Fantasy Faction Food Fight

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One of the fantasies peddled by the right-wing Rage Machine collided rather violently with itself this week and sent to the canvas the Republican plan to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, perhaps for the count. "President" Trump has tried to blame Democrats for the problems the plan has faced. The truth is that it has gone down in flames as a consequence of a fight within the GOP, as one wing of the Fantasy Faction battled it out with the other.


Turning to the Wall Street Journal, one sees a manifestation of this fight, an editorial crowing about how the awful GOP healthcare "reform" bill is actually great and pouring derision upon the other denizens of the Faction for not embracing it. With no sense of self-awareness, the pro- segment of the Fantasists are here dubbing the anti- segment "the Freedom-From-Reality Caucus." Entertaining, sure, but another painful indication of how badly political discourse on the right has entirely collapsed.


An outline of the basic problem: Republican hostility to Obamacare isn't based on any sort of realistic evaluation of that law or its effects. It's born, instead, of the persistent demonization of the law by the right-wing Rage Machine. Fox News and co. rage against it and blame it for every problem in American healthcare, though most of those problems long predated Obamacare and are, at best, only tangentially related to it. As a political matter, it's quite easy for Sean Hannity to rant and rave against Obamacare day after day. It's a lot more difficult for legislators to replace it. Over the course of eight years during which they've cast dozens of empty votes to repeal the law in full or in part, Republican legislators have made no serious effort to develop any real alternative to it. Obamacare was the Republican alternative. When Obama embraced it, every Republican fled from it solely because Obama adopted it and they feared any cooperation in further shaping it would be presented to their constituents by Rush Limbaugh as collaboration with the enemy. Now, having achieved domination of all three branches of government, they've finally been put in a position to deliver and they don't have anything to deliver. They have no plan. They've made no effort to develop any constituency for any alternative. The portion of their voters who listen to Lou Dobbs want them to repeal it. But that's all.


So the new congress came into session in January and the Republicans who lead it had to come up with something. Simply repealing the law and returning to the pre-Obamacare status quo, initially favored by many, wasn't a politically viable option; that would leave consumers entirely at the mercy of the insurance giants and bring back all the ever-escalating problems that led to Obamacare in the first place. Republican legislators rushed to cobble together some sort of "reform" plan.[1] The result was an abysmal, half-assed effort that, thrown together in a matter of weeks, takes the already-awful Obamacare and makes it even worse. That "worse" is born out by every means of measuring such a thing. More to the point, the provisions of the bill have no substantial public support. The bill exists solely so Republican legislators can tell the audience for the Rage Machine that they repealed the awful thing that black guy did. That wouldn't help pols when they had to face their angry constituents, the people who would be entirely screwed over by the changes. The bill was a fantasy crafted by one wing of the Fantasy Faction ("President" Trump threw his weight behind it).


But while that wing was hoping to garner the approval of the Rage Machine via the bill, the other immediately recognized the practical political problem it represented. While Repub legislators may play the political game of blaming on Obamacare rising premiums, high deductibles, etc., the smarter ones realize these are problems rooted in the basic for-profit health insurance model. They have no interest in embracing single-payer healthcare, the one serious alternative that would do away with that model and its problems, nor would the Rage Machine allow them to do so even if they wanted, but if they vote for anything at all, they realized they'd then be held responsible by voters for the state of healthcare after that, including all of its problems. Every abuse by the rapacious industry would be come to rest at their doorstep. This wing of the Fantasy Faction, the "Freedom Caucus" Republicans who have been more responsible than any other elected officials for demonizing Obamacare and creating this situation, have now bailed on the "reform" plan, calling it "Obamacare Lite." For the reasons just outlined, they're probably not going to be getting behind any other reform effort either. Why should they? The ire directed at Obamacare by the Rage Machine--and by these legislators through the Machine--has proven a remarkably effective means of organizing their supporters. They want to keep Obamacare around as their whipping-boy.


Here's what lurks behind all of this: American healthcare is on an unsustainable course. It can't go on like this.


Here's a truism: It's impossible to effectively govern anything based on fantasy.


The Rage Machine, which is made up of nearly ever major rightist outlet in the U.S., grew out of--among other things--the fact that there exists so little public support for right-wing policies. The American rightist elite use it, in light of this, to drain most of the actual substance from politics, presenting political discourse as a simplistic, good-vs.-evil struggle of personalities, with, of course, themselves as the heroes. In their telling, a fact, as the concept has always been understood, doesn't exist. The "truth" is whatever the Machine says it is. Their followers are told to stop thinking and get behind the heroes of the tale. This has created the Fantasy Faction, those who have convinced themselves that the largely fictional political narratives they get from Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage are reality and those who exploit this state of affairs for their own ends. It's one of this writer's most persistent themes over the years (in his political writing, at least).


When it comes to government, the Machine amounts to an unelected, unaccountable rightist elite that never have to deliver anything more substantial than wind but that are allowed to wag the dog. In this just-concluded healthcare drama, we've just had a "reform" effort be invented in order to play to a fantasy then be killed because continuing to play to the same fantasy was judged by some to be more important. Any concern for the public interest is just as entirely M.I.A. as reality itself.






[1] The rush was dictated in part by certain political realities--Republicans know they'll probably lose big in the 2018 midterms--and in part by the desire to translate the spoils from eviscerating Obamacare into a massive tax cut, which could, as a consequence of congressional rules, be presented as revenue-neutral and passed with a simple majority, rather than having to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.


