explored ACA:
HAYES (7/10/15): There are some people who say that the Affordable Care Act, despite its design to cover more of the uninsured, actually isn’t doing that—that it’s failing at its chief mission.

In fact, former senator from New Hampshire, Judd Gregg, was on this program a few weeks ago and we had an exchange on precisely that point.


Just a few minutes after that exchange, we pulled up this graph which is from Gallup, not Pew, and it’s a graph showing that the uninsured rate dropped to 11.9 percent in the first quarter of this year. You see that there, that sharp decline that some might even characterize as “plummeting.” That’s the data, the best data we have.

Well, today we got more data from the same folks at Gallup, who are the kind of gold standard of what the uninsured rate is. And you’ll never guess what’s happened after that. Between that show and now we’ve seen the uninsured rate drop to a new low, 11.4 percent in the second quarter of this year. And it’s dropping particularly among people of color and people of low income.

Now there are all sorts of ways to criticize Obamacare, and all sorts of ways you can say it’s not restraining costs, premiums might be going up. But the one thing it very clearly is doing is reducing the percentage of folks who are uninsured. So let’s please let’s drop that line of attack.
Everything said there is accurate. On the matter of insurance rates, Our Tribe was right and Their Tribe was wrong when Gregg made his silly remarks on Hayes’ program last month.

That said, we were somewhat unfavorably struck by Hayes’ presentation. We’re often struck that way by the similar statements we frequently see.

Here’s why:

Hayes announced, with something like tribal pride, that the nation’s uninsured rate has hit a new low—11.4 percent.

Viewed from the global perspective, that number is horrifically bad. Viewed from the standpoint of recent history, it stands as a tribute to our striking political failures as liberals, progressives and Democrats.

“A new low of 11.4 percent?” Twenty-four years ago, the Democratic Party initiated a cycle in which it established “universal health coverage” as a basic goal.

Twenty-four years later, we’ve reduced the uninsured rate to 11.4 percent, a sick joke by international standards. But it doesn’t seem to enter our heads that an embarrassing number like that might represent our own tribe’s lack of political and cultural skill—that it might represent our own gross political failures, failures which help establish our country as the laughing-stock of the developed world.

Instead, we’re actually able to cite that number as a brief source of tribal pride! Meanwhile, consider what Hayes said about the way the uninsured rate is “dropping particularly among people of color and people of low income.”

Hayes was citing the most recent figures from Gallup—the figures shown below. These are the current uninsured rates among the groups in question:
Percentage of uninsured U.S. adults, spring 2015
Whites: 7.4 percent
Blacks: 12.0 percent
Hispanics: 29.1 percent

Income under $36,000: 20.8 percent
It’s certainly true. The uninsured rates among blacks, Hispanics and low-income people have declined by substantial amounts since the ACA took effect. You can check the previous rates in the Gallup figures.

Theoretically, that represents significant improvement, depending on the type of coverage such people have received. (More on that tomorrow.) But according to Gallup, 29 percent of Hispanic adults are currently uninsured! So are 21 percent of adults with incomes under $36,000.

Judged on a global perspective, those numbers are astonishingly bad. They exist at the end of a 24-year cycle in which the Democratic Party established “universal coverage” as a basic political goal.

According to Gallup, 21 percent of low-income adults still lack health insurance! When you see this situation discussed at corporate liberal news orgs, as you occasionally will, you’re likely to see the discussion center on the refusal of red-state governors to agree to extend Medicaid as part of Obamacare.

That’s a perfectly sensible point to discuss. It’s also a source of tribal uplift, in which we the blues get to shake our heads about them the horrible reds.

On balance, though, we liberals hear little discussion about the high uninsured rate among working-class people, any more than we’re likely to hear extended discussion about that “huge swath of working-class jobs” the TPP was likely to kill. Truth to tell, there’s no giant sign that we care a whole lot about such topics, or even about Such People.

At our corporate liberal sites, we hear about the so-called “social issues” much more than we’re likely to hear about such economic issues. And at this point in our discussion, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the economic issues in our American health care which go undiscussed by Rachel and Chris and the rest of the upbeat gang who are increasingly being derided as the “Maddowsketeers.”

Last night, Rachel banged on her toy xylophone again as “Nick” paraded behind her. (She even teased the xylophone segment.) She spooned us barrels of tribal porridge about The Gaffes of Walker County.

