Newt Returns. Spinning Like a Top.

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Gingrich is back. Same old same old. Are you ready for Spin! Are you ready for some Reagan!

The guy is relentlessly impervious to the simple fact that none of us really is happy to see him…except perhaps Michael Steele, a black man trapped in a Brooks Brothers mind and conservative, pathetic liar Rush Limbaugh. Or perhaps also Faux “News” because he can spin a ten second piece of  false information into a totally fabricated 30-minute interview better than anyone. Newt has never had qualms about shading the truth or avoiding the facts.

Newt seems to have invited himself into the current discussion that answers the question: “What do you think we should do about health care?” The answer of course is that we should make it universal and low-cost and of a very high quality. That is what all the other civilized industrial countries do. It should be universal as quickly as possible. Gingrich has an answer, that’s for sure. Because the big healthcare interests are sure to lose hundreds of billions of dollars and that money will go back into the pockets of the people, unless Newt can stop it.

He now has the “Center for Health Transformation” whatever that is. But we know what he wants to transform. He wants to transform money in your pocket into profits for hospital chains, HMOs, physicians and pharmaceutical companies. In the 1990s he told us that HMOs would cut costs forever.  What he did was to prevent universal health care. His work did transform something. It transformed healthcare into the largest household or family expense Americans have ever seen.

His devastating attacks on Clinton’s health care reform legislation in the 1990s shut that hopeful program down. Contrary to what he said would happen (not necessarily what he knew would happen) prices rose year after year by minimums of 10 to 20% and began to ruin the American economy. Today, even large corporations find that they can no longer pass on health care problems and increased costs to workers and consumers and local governments. So they are looking for alternatives, perhaps a government system. Not for humanitarian reasons. Are you kidding? These guys would eat your children. They have decided, as has the rest of America, that the organizations that Newt represents are simply too expensive. In a recession, CEOs must find a way, after all, to earn their 500-times-the-average-worker incomes. They can no longer hand the costs off to others or raise prices to their customers.

Let’s take a quick walk back to the early 1990s and the visionary approach of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. President Clinton offered a plan to Congress that was the result of consultation with every level in the health care field and every community in the country. He said that if this plan turned out to be unworkable then Congress should bring him another. The only requirement was that it would be affordable and available to all Americans. In other words, if the Republicans who ran Congress did not like the Clinton plan, they were free to come up with one of their own so long as it covered not just the wealthy or employees of big corporations or unions, but everyone. Newt’s answer and that of his Republican colleagues in Congress was to attack any change in health care with fear and lies. Needless to say, health care was defeated.

The Harry and Louise of the anti-healthcare commercials did not get health care, nor did anyone else, after being scared off by their negative message. They would have both died broke anyway before reaching the age for Medicare. But the pharmaceutical companies lived on to pay Newt and others like Billy Tauzin their tribute…$2 million a year in Billy’s case…and they’re still paying it. The only thing is that…during the roughly 15 intervening years, about a half-million people a year go broke from health care costs. Newt would say something like…”Five hundred thousand people… why that’s fewer people than take their dogs to the vet on an average Saturday…and they survive…”

Newt.  He’s the good ole boys’ good ole boy.

Newt gets his millions mostly from large oil companies, large pharmaceutical companies, large credit card, banking and investment companies and just about anyone who wants something that is bad for the public and can be bought from Congress.  They merely have to explain to Newt their serious problem. This is usually that the people aren’t going to like what the corporation wants to do because it pollutes or denies access or raises costs or makes people sick or retards the development of something that the public wants and needs. Newt listens patiently and nods his substantial head affirmatively that he can help…for a fee.

If you are a corporation and the public would run you out of town if they knew the truth about what you are about to do to them, Newt is your guy. He will research it, survey it and pick out those insignificant things that he can sell to the Booboiserie. He will portray it as a “good” thing because you now have “choice” or because Ronald Reagan did something similar. Yes, he will invoke the name of St. Ronald, patron saint of General Electric.  He will slot the opposite of his position as a “danger” or a “huge cost” or a “job killer” or in severe cases…an “Islamic” thing.

Newt is not stupid. Having actually taught some kind of history at an institution somewhere within spitting distance of Tobacco Road, he knows, as as Goering said, that if you scare the living shit out of people, they will listen to you. And once you have their attention, you can offer them a plausible reason for buying your snake oil. You can portray the opponent’s snake oil as coming from the Communists,  the Muslims or–worse yet–the Liberals.

Newt has greater versatility than simply to keep Communist healthcare out of your house. He fights to keep you from making the huge mistake of joining a union. In working against the Employee Free Choice Act, he is fighting against your right–for your own good mind you–to join a union. He works daily against overwhelming odds that would allow you to simply talk with someone about a union and sign a card that says you agree that it is a good idea. Newt feels that you might perhaps be extorted into pushing for higher wages, better working conditions and retirement plans. Newt understands that to protect you from the potentially disastrous mistake of trying to provide more for your family, you should be asked to follow a second procedure, a secret ballot, just to be safe.  A union might alter your thinking about agreeing with management to take a another pay cut, leave a job with no severance or train your Indian or Chinese replacement.

Newt will deny these things. He will not only deny, he will deny and deny and deny until you prove what he is saying is not true, as Representative Henry Waxman did the other day in Congress. Newt is working to defeat something called “cap-and-trade.”  Newt feels that we cannot ask our major corporations, mines, refineries, coal-burning utility plants  to work out this kind of an exchange just to keep Florida above water and Tahiti from becoming the next Atlantis.  Some companies, better situated to reduce emissions might trade with other companies in a more difficult position, with the objective of reducing overall carbon emissions and cleaning up the atmosphere while we still have one.

It was in this context that Newt testified before a House committee and referred to a study by a professor at MIT and said that the cost of cap-and-trade for clean energy would be something like $12,000 per family per year. What Newt did not know was that this same professor had written to the House minority leader asking him to refrain from using those numbers. Even more significantly, Newt did not know that the professor, teaching at a first rate institution quite some distance from Tobacco Road had also sent a copy to Rep. Waxman.

Turns out…oops…not $12,000 per family per year, but maybe, on the high side, $300 per family per year. Besides, the professor said, the study was at least 2 years old, already out of date and prepared for an entirely different purpose. This doesn’t bother Newt. He gets paid either way. No one is going to sell more pollution to the people than Newt. Ok, so his feeble attempt didn’t work this time. There’s always health care!