November 20, 2013

September 26, 2008

Barack Obama and Slavery

By Bill Warner
Slavery still stalks the American consciousness, its wounds yet festering in many hearts. If Barack Obama were to set his mind to it, he could heal much of the damage this peculiar institution wrought on our national soul. This great and tragic error that must be given justice. Obama is the best person in the world who can recognize, remember and honor the deaths of 125 million and the enslavement of tens of millions of people.

His unique qualifications can be found in his names. Until he was 20 years old, he went by the first name Barry. Then he decided to be called Barack Hussein Obama, his original birth name.

Many people seem to the names "Barack" and "Obama" are African names. They are not.

Baraq [Barack] was the name of the winged horse-like creature that took Mohammed to Paradise in the Night Journey. Baraq can also mean God's blessing. Obama is Swahili for Osama, who was one of Mohammed's chief warriors. Osama also means lion. Hussein reminds some Americans of Saddam Hussein, and Obama's supporters get upset if it is used. Hussein was the name of Mohammed's grandson. So Obama's entire name is based upon Islamic mythology and African conquest. Barack Hussein Obama means [Allah's blessing] [Mohammed's grandson] [One of Mohammed's finest warriors].

Obama's name reveals a part of history that is unknown or hidden about America, Africa and slavery. It also reveals a history of the destruction of native African civilization. His name came from his father, a so-called Arab African. The word Arab is the clue to the hidden history.

Kafirs (non-Muslims) rarely refer to Islam, but call it by an ethnic name whenever they can. When Islam conquered the Middle East, the conquerors were not called Muslims, but Arabs. In Eastern Europe the Muslim invaders were called Turks. In Spain conquering Muslims were referred to as Moors. Thus it is that the Islamic culture in Africa, Arab African, is referred to with an ethnic name, Arab Africans, like Obama's father, are Muslims who leave behind their African culture and adopt the Arab culture.

The Arab African Muslim has always been associated with slavery because Islam is the driving force in the history of world slavery.

Islam's connection with slavery starts with Mohammed. The exact details of how slaves are taken are described in detail in the Sira, Mohammed's biography. The Sira is a sacred text since it relates Mohammed's words and deeds, called the Sunna. Everything he did is the perfect pattern of behavior for all Muslims.

Mohammed was involved in every single aspect and detail of slavery. He bought and sold slaves both retail and wholesale. He gave them as gifts, used them for sex, received them as gifts, stood by as slaves were beaten, attacked. He enslaved tribes, and owned black slaves. Indeed, his rise to political success was financed, in part, by the profit of his slave trade.

So the sacred pattern of Mohammed and Islam is the enslavement of non-Muslims, kafirs. For 1400 years Islam has enslaved all races and cultures including Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Zoroastrians, animists, and atheists. Only Muslims are free of being enslaved.

What Obama could do

Obama could tell us that there is only one way to understand Africa and slavery and that is to understand political Islam. For 1400 years Islam has steadily been at work in Africa. The easiest place for Americans to see Islam's annihilation of kafir civilization is in North Africa and Egypt. Egypt used to be a Christian and Coptic (the descendants of the Pharaohs) country. North Africa was a Greek and Christian culture, and at one time a part of the Roman Empire.

The first Islamic assault on African culture was the jihad that annihilated Coptic Egyptian culture and Greek culture in Northern Africa. Today these areas are Arabic and Islamic.

That was just the thin end of the jihad wedge.  Over the next 1400 years, Islam took approximately 25 million slaves out of Africa. An Arabic word for African is abd, the same word that is used for black slave. Arabic has about 40 words for slaves. White slaves are mamluk. Islam took more than a million European slaves into slavery. The highest priced slave in the Meccan slave market was a white woman.

There is great deal of collateral damage when a slave is taken. A warring party attacks a tribe and when enough of the protectors are killed, the rest will surrender and become slaves. All of those who were strong enough to work were taken away in a forced march for days. But there are many who are left behind -- the young, the old, and the sick and injured.

Estimates vary, but from 5 to 10 people left behind died as the result of taking one slave. So for 25 million slaves, we have the deaths of 125 million Africans over a 1400-year period.

When the story of slavery is told in America, as in the movie Roots, the sailors get off the boats and capture the Africans and make them slaves. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

When the white slaver showed up in his wooden ship, he made a business deal with a Muslim wholesaler. Jihad was the machinery that Mohammed used, and his model worked well in Africa as slavers filled the slave pens for the same reason that Mohammed did it: profit. Whites only traded slaves with Islam for about 200 years. Islam was in the slave trade before and after selling to the West.

