In Which I Agree with GoldnI

Here in Tennessee, we’re watching a strange time in politics. It’s weird, because you don’t normally see politicians so completely out of step with their constituents, but here, on the ground, what people are talking about is jobs. End of discussion. How do we put people back to work? You might get some side discussion about whether there’s more state government crap we can cut, but when you point out that cutting government crap means more out of work people, you circle right back around to jobs.

I think there’s some good momentum for trying to do something about infant mortality, obvious desire to do something about animal welfare, and some strong emotions about protecting us from the worst excesses of the coal companies.

But the momentum for those things is nothing compared to the grueling anxiety people in the state feel about the state of employment.

I’ve said it before, but I’m going to repeat it, in the past, whenever the State’s problems have been so large that it was hard to tell what to do about it and we didn’t have any good or easy answers, there’s always been some thing we could distract ourselves with–a good abortion fight, an income tax fight, a fight over gay people, a fight over illegal immigrants, etc. I don’t have to list them all. You recognize it.

We’d all get riled up and everyone would shout “Hurray for our side” (as the song goes) and things would either improve or not, but at least it would seem like something had happened.

And now we’re at a point where things are bad, really bad, worse than we have seen in most of our lifetimes. And even if the economy in general turns around today, it’s going to be a long time before things pick up for most of us, if, indeed, they ever do. I’m not trying to be depressing. That’s just the truth of the matter.

But that’s what I hear people agonizing about–what will I do for work? What if I lose my job? Where will we live? What will happen to my kids? And sometimes the terror is so deep they can’t even talk about it.

And what is our state legislature doing? The truth is, there’s not much they can do. But holy cow, if they’re not pulling out all the same old tricks, waving the red meat in front of the base, putting up legislation that hits all the right talking points for all the same old distractions.

Only to find that few of their constituents’ hearts are really in it.

You can almost sense the confusion.

But you still see them do it. “I tie x into the argument we’re having. Y’all have our usual fight about x and, if you come down where you always come down about x in the numbers you usually come down about x in, I win my tangentially related argument.” And this is a bipartisan tactic. Don’t be mistaken about that.

Which brings me to GoldnI’s point about what happened last night, on a federal level.

Folks are used to being able to tie abortion in to any health care debate and to count on the same old responses from the same old players. And, if you read me, you know that a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body is a deal-breaker for me. I don’t believe that there are some times and some conditions in which the government has the right to step in and decide for me what happens to my body. But, for me, that’s a basic human right–bodily autonomy.  It plays out in the health care realm, but it’s not a health care issue.

And, even if it was, abortion is not the only health care service women get and not the only health care concern we have.

Would I have liked to see a health care bill explicitly respectful of my right to govern my own body? Sure.

But do I get the reasons for taking the power out of the rhetoric of the anti-abortion folks? Yes.

And, frankly, I would expect that NOW and NARAL would, too. I don’t blame them for being disappointed and pissed off, but I want some nuance in that anger, you know? If the anti-choicers won some great victory yesterday, why were they shouting “baby killer” at Stupak? Clearly, the situation is a little more complicated than “We have been completely dicked over.”

I don’t know. At some point, you have to stop dancing the same old steps every time your opponents call the tune, you know? And I don’t say that as something I’ve moved beyond. Clearly, I haven’t. But I say that as something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to–how these entrenched political arguments become a way for us to feel like we’re doing something while providing cover for the fact that nothing is happening.

I think what happened yesterday was that cover was blown and something happened. Something huge.

That’s just something to think about.

18 thoughts on “In Which I Agree with GoldnI

  1. these entrenched political arguments become a way for us to feel like we’re doing something while providing cover for the fact that nothing is happening.

    Or to create enough cognitive dissonance so nobody notices that left is right, up is down, and what they say they’re against they’re actually propping up. I’m sure there’s some Internet Law that renders my entire point invalid for saying this, but there’s some serious Two Minutes Hate meets “we have always been at war with Eastasia” happening here.

    If you have an individual policy, you have to have a maternity rider (frequently just as expensive as your policy) in place months before conception to have pregnancy-related costs covered.

    Uninsured women face out-of-pocket costs of over $15K for an uncomplicated natural hospital birth ($30K+ for a Cesarean section).

    And yet an abortion is only a few hundred dollars.

    It’s a lot easier for the anti-choicers to call Stupak a baby-killer than to acknowledge that the old/current system which they support economically incentivizes abortion. It’s a lot easier to drag along some single-issue voters who would otherwise disengage from the process if you’re feeding the economic engine that encourages that which they’re fired up against.

  2. When most US Roman Catholic nuns and 1400 Catholic hospitals and service providers support a bill, it gets increasingly hard to rally the usual suspects into the usual dugouts.

  3. Just as an addition to what Samantha was saying……

    After our twins were born I looked at all our bills and estimated that the whole thing from the first pre-natal to putting them in the car seats at the hospital cost about $100k at the going rates. Factor in the deal our insurance company had with Vanderbilt and it was about $50k that our insurance paid. Our share was about $7k out of pocket. We were both college educated with pretty good jobs and it still took awhile to get that paid back.

    That’s not your typical pregnancy cost because they charge double for twins (it’s actually more like triple because they double charge you most of the time you go AND they have you come in a lot more often), and she had a ‘urgent but not emergency’ c-section. But the real world numbers were very informative when I started looking at them.

  4. If you have an individual policy, you have to have a maternity rider (frequently just as expensive as your policy) in place months before conception to have pregnancy-related costs covered.