Hayes did a much more informative show, as he typically does. It’s the Maddow show which has almost completely disintegrated over the course of this very peculiar year.

That said, even Hayes isn’t going to discuss the widespread looting which characterizes our health care system—a system which remains the undisguised plutocratic joke of the developed world. He won’t be spending much time on the problems with Obamacare, to which he correctly referred.

He won’t suggest that these massive problems could possibly reflect our own tribe’s political failures. Truth to tell, we liberals have extremely low expectations for ourselves.

What we have here, it seems to us, is a failure to communicate—a massive failure which often tracks to our own tribal behavior. Tomorrow, we’ll continue to note the types of things we aren’t likely to see discussed on our own corporate liberal programs, where the hosts keep banging on their toys as the looting of the nation goes undiscussed.

Tomorrow: What Zeke Emanuel said


  1. The New York Times snubbed Hillary Clinton's economic plan, delivered in their own city. And Bob Somerby leads with a repeat of a complaint about a Rachel Maddow segment back in May.

    1. Unlikely you care about Hillary Clinton's treatment of the press more than knocking Somerby again. Had you read Somerby's piece, you would understand it is not about a Maddow show back in May but about the ongoing failure to report major issues on both the Maddow and Hayes shows.

    2. You appear to applaud or at least are unconcerned about the Times decision to banish Clinton's announcement on the single most important issue to voters to page A13.

    3. That is completely unfair @ 11:16. It is pretty clear that @11:08 is more concerned that you missed the broader point that TDH is not just singling out Maddow but also Hayes who are underperforming in reporting on our underperforming health care system, and also not covering what failures they and liberals overall are on everything. In general.

    4. This sort of thing just isn’t real helpful, unless it’s the joy of tribal loathing that you principally seek.

    5. As I said, I doubt you care at all about how Clinton is treated. If you did, that would have been the focus of your comment, not attacking Somerby once again for the same old stuff.

    6. You attack me for making my comment relevant to the post? You obviously don't care much more about Clinton than the Times. Certainly not as much as you care about attacking me over misplaced TDH priorities. You liberals only seem to care about Clinton when she is directly attacked. Ignoring her message of hope and promise of support for the middle class is the worst sort of attack of all.

      Mark my words. If she underperforms expectations in Iowa the chants for her to withdraw will begin again. And then where will we be?

    7. Here trollee trollee trollee...

      Concern trolling is still trolling. If you just could have resisted attacking Somerby in your comment...

    8. Why is attacking Somerby such an attraction? Why not stick to the substance and attack liberals?

    9. Liberals are about change. You cannot achieve that without attacking the status quo.

      Trolls are about (1) laughing at their own unfunny jokes, (2) bullying Somerby, (3) stroking their own egos, (4) sadistic enjoyment of hurting others via misdirected aggression.

    10. @ 12:52

      HRC is about more of the same Administration that still has another 1 1/2 years to go. HRC is a model of status quo.

      "NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton sounded like a woman on a mission after her long drive into the heartland: “There’s something wrong,” she told Iowans on Tuesday, when “hedge fund managers pay lower taxes than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80 when I was driving here over the last two days.”

      But back in Manhattan, the hedge fund managers who’ve long been part of her political and fundraising networks aren’t sweating the putdown and aren’t worrying about their take-home pay just yet.

      It’s “just politics,” said one major Democratic donor on Wall Street, explaining that some of Clinton’s Wall Street supporters doubt she would push hard for closing the carried-interest loophole as president, a policy she promoted when she last ran in 2008."

    11. Don't worry Cicero, the NYTimes already have their man picked out JEB(!).

    12. @mm

      You are being influenced by David Brock spin. How could HRC claim "right wing conspiracy" if the liberal NYT were plotting to undermine her campaign as Brock and his minions insist they are doing?

      NYT has their candidate alright, but with two x chromosomes and with it's own money laundering foundation.

      "Clinton Donated $100K to New York Times Group the Same Year Paper Endorsed Her Publisher pushed hard for Clinton endorsement in 2008"

      "The Right Baits the Left to Turn Against Hillary Clinton"

      "Hillary Clinton Aims to Capture the Cool"

      "Trade Deal Comments Put Hillary Clinton at Odds With Her Former Boss"

      ‘Super PAC’ Raises $15.6 Million for Hillary Clinton Campaign"

    13. How dare you call Bob Somerby a minion of David Brock?

    14. Somerby has already made it clear he has problems with Hillary and her supporters .

    15. cicero has already made it clear that he/she/it is a grubby, small-minded media research center troll.

