The Cruelty and Fraudulence of Mitch McConnell’s Health Bill

the bill would allow people to use tax-favored health savings accounts to pay insurance premiums. This effectively creates a big new tax shelter that mostly helps people with high incomes

.. So this is still a bill that takes from the poor to give to the rich; it just does so with extra stealth.

.. So how does he address the two big problems with the original bill —

  1. savage cuts to Medicaid and
  2. soaring premiums for older, less affluent workers?

He doesn’t.

.. The most important change in the bill, however, is the way it would effectively gut protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

.. the new Senate bill gives in to demands by Ted Cruz that insurers be allowed to offer skimpy plans that cover very little, with very high deductibles that would make them useless to most people.

.. The main answer, I’d argue, is that what would happen if this bill passes — a big decline in the number of Americans with health insurance, a sharp reduction in the quality of coverage for those who keep it — is what Republicans have wanted all along.

..  the Republican elite considered and still considers people on Medicaid, in particular, “takers” who are effectively stealing from the deserving rich.

And the conservative view has always been that Americans have health insurance that is too good, that they should pay more in deductibles and co-pays, giving them “skin in the game,” and thus an incentive to control costs.

.. So what we’re seeing here is supposed to be the last act in a long con, the moment when the fraudsters cash in, and their victims discover how completely they’ve been fooled. The only question is whether they’ll really get away with it. We’ll find out very soon.

I Spent 5 Years with Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans. Here’s What They Won’t Tell You.

The deep story of the right goes like this:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

The deep story reflects pain; you’ve done everything right and you’re still slipping back. It focuses blame on an ill-intentioned government. And it points to rescue: The tea party for some, and Donald Trump for others.

.. Many, however, had been poor as children and felt their rise to have been an uncertain one.

.. “We have our American Dream, but we could lose it all tomorrow.”

.. Affirmative-Action blacks, immigrants, refugees seemed to so routinely receive sympathy and government help. She, too, had sympathy for many, but, as she saw it, a liberal sympathy machine had been set on automatic, disregarding the giving capacity of families like hers.

.. And, as older white Christians, they were acutely aware of their demographic decline. “You can’t say ‘merry Christmas,’ you have to say ‘happy holidays,'” one person said. “People aren’t clean living anymore.

.. They also felt disrespected for holding their values: “You’re a weak woman if you don’t believe that women should, you know, just elbow your way through society. You’re not in the ‘in’ crowd if you’re not a liberal. You’re an old-fashioned old fogey, small thinking, small town, gun loving, religious,” said a minister’s wife. “The media tries to make the tea party look like bigots, homophobic; it’s not.” They resented all labels “the liberals” had for them, especially “backward” or “ignorant Southerners” or, worse, “rednecks.”

.. Their Facebook pages then filled with news coverage of liberals beating up fans at Trump rallies and Fox News coverage of white policemen shot by black men.

.. age had also become a source of humiliation. One white evangelical tea party supporter in his early 60s had lost a good job as a sales manager with a telecommunications company when it merged with another. He took the shock bravely. But when he tried to get rehired, it was terrible.

.. Age brought no dignity. Nor had the privilege linked to being white and male trickled down to him.

.. Those more in the middle class, such as Sharon, wanted to halt the “line-cutters” by slashing government giveaways. Those in the working class, such as her Aflac clients, were drawn to the idea of hanging on to government services but limiting access to them.

.. with all the changes, the one thing America needed, she felt, was a steady set of values that rewarded the good and punished the bad.

.. If you rose up in business, you took others with you, and this would be a point of pride. There was nothing wrong with having; if you had, you gave. But if you took—if you took from the government—you should be ashamed.

.. The rich deserve honor as makers and givers and should be rewarded with the proud fruits of their earnings, on which taxes should be drastically cut. Such cuts would require an end to many government benefits that were supporting the likes of Sharon’s trailer park renters. For her, the deep story ended there, with welfare cuts.

.. They want someone that’s macho, that can chew tobacco and shoot the guns—that type of manly man.”

.. Many blue-collar white men now face the same grim economic fate long endured by blacks. With jobs lost to automation or offshored to China, they have less security, lower wages, reduced benefits, more erratic work, and fewer jobs with full-time hours than before.

