For the last week I’ve been listening to the chatter about the Congressional Budget Office report about the impact of ACA on the economy.  The Republican interpretation is that 2.5 million people will suddenly quit their jobs just to qualify for the ACA subsidy. While its clear this is Republican propaganda, I kept thinking, who are these people? Who are they trying to demonize?

The default target is poor blacks and Latinos but the ACA subsidy isn’t about poor people it’s about the folks in between poor and rich.

In Ohio, to qualify for the ACA subsidy my family of three would have to make between $30 – $78,000. At the top end, the cost of a health plan would be roughly $8,500 with an $1,100 subsidy. At $55K the subsidy becomes $3,500, and at $30K the subsidy is $7,200 meaning the plan costs about $100 a month.

Someone who makes $30K a year in Ohio does not exactly fit the Reagan profile of welfare queen. So who is this person willing to lower their income in order to “play the system?” What job would they quit? They would still have to pay the premium, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs up to with less money every month.

So who are they demonizing this time? I haven’t figured it out yet.

There is always abuse of any public welfare program (see Welfare, Corporate: “JPMorgan Chase, which made a preliminary $13-billion mortgage settlement with the U.S. government, is allowed to write off a majority of the deal as tax-deductible, saving the corporation $4 billion.”), or the fact that whole industries pay workers so poorly that they still qualify for public assistance while working full-time.

But the ACA subsidy isn’t about fast-food workers because they already qualify for Medicaid and Food Stamps. Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation are asserting that people will turn down higher paying jobs if it jeopardizes their subsidy. The same argument they make against unemployment benefits by the way Again I ask – who?

Why do the richest people in our society assume that poor people want to stay poor? All the poor people I have ever known would gladly give up any and all benefits for a decent wage and a nice place to live. Public assistance on its very best day is still degrading.

The disincentive argument seems knee-jerk and thin. I dont think its going to stick unless they can find a particular group to consistently demonize. The GOP as a whole is out of touch in a way that is amazingly dangerous to their future.

Then again conservative Americans can usually be counted on to vote against their own self-interest, so who knows.

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It’s taken five years but I feel I am now fully trained. I got really excited yesterday when the six Republican Senators voted to allow the vote on the bill to extend unemployment benefits. I was ready to email Rob Portman’s office and thank him for being one of the six! Positive reinforcement and all that. Cloture is now sexy!

Then, this morning while reading the transcripts of Obama’s speech, I thought about how I had gotten excited about a bipartisan vote (of the slimmest margin) to prevent filibuster, which of course doesn’t guarantee those same Senators will vote for the actual bill.

The bill would only extend benefits for three months, the media is still full of the “lazy poor” bullshit narrative and the House is floating the idea of passing it in return for a one year delay in the Affordable Care Act so its likely dead in the water anyway.

The political obstructionism we’ve lived with for the last five years has trained me to treat these scraps of cooperation as victories. Maybe it is progress but I sure felt conned. Congress has trained us to expect nothing from them so NOT having a filibuster counts as progress.

I must not be cynical about national politics yet if I can still be conned. That’s something at least.

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My husband and I were talking about the BRCA gene mutation the other day after a visit from a cousin. She has the gene, got breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. While she only had cancer in the one breast, the odds of developing it in the other are so high with the gene that she prohalactically chose to have the other breast removed as well.

I said I would instantly do the bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. If my insurance covered it. My husband asked if my insurance covered the test and I didn’t know.

Genetic testing is a relatively new field, but becoming more common. People are already familiar with paternity tests and prenatal tests and now with Angelina Jolie talking about her surgery, the BRCA test may run a close third.

BRCA was in the news before Jolie because it’s the topic of a case the ACLU argued in the US Supreme Court recently. A company (Myriad) has patented the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes. The ACLU says these patents (2 of the 20,000 patented genes!) violate the constitution and prohibit free speech. I was shocked when I read about this case and saw that the gene patents keep scientists other than the owners from studying the gene without permission, controls what mutations they are allowed to study, and most importantly controls the market and the cost for all testing which must be done through the gene owners labs. That cost is $3,000 if your insurance company does not pay for it.

