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REVISING–OR SCRAPPING–OBAMACARE: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 5, 2016 at 12:08 am

President Barack Obama came into office determined to find common ground with Republicans.  

But they quickly made it clear to him that they only wanted his political destruction. At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and re-read what Niccolo Machiavelli said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved or feared, or feared more than love. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain.  

As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote.  But when it approaches, they revolt….

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.  

Moreover, Machiavelli warns that even a well-intentioned leader can unintentionally bring on catastrophe.

This usually happens when, hoping to avoid conflict, he allows a threat to go unchecked.  Thus:

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary, for a prince who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

For Obama, such a moment came in 2011, when House Republicans threatened to to destroy the credit rating of the United States unless the President agreed to scrap Obamacare.  

Obama, a former attorney, heatedly denounced House Republicans for “extortion” and “blackmail.”  

Unless he was exaggerating, both of these are felony offenses that are punishable under the 2001 USA Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys. Among those crimes: Extortion. 

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.” 

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.” 

And if President Obama believed that RICO was not sufficient to deal with extortionate behavior, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11. 

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism. Among the behavior that is defined as criminal: 

“Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” 

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were legally in place.  President Obama could have directed the Justice Department to apply them.

If violations had been discovered, indictments could have quickly followed–and then prosecutions. The results of such action could be easily predicted:

  • Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would have first had to lawyer-up.
  • This would have imposed huge monetary costs on them, since good criminal attorneys don’t come cheap.  
  • Obsessed with their personal survival, they would have had little time to engage in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted. In fact, doing so would have only made their convictions more likely.
  • Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would have feared; “I could be next.” This would have produced a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.  
  • The effect on Right-wing Republicans would have been the same as that of President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers: “You cross me and threaten the security of this nation at your own peril.”

It would no doubt have been a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–at least, while Obama held office.  

So: Why didn’t President Obama act to punish such criminal conduct?

Obama Mistake No. 4: He allowed himself to be cowed by his enemies.

In The Prince, Machiavelli laid out the qualities that a successful ruler must possess. There were some to be cultivated, and others to be avoided at all costs. For example:

Niccolo Machiavelli

He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute–which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger….  

[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude. As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.  

So how has Obama fared by this standard?

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm

President Obama claims to be a serious student of Realpolitick.  If this were so, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his Affordable Care Act (ACA).

And the remedy would have been simple: Require all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees, regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.

This, in turn, would have produced two substantial benefits:

  1. All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  2. Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones.

The reason: Employers would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

If the President ever considered the merits of this, he apparently decided against pressing for such a requirement.

Obama is one of the most rational and educated men to occupy the White House.   So what accounts for this failure to expect the worst in people–especially his self-declared enemies–and prepare to counter it?

Niccolo Machiavelli’s brilliant assessments have repeatedly proven invaluable to understanding the failures of the Obama Presidency.  Once again, he provides a shrewd insight into what may be the central reason for all of them.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Writing in The Prince, his classic work on the realities of politics, Machiavelli states:

I also believe that he is happy whose mode of procedure accords with the needs of the times, and similarly, he is unfortunate whose mode of procedure is opposed to the times…. 

On this depend also the changes in prosperity, for if it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful.  But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure. 

No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it.

And therefore the cautious man, when it is time to act suddenly, does not know how to do so and is consequently ruined.  For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.

Obama is by nature a supreme rationalist and conciliator–not a confronter nor an attacker.  And his career before reaching the White House greatly strengthened this predisposition.

From 1985 to 1988, Obama worked as a community organizer–setting up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organization.  Such activity demands skills in building consensus, not confrontation.

He then taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years—as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, teaching constitutional law.

File:Medium chicagoreflection.jpg

University of Chicago Law School

Law professors spend their time in clean, civil classrooms–far removed from the rough-and-tumble of criminal defense/prosecution.

If Obama had accused President George W. Bush of conspiring with Al Qaeda–as Republicans have repeatedly accused Obama–retribution would have been swift and brutal.

In short: Obama–who believes in reason and conciliation–is paying the price for allowing his sworn enemies to insult and obstruct him

Obama Mistake No. 6: Failing to closely study his proposed legislation.

Throughout his campaign to win support for the ACA, Obama had repeatedly promised:  “If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. Period.  If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  Period.”

But, hidden in the 906 pages of the law, was a fatal catch for the President’s own credibility.

The law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans–so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law.

If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did.

It soon turned out that a great many Americans wanted to keep their current plan–even if it did not provide the fullest possible coverage.