.. He compares the top 20 percent of them—those who have at least a bachelor’s degree and are employed as managers or professionals—with the bottom 30 percent,

.. But is sleeping longer and watching television a loss of morals, or a loss of morale? A recent study shows a steep rise in deaths of middle-aged working-class whites—much of it due to drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. These are not signs of abandoned values, but of lost hope. Many are in mourning and see rescue in the phrase “Great Again.”

.. He has shamed virtually every line-cutting group in the Deep Story—women, people of color,the disabled, immigrants, refugees. But he’s hardly uttered a single bad word about unemployment insurance, food stamps, or Medicaid, or what the tea party calls “big government handouts,” for anyone—including blue-collar white men.

.. Not only does he speak to the white working class’ grievances; as they see it, he has finally stopped their story from being politically suppressed. We may never know if Trump has done this intentionally or instinctively, but in any case he’s created a movement much like the anti-immigrant but pro-welfare-state right-wing populism on the rise in Europe. For these are all based on variations of the same Deep Story of personal protectionism.

‘Awakening’, by Marilynne Robinson

In an exclusive extract from her new book, the writer considers the bonds between church and state in America
.. Movements that present themselves as religiously motivated have now begun to regard the state as aggressively secular, and as enforcing secularism, precisely in maintaining institutional distance that was meant in the first instance to protect religious freedom. They have begun to regard the state with a hectic moral aversion, and at the same time to meddle in or to stymie public life by asserting a presence in governments national and local. The defence against these movements has often taken the form of a secularism that is contemptuous of religion
.. Some, in the fear of God, could never knowingly vote against the interests of the poor or of those who suffer discrimination, while others, in the fear of God, are content that the poor should be with us always, and would never vote for marriage equality.
.. The Second Great Awakening spent its last energies on cults and health fads and spirit photography. The awakening of my youth spun off into cults and drugs and health fads. The positive content of these movements tends to disappear except in the obverse image they impress on the reactions against them.
.. I know causes of the Civil War are widely disputed, but I have been reading the speeches and papers of leaders of the Confederacy, and for them the point at issue was slavery. Slavery plain and simple. They drew up a constitution very like the national Constitution, except in its explicit protections of slavery. Their defence of their sacred institutions means the defence of slavery. Their definition of states’ rights means their insistence on their right to bring this “species of property” into states that did not acknowledge it, and to make these states enforce their claims on such “property” without reference to their traditions, to their own laws, or to their right to protect their own citizens. The North did not start the war, but the issue that erupted in war had been smouldering for generations, and the issue was slavery.
.. The word “liberal” has been effectively stigmatised, as the word “abolitionist” was and is. As if generosity were culpable. As if there were some more reasonable response to slavery than to abolish it.
.. the word “Christian” now is seen less as identifying an ethic, and more as identifying a demographic. On one hand I do not wish to overstate the degree to which these two uses of the word “Christian” are mutually exclusive, and on the other hand I think it would be a very difficult thing to overstate how deeply incompatible they can be.
.. With these words Abraham Lincoln anchored the argument that the suffering of the North in the American Civil War — they had lost two soldiers for every one the South lost — was deserved because of Northern complicity in the system of slavery. His meaning was that this suffering was not to be avenged as a grievance against an adversary. It was instead to be accepted as affirming the impartial justice of God. Insofar as Lincoln’s words were taken to express an indubitable truth, the terrible war came to a less terrible and more final conclusion than civil wars generally do
.. The great religions are counterstatements made against a reality that does not affirm them with much consistency at all. This can only have been truer in any earlier century, when life was more brutal than we in the West can readily imagine.
.. Sigmund Freud said we cannot love our neighbour as ourselves. No doubt this is true. But if the reality that lies behind the commandment, that our neighbour is as worthy of love as ourselves, and that in acting on this fact we would be stepping momentarily out of the bog of our subjectivity ..
.. Lincoln spoke in Calvinist language to a population it might have been meaningful at the time to call Calvinist, as the historians generally do. He says, Accept suffering with humility. Both suffering and humility will serve you.
.. When I say Calvinism has faded, I am speaking of the uncoerced abandonment by the so-called mainline churches of their own origins, theology, culture, and tradition. I have spent most of my life in Presbyterian and Congregational churches
