House Republicans are set to vote on a bill they haven’t read, pushed by an administration who say we’ll have to try it to see if it works…. (More)

“To do an analysis with any level of factual basis would be literally impossible”

Remember Ye Olden Dayes, when Republicans misquoted and then pilloried then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi for saying “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it?”

To hear Republicans over the past seven years, you wouldn’t know that President Obama and House and Senate Democrats took 14 months to pass the Affordable Care Act, after several rounds of public hearings and months of negotiations with Republicans, who offered scores of amendments, many of which were included in the bill. Nope, by Republicans’ reckoning, Obamacare was “rammed down our throats.” Which is to say, Republicans never had enough votes to block it.

Fast forward to 2017, where House Republicans have been flailing about on health care for less than 14 weeks. They haven’t held a single congressional hearing where doctors, hospital administrators, or insurers could explain why the GOP’s Wealthcare Act won’t work and they’re not going to wait for a Congressional Budget Office score, probably because they know it will be ugly. In fact, they’re reportedly set to vote today without having circulated a final copy of the bill.

And yesterday the Out House Sewer Spewer said this:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday said no one can know the effects of the American Health Care Act on sick Americans until the bill goes into effect.

Spicer said there are “so many variables” to take into account when trying to make a determination on how legislation would affect people with preexisting conditions, which has been a major sticking point about the legislation in recent days.

“To do an analysis with any level of factual basis would be literally impossible,” Spicer said at the daily White House press briefing.

As Shakezula at Lawyers, Guns, and Money summarized that, “You’ll have to pull the trigger to see if the gun is loaded.”

“Once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain what’s in it”

New York congressman Chris Collins (R) was quick to jump on that excuse:

Members of Congress in favor of the American Health Care Act say it is about keeping their promise of repealing Obamacare to their constituents. The problem is that the majority of their voters don’t like the Republican replacement bill either. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent pointed out, a recent Quinnipiac poll on AHCA found the majority of Trump’s base (white people without a college education, white men, and middle-age and older voters) all oppose the plan. To those Americans, Collins, a close ally of Trump, says it’s all “misunderstanding.”

“In my district, right now there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it is we are doing, and once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain what’s in it,” Collins said on Thursday night in response to the plan’s low approval ratings.

The problem is all the ‘fake news’ … like explaining how the Wealthcare Act would gut funding for special needs care in schools, or the experience of people who helped set up high-risk pools and watched them fail for lack of funding, or devastating analyses of the real-world pre-Obamacare experiment in Massachusetts … or just the simple math that you can’t suck $1 trillion out of a $3 trillion industry and say expect it to function well.

No, all that is liberal propaganda. What Republicans need is … talking points:

Rank-and-file lawmakers say they are being bombarded by calls to their offices and protests at home. Of particular concern is that this latest version of the bill contains a provision, added to attract votes from conservatives, that would effectively end Obamacare’s guarantee of insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions.

States could allow insurers to charge sick people more and offer them coverage through so-called high-risk pools, which many states operated before Obamacare. But experts and consumer advocates panned this arrangement as unaffordable.

“They’re scared,” said Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), whose district voted for President Trump. “[They] feel like they’re about to lose it and they’re going to die. And if we cannot explain to people that is not going to happen, then it’s going to be very difficult to ever bring a bill to the floor.”

Many lawmakers expressed frustration at having to figure out on their own how the recent changes to the bill would affect consumers.

I mean, what are all those wingnut think tanks and websites for, if not to churn out plausible gibberish to explain how worse is really better, or at least shift the blame for the worse-ness? More on that in a moment….

“The ambiguity of the details is the strategy”

Before I play ConservaSquirrel, here’s Jonathan Chait’s view of what’s really happening:

The ambiguity of the details is the strategy. Republican leaders have been “assuring centrists that the Senate would make changes to allay their concerns and insisting that few states would actually use the waivers allowing higher premiums for pre-existing conditions,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Sean Spicer says it would be “literally impossible … to do an analysis of any level of factual basis.” Representative Fred Upton told reporters that if the Congressional Budget Office says the bill is underfunded he will push for more money – after it passes his chamber.

They are rushing through a chamber of Congress a bill reorganizing one-fifth of the economy, without even cursory attempts to gauge its impact. Its budgetary impact is as yet unknown. The same is true of its social impact, though the broad strokes are clear enough: Millions of Americans will lose access to medical care, and tens of thousands of them will die, and Congress is understandably eager to hasten these results without knowing them more precisely. Their haste and secrecy are a way of distancing the House Republicans from the immorality of their actions.

In other words, after five years of repeated votes to repeal Obamacare – promising all the while that they had a Better Plan – with the God-King promising he’d offer a Beautiful Plan that would cover more stuff for everyone with lower premiums and lower deductibles and at less cost and-and-and …

… they’re still saying: “Just trust us. We’ll fix it somehow, someday.”

