Saturday, October 26, 2013


Wreckers, Saboteurs, Hoarders, Republicans

Reading the Stupid Articles so that you don't have to.

Jonathan Bernstein, a person wholly unknown to me, writing at the Marion Davies of Web Magazines, Salon, does exactly what I predicted, a few weeks ago here, the Democrat Myrmidons would do.

I guess I have to link to him. Go here if you have the time to waste.

Mr. Bernstein accuses the Republicans of "sabotaging" Obamacare. His arguments in support therefor are pitifully weak. Here we go.

He narrows his accusation against the Republicans.

I’m talking about actions designed — usually openly — not to make the law work better in their view, but to make it harder for the law to work well.

Open sabotage. Wow, the Republicans sure are brazen wreckers. How did they do this wrecking Mr. Bernstein? I don't think there has been any amendment by Congress to the original bill, passed with no Republican support, which is now the 'law of the land.'

While some of these [Republican acts of sabotage] had obvious direct effects, most of them did not. And it’s hard, in most cases, to draw a direct causal line between disruptive actions and specific malfunctions in the Web site.

I'm sure Mr. Bernstein will tell us the obvious direct effects. It is hard to draw a direct casual line between any Republican action and the horrible train wreck of the Web site roll out, because any rational person would admit that there isn't any. The development of the Web site was 100% controlled by the current Administration. There was more money available (and spent) than it should have cost. There were thousands of underworked government employees in the HHS and elsewhere to help. There was the super genius in the White House to help with the tricky parts. Sorry, laddie, this is solely the Democrats' baby. But wait, Bernstein has an explanation for not being able to support his accusation with any, uh, actual evidence.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe that any of these actively helped make the program run smoothly, and very easy to believe that the cumulative effect had at least some part to play in the October fiasco. So with all that said, here’s a very incomplete set of eight ways that Republicans attempted, perhaps successfully, to undermine the ACA:
 Wait, the Republicans only tried to undermine a law they all opposed and this attempt was "perhaps" successful. These waffle words are not filling me with a lot of confidence that you have any case at all. Let's see.

In particular, Senate Republicans prevented the confirmation of an Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid until May, 2013. That’s the agency that has the lead in getting things running. The general conventional wisdom, almost certainly true, is that neither an acting director or a recess appointed director has the clout within an agency of a properly nominated and confirmed presidential appointee.

Wait, Marilyn Tavenner is now the Administrator of the CMS and was the acting administrator before Donald Berwick was "recess" appointed as the administrator from July 7, 2010 to December 2, 2011 and then it was Tavenner again as acting Administrator until she was confirmed. Before she was acting Administrator the first time, she was the Principal Deputy Administrator. If the CMS itself had anything to do with picking or supporting the Canadian firm, Conseillers en Gestion et Informatique,(which screwed the IT pooch here, as is its wont), which is doubtful, the longtime Principal Deputy and Acting Administrator may well have had things well under control. It is the worst sort of speculation to say that the leadership the President has picked for CMS was somehow made worse by the Republicans. Usually you start and end an argument with your best shot. This is a whiff. Does it get any better?

Passing on state-run exchanges: With over half the states refusing to set up their own marketplaces, the job of the federal government was much larger than originally envisioned. And this was clearly not done with good intentions: ask 100 Republicans whether they believe the states or the federal government does a better job running things, and at least 99 are going to say the states.

Now hold on there, kitty cat. Did the Republicans amend the ACA to let the states opt out of the exchanges? No, that ability was in the original genius class scheme and it had to be in order for that part of the act to pass constitutional muster. It's the law of the land that the states did not have to set up exchanges. Bernstein is blaming the Republicans for making choices the Democrats gave them when crafting the law. Some states do administer programs better than the feds and that's mainly because the state programs are smaller than the federal program. Choosing to opt out and make the feds do it is a rational choice for some states who so choose. For the Democrats scrambling to find someone else to blame, a governor or state legislature doing just what the Democrat authored bill allows for good reasons is now sabotage. Not that compelling, Bernie. Not compelling at all.

