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Chicago, Illinois, United States
December 31
I'm some things to a few people. Mostly a nuisance but sometimes a zine writer, internet radio host, blogger, musician, and project organizer. I run a small website where you can read mine and other fabulous contributor's words: and also contribute to the Chicagoist ( When not shouting about the falling sky over the internet, reading about government conspiracies or watching b-rate sci-fi, you can find me singing for the band Burning Luck. Direction is only relative to your position in the grand scheme of things. Some day, I'll sort this all out.


Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 7, 2010 12:04AM

Talking Points in the War on the Poor

Rate: 22 Flag

Yesterday, Tea Party darling and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul told Kentucky voters that Medicaid is “intergenerational welfare.” In an interview with local chamber of commerce leaders, Paul implied the program reaches out far beyond the truly needy and has loose eligibility standards. Medicaid assists nearly 20% of Kentuckians.

I would be interested to see exactly how a man who nets over $200,000 in income and has a robust stock portfolio goes about identifying the “truly needy.” Are pregnant women without health insurance needy? How about dependent children under 19 or the disabled? For example, a single mother in Kentucky with one child cannot earn more than $851 a month to qualify. In other words, if she’s working part time for minimum wage, she can’t work for more than 29 hours for fear of losing her health benefits. When many employers don’t offer health benefits for part time work or keep their employees at part time levels in order to avoid providing health insurance options, staying on Medicaid becomes the only option. Unless one is willing to gamble on one’s health.

Rand Paul’s statement on the matter echoes the same Reaganite talking points Republicans use to scare the public into believing the poor, disabled and anyone else barely scraping by on the lower rungs of the economic ladder are lazy leaches. The only difference between Ronnie and Rand is the tri-corner hat on Rand’s head. Thanks to decades of hateful rhetoric towards lower economic classes, millions of voters who have more in common with someone struggling to stay afloat in the roughest economic waters since the 30’s will send a guy like Paul to DC. Thanks to decades of corporate lobbying and big campaign spending, the folks in DC need only keep their sponsors happy, rather than the public they supposedly serve.

We can gut services to the poor and chant “personal responsibility” until John Galt’s ghost rides down from the clouds on an Eagle and economic misery and inequality will continue to increase throughout America. Sadly, we still haven’t realized our neighbor next door isn’t sucking money out of our pockets, but rather large corporate sponsors and wealthy individuals who have a vested financial interest in deregulation and tax cuts. So long as we keep our faith in Horatio Alger and welfare myths, more of us will continue to fight each other over who has less.

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This sort of thing bothers me so much, but mainly because no one seems to care, and no amount of yelling causes anything to realize that very wealthy people are completely capable of controlling the message to say exactly what they want people to believe.
Like you say, it's been open warfare for 30 years but that's only how long it's been out in the open, since the gangsters dared to show their true face. But how do they get away with it? Because greedy, selfish people always believe the charge that others are greedy, selfish people.

There's no law that says we have to believe every lie spoken to us and nothing prevents anyone from knowing the truth - except their own wilful ignorance.
Duane - Exactly. I think though, that the not caring part is one part apathy but two parts priorities. In some cases, it's hard to care about the political climate until it directly affects you or someone you know. If a person is working 2 or 3 jobs to just make ends, what happens on the Hill seems so far removed from reality until the effects hit home. Once they do, it's too late to do anything but complain and buy into a new politician's rhetoric. After repeating that cycle a few times, apathy just kinda sets in.
Indeed, Harry. Willful ignorance and willful distraction. Somehow, we've all just allowed ourselves to be distracted by the spectacle of elections - that is, who's going to win what - rather than the meaning behind them: governing our society.
Tragedies abound around us.

Exchanging Russ Feingold for Rand Paul in the Senate strikes me as the essence of the insanity that's going on around us.

Feingold is an independent thinker. Paul's philosophy comes from a White Russian emigre turned fascist author of turgid third rate polemical novels....and I really have to wonder if Paul's supporters know that his political philosophy was lifted whole cloth from works of fiction written by an atheist, who opposed the war Vietnam, opposed the draft, supported abortion rights while decrying homosexuality, and continually espoused a philosophy that called for a virtual dictatorship of the intelligentsia - the exact opposite of the current wave of populism.

