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The Daily Banter MailBag: Healthcare Ruling Special!!

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Welcome to this week's edition of The Daily Banter mailbag, where Bob, Ben and Chez answer our readers questions on stuff we should probably know about....

Today, we answer questions on the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare - whether it hurts or helps Obama's chances of re-election, why PR could help organized Labor, and the ins and outs of corporate socialism.

The questions:

I know on the face of it the health care ruling looks good for Obama, but I think that the Romney campaign might actually be happy about it as it gives them something to hammer Obama on during the election. Had the ruling gone the other way Obama could have claimed the Republicans and 'activist' judges ruined his health care plan (like they have done to the economy). What do you guys think?

Ben: I think you're worrying for no reason Sarah. This is very, very good news for Obama despite what one might think about 'Obamacare'. This was Obama's signature policy and the GOP has spent the past three years trying to tear it down. In short, they failed despite getting it to the Supreme Court, and Obama won. It's a political victory that makes the President look stronger, and Americans love a winner. If Romney wants to make attacking the mandate the centerpiece of his campaign strategy,  I think Obama's campaign team will welcome it with open arms. Obamacare is virtually identical to Romney's plan in Massachusetts and the Democrats will have a field day reminding everyone how ridiculous his double standards are. Obama is having a field day with Romney's never ending flip flops - he has managed, unlike most other Democratic leaders, to set the agenda and watch the Republicans scramble to catch up. By getting his healthcare plan through, Romney now has to run a campaign on stripping Americans of policies they will benefit hugely from. Obama has done the same on issues like immigration and gay marriage; he sets the agenda, then sits back and watches Romney and the GOP try to figure out how to tell Americans they want to take things away from them. If he continues this strategy all year, Romney is in for a very, very rough time.

Bob: Sure, but the politics ought to be irrelevant here in the face of a very valuable law that will continue on with the blessing of the Supremes. Yes, Romney will continue to use the law as a rallying cry -- but in doing so, he also exposes himself to increasingly loud accusations of hypocrisy since he passed a very similar law in Massachusetts. So he won't be as loud about it as we might think. If Obama can't use the ruling to attack the judges using Republican frames like "activist judges" that's fine with me. I'd rather he not use those terms anyway and stick with ballyhooing all of the positives things in the law that only exist because he took a huge political risk to get them passed into law.

Chez:True, the Romney camp feels like it has a new issue to hit Obama hard on, but the fact is that once things go fully into effect a majority of the American public is going to appreciate this. The Republicans know this and that's why they're so pissed off: It scares them to death to know that they'll eventually be proven to have been on the wrong end of this. I really don't think the ACA will be able to used effectively as a weapon against Obama except with the right-wing howlers, and they don't like the president to begin with so today's ruling hardly matters, other than to give them another reason to shriek that Obama is the worst president in history and he's changed the face of America forever and we need to think about rising up with guns, etc. etc.

Really interesting piece from Mark Ames on the left's abandonment of organized labor. It seems like a bit of a hopeless cause at the moment but there has to be a way to re-organize and put labor back at the forefront of politics. My question: How the hell can we do this without being painted as commie loving socialists? Maybe the left should hire a fancy ad agency to repackage the concept of unionism. I really think it needs to be sold to Americans somehow. Any ideas?

Bob: The good news about Citizens United is that unions can invest limitless cash into campaigns as well. I hope they intend to do so as a means of fighting back. It's really up to the unions to do a better job of pitching themselves. Meanwhile, the best think the left can do is to make a case for fair labor practices: equal pay, benefits, living wages, real pensions and so forth. Unions can work on their own PR while we focus on the issues.

Ben: I'm with you on this Sanj - I'm all for using modern PR techniques to re-brand labor and make it palatable to the public again. I've said this before, if advertisers can convince people to spend hundreds of dollars on minor upgrades for their cellphones every 6 months, there's no reason they can't convince 99% of the population that by working together and fighting for their rights they can get better pay and more security.  It amazes me that so many people I talk to hate organize labor so much, when they would benefit massively from collective bargaining (in one case, I spoke to a lawyer who was militantly opposed to organized labor, but was part of a union herself!). It's a serious misconception that has been spread through a well funded propaganda campaign from right wing think tanks and media outlets (think Koch brothers and Fox News). Americans have been brainwashed into hating unions through advertising, so there's no reason they can't be un-brainwashed (is that a word?) through the same medium. I've always thought the left lacked polish when it comes to presenting their ideas, and their lack of presentation has cost them dearly.

Chez: First of all, don't ever worry about being painted as a commie-loving socialist because what you do will never affect one bit how you're perceived by the right -- you'll always be the enemy and a threat to America that must be extinguished. That's just how it is. As for labor, I don't mean "blame the victim" on this but I'm one of those center-left types who thinks that labor needs to be overhauled -- that it isn't simply a case of changing the messaging but of changing what's being messaged. Labor always served a noble purpose but at some point it really did become a hindrance to doing business efficiently. I'm of course not for the exploitation of workers and I fully understand that there need to be constraints on what management can get away with, but making changes that benefit everyone is going to be a tall order now that we're a global business community. Things are changing and labor has no choice but to change with them. Still, I certainly would like to see responsible organized labor take a stand against the kind of draconian measures we've seen taken in places like Wisconsin and that will require both an adjustment in how labor thinks followed by a smart rebranding.

Explain to me how you can support obamacare when you claim to be liberals? It's a giant con. The mandate is a forced tax that goes to private insurance companies rather than the government. It's disgusting and big corporate socialist scam that was sold to the idiot left who lapped it up because Saint Obama declared it to be good. Pathetic.

Bob: Hate to break it to you, Rory, but the mandate was invented by conservatives like Mitt Romney, Chuck Grassley and Newt Gingrich. President Obama was against the mandate and only took it up because conservative Democrats and several Republicans insisted that it be included -- or else the rest of the law wouldn't have been passed. Also, what is a "corporate socialist" -- other than a ridiculous oxymoron you made up because you're a misinformed crank? By the way, unless  you're uninsured, the mandate doesn't even pertain to you. Ultimately, the mandate is just one small part of a very large bill that's filled with consumer protections and middle class subsidies (for a change). The mandate, however scary (and conservative), will keep people from scamming the system -- and here I thought conservatives were against freeloaders.

Chez: See Bob's answer. Also, you're an idiot.

Ben: Technically, you're right Rory. But this is the real world and there was absolutely no chance Obama was going to get anything resembling universal, government run healthcare passed. The system is completely corrupt, and Obama has managed to pass a policy that uses the inherent corruption for far, far better outcomes. The current private insurance system in America is dysfunctional, dangerously expensive and doesn't cover millions of people. Obama's plan adds desperately needed regulation to that system, cuts costs and dramatically expands coverage. Yes, it is basically a government handout to the insurance industry, but it should not be underestimated how powerful they are and how difficult it was to regulate them properly. In retrospect, it was crazy to expect Obama to fix the system in one swoop - he was fighting a divided Democratic party, a deeply hostile opposition party, and the insurance lobby. What was passed was imperfect and not a long term solution, but it gives millions of Americans access to healthcare, and that is important.


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