    This. My husband and I were watching bits and pieces of the show last night, and he asked me why Pelosi kept talking about how much better this bill was going to make things for women, and I told him that it was to distract attention from both the abortion stuff that NOW is on about and from the fact that they didn’t do anything to get rid of pregnancy riders.

    It’s all going to come out better than doing nothing, I predict, but don’t expect me to be enthused.

  5. Here’s a question I had, and really, I’m not trying to stir things — I honestly am a bit confused on this point. My reading of the bill suggested that federal monies were never going to be used to fund abortions anyhow and that this was already a well-settled point of law. Moreover, women who paid for their own insurance can choose to have abortions and insurers can choose to offer abortion as a covered service.

    So what is gained or lost in this upcoming executive order? Isn’t it simply a reassuring reiteration of standing policy for those who erroneously believed that this was going to be an expansion of abortion access?

    And may I just say that I find it beyond ironic that the people who are pissing and moaning about the expansion of government power are consoling themselves with “well, at least we got the President to make law bypassing the legislative branch…” Why are they ok with the whole executive order thing, which is (to me) an extra-constitutional expansion of the powers of the executive, no matter which executive does it?

  6. I’m certainly not saying that this bill is perfect or that it will completely solve all women’s health problems. Far from it. My point was simply that I might have more respect for their position if I saw them ever doing any real organizing on these issues. I’d have more respect if I saw them do anything besides issue hysterical press releases, and only do so when passage of an unfavorable bill is imminent. Playing Beltway kabuki theater is probably not what Betty Friedan had in mind.

  7. Something I’ve mentioned in other posts about this is that the reason special interest groups all dance the same steps everytime their song is played is that it’s ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. Every one of these e-mails, from right and left, contain that lovely little “donate” button. Some of the more shameless right wing e-mails want to charge you $119 to fax a letter to Congress. But regardless, it’s the same thing, from NARAL fearmongering about an end to abortion to the American Family Assn. fearmongering about mandatory abortions for all white women.

  8. So what is gained or lost in this upcoming executive order?

    Bart Stupak gets some cover for his sorry ass.

  9. Amanda Marcotte’s theory is, roughly, that this was also about Stupak not being able to hear Pelosi and needed a man to step in and reassure him.

    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/and_this_ones_for_the_readers/

    I don’t have a good enough sense of Stupak to know if that’s the case, but I think we’ve all been in situations where we realize it’s going to take a man to say what we’ve been saying in order for it to be heard. So, her suggestion resonates with me.

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  11. B, that’s a good theory. Especially if you change “not being able” to “being unwilling.” I understand that it’s a mighty fine line between the two for some men, but Mr. I Don’t Listen To Nuns has convinced me that in his case it’s deliberate. But, yeah. I’m sure that’s a piece of it.

  12. B, surely you don’t expect a man who is only two letters away from being stupid to actually listen to a woman? That’s crazy talk. Just think of where that could lead.

    (OK, technically only 2 letters away, but actually he’s already there, but still …)

  13. “Why are they ok with the whole executive order thing, which is (to me) an extra-constitutional expansion of the powers of the executive, no matter which executive does it?”

    Under Article 2, the President is the chief executive. As the chief executive, he has certain enumerated powers, including the power to direct the enforcement of laws. As a practical matter, the President has a certain amount of latitude how he executes that duty, as long as the method he chooses is not in conflict with the law.

    Example 1: Since Gerald Ford, an executive order has forbidden agents of the US government to engage in assassination. Although any President since Ford could have issued an executive order overturning Ford’s order, none has. Since this order does not conflict with any law, it is a valid and Constitutional order, and must be obeyed by all US agents.

    Example 2: Harry Truman was unable to get Congress to pass a law ordering the desegregation of the US military. As commander in chief, however, he had the authority to issue an executive order commanding such desegregation. He did, and the Army was desegregated long before the rest of society.

    There are two major differences between a law and an executive order. First, an executive order can be changed by the President who issued it, or by any succeeding President, at any time. Second, a person who disobeys an executive order cannot be prosecuted, since he has not violated a law.

    In direct response to your query, an executive order is not unconstitutional, as long as the President does not violate a law by issuing it.

  14. If a person who disobeys an executive order cannot be prosecuted, what makes it enforceable (rather than just a good suggestion from a well-placed official)? This is quite an interesting type of non-law, now that I’m thinking about it.

  15. Executive orders are subject to interpretation as well. Although President Ford’s executive order forbids assassination, using drones to take out Al Qaeda personnel is not considered assassination. I’m certain there’s a technical differentiation, but for the recipient,.the difference is more blown up than real.

  16. Bridgett: Executive orders carry the force of law, but not the criminal penalties. A person who disobeys an order can be fired, but not prosecuted.

    Jim: There is a technical (and, to some people, manufactured) distinction between using military force to kill a so-called “high value target” and assassination. Examples include using US jets to specifically target Muammar al-Gadaffi in 1986 (and killing his adopted daughter instead), and targeting Saddam Hussein on the first night of the Gulf War. The second instance was pretty clearly (to me) an act of war; the first was (in my opinion) dubious.

    Generally speaking, there must be a Presidential finding that the targeted person represents a “clear and present danger” to the security of the United States, and the President must be acting in his capacity as commander in chief of the armed forces, in order not to run afoul of the executive orders against assassination promulgated by Ford, Carter, and Reagan. As you pointed out, this can be a pretty slim distinction – especially if you’re the target.

    Perhaps oddly, only two executive orders have ever been successfully challenged in federal court — Truman’s order 10340 nationalizing the steel mills, and Clinton’s 1996 order which forbade the government from contracting with organizations who had strikebreakers on the payroll.

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