Feb 182017
 

As expected, House Republicans announced on Thursday their plans to cap Medicaid as part of their broader effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid would be transformed from an entitlement program that covers anyone who is eligible to a fixed amount of funds. This fixed amount of funds would not be sufficient to keep pace with rising health care costs or increased need for Medicaid during economic downturns, forcing states to make some combination of cuts to eligibility, covered services, and payments to health care providers.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the plan is that it pits vulnerable people against each other in a scramble for pieces of a diminishing pie. Republicans portray this as an effort to save Medicaid for “the most vulnerable,” but that’s a lie. Everyone–kids, people with disabilities, the elderly, and poor adults–would suffer as a result of these radical changes to Medicaid. Minnesota alone would face budget deficits in the billions of dollars because of these cuts and the consequences would be felt by a wide swath of my fellow citizens. Republicans aren’t really interested in “saving” medicaid for us poor cripples. They view Medicaid as a huge redistribution of wealth that must be cut as deeply as possible for the sake of free-market principles and survival of the fittest. I’m sure that they would protest this characterization, but it goes to the heart of their ideology.

Of course, this policy fight is personal for me. Medicaid has provided me with the supports I need to live an independent and productive life. If the Republican plan becomes law, I could lose some or all of my nursing care. Minnesota could eliminate the buy-in program that allows me to purchase Medicaid coverage and earn an income, forcing me to quit my job as an attorney. It’s conceivable that I could even end living in an institution. These are scary prospects for me, but millions of other people will be facing even more calamitous prospects if they lose their Medicaid coverage. As I’ve noted before, those of us who depend on Medicaid for our survival can’t allow ourselves to be divided in this fight. If that happens, we will have already lost.

This is only the opening shot in the war on Medicaid. Formal legislation has yet to be introduced and it must go through a lengthy process before it becomes law. But in the meantime, we need to tell our stories to our representatives and senators. They need to understand how Medicaid has made our lives better and how funding cuts could make our lives worse. Those stories need to be told via phone calls to congressional offices and at town hall meetings with your representatives. If enough of us tell our stories, we may be the ones who actually save Medicaid.

Dec 152016
 

It’s only now that I feel like I can write about the election and its aftermath with any degree of perspective. I was wrong about so many things; things that maybe should have been more obvious at first blush. I thought Clinton’s experience and competence would compensate for her lack of charisma and aloofness. I thought that bragging about sexually assaulting women was far more disqualifying than e-mail mismanagement. I thought that the Obama coalition would turn out in droves to defeat a flim-flam man with no prior political experience and a penchant for manic tweeting.

In the weeks since the election, I’ve been watching a lot of Seinfeld and doing my best to avoid my Twitter feed. Reading the news has become a grim exercise in endurance. Ben Carson will be in the Cabinet? The guy who ran Breitbart will have an office in the White House? The president-elect is dismissing reports that Russia may have hacked our political process to give Trump an advantage? This would all be hilarious if it wasn’t, you know, actually fucking happening.

So now what? Perhaps Trump will turn out to be just a generic Republican, which is still pretty awful. Perhaps he’ll resign after a year or two because he’ll be unable to reconcile his authoritarian tendencies with his pathological need to be liked. Whatever happens, progressives will need to figure out how to mount an effective opposition to this administration. Republicans wrote the playbook on this and we shouldn’t hesitate to use their own tactics against them. Any efforts by Trump to shred the social safety net, undermine efforts to prevent climate change, or cut taxes on the wealthiest among us must be met with the staunchest resistance. We can try to work with Trump when he has some genuinely good ideas, but I’m guessing that will be a rare occurrence. Too much progress has been made in the last eight years and too much remains to be done.

This blog will be a very small part of that resistance. If nothing else, it will serve as the chronicle of a snarky middle-aged guy trying to navigate Trump’s America. So buckle up, Dear Reader. We’re both in for a bumpy ride.

Apr 092015
 

Republican legislators in red states like Kansas and Missouri are doing their damnedest to ensure that poor people never experience one moment of fun or pleasure on the public dime. The Kansas legislature recently passed a bill that would prohibit people from using their cash assistance at pools, movie theaters, cruise ships, casinos, race tracks, and other businesses. It would also restrict them from withdrawing more than $25 per day from their benefit accounts. A Missouri bill would prevent people from using food assistance to purchase seafood, chips, soda, energy drinks, and cookies.

