Lunatic Centrist’s Alternate* Reality
Over at the almost always excellent Wonkblog, Lydia DePillis interviewed World Fuel Services chairman Paul Stebbins.
Stebbins was “involved with Fix the Debt from the very early stages” so it isn’r surprising that Paul Krugman is unimpressed. I am less favorably impressed. I believe the interview contains a 100% false extremely damaging accusation against the AARP and constitutes libel.
Stebbins “And AARP is telling every Democratic member of Congress, ‘if you even mention the word entitlement reforms, which is all that throw grandma into the snow stuff, we’re going to raise $5 million and beat you in a primary.’ ”
A screen capture from the AARP October 2012 code of conduct (warning big pdf)
Also note you can apply to be a member of the AARP board (warning smaller pdf) but must accept among other things, the following condition “AARP Board Members may not take part in any public political or partisan activity that we believe may be construed by the public as an AARP endorsement of political parties, incumbents or candidates for federal, state or major municipal offices.”
Since he lives in crazy centrist alternate reality, Stebbins just must claim that both sides do it. Thus he recklessly made a completely false potentially damaging accusation. I don’t think that people who have such contempt for the facts have a useful role in the policy debate.
DePillis unfortunately not only let the false asssertion pass, but also asserted in her own voice that the AARP funds candidates.
“LD: So now having realized your naivete, are you going to play the same game as the Club for Growth and AARP and fund candidates who agree with you?”
This would be conduct inconsistent with AARP’s tax status. They both casually accused the AARP of breaking the law. Googling during an interview is rude, but wonks at wonkblog should not make assertions of fact without checking (it took me less than 5 minutes of googling starting with AARP).
The interview contains false and potentially very damaging assertions. Stebbins demonstrates reckless disregard for the truth. DePillis didn’t have time to check the claim so wonkblog will only demonstrate reckless disregard fot eh truth if they don’t publish a correction. Wonkblog has very high standards. Interviewing people who have contempt for the facts is challenging, but this interview just isn’t up to their standards.
By now, most people are aware that AARP publicly supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, even though the organization knew it would cut more than $700 billion from Medicare. It also supported the Act despite the fact that AARP members overwhelmingly opposed it, about 14 to 1.
Recently, however, emails between the White House and AARP have been uncovered, revealing the extent to which they worked together to get the bill passed, including deceiving seniors about the consequences. This relationship has come into question many times, but AARP continues to claim that it is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that does not coordinate with any candidate or political party.
The emails tell a different story. Various White House staffers — all the way up to Jim Messina, the Deputy Chief of Staff — discuss with AARP leadership how to convince both senators and seniors who may be contacting their representatives that passing Obamacare is critical. Messina even urged AARP’s CEO Barry Rand to threaten Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson with the organization’s influence.
The emails repeatedly reveal that AARP leadership knew that a vast majority of their members were opposed to Obamacare. For instance, Nancy LeaMond (AARP’s senior vice president) wrote to Messina: “As you requested, Barry and I met with Sen. Dorgan yesterday. He expressed concern (based on a Geoff Garin poll in his state) that seniors are wildly opposed to healthcare reform. He didn’t press the point that perhaps we shouldn’t do [healthcare reform], but rather he focused on the need for AARP to engage more.”
Instead of respecting and protecting seniors’ wishes, AARP pushed ahead with its own agenda and tried to find ways around the very people the organization supposedly serves. Because, of course, with the passage of Obamacare, AARP will make an estimated $1 billion in additional premiums each year thanks to the extra Medigap insurance that seniors will need after Medicare cuts. And profit is a powerful motive, even if these kinds of profits are what brought the AARP under investigation by the House Committee on Ways and Means, calling into question its non-profit, tax-free status.
While AARP profits off of its members, it retains its non-profit status. Meanwhile, Obamacare, the bill that would not have passed without AARP’s immense influence, introduces an additional 19 taxes for citizens to pay. You cannot help but see the blatant conflicts of interest that repeatedly arise in the pact struck between AARP and the White House.
Thanks for the comment. I hate it when my posts get 0 comments. However, while your comment had something to do with the AARP it had nothing to do with my post. I only addressed the question of whether the AARP AARP is telling every Democratic member of Congress, ‘if you even mention the word entitlement reforms, which is all that throw grandma into the snow stuff, we’re going to raise $5 million and beat you in a primary.’ ” – See more at: http://angrybearblog.strategydemo.com/2013/09/lunatic-centriss-alternet-reality.html#comments” They aren’t.
The nature of conservatives is to provoke a fight, just to bring in their agenda. They don’t care about making mistakes. They get backslaps for just looking tough on the issues.
I like what you say here, “I don’t think that people who have such contempt for the facts have a useful role in the policy debate.”
On the other hand Sammy has almost always had a “useful role in the policy debate” here at Angry Bear. For years now.
“Useful” as in “Useful Idiot” for us to riff off of, much as Socrates used to do with his interlocutors. But as the old saying goes: “They also serve who serve to erect the strawmen”..
