I was going to be interviewed by the AP today about my response to the Supreme Court ruling, thanks to the health insurance comic I drew for Kaiser Health News. After preparing some remarks, I was told that the article was running long and they didn't need further commentary. So, in an effort to make ye olde proverbial lemonade, I'll share my thoughts here.
Like most people, I was stunned by the ruling. I never thought I'd say this, but it's possible that John Roberts just saved me a shit-ton of money. Believe me, I have no love for private insurance companies, but the mandate is a positive step forward as we work toward single-payer.
At the same time, I don't particularly feel a sense of relief. I'm dreading the ongoing political battles that lie ahead, and wish this could just be over. The mandate will be framed as a burdensome tax, and ACA supporters need to make very clear that it's a cost-control measure that ultimately benefits us all. It's a way of improving a grossly inefficient system. (Also, people: please stop using the stupid term "Obamacare." Have we not learned anything about framing in all these years?)
Another reason I feel uneasy is that the SCOTUS decision was a frighteningly close shave -- the other four justices would have struck down the act in its entirely! That's radicalism in your face, and it's something we'll have to contend with for a generation or more. But for today, I'll let myself celebrate.
Most people seemed to appreciate this week's cartoon, but I've noticed a couple comments elsewhere suggesting that I've been dishonest with my statement that more whites than blacks receive food stamps. These critics assert that because America's white population is significantly larger, a higher percentage of blacks receive nutrition assistance, and I'm a big fat liar for not presenting things this way. To which I say: these nitwits are totally missing the point.
It's no secret that poverty runs high among African-Americans due to a variety of historical factors, and I'm not trying to cover that up. Nor am I trying to pit racial demographics against one another. I'm simply pointing out that when you hear Republicans talking about people on food stamps, they tend to explicitly (or sometimes implicitly) refer to blacks, despite the fact that 5.15 million white households receive food stamps vs. 3.2 million African-American, as of 2009. The fact is, poverty is pretty diverse, and no one group should be singled out as "the food stamp people."
Tagg Romney recently tweeted this:
Above video via a Plum Line post about a conservative laid-off mill worker who says Romney (and Bain Capital) destroyed his life.
The political cartooning community was shaken today by news of Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat's beating by pro-Assad thugs. They broke his hands to stop him from drawing cartoons critical of the President.
This horrifying incident reminds me of an exchange I had earlier this summer when meeting with political cartoonists from the Middle East and North Africa through a State Department program. Naturally, a prominent topic of discussion was the freedom of speech we American cartoonists enjoy. I was on crutches thanks to a skiing accident (I'm mobile now, thank you), and I made a dumb joke, obviously tongue-in-cheek, about how the Obama administration didn't like one of the cartoons I drew. "Ah, so you are like an Arab cartoonist!" one of the visitors joked back. The whole room laughed, maybe a little too hard. Gotta admire the bravery of the Ali Ferzats of the world.
I'm glad Osama's dead, but I'm finding this whole thing anticlimactic. It's not that I'm above feeling satisfaction when a mass murderer dies, but the point when I would have felt much emotion apparently passed long ago. Too many years of carnage -- of countless Iraqi and Afghan civilians massacred, innocents tortured to death in secret prisons, young American soldiers blown up -- weigh on me. I don't blame people for celebrating this moment in history. I just don't see it as a "game-changer" except, perhaps, politically.
Also, the really bad editorial cartoons starring fierce-looking eagles zooming in on bin Laden are starting to roll in. Don't these people watch Colbert?
From ThinkProgress, about news coverage of Affordable Care Act rulings (click for full size):
That danged liberal media strikes again!
I love this. In my cartoon this week, I suggested an absurd way that Michelle Bachmann might explain her quote that voters should be "armed and dangerous" over the cap-and-trade bill. As I learned today via TPM, she actually did walk that quote back a month later, saying the following:
"I want my people in Minnesota to be the most educated people. I want them to be armed with knowledge, so they can be dangerous to the policies of the left."
Almost like my comic. Clearly I didn't go far enough.
Just found out my latest cartoon is on NPR right now. The comments section seems to have quite a few people trying to depoliticize the AZ shootings, blaming "both sides" for their partisanship. (Personally, I don't think questioning the violent, paranoid rhetoric of Palin, Angle, Bachmann, et al, makes one particularly partisan, but whatevs.)
Not that there's anything wrong with having strong political convictions. As reader AC wisely pointed out, people mistakenly believe "it is partisan politics generally, not any actual positions on either side, which is the problem."
What really drives me nuts in the wake of the Giffords shooting is the chorus of voices -- mostly on the right -- tut-tutting that "we can't jump to conclusions." As though they are the source of caution and reason and all things prudent and high-minded. Well, guess what: Your candidates are anything but. I don't really care whether Loughner is schizo, or what particular bits of tea party propaganda he swallowed or didn't. If you don't find the violent language of the right utterly repugnant, then it's a sign of how far we've drifted away from normalcy in this country.
As any anthropologist will tell you, human behavior doesn't happen in a vacuum; we live in a cultural stew, and by all accounts, that stew is a-bubblin'. Tom Tomorrow linked to a depressing timeline of armed insurrection in America just since 2008. Hint: it's long.
Two years later, I find it interesting to read what I wrote about Obama on the eve of the 2008 Virginia primary:
Tomorrow is the Virginia primary, and for the first time ever I am considering intentionally not voting... The trouble is, neither Obama nor Hillary have shown solid progressive leadership. Both of them pander to the right to the point of grotesquery. I could almost forgive Obama his weak health care plan even though that issue is extremely important to me, but that "Harry and Louise" ad was so wildly irresponsible, it really made me question his judgment. Wouldn't it be nice if Obama used his rhetorical talents to promote a real health care plan? He has also repeated right-wing lies about there being a Social Security "crisis"; his praise of Ronald Reagan was steeped in gauzy right-wing frames about the '60s, '70s, and '80s; and his campaign actually created an oppo page about Paul Krugman, a true-blue progressive hero whose intellectual integrity I greatly admire... Obama has been so reckless in his approach to these bedrock issues that I simply don't trust him. Sorry to rain on the hope parade, people, but there it is.
I actually admire Obama for what he managed to accomplish on health insurance -- but aside from that, I'd say my misgivings were justified. Not that you'll ever see me as a vaunted TV pundit.