Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Now it’s the House Republicans who are correctly being accused of creating so-called death panels.

Sarah Palin went on a famous tirade in 2009 after she and John McCain lost the presidential election, saying the bill that would become known as Obamacare would lead to medical rationing and life-and-death decisions by faceless bureaucrats about who got coverage and who would not.

Seniors and the disabled “will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care,” Palin said, lying at that time in a manner that anticipated the rise of Donald Trump.

As of early Wednesday, House Republicans appeared to be blinking when it comes to amassing enough votes to pass their latest Obamacare repeal bill because what they are hearing loud and clear is turning crazy Sarah’s macabre vision into reality. Americans struggling with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses are expressing their concrete fears that the House’s latest handiwork will accelerate their demise, because it repeals Obamacare’s ban on insurers rejecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allows insurers to segregate these people into pricier high-risk pools. Both are disasters.

“I don’t think people really understand how serious this is,” Cannon Slayton, 50, a children’s book author with brain cancer from Charlottesville, Virginia, told the New York Times in a front-page story Wednesday. Her bottom line, like others in the report, was that she could lose her coverage under the latest Republican revisions to the Affordable Care Act and that could be fateful. And Slayton’s predicament is by no means unique.

Moreover, the GOP proposal for creating high-risk pools is a fantasy, others told the Times, recalling how before Obamacare if you were over age 50 and had any medical issues—which includes almost everyone—no insurer would sell you a policy.

As the Times noted, “Janice Elks, 50, a small-business owner in Omaha, had cervical cancer and suffered from neuropathy when she looked for a policy. ‘I could not get insurance at all, of any type, for years,’ she said. ‘I would apply over and over.’”

House Republican leaders are scrambling to paper over their repeal of Obamacare’s pre-existing condition provision. The latest analyses, from those who ran Medicaid and Medicare under President Obama, is that every congressional district will see tens of thousands of people losing coverage, with those remaining facing premium hikes of 15 to 20 percent and deductible increases of 60 percent.

After longtime Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton declared his opposition to the latest bill, House Speaker Paul Ryan offered to put $8 billion in subsidies back into the program for the most vulnerable (this is breaking news on Wednesday morning), as an attempt to sway his vote. As of midday Wednesday, there are reports the House GOP may soon schedule a floor vote. (Later on Wednesday, House Republicans said they had the votes and scheduled a vote for Thursday. It’s unclear if it will pass.)

Whether Ryan’s last-minute gambit works is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things, as more astute Republicans—namely, their political consultants—were tweeting on Wednesday. They know that pulling the pre-existing condition prohibition out of the law is not just a political death wish, but amounts to life-threatening changes for older Americans. In other words, Palin’s death panels are all too real; they’re in Ryan’s latest repeal bill; and enough voters know it.

Don’t take my word for it: listen to a Republican pollster who did focus groups to create ads trashing Obamacare. Here’s Rick Wilson’s tweetstorm:

“A quick story about why Obamacare is so hard to kill now. Hop in the wayback machine with me for a moment to a series 2009 focus groups. I’ve told you about this before but it bears repeating. We were prepping anti-Obamacare ads. In EVERY group and I mean EVERY group… Democrats, indys, hard Rs, soft Rs, rich, poor, black, white, urban, suburban…there was one argument that nuked everything else… And that was coverage for pre-existing conditions. It didn’t matter where you were coming from on the battle…it was the killer app…

“I wasn’t weighing policy, but rather the politics of it. And that’s why it was a tentpole of the sales job to the American public… Now salve Trump’s ego over losing Trumpcare the first time, the House GOP is trying to pass a bill that let’s states end that coverage… Set aside policy. Set aside the economics. Think about the politics of it. They’re awful. They’re idiotic. It’s a vote that makes House… Members vote for a bill that the Senate will NEVER pass. A Senate source tells me they now have MAYBE 25 Rs (and shrinking).

“Trumpcare 2.0 is still too gutless for the Freedom Caucus and too heartless for the rest of the House. Bravo, boys. Bravo… Finding a way to reduce premiums deductibles instead of doing the ONE thing that voters f**king hate might be smart, but what do I know?”

There you have it, the view from players inside the GOP tent. The only way this passes the House is to salve Trump’s ego and save Ryan’s prestige. If that happens, it will send a wave of fear through millions of American households, where an estimated 100 million people are struggling with cancer, heart disease and other chronic maladies according to 10 nationwide patient care organizations that Monday issued a joint statement opposing the House bill.

As was the case in 2009, it was a Republican—Palin—who projected the fantasy of insurance industry panels taking away life-saving care from ordinary Americans. Almost a decade later, House Republicans are poised to enact that macabre reality.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.