Why doesn't this turn the stomachs of the religious right I will never understand.

Sorry. I got carried away again.

It sure as hell turns mine.
I'm not so sure that hatred of your fellow man with feet of clay isn't gaining ascendency. That there would still be a group defending the firefighters in Olbion County tells me that people are justifying the failures of their neighbor. Our elected officials (DeMented) draw the line in the sand where his/her bedroom is everyone's business and what goes on there could lead to loss of a job. We are just one step from informing on our neighbors to the Christian gestapo.
It really is so difficult for me to understand how people who are comfortable, well off, even, can expend so much time and energy worrying about someone else getting something that they might not "deserve". What does "deserve" even mean in this context?

Would someone like Rand Paul want to trade places with a single mother working a minimum-wage job? Does it rankle him so much that she should have access to medical care that he can't sleep at night?

Does he not realize that, the more people who are unemployed or underemployed, sick, hungry, uneducated and hopless, the more dangerous it becomes for people like him? Does he really think that people won't reach a breaking point and storm the Bastille again? How many missed meals are we away from anarchy ?
That Rand Paul earns $200,000 isn't very damning, or even entirely relevant. I dare say that most politicians in Washington make good money, Democrats equally so. (Using such a standard, John Kerry should be disqualified from saying anything at all about the poor.)

While personal attributes are sometimes considerations in a discussion, we have far too much ad hominem in our politics; indeed, that's virtually all there is of it anymore.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if all the money (billions), human effort, media coverage, etc., we now have in our (practically non-stop) political campaigns were instead targeted directly at helping those in need. I also wonder about the lost world of intimate community, of family and neighbors helping each other, not to mention the inefficiency of directing everything from Washington.

I could be wrong, but I get the impression that the politicization of, well, just about everything has more to do with power grabs and putting it to the other side than it does with actually making a positive change in the world.
"Why doesn't this turn the stomachs of the religious right I will never understand."
I think most of them did not read Ain Rand and do not know where Paul's philosophy comes from. Wouldn't it be great if someone crafted a political ad around these facts that you listed?
Paul's convictions are absolutely despicable, but they make him a perfect puppet for championing the interests of big business and the defense industry behemoth.
So sadly correct.
And Horatio Alger HATED the stock market and rightly called it for what it is--a shell game for the wealthy.
When the American public sits passive in front of the flickering screen of their TVs being hypnotized by corporate ads, we are lost.
I've lived and taught preschool in Rockcastle County, which is in the desperately poor Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and I really want to know how four-year-olds who can't hear receiving ear tubes and four-year-olds who can't see getting eyeglasses are them "lazy leeches" because they did so on Medicaid.
I'm there, on the bottommost rung. I see very little relief coming my way. In fact, I feel unprotected, even dangerously so at times.
It is a shame we cannot simply drive away all doubt as to who is who an what is what over insurance, health care, our poor, the state of welfare in the states.
What is to become of me and those like me in future hinges on how quickly this is resolved.
Nice update to this story.
These people seem to feel that they are independent self-reliant totally autonomous beings - and they should all go off and live together in the mountains in Galtland. The rest of us are a society, which is the modern huge equivalent of the tribe that humanity evolved in - and wouldn't have lived to evolve if it had been everyone-for-himself. We have to care for each other (or provide, in a mass-production way) with our varying (and ever-changing) needs and abilities... These are the people who yammer about patriotism, but their loyalty does not extend beyond themselves to the rest of their country.
Rand, W, and their ilkj would be homeless if not for their parents' money. They haven't had to work to survive like many Americans. They also cannot understand not having anything, and are angry that the poor dare to exist! R
Let me offer a different take.

First, it is an intergenerational wealth transfer. Might not be what people want to hear, but it is reality. Public education spending is just such an intergenerational transfer. Empty nesters pay property taxes with a lot of that local tax funding education. Parents of school aged children rarely, if ever, pay property taxes in excess of the education money spent on their children's behalf.

It's an intergenerational transfer payment built on the very early social construct we had in this country of recognizing the value of an educated citizenry. Today we recognize the value, too, of a healthy citizenry.

And medicaid has hidden taxes hammering business.

1) Medicaid utilizes what are called DRGs which translate into flat rate fees given out in exchange for the services rendered. These do not, oftentimes, meet the true cost of the service delivery, but they are a government mandated payment cap. On tap of that, medicaid, offers very stretched out payment terms impacting receivables for service delivery providers.

