Saving Democracy

In 1860, the Democratic Party held its nominating convention in what must have been seen even then by moderates as an insane choice: Charleston, South Carolina.  The brand-new Republican party had earlier held its convention in Chicago, and nominated Abraham Lincoln. The expectation is that the Democrats would nominate their best-known national figure, Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas.  It was thought that Douglas, if he won the Presidency might save the nation.  Southern states were talking secession, and although no one knew what that might mean, the possibility of civil war loomed over the convention.

Lincoln was widely reviled, inaccurately, as a closet abolitionist.  It was true that he was opposed to slavery, but thought it would, if left alone, die out on its own. Douglas was a more conciliatory figure.  His policy was ‘popular sovereignty,’ meaning that citizens in the territories should decide such divisive issues as slavery.

This reasonable, democratic position was anathema to the delegates in Charleston.  And the key speech–and the one that wrecked the convention, and led directly to the Civil War– was the one delivered by an Alabama delegate, William Lowndes Yancey.  His “speech of protest,” as it came to be known, argues that the South’s aim was to destroy democracy, in order to preserve it:

We have come here, with the twofold purpose of saving the country and of saving Democracy; and if the Democracy will not lend itself to that high, holy, and elevated purpose. . .  then we say to you, gentlemen, mournfully and regretfully, that in the opinion of . . .  the whole South, you have failed.

I thought about Yancey yesterday, watching Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and Sarah Palin speak at a rally in Washington D.C. They were protesting the closing of a National Monument.  Ted Cruz, protesting against the National Park Service, which, because of the government shut-down, had to be closed.  The government shut-down was his idea. His actions precipitated it.  He, and Utah Senator Mike Lee (who I generally refer to, snarkily, as ‘Constitutional Scholar Mike Lee’) were protesting the inevitable consequence of their own decision and choice.

But they had to do it, you see.  Because Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, is going to destroy our nation, ruin our economy, take away our liberty. They had to act, they had to shut down the government, they had to risk the full faith and credit of the United States, push us to the brink of default on loans necessary to pay for spending Congress has already authorized, all because Obamacare is so noxious, so destructive, so anti-democratic.

Ted Cruz’s speech ended with this line, cribbed from Ronald Reagan:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

A stirring peroration, to be sure.  But Reagan said that in 1961.  He was still an actor, then, producing 78 rpm records carrying his speeches.  That particular record was about Medicare.  Yes, that’s the program that was about to enslave America, the program that would leave us all in our dotage reminiscing about the good old days when men were free.  Medicare.

Which President Ronald Reagan later declared indispensable.  And worked with then-Speaker Tip O’Neill to strengthen.

At the same rally, protestors shouted abuse at Capitol police, who were simply doing their jobs. Without pay.  The crowd was unruly, and so these cops went to work without any assurance they would get a paycheck, to keep order in the nation’s capital.

Our country has gone insane before. The rhetoric in 1860 was all about ‘Constitutional values’ and ‘preserving Democracy,’ and of course, freedom.  And what specific freedoms were at stake?  The freedom to own other human beings, to profit from their labor, to whip them and shackle them and force them to work without compensation, to enjoy unfettered sexual access to them, to regulate when and what they ate and where and how they worshipped and every single solitary element of their lives. That right, the right to own slaves, is the ‘peculiar institution’ Yancey cited repeatedly in his speech.  And taking that right away was, to the likes of William Lowndes Yancey, tyranny.

So what’s at stake now?  Obamacare. And every single allegation made about the Affordable Care Act in that rally yesterday and in Ted Cruz’ marathon filibuster and on Fox News and in nearly every conservative media outlet, every allegation is just flat wrong.  Just plain dishonest.

So ‘a government takeover of health care.’  No.  It just expands health care access to people who can’t afford it right now.  My health care options don’t change, not to any degree whatsoever.  If you’re on Medicare, yours don’t either.  If health insurance is a benefit provided by your employer, nothing changes for you either.

