Sick Bern: Bernie Sanders’ tweet cost Ariad Pharmaceuticals $387 million

Published: Salon (October 17, 2016)

With a single tweet, Sen. Bernie Sanders has cost Ariad Pharmaceuticals $387 million.

The article retweeted by Sanders was from Stat, a publication that specializes in covering health and medical news. It reported that, since the beginning of the year, Ariad has raised the price of its Iclusig chronic myeloid leukemia treatment by 27 percent. The drug now has a pre-rebate list price of $16,560 a month, or almost $199,000 a year. Even worse for Ariad’s image (to say nothing of consumers), this isn’t the first time they raised the price on that drug, having done so twice last year.

As a result of Sanders’ tweet, Ariad stock ended the day down by 14.8 percent, falling to $11.14 a share. In a statement, Ariad argued that “our pricing reflects our significant investment in R&D, our commitment to the very small, ultra orphan cancer patient populations that we serve and the associated risk with research and development.”

This isn’t the first time a Democratic presidential hopeful has hurt Big Pharma’s bottom line by criticizing unfair practices. In August, Hillary Clinton caused Mylan NV’s shares to fall by 6.2 percent within minutes of calling for them to lower their prices for EpiPens. Then in September, she drove down the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index by tweeting: “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on.” It has also been reported that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has negatively impacted biotech stocks, as his perceived weaknesses as a candidate makes more likely that Clinton will be elected and implement reforms on the industry. Her plan for lowering drug costs includes allowing Medicare to negotiate them down and not allowing pharmaceutical companies to spend government grants on advertising.

The 5 most important takeaways from Obama’s State of the Union address

Published: Daily Dot (January 21, 2015)

The gist of President Obama’s State of the Union speech can be found in one sentence: “The shadow of crisis has passed and the State of the Union is strong.”

This was not the address of a president whose party suffered a historic shellacking in the most recent set of midterm elections, but one whose approval rating has reached 50 percent and is emerging as a tough, creative statesman during his lame duck years. There was no attempt to apologize, no undercurrent of defensiveness, no sense of feeling beleaguered. As Obama enters the final quarter of his presidency, he has made it clear that he intends to position himself as a strong leader.

Here are the five most important ways Obama got it done last night.

1) He was confrontational toward Republicans

The line from last night most likely to be remembered deserves to be detailed in full. It began when Obama told Congress, “I have no more campaigns to run.” After Republicans responded by laughing and applauding, a twinkle appeared in his eye as the president added, “I know ’cause I won both of ’em.”

This may have been the funniest line of the evening—it’s certainly the one that will stand out when historians look back on this speech, akin to Rep. Joe Wilson’s heckling of Obama’s 2009 health care reform speech; however, as far as proverbial throwings of the gauntlet go, it was hardly isolated. Instead of simply telling Republicans that they shouldn’t threaten the economy with partisan government shutdowns or stymie progress on issues like immigration reform and Wall Street regulation, he told them that if they sent bills to his desk to do these things, they will “earn my veto.”

As a rebuttal to conservatives who insist that there is no need to raise the minimum wage, he further issued the challenge that if they “truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.” These jabs and others like them cast Obama in the role of pugnacious progressive rather than shrinking violet, even though the latter would have normally been anticipated after the 2014 midterms. Of course, in the campaigns when Obama himself was on the ballot, he did “win both of ’em.”

2) He showed the human side of his agenda

When the president awkwardly transitioned into an anecdote about a Minnesota couple who had slowly recovered during the darkest days of the Great Recession, Congress initially responded with a knowing laugh. Politicians are used to the poignant “ordinary citizen” stories that are a staple of American political rhetoric, so much so that they react with knowing cynicism when it’s clear they’re about to make another appearance.

Obama’s segue into the story of Rebekah and Ben Erler may have been awkward, but his point was still well-taken. More importantly, it was politically essential; for Obama to succeed, he must establish himself as a champion for the little guy against forces that he or she can’t control; as Obama himself put it, he needs “to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.” The theme of middle-class economics appeared repeatedly, and the Erlers’ narrative helped drive the point home.