2) The shortfall in government mandated payments drives up the private side. It has to be made up somewhere, and it is made up with rising payments on the other side. A hidden tax through cost shifting.

3) Government aggregating health service buyers comprise almost 50% of the purchasing power in the health care service provision market. When half the buyers are not paying the true cost of the delivery based on their ability to legislate mandates, it means, by definition, the rising costs get borne on the other half.

4) It is why the mantra of "medicare/medicaid for all" that was in Obama's State of the Union Speech ignores the economic reality of one of the principle drivers to private side cost premium increases in the market today.

5) I was on the phone just the other day with my healthcare insurance agent for my small business in MA, and he was talking how the MA mandated health plan has kicked the daylights out of private premiums. I asked him to explain and delve into it, and he offered the following. (Again, an extreme example coming, but illustrative, just as it is to talk of the single working mom on minimum wage, etc used in the post above.)

a) government mandates around portability shifts and spreads out risk pools. It adds higher folks into plans and thus, when spread across all participants folks with higher than average expenditures, it is going to drive costs up.

b) new enrollees into the system consume a lot of services from pent up demand. Furthermore, the MA plan underestimated the amount of new enrollees by a factor of 2.5. No government enacted plan has ever come in under forecast. Never. Medicare cost projections several decades out have been off by a factor of 10. A factor of 10. Prescription drug has been a mess. The MA plan was off by a factor of 2 in the first year.

c) the pent up demand example he offered was simply this. A person comes in with an aching joint. Dr. prescribes an $15 anti-inflammatory. Patient pushes back demanding an MRI. Fearful of being villified for withholding medical service, and the ensuing bad press for a system already demonized as evil and not giving people what they need, the Dr. relents and a $1,500 procedure gets prescribed. Further still could come the demand for a prostethic. An office visit and diagnosis of several $100 and then a custom device running around $1,000 when the need was for a Naproxen prescription and time for the inflammation to abate.

d) We don't have a connection between our medical decisions and our costs. The costs are not there and the decision making does not factor it in. It adds to the risk pool cost, gets spread out over the private pays due to new mandates imposed from public policy legislators, and the the public servants and the angry citizens demonize those accommodating cost increases imposed on them.

A hidden tax and a wealth transfer not even done out in the open through higher taxation for which open debate can be held, but through hidden measures. Medicaid costs are more than what show up on the public sector books. Medicaid for all is not at all a workable program, and it is an out and out distortion when not acknowledging that "medicaid for all, but at a higher cost" is what the reality happens to be.

The duplicity is akin to an old adage in over stretched business of "sell it first; implement it later" and it is what has been done with the current policy legislation that kicks the can on cost issues down the road about 4 years while enacting immediately universally accepted items around portability and extension of minor coverage to the age of 26. It is the hamburg wrapped around the pill to get the dogs that are the electorate to swallow it.
which is why america would be a better place with democracy. getting citizen initiative is the most important thing americans can do, because the person with the fishing pole will get fish more often than the one who begs at the back door of a fisherman.
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"The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me." - Matthew 26:11

Perhaps faith in the Bible resigns the poor to their condition. Certainly, that is what those in power count on.
Gwool - the answer is to kick out the health insurance companies, who exist to make a profit, and pay universal health care thru (gasp) higher taxes. It's a fair system, and it works in other countries.

It's an intergenerational burden to have the present-day people and their children do without ... tho maybe outsourcing medical care will be the 'answer' as it is for so much else.
It's an un-Christian and un-American war on the poor.
Great piece, aaron. Except that John Galt doesn't have a ghost; fictional characters don't have ghosts--even if they have armies of true believers who can't possibly understand the implications of their beliefs. It's crazy how many people in America are seduced into voting against their interests.
Thank you so much, everyone for all your comments. There is alot of good discussion here - I promise I'll comment more in depth later in the weekend. I'm covering a festival for another website for the next few days ( but I'll be back for more discussion very soon.

Oh, and thanks a lot, overlords of OS for picking this. Made my day!
News-worthy. You have nailed it with this one. The needy have always been over-looked and seen as lazy, AND there is nothing farther from the truth ! Thank you. Rated.