‘Forcing people to buy a product they don’t want.’  That’s how insurance works.  You have to buy fire insurance for your home.  You have to buy auto insurance to drive a car.  People would rather not buy insurance until right up to the point that they need it.  But doing that makes insurance impossible.  Grow up–living in modern society has some costs attached.

“Going to destroy our economy.”  Essentially, Obamacare establishes health insurance exchanges.  It’s built on the Massachusetts model.  So has Massachusetts’ economy been destroyed?  Anyone?

Let me describe what Obamacare does do, however.  Let’s suppose you’re a young married couple, with small children at home, not yet established professionally, and without health insurance. It’s two o’clock in the morning.  Your daughter wakes up; she’s in terrible pain, headache, is running a fever. You check the internet.  Could just be a kid with fever. Could be meningitis.

At this point, you have two possible choices you could make, and both of them are utterly irresponsible.  One: you take your daughter to the hospital, to emergency.  You rack up a bill you can’t pay, you subject yourself to the collection agency hospitals have to employ nowadays, you maybe arrange for some kind of payment schedule which will further screw up your family budget.  Two: you don’t do anything, risking the very real possibility that your daughter has a life-threatening illness.  Two choices.  Both irresponsible, both wrong.

Obamacare provides another choice: insurance options, and money in a tax credit to pay for it.  That’s the evil, that’s the threat to democracy, that’s the tyranny that beckons.

In 1860, our country went insane, driven there by the likes of William Yancey.  Today, we’re going insane, driven there by Ted Cruz and Constitutional Scholar Mike Lee.  Please, heaven, let’s pray that John Boehner is a patriot. We’ll find out in two days.

14 thoughts on “Saving Democracy

  1. juliathepoet

    I’m curious about your thoughts about Jim Matheson’s vote, with the Republicans, to only allow Cantor to bring a clean bill, (or any bill? still not clear) to be voted on.

  2. Michelle

    This is a very complicated topic for Matt and I, because we are experiencing the ACA from three different perspectives.

    First, the perspective of a graduate student family with small children. In Ohio, our insurance was about $200/month. We had great coverage (Matt worked at a hospital, after all) and it wasn’t that expensive. As of last year though, the AFA raised our health insurance prices to $300/month. Still a great price for great services, totally affordable.

    Then we moved to Savannah. We had hoped to buy insurance for our family from the hospital here. Matt is required to have insurance in order to attend school. After orientation to his new job, we looked at the insurance packet and realized that the hospital’s insurance plan would cost us $700/month. It had been lower, but the ACA caused the hospital to raise the cost of its insurance. When you’re living on only $2000 a month for 3 years, that’s way too much. We absolutely could not afford it.

    So we looked at the university. For a family to be insured would cost $3992 a semester. And we’d have to drive 45 minutes to be treated at the university’s medical center. We also couldn’t afford that.

    What did we ultimately do for insurance? Matt was insured through the university, for about $1782 annually. The girls are insured through Medicaid (oh, the irony of all ironies that they ended up on government insurance) and I will be buying insurance through the Marketplace. I’m hoping and praying that we can afford it, but I haven’t been able to get a quote since the Marketplace isn’t working whenever I try. These changes in price have made us extremely frustrated about the ACA since it took our affordable health insurance to something we can’t afford. I am glad that we qualify for Medicaid for our daughters, but wish we didn’t have to.

    Second, the perspectives of parents who have a daughter with a pre-existing condition. Lydia has a metabolic genetic disorder. She qualified in Ohio to be in the Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps. In Georgia, she qualifies under Children’s Medical Services. It is straight-up Medicaid, no CMO’s. She will qualify for these programs until she is 21.

    For this reason I am grateful for the ACA. No one can deny her healthcare because of her disorder, even after she’s 21. She will always need emergent care during a metabolic crisis– for the rest of her life. I am grateful that she will always be able to find insurance.