3) He focused on fairness

The word “fair” appeared eight times in Obama’s speech ( e.g., “Make sure everyone gets a fair shot,” “It’s not fair to them,” and “As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too”). Because Obama’s economic agenda includes boldly progressive initiatives like providing free community college for all academically eligible students, raising the minimum wage, and subsidizing child care costs for impoverished families, it was necessary to preemptively rebut the anticipated attacks on these proposals as being “socialistic.”

The same principle explains how he justified his plans to increase business regulations or raise taxes on the wealthy. Many Americans may be reluctant to openly criticize the humanitarian flaws of under-regulated capitalism, but it’s quite a different matter when you appeal to their basic sense of fairness.

4) He wasn’t shy about promoting his accomplishments

Because he entered the presidency with vast expectations, it has been fashionable for conservatives to claim that Obama has failed—indeed, to do so even before he had been in office long enough to actually accomplish anything positive or negative. In last night’s speech, however, he rattled off an impressive list of achievements: The economy is growing at a rate unseen since the booming ’90s, our unemployment rate is lower than it has been since before the financial crisis, Obamacare has insured more Americans than ever before, and our troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq are 1/12th of what they had been when Obama took office.

This was more than mere bragging. ABC News perhaps put it best when it described this tendency as “the big turn—from ‘yes we can’ to ‘yes we did.'” For Obama’s presidential legacy to be secured (not only in terms of his own administration but the ability of future presidents to pick up his torch after he has left office), it is essential that he not allow its strengths to fade into the background or go entirely unnoticed. By devoting the entire introduction of his speech to framing his presidency within this positive light, Obama has advanced an argument that is long overdue—namely, that he has been a very, very good president.

5) He tried to bring everyone together

It’s easy to lump this in with his confrontational stance toward Republicans, but whereas the aforementioned jokes and jabs were intended to display a fighter’s spirit, the close of Obama’s speech was an eloquent attempt to appeal to America’s more virtuous angels. This could be referred to as the “better politics” section of his speech. He called for Americans to “appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears,” where we don’t demonize our opponents but “talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts,” where we have substantive arguments instead of attack ads and find common ground on issues like women’s rights, immigration reform, and racial profiling instead of torpedoing all progress over those areas where we disagree.

The “better politics” section of Obama’s speech wound up closing the entire State of the Union address, which in retrospect seems very appropriate. After all, as Obama himself noted, the speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that transformed him overnight into a national figure had been focused on drawing Americans together by bridging regional, racial, political, and other polarizing differences. As his presidency draws to a close, Obama wants to make it clear that he has not lost sight of that mission. One way to do that, naturally, is to project an image of strength when advancing your agenda. In last night’s speech, Obama did exactly that.

5 Reasons Obama Is A Better President Than You Think

Published: Daily Dot (November 12, 2014)

Supporters of President Obama can rest easy: His legacy as one of America’s greatest presidents remains intact, even if the tide of public and Internet sentiments has turned. (His approval rating stands at a paltry 39 percent.) As the president works to fight for net neutrality, it’s time to celebrate his biggest accomplishments.

Despite the worst midterm election losses suffered by the Democratic Party while controlling the White House since 1946, Obama has more than delivered on the promise of change offered in his 2008 presidential campaign—even if the Supreme Court undercuts the president’s signature healthcare law next year. What’s Obama done for you?

1) Meaningful healthcare reform

The Affordable Care Act may have been one of the most controversial measures in Obama’s administration, but its long-term impact will be a big net positive. It has already resulted in 7 to 10 million Americans acquiring health insurance, averted an imminent defunding of Medicare by stabilizing its trust fund until 2030, and put an end to insurance company practices like denying coverage to patients with preexisting conditions. Given that 30 million people are expected to receive insurance (either privately or through Medicaid) by 2022, it stands to reason that its benefits will endure long after extensive right-wing opposition and website glitches have faded into historical memory.

A word on that right-wing opposition: Conservatives may have vowed to repeal the bill, but their efforts may be futile. Because Congress lacks the votes to override a presidential veto, the most they can do is tweak the law. Similarly, although the Supreme Court could seize on the linguistic technicality brought to light in King v. Burwell to take subsidies away from 4.6 million of the Americans who have already received them, this would only weaken the bill, not destroy it altogether (in fact, given the outcry that will be raised by those impacted by the ruling, it could pressure recalcitrant states into accepting the exchanges).

