Health Care, Republican All-Purpose Talking Points

Dear Group,

Republican Leah Vukmir, a Wisconsin state senator, is challenging Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) for Baldwin’s seat in U.S. Senate. In 2009 Vukmir voted against a bill in the Wisconsin state house requiring insurance companies to cover hearing aids and cochlear implants for Wisconsin children. Vukmir was one of few who voted against the bill. Twice. The bill became law in spite of Vukmir. Recently, the mother of a child who received a cochlear implant using the coverage mandated by the law spoke out in an ad against Vukmir’s candidacy. The flap over the ad was covered on Wisconsin Public Radio. See if Vukmir’s defense sounds familiar:

Vukmir’s campaign manager, Jess Ward, pushed back on the criticism, saying Vukmir opposes, “government-run, one-size-fits-all healthcare.”

“As a nurse, Leah believes in providing patients with plans suited to their needs, and she opposes plans that increase costs for all patients, making health care less affordable,” Ward said.

She added Vukmir believes such changes also lead to fewer options and diminished health care quality for consumers.

Vukmir’s defense is familiar because it is Republican/Libertarian boilerplate (see the P.S. below). I have heard the same nonsensical talking points from every Republican who speaks on health care and health insurance, at both a state and federal level. Most certainly that includes McMorris Rodgers.

Republican’s always conflate health care and health insurance.Their fundamental objection is to any government regulation of business, specifically the business of health insurance. “Leah believes in providing patients with plans suited to their needs, and she opposes plans that increase costs for all patients, making health care less affordable,”  

Her statement should go this way: “Leah believes health insurance companies should be able to offer hard to comprehend, sub-standard insurance policies that do not protect the consumer from medical bankruptcy. Leah believes an inexpensive insurance premium for barebones coverage equals affordable health care.” That is nonsense.

Health insurance is merely a complicated vehicle, a middle man, a clearing house, for paying bills from a health care “system” that has not been a free market for more than half a century. Anyone who has ever looked at an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) knows the only thing regulating the charges posted by the health care system is public outrage, and in the case of drug prices even public outrage has limited utility. Health insurance companies actually blunt public outrage by serving as a buffer between health care charges and the patients they insure. (Note: Serving as a buffer, i.e. averaging cost over a subscriber population, is what insurance companies are expected to do.)

The only way in which health insurance companies regulate health care charges is through mostly opaque business deals concerning what insurance will cover at all, what it will “allow” (i.e. pay) for a given service, and whether the provider will accept the payment offered. What the patient can pay or is willing to pay for health care is not a significant factor. This arrangement has no guard rails. This system resulted in an aggregate average health care expenditure per person of over $10,000, more than twice that of many countries that provide better average care.

The spokesperson added: “…Vukmir believes such changes [changes like requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for hearing aids and cochlear implants] also lead to fewer options and diminished health care quality for consumers.”  If you are able to construct a rational train of thought leading to that conclusion you are doing better than I. 

The Republican/Libertarian party’s acolytes keep repeating the same words over and over,  They don’t stand up to inspection. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. If you know Vukmir’s background it should come as no surprise she is spouting boilerplate Republican ideology. Vukmir served as the national chairwoman for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a non-profit, 501(c)(3) “think tank” and clearing house. ALEC was set up to aid state legislators in sharing Republican legislative ideology. It provides boilerplate language for Republican bills at the state level. ALEC is heavily supported by the Koch brothers donor network as a way of dominating and homogenizing Republican ideology across the fifty states. If you are not already familiar with ALEC you should be. Read the wikipedia article for a start. 

Note the ALEC’s expropriation of “American,” It should be the “Republican” Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC was founded in the 1973 in response to the infamous Powell Memorandum.

P.P.S. At one time I thought Republicans who spouted this “healthcare” mantra were purposefully deceitful. No longer. I now believe most of them simply lack the bandwidth and education to understand economic reality.