.. But through the whole of my experience I have had the sense that these churches were backpedaling, were evading, at last very effectively, the influence cultural history would have given them. I am sure they were wrong about some things, like all other churches. But I envy a time when an American president could speak as candidly as Lincoln did, and remind us that whom God loveth he also chastiseth, our adversaries and ourselves equally. That we must love our enemies because God loves them. Say what you will about “the Calvinist God”, he is not an imaginary friend.
.. I don’t know whether it is time or history or Calvin that has left me so profoundly convinced of the importance of human fallibility, and so struck by its peculiar character. But I wouldn’t mind hearing the word “sin” once in a while. If the word is spoken now it is likely to be in one of those lately bold and robust big churches who are obsessed with sins Jesus never mentioned at all. On the testimony of the prophets, social injustice is the great sin — according to Ezekiel the reason for the destruction of Sodom.
.. The religious monoculture we seem to be tending toward now is not a neutral averaging of the particularities of all the major traditions. It is very much marked by its cultural moment, when the whole focus is on “personal salvation”, on “accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour”. Theologically speaking, the cosmos has contracted severely.
.. The simple, central, urgent pressure to step over the line that separates the saved from the unsaved, and after this the right, even the obligation, to turn and judge that great sinful world the redeemed have left behind — this is what I see as the essential nature of the emerging Christianity. Those who have crossed this line can be outrageously forgiving of one another and themselves, and very cruel in their denunciations of anyone else.
.. Max Weber saw anxiety in Protestants’ — he meant Calvinists’ — uncertainty about their own salvation.
.. What some have seen as a resurgence of Christianity, or at least a bold defence of American cultural tradition — even as another great awakening! — has brought a harshness, a bitterness, a crudeness, and a high-­handedness into the public sphere that are only to be compared to the politics, or the collapse of politics, in the period before the Civil War.
..  Many have noted that the media do not find reasonable people interesting. Over time this has surely had a distorting effect.
.. Christianity is stigmatised among the young as a redoubt of ignorance, an obstacle to the humane aspirations of the civilisation. The very generosity and idealism of young people is turning them away.
.. a polarisation of the good on one side and the religious on the other, which will be a catastrophe for American Christianity. And it will be an appalling deprivation on every side of the great body of art and thought and ethical profundity that has been so incalculable an enrichment of all our lives. Can a culture be said to survive when it has rejected its heritage?
.. I have mentioned the qualitative difference between Christianity as an ethic and Christianity as an identity. Christian ethics go steadfastly against the grain of what we consider human nature. The first will be last; to him who asks give; turn the other cheek; judge not. Identity, on the other hand, appeals to a constellation of the worst human impulses. It is worse than ordinary tribalism because it assumes a more than virtuous us on one side, and on the other a them who are very doubtful indeed
.. In the seventh chapter of Matthew there is a text I have never heard anyone preach on. There Jesus says that in the last day “many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me’.” It is for Christ to decide who the Christians are, who has in fact done the will of his Father.
.. People of good faith get caught up in these things in all times and all places. In the excitement of the moment who really knows he might not also shout, “Give us Barabbas!”
.. there have been interests intent on legitimising bad ideas by creating an atmosphere around them that simulates mass passion — distrust or resentment or rage as the manufactured outcry of a virtual populace. These are not conditions in which religion is likely to retain its character as religion.
.. Paul speaks of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” a woman in the audience, making a two-handed figure eight in the air, said: “But if you have a sword, you’re supposed to smite somebody.”
.. Does the word “stranger”, the word “alien”, ever have a negative connotation in Scripture? No. Are the poor ever the object of any­thing less than God’s loving solicitude? No. Do the politics of those who claim a special fealty to the Bible align themselves with its teachings in these matters? No, they do not, not in con­temporary America, certainly. We have been hearing a lot about “takers” lately.
.. Under such circumstances it is only to their credit that they reject it.
.. Though I am not competent to judge in such matters, it would not surprise me at all to learn in any ultimate reckoning that these “nones” as they are called, for the box they check when asked their religion, are better Christians than the Christians. But they have not been given the chance even to reject the beautiful, generous heritage that might otherwise have come to them.