2) Leading America through the Great Recession

It is easy to forget how close America was to entering a second Great Depression when Obama took office in January 2009. Between the Wall Street meltdown of September 2008 and the period when Obama’s stimulus bill (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) began to take effect in May 2009, the unemployment rate increased an average of 0.4 percent per month. There is a good reason why the consensus among leading American economists is that the stimulus worked; after taking office with an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent (reaching 10.1 percent in October 2009), unemployment has dropped to below six percent for the first time since 2008.

There are plenty of other impressive statistics supplementing this one: 10 million new jobs have been created since Obama took office; America is currently in the midst of its longest period of private sector job creation (56 months) and economic expansion (65 months); and the stock market is posting record earnings. There was a lot of truth in David Letterman’s quip last week, “Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon—under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6 percent, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.”

3) Shrinking the military-industrial complex

Obama has fulfilled many of the central foreign policy promises of his 2008 campaign. Where Bush failed to capture Osama bin Laden after more than seven years in office, Obama fulfilled his debate pledge to kill the 9/11 mastermind, presiding over the risky military operation that was later praised by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for its courageousness. Similarly, after promising to significantly de-escalate America’s military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama did precisely that, even holding to the latter with relatively modest increases in military intervention despite calls to do more thanks to the ISIS crisis.

In the midst of all this, Obama charted a new course for American foreign policy, one perhaps best summed up by his landmark “New Beginning” speech in Cairo. When the best that Republicans can do to attack the president’s foreign policy is trump up charges like the so-called “Benghazi scandal” (with a Republican committee being forced to exonerate him on the allegations pertaining to his conduct), it’s clear that he has much to be proud of from a geopolitical standpoint.

4) Establishing the demographic template for future Democratic Party successes

Much has been written about the unique demographics that resulted in Obama’s historic victories in 2008 and 2012. By maintaining widespread and deep support among racial minorities, women, lower income Americans, the well-educated, and youth, Obama was both elected and reelected by comfortable margins in the popular vote and Electoral College. Considering that Democrats also made gains in congressional and gubernatorial elections in those years, it stands to reason that this coalition—though tied to Obama’s personal political brand—had long enough coattails to benefit the Democratic Party as a whole.

Incidentally, if there is any lesson Democrats can learn from the 2014 midterm elections (as well as the 2010 midterms), it is that they need to embrace leaders who can unite these groups behind the party. In 2010 and 2014, many Democrats avoided associating with Obama out of fear that doing so would hurt them politically—even though Obama’s lowest approval rating since taking office is higher than that of his eight predecessors. In lieu of either a strong leadership figure or any other coherent rallying cry, voter turnout in 2014 reached a low not seen since 1942. One must recall the axiom that low turnout helps Republicans and, inversely, high turnout helps Democrats—especially if they can reassemble the Obama coalition.

5) Taking brave stances on major human rights issues

Not nearly enough has been said of Obama’s brave tackling of many of some of the most important human rights issues facing early 21st century America. As one example, his gun control efforts occurred after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting prompted his administration to abandon the mantra of its predecessors (who always insisted that “now is not the time” after a school shooting occurred) and instead make a push for meaningful change with a bill including mandatory background checks and an assault-weapons ban. While this failed, the risk he took by becoming the first sitting president to openly support the right of gay couples to marry (right as his reelection campaign was about to begin) seems to have paid off, with state after state legalizing same-sex marriage since his announcement (whether he influenced this or was simply ahead of the curve is a matter of debate).

This list doesn’t end with gun control and marriage equality. There was Obama’s stalwart support for the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act (again, a measure that won him harsh criticism of the right but involved taking a firm stance on women’s rights over their own bodies), his insertion of income inequality as a into political debate after it had been taboo for a very long time, or even his recent call for the FCC to do more to protect Internet neutrality. These topics may seem myriad, but all of them involved an embrace of progressive principles that would have seemed impossible from a sitting president in the post-Reagan Revolution era. By changing the debate, Obama has laid the foundation for future policy achievements.

As America’s first black president—and one who had been elected during an unusually energetic political campaign—Obama entered the Oval Office steeped in enormous expectations. Now that his tenure is winding down, it’s important to take a step back and appreciate just how much he has actually accomplished.