    16. @ 7:51

      Spoken like one of the "nerd virgins" working for David Brock's "Correct the Record."

    17. Cicero, the last time the GOP was in full control, 8 yrs potus, 8 years house, 6 years senate, we invaded Iraq over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and the economy almost totally collapsed. The country was almost destroyed. By all means, let them take over again, so they can finish the job

    18. AC/MA, let's also not forget that the House and Senate changed hands in 2006, and that Bush pissed off Jeffords so much in his first year, that Jeffords switched caucuses and gave the Dems a majority in the first two years of his term. So it was six years House, four years Senate.

      Let's also not forget 9/11. Dubya had not only the whole country rallying behind him, but the whole world, and he managed to piss that off it a few short years.

      And you know what? The worst thing that happened to both Dubya and the country was that the dumbass thought his narrow re-election over Kerry was a landslide, giving him a mandate to do as he pleased.

      His first term was pretty bad, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a re-elected president have a worse second term than Dubya. Not even LBJ, who was actually re-elected to a first term in an actual landslide.

      Yeah, Vietnam certainly did him in, but LBJ also did a lot of good, too.

  2. To the extent that poor people do not enroll in ACA, the health care costs for everyone will be higher. Poor people are not involved in preventative care. They go to hospital emergency rooms when they need acute treatment and the public pays. That is much more expensive than visiting a primary care physician for less serious conditions. So this is an issue for all of us.

    Is this a problem of outreach? Why are poor people not included in ACA?

    1. $36,000 is not poverty unless you are in a family of seven or more.

    2. Why aren't people earning less than $36,000 not included in ACA?

    3. People are expected to pay for their own insurance via their usual paychecks then get a rebate on their taxes. If they don't have the cash flow to make those payments, it doesn't matter whether they get the money back off their taxes at some future time. Maybe this method of subsidizing the insurance needs to be reexamined?

    4. Maybe the concept of insurance needs to be re-examined.

      Perhaps paying for health care directly as needed would be preferable.

      Of course that is socialist.

      So is Bernie Sanders.

      Who is quite old I read somewhere.

    5. Many states are refusing the medicaid subsidy, which may account for a big portion of those still uninsured. It would be interesting to see a good faith estimate as to how many people are potentially uninsured due to spiteful Republican obstructionism.

  3. Finally Bob Somerby may get around to covering the crucial health issue closest to his most loyal readers.

    It has already been 18 months, Mr. Somerby. Don't wait another day.

    "WHAT is happening in retirement communities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes? You might imagine quiet reading, crossword puzzles, bingo, maybe some shuffleboard. Think again. Think about sex — unsafe sex."

    Zeke Emanuel "Sex and the Single Senior"
    New York Times January 18, 2014

    1. I know this will anger many, but Bob has a habit of forgetting to cover things that he promises will be in his blog "Tomorrow."

      Others have mentioned this before. I hesitate to bring it up at this sensitive time on this sensitive topic. But things are backing up in the Promise Dept. if you get my drift.

    2. This piece was promised Tomorrow yesterday. And here it is.

    3. If you know Somerby has a habit of forgetting this sort of thing, why let it bother you? If you truly care, send him an email and let him know you want his thoughts on a topic. Otherwise, no matter how politely you phrase it, this is yet another knock on Somerby and his blog and is not substantive comment.

    4. I don't e-mail. My boss monitors that.

    5. And you don't own a cell phone?

    6. I have a cell phone. Do you have Somerby's number?

    7. Send him an email from your smartphone.

    8. I didn't say I have a cell phone with internet access. I can't afford it.

    9. This is why we all need to agitate for a higher minimum wage.

  4. I do not want to hijack this thread, but I just need to scream ... I have watched CNN & CBS all morning long (7/14/15) and not a SINGLE SENTENCE about the Pluto flyby today. CBS gave us almost 5 minutes of the 50 cent bankruptcy, Yup, NASA's 91/2 years, 3 billion mile mission of discovery is not quiet as important to the news royalty at CBS (looking at you Charlie Rose) as some rap crap. Again sorry to stay from thread, but I just had to let out my frustration. (BTW, basic cable here).