Again I dont know if my insurance company pays for this but you can bet I’ll ask my OB/GYN at my next appointment. I do know that ACA is supposed to cover the test when/if it is fully in effect in the US (repeal vote 37 – do I hear 38? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?)

Gajillions of dollars are at stake in this formerly obscure Supreme Court case because of the potential to bill the federal government for the testing. And since its their gene they prohibit any cheaper labs from competing. Its called a monopoly. Myriad, the company with the BRCA patent saw their stock spike with Jolie’s unusually well-timed People Mag cover and NY Times Op-Ed.

If one were inclined to consipracy plots, one might speculate as to the decisions around Jolie’s outing herself a month before the SCOTUS decision on the patent case is due. One might even speculate that the Jolie/Pitt portfolio could feature Myriad stock, among a broad spectrum of other health related investments of course.

One might even go so far as to say that Myriad – and a lot of other folks – are very heavily invested in making sure that they continue to control the price of BRCA testing, soon be available through ACA. A PR campaign with a movie star fits the bill nicely.  

I am very happy Jolie was able to get the BRCA test she wanted, choose her treatment, and afford her reconstruction. I would be a lot happier if her “brave narrative” included statements about how no one person (or corporation), should be able to restrict this kind of important research or testing by “owning” a human gene. I might be holding my breath on that one.

The ACLU should put out a call for their own fiesty star to out herself about her bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction to make some noise about this patent case. Keeping my fingers crossed for the decision in June.

My husband is traveling for work.

When he is home we wake up to the alarm, her turns it off and goes to get coffee which he brings to me in bed. I know that makes me sound like a spoiled princess and I don’t care. It is a monumental kindness for someone who is a slow riser and “not a morning person”. When he is not home I lay there and listen to BBC news segue into NPR before I drag myself to the kitchen for the much needed coffee.

The real problem with this is that I then hear things like “House Republicans have vowed to defund as much of the Affordable Care Act as possible and will be addressing preexisting conditions today.” I know the GOP doesn’t like the ACA and would like to take every penny allocated for health care and convert it into a gun, but hearing the intention at 5:46 am is depressing. One of the supreme injustices of our world is the manner in which insurance is able to reject you just when you need it most.

Sort of like all those Boston store owners who are now finding out about the terrorism exception written into all of their policies. Their loses from that day, and the subsequent days lost revenue, are their losses to swallow.

The mishegas with the preexisting conditions is actually more sinister than it sounds. The Republicans created legislation that will undermine ACA prevention programs (immunization, nutrition, screenings, tobacco cessation) while appearing to help people with preexisting conditions, but then it would expire 12/31/13. Pretty slick and twisted. I’m starting to think that Eric Cantor is the actual Devil. If there is any doubt that this is a ploy and not intended to actually help people, the evidence is found in Grover Norquist’s public support of the bill.

So the question is do you spend the money allocated for prevention, now called the “slush fund” by the GOP marketing machine, so that fewer people get seriously ill between now and Jan 1, 2014, or do you divert the prevention money, enroll more people with preexisting conditions (who should’ve been kept on their insurance in the first damn place) for coverage that will expire 12/31/13?

The answer of course depends on what political points you are trying to score, not which pathetic little lives you are trying to save.

The GOP plan does a good job of making Obama look like a schmuck for not wanting to cover (more) preexisting conditions, and the White House & the Democrats are doing their usual piss poor job of countering the propaganda. Why do liberals suck so bad at the marketing and propaganda? Where’s James Carville? Barney Frank? People willing to call the GOP maneuvering what it is are conspicuously missing from the media landscape.

I really need to switch the alarm from the talk radio station to a chime or something when my husband is out of town. I’ll stick with the newspaper for my morning coffee. Better for my blood pressure & general outlook on life.

I was going to call this post “My Republican Neighbors” but it is really about more than them.

During the election, and the rest of the time, I work very diligently to keep a hard line attitude about free speech. It only works if everyone has it so I support and protect your right to spew whatever illogical nonsense tickles your fancy. Few republicans, or tea party patriots, seem to appreciate what a tough stance this is.