Some restrictions on public benefits make sense, but these bills seem largely motivated by moral panic and antipathy. Republicans generally regard poverty as the direct result of moral failings. Conservative ideology demands that people with moral failings be treated with a firm hand or they will continue to make bad choices. These bills also provide a troubling insight into the conservative imagination. They perceive poverty as fun. They think that poor people spend their days going to the movies, eating lobster, and taking the occasional cruise courtesy of the taxpayer. Their deeply distorted view of poverty leads to policies that only compound the stresses that poor people experience every day. It’s cruelty thinly disguised as paternalistic compassion. And in most red states, that cruelty is only becoming more entrenched.

 

 

Aug 292014
 

While I still play video games and enjoy them a great deal, I don’t consider myself steeped in “gamer” culture. I peruse gaming websites to learn about what’s new and what’s good, but I don’t have strong opinions on the latest World of Warcraft expansion or the merits of playing as a Monk versus a Barbarian in Diablo III. Gamer culture seems to require a certain amount of obsessive attention to detail that—if I ever possessed it—has faded away in my dotage. Gamer culture also has a tendency to become mired in bro-centric toxicity; a tendency that became depressingly obvious this week when feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian released the latest YouTube video in her Tropes vs. Women series.

Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women series examines how video games portray women as ornamental objects, damsels in distress, and other stereotypical gender roles. The series has been ongoing for a couple years and Sarkeesian offers compelling evidence of persistent misogyny in games. Here’s the latest video, which is worth watching if you have any interest in games or feminist theory:

Sarkeesian’s critiques have provoked the kinds of responses you might expect from gamer bros: plenty of vitriol sprinkled liberally with rape and death threats. Sarkeesian had to leave her home this week after receiving specific death threats directed against her and her parents.

Gamer culture, like a lot of subcultures that flourish on the Internet, can be insular and exclusionary. That may partially explain the ferocity of the attacks; gaming has long been seen as a fringe activity that hasn’t received the same kind of critical analysis that is applied to film, books, and other media. But gaming is now a mainstream activity that has gained ample visibility in our culture. With the spread of mobile devices, nearly everyone has some contact with games. Why shouldn’t games be the subject of criticism? And not the kind of criticism that determines whether a game is fun to play, but the kind of criticism that examines games as a reflection of our values and mores. In other words, the kind of criticism that adults debate and discuss.

Unfortunately, some gamers don’t have much patience for critical theory. They perceive criticism as a trespass on their dominion and worthy of vicious retribution, particularly when the source of that criticism is a woman. They don’t want to see their favorite pastime grow up, which is exactly what will happen because of the efforts of Sarkeesian and other smart people. The attacks on her will certainly continue and they will be as ugly and brutal as ever, but they will eventually be seen as the death throes of a particularly toxic subculture that deserves no memorial.

 

Mar 102014
 

This week’s must-read is a devastating article in the Times about the exploitation of several men with cognitive disabilities who, until recently, lived in Atalissa, Iowa. These men were brought to Iowa from Texas institutional facilities decades ago to work in a turkey processing plant. The company boarded the men in an abandoned schoolhouse and paid them $65 dollars per month to work long hours doing dangerous work that left many of them with serious health problems. At the schoolhouse, they lived in squalor and were treated like children by the live-in supervisor and frequently abused and neglected. They were never given a choice as to where they might live or what other work they might want to do. This mistreatment continued for years despite family members and town residents asking the state to investigate the matter.

The disability rights movement has accomplished a great deal, but like most civil rights movements, its victories have not been evenly distributed. The true scope of the abuse these men suffered was not discovered until 2009. Several townspeople quoted in the article suspected something might be wrong, but said nothing. Some of that can be attributed to plan old Midwestern reticence, but it can also be attributed to the unconscious marginalization of these men because of their disabilities. Nobody intervened because nobody really wanted much to do with these guys. And those attitudes persist far beyond Atalissa’s borders.

