Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feingold knows health care like the back of his hand.

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd better check to see whether Owen's column in the paper today, in particular his caricature of Feingold as arrogant because "he's not listening", held any water. Was it true Feingold wasn't listening? Was it true that his disruptive audience members understood the health care bill better than he did?

First, Feingold was listening, of course. Owen, and these disruptors, are just mad because he doesn't agree with them -- disagreeing with a bunch of angry constituents obviously makes him arrogant, right?

Well, if those constituents were correct, then yes -- it would be arrogant to disagree with them. But what if they're just a bunch of knuckleheads?

What if we could check to see whether Feingold is exercising the judgment we pay him to exercise? What if we could check to see whether the people who have been disrupting his listening sessions understand the health care bill better than he does -- including the "doctor" down at the Mequon meeting and, I guess, Owen?

If only we had a Congressional Budget Office filled with accountants who could analyze the budgetary implications of a bill like this, then, wow -- we could find out. And what if we had internet search engines that would let us access that information after, say, about 2 minutes of digging? That'd be great, eh?

Well, as far as the CBO is concerned, it turns out that Russ is right.

As usual.

The Congressional Budget Office says the bill will save us money.

I'm trying to imagine being Feingold at this point, listening to a room full of ginned up constituents complain that Health Care Reform, which the CBO conservatively estimates will knock $132 billion off the deficit in the next 9 years, will cost us more than the current mess will.

The most amazing thing is that Russ didn't simply say "what's wrong with you?"

I guess the anger is more satisfying than the facts -- wrath always is.

This explains the popularity of Rush and Robertson and the current Right.



Anonymous said...

wow, for you to even give credibility to the CBO is a travesty and needs no further discussion because it would be lost on such blind faith as you most certainly have exhibited.

Mpeterson said...

lol Well, I know that the dominant theme on the Right these days is never to trust government, but if we can't trust anything any of our oversight agencies say, then we're completely screwed. I also know that this is precisely the point of view the Right wing needs in order to exist at all.

-- so I'm more inclined even to believe the JCT and the CBO than I am people who simply refuse to believe anything the government says, despite any facts to the contrary, because of their ideological and psychological need to be underdogs.

An ironic pose, I think, when it's struck by people with money and by people who believe money is more important than, say, justice or constitutional law.

If the government is untrustworthy, we have to get rid of the government and if we get rid of the government, this leaves us -- all of us -- in the hands of the Social Darwinists who want to perpetuate the oligarchy we're now heading toward.

Unless you're an anarchist, in which case I agree with you completely.

krshorewood said...

From watching the video these people did not earn the right to be listened to -- loud, rude, seriously miss-informed.

Grant said...

unless you're an anarchist

I think you're definitely on to something there. I'd bet real money I could find more Teabagger applause lines in Bakunin's Revolutionary Catechism than in the combined Federalist Papers.

Zach W. said...

This is a great post, and it really underscores the fact that bombthrowers on the right are quick to label Sen. Feingold as arrogant simply because he dared disagree with them.

Kevin Scheunemann said...

Wow! What a pounce!

Republicans win in the bluest of blue states.

Big government liberalism is going to have to go back into hiding. Big government economic liberalism is just too ugly in transparent practice.

The electorate just can't stomach transparent economic liberalism.

The Mass. Senate race proves tea partiers are also Democrats!

Is their anybody liberals haven't alienated?

This is a political shockwave greater than Obama and 94 Republican Revolution.

Mpeterson said...

Wow, think of all the tax dollars the Republican minority can now keep from reaching the American people. Think of the reforms they'll be able to block.

Should be fun.

Rich Kasten said...

Yes Mark, keeping ridiculous hand outs and entitlement dollars out of the hands of Americans. Hopefully, the unions will also lose a lot of their clout with this administration. I could not be more proud of MA right now. I can only hope that Feingold is listening now. It was a good day yesterday. And I agree it should be fun.

Distance Relative said...


you are wrong.

this is the last gasp of a dying ideology.

what you do not understand is that the American people asked for change through legitimate and bloodless social upheaval.