Suddenly, the President found himself facing a PR nightmare: Charged and ridiculed as a liar.

Even Jon Stewart, who on “The Daily Show” had supported the implementation of “Obamacare,” ran footage of Obama’s “you can keep your doctor” promise.

Jon Stewart

The implication: You said we could keep our plan/doctor; since we can’t, you must be a liar.

As a result, the President now finds his reputation for integrity–long his greatest asset–shattered.

All of which takes us to the final warning offered by Niccolo Machiavelli:

Whence it may be seen that hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil…. 

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Barack Obama is one of the most highly educated Presidents to occupy the White House.

When he took office, he intended to make healthcare available to all Americans–and not just the wealthiest 1%.

President Barack Obama

But he made a series of deadly mistakes:

  • In crafting the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare);
  • In building public support for it;
  • In underestimating the venom and opposition of his Republican enemies;
  • In failing to effectively counter that Right-wing venom and opposition; and
  • In underestimating the opposition of the business community to complying with the law.

Three of those mistakes have already been outlined.  Here are the remaining three.

Obama Mistake No. 4:  He allowed himself to be cowed by his enemies.

In The Prince, Machiavelli laid out the qualities that a successful ruler must possess.  There were some to be cultivated, and others to be avoided at all costs.  For example:

Niccolo Machiavelli

He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute—which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger…. 

[He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude.  As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.

So how has Obama fared by this standard?

On July 2, 2013, the Treasury Department issued a press release about a major change in the applicability of the Affordable Care Act:

“Over the past several months, the Administration has been engaging in a dialogue with businesses – many of which already provide health coverage for their workers – about the new employer and insurer reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively….We have listened to your feedback.  And we are taking action.

“The Administration is announcing that it will provide an additional year before the ACA mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements begin.”

[Boldface in the original document.]

In short: The administration is delaying until 2015 the law’s requirement that medium and large companies provide coverage for their workers or face fines.

And how did Obama’s self-declared enemies react to this announcement?

On July 30, House Republicans voted to proceed with a lawsuit against the President, claiming that he had failed to enforce the Affordable Care Act.

“In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement.

“That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

John Boehner

Thus, Boehner intends to sue the President to enforce the law that the House has voted 54 times to repeal, delay or change.

Obama Mistake Nol 5:  Believing that public and private comployers would universally comply with the law.

The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week.

Yet many government employers claim they can’t afford it–and plan to limit worker hours to 29 per week instead.  Among those states affected:

  • “Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Dennis Hanwell, the Republican mayor of Medina, Ohio, said in an interview with the New York Times.
  • Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32.
  • In Virginia, part-time state employees are generally not allowed to work more than 29 hours a week on average over a 12-month period.

President Obama and those who helped craft the Act may be surprised at what has happened.  But they shouldn’t be.

Greed-addicted officials will always seek ways to avoid complying with the law–or achieve minimum compliance with it.

And what goes for public employers goes for private ones, too.

A company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage for part-time employees who work fewer than 30 hours.

The result was predictable.  And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.

Increasing numbers of employers are moving fulltime workers into part-time positions–and thus avoiding

  • providing their employees with medical insurance and 
  • a fine for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

One of these is John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who has been quoted as saying:

  1. The prices of his pizzas will go up–by eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order; and
  2. He will pass along these costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2014 at 11:44 am

In The Prince, his classic treatise on Realpolitick, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, warned:

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”

This proved exactly the case with the proposed Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Its supporters–even when they comprised a majority of the Congress–have always shown far less fervor than its opponents.

This was true before the Act became effective on March 23, 2010.  And it has remained true since, with House Republicans voting 54 times to repeal, delay or revise the law.

So before President Barack Obama launched his signature effort to reform the American medical system, he should have taken this truism into account.

Obama Mistake No. 3: Failing to consider–and punish–the venom of his political enemies.

The ancient Greeks used to say: “A man’s character is his fate.”  It is Obama’s character–and our fate–that he is by nature a conciliator, not a confronter.

Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s winning of the White House in his book Renegade: The Making of a President.  He noted that Obama was always more comfortable when responding to Republican attacks on his character than he was in making attacks on his enemies.

Obama came into office determined to find common ground with Republicans.  But they quickly made it clear to him that they only wanted his political destruction.

At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and re-read what Niccolo Machiavelli famously said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. 

As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote.  But when it approaches, they revolt…. 

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Moreover, Machiavelli warns that even a well-intentioned leader can unintentionally bring on catastrophe.  This usually happens when, hoping to avoid conflict, he allows a threat to go unchecked.  Thus:

A man who who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.