In order to live by my values I have to make sure that Republicans/religious right/tea party yahoos, are able to work within the societal and political systems to undermine my civil rights.

For 72 hours this month I lost my ability and desire to do that.

I worked all day Sunday the 4th so I didn’t get back until after dark. The next morning I saw that my republican neighbors, courtesy of the Catholic diocese, had put another sign next to their Romney sign – “Protect Religious Freedom”. That felt like the final straw, the last insult, the point of no return. I lost my mind and descended into 72 hours of venom laced swearing and vitriol.

The idea that republican catholic religious freedom was somehow in jeopardy when in reality their version of religious freedom means imposing their religious views on me – well lets just say that frosted my cake.

I know it’ss business as usual to accuse the other guy of what you’re guilty of, but this seemed especially egregious. I have a personal dislike for the Mother Church with its special political status, unlimited funds and hypocritical, damaging policies crafted by men, in the name of God.  So to have the catholic contingent act as if the democrats would limit their rights (the flat out lies about the ACA contraception rules) made me lose all patience.

I remember saying to my husband. “I can’t talk to them ever again, they have crossed a line.” All I could focus on was the fact that my political views and values do not force anyone to do anything, but support every ones right to make their own choices.

Have an abortion or don’t! Use contraception or don’t – hope you can afford all those “rhythm method babies” without government assistance. Marry who you want – or don’t! Ain’t none of my business!

My neighbors values however want to impose on, limit, or remove my rights.

  • Their religion does not believe in abortion, therefore no one should be allowed to have access to an abortion.
  • Their religion does not believe in gay marriage, therefore no one should be allowed to have gay marriage.
  • Their religion does not believe in separation of church and state, therefore everyone should have to pray and acknowledge God.
  • Their God of course.

Thankfully Obama won the election and the neighbors took down their offensive signs the next day. I calmed down a bit and by the following weekend I made a point of making neighborly chit chat with them.

I helped the man carry his wood rack to the porch and inquired after the health of the wife. We made nice for a bit and went back to our yard work when the husband came out and asked if we wanted any fresh herbs from their garden. I thanked him and said we would use some parsley which he picked and left in a bag on our front swing. It felt very much like  a peace offering and I am back to my high road tolerance of their opinions.

Unfortunately, other people in the neighborhood have left their religious freedom signs in their yards so I still have to look at them. They are allowed. Because my side won.

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I continue to be amazed when I encounter people who do not understand the significance of voting in this country.

The work I do depends somewhat on federal funding, which is highly competitive and has gotten increasingly so over the last 10 years. The people I work with depend almost exclusively on federal research funding, not only to fund the science they do, but to demonstrate their value to their colleagues. The reasoning goes like this – funding is so tight only the best get funded, if you are any good you will get funded. Prima facie it sounds logical. In reality the funding pool has shrunk significantly each year so the quality is not the issue. Congress is.

Here is an example: the funding stream that supports my work in 2004 gave 20 awards. In 2012 they gave out four. For the whole year. Now those awards not only have to go to top candidates but have to take into account additional variables like size of institution, population served (and other unknown variables), so the actual pool for possible awards in my category is now 1. One person/institution will receive this award to conduct essential, knowledge-producing research in this category. Why is this? Because research federal funding was severely cut during the Bush years and is not a priority to a GOP congress.

So when I talk to academics and they tell me they are too busy to vote, or the hours don’t fit their schedule I want to shake them until I hear their giant brains rattle.

I want to shriek at them, “Who is in office matters to your livelihood and the intellectual progress of our WHOLE FREAKIN COUNTRY you over-educated IDIOT!” But I don’t. I patiently (I hope) connect the dots for them so they understand that people in office who do not believe in science will not fund pure research. Knowledge generation is not the priority of people who say things like “Jobs, jobs, jobs” or “Drill, baby, drill”.