Rural Hospitals, Mike Bell v. CMR’s non-analysis

Dear Group,

Mike Bell is the Democratic candidate for Washington State Representative (Position 2) against Joel Kretz in Legislative District 7, a huge rural district covering the northeast corner of Washington State and extending into the northern Spokane County.. Mike Bell is a retired Certified Public Accountant with a deep understanding of the finances of rural healthcare. He operated a CPA practice working with healthcare organizations for about 20 years with 20 employees in 14 states working “with about 100 hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.”

I’ve heard him speak on the topic of rural hospitals twice in person. On July 20 he was interviewed by Doug Nadvornick on Spokane Public Radio. I’ve transcribed below the part of the interview in which Mike Bell speaks on the plight of rural hospitals. (You can listen to this very interesting interview here.) The closing of a rural hospital is often the beginning of a death spiral for a rural community. These hospitals are important linchpins. 

BELL: Let me just say that though the biggest concern I’ve got in healthcare right now is in rural areas (I’ve worked with every one of the hospitals and clinics in the 7th District.) I was up in Republic recently talking with them and they said the most important asset they had in their community was the hospital. I explained to them that seven years ago bad debts and charity care had just about killed off all the hospitals in rural America. They were growing to the tune of 25% a year. So a million dollars in bad debts and then several years later it’s $2 million and they were out of cash. Liabilities were high. They had already tapped the community for everything they could get and a lot of them were on the brink of going under.  Then all the sudden the bad debts declined. In the example, down from 2 million to 1 million and then declined again to 650,000 and suddenly they were back in the black. Their cash reserves were going back up and and that was what saved them. That was seven years ago.

NADVORNICK: Can I ask why did their debts declined so drastically?

BELL: Well, it was because of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act required  people to get insurance and expanded Medicaid, so it reduces the uncompensated care, bad debts and charity care that were causing them such financial problems. So in my opinion it is this: that if you voted against the Affordable Care Act for those folks in Republic and Chewelah and in Newport you were voting against your local hospital because the Affordable Care Act was the one thing that saved them. There was one legislator that voted 50 times against the Affordable Care Act and that was Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. So she effectively voted 50 times to close the hospital that you consider the most important asset. That to me suggests that a lot of people are uninformed about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. The concern I’ve got now is that of the bad debts are starting to creep up again because the current administration is undermining the Affordable Care Act. The Individual Mandate is not required. Insurance companies are not getting the subsidies that they require. Insurance rates are skyrocketing and it wouldn’t surprise me at this time next year if those bad debts are back up to where they were seven years ago and were then jeopardizing the rural hospital systems.

NADVORNICK: So let me go one step deeper. How did the Affordable Care Act help those hospitals reduce their debts?

BELL: Well, the Affordable Care Act…actually the bad debts and charity care were primarily caused by uninsured patients and of course the rural hospitals accept one and all regardless of ability to pay. The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid which covered, I think, 700,000 people here in Washington. It also required individuals to buy insurance, and some of them, many of them, were subsidized so they could afford it. It required employers to provide insurance so the uninsured rates declined significantly and of course the inverse of that is that bad debts and charity care also declined. But now we’re seeing that trend reverse, and it concerns me a lot. I worked very hard for 25 years to make sure those hospitals stayed open, and we didn’t lose any during my time, but I’m afraid that we’re on the verge of seeing a significant change in rural healthcare and that bothers me. It appears that a lot of people are voting against their own interest.

NADVORNICK: So as the state legislator what would you do in Olympia because you don’t have authority over the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act could be nullified, reversed by Congress. What do you do in Olympia to counteract that?

BELL: I think in Olympia what we have to do is is take a look at the rural hospital systems and if the federal government is not going to step in and make sure that they have the resources they need then I think the state needs to step in and take its place. So what I can do is make sure that people are aware of the danger. We don’t want to wait until after hospitals are closing because once they close they don’t open up again very easily. The professionals in the community move out. Frankly, if I have rural hospitals close that community probably will probably shrink dramatically. For every hospital job that’s lost there’s one or two or maybe even three jobs lost in the community because employers don’t want to move into a community that does not have a hospital. Retired people don’t want to live in a community without a hospital. It could be catastrophic for rural Washington and other rural places around the country. I can be the voice of those rural communities and make sure they get the attention they need.

