Election 2012

The Stunted Vision of the Democratic Party

What "equality of opportunity" has come to mean.

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The honest alternative.

There was a moment at this week's Democratic convention that seemed to encapsulate the party's stunted vision. It came during the remarks of Maria Ciano, a Colorado woman who presents herself as a former Republican distressed by the modern GOP. "I still believe in small government, but I no longer believe in the Republican Party," she said. "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want the government to have a say in my family planning. They want employers to decide what kind of birth control coverage I have—or if I can have it at all."

It's an interesting sleight-of-hand that allowed Ciano to get from praising small government to defending a new government mandate in just three sentences. But that's not why I'm quoting her. I'm bringing her up because it's useful to think about why Ciano's employer would have a role in her birth control purchases in the first place.

The answer comes in two parts. First, because the law requires a woman to get a prescription before she can buy the pill, and it requires her to get an invasive and frequently unnecessary medical exam before she can acquire that prescription. Eliminate those controls, and insurance coverage would be beside the point; the pill would be cheaply available over the counter. Second, because changes to the tax code in the 1940s and '50s have channeled us into a system where Americans overwhelmingly get their health insurance through their jobs. Eliminate those incentives, and far fewer people would be dependent on their employers for insurance at all, substantially reducing the relevance of the boss's opinions about birth control.

It goes without saying that Barack Obama has displayed no interest in rolling back the FDA's birth control rules. Nor has he moved away from the policies that push people into employer-based health coverage, or, more broadly, from a system where so many medical services are purchased via insurance in the first place. Indeed, his signature accomplishment is a law requiring people who don't have health insurance to buy it.

If you can't afford to buy it, you may qualify for financial assistance. That's the Democratic Party's promise: We won't end the policies that empower big institutions and raise the cost of living, but when they send you the bill we might help you pay. You saw the same idea at work when various speakers this week invoked student loans: The Democrats will lend you money for college, but they'll do nothing to end the legally enshrined credentialism that makes so many professions off-limits without a degree. And if those subsidies end up inflating the cost of tuition and health care even more…well, then the pols will just call for more subsidies.

When Democrats invoked "equality of opportunity" this week, that's what they were talking about: government action to help people run through mazes that the government helped erect. I don't expect the Dems to stop looking for ways to offer assistance, but dammit, it would be nice if some of them would take on the mazes instead of hatching plans that'll make them more complex.

We cannot afford another four years of Tweedledum.

Last week the Republicans touted themselves as the party of I-built-that entrepreneurship while presenting corporate welfare queens like Boeing as business heroes. This week the Democrats touted themselves as the party of working Americans while praising policies that shore up the insurance industry and the collegiate sorting machine (and while offering an argument for the auto bailout that amounted to a trickle-down defense of corporate welfare). For the next two months, those parties' standard-bearers will tout this election as a stark choice between deeply different alternatives. Where are those factcheckers when you need them?

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NEXT: President Obama Faces Reality Check After Convention

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  1. The Republicans’–or, more appropriately, the Libertarians’–slogan for 2012 should be one word: “Enough!” Or, if that’s not clear enough, “Stop the Madness!”

  2. I don’t know why convention turncoats are so appealing. Zel Miller’s speech was pretty awful once you get beyond the fact that he was a turncoat.

    1. Because it’s an attempt to make the argument of “see how extreme those other guys are!”

  3. I know I posted it earlier, but it’s so funny and cool. Google celebrates the 46th Anniversary of Star Trek.

    If you click on the characters and devices, there are SFX and a little story. Beats the crap out of politics, anyways. Have a good weekend Reasonoids!

    1. I’ve always said that Roddenberrian communism would be pretty sweet, so long as you didn’t have to constantly hear Picard smugly declare how humans “have a more evolved sensibility, and are no longer interested in the accumulation of wealth.”

      1. A post-scarcity society would be nice, but I’d like to know more about the legal rights of Federation citizens. Are they just so wealthy and educated that getting more stuff isn’t a big deal, or are they slaves of the state?