    The third perspective is that of a medical care provider dealing with the ACA. This is all secondhand from Matt, but he says it’s been a sore point for many doctors. At our hospital in OH, where 30% of our town’s population was on government welfare, the emergency department always struggled financially. I can’t say about the rest of the hospital, since we only have experience with the ED. The emergency department is required to treat everyone who arrives. Our town had a significant prescription drug abuse problem. When druggies would arrive claiming “chest pain” so they could get their narcotics, they would have to stay for a full 6 hour workup. Ultrasounds, labs, EKGs, sometimes scans, etc. They would “check in” for the day/night, order food, have an ambulance take them to and from the hospital and abuse the staff. If they did get their drugs from a less moral care provider, the hospital would only get paid 30-60% of the cost, depending on the diagnosis. If they didn’t get their drugs, the patient would rate the hospital poorly, and the government refused to pay any of the bills. 90% of the druggies Matt treated were on some government welfare. For care providers, the ACA is a nightmare. The providers have to accept multiple different insurance companies now, and dealing with insurance companies isn’t fun for anyone.

    Also, because of the ACA, hospitals now chart and bill for every little action taken by nurse or provider. They record every step so they can bill for every step, knowing that with government insurance patients they are only going to be paid a portion of the bill.

    Those are our three perspectives. I typically vote moderately. I consider myself slightly more Republican than Democratic, but I can’t affiliate myself with either party completely. I don’t think the ACA is the solution, and there are parts of it I really don’t like. On the other hand, there are definitely benefits to it. I also don’t think our previous health care system was working either.

    The whole system is broken. The ACA is not the solution. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s all scary to me. The insurance companies fight the bills, the hospitals and doctors charge too much, the pharmaceutical companies have exorbitant pricing, the government is trying to pay for it all and simple folks like us still can’t afford our employer’s insurance. At some point, something’s gotta give somewhere.

    I just hope that ALL the politicians involved are patriots.

    (As a post script, I have a friend whose husband is in a PhD program. Their insurance increased $2000 dollars a year. I don’t know their initial price but because of the ACA, they can no longer afford insurance. Another friend’s insurance price increased by 1000% because of the ACA. I don’t understand everything about the ACA, but I do understand the it is making some insurance unaffordable.)

    1. Michelle

      Sorry, two changes to my comment. First, paragraph two I meant the “ACA” not “AFA”. Second, paragraph 4, the cost for our family was $3992 ANUALLY, not per semester.

      1. juliathepoet

        Let me start by saying that I respect your perspective on your experience Michelle, but I think when you say that your cost went from $200-$300, you should know that if your husband worked for a hospital, it is likely that they were picking up at least 2/3 of the premiums for your family. If you look at the cost for COBRA, then you would have a better perspective on the real cost. My first husband always worked in health care, and the two months we had to go on COBRA, (as part of a job and school change at the same time) we jumped from $175/month for our family, up to $1060/month on COBRA, which is the true cost for insurance, when an employee and employer have paid their share.

        I know you think it’s crazy to have you all on different insurance plans, but that is actually the system, working well under this plan. A single payer system would be less complicated and have fewer headaches, but we at least have options.

        Let me give you one other view, and a way to look at people who say their costs are going up 100% or 1000%, (which by the way, I’d love to see the documentation on, since the largest increase, without changes in life circumstances, stands at 575% and still wasn’t much of an increase when the lower deductibles were factored in) that you have to look at the whole picture, and not just the cost of the deductible. Let me tell you about last year for me and my husband. My kids are insured through the dad, so we will just talk about us.

        My husband and I have pre-existing conditions, that have been there since childhood. My husband had individual insurance for awhile, because his insurance broker didn’t ask him those questions, and he just stayed away from doctors in general. When his condition flared up, he was treated for it, but at the end of the year, he was declined for coverage. Get declined once, in the current system, and you are out for good.