I have no reason to doubt Mike Bell’s analysis of the situation with rural hospitals. I think sending such a man to Olympia to replace the incumbent is a great idea. (Along with Karen Hardy and Randy Michaelis the other two Democratic District 7 candidates.)

How does McMorris Rodgers assess the plight of rural hospitals? She tried to tackle the question in Green Bluff on May 29. I detailed and critiqued her answer in a post entitled CMR’s Non-Solution to the Health Care Dilemma, but I offer her words below to contrast with Mike Bell’s understanding. She does not grasp the economic difference between the cost to provide a medical service and the grossly distorted and inflated amount that is typically charged for the service in our bizarre health care system. Read and see if you agree:

One thing about Medicare and Medicaid. The government doesn’t pay the full cost of actually providing Medicare and Medicaid. So…ah…any provider, any doctor, any hospital, any physical therapist…anybody who takes Medicare or Medicaid will lose money every time someone comes in with their Medicare card or a Medicaid card. Medicaid is..I believe, 30, 35% of the actual cost and Medicare is 60, 70% of the actual cost…so the providers…how do the providers actually…how do the hospitals stay in business? How does a doctor stay in business? They’re making….so they charge the private health insurance higher so that they can keep their doors open. So…so that’s where we need to be honest about the actual cost…and I believe that the government needs…I have supported for our rural communities…so we’re losing our hospitals in rural areas right now because 70, 80% of their patients are on Medicare or Medicaid and they’re losing so much money every time somebody comes in with Medicare/Medicaid….They can’t keep their doors open!  So…. We’re not being honest about actual cost of, of a what the…way it currently works.. And that’s where I think Medicare is an important program and I, I believe we’ve got to make sure it is secure but it is on a path…right now it is not on a stable path and we’re signing up twenty thousand people a day.

Summary of CMR’s argument: Rural health care providers are in danger of going out of business because Medicare and Medicaid don’t pay enough. This is like the blind man examining an elephant. Holding firmly to the tip of the tail she declares her understanding of the essence of the elephant. Let’s elect a Representative with the bandwidth to perceive the whole animal. 

Keep to the high ground,


CMR’s Non-Solution to the Health Care Dilemma

Dear Group,

On Wednesday I presented a lengthy transcription from McMorris Rodgers’ town hall at Green Bluff demonstrating her lack of comprehension of basic economic and accounting principles as applied to health care. If you haven’t read it I encourage you to do so by clicking here.

Two days later, on Thursday, May 31st, at her “Conversation with Cathy” in Pullman, McMorris Rodgers indicated she is concerned over rising health insurance premiums. Her solution? Deregulation of health insurance offerings and a tax break for those with means (presumably so these folk can better afford the ever increasing price of health care).

The Spokesman did not bother to cover the Pullman town hall at all. You can watch the whole interaction here. I’ve transcribed from that recording the very first exchange (starting at 09:19 after her opening remarks):

Young man: You voted to take health care away from 18 million Americans and I want to know why.

CMR: …Well…The legislation that I voted on didn’t take care away from anyone. What it did was it…ah…what it did was it…ah…it repealed the Affordable Care Act and replaced it with an approach that would empower you as an individual to have more options…and more access, and…ah…would insure…it protected those with pre-existing conditions…ah, but it, what it would do is repeal some of the regulations coming from the federal level so that we would have more options as individuals and small businesses with health insurance plans that would better meet your needs…and right now we continue to see premiums going up for individuals, for families, for small businesses…ah…people have lost their health insurance of choice. People are feeling like they can’t afford their health insurance and I believe we must do better. So I continue to work on legislation that is going to make sure that everyone has affordable and quality health insurance.