        1. The way it seems from TOS and TNG, people just sort of stopped caring. There doesn’t seem to be any gulags for non-compliance to state communism. People just sorta went along with it 100%*.

          *A fact undermined by what we learn in DS9, by the way.

          1. It’s not the case in TOS. The guys mining dilithium did it for cash, Flint was referenced as a rich guy, and so on. Don’t recall anything like that in TNG.

            DS9 was a different animal, of course.

            1. By “different animal”, I assume you mean “fucking awesome once they got past the bullshit first couple of seasons”.

              1. I like DS9. My point was that it was less focused on the Federation, so the questions about its internal politics/economics came up less often.

                1. Ferengi episodes were the best episodes.

                  1. Bloodsucking Ferengi capitalists exploiting the Gentil- I mean humans!

                2. Actually, DS9 was the one series that gave the most glimpses into Federation civilian life, and the writer’s did not appear to be able make economic system in those glimpses match the rhetoric.

      2. I find it rather telling though that the only way they could make their version of communism “work” is through a magical, physically impossible piece of futuristic sci-fi technology that makes scarcity of resources a thing of the past (the replicator). Not to mention that the “new man” had to be perfected.

        Actually I think says pretty everything you need to know about communism.

        1. I think that says pretty much everything…

          Epic typing fail. Should’ve spent 5 seconds proof reading, but that’s teh hard and stuffs.

        2. What’s better? Capitalism and political freedom, or communism and smokin’ hot Orion babes?

          1. Can the replicator make enough babes for everyone?

        3. Reminds me of the magic engine in Atlas Shrugged that generated more energy than it consumed. Or something. It’s been awhile.

      3. Roddenberrian communism would be pretty sweet

        I have no idea how the fucking thing holds together.

        Once i got my hands on a replicator i would manufacture my own space craft and fuck all the federation.
        Anyway the point is the Star Trek universe by the virtues of the technological advancements it has would be far more decentralized then it is.

        Iain M Banks Culture novels suffer from the same problem. They assume once people reach a post scarcity level of technology that involuntary governments would still exist. The idea that they would is insane.

        1. The Culture issue is that the AI minds which control the habitats/starships/replicators are really the government. Make no mistake, The Culture is a benevolent dictatorship. I think he avoids the whole “I’ma make a spaceship and leave” by requiring interstellar spaceships to have Minds.

        2. Well the replicator may only replicate things that the Top Men of the day sign off on. Opiates like food and hookers, but nothing that would threaten them like a star ship.

    2. Killed the monster, but no loot 🙁

  4. I know I posted it earlier, but it’s so funny and cool. Google celebrates the 46th Anniversary of Star Trek.

    If you click on the characters and devices, there are SFX and a little story. Beats the crap out of politics, anyways. Have a good weekend Reasonoids!

    1. I can’t follow it. I see one of the letters shoot the Gorn Pez-dispenser. Is that it?

      1. Also the crying redshirt in the transporter room.

      1. Bah Sugarfreed the link

        The Obamanomicon

  5. Second, because changes to the tax code in the 1940s and ’50s have channeled us into a system where Americans overwhelmingly get health insurance through their jobs. Eliminate those incentives, and far fewer people would be dependant on their employers for insurance at all, substantially reducing the relevance of the boss’s opinions about birth control.

    You can say that again, JW. Why do people have so much trouble getting this?

    1. If health insurance was decoupled from employment, and assuming that employers then paid the employee full compensation including their contribution to the health insurance premium, then that additional income would be taxable.

      “Oh noes! You want to raise taxes on working people!

      Why do you hate working people?”

      1. McCain even tried proposing giving everyone a (refundable) tax credit instead of the deduction, and Obama still ran ads all over the place about “tax health care for the first time ever!”

        And even some commenters here got confused about tax credits versus deductions, thinking that the tax credit was worth less when it was worth more.