As to the substance, such as it was. Republicans consistently complain that Medicare, like Social Security, is “unsustainable” and so consistently call for cost savings. Because otherwise it will bankrupt the country. Now as it turns out they almost always want to implement those cost savings on the health care consumer side by mandating that each fully informed economic actor properly measure his health care needs against the broad range of suppliers and pick out the most cost efficient one. And that the way to do that is to limit the ‘subsidy’ to those consumers in ways that constrain them to make the properly informed tradeoff of freedom in selecting providers and potential procedures against a limited amount of premium support. This is in short the Ryan Plan. Now they openly admit that such an approach will carve $100s of billions of dollars out of Medicare, indeed that is the only way (given their preferred framework) to make it sustainable. So it is a little odd to have had them demagogue $300 billion in Medicare savings as somehow a bad thing. And by the way a demagoging that largely explains why seniors “are widely opposed to health care reform” on that basis.
Now is there a way that Republicans and like minded folk like Sammy can justify supporting the Ryan Plan which imposes consumer based limits on spending on Medicare via set premiums while decrying what is really a smaller amount of savings to Medicare via the PPACA? Well yes there is. Because PPACA savings come almost entirely out of the pockets of providers while Ryan Plan savings come almost entirely out of the pockets of retirees. Something that Republicans doubled down on this week by making their hill to die on a repeal of the tax on medical devices.
Which is to say that the whole Republican/Sammy argument is a familiar sham once pointed out to us by a certain Socialist Kansan (no another one) named Dwight Eisenhower. Only with the military-industrial complex supplanted by the AMA-medical manufaturing complex. Medicare savings which attack the bottom line of capital are bad. Medicare savings which shift costs to beneficiaries are good. Because that is how Sammy (and the others) roll.
The amusing thing, and the one which makes Sammy the “useful idiot” is that the transparency of this series of arguments which ALWAYS privileges capital to labor (in this case in the form of retirees) is pretty apparent once it is pointed out. I mean either there is an Entitlements Crisis that needs cost cutting or Obama’s cost cutting is an abomination but it is hard to justify both claims at once. Unless you admit the question ‘cui bono’ or as our English cousins say ‘whose ox is being gored’.
And “idiot” is rather unfair. At least Sammy knows enough to at least start his arguments from a seemingly rational positioin, unlike say a recent new commenter. And Sammy is rarely overtly nasty in the ways that have gotten previous commenters banned before they could fully fill their important role as CONTINUING ‘useful idiot’. Personally I am grateful that Sammy knows how to negotiate that particular razor’s edge. Because we would miss him when he was gone. Maybe.
Now of course there is an argument to be had that cutting 100s of billions of dollars direclty from the pockets of Medicare providers will bleed over into cutbacks and denials of service by some of those providers to current Medicare. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of providers refusing to take on new Medicare funded patients. On the other hand there seem to be little evidence that Medicare enrollees are having difficulty finding ANY provider, because by and large most of them are still out there shouting “keep government hands off my Medicare!”. Which wouldn’t be happening if they were being totally crowded out of the market.
So Republicans could, if they chose, provide detailed studies of how much of Sammy’s $700 billion in medicare “cuts” actually translate into cuts in medically necessary care for enrollees as opposed to simple rent seeking by (to take a simple example) sellers of mobility chairs to lazy old people attracted by ubiquitous “no cost to you” TV ads. But that would be hard. Far better to just write off all the savings due to crackdowns on the overpriced Medicare Advantage Plans (which previously collected a 14% premium over standard Medicare) or proven fraudulent providers of unneeded medical devices as just being “cuts” to Medicare.
The whole thing would be laughable if it was not almost always accompanied by accusations that those $700 billion in “cuts” are coming in the form of “death panels” for older white people in order to give free medical care to illegal immigants and moochers generally. That part makes me kind of not want to laugh at all.
Excellent comments Bruce. I do just want to add one of my usuals on “. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of providers refusing to take on new Medicare funded patients. – See more at: http://angrybearblog.strategydemo.com/2013/09/lunatic-centriss-alternet-reality.html#comments” That evidence related to doctors with office practices (Medicare plan B) not hospitals nursing homes and home health care agencies (Medicare plan A).
The ACA does indeed cut Medicare payments to providors, but only plan A. So the providors which will be squeezed those who don’t, in fact, refuse to take on Medicare patients (well my half hour of googling came up with no examples).
I do seem to be a bit obsessed about that distinction.
I always read your posts, here and at your blog but I (almost) never comment, because the posts are too complete to require comments at my pay level. And commenting just to say I liked the post seems uncool. Anyway, thanks for the post.
By the way, an investigation would also reveal emails from me to the White House on some issues which I feel strongly about (no replies, however). So i guess I should turn myself into the proper authorities, whoever they are.
I do like Angry Bear. It is a stimulating forum. But you all have chased away all conservative and moderate commentators, except me. As a result it is an echo chamber where any contrary opinion is attacked en masse with no facts.
Look at sitemeter. Your visits have declined from around 200K per month in 2007 when many conservatives participated, to around 40K now. This is an epic collapse. Angry Bear will soon be destined for the dust bin.