Young man: You say everyone… you mean those that can buy it when it gets so expensive they lose their Obamacare? [garbled]

CMR: So,, so…when…ah…no. ah [mild laughter] ahh…When you’re talk…so,,,CBO…this 18 million was the government approved health insurance plans…right? I don’t…you know…that’s where I don’t think that the federal government needs to be the one just because I think individuals should have more options…whether it is Health Savings Accounts, whether it’s association health plans, that’s where I think local, more individuals having more options is going to serve everyone better…and you can make the best decisions for yourself, not the federal government deciding what’s going to have to be in every health insurance plan.   (ending at 11:38)

Step back. McMorris Rodgers demonstrates no recognition of the cost of health care that drives the cost of insurance. The main thrust of her argument is the federal government should not regulate the health insurance market. Essentially she argus health insurance deregulation, a return to the status quo ante of deceptive health insurance policies with acres of unintelligible fine print, THAT will make it all better.

She says she will “continue to work on legislation that is going to make sure that everyone has affordable and quality health insurance.” What does she offer? “Health Savings Accounts” and “Association Health Plans.”

How, Cathy, do either of these things offer health insurance that is “affordable” AND high “quality?” If the underlying cost of health care overall does not change, “affordable” health insurance and high “quality” health insurance inevitably butt heads, one undercuts the other. If the health insurance is cheaper (“affordable”) inevitably it will cover less health care.  

So what is an “Association Health Plan,” anyway? An AHP is another way for Trump and his Republicans to further dismantle the health insurance regulations under the Affordable Care Act. Don’t like the cost of your health insurance? Their answer: Don’t tackle the underlying cost of health care. No. Instead, allow insurance companies to offer health insurance policies that don’t cover what you might need, policies that can exclude people with pre-existing conditions or charge them higher premiums, policies that, in short, become “affordable” by offering a lower “quality” (less comprehensive) product. There is a good summary of how AHPs work in The Washington Post’s The Health 202 from June 19th. AHPs are just a different name for the pre-ACA health insurance offerings that left millions either uninsured (or inadequately insured) and vulnerable to medical bankruptcy. People go without care or they receive care and society pays for it in other ways harder to see: citizen’s financial lives are ruined, providers go uncompensated in the event of medical bankruptcy (and seek payment from other sources), or society pays for it with sicker citizens less able to work or in taxes used to cover disability and medical coverage for the resulting indigent rendered bankrupt by the system. 

Health Savings Accounts? A Health Savings Account is a tax break for those with enough money, time, and attention to set up such an account. It is a self-serving handout to people like Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The tax break takes money out of federal coffers, money that could and should be spent on a host of other things, and rewards that money to the likes of McMorris Rodgers and her upper middle class peers. In fact, the higher the HSA account holder’s marginal tax bracket the more of a tax break an HSA offers. From an accounting standpoint HSAs are another example of the already well-to-do rewarding themselves, another way to increase wealth disparity and widen the chasm of financial insecurity.

I am convinced McMorris Rodgers is fully sincere. How else could she keep a straight face and offer up such nonsense as a solution to the health care dilemma? She lacks the perspective that should allow her to see Health Savings Accounts and Association Health Plans for what they really are. 

McMorris Rodgers doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S.  In the Green Bluff and Pullman town halls combined, McMorris Rodgers acknowledged only medical malpractice lawsuits and the price of drugs as drivers of the price of health care–and failed to offer a useful analysis of either. (I will present her quotes and my thoughts in a later post.)

Health Insurance v. Health Care

The central problem with health care in the United States is its cost. That’s the cost of health care, not the cost of health insurance. The high and growing cost of health insurance as it affects each of us is what we all talk about. The cost of the care itself is the elephant in the room that many seem unable to see and no one talks about. Most of us interact with the cost of health care through insurance companies, so it is natural to focus on the cost of health insurance…kvetch about its cost…and kvetch even louder over the remainder of the bill the insurance doesn’t cover. 