    2. Because making choices is scary. If I get paid more money but then I have to go out an shop for a doctor that would be hard. What if I pick the wrong doctor? How will I know if I’m paying too much? Who will protect me if the doctor does something wrong? It’s obviously better to just let the government handle all that stress.

      1. Hard to believe that people really think that way. Then I read a column saying, “I have way too many options to handle under Medicare Advantage. The government needs to step in and simplify things,” where “simplify things” is taken to mean “eliminate choices” so that we can have a real choice from a pared down menu of acceptable choices. Slavery is Freedom. War is Peace.

    3. Why do people have so much trouble getting this?

      Because something something health care something not a commodity.

  6. That Cthulhu poster is racist, BTW.

    1. So is the video on the side ‘How to Play Guitar Like Lil Wayne.’

  7. BEST CAMPAIGN POSTER EVER.

    1. I want to know where I can buy it.

  8. Of the government; by the government; for the government.

  9. I still believe in small government, but I no longer believe in the Republican Party,”

    Then why they fuck would you turn to the democrats? The stupid – it burns us!!!!!!

    1. She’s a slave to the two-party system. She either doesn’t know about the Libertarian Party, or she doesn’t think it’s worth her vote.

      1. I didn’t know John was a woman.

      2. Unfortunately I think you’re probably right.

        Homer: “Maybe I’ll vote for a third party.”

        Kang: “Go ahead, throw your vote away!”

      3. The way she is doing it is like a Roman Catholic saying I don’t believe in God, and then joining the Greek Orthodox.

    2. She believes in government that’s just big enough to give her free stuff.

    3. Some people don’t need a reason. They just want to stoke the flames of their own insufferable indignation.

    4. “Then why they fuck would you turn to the democrats?”

      Because she doesn’t but nobody would give her a speaking slot to say anything else?

    5. Occam’s razor suggests that she’s lying and never believed in small government or the Republican Party. She is probably, in a very literal sense, a shill.

  10. Funny, I saw the Cthulhu picture and thought it was Quinn with another whine about the Red Sox sucking this year.

  11. Just as an aside – Wasn’t Reason going to try to do an analysis of how the media portrayed these two conventions?

    Compare and contrast.

    Did I miss that?

    1. One of the conventions just ended about 10 hours ago.

      1. That’s about 9 hours longer than The Jacket should have needed to pull off the minor miracle of sifting through dozens of speeches to extract the relevant sound bites to compare. The Jacket is more than human, The Jacket knows all.

        1. The Jacket doesn’t publish on Reason. Gillespie is a little slower to decipher The Jacket’s messages.

    2. They were both glorified pep-rallies (minus hot cheerleaders) / cult meetings. They were totally insane and pointless.

  12. Well get used to it jerks, cause there’s no end to this garbage.

      1. One of the higher ranking goddesses in the pantheon.

        1. Yes, I should have included her in my redhead exception list in the AM Links thread. Great voice too.

  13. Like fucking porn to my libertarian eyes Jesse. Thanks for the chubby.

    1. You should have that wound I left checked out. Two weeks out and it is still festering.

  14. We won’t end the policies that empower big institutions and raise the cost of living, but when they send you the bill we might help you pay.

    See also: affordable housing.

  15. Somebody asked me the other day what had caused the huge rise in college tuition. I said vast infusions of government money into the system; a textbook example of inflation.

    Poo-poohing ensued.

    1. You mean they crapped in their pants at the sudden understanding of the problem?

    2. The ironic thing is that much of it gets sucked backed up again in the form of compliance officers. 15 years ago most colleges had a part-time person devoted to accreditation and various other demands for useless reports. now nearly everyone has an associate VP and several full-time staff dedicated to the job.

      One overlooked thing that is going to start having an impact soon is demographics. The 16-19 population has recently peaked after a 20-year increase and is forecast to go down over the next decade. That means colleges will be chasing fewer students. It also means an increase in working 20-somethings, who tend to drive demand for online courses.

  16. Government or government-guaranteed.

  17. The Campaigner-in-Chief is in New Hampshire today. The cultists are thrilled.

    WTF, you moronic douchebag? You’re the fucking President, RIGHT NOW.