        So, I knew I had to get COBRA coverage after my divorce, even if it was $500+ a month. When my husband and I got married, it went to a little over $1100 a month. So we are paying $13,200/year in insurance premiums each year, for a plan with a $5,000 deductible, and a $10,000 out if pocket maximum. Since I’ve hit the family out of pocket maximum every year since my 5 year old was born, its part of our budgeting assumption. So, in the last 5 years, all those numbers come up to $116,000 of our out of pocket costs.

        Not quite. During that time, my ex-husband’s company was bought out three times, including once after our divorce, and because we had “new insurance” from a “new company,” our deductibles and out of pocket costs were reset, once in October, once in June, and again last May, (less than 2 weeks after my second spinal surgery) costing us an additional $28,000 dollars in out of pocket costs, because we don’t have access to health plans that have reasonable deductibles and caps. We have over $50,000 in medical debt, and with the ACA, we can get a plan with a $2500 maximum out of pocket expense, which means we might someday stop paying mortgage size payments on medical debt, and instead end a year with less medical debt than the last year.

        1. Michelle

          I’m not actually saying that the ACA is terrible. I see advantages and disadvantages to it. I also know how incredibly lucky my husband and I were to have such a low monthly premium with such great coverage.

          I wasn’t trying to prove or disprove the ACA. I was merely trying to share my experiences since we have the unique perspective of three different points of view.

          1. admin Post author

            I really appreciate your thoughtful reply, Michelle, and the general tenor of this discussion.
            I absolutely agree that the ACA is flawed. I just think it’s the best that could done, given Washington gridlock. Your experiences provide a nice perspective on both its strengths and weaknesses.
            I also think it’s possible that you may be one of those families that would qualify for gap Medicaid, if your state offered it. Part of the ACA leaves a gap between the income levels eligible for Medicaid, and income levels that can afford the exchanges. That gap is intended to be filled by Medicaid, paid as block grants to the states from the federal government. But some states (hint: all states with Republican governors) have refused those block grants, because OBAMACARE!!!. Right? Even though they wouldn’t cost those states a dime. That’s where this irrational hatred of all things Obama really ends hurting people.
            I think a lot of moderates like yourself are pretty disgusted with Washington right now. Obviously, I am, as my post suggests. Compromise is not a dirty word, however, and there are people of good will looking for common ground, and sensible solutions to problems. I hope.

  3. Brian Preece

    Slavery and its expansion along with secession were serious issues. Having a 22 hour filibuster over something that might actually work, isn’t a serious issue.

    I am a “Constitutional Scholar” of sorts being a government teacher for 20 plus years and it appears that the ACA is Constitutional. It went though both houses of Congress, was signed by the President, and here’s the kicker, was deemed Constitutional by the Supreme Court. Sorry Mike Lee but I think that’s how our system works. Now Lee only believes in the Expressed Powers of the Constitution. Some believe in that the broader powers of the national government can expand under the Necessary and Proper Clause, what I explain in my class as the Elastic Clause because it can stretch to meet the needs of the government. Then there is the language of the Constitution that says “promote the general welfare” and of course, the ACA could be argued as doing such. Of course Lee thinks he is right and everyone that disagrees with him is an idiot.

    I actually have some reservations about the ACA but I also think it has some good points. I also think staying the course with no change in our health care situation would be as disastrous as anything. I wonder if that is what Lee and Cruz are proposing or perhaps just a total free market laissez-faire approach. We have to change course. But unlike the election of 1860, the issues aren’t that serious unless they were made serious by Cruz and Co. by taking our nation to the economic brink. Our economy is in a fragile state and do this is reckless governance, as reckless I suppose as what happened in 1860, but obviously different. Again, like I’ve said in other blogs, let the ACA go out and thrive or dive on its own merits. If it has major flaws, they CAN be fixed by going through the system created by the Constitution. I think this will actually happen.