Step back for a moment. Private insurance companies, like any company in the “free market,” exist to make money, whether for shareholders (in the case of for profit companies) or for the salaries of people who work there (in the case of not-for-profit insurance companies). They should make money by providing a service that is pretty straightforward: they smooth out the risk of a devastating bill. That is the fundamental mission of insurance of any kind. 

Consider this: If the annual cost of routine health care per person in the United States were a manageable number relative to income, health insurance companies would have a simple task. People might be content to pay their day to day health care costs out of pocket while also paying  a modest monthly premium to a health insurance company’s financial pool. In the event of a devastating bill affecting a few subscribers the bill gets paid out of the pool. No one goes bankrupt and everyone sleeps better. 

But that is not where we’re at with the cost of health care in this country. In aggregate the money spent on health care per every man, woman, and child in this country is now more than $10,000 per year. Family of four? $40,000. Consider how ridiculous that is. If there were one breadwinner in a family of four and we shared national health care expenses equally (everyone paid the average cost) that breadwinner would need a $20/hour full time job (and pay no taxes) JUST to pay for health costs, no food, no housing, no car, no nothing else. Of course, absent a medical catastrophe, the actual medical bills for this hypothetical family of four wouldn’t be $40,000 per year every year, but SOME FAMILY will have a catastrophe, THAT family will face bills far higher than $40,000—and that family will face bankruptcy.

In Canada that cost per person figure is less than half, around $5000—and the Canadians are healthier and happier than we are. This is the elephant in the room that most cannot see and others intentionally ignore (or try to dismiss as fake news).

So are health insurance companies to blame for the cost? Consider what our screwed up system asks them to do. If a health insurance company is to make any money it doesn’t just have to administer the spreading of risk (the traditional function of insurance), it is asked to control the cost of the health care provided, that is, to bargain with a whole array of health care providers over cost. What gets considered? The bargaining chips (before the ACA) were caps on total annual and lifetime expenditures, exclusive provider networks, numbers of patients (insurance subscribers) offered, limitations of services offered, etc., etc. After all this bargaining a policy containing acres of fine print was offered to insurance subscribers to puzzle over. (All this bargaining requires armies of employees who are paid to spar with providers over what gets paid and how much. That’s a major part of insurance company overhead.)

The authors of the Affordable Care Act saw and addressed most of the fine print problems with health insurance (but not with the cost of health care, the main driver of health insurance premiums). The ACA standardized health insurance coverage and in so doing greatly simplified the fine print. Gone were lifetime and annual caps on coverage, gone were weaselly words that excluded pre-existing conditions. In exchange the insurance companies got the “Individual Mandate,” simply a mandate for more people to participate, to spread the risk, the thing insurance companies are supposed to do. What the ACA did NOT do well was tackle the actual cost of health care. Legislative reality and concerted lobbying prevented efforts to allow government to bargain over drug prices and scotched the attempt to offer a “public option.”

The Republican/Libertarian response? Regardless of the intent of the ACA (to provide health insurance for the entire population), the Libertarians saw another government controlled and tax funded social program to be resisted, not improved. They seized on the rising cost of health insurance for the still healthy insurance buyer and completely ignored the ridiculous total and average cost per person of health care. They set to work immediately by every legal and legislative means available to them to dismember the Affordable Care Act. They voted time and time again to repeal the ACA in its entirety, while offering no solution at all for the problems the ACA was designed to fix. They railed endlessly about personal choice, free markets, and government overreach. With all this they assured the cost of health insurance would rise and then they pointed to that rise in cost as yet another reason to dismantle the ACA rather than work on it’s problems. 

And now they’ve hacked away, citing, as McMorris Rodgers has, things like the repeal of the Individual Mandate (as part of their Tax Law) as a crowning achievement of the Republicans under Trump. They’ve hacked away until now they own the mess they’ve created. The complexity of pre-ACA health insurance is looming once again and they don’t have the first clue how to fix it. As I will show you tomorrow, judging by her own words, McMorris Rodgers doesn’t even understand how insurance works.