    GET BACK TO WORK.

    1. Get back to work? Hasn’t he done enough damage already?

    2. No, because all of our problems have been solved, except those (i) caused by the Republican Congress, (ii) left over from Bush, or (iii) that the faithful don’t want to talk about.

  18. 1. Create bold new goverment problem.
    2. Notice the entirely foreseeable problems that it causes.
    3.

    1. Let’s try this again.

      1. Create bold new government program.
      2. Notice the entirely foreseeable problems that it causes.
      3. Create another bold new government program to address those problems.
      4. ????
      5. Brilliant political career!

  19. Hasn’t he done enough damage already?

    I just want him to stay on the plantation. That’s just the sort of odious fiend I am.

    1. You know who else wanted the black man to stay on the plantation?

  20. Last week the Republicans touted themselves as the party of I-built-that entrepreneurship while presenting corporate welfare queens like Boeing as business heroes.

    Boeing gets a huge tax break from the state here in Washington state. And seeing as how Washington state has been controlled by democrats since the dawn of time it is amusing to see Republicans lay claim to its success.

  21. “First, because the law requires a woman to get a prescription before she can buy the pill, and it requires her to get an invasive and frequently unnecessary medical exam before she can acquire that prescription. Eliminate those controls, and insurance coverage would be beside the point; the pill would be cheaply available over the counter.”

    There is a reason that the pill is a prescription-only medication: Not all women should be on it, and they aren’t good at deciding if they’re good candidates by themselves. If they smoke, if they have pre-existing conditions, if they have a family history that includes early cardiovascular disease or stroke or if they are older than 35 they should not be on it. A doctor (or nurse practitioner or physician assistant) can help determine these things.

    A physical exam is necessary to rule out any physical problems such as infections, existing pregnancies the patient is unaware of, and other more insidious problems like fibroids or malignancies.

    You can bet that if the pill were to be made an over-the-counter drug, more women would take it, yes. But more complications would arise and there would be more class-action lawsuits against the manufacturers.

    Birth control pills have always been available and free via tax dollars — at Planned Parenthood (following an exam by a nurse practitioner). I guess that has been left out of the narrative.

    1. Oh c’mon. So now the argument that Birth Control Prescriptions exist to protect manufacturers from lawsuits? S’rlsy? As if the manufacturers, if they really gave a shit about that, could simply dictate the distribution through doctors?

      Guess what. They wouldn’t. For the same reason that JJ isn’t afraid of lawsuits for taking too many Tylenol. Their defense…READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.

      1. So… by your logic, why not let all prescription drugs be over the counter? Let the patient be responsible for reading the literature and if there are any consequences or untoward effects it is their responsibility? After all, they can learn it all by watching teevee, right?

        1. why not let all prescription drugs be over the counter?

          Great idea, Jena! Thanks for dropping in!

          1. It’s one way to drop the population rate.

            1. When did caveat emptor become a dead letter? We have become a nation of sleepwalking children. And by “we”, I mean you.

        2. People should talk to their doctors before taking medicine. Doesn’t mean it should be illegal for them not to

    2. Doctors are not any better at determining whether or not a woman is a good candidate for the pill than the woman herself.

      This is how it works now:
      1-Go to Dr. to get full pelvic exam.
      2-Dr. writes prescription for the most popular pill on the market.
      3-That pill doesn’t work for whatever reason
      4-Go for second Dr. visit, where a new prescription is written.
      5-Continue this process until the right one for that individual woman is discovered.

      Notice that the entire process relies entirely on the individual woman determining what works for herself. This process is unnecessarily expensive and time consuming. Over the counter would actually HELP more women than the status quo.

      1. That is great if the woman is well read and honest with herself. It doesn’t work if she chooses to ignore the indications for use of the medication, as most likely would.

        For instance, most women would not probably choose to go off the pill after age 35, when they ought to because it isn’t convenient. After the ease of the pill, diaphragms or condoms just aren’t as satisfying.