I explain that they have a right to their opinion on abortion but that a Romney/Ryan ticket with its person hood stance also means that IVF is no longer possible. You see all those extra embryos created so your sister-in-law or best-friend can have a successful implant would be people to a Romney/Ryan administration. “People” created in a petrie dish would be prohibited from being destroyed, and doctors would be prosecuted. Those are the kind of policies that loom if the intellectual crowd, always purported to be liberal anyway, doesn’t get out and vote.

Think. Your vote matters and has wide-reaching implications. Locally, regionally and nationally.

Think. How will you fit a visit to the Board of Elections into your busy, busy day?

That’s it for today. I have a three grant deadlines breathing down my neck that I need to go work on. Because one, really amazing research project is too much of a gamble, gotta put in three simultaneously. So really, one person not voting is too much of a gamble in my opinion.

Since I only have a few minutes, I am only going to focus on a few minutes out of the Vice Presidential debate last night.

If you put aside all the “malarkey”, distortions and ideological nuances, what the debate last night gave us was a very clear picture of two forms of government. Answering the question asked by Raddatz, “What role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion”, the candidates gave voters a fundamental choice between systems of government. Continue reading

I wanted to call this post “F-you Chris Christie” and leave it at that. However, there was so much in his keynote to take offense at I thought folks might need the specific reference that made me so furious. And I quote:

“Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world’s greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.” Emphasis added by me.

This is not the first, and will surely not be the last, instance of doublespeak by GOP candidates, but I count it as one of the most insulting. I cannot think of a clearer example of a federal bureaucrat coming between a woman and her doctor than the platform plank that calls for eliminating abortion without exception. A woman’s doctor would not be allowed to prescribes abortion for any reason if republicans are able to continue their state by state assault campaign to create ever more restrictive abortion laws. The Guttmacher Institute chart (below) speaks volumes.

Abortion used to be legal in the US. The really dirty truth is that the American Medical Association became seriously focused driving the “untrained” out of the profession, to justify professional credentialing and build private practices.  So they had to stop midwives from dipping into their profits. An easy way to do that was to criminalize abortion unless a licenced physician judged it necessary.

Which meant that rich women got abortions, poor women got back alley hatchet jobs, the midwife tradition was lost for generations and we went from Comstock laws to Roe v.Wade to the 2012 Republican Convention.

And along the way the republicans never bother to let the truth get in their way.

After the doctor/patient doublespeak by Mr. Christie, I want to know why the stage didn’t erupt in hellfire from the force of the lie. Isn’t God (or the Devil) supposed to be paying close attention to every little detail of all of our lives? There should have been some smiting going on last night if you ask me.

I just saw an interesting program on the American abortion debate on FaultLines on Al-JazeeraEnglish. The premise of the show is that they examine the role of the US in the world from the AlJazeera perspective. I think there were a few places they could have provided additional viewpoints (its pretty heavy on the anti-choice rhetoric & plays into a few stereotypes I could live without), but it was refreshing to see someone at least attempt to be balanced about presenting why this is such a divisive issue for the US. 

As much as I would like to be talking about music, I am instead compelled to write about the 33rd house vote to repeal health care reform (that’s ACA to liberals and Obamacare to conservatives). I thought it was the 31st, but I stand corrected. This kind of political theater makes my head hurt.

We are asked to believe that the vote demonstrates Republican commitment to principles (e.g. opposing “government takeover”) rather than just reminding their constituents that they are against all things Obama. Empty symbolism, a try for the Guinness Book of World Records, how ever you look at it its a time waster. Which is a less elitist word for obstructionist.

I would love to see that hard line, unified style come back to bite when folks realize that standing in the way of something is not the same as doing something. Maybe Trent Lott is right and there should be events like Seersucker Thursday in the House for team building and civility. Oh wait, the Senate just discontinued that tradition because it’s “frivolous”. I guess rope courses and communication seminars won’t make it to Boehner’s “Ways to Get to Compromise” list.

I am now seeing and hearing stories about how much it costs to stage one of these symbolic votes, which used to be occasional before they became regular, and $2 mil is a pretty symbolic number. Thats what it costs to run Congress every day. And there are no refunds, just voting day.