Why Even Some Liberals and Independents Are Refusing to Sign Up For Obamacare

Published: mic (March 31, 2014)

The Obamacare deadline is Monday, and a flurry of reports, headlines and talking heads are weighing in its success or failure. But sometimes politics cannot be understood without a human touch.

One of the most devastating aspects of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) implementation, flying under the radar, is the unwillingness of Republican-led states to accept the Medicaid expansion provision included in Obama’s legislation. This, and not the law, is making health insurance cost prohibitive for many — forcing people to choose the annual fine rather than accept the costs of even the cheapest plans.

One state where this applies is Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Corbett has dithered from flat-out rejecting the expansion to taking a re-election-friendly “moderate” pose of attaching requirements that cut benefits and rule out helping the unemployed. I started asking around for stories of people negatively impacted by Corbett’s decision and, like most Pennsylvianians, I didn’t have to go far. These are the faces of those being impacted by a failure to extend Medicaid under the ACA.

Adam, 29, independent

We can start with my friend Adam, a videography student at Northampton County Community College and part-time waiter at a local sushi restaurant. After being told that his income level was too low for any insurance plan offered on the ACA website, he discovered that he would not be allowed to enroll in Medicaid due to Pennsylvania’s rejection of the ACA’s expansion of the program. Adam was left with no option but to pay the “individual mandate” penalty.

“I think it was very irresponsible for Pennsylvania not to include the Medicaid expansion for the Affordable Care Act,” Adam said, before adding that he was not a wholehearted supporter of the ACA itself. “It is the exact opposite of what people criticize it as being,” he explained. “It is not socialism in any way — it is forced capitalism. You are forced to pay these corporations for a service or else you will be fined.

“By passing the bill, our government is arguing that health care is a right and a necessity in our democratic society, but it is abdicating its responsibility to actually provide that service, instead leaving it to a competitive market that is more interested in turning a profit than providing quality and affordable service.”

George, 21, independent

George, a musician who also works at a pizza restaurant, had even less luck than Adam. “Every single affordable health care was labelled as ‘catastrophic’ and required me to pay between $150 and $300 a month, with between a $5,000 and $10,000 deductible,” he explained. Because he can’t afford the monthly payments, he realized that it was simply easier to pay out of pocket when he sees his doctor, even with the penalty.

And why wasn’t Medicaid an option? When he tried applying, he found that he didn’t qualify under Pennsylvania’s specific guidelines (such as having a record of using other welfare benefits in advance), all of which would have been rendered moot had the ACA’s expansion criteria been accepted by the state.

“It’s not like I refuse to get health care,” he pointed out. “Quite the contrary, I want health care, and I’m trying my hardest to receive it. The government won’t let me, so now they’re penalizing me for something that’s their own fault.”

Jennifer, 32, liberal

After being accepted into a local nursing program, Jen was informed that she needed to have health insurance to take classes. Despite making very little at her current job as a doula, she explained, she was denied Medicaid coverage because Pennsylvania still requires “you to be a child, pregnant, or have a chronic illness that requires monthly medication, such as diabetes, in order to qualify” — all of which, again, would not have remained in place under the ACA.

In the end, Jen was the one on this list who still signed up for the cheapest plan possible, in no small part because it was a job requirement.

Ironically, the Medicaid expansion problem can be traced to the very Supreme Court decision that upheld the ACA’s constitutionality. Prior to the court’s ruling, the ACA required any state participating in Medicaid (which, despite being voluntary, every state does) to expand their coverage to include almost all adults under the age of 65 with an income at or below 133% of the poverty line. In addition to closing coverage gaps that had long disqualified millions of low income Americans from receiving Medicaid benefits, this policy would have guaranteed that individuals unable to afford the insurance premiums of the plans offered through the ACA’s new insurance exchanges could still receive health care coverage.

Unfortunately, despite constitutionally validating most of the ACA’s provisions, the Supreme Court also ruled that states could not be “coerced” into accepting the Medicaid expansion by linking it to other federal payments. As a result, each state has the right to accept or reject the Medicaid expansion on its own, and, as the map below shows, Republicans in many states have chosen to deny this benefit to their residents.