Defunding: While the recent major defunding push failed, House Republicans successfully restricted funding for Health and Human Services and the agencies in charge of implementing the ACA, forcing Secretary Sebelius (and presumably various others at the department and various agencies) to scramble to make up for it.

Sorry, no sale, Bernie. There was never less money for the HHS than there was the year before and the year before that; and there was plenty of money to overpay the Canadian webmasters. The horrible, no good, awful sequester merely slowed the rate of growth of the government. There hasn't been a budget passed by both houses in 4 years and the funding of the government has continued by CRs which have never defunded a thing outside the military and that only marginally. Are you just making this stuff up?

Myths and lies: How many times since March 2010 has someone at the White House or a Democrat in Congress called over to HHS to ask about some crazy rumor that the press or a constituent was asking about? How much time was dedicated to figuring out what it was all about so that it could be properly refuted?

I don't know, Bernie, how many times? So the agency (with nearly 65,000 employees) was hamstrung by occasional, theoretical calls from Democrats and therefore the Canadians couldn't do their code writing business. Is that your argument? I am laughing out loud at you, right now.

The big lawsuit: Granted, there’s some legitimacy in challenging the Constitutional status of a law, as long as it’s not frivolous, and the partial success of the lawsuit is sufficient to show it wasn’t entirely frivolous. Still, the type of attack involved in the lawsuit made it clear that reform opponents, if they couldn’t defeat the law, would be happy to leave it dysfunctional.

Wait, in Marbury v. Madison over two hundred years ago, the Supreme Court declared that it is the sole arbiter of Constitutionality of an Act or Executive action, as a co-equal third branch of government. So if there was a partially successful, non-frivolous lawsuit about the constitutionality of the ACA, all that shows is that the Republicans were right to challenge the law. So how did the lawsuit cause the Canadians to write bad code? I'm not really following the argument here. I doubt anyone is.

Other lawsuits: There have been plenty of these, and many of them really have been frivolous. As with the one that reached the Supreme Court, all of these have had the effect of delaying implementation, given that the status of the law was under fire.
Does he mean the largely successful so far cases about the ACA's unconstitutional attack on religious liberty and the law of the land that protects it? How has that delayed implementation? It's the office of the Solicitor General that argues in the Supreme Court for the government. Was he or any of his staff slated to help the Canadians write code but couldn't make it because her or she had a brief due? This is not so much argument as desperation.

Medicaid expansion: Not only did the state-by-state fights over Medicaid expansion mean that the program could not work as intended — the ability of states to opt out opens up a large hole for the not-quite-poor — but again, just dealing with this must have been yet another distraction.

 The successful part of the non frivolous lawsuit the Republicans properly brought against the ACA was mainly that the feds could not force the states to expand Medicaid. Some governors have taken the bait and some have wisely refused the generous federal offer to expand it and pay, for now, some of the cost of the expansion. What does that really have to do with the Canadians writing code for the Web site? This accusation is like the dog in Up saying 'squirrel.' Medicaid has figuratively nothing at all to do with the Web site or the creation of the Web site. OK, big finish:

Suppressing outreach: The administration knew that it had a major task in publicizing the rollout. What made that harder (and, presumably, distracted them from the critical task of making everything work smoothly) was a bizarre and perverse effort to undermine outreach: organizations such as the NFL were threatened if they helped to publicize the law, and an advertising campaign attempted to scare young people away from wanting to carry any health insurance.