Michele Bachman on Fox News said the repeal vote was a “foretaste of what’s going to come this fall” which I mistakenly read as “foreskin”.  Freudian slip as I contemplate a Romney presidency I guess. Bachman also noted that house republicans have “so many positive plans to bring down the price of health care. We can’t wait to do it! I think all of us have plans up on our Web site. We have so much that we can do. That’s what we can’t wait to do is just unleash it all after this fall’s election.”

Since neither Bachman nor Boehner has proposed a bill to replace ACA, we will be in for more “showcase” votes to quote Bachman again.

A musical interlude as they (and we) gird loins for vote number 34. How can they resist? They’re really good at it now.

I have to start posting from my phone or I might as well give up the blog. As smart as my phone is, it is still a drag to type on the tiny keyboard. Worse to not see the whole paragraph at once. Anyway.

With the wealth of kooky behavior we are privileged to witness here in the USA, there is almost too much to comment on. I casually mentioned the 31st attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act to a co-worker and she replied that she doesn’t follow politics. I can almost understand not talking about politics, but how do you “not follow” current events. Perhaps she prefers to follow Katie and Tom or the Kardashians.

I now know that my phone can guess that I am typing Kardashians. And that may be the problem in a nutshell. Or in an autocorrect.

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised when I meet folks who are not engaged in current events. Life is hard, escapism is all around us, and politics, even at the local level is complex and murky. Maybe I am the one on the wrong track. It would seem that something as impactful as the ACA would rise to a certain level of conciousness even for the most oblivious Americans. But then again there’s no requirement that citizens have any political knowledge if they are born here.

Now that’s time management American style – I don’t have to pay attention and you can’t make me. An American anthem.

I am so disappointed in the way the Supreme Court case over Affordable Health Care Act is playing out. There is nothing good coming out of this discussion.

As is my habit when national events are irritating me I try to pull back and do something local so I can pretend I have impact as a citizen. Today I went to a policy lecture on Sex Ed in public schools. This semester my daughter is subjected to Health at school. This is an annual “mandatory” and progressive 6-week curriculum that they start in 5th grade with the news that you body is about to change in disturbing ways.

Nothing they have discussed in health comes close to what we talk about at home. And I would bet that the text they use is much less explicit than “Our Bodies, Our Selves” or even the cartoon-ish “Care of Me” books from American Girl (that is a Cult for a different post). What I was hoping to hear from the policy wonk today was why sex ed is so polarizing. And I did.

Seems I have been misreading all the political polarization lately. Contraception, abortion, health care, sex ed, its all about he same thing. Identity. Who are we as country, what is our morality. I chewed on this for a while, as he presented arguments and research, and thought well this is true for the religious right and conservatives in general, but liberals and progressives are not about morality. But I’m not so convinced anymore.

When you look at it from the point of identity liberals (using the label for a widely variable swath of US population) and conservatives (ditto), want the same thing – to define who we are as a country.

We are a country that takes care of its citizens is the core idea that supports health care, welfare benefits, re-training, disability, immigration policy, Pell grants, you name it. Its all about defining ourselves as doing the right thing collectively.

We are a country that protects the morality of its citizens is the core idea that supports the authority of God, prohibiting the “homosexual agenda”, protecting the unborn, dismantling social programs so people will stand on their own two feet. Its all about defining ourselves as doing the right thing individually.

That is why it fails to make sense to me why anyone would want to restrict contraception, which helps prevent babies, AND eliminate abortion because it supposedly kills babies. The position is perfectly in line with protecting morality of citizens who are obviously too stupid to do it themselves. But my world view does not work that way, so the position does not appear to have any internal logic.

In my world abortion is a medical procedure that is part of a woman’s reproductive health just like contraception, pap smears and mammograms. My morality is as tightly wound into my position as any protester outside a clinic with a nasty sign. I just don’t bring any God into it.

So I ended up thinking about national politics today anyway. I can feel the meta idea of moral identity (especially the liberal duo Equity & Care) burrowing into my brain in a new way.

To the library!