Bear in mind that this is not being done because it could realistically undo the law. Republicans may have good reason for optimism regarding the upcoming midterm elections, but even if they won every seriously contested Senate race, they still would fall short of the veto-proof majority necessary to repeal the ACA. With killing the bill out of the question, the only remaining motive for state Republicans refusing to expand Medicaid is to (a) please their die-hard right-wing bases and/or (b) cause political headaches for President Obama and the Democrats.

In the end, the readers of this article who live in a state that has rejected the Medicaid expansion fall into one of two categories: those who are either struggling themselves or personally know men, women, and children among the working poor who are struggling as a result of Republican partisanship, and those who aren’t. If you do know people who are being denied the benefits of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion by their state’s Republican leaders (or are among them), keep them in mind when casting your ballot this November.

For once, the well-worn cliche is literally true: Your vote can save lives.

In the words of John F. Kennedy, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Obama’s FunnyOrDie Sketch Proves There Are Other Ways To Push Ideas In Beyond Fear And Anger

Published: mic (March 11, 2014)

If you haven’t seen President Obama’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” stop everything you’re doing and watch it now.

There is a lesson to be learned from this video: Fear and anger aren’t the only effective methods for spreading a political message.

Obama’s right-wing opponents have spent the bulk of his presidency trying to destroy him with shrill accusations, inflammatory rhetoric and hyperbolic distortions of his agenda. The fact that these critics are so often wrong is less important here than the simple reality that they are so overwhelmingly, hysterically vitriolic. But this time, Obama responded with laughter.

The backlash: As is the case with any group that has grown accustomed to vexation, this comedy is not sitting well with right-wingers. On this morning’s edition of Fox & Friends, this exchanged played out:

KILMEADE: “It is so inappropriate … for the president of the United States to be sitting down for an interview that’s a mock-up.”

[…]

HASSELBECK: “Some would argue that it’s inappropriate for the president of the United States to be advertising a law, an insurance plan.”

[…]

KILMEADE: “I think it’s pretty tragic. Whoever recommended that he do that show should be fired.”

This was followed shortly after by some aggressive tweeting from Fox News host Martha MacCallum and Kilmeade.

Of course conservative pundit Laura Ingraham weighed in as well:


As did Fox contributor and Townhall editor Kate Pavlich:

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative newspaper, also shared their two-cents, saying: “The Obama interview, however, was just dreadful. After a few semi-unbearable moments during which the president shows he doesn’t at all understand the point of the show–the guest is not supposed to get in good zingers; he’s supposed to be taken down a peg–there’s an utterly unbearable moment during which he hawks the failed social experiment that is HealthCare.gov. It’s just gross.”

Since these conservatives are predictably determined to make this yet another low point for Obama, here’s a simple explanation of why they’re wrong.

There are two layers to the comedy in the six-and-a-half minute sketch. The first is consistent with the main joke of “Between Two Ferns” where Galifianakis displays open disdain and hostility toward his guests. As such, Galifianakis flaunted his lack of deference, from shushing Obama at the start of the interview to claiming that people let him win at basketball because he’s president.

The political benefits to Obama were obvious: By allowing Galifianakis to poke fun at him, Obama displayed the self-confidence of someone comfortable being ribbed, and by giving as good as he got (which, contrary to the Washington Free Beacon‘s complaint, is part of the format, as comedians Tina Fey and Steve Carell demonstrated in their appearances), he made it clear that he had a sense of humor.

Along with the usual “Funny or Die” shtick, however, Obama and Galifianakis also poked fun at some of today’s more absurd right-wing criticism. This started with Galifianakis assuming the clueless Obama-hating jerk persona, taking shots at birtherism and the “Obama is un-American” crowd. But as the interview progressed, instead of simply lampooning the right-wing, Galifianakis’s jokes — in particular about the glitchy Affordable Care Act website — became more biting with some legitimacy behind them. Obama, in turn, calmly acknowledged the health care website’s past flaws before describing how, hiccups notwithstanding, the Affordable Care Act has and will continue to help million of American as they continue to enroll. In so doing, the president not only presented a brilliantly straightforward defense of his health care bill, but used his cool-headed response to Galifianakis’s jabs to demonstrate that even when a criticism is valid, it doesn’t have to be approached with histrionics.