I'm laughing at you again, Bernie. Good that you obliquely admit that the ACA is singularly unpopular with American citizens and needed a Madison Ave. type ad campaign to try to make it popular, but who undermined the outreach program (which, in Bernstein's twisted logic, somehow distracted the Canadians from writing good code)? Who threatened the NFL? How did running political ads telling the young voters for Obama the truth that it was a very bad deal for them to buy ACA approved health insurance suppress the Obama Administration's ability to make its pitch? Let me help you out there, nothing prevented the Obama Administration from making a pitch for the glorious roll out of the Web site. The Democrat alone controlled and produced the Web site development and roll out which were such failures because of nothing at all the Republicans did. This last argument is so thin and pathetic that I think I'm developing a case of rickets from having read it. Your arguments that anyone other than the Democrats is to blame for the problems with the ACA as written and the stupendous failure of the Web site wholly lacks any supporting evidence. You have wasted every reader's time. He keeps digging.

Again: it’s hard to draw a straight line between any of these efforts and the administration’s failures.

That's because there is no connection between the Republican's efforts and the Administration's abject failures. No straight line, no crooked line, no dotted line-- no connection whatsoever. It's all on the Democrats.

What we do know, however, is that time is limited; any day that a department secretary spends on one part of her job is a day she can’t focus on a different part. And then some of these had direct effects of increasing the amount of work the federal government had to do (such as the decisions not to run state exchanges) or to delay when they could do that work (such as the lawsuits). Others restricted the resources available. And some were just distractions.

That's right Sebelius and her civil servants cannot chew gum and walk at the same time. They had to read about the lawsuits, for example, before the work day began and were thereafter demoralized and distracted from making the Canadians write better code. It must be a nice planet that Mr. Bernstein lives on--one free of the requirements of logical connections that exist here on Earth, no doubt. Last paragraph.

Which leaves the question: how does the October rollout go if none of this had happened?

Exactly as bad as it did--a complete clusterf***--because nothing you have mentioned, not a single thing, had or could possibly have had any effect on the Canadians' code writing skills.

If there had been aggressive oversight by Republicans in the House, and perhaps a few repeal votes, but otherwise elected Republicans had done their best to carry out the law even if they disagreed with it? We’ll never know the answer, and again this kind of question is definitely not intended to deflect the share of the responsibility that the president and his administration should take. But my guess? It would have been a whole different ballgame.

I'll forgive the bad grammar that your first 'sentence' is all dependent clause. But wait, were the Republicans supposed to have helped the Canadians write code? And if you're not trying to deflect the blame for the failure onto the Republicans, then what have you been writing about for the whole of this wretched article? It's not a guess you're peddling here, it's an illusion.

The Democrats wrote Obamacare without any input from Republicans. There were no hearings on any part of the bill as is usual with new legislation. Not a single Republican voted for the ACA. The Administration took over 3 years and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the super terrific Web site for the hundreds of Americans eager to sign up and it doesn't work. It may never work. Indeed, the number of people who have lost health insurance coverage solely because of the semi-intended consequences of the ACA hugely outnumber the number of people trying to get health insurance through the Web site that doesn't work. All of that is all the Democrats' fault and there is not a single jot of blame rationally to be put on the loyal opposition. Not a jot.

Come back, Bernie. Come back to a place where facts and logic matter and rational people don't try to blame the blameless for their own blunders and failures. It's a good place here on Earth.


The legal challenges are not over. This brief was just filed a few days ago by PLF.
I was glad to see it, as I've wondered how ACA complies with the origination clause ever since I read the details about how this law was passed.
The Senate may amend a House-passed revenue bill, but to replace 100% of the House text with Senate-created text is a different animal.
You'd think so, anyway.
I wasn't aware of the Sissel lawsuit. I think it will be a long haul but I hope I'm wrong. Remember that the judges have a duty to find the law constitutional if possible.
Thanks for the tip.
I would hope that the judges also have a duty not to render the Constitution impotent.

Although, after the CJ Roberts re-write to effect a "constitutional" result, my hopes are slim.

But every avenue must be pursued. This law is a disaster. And I don't mean only the initial bollocks up of a website.
Agreed it is a bad law. We rightly fought against it. No one supported it on the right. We were correct to oppose it.

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