Keep to the high ground,


CMR’s Shallow Grasp of Medical Economics

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Mark Twain

Dear Group,

There is a reason that McMorris Rodgers tries hard to stick to message. When she does not stick to message she reveals startling gaps in basic knowledge and understanding. Nowhere is that more apparent than in a town hall speaking about health care.

I’ve transcribed parts of an audio recording of the Green Bluff town hall McMorris Rodgers held on short notice on May 29th. Doing the transcription has driven home for me a fundamental truth: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth highest ranking Republican in Congress, is ignorant of the basic economics of health care in this country. She is lost in the weeds. 

In what was an oblique response to a man expressing dismay over the rising cost of health insurance for his wife, McMorris Rodgers offered the following. I’ve transcribed it verbatim:

“One thing about Medicare and Medicaid. The government doesn’t pay the full cost of actually providing Medicare and Medicaid. So…ah…any provider, any doctor, any hospital, any physical therapist…anybody who takes Medicare or Medicaid will lose money every time someone comes in with their Medicare card or a Medicaid card. Medicaid is..I believe, 30, 35% of the actual cost and Medicare is 60, 70% of the actual cost…so the providers…how do the providers actually…how do the hospitals stay in business? How does a doctor stay in business? They’re making….so they charge the private health insurance higher so that they can keep their doors open. So…so that’s where we need to be honest about the actual cost…and I believe that the government needs…I have supported for our rural communities…so we’re losing our hospitals in rural areas right now because 70, 80% of their patients are on Medicare or Medicaid and they’re losing so much money every time somebody comes in with Medicare/Medicaid….They can’t keep their doors open!  So…. We’re not being honest about actual cost of, of a what the…way it currently works.. And that’s where I think Medicare is an important program and I, I believe we’ve got to make sure it is secure but it is on a path…right now it is not on a stable path and we’re signing up twenty thousand people a day.”

This is a very peculiar and confused answer to a question about the rising cost of health insurance. She claims private health insurance is expensive because Medicare and Medicaid don’t pay enough to cover the “cost” of keeping the doors open.  She even extends her mis-conception to a justification for her and her party to tackle the “entitlements” of Medicare and Medicaid, a theme she touches on elsewhere at every opportunity. 

Surely every reader of this email has puzzled over a health care “Explanation of Benefits” (EOB). You have seen a $500 charge for a service that has an “allowable” of $200, and an actual payment to the provider of only $160. When I was in practice the occasional patient would express dismay that I was only being paid a tiny fraction of my charge. I did not disabuse them of their notion by explaining the truth: the charge is a number basically pulled out of thin air. Why? Simple. The charge is set high enough so that if there is an insurance company out there that isn’t paying attention and will pay nearly that much then a nearly (or completely) outrageous charge level will “capture” that amount. If the provider doesn’t charge enough then money will be left on the table. One trouble with that system is, of course, that a patient with no insurance whatsoever sees an astronomical bill. 

The posted charge bears only the loosest relationship to the cost of providing the care. Apparently in McMorris Rodgers’ vaunted, sacred…and imaginary…health care “free market” what a provider charges for a service is the same as the cost. She says providers “lose money” every time they take care of a Medicare or Medicaid patient. Horse manure. If that were true most ophthalmology practices (largely dependent on Medicare age patients) would have gone out of business long ago.

To assess “cost” she would actually require numbers for a given medical facility that detail the fixed costs (rent, utilities, furniture,insurance, etc.), the variable costs (employee salaries and hourly wages, equipment, etc.), and some idea of the profits the providers expect and take home. 

McMorris Rodgers in spite of her youthful apple stand experience and in spite of her “MBA lite” (Executive Masters of Business Administration) missed the basic courses in economics and accounting. If she had been exposed to such course and actually learned the material she would not confuse “charge” and “cost.” She would not be susceptible to self-serving pleas from lobbyists who hope to convince her that Medicare routinely short-changes medical providers. More importantly, she wouldn’t brusquely dismiss (as she did at Green Bluff) a questioner who pointed out medical care might be cheaper if insurance companies didn’t run overhead many times higher than Medicare. 