It isn’t surprising that most conservatives aren’t picking up on any of this. While this could be dismissed as simply one more occasion of stubborn partisanship causing a political group to “not get” a joke, it speaks to something far more tragic. If the mantra of Republicans like Abraham Lincoln was that “I laugh because I must not cry,” the attitude of the GOP today is that they’ve forgotten how to laugh … and crying is all they have left.

If you have yet to do so, make sure to enroll for health insurance at healthcare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

 

The Anti-Obamacare Ads Have Been Nothing But Fear-Mongering Drivel

Published: mic (December 4, 2013)

I’m not sure which prospect is more frightening: That Obamacare’s opponents are deliberately lying or that they believe their own bullshit.

This isn’t to say that the Affordable Care Act hasn’t had its hiccups. Certainly there is no excuse for the technical incompetence that has plagued the website since its launch or for the president’s dishonesty regarding whether Americans who preferred their current health insurance plans would be able to keep them.

At the same time, the right-wing has been lying in their charges against Obamacare long before the truth supplied them with legitimate criticisms. The laundry list of conservative calumnies is long, from their allegations of the existence of death panels (which involves distorting aspects of the law such as the role of the independent payment advisory board) to their claims that the ACA was a socialist measure (despite the bill’s practice of government intervention in the private market tracing back to our founding fathers, as opposed to the genuine socialism of the single payer plan that the Obama administration never supported).

And now we have the attack ads. Oh the attack ads.

We can start with the most offensive of the bunch, a pair from the “Creepy Uncle Sam” series sponsored by the Koch Brothers‘ right-wing political group, Generation Opportunity. In one ad, “The Exam,” we see a millennial girl who has signed up for Obamacare elevate her legs for what is presumably going to be a gynecological check up. As soon as her doctor steps out of the room, however, a grotesque Uncle Sam mascot suddenly rises up, his head first becoming visible as it emerges from the foreground between her legs. Cue the girl squealing in protest, the screen text urging: “Don’t let government play doctor. Opt out of ObamaCare [sic],” and the ad closing with Uncle Sam ominously widening a speculum.

Another installment, “The Glove,” follows the same essential formula.

Certainly these commercials do little to help the Republican Party’s image of insensitivity to rape. Although they spare us the actual sight of Uncle Sam subjecting millennials to unwanted OBGYN and proctological examinations, the implication is still clear — seeing a doctor under Obamacare will be akin to getting molested. Indeed, that is the ONLY message one could glean from these spots. It’s not like they contains a wealth of information or assorted charges about the flaws of the Affordable Care Act. Once they establish their premise of “millennial seeing doctor for the first time after enrolling in Obamacare,” they devote the remainder of their time to the “Creepy Uncle Sam” theme, foregoing any attempt at rational persuasion and aiming straight for lowest common denominator scaremongering. It’s enough to make one think that our debate culture needs a new version of Godwin’s Law, the famous rule that the first side in an argument to compare an opponent to Adolf Hitler and/or Nazis automatically loses: There is a direct correlation between the emotional intensity of a given debate and the likelihood that rape analogies will be used.

Unless the subject under discussion literally involves one party potentially or actually forcing sex on another, any side that draws a rape comparison immediately forfeits the moral and intellectual highground.

Compared to “Creepy Uncle Sam,” there is something downright respectable about the Republican National Committee’s “I’m Obamacare” series, which parodies Apple’s “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign by contrasting a boorish and slovenly Obamacare spokesman with a well-groomed and articulate counterpart representing the private sector. If nothing else the ads deserve credit for addressing the content of the Affordable Care Act instead of playing on visceral fears; what’s more, some of the spots actually hit pretty close to home. “That’s A Lie” and “Keep It,” for example, are punchy and memorable in their skewering of Obama’s false promise that all Americans who liked their existing insurance plans would be able to keep them, while “Glitches” and “Down” scathingly highlight the embarrassing technical headaches of the Obamacare health exchange website. The other entries, alas, indulge in the same misleading partisan hackery that has already disenchanted vast swathes of the body politic: “Wedding Tax” repeats the debunked claim that the Affordable Care Act penalizes married couples, “You Owe Me” wrongly claims Americans who couldn’t enroll for insurance due to website malfunctions will still be penalized under the individual mandate., and “Whatever” and “Fired” offer little more than petty swipes at President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (respectively).

