Did you get to watch (or at least read) the President’s remarks on race?  (Or, for that matter, his recent remarks at Morehouse College discussing race, fatherhood, and responsibility?)

By the very fact of his having been elected and reelected, but also by the way he has governed, it seems to me, he has helped us move a little further down the eggshell-strewn path toward a more harmonious multi-racial society.  Not that, as he acknowledged, we’re anywhere close to “post-racial.”  But with each generation, we make progress.

This is an area not easily scored or discussed — though important.

In areas that are easily scored, the progress has been at least as great.  I would note that the stock market, having more than doubled, is at record highs — that CAFE standards have been doubled — that tens of millions of people now have or are about to have better access to health care — that the Federal deficit as a percentage of GDP is likely to be less than half what it was the year he took office (more like 4% than 10%) — that LGBT Americans have made huge strides  (at no cost to anyone else) — that we have wound down two wars — that there is a Credit Card Bill of Rights and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — that stem cell research is now encouraged rather than impeded — and lots more.

Standing against most of this progress has been the new Republican Party — the one that considers Eisenhower and Nixon to have been socialists and through whose primary process Ronald Reagan, were he running today, probably could not make it to the nomination.

It’s the party doing all it can to keep African Americans and young people and poor people from voting (watch the Chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party and one of his colleagues in the legislature all but copping to this — just one example of many).   The one mandating vaginal ultrasounds and government-written scripts doctors must read their patients.  The one that filibustered its own proposal for a bi-partisan deficit commission once the President signed on — one of more than 400 filibusters Harry Reid has faced as Majority Leader (versus just one when Lyndon Johnson had the job).

It’s the party that torpedoed the American Jobs Act that would have renewed our economy by investing in infrastructure.  The party that passes subsidies for corporate farmers but nixes food stamps for hungry families; that fights to hold down the minimum wage but zero out the tax on billionheirs; that repealed the assault weapons ban and rejects universal background checks.   The party voting, 40 times now, to repeal Obamacare.

Once the “Grand Old Party,” it has become the the Selfish Old Party.  The S.O.P.  Yes, of course, there are some terribly selfish Democrats — and some wonderfully generous Republicans.  But c’mon: when you watched that amazing Tammy Duckworth clip linked to a couple of weeks ago — where the government-contractor was so shamelessly milking the system — what odds would you have given he was a Democrat, what odds a Republican?  Watch the clip and take your guess!  Sure enough: a max-out Romney donor.  However generous individual Republicans may be, the ones serving in Congress vote to make life easier for the rich and powerful, harder for everyone else.

And so naturally they want to kill Obamacare.

From the widest perspective, here’s what Obamacare does: it taxes the best off — by adding a 3.8% tax on investment income for high-earning individuals — so virtually everyone can get decent health care.

Democrats favor that trade, Republicans (or at least those in Congress) oppose it.

It does a lot of other things, too, of course.  But the way it can provide so many “goodies” — near-universal access, an end to “lifetime caps,” an end to “pre-existing conditions” — yet still lower the federal deficit is that simple: it asks the best off to chip in more.  (Though at a rate still lower than we were paying at the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term.)

Beyond that, it is filled with pilot programs aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of care, and — and of special importance to our global economic competitiveness — mechanisms to drive down costs (or at least stunt their growth).

And it looks as though it may do just that.  Insurers can’t keep more than 15% or 20% of premiums for their overhead and profit, and those that do have to refund the difference — already 8.5 million refund checks have gone out.  And as the White House reports:

For those Americans who already have health insurance – the vast majority – the only changes you will see under the law are new benefits, better protections from insurance company abuses, and more value for every dollar you spend on health care. If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law.For the uninsured or those who don’t get their coverage through work, a key component of the Affordable Care Act will take effect on October 1, when the new Health Insurance Marketplace open for business, allowing millions of Americans to comparison shop for a variety of quality, affordable plans that best meet their health care needs. Preliminary data shows that the competition and transparency that these marketplaces will create for individual and group insurance will result in health care plans that are both higher quality and more affordable.

We have already seen evidence of this in states like California and Oregon and now New York, where the State just announced its health insurance plan rates for insurers seeking to offer coverage through New York’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

According to the State, not only will new insurers be entering the market to offer more choices to consumers, the premiums will be below what the Congressional Budget Office projected.  This is despite the fact that the state’s health care costs are much higher than the national average.

Additionally, a new analysis being released today by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that the preliminary premiums for plans offered to individuals in these new Marketplaces will be lower than expected. Specifically, the HHS analysis finds that that:

  • In the eleven states for which data are available, the lowest cost silver plan in the individual market in 2014 is, on average, 18 percent less expensive than the HHS estimate of the premium that was assumed by the Congressional Budget Office. . . .

Now if only we could pass the American Jobs Act to employ people who want to work modernizing our badly decaying national infrastructure, we could really see things begin to hum.  All that’s keeping us from doing this is our not doing it.  (So please plan to vote in 2014 even if you normally sit out the mid-terms.)

 

 

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