The scariest thing is that McMorris Rodgers is very concerned and sincere in her presentation, however halting and confused it is. She is not play acting. She really is sincere. She can be sincere because she doesn’t understand that she doesn’t understand.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. I am reminded of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ convolution about one of Trump’s lies: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Jason Chaffetz in Spokane? Really?

Dear Group,

This Saturday, June 2, the Spokane County Republican Central Committee will hold its “Lincoln Day Dinner 2018” at the Davenport Grand Hotel on W. Spokane Falls Blvd in downtown Spokane. Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz with “special guest,” FOX news contributor Deneen Borelli are featured. 

McMorris Rodgers is not listed as a speaker at the dinner, but she will likely be in attendance. Rest assured she will endorse the talking points. 

Apparently the wedding of the GOP to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News propaganda empire is complete. Chaffetz, after resigning from the U.S. House of Representatives last year, immediately signed on with FOX as a contributor, a position that, according to Politico, is likely to pay better than his Congressional salary. It is also a position that will allow him to push his repugnant views to a large, receptive audience. For an exhaustive and thoroughly referenced list of his “Positions” I recommend reading Chaffetz’ biography in wikipedia. They read like comprehensive list of positions McMorris Rodgers would heartily endorse if she could just induce all her constituents to rely on Fox News for their opinions. That the Spokane GOP is embracing Chaffetz and Borelli as signature speakers (much like bringing Nigel Farage to Spokane last year) speaks volumes about the direction of the Party.

It is a shame most citizens do not take the time to explore the background of the folks who pose themselves as legitimate Representatives. Jason Chaffetz became infamous with his nationally televised iPhone gaffe during the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act. You can watch his 52 seconds of fame here. The following is a quote from another article in the Boston Globe:

Before his announcement that he would not seek reelection, Chaffetz was criticized for equating health care coverage with purchasing an iPhone.

“Americans have choices and they’ve got to make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves,” Chaffetz told CNN in March.

For me, Chaffetz’ comment is emblematic of the entire Republican Party’s disconnect from the realities of  life in the United States. He clearly has no idea of the cost of an iPhone or the cost of health insurance, no idea of the risk of medical bankruptcy, no idea of all the tripwires and bombs in the fine print a citizen needs to avoid in the “free market” health care system to which he wishes to return. 

Chaffetz was elected to the U.S. House in 2008. In 2017, citing family and foot surgery, and after experiencing a hostile town hall and the fallout from his CNN interview, he withdrew from Congress. He took his repugnant policies to Fox News…and now he gets top billing at the Lincoln Day Dinner. Lincoln would gag.

You and a partner could meet Mr. Chaffetz at a private reception right here in Spokane for a donation of a mere $1000.  Here is Saturday’s schedule:

4:00 PM Private Roundtable Discussion in Governor’s Suite with guest speakers, Congressman Jason Chaffetz and FOX News Contributor Deneen Borelli.

5:00 PM VIP Reception in East Terrace Room and Cocktail hour in the Grand Ballroom.

6:30 PM  Dinner and Program begin in Grand Ballroom.

9:00 PM  Program concludes.

Here is another opportunity to take a walk…with a sign.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. If you’re wondering why Chaffetz got so much coverage in the Boston Globe click here. Check out the section on “Early Life and Education.” Then read the section concerning the “U.S. House of Representatives, Election, 2008.” In the latter you will read an instructive story concerning polls, money, and winning elections.

In Her Own Words

Click here to listen. I have posted this before. It is a recording of McMorris Rodgers speaking with a Breitbart reporter at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), the Republican/Libertarian lovefest last February. 