    1. I agree with you. But I cannot help but notice how the Obama administration times all these big events to take away from the Clinton speech.

      At least Google is giving Pluto its due.

    2. Sure. That's why Obama called HRC last night to inform her personally about the Iran nuke deal. And that is why today she is celebrating said nuke deal.

    3. That doesn't explain the timing of his administration's Pluto flyby, jackass. And what about the leak on letting the Transgendered into the military?

    4. The timing of talking about the flyby and the flyby itself are two different things. You do realize it took 12 years to get to Pluto. HRC hadn't declared as a presidential candidate then.

      Regardless of competing news, the media could have chosen to focus on the content of HRC's speech. Economic prosperity is vitally important to everyone and she has outlined her plan for achieving it.

      Yesterday Kevin Drum quoted Brian Beutler's description of Clinton's plan. He said that she had 26 specific proposals, adding "pretty good even for a Clinton". I don't understand what he means by that. It sounds derogatory, but does it mean that Clintons usually do or don't have specifics? Both are considered policy wonks with facts at their fingertips -- very smart -- so why would he say something like that?

      I think this is an example of Clinton rules -- whatever the Clintons do, even when they do something good, has to be accompanied by a putdown of some sort. Even praise must be qualified.

    5. Please, @ 11:13, instead of hijacking this thread send Bob Somerby an e-mail. Given the troll infestation it is impossible not to interpret your comment as yet another criticism. This is his space. Your opinion of rap music and such, while interesting to some, may be offensive to others and is irrelevant to health care.

    6. Isn't the time to talk about the flyby when the flying by is happening?

      Why should we discuss Drum's view of HRC when Bob hasn't?

  5. Somerby says: "That said, even Hayes isn’t going to discuss the widespread looting which characterizes our health care system—a system which remains the undisguised plutocratic joke of the developed world. He won’t be spending much time on the problems with Obamacare, to which he correctly referred."

    To the extent that politics is equivalent to partisan warfare these days, any criticism of Obamacare would be disloyal to Obama and would undermine the efforts of those running for office to tout that as an achievement of their party. Criticizing ACA from the left might open the door to legislative changes that would hurt the current system as conservatives have the opportunity to weaken the legislation at the same time as liberals are trying to improve it. How could improvements to ACA be accomplished with conservative majorities in congress?

    I agree that we should be examining candidates proposals to see whether they are interested in improving ACA, extending Medicaid, controlling health care costs, etc. I'm not sure much positive will happen during Obama's lame duck sessions. He may feel he has done a lot by fending off court challenges to ACA -- and it is better than nothing.

    1. Hillarycare would have been better if the Obama people hadn't bullied her into quitting,

  6. Bernie Sanders has promoted funding for community-based health clinics that anyone can attend, regardless of insurance. Some of these have been funded through the ACA, others through amendments to various other bills.

    To the extent that a low income person can attend a local health clinic, might that not undermine the urgency of them participating in ACA? It seems to set up two parallel health care systems, one for poor people and the other for wealthier people. The regular insurance system allows people to go to their choice of doctors and take advantage of the resources of the entire health care system. The local health clinics provide immediate treatment on the spot and some preventative care (for those willing to seek it), but without linkages to other health care facilities, cannot provide the full range of services. So it is a two-tiered system with the lowest tier of dubious quality. The main advantage seems to be that it does provide access to health care (especially in rural areas) and it reduces the influx of people with non-urgent problems to hospital emergency rooms. Otherwise, it seems well-intentioned but sets up a separate and unequal health care track for those without the means to participate in ACA.

    This is Sanders signature achievement. It makes sense to ask whether philosophically it is a Band-Aid or the best way to provide for the health needs of all members of our society.

    1. He is awfully old though. And his state is very tiny.

  7. Ihaven't checked what Sen Judd actually said. However, a fair criticism is that ACA was supposed to lead to universal coverage. As Bob points out, it has not done so.

    1. Maybe that's because they've had to fight off the rabid zombie-like republican mangy wild dogs since it was made law just to keep the modest gains made.

    2. And will continue to have to.

    3. Is calling people "rabid zombie-like republican mangy wild dogs" tribalization or otherization?

    4. Is vowing to destroy a modest increase in health care, by every and any means necessary, including going to the supreme court over a typo, without even the pretense of an alternative policy "tribalization or otherization"?