Again, these ads are a world better than “Creepy Uncle Sam,” but that isn’t saying much. While it may be naive to assume that they would actually mention the good that ACA has already done and is slated to do next year, it is noteworthy that they avoid even touching on the central issues that drove the health care reform movement in the first place. Love it or hate it, this bill was passed because millions of Americans have languished without health insurance for generations, a problem that conservatives have refused to acknowledge, greeted with platitudinous free market panaceas, or met with the claim that uninsured Americans actually deserve to die. The one thing that the “Creepy Uncle Sam” and “I’m Obamacare” ad campaigns have in common is that, regardless of whether they’re distracting you with fearmongering or the partisan talking points of the moment (valid and invalid alike), they don’t want you to pay attention to the real human tragedy of the pre-Obamacare medical system. Even if the ACA fails, the problems it was created to address will still exist. Conservatives, unsurprisingly, have nothing to say about that.

The Disturbing Trend in America We’re Not Talking About — Elder Abuse

Published: mic (October 15, 2013)
Co-authored by Ariel Gordon

Elder abuse may not be making national headlines, but it ought to be.

In Mercer County, Penn., a woman was dropped off starving and emaciated because her grandson spent $86,000 of her money on drugs and personal amenities. Across the country in Oregon, four elderly plaintiffs are in the process of suing a retirement community for financially abusing them by tricking them into signing misleading rental documents. Meanwhile, a Georgia woman has been charged with running an unlicensed retirement home in order to financially gouge its elderly residents while neglecting to meet their needs.

The issue goes beyond scamming and shady senior citizen facilities; even legitimate retirement centers often mistreat their elderly patients. One of the writers of this piece witnessed an occurrence involving a gentleman in his 50s, who will be referred to as Moe. Born in Syria and raised in Lebanon, he retained his accent and many of his customary habits even though he has been living in America for over 30 years. Despite having been diagnosed with PTSD and some anger issues, Moe was a great conversationalist and maintained a healthy level of identity, reality, and morality at all times. Nevertheless, he was subjected to cruel mistreatment at the center. One worker in particular liked to tease him by referring to Moe as his “wife” and poking fun at Moe’s Muslim heritage, such as offering him pig-based food items and ridiculing how Moe (who wasn’t especially devout) would still eat them.

On another occasion, this co-author saw one of the employees rub the stomach of a client after he had finished a meal. After the client made his displeasure apparent and said “don’t touch me,” the worker simply chuckled it off as a joke while none of his colleagues confronted him about his behavior. In an equally upsetting case, there was another client in his 80s who had a reputation for falling asleep at the center due to his habitual insomnia. There were no rules against this act and for the sake of the man’s health and well-being, his naps should have been permitted. However, workers would repeatedly awaken the man and scold him for resting rather than taking part in activities. Of course, there were very few activities available for the gentleman to join, and so he would fall back asleep and the harassment from the workers would continue. This interruption of his sleep would lead to the man’s further exhaustion and inability to join in other groups that would be beneficial to him.

Indeed, there weren’t many days when there was no evidence of poor treatment. Sometimes it was as low-key as a quip putting down a client that was blown off, but even those acts could not be ignored. After a lifetime of these individuals being told they were crazy, stupid, lazy, ugly … they deserved to be placed somewhere that did not harbor these thoughts and this treatment.

In a recent national study of Adult Protective Services (APS), there were 253,421 reports of abuse of adults age 60+ or 832.6 reports for every 100,000 people over the age of 60. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) is doing its part to prevent abuse of those in late life, such as a committee devoted to contributing research and practice examples to a literature review; and a forum to deepen understanding of the findings and an interdisciplinary training curriculum. They also have training videos and a website, webinars, and presentations. There is still much to be done to deal with the daily abuse of elderly persons. The solution comes from the individual as well — those who witness abuse and are willing to speak up, those who will risk their title and professional reputation to protect the innocent and defenseless. Recognizing abuse is the first step, then confronting it, and finally, reporting it.

 

Richard Nixon: The Social Liberal Of His Time

Published: mic (August 25, 2013)