Oct 152013
 

Now that a debt default is more than a remote possibility, I’m trying to devise a barter system for paying my nurses. Lacking any livestock or a hidden cache of gold bars, I may have to pay them in Pringles and electronics, assuming electricity is still a thing in a blighted post-default hellscape. Now, where did I put the spikes for my wheels? I need to get them installed before the roving street gangs get too cocky.

Oct 012013
 

Most people don’t have the time or patience to understand the political dynamics that led to today’s government shutdown. But let’s be clear about the root cause: the federal government is closed because Republicans do not want people to have access to affordable health insurance. It’s that simple. Republicans love to frame their zealotry as a defense of freedom; namely, the freedom to be bankrupted by a heart attack or car accident. It is this distorted, nihilistic, utterly fucked-up notion of “freedom” that has transformed the GOP into a party that is incapable of governing responsibly.

Republicans promised to unveil an alternative to the Affordable Care Act back in 2011. Two years later, they have still offered nothing because Republicans are fundamentally uninterested in health care reform. For them, the old, dysfunctional, highly uncompetitive insurance regime worked just fine. And if you were excluded from that system, well, you just weren’t deserving in the first place.

This shutdown will eventually end (hopefully, without a cataclysmic debt default) and the exchanges will continue to enroll people in coverage. Unfortunately, we’ll have to endure an extended conservative tantrum and the pointless idling of a million workers first.

 

Jul 312013
 

Constituent service is one of the more mundane responsibilities of Congressional members, but it’s a vital service for the people they represent. When people have trouble with their Social Security or veteran benefits, they can call their representative or senator and expect to receive assistance. However, some GOP members have decided that they will not assist people who have issues with obtaining health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a couple choice quotes from Republican representatives:

“Given that we come from Kansas, it’s much easier to say, ‘Call your former governor,'” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R), referring to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“You say, ‘She’s the one. She’s responsible. She was your governor, elected twice, and now you reelected the president, but he picked her.'” Huelskamp said.

“We know how to forward a phone call,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

 

Conservatives’ pathological opposition to the ACA is one thing, but refusing to help constituents access a legitimate government program is breathtaking in its nihilism. It’s yet another example of the sabotage mentality that has consumed the Tea Party faction. It’s also another reason for the Obama administration to ensure that it runs an effective outreach campaign that bypasses the intransigence of elected officials.

“Given that we come from Kansas, it’s much easier to say, ‘Call your former governor,'” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R), referring to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“You say, ‘She’s the one. She’s responsible. She was your governor, elected twice, and now you reelected the president, but he picked her.'” Huelskamp said.

“We know how to forward a phone call,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).



Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/305777-gop-to-constituents-questions-on-obamacare-call-obama?wpisrc=nl_wonk_b#ixzz2aeSGonOn 
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Jul 262013
 

The Department of Justice has filed suit against the State of Florida for warehousing kids with disabilities in nursing homes and keeping them isolated from their families and communities. The DOJ alleges that the heavy institutional bias of Florida’s Medicaid program violates the rights of these kids under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as articulated in the Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead ruling. The children in question have complex medical conditions and some rely on ventilators or feeding tubes.

The lawsuit shouldn’t come as a surprise to Florida officials. The DOJ has been warning the state for the past couple years that its segregation of kids with disabilities was a serious problem that could result in legal action. But Governor Rick Scott and his Tea Party allies in the legislature instead chose to refuse federal funds that would have helped these kids remain at home because they wanted to make a political statement about the Affordable Care Act. Florida also has not increased its reimbursement rates for home care services since 1987.

For people with disabilities, Florida and Minnesota might as well be different countries. It shouldn’t be this way, but our fragmented Medicaid system perpetuates these gross inequities. Perhaps this lawsuit and others like it will persuade state policymakers to reassess their priorities and work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that both kids and adults with disabilities can live and thrive in their communities.

Dec 142012
 

I was going to post some pop culture triviality, but that can wait for another day. Instead, I’ll just echo the sentiment of this Onion article: fuck it all. More specifically, fuck the NRA. Fuck Mike Huckabee. And fuck our political leadership for their cowardice in refusing to even discuss the culture of violence in this country–a culture in which I have absolutely participated.