        Thus, the risk of side effects and complications grow higher as she ages. You may not agree but those are the facts.

        1. We must lord over people for their own good …

        2. “Most” women? Doubtful. In truth, most women take their healthcare and birth control seriously. They spend time looking at the side effects and choosing what’s right for them….right now!

          Remember: Women are NOT adult sized children.

        3. So what you’re saying is most women are not well read and honest with themselves and need to be protected.

          1. I worked in healthcare for a significant number of years. If you turn any number of adults, even literate men and women –lose in a pharmacy with no restrictions there will be unintended consequences. Some of you think that would be a good thing. I suspect there would be fewer products available in said pharmacies. (As evidence, I point to the proliferation of idiot labels on the most basic of products.)

    3. The risks inherent to the pill are similar to the risks associated with other otc medications. Heck, not everyone should take aspirin. Likewise, if the pill should be prescription, so should spermicide and condoms coated with spermicide, as allergies to those chemicals can be rather nasty.

      Yes, women do need to make sure that they get checked for infections, malignancies, etc. on a regular basis, but there’s no reason to force them to do so. And there’s no reason, beyond money and convenience, to have that monitoring coincide with birth control prescriptions.

      It’s also worth noting that, the when I was on the pill, no one checked me for pregnancy before giving me a prescription–no pee test, no blood test, and that was over the course of six years and just as many practitioners. So the argument of checking for pregnancy is not valid (although, I think the should).

  22. “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want the government to have a say in my family planning. They want employers to decide what kind of birth control coverage I have — or if I can have it at all.”

    Fuck I HATE this stuff. Nobody is saying you can’t have rubbers, just that, God forbid, you have to pay for them yourself. Or am I dating myself for believing in this Nazi concept of buying your own rubbers?

    1. As all right-thinking people understand, not subsidizing something is exactly the same thing as outlawing it.

      1. I still remember the night that a coked up Bush snuck into my house and stole my stem cells at gun point. And drop kicked my cat into the wall.

      2. I’m pretty sure I don’t go to a single gov. subsidized thrift store. Does that mean resale is illegal?

        Nor does the government subsidize my midwife’s homebirth practice. Is that illegal too?

    2. I don’t recall Romney or Ryan pushing for organizations to be prevented from distributing condoms. Although I would be surprised if they approved of schools doing it. So, no you don’t have to pay for rubbers yourself.

      That’s not to mention that certain religious employers (religious publishers, Salvation Army, private schools) are allowed to discriminate based on religion in the hiring process. If you don’t like the values of an organization–don’t work there! I’m pro-life, so I’m not going to apply for a job at Planned Parenthood. I’m also Jewish, so I’m not interested in working for a Catholic organization. This isn’t complicated.

  23. First, because the law requires a woman to get a prescription before she can buy the pill, and it requires her to get an invasive and frequently unnecessary medical exam before she can acquire that prescription. Eliminate those controls, and insurance coverage would be beside the point; the pill would be cheaply available over the counter.

    I hate to point this out, but, in the absence of this rule, you can have your annual exam, get it paid for by your insurnace, get a prescription for birth control pills from your doctor and then pay for the prescription yourself.
    So the need to get a prescription isn’t really a barrier for anyone who already has insurance through their employer. It’s a barrier for women who don’t have insurance. But then, they are going to be paying for their pills out of pocket anyway.

  24. “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want the government to have a say in my family planning. They want employers to decide what kind of birth control coverage I have — or if I can have it at all.”

    The government not forcing an employer purchasing a certain level of coverage is “having a say”? You want your employer to purchase your health insurance, but you are offended that they might expect to have some say in what level of coverage they are willing to purchase? If your employer does not offer coverage that includes birth control then you are prevented from obtaining what you want yourself?

    I’m thinking when this person said she favors small government, she was lying, or she has an incredibly bizarre notion of what that phrase means.

  25. How can someone believe in small government and support the Democrats? maybe she was educated in a government school and so doesn’t speak good english…

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