“And all the Shawanda Jacksons….”

Or they could just make up better talking points. Like, maybe, a better version of their tried-and-true Blame the Victim argument. Here’s Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) giving a poorly-thought out version:

It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives. They’re healthy; they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.

The problem, of course, is that Rep. Brooks should have been more specific about which people “lead good lives” and, equally important, which people don’t. Enter Bill Deutsch and Shawanda Jackson….

The problem we’re looking at is, well, take Bill Deutsch, a young man I spoke with last week. He eats a healthy diet and gets enough exercise to keep in shape. He doesn’t smoke. He has a safe driver discount because of he’s never had an accident, yet he doesn’t get a health insurance discount for leading a good, healthy life.

On the other hand, take Shawanda Jackson, a woman who was in the news last week. She smokes. She’s overweight. She’s had three kids without getting married. She quit her job because she says daycare cost more than she made at work, and then found out she has ovarian cancer. So of course health insurance to cover that will be expensive. She made bad choices and bad choices have consequences.

Again, the problem is, why should Bill Deutsch have to pay sky-high premiums to pick up the tab for all the Shawanda Jacksons?

Now, Bill Deutsch can be a complete fiction. After all, someone like that could have called the congressman’s office, and it’s impossible to prove that no such person actually did. To make it believable, different GOP congressmen should give him different names, so long as the first name is Generic American and the last name is Germanic, Scandinavian, Irish, Scottish, or Very English. The key is that, based on his name, people should assume Bill is an “ordinary American,” i.e.: a white man.

On the other hand, Shawanda Jackson has to be real. But with hundreds of thousands of sick people unable to get health care if the Wealthcare Act passes, there will almost certainly be at least a few women who are (a) black; (b) overweight; (c) smokers; (d) single moms; and (e) quit or were fired from a job and thus lost health insurance. Just sift through the women who fit the criteria, choose one with a Very Black first name like Shawanda or LaTonya, name-drop her in every discussion of preexisting condition coverage, and always include the phrase “all the Shawanda Jacksons.”

That phrase argues at two levels.

First, it implies (without ever saying so) that most sick people who can’t afford health insurance are like Shawanda Jackson, i.e.: one of Those People – it’s important that she’s a woman, and specifically a woman of color – who make bad choices and want Bill Deutsch (a white man) to pick up the tab. She needs to be a single mom and her preexisting condition should involve her female parts – uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or an STD. It’s important to sexualize her illness, so people can feel that her condition is her just deserts for sexual misbehavior (having kids without marriage). If most sick people who can’t get health insurance are like that … why should hardworking, good-living “ordinary Americans” (i.e.: white men) have to pay for their sins?

Second, at a deeper level, the Shawanda Jackson story is about Why We Can’t Have Good Things. When some desperate constituent calls a Republican congressman’s office to complain that he/she can’t get any coverage for a preexisting condition, the odds are high that the caller will be more like Bill Deutsch: a white man or the wife or mom of a white man, and probably a GOP voter.

“Yes, I understand,” the GOP congressman’s oh-so-sympathetic staffer will say. “It’s absurd that you/your husband/son can’t get insurance. But with all the Shawanda Jacksons taking advantage of the system….”

In a truly fair world, this deeper argument goes, government could take care of Deserving People Like You without having to spend a dime on Undeserving People Like Them. But liberal judges would throw out that law and everyone knew it, so Congressmen Coward never had a chance to vote for a truly fair bill like that … and Shawanda Jackson Is Why We Can’t Have Good Things.

The Shawanda Jackson story doesn’t help any white, rural, GOP-voting sick people get health insurance or treatment for their preexisting conditions. But it gives them someone to blame … and for GOP voters that’s always been enough.

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Now, before you get upset at me for playing ConservaSquirrel, I didn’t write this thinking some wingnut think tank or website would read it and take it as advice. I wrote it because I’ll bet you a bucket of macadamias that this is one of the stories they already plan to tell. They’re just waiting for a Shawanda Jackson to pop into the news, and one surely will. That’s not because black women are disproportionately likely to be smokers, overweight, single moms, or job-quitters. It’s because even if the combination of all those criteria is a 1-in-10,000 fluke – statistical probability predicts there’ll be at least a handful of women like that in any pool of, say, 150,000 sick people who can no longer get health insurance.

And they only need one. Once they find her, she will be talked about on wingnut radio and Fox News, written about at Breitbart, The National Review, The Federalist, etc., and name-dropped by the God-King, White House orifices, and elected Republicans on Sunday Blatherfest shows … until she becomes the Archetype Of Preexisting Conditions.

You read it here first.

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Image Credit – Hundred-Dollar Bills: Ervins Strauhmanis (CC-BY 2.0); Thumbs-Down Emoticons: K.P. (ClipArtFest); Composite: Crissie Brown (BPICampus.com).

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Good day and good nuts