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Friday, June 29, 2012

The ACA Does Not Protect Us From David Brooks

(Image courtesy of D r i f t g l a s s.)

He's got Photoshop and knows how to use it. He has an admirable, some would say superhuman, immunity from the testicle-clenching inanity, despicable Overtonian centrism and alternative to literacy represented by David fucking Brooks. I'm speaking, of course, of D r i f t g l a s s, a deep-voiced man and, in real life, a gentle kind soul who is nonetheless driven to, at minimum, weekly fits of rage and spittle-flecked apoplexy after reading Brooks's latest opuses. For, lo, these past seven years or so, Sir Drifty has been his Ahab, his nemesis, almost his entire reason for being online. And during this seven year itch, Brooks has served as Our Man in Chicago's literary piñata and for good reason. Every time that the Gray Lady allows him to inflict his sick Centrism on the rest of America is another day that we get closer to becoming the actual prequel for Idiocracy. David Brooks, to put it mildly, is the "literary" version of the ball polisher one sees at upscale golf courses. There isn't a 1% sack he hasn't lovingly washed or wanted to with that cum dumpster others generously refer to as a mouth.

But whatever Sir Drifty chooses to do with Brooks's latest screed, I've decided, in spite of my recent desire to gradually phase myself out of this thankless mug's game called political blogging, that my friends in the blogosphere could always use a little backup.

And David Brooks, He of the Opus Duh centrist sect that stubbornly survives any journalistic integrity and code of ethics in the Times building like the ossified dingleberry that he is, has brought yours truly out of semi-retirement by dubious virtue of his latest delusion, a typical phantasmagorical mystery tour of the Speculative Universe of Centrism, an alternate, "Nothing to see here, alarmist liberals" world that could be only dreamed of by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Tim Lahaye.

The title, as per Brooks's usual style, is at least considerate enough to warn us of the lunacy to come: "Modesty and Audacity." Our Mr. Brooks starts out on what he considers to be safe ground, by writing, "Washington is full of arrogant people who grab power whenever they get the chance. But there is at least one modest minimalist in town, and that’s John Roberts Jr."

OK, no blood, no foul so... Wait, what? John Roberts, a minimalist? Are we to infer that Chief Justice Roberts is jurisprudence's answer to the Japanese artists that can draw the curve of a woman's shoulder with a single line, the haiku poet that can express universal truths and indelible images of beauty within 17 syllables? If Chief Justice Roberts is a Burkean minimalist, as Brooks describes him, then Justice Clarence Thomas, a man who's hardly uttered a word in all his time on the bench, must by rights be referred to as alpha and beta wave-challenged. Onward, constant, intrepid reader.
...Roberts’s decision still represents a moment of, if I can say so, Burkean minimalism and self-control. Roberts and six colleagues also restrained the power of the federal government to sanction the states. And, perhaps most important, he restrained future Congressional power.

Although Brooks tries to explicate this through a haze of self-satisfied pipe smoke, it's hard to see how Roberts's inexplicable and wholly unexpected swing vote to keep 98% of the ACA alive qualifies as "self-control", as if he was melodramatically biting his knuckles, as desperate to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act as his Four Horsemen brethren but resisting his inner demons just this one time. It's also hard to see how upholding almost all of Congress's, and the president's, defining domestic legislation and arguably the most important bill signed into law by Mr. Obama's administration "restrains" future legislation. If anything, the High Court's decision yesterday paved the way for Congress to impose more mandates on individuals more or less for the common good and by using the US tax code to enforce them.

Ah, I see. Mr. Brooks is talking about that pesky Commerce Clause.
Over the years, the commerce clause in the Constitution has been distorted beyond recognition, giving Congress power to regulate all manner of activity (or inactivity).

OK, now he's on familiar ground here. That would be the Commerce Clause that forced Congress to deregulate banks in 1999 by repealing Glass Steagall, the same Commerce Clause that gave us the watered-down gin draft known as Dodd-Frank and the same Commerce Clause that's forced Congress to heavily regulate private industry, such as health care, to the point of bankruptcy. Wait a minute: Our for-profit health care system, bankrupt? Let's fast forward a bit:
Crucially, we haven’t addressed the structural perversities that are driving the health care system to bankruptcy.

Wha... whaaaaa??? The health care system is being driven to bankruptcy? The health care system is almost bankrupt, not the tens of millions of people who've busted their largely untreated humps trying to stay caught up on their medical premiums, co-pays, deductibles and the rest of their bills?

Let's see what Brooks's inexplicably generous and tolerant employers said about the poor bankrupt health care system 13 1/2 months ago:
Yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends. Many defend proposed double-digit increases in the rates they charge, citing a need for protection against any sudden uptick in demand once people have more money to spend on their health, as well as the rising price of care.

Essentially, this means HMOs are pigging out at the trough in a feverish anticipation of future austerity and enforced restraint that's far from assured when the ACA kicks in in 2014. That hardly sounds like HMOs that are swimming in cash and make it their primary mission in life to deny health care and thinking of new and improved ways to kick people off their policies and to deny subsidization of health care costs are being driven to "bankruptcy." Two months before that Times article appeared, a report found that in 2010 the five biggest HMOs in the nation alone made nearly $12 billion in pure profit.