    5. mm clearly doesn't get Somerby's point. No wonder he misses deadrat, who was pretty good at explaining The Howler to the uninsouciant.

    6. I get his point, don't you worry about that. deadrat gave me shit all the time, but he definitely was a good writer.

    7. ACA has forced people to change doctors, lose their existing insurance. Premiums are skyrocketing, as true costs emerge. Coverage is often inadequate. It's not universal coverage. It was passed entirely by Dems, none of whom read it or had a hand in trying to make it work better.

      But, liberal partisans offer the usual explanation for all these flaws: "It's the Republicans' fault!"

    8. Here's the liberal partisan explanation, David in sunny California.

      The health care situation was fucked up prior to ACA. Everything you complain about was happening, in spades.

      Skyrocketing premiums: check
      Inadequate coverage: check
      Not universal coverage: check
      Sudden changes in health networks, forcing people to change doctors: check

      I have health insurance through my employer. Every year the announcements would go out: the coverage would be decreasing and our contributions would be increasing. Or HR would announce that they were changing carriers because of excessive increases in premiums demanded by the old carrier. Maybe since you're living on my dime now and aren't in the work force you didn't notice.

      Everything wasn't peaches and cream prior to ACA, so what the fuck are you comparing ACA to? Cause it sure as hell didn't exist in this country for the vast majority of the people. Ever since ACA republicans have been pissing all over themselves trying every trick in the book to destroy it. We know why too. Because they were afraid that Americans would like it.

      “If we don’t do it (defund Obacare) now, in all likelihood, Obamacare will never, ever be repealed. Why is that? Because on January 1, the exchanges kick in, the subsidies kick in,” and added that “their plan is to get the American people addicted to the sugar, addicted to the subsidies, and once that happens, in all likelihood, it never gets…”Ted Cruz in a July interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity:
      year after year republican controlled congress have voted over and over again to repeal ACA, yet not once have they put forth an alternative plan.

      So go fuck off dickhead.

    9. ciceo's blowup dollJuly 14, 2015 at 7:55 PM

      Play nice, mm. After all, David in sunny California is polite and tries to come off as thoughtful and reasonable despite being little more than a mendacious wingnut troll.

    10. I like it. mm is saying what Mala probably says about the Taliban when she is off camera. Just don't tell Uncle Bob.

    11. mm, for another anecdotal story, in 2012 for the umpteenth straight year, my contribution went up, my co-pays went up, and the HR director regurgitated the insurance industry line and blamed Obamacare.

      Well, I raised my hand at the staff meeting and reminded him that this has been going on long before Obama was elected to the Illinois state senate, let alone president. And his excuse back then was that health care providers were billing insurance companies higher billed to make up for the losses of serving uninsured people.

      David in Cal also conveniently forgets that in every single case the right wing tried to trumpet about some person losing their insurance, they had crappy insurance to begin with and were able to find better, cheaper insurance on the new exchanges.

      Every. Single. Time.

  8. I think Somerby should know part of the answer to his questions.

    During the 2008 debates the NBC Irish guys jumped all over Hillary as part of the sexist plot and as a result she had to even backtrack on giving Mexicans drivers licenses. So giving them health care during the Obama Team of Rivals administration would have been asking too much.

    And for those of you who say, 'Clinton was just involved in Foreign Policy during the first Obama term', think again. She not only knew about getting those 3 AM phone calls from her term as First Lady
    she knew all about how to avoid mistakes in passing health care reform.

  9. It is ironic that Somerby is taking exactly the opposite position on Chris Hayes and the issue of health care coverage for minorities as he takes on test scores and minorities.

    Hayes cites a "gold standard" study showing improvements for minorities. Somerby, deprived of his usual argument that the liberal Hayes actually showed concern for minorities, now attacks him because the improvements still show them lagging far behind. "And white kids aren't scoring 100!" he seems to be saying.

    1. You must find life very confusing.

  10. Boehner claimed it as fact, so yes it's yet another valid criticism of Republicans.

    Krugmen's paints a bigger picture.

  11. Hayes had Ta-Nehisi Coates on tonight. Bob must be looking for an irrigation ditch to jump into with all them "R" bombs going off in the almond groves.

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