And therefore it is necessary, for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

For President Obama, such a moment came in October, 2013, when House Republicans shut down the government to force Obama to scrap Obamacare.

Obama, a former attorney, heatedly denounced House Republicans for “extortion” and “blackmail.”

Unless he was exaggerating, both of these are felony offenses that are punishable under the 2001 Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970.

All that he needed do was to order his Attorney General, Eric Holder, to ask the FBI to investigate whether either or both of these laws have been violated.

If violations had been discovered, indictments could have quickly followed– and then prosecutions.

The results of such action can be easily predicted.

  1. Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would first have to lawyer-up.  That in itself would have been no small thing, since good criminal lawyers cost big bucks.
  2. Obsessed with their own personal survival, they would have found little time for engaging in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted.  In fact, doing so would have only made their conviction more likely.
  3. Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would have realized: “I could be next.”  This would have produced a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.
  4. The effect on Right-wing Republicans would have been the same as that of President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers:  “You cross me and threaten the security of this nation at your own peril.”

It would no doubt be a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–if they ever so dared again.

So: Why didn’t the President act to punish such criminal conduct?

OBAMA’S SIX “OBAMACARE” MISTAKES: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on August 5, 2014 at 8:56 am

A majority of Americans–53%–disapprove of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

So says a July healthcare tracking poll of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues

This is clearly a plus/minus situation for President Barack Obama.

On the positive side:  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Obamacare enrollment has cut the number of uninsured people in the nation by 10 million.

On the negative side: Obamacare has always had weak support among the American public.  Among the reasons for this:

  • Constant Republican attacks labeling the law as “socialistic” (by which they mean “communistic”).
  • Public opposition to the individual mandate that almost everyone obtain coverage.
  • Many Americans think they can’t afford the insurance sold on the Obamacare exchanges–and don’t know that financial aid is available.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Sixty percent of the public wants Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act, not repeal and replace it.
  • Thirty-eight percent were unaware that the Act offers consumers a choice among private health plans.
  • Less than half of those polled–47%–say they have discussed the law with friends or family.
  • Of that 47%, a majority–27%–say they’ve heard more bad than good about the law in these conversations.
  • Healthcare isn’t a top priority for Americans right now–except for medical care for veterans (71%).

Among those issues the public does rate as highly important:

  • Economy and jobs (70%)
  • Federal budget deficit (68%)
  • Education (66%)
  • Social Security (65%)
  • Illegal imigration (61%)

Click here: Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: July 2014 | The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Barack Obama is easily one of the most highly educated Presidents in United States history.

He is a graduate of Columbia University (B.A. in political science in 1983).

In 1988, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude–“with great honor”–in 1991.  He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year, and president of the journal in his second year.

President Barack Obama

He then taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years—as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004.

So where did he go so wrong?   Several ways:

Obama Mistake No. 1: Putting off what people wanted while concentrating on what they didn’t.

Obama started off well when he took office.  Americans had high expectations of him.

This was partly due to his being the first black elected President.  And it was partly due to the disastrous legacies of needless war and financial catastrophe left by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama entered office intending to reform the American healthcare system, to make medical care available to all citizens, and not just the richest.

But that was not what the vast majority of Americans wanted him to concentrate his energies on. With the loss of 2.6 million jobs in 2008, Americans wanted Obama to find new ways to create jobs.

This was especially true for the 11.1 million unemployed, or those employed only part-time.

Jonathan Alter, who writes sympathetically about the President in The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, candidly states this.

But Obama chose to spend most of his first year as President pushing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–which soon became known as Obamacare–through Congress.

The results were:

  • Those desperately seeking employment felt the President didn’t care about them.
  • The reform effort became a lightning rod for Right-wing groups like the Tea Party.
  • In 2010, a massive Rightist turnout cost the Democrats the House of Representatives, and threatened Democratic control of the Senate.

Obama Mistake No. 2: He underestimated the amount of opposition he would face to the ACA.

For all of Obama’s academic brilliance and supposed ruthlessness as a “Chicago politician,” he has displayed an incredible naivety in dealing with his political opposition.

Niccolo Machiavelli (4169-1527), the Florentine statesman and father of modern politics, could have warned him of the consequences of this–through the pages of his famous treatise on the realities of politics: The Prince.

Niccolo Machiavelli

And either Obama skipped those chapters or ignored their timeless advice for political leaders.

He should have started with Chapter Six: “Of New Dominions Which Have Been Acquired By One’s Own Arms and Ability”:

…There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. 

For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.

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