If anything, Obama's "Affordable" Care Act has driven far, far more Americans into Brooks's ballyhooed bankruptcy than HMOs. But the news from Geckoland isn't all bad: With bloated profits and arbitrary double-digit premium increases comes higher stock prices and bigger dividends for shareholders and top executives. Between 2008 and 2010, the share price of these HMOs went up 15-25%. Then there's this:
Through the recession and its aftermath from 2008 to 2010, combined profits for UnitedHealth Group Inc., WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc. increased a breathtaking 51 percent. Last year alone, the five companies’ combined profits grew 17 percent, excluding a one-time $2.2 billion gain from the 2009 sale of a WellPoint subsidiary.

Yeah, those poor HMOs. The ACA is "a flawed Rube Goldberg device" as Brooks described it but one obviously designed to not merely keep the HMOs on the gridiron but to give them every dodgy excuse known to man to increase the size of premiums and deductibles just as we saw here in Massachusetts nanoseconds after RomneyCare went into effect. The HMO's have professional bureaucrats who make it their business to know this Minotaur's lair of health care inside and out. We the policy-holders have to dope out whatever we can from their War and Peace-sized policy manuals in our spare time.

But this isn't Mr. Brooks's biggest spooge into the face of literate America. No, no, that was the preliminary spritz of precum in this facialing of America because Our Dear Mr. Brooks goes back to his old fallback line of liberal alarmism at what is really, don't you know, good-intentioned, civic-minded, fiscally responsible centrism on the part of Congress and our judiciary. Look at John Roberts, if you don't believe him:
Roberts’s modest stance is generally consistent with how he has behaved over the last several years. There’s been a lot of overwrought and misleading liberal commentary on the supposed ideological activism of this court. In fact, with a couple obvious exceptions, this court has been remarkably modest. According to a 2010 analysis by The Times, the Warren, Burger and Rehnquist courts overturned an average of nine laws a term, while the Roberts court has overturned an average of three laws a term.

Uh huh. That, Constant Reader, would the Roberts/Citizen's United/SB1070 era of centrism and restraint that saw the Supreme Court, essentially led by Tony Scalia, that of late has been issuing majority and dissenting opinions that read more like Powerline/Stormfront blog posts rather than actual judicial erudition.

That would be the same John Roberts who had upheld a pre-teen girl getting frisked and arrested by police over a single French Fry.

This would be the same John Roberts who gladly weighed in with the other right wingers on a ruling exactly two years prior to the day of the ACA ruling, one that previously had been virtually verboten in the Supreme Court: An interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Did I mention Citizen's United and the recent ruling on Arizona's odiously racist SB 1070, the centerpiece of which Roberts and the wingnuts in his court supported and upheld? And lest we forget, Mr. Brooks, the infamous Bush v Gore ruling in the Rehnquist era, the one that got millions of people killed all over the world, the one that helped plunge this nation into insolvency and international ridicule, the one that resulted in the loss of a major American city, the devastating attack of another plus our nation's capital, the one that was the first but far from the last major salvo fired against the bow of democracy? Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor are long gone but the nucleus that has been the driving force, the engine of destruction against the forces of good and progress for these past 11 1/2 years were in place then: Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy.

One would be, at the very least, hard-pressed to find a more partisan right wing court than the one now occupying those nine seats. Hardly will you ever find a time when more 5-4 decisions have been handed down, almost exclusively along party lines that shouldn't ever exist on the High Court. And, no, Mr, Brooks, it isn't merely a matter of what laws get reversed by the SCOTUS but also what laws are upheld.

Such as SB 1070, for instance, which gives Arizona law enforcement officers the right to racially profile and violate the 4th and 14th amendments.

There's your "overwrought and misleading liberal commentary", rooted, as usual, in incontrovertible fact, research and honesty.

So let's for now ignore Brooks's contradictory statement that the Roberts-led decision on the ACA (that he insists on calling like a cheap, Cheetos dust-smeared Hot Air blogger, "ObamaCare") both places curtailments on yet gives freedom to Congressional Acts calling on the Commerce Clause to enforce individual mandates and focus on his raving insistence that liberals are crying wolf, that the sky is falling every time Fat Tony and his black-robed gangsters take a vicious head-shaking chunk out of democracy.

This court is the most viciously activist on record, far more partisan than anything we ever saw during the contentious Clinton years and certainly moreso than than anything this nation has ever seen before. If Congress had any sense of basic human decency, before it adjourns this August, it needs to pass a resolution barring David fucking Brooks from getting anywhere within 100 yards of any writing implement including, but not limited to, keyboards, typewriters, pens, pencils, lumps of coal and everything except feces to smear against the padded walls of the rubber room to which he must by all rights be relegated.
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Blogger Bustednuckles said...
Well now Mr. JP, that was some damn fine work, Drifty would be proud and I certainly am.

Excellent piece.

Although I have always considered Bobo to be low hanging fruit and have oft asked Drifty why he even bothers wasting his pixels, he pointed out that Bobo has access to a world wide audience in his lofty position and there are actually people that pay attention to his drivel.

So, well done sir.
That was a nice clean vivisection of the scurrilous bastards latest Centrist screed.

As I commented in the Times, I don't know why he did this....but altruism is probably not on the list.

I think Roberts got a taste of his future if he did do something to move SCROTUS away from the political cesspool its been inhabiting of late. Still, he's got some kinda ace up his voluminous judge robe sleeve.

I'm waiting for the other scale to drop...it's pretty clear it's gonna fall.

Blogger Bob said...
Excellent post.

Blogger Cossack said...
Hey JP,

Most excellent takedown of a most disreputable piece of human excrement! Onward sir, to your keyboard to enlighten us all and enliven our lives.