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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why does Paul Ryan hate the people in his district?

by folkbum

I've been working up to writing a Paul Ryan post for a while now, because for some reason, Ryan is one of the point men for the anti-humanity and pro-insanity opposition to health insurance reform. Quite possibly, of course, because he knows who butters his bread.

Anyway, I haven't written that post until now.

What really got me het up enough to want to tear into Ryan was this story from the other day, "Scrap health bill, start talking, Ryan urges Democrats," it's called. It has all the hallmarks of smugjerkitude, starting with the notion that the party that won the Congress and the White House (including Ryan's district, handily) should take policy advice from a minority party back-bencher more interested in serving his corporate donors than the people of his district, and continuing on through the implication that reform is moving too quickly.

I suppose that this is quick in, say, cosmological time. But reform of this type has been on the Democrats' agenda since Harry Truman 60 years ago. After World War II, when the rest of the western world was busy rebuilding their literally flattened cities and we were enjoying a massive peace dividend, somehow those other countries achieved universal health care coverage and we couldn't pull it off. We lost that fight to Europe and Canada. Shameful!

And in the decades since, every Democrat has made clear that health policy reform is a top priority and that the goal is universal access to quality, affordable care. In this week of Ted Kennedy montageomania it's hard not to notice those clips of him 40 years ago talking about health care and the need to fix a broken system.

Paul Ryan, member of Congress now for a decade, during which the White House was mostly controlled by his own party, has managed to pass zip in terms of health policy reform--unless you count his vote for Medicare Part D, the massive giveaway to big pharma at the expense of America's senior citizens and taxpayers. This "rising star" of Republican circles has gotten not one single person health insurance who lacked it; he even voted, repeatedly, against SCHIP, the program that helps children from poor families get needed medical care. (Cue Maude Flanders Helen Lovejoy--"Won't someone please think of the children!") After so many years of sitting on his hands and letting his constituents suffer under the tyranny of the insurance industry, now he has the gall to demand that those elected by promising reform hit the brakes.

And I've been reading up on Ryan's town halls and the scare-tactic baloney he's spreading. In the article cited above, for example, he says Democrats' reforms will lead to a "government monopoly on health care." (Not to mention that Ryan, the guy who voted for all those unpaid-for Bush tax cuts and Bush's trillion-dollar Iraq misadventure, is worried now about "bankruptcy" for the country. Gimmyabreak.) False. He says, "The private sector will go away." False--apparently, he doesn't have confidence that the free market can compete with a public option plan that by law is priced, funded, and regulated in the same way that the private plans are. He casts aspersions uopn Democrats' proposals by assuming reform will be like Britain's NHS. False.

There's an account of a Ryan town hall here, for example, in which Ryan recounts some of the same BS as above and seems to advance the tin-foil "the gummint's gonna force everyone to get vaccinated" lie we've talked about before.

And another account here, where, among other things, Ryan seems to call current proposals "pure 100% government-run health care run by Washington politicians and bureaucrats," which is not even remotely the case. He apparently refuses to correct a questioner who asserts the House bill "gives the government real-time access to [...] bank accounts." Plus this one--which may just be the correspondent's own well-established willful ignorance about the issue, but he attributes it to Ryan: "No new individual health care plans. Anyone without coverage or who loses coverage will have to buy their insurance through the Exchange; i.e., government option." This is wrong in so many ways. More: "Next speaker condemns the Washington elitists who force the American people into government-run health care while exempting themselves. Widespread loud applause. Ryan endorses the idea." This is also something we've been over--no one else would be mandated to choose the public option (or one of its upscale cousins, like the premium or premium plus public option), and suggesting we mandate federal workers do is simply unreasonable.

And yet more: "Next questioner asks if doctors aren’t going to be paid or compensated, what is the incentive to become a doctor? Answer: none." What lunacy is this that doctors will stop getting paid to be doctors? And this: "Next speaker suffers from a unique and rare disease and is worried about how ObamaCare will ration her health care. [. . .] Ryan explains that the cost-benefit analysis under ObamaCare will prevent her from receiving medical care." False! None of the bills on the table gives anyone the authority to ration care to anyone--moreover, the bills generally include protections to make it harder to cut you off once you get sick, offering a greater level of assurance that treatments will be available.

When Ryan is spouting or encouraging these kinds of absolute lies--and make no mistake, I'm sure he knows these things are false and he doesn't care one bit that he's misleading his constituents--there is no reason to take him seriously. There is no reason he should get front-page coverage from a newspaper headquartered outside of his district, at least not without better fact-checking than a cursory "a Democratic party spokesman" quote. I mean, call the lies what they are, please.

Plus there's no reason to take him seriously when he makes it clear that he will not even bother to try to work with Democrats on a reform bill, instead peddling his own variation of the McCain campaign's good-luck-you're-on-your-own bill that would cut workers from employer-provided plans to make them sort out their own insurance without the benefit of a well-regulated Exchange like the Democrats proposed. (Another giveaway to the insurance companies, if you ask me: More individual--read expensive--plans sold with less regulation.)

But, to get back around to what finally poked the blogger prod into my lazy behind to finally write this post ripping on Ryan and his dissembling town hall tour: I did not know until today that apparently the House Energy and Commerce Committee prepared individual reports back in July about what the impact of their health insurance reform legislation (the ubiquitous HR 3200) would mean for all 435 House districts. Here's the pdf for Wisconsin's first district--Paul Ryan's district--and it tells a pretty glum story about the kind of suffering that's happening right now to the same constituents Ryan is out there lying to about health care. Some examples:
Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 14,000 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.
The small businesses are the ones that are going to save Janesville, for example, now that we know GM is never coming back.
Each year, 9,400 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.
Ryan made this donut hole with his Medicare Part D vote, and now he's interested only in killing a bill that will plug it.

The report notes that the Democrats' bill would allow 51,000 people in the first district who currently lack insurance to buy some, and could stop up to 1,600 bankruptcies a year related to medical costs.

How do I know Paul Ryan must hate his constituents? Because he's lying to them. Because he's demanding that Congress stall or defeat a bill that could offer real help to hundreds of thousands in his district. Because even though his district voted for president for the guy who promised exactly this kind of reform, he'd rather do the bidding of his corporate sponsors.

That's not representative; that's evil.

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