Dear Group,

I wish I could play the recording posted above as Exhibit One for every undecided or disconnected voter in Washington State’s Congressional District 5. The soundtrack is McMorris Rodgers among friends. At twenty seconds she breathlessly declares Trump’s speech at CPAC, “Excellent!” Then she launches into:

What is most exciting to me right now is the momentum that is building again, that we’re seeing some results on Capitol Hill whether with the Tax Bill, the repeal of the Individual Mandate, opening up ANWR. It’s building the momentum that we need in order to tackle some of these other big issues that we want to heading into 2018 and really rethink the federal government from top to bottom, restore…ah…some accountability and make sure that these agencies and the programs are run efficiently and are accountable to hardworking taxpayers. 0:21-0:54 seconds [Bold is mine.}

Note the congressional actions that exemplify the momentum that excites McMorris Rodgers. “The Tax Bill, the repeal of the Individual Mandate, opening up ANWR.” This is the woman who claims to represent the interests of the taxpayers of CD5 in the U.S. House of Representatives? 

Proud of the Tax Bill? The Republican/Libertarian Tax Bill, in spite of McMorris Rodgers’ tireless efforts to characterize it as “money in your pocket,” is losing popularity as voters realize that eighty percent of its tax reduction goes to the already wealthy and to corporations, as voters realize the personal tax cuts are uncertain, and, worse, they expire while the giveaway to the wealthy is permanent, as voters begin to understand the 1.5 trillion dollar addition to the national debt over ten years, as voters understand that whatever dollars they may gain will soon melt away in Republican efforts to dismantle the social safety net.

Proud of the Repeal of the Individual Mandate? The average voter with a life needs a translation. McMorris Rodgers is excited about this repeal because it is a substantial blow to the function of the Affordable Care Act. McMorris Rodgers was a vocal supporter her party’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), the one that dramatically failed in the Senate on John McCain’s (R-AZ) vote. The AHCA was an attempt to return health insurance to the days of rampant medical bankruptcy, to the days of working people neglecting their diabetes in favor of putting food on the table. Their AHCA was so deeply unpopular it had approval ratings among the general population in the twenty percent range. What McMorris Rodgers is proud of with the repeal of the individual mandate is that what she and her Republican colleagues couldn’t repeal outright they have at least managed to wound. They are proud to damage a social program rather than work to improve it.

And finally, she’s proud of “opening up ANWR.” I’ve been surprised how many people I’ve talked with who draw a blank when I say “ANWR” (usually pronounced An-whar). It seems that many folks who are very proud and protective of our national park system are only vaguely aware of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to countless species. Among them is the Porcupine Caribou, whose calving grounds are ground zero for oil exploration. A place of breathtaking beauty, situated as it is in northeast Alaska, it is infrequently visited and, I suppose, out of the mind of most Americans. Since the 1970s oil companies have pushed to open ANWR to oil exploration and drilling. There was a brief lull after the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, but Republicans and oil companies are patient and persistent. It’s about money. It’s about more oil in a time when, thanks to fracking, we have ample oil, in a time when we need to transition away carbon fuels to avoid eventual disaster. Now, of all times, now McMorris Rodgers is proud to finally ram through violation of one of the last pristine places. For me, McMorris Rodgers’ glee at the “opening up” of ANWR is emblematic of the twisted priorities of the Republican Party.

If the Tax Bill, the repeal of the Individual Mandate, and opening up ANWR are examples of Republican momentum McMorris Rodgers finds exciting, just imagine how much more she and her Party want to dismantle and liquidate and then award the proceeds to the already wealthy. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Take note who this unguarded interview is with. McMorris Rodgers apparently feels she is playing to a friendly audience. She is talking with a Breitbart reporter. Breitbart was, until recently the low rent, alt-right mouthpiece of that great moral beacon, Steve Bannon.  Breitbart was also the stomping ground of Milo Yiannopoulos. He was ousted from a speaking engagement at this same Conservative Political Action Committee gathering after youtube videos surfaced of Milo condoning pedophilia. That McMorris Rodgers, a woman who poses as a devout Christian, even allows an interview with Breitbart, is a statement of personal debasement. Instead, she is obviously comfortable here. She knows this is a select audience living in its own media bubble. She feels confident that most independents won’t be found wandering in this fetid swamp of the alt-right.