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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ron Johnson vs. Democracy

Ron Johnson
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We hear a lot about the destructive effect of dishonest, negative attack ads in politics. But one of the most destructive political ad campaigns in Wisconsin history actually was the positive, upbeat, but equally dishonest TV campaign that helped elect Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010.

Johnson, a little known Oshkosh industrialist, spent $9 million to flood state television with warm and fuzzy commercials portraying himself as a kindly, white-haired businessman who knew how to create jobs.

Sometimes when voters buy a pig in a poke, they get a real pig.

Johnson’s hair really was white, but he’s not very kind. He’s more of a real-life caricature of Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons,” a wealthy, old skinflint who had absolutely no intention of creating any jobs when he got to Washington.

Johnson was ideologically opposed to the federal government creating jobs or doing anything else to ease the lives of Americans who, through no fault of their own, were suffering from the second worst economic crisis in U.S. history.

Johnson immediately became one of the most predictably heartless Republican votes against federal assistance to benefit anyone in Wisconsin who was not a millionaire like himself.

There’s something particularly ugly about millionaires voting against unemployment compensation for people who worked hard all their lives until their employers decided they were old and in the way.

As a staunch opponent of government doing anything to make the lives of ordinary people better, Johnson was adamant nothing could be worse than providing people with affordable health care.

Johnson quickly became one of the loudest, crudest, most hysterical Republican voices against President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Sad to say, Republican opposition to so-called Obamacare worked much better politically for Republicans than it ever should have.

Polls suggest there’s still substantial public opposition to a government program that makes health insurance available to millions who couldn’t afford it before and outlaws unconscionable practices by insurance companies, including refusing to cover pre-existing conditions and canceling policies when people got sick.

That’s really damning evidence the media has done a far better job of publicizing brazenly dishonest arguments raised by Johnson and other Republicans against the law than it has done informing the public of all of the law’s the actual benefits.

 

Judge Tosses Johnson’s Lawsuit

But the fight really is finally over. Even when Republicans and the media wailed endlessly about the government’s computer problems in signing up uninsured people, they overlooked the major reason computers kept crashing—millions of Americans were desperate to sign up.

Republicans can’t possibly kill a program that provides millions of people with private health insurance they couldn’t afford before and adding millions more under expanded Medicaid, despite Republican governors like Scott Walker refusing 100% in federal funds to cover more of their poor families.

Lies Republicans made up—Obama “cooked the books” to make enrollment exceed predictions, those who signed up wouldn’t pay their premiums and those premiums would soar—turned out to be completely false.

Recent independent surveys show the overwhelming majority of those newly insured under Obamacare, including 74% of Republicans, are extremely satisfied with their coverage for which they pay an average premium of only $82 a month.

It’s actually a triumph for democracy. But Johnson doesn’t actually appear to believe in democracy. 

Even though his party lost on the vote passing the Affordable Care Act, Johnson filed his own personal lawsuit to try to prevent congressional staff members, including his own office employees, from continuing to receive a federal employee benefit paying 72% to 75% of the cost of their health insurance under the law.

Johnson claimed the federal contribution was unconstitutional because no one else who bought insurance through health care exchanges, as a Republican amendment required of congressional staff members, would receive it.

Think about that for a moment. An employer tries to twist a legal technicality in the law to try to cheat his own employees out of a substantial financial benefit they’ve always received.

Johnson claimed as a congressional employer he was being damaged because the administration of the law required him to break the law—or at least his own bizarre interpretation of the law—to provide his employees with a health benefit.

In fact, the federal employee health benefit was no different from that received by the overwhelming majority of Americans who also buy their health insurance through their employers with employers commonly paying 70% to 80% of the full cost.

Last week, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach in Green Bay threw out Johnson’s ridiculous lawsuit for the most obvious of reasons,

“Given that the plaintiffs receive, at worst, a benefit, they cannot claim to be injured,” wrote Griesbach, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush.

That actually is an excellent summary of just how absurd the entire fight by Johnson and Republicans has been to try to prevent America from moving toward improved, universal health care.