    1. admin Post author

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s clearly flawed legislation. So let’s try it, see what works and what doesn’t, and fix problems as they arise. Absolutely. And I think I can say unequivocally that your grasp of the Constitution exceeds that of Mike Lee!

  4. Kyle Clouse

    Here is my two cents on the whole issue and what was written:

    There are two parts of his argument that I would like to offer some ‘food for thought on’; the first being democracy and the second being the government shutdown which is closely tied to taxation (and the government shutdown is even more closely tied to democracy and shows why democracy leads to slavery). The foundation of his argument is justifying that since constitutional principles have been removed in the past, we’re justified in removing them now and in the future.

    1. Democracy or Republic?

    You hear all the time the politicians, school teachers, bloggers, and so on saying that we live in a Democracy when that is actually not true. Remember the pledge of allegiance:

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America; and to the REPUBLIC for which it stands…

    So we have to ask ourselves what is the difference between a Democracy and a Republic? Here is a video that I want you to watch that will explain the difference between the two:

    Benjamin Franklin said this of a democracy:
    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

    2. Taxation:
    He makes the argument that some taxation is good; (or if you want to call it a penalty call it that). In other words, taking someones property (income) for the good of the whole is okay, or the ends justify the means.

    As the Constitution states, and as our God given rights dictate; we have the right to life, liberty and property. No one person can, or should be able to, take away my property even if the majority says yes. This is why we are a Republic; because majority vote should NEVER remove my God given rights. 99% of the vote should never be allowed to take away the rights that God has given me; my right to my life, my liberty and my property.

    Is not taking property from one person to give a service, product or property to another person distribution of wealth?

    Howard W. Hunter said this on distribution of wealth:
    “If man will not recognize the inequalities around him and voluntarily, through the gospel plan, come to the aid of his brother, he will find that through “a democratic process” he will be forced to come to the aid of his brother. The government will take from the “haves” and give to the “have nots.” Both have last their freedom. Those who “have,” lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who “have not,” lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got “something for nothing,” and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift. Under this climate, people gradually become blind to what has happened and to the vital freedoms which they have lost.”

    Since the government shutdown and taxes are so closely intertwined here was a warning that President Henry D. Moyle, first Councelor to David O. McKay gave:
    “The difficulty with all governments, and one to which our own has fallen heir, is that the majority, by virtue of its right to place limitations on man’s free agency, has undertaken to infringe upon the rights reserved to the individual, for the direct and immediate benefit of the majority individually rather than for the establishment of law and order. For example: the Constitution expressly prohibits taking of personal property for public purposes without just compensation. Under the guise of taxation, the Constitution is violated and property is taken from one and given to another. This demonstrates clearly the power to tax is the power to destroy. That is the course which we now pursue. Even here it is a question of the proper use of our free agency. The Constitution defines our rights. Our difficulties today come as a result of the use we make of our own free agency in preserving and protecting these rights, which should be unalienable, as declared. I for myself have long since determined that a safe criterion by which movements political, social or religious can be judged meritoriously is by their impact upon our Godly attribute of free agency.”

    To humor the piece the writer should have included what then Senator Obama had to say about raising the debt ceiling in 2006, “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

    I’ll end this critique with a quote from Franklin Roosevelt. “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

    1. admin Post author

      Obviously, we disagree philosophically about taxation. I would counter with this quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I like taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” Or, also from Justice Holmes, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”
      As for President Obama’s quote and vote on the debt ceiling: he was wrong. Wrong to say it, wrong to vote that way.

      1. Kyle Clouse

        I agree with you on both; about taxation and Obama.

        The issue that I have is with unconstitutional, and involuntary, taxation which the ACA falls under.

        Our government is saturated with corruption and special interests on both sides of the isle; which is fueled largely through unconstitutional, and involuntary, taxation.

        From an LDS perspective, and belief, its shocking that so many of us fought to maintain our agency in the pre-existence to so freely give it away now.

        The constitution was sparked by involuntary taxation.


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