Pray the Democrats don't learn anything from this, because they may not be so willing to play nice, the second time that their own people call out for help.

Distance Relative said...


"Big government economic liberalism is just too ugly in transparent practice."

i agree 100 percent.

when big government policy turns "liberal" in regards to the economy-well, let's just say, things become so transparently ugly even you can't see it for what it is anymore.

right-wing scorched earth policies revel in their own vulgarity; a vulgarity, an ugliness, very appropo to the capital times we live in. It is ugly precisely because of it's transparency-i have become totally convinced there is no ideology anymore.

Distance Relative said...


"Big government economic liberalism is just too ugly in transparent practice."

i agree 100 percent.

when big government policy turns "liberal" in regards to the economy-well, let's just say, things become so transparently ugly even you can't see it for what it is anymore.

right-wing scorched earth policies revel in their own vulgarity; a vulgarity, an ugliness, very appropo to the capital times we live in. It is ugly precisely because of it's transparency-i have become totally convinced there is no ideology anymore.

kevin Scheunemann said...


That drunken sailor Democrat spending of the past year that did absolutely nothing but double unemployment is going away...why do you mourn a halt to that dismal big government failure?

The Republicans (allegedly) can keep the Democrats from bleeding small business dry. That is a good thing for jobs.

I know that interferes with making everyone dependent on government, but hey, a thriving economy is the greatest social program there is!

(the right to be left alone)

Mpeterson said...

By all means, let's keep tax dollars from helping real working people and continue to keep it flowing into the swimming pools of the corporate elite.

On the other hand, just as the Republicans have been struggling to figure out who they are -- for some years now -- the Democrats are way overdue for this conversation.

I'm fond of saying I haven't seen a real Republican since Bob Dole was in the Senate, or a Democrat since Jimmy Carter was President. Since then, it's all been marketing slogans.

Kevin Scheunemann said...

Mark, Mark,

Please stop dipping into the medical marijuana before its legalized.

Bob Dole was a "real republican"?

That's as hilarious as Feingold being a moderate or Bill Clinton as an example of marital fidelity.

Jimmy Carter was the last real Democrat?

If that's a real Democrat, Democrats are in trouble. Jimmy Carter is easily thee biggest failure of a president we have ever had.

(or do you long for the days of stagflation, Iran making us look foolish, and uninspired presidential leadership "malaise"?)

Rich Kasten said...

Interestingly, I am far from the corporate elite and I am able to function just fine in society - through hard work.

I guess your comment about reform was just a play on words for hand outs if you are worried about keping dollars out of hands.

If you want real reform - try fixing the problems with frivolous and extreme malpractice suits and this will help bottom line pricing on health care. Then you can move to a major medical coverage, like insurance should be - hedging against something out of the normal realm. Coverage for regular checkups and other non-catastrophic illnesses (flu, colds, etc.) could then be dropped. Tie coverage to lifestyle issues - you smoke and get lung cancer? Maybe that should not be covered. You skydive and break a leg? Maybe that should not be covered. Just like homeowner's insurance - you do non-permitted wiring and your house burns down? Not covered.

These are reforms, Mark, but since there are no handouts associated with them, they are not considered reforms.

Mpeterson said...

Grin... Kevin, that's so cute. I love the idea that, to you, Bob Dole wasn't enough of a Republican. It shows your age. There was a whole universe of politics before you were born.

These days even Barry Goldwater wouldn't count as a conservative -- and that's the problem. What we have today are Pharisees, not conservatives.

Ah Rich, alas: if everyone functioned well in society, like you -- or, dare I say it, me -- none of this would be a problem. Of course, I'm never going to make more than $60k a year in my life, but I'm frugal and happy, so....

But I'm not in favor of government hand outs: I'd like to see a requirement that anyone on welfare be required to take courses at the tech schools, or finish a GED say, in order to learn a viable skill. I even think anyone with kids on welfare needs to make sure their kids get at least a C average in school to qualify.

I'm also not sure that you can define 'reform' as "handout"... unless the ideology in question needs that connotation in order to continue bashing the people at the bottom for being lazy parasites -- a key axiom in the current crop of so-called conservatives.