Dino Manalis Added Mar 27, 2017 - 5:18pm
Health care is complex and people don't want to be left without their health insurance.  Instead of rushing to repeal and replace ObamaCare, controversial and questionable, the focus should be to reduce expenses across the healthcare industry to help the economy; shrink the deficit; ensure the viability of Medicare/Medicaid; expand insurance coverage; and enable more Americans to monitor their health with affordable diagnostic care.
Lady Sekhmetnakt Added Mar 27, 2017 - 6:23pm
Hard hitting but honest article. The best of the crop on Writer’s Beat covering the "repeal and replace" nonsense. Most were pure fantasy. 
Autumn Cote Added Mar 28, 2017 - 2:45am
I'm curious to know, why don't you ever engage your commenters?  I believe you're the only user that comments on the work of others but chooses to almost never reply to your own commenters.  
J. Riddle Added Mar 28, 2017 - 3:19am
Not sure what you're looking at, Autumn, but I do engage my commenters. I don't think I've ever posted a single article here then failed to comment further.
Autumn Cote Added Mar 28, 2017 - 3:31am
In this article you have two comments and didn't engage either commenter and in your previous article, the last five comments in your thread are from others.  
J. Riddle Added Mar 28, 2017 - 3:41am
I went back and looked and I did post multiple replies on that previous article but much of the discussion on its subject was taking place in the comments section of Mario's article, to which mine was a reply.
I'm not always around and don't always have anything interesting to add but as I said, I don't think I've ever written an article here then not engaged with the commenters to some extent.
Autumn Cote Added Mar 28, 2017 - 3:46am
Understood but please understand my position on why I don't attempt to bring extra attention to your articles.  I don't want to see commenters (my most important users of which you are one) have their comments go to waste.  Active commenters are the lifeblood of Writer Beat and I'm convinced they reason they're here is because they're looking to engage authors in discussion.  In addition, most authors are here because they're looking to receive comments.  When an author leaves his or her commenters hanging, it gives my most important users a reason not to use Writer Beat.
J. Riddle Added Mar 28, 2017 - 4:22am
Looking at my profile, I see that I've been here for a period of 8 weeks. In that time, I've posted 14 articles--nearly two a week--and 165 comments--more than 20 per week. And I've lost two further articles to your interface here. I also have four active blogs, 10 or 12 Facebook groups to which I provide content and I'm working on a feature film and a collection of short-stories. I don't, as I said, always have anything interesting to add, I don't always have time and I don't always get comments that are worthy of any reply either--repeatedly refuting the same nonsense of a dishonest half-wit like Weeks isn't a priority of mine, nor is disproving the notion that evil Jews secretly run the world. If my contribution here isn't appreciated, I can certainly go elsewhere.
Billy Roper Added Mar 28, 2017 - 7:55am
Okay. Bye, Felicia.
Autumn Cote Added Mar 28, 2017 - 8:46am
This is a huge misunderstanding.  As I’ve already said, I consider you to be one of Writer Beat’s most important participants.  I was just trying to make the point that in order to get me to work behind the scenes in the capacity of promoting your articles to a wider readership, I need to be sure you’ll be responsive to your commenters.  If you don’t have the time or if other sites are more important to you than Writer Beat, that’s fine. I’m very appreciative of whatever time you allocate towards Writer Beat. 
Micahel Dolan Added Mar 28, 2017 - 9:43am
Do some research J..The Democrat party passed Obamacare all by themselves. To say that the horrible Obamacare debacle lays at the feet of republicans is fake news. Obama-scare-care- has failed because Obama and the leftist socialist democrats knew it would fail,why. They always wanted single payer government control of your healthcare. Trump will comeback with a new plan and it will pass.
You do know that the politicians who passed Obamacare immediately refused to pick an Obamacare policy. They kept their private insurance plan we pay for. Why did those who created Obamacare run away from it?-----Commonsense thinking will give you the answer,try it.
Bill H. Added Mar 28, 2017 - 12:06pm
Good article J.
The Republicans have been against Obamacare from the start. The initial proposed rate review provisions to justify rate hikes of over 10%  and medical loss ratios that required insurance companies to spend at least 80% of the money they take in on premiums on health care and quality improvement activities instead of administrative, overhead, and marketing costs were contested viciously by the opposition party.
The Republicans want to return control of rates back to the Insurance industry and medical providers and have most likely just begun the process in the background to hijack Obamacare and cause the failure that they have been predicting.
It is sad when a government no longer cares for the health of it's people. The ones who will suffer the most will be the ones who supported Trump the most. 
J. Riddle Added Mar 28, 2017 - 1:55pm
"To say that the horrible Obamacare debacle lays at the feet of republicans is fake news."
"Obama-scare-care- has failed because Obama and the leftist socialist democrats knew it would fail,why. They always wanted single payer government control of your healthcare."
John Minehan Added Mar 28, 2017 - 3:26pm
Possibly, a better approach 
John Minehan Added Mar 28, 2017 - 3:35pm
I'm not a fan of the ACA.  Something that uses high-deductible insurance as a model for the base plan without offering HSAs is not a serious attempt at reform.  Additionally, expanding Medicaid, given its limitations, was a poorly thought out approach.
However, the AHCA seemed to be no real effort to improve the system, especially after seven years of (justifiably) complaining about the ACA.
The great virtue of the ACA is that it is not built around employers and is portable.
The AHCA broadened the scope of HSAs and allowed to refundable tax credits to be used as a funding mechanism.  

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