No one could be that stupid? Could they? Updated

There are two notions, both dangerous, lurking in the 2012 election.  They are as alive and well in Nevada as they are in Florida, or any other “swing” state. They are both wrong.

The first is that the Republicans really truly wouldn’t think of doing something so idiotic as to actually transform the Medicare program from a defined benefit framework to a “coupon care” program in which seniors would have to beat through marketing bushes to find health insurance corporations willing to sell them policies.

The Medicare Malaise

Haven’t we been listening?  Republican have been trying to stop or privatize the Medicare program since 1964. [Politifact]  They called it “socialized medicine” then and they are still calling it “socialized medicine” now.  Fast forward to 2012 — the Ryan Budget Plan first called for transforming the Medicare program to a voucher (premium support) plan and later changed the plan to allow people to opt for the traditional program.

Tweaking the plans allows the GOP to rebuff charges that they are “eliminating” the Medicare program — however, what’s left after a significant number might opt for private insurance plans would be the least healthy and wealthy among us, making the traditional program all but unsustainable.

Secondly, the “option” idea so beloved by the Republicans is already available under the Medicare Advantage banner.  An elderly person can, and many do, purchase highly profitable  Medicare Advantage policies from private health insurance corporations.  By adopting the Romney/Ryan scheme the “choice” essentially moves from being able to chose between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans to being a “choice” between private health insurance corporation policy offerings in the long run.  The Romney/Ryan plan offers current seniors their choice between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage-like policies — but makes the choice much less likely and more expensive for those soon to reach retirement age.

Every election since 1964 has contained some Medicare element incorporated into the dialogue and the conversations have remained almost identical.  Medicare is either “socialized medicine,” or it’s a “government take over;” what hasn’t changed is the GOP intention to transform it into a so-called “free market” program to the benefit of health insurance corporations and their Wall Street allies.   This isn’t a line of attack they dreamed up for the 2012 elections. It IS the expressed intent of a party which appears to have fewer and fewer moderate members each election cycle.   Moderates who might have been counted upon to keep the transformation of Medicare at bay have been losing ground in the GOP.  The extremists who believe the Free Market Fairy will be able to sprinkle enough dust to justify privatization are the ones at the helm.

The extremists lead us to the second topic about which we should be listening more closely.

Are you listening ladies?

No one would be dumb enough to really call for a Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — would they?  They certainly would.  No one in this day and age would be arguing about “legitimate” rapes? Surely not. Oh, yes they are.

A Rape Is A Rape — Or is it?

Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, said in a debate on Tuesday that “even when life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” [NBC]

“Trying to distance himself from the “legitimate rape” comment that Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) made last week, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith (R) stirred up further controversy by comparing a pregnancy caused by rape to “having a baby out of wedlock.”  [HuffPo]

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan says that he personally believes that rape is just another “method of conception” and not an excuse to allow abortions.”  [OTB]

Missouri Senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s classic: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” [Atl]

One major candidate making a fool of himself is an outlier, two is unfortunate, three is a trend — and four is an indicator that these candidates, all male and all Republican, have little regard for women’s health, and less regard for women’s choices.  This isn’t a recent bloom of this particularly nasty philosophical fungus.  Let’s return to October 2009.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) sought to insert an amendment into the Defense Appropriation Act to prevent the government from doing business with contractors who would not allow employees to take rape cases to court 30 — yes, THIRTY — U.S. Senators voted No. [Sen 308]

Alexander (R-TN)  Barrasso (R-WY)  Bond (R-MO)  Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)  Burr (R-NC)  Chambliss (R-GA)  Coburn (R-OK)  Cochran (R-MS)  Corker (R-TN)  Cornyn (R-TX)  Crapo (R-ID)  DeMint (R-SC)  Ensign (R-NV)  Enzi (R-WY)  Graham (R-SC)  Gregg (R-NH)  Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)  Johanns (R-NE)  Kyl (R-AZ)  McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)  Risch (R-ID)  Roberts (R-KS)  Sessions (R-AL)  Shelby (R-AL)  Thune (R-SD)  Vitter (R-LA)  Wicker (R-MS)

What does it say about the Republican Party when four of its candidates for major offices in 2012 and thirty of its Senators in 2009 have medieval (or earlier) political stances on rape?  *The Franken Amendment passed and was signed into law — no thanks to the Dirty Thirty who opposed it.

What does it say about a political party when it controls the House of Representatives and passes 55 bills with topics running the gamut from de-funding Planned Parenthood to restricting abortion rights to weakening domestic violence provisions?  [TPM]

What does it say about a political party when its standard bearer’s campaign refused comment on the House Energy & Commerce minority report on “anti-women” bills was released in September?  Or, when its standard bearer can’t be relied upon to answer even a simple question about support or opposition to legislation calling for equal pay for equal work?

Sometimes the obvious is the honest.  Voting for the Republican candidates in 2012 is hazardous to women’s health — if they are elderly, or approaching retirement age and expect Medicare to be there for them.   It is just as hazardous if the woman in question is young and facing the prospect of diminished health care services like the loss of affordable treatment at Planned Parenthood clinics, or  if Republicans can repeal Obamacare and its provisions for cancer screenings.   It is truly hazardous to the health of women of child bearing age who having been raped must assume the cost of taking the pregnancy to term, and then bear the responsibility for raising the child — or the trauma of both the rape and the act of releasing the child for adoption.

Did it occur to the Republican candidates, who so easily dismiss the controversy about ill-informed or downright brutal remarks on rape and its potential consequences by saying they were “misunderstood,” that they’ve yet to offer any legislation dealing with the economic burden placed on the women under consideration?  Much less the social, and psychological burdens which must be carried for a lifetime?

If the comments made during this campaign season by major Republican candidates, and the actions of Republicans in the Senate, and the actions of the House of Representatives during the 112th Congress, aren’t enough to convince any sentient person that the GOP means what it says — there isn’t much more to speak of — until they actually do it.  And, they’re getting closer each election.

We’d all be much better off if this stops before we say — “I didn’t  think they’d really DO it.”

UPDATE: Think Progress helpfully adds more names to the roster of Republican candidates who share these antiquated and uninformed views:  Rep. Steve King, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, CT Senatorial Candidate Linda McMahon, PA Senatorial Candidate Tom Smith, WI State Rep. Roger Rivard, and OH State Rep. Jim Buchy.

See also: Sally Kohn, Salon, August 24, 2012.

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