But, as you know, I don't see the problem at the bottom of the income distribution. It's at the top. The biggest handouts aren't going to imaginary Welfare Queens, but to the plutocrats at the top -- or what Citibank called the plutonomy. Doesn't it strike you as remotely odd that Goldman-Sachs has been running the US economy under presidents from both parties?

I'd like to agree with you about the frivolous lawsuits, but the studies I've seen actually indicate that they count for a tiny percentage of insurance costs. Still, I wanted more tort reform in this bill too.

I actually agree with you about some the other ideas you mention. I think the one best reform would be to put regulation of insurance at the national level to increase competition. In many states there is only ONE insurance provider (in much of the South, for instance)... which, in some states, actually pays doctors LESS than medicare does. Creating inter-state competition would lower rates.

There is one problem with dropping coverage for 'regular' check ups. What is consistently clear is that when people are able to see a doctor, when they don't feel well, big problems get picked up earlier. That saves both lives and money. Regular access saves money. Otherwise people end up at the ER, which costs everyone more.

Grant said...

I am able to function just fine in society - through hard work

Wow. I don't know why, but it continues to amaze me how closely contemporary "conservatives" resemble dormroom iconoclasts after their first taste of Emma Goldman.

I wasn't kidding about the Bakunin. How easy would it be to pass off this off this proto-commie gibberish at Boots & Sabers:

Freedom is the absolute right of every adult man and woman to seek no other sanction for their acts than their own conscience and their own reason, being responsible first to themselves and then to the society which they have voluntarily accepted. It is not true that the freedom of one man is limited by that of other men.

Compared to that, Thomas Paine sounds positively John Kerryish in both tone and substance:

[W]ere the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest...

Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

Rich Kasten said...

I think I can classify the "reforms" that are being pushed through now as handouts.

I highly recommend you talk to EMTs, Paramedics, Doctors, etc. A great number of governmentally subsidized health care recipients abuse that system. Calls to ambulance services for mundane calls where you or I would not go in because it does not rise to the level of medical intervention, are staggering. I just finished my classes and licensing as a Medical First Responder (no , I have not quit my computer programmer day job). The instructors said that is a truly eye-opening experience each new paramedic, EMT, doctor, nurse, etc. goes through. Imagine if we open that up to everybody.

I am sure that the costs for overuse far outweigh the costs you mention for those that would not go in for non-covered issues.

Anonymous said...

If it comes down to fate who's the Prez, I'll take Brown over Palin.

Attorney Scott Brown said in his victory speech (Note the 9/11-ish acceptance quotes):

"Our tax dollars should go to weapons to defeat [terrorists] not lawyers to defend them."
"Raising taxes and giving new rights to terrorists is the wrong agenda for our country."

"Yes we can." ...spend tax dollars on more weapons."

Damn, I knew I should have bought General Dynamics at $30 when G.W.B. became prez. I figured we'd be in a major conflict in no time. Maybe with Brown "yes we can" crowd, I'll have another opportunity.

It helps (financially) to be an atheist at times.

Mpeterson said...

That's fascinating Rich. Must've been a really neat experience.

I'm just thinking, it's always who you talk to. I've heard very different stories over the years from the ones you've heard.

I've only been around health care at one remove, but I have a family full of doctors and nurses in a number of states across the US. (My little brother was chief resident for a few years in the ER at Truro in New Orleans, one of my best friends from HS was chief res in the ER at Rush in Chicago, and my dad has been neck deep in health care reform since I can remember.)

I know there are people who "abuse" the system -- although we need to talk about what that means -- but there are ways to weed them out... here's one: my dad did this in Mobile years ago. You make sure that all the impoverished people who show up at the ER go across the street to a clinic and sign on to get a regular doctor. Cost savings were huge. Massive. Health care improved. ER response times rose tremendously.

So, the stories I've heard are different from the ones you've heard. I've been studying these questions as part of the background noise in biomedical ethics for nearly 30 years now and, to my knowledge, the advantages of providing decent regular venues of care to the poor vastly outweighs the minority of patients who abuse the system. Anyway, it has been in, essentially, every case I've ever heard of. Hence, my being all adamant about it. :)

But, my info is anecdotal. Is there a way we could find out what percentage of emergency related patients "abuse" the system? And what does abuse mean in this context? If you mean that poor people use the ER instead of seeing a regular doctor, I don't think that's abuse.. I think that's just stupid and wasteful -- and correctable. So what did you mean?

Anyway, I'd like to find out. Then, at least, we'd have some firm ground to argue about. :^)

Unless Kevin drops in now to argue that Obama causes disease. :^)

Rich Kasten said...

Mark, if you are accusing me of making up stories, I will gladly provide names from now on. You see Mark, I don't just blindly follow polls, studies, news stories, etc. In this case, I was in a class, and was not seeking information about health care reform. Since your dad has been in reform all these years, don't you think you already have a prejudiced view? So, you are going to read into those studies your biases. Just saying.

As for the abuses - how about calls to ambulances for tooth aches? How about calls because they stubbed their toe and it hurts? How about going into the ER for head lice? And when the EMT or triage nurse attempts to tell these patients they don't need medical attention, at least at that level, the patient pulls out their Government card and tells provider they have to provide service.

Mpeterson said...

Oh no. That was not my meaning at all. My meaning was that I too have been exposed for most of my life to the practice of medicine -- and in many venues and that those experiences don't match up with yours. Everyone has different experiences, that's my point.

But I guess sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: have you been under the impression that I was just making stuff up? I wasn't and I don't -- there's isn't any reason to if I have evidence in front of me. The question is whether my evidence is really any good.

Or whether yours is for that matter.

There are always examples of people who call an ambulance for a tooth ache or go to the ER for headlice Rich.... the question is what percentage of our health care dollar do these idiots eat up. I'd like to know.

Anecdotal evidence isn't good enough whether it's my experiences or your experiences. Isn't there some way we could find out?

As for my prejudices, if I'm wrong, they'll simply wreck against the numbers and I'll learn from them. On the other hand, most of what I've seen since I was little suggest to me rather strongly that I'm right. I've seen the cost structures for health care delivery shift by sending the kind of people who don't know any better than to go to the ER across the street to get a regular doctor. Those are numbers that do add up.

What do you got?

Rich Kasten said...

Can I at least be the gander in this scenario? :)

Nope, I have never doubted the authenticity of your acquaintances or people you have talked to. Being in your field, I am sure you have many more contacts - from Iranians (from our previous debate), up through published authors - than I will ever have.

I too wish the numbers could be substantiated, but due to the fear of lawsuits, etc. I don't think they will ever be quantified. I will be the first to admit I don't have over 30 years of life experience. Just the 10 or so dealing with cops, relatives that are doctors or nurses and now a couple of Paramedics.

All seems very moot now, after the MA election. Health care, like immigration, has far too many opinions to be brought into a compromise that will pacify a great majority of the people. Just my 2 cents worth.

So, do you think Charlie Sykes is going to run for the Feingold's spot?

Kevin Scheunemann said...



Russ was the 60th deciding vote in the 60-40 vote to raise the debt ceiling 1.9 trillion or about $45,000 per capita.

Its disgusting that he comes home and even talks about fiscal restraint after doing this!

These town halls are nothing more than marketing for Russ...he's a big government tax and spender...there is no other appropriate term for him.

I bet you will not post this.

Mpeterson said...

Hmm. Maybe.

But then you'd still have to explain why he keeps winning awards for fighting waste... maybe not all government spending *is* waste...

Wow, it occurs to me that you're probably unable even to imagine such a thing as non-wasteful government spending -- despite the fact that the government adds a significant percentage to your profit margins with infrastructure development and massive corn and dairy subsidies that make bad food more cost effective than good food.

If you told people what was in the food you serve, do you think they'd actually buy it? Or isn't it the case that your business, like your politics, actually depends on people not knowing what's in it, and on not knowing it's actually bad for them?