If you would like to learn about the Arab African slave traders that came from the same area of Africa that Obama's father came from, read Tippu Tip and the East African Slave Trade (Leda Farrant, Northumberland Press, 1975). Tippu Tip looked African, but he was 100% Arab and Muslim. By the way, Arab is not a racial term, but a cultural/language term.

But the slave trade had another effect. Africa slowly became Islamic. Jihad worked in many ways to bring about conversion. Sometimes trade introduced Islam and a hybrid Islam/native African religion evolved. Then jihad was used to purify and remove the African culture to result in a purer Islam. But in the end, half of Africa fell to Islam.

The oddest thing is that many people have the idea that an Arab African is the same as African. When the Arab culture replaces the native African culture the culture is not African. African culture is no more Arab than Hindu culture is Arab. Sharia law is just as foreign to native African culture as it is to ours.

The magnitude of this problem is seen in Darfur, where Arab Africans are destroying Africans who are not yet Arab enough. This is a centuries-long jihad to annihilate the native African culture. This process is no different than the process by which Coptic Egypt became Arab Egypt. Islam is not a religion but a complete civilization whose stated goal is to replace all other civilizations. There has never been a historical example of a country that kept its native culture after Islam entered. So Africa is an ordinary historical example.

The ignorance about the history behind Obama's names is the root of why he can achieve such an impact. Obama represents the chance to help heal the curse of slavery in America by revealing its complete history. He is a descendant of a white woman who had slave owners in her ancestry. His African father descended from those who enslaved the Africans. Obama is descended from slave owners and slave traders, but he does not have a single drop of slave blood in him.

Since race trumps all, everyone sees him as being representative of America's slave descendants. It becomes true simply because in a race/culture-obsessed society, some want it to be true.  Obama's slave ancestry is a fiction and not reality.

So Obama is half enslaver, by ancestry, and half slave, by choice. He is the most uniquely positioned to tell the truth, the complete truth about Islam, Africa, America and slavery.

Now here is the last little twist to Obama's name. He called himself Barry, an Irish name, for many years in America. He changed what he wanted to be called after he went to Pakistan for a three-week stay. He left America as Barry and returned as Barack.

Some whites may have bought slaves from Islam for 200 years, but after that, their culture was first to outlaw slavery. So Obama changed his name from a culture that abolished slavery to a name from a culture that has enslaved others for 1400 years and has a highly detailed doctrine of slavery.

This is the world that Obama spans: from slavery abolition to the eternal enslaver. He represents hope to many American descendants of slaves, but his ancestors were never enslaved. No one else could tell the story that Obama knows. He could tell the story of how 125 million Africans died. He could tell the story of how 25 million Africans became slaves. There is an enormous irony that descendants of the slaves that his ancestors created now look to him for justice. And he could give them real justice by telling the complete truth of their enslavement. Only he has the power to make others listen.

Obama has shown himself to be a world citizen with his speech in Berlin, and his speaking the truth of the complete story of slavery would be historic, and could reverse centuries of ignorance and lies. He can stand up and tell the world the true complete story of slavery. It would change history far beyond the election cycle.

Bill Warner is director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam.
on "Barack Obama and Slavery"

November 18, 2013

Martin Bashir apologizes for dirty, disgusting slam at Sarah Palin

FILE: Martin Bashir on the second day of Michael Jackson's child molestation trial in Santa Maria.reuters
When I first saw a headline about what Martin Bashir said, I figured it must be exaggerated.
No responsible cable news host would call for defecating on a public figure. That’s just beyond the pale, right?

But that’s exactly what Bashir did on his MSNBC show, while spewing venom at Sarah Palin.
He made an abject apology yesterday, and we’ll get to that in a moment.

I’ve long been amazed by Bashir’s brand of name-calling. He despises Republicans, we get it. But the highly personal nature of his assaults, while delivered in an erudite British accent, stands out even by the loose standards of cable news.

This guy was a co-anchor of “Nightline” when he was at ABC, but was apparently seething with liberal resentment that we now see displayed daily on his weekday show. MSNBC once suspended Ed Schultz for calling Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut”; why on earth does it tolerate Bashir's brand of bile?
Bashir once said that the NRA “deserves to be equated with Hitler,” so he’s practiced at indendiary comparisons.

What happened last week is that Bashir used his hatred of Palin—calling her the country’s “resident dunce” and a “world-class idiot”—to descend deeper into the gutter than I ever thought he’d go.

Now the issue on which he went after the former Alaska governor and Fox News contributor is fair game. Palin had spoken in Iowa of borrowing from China to pay for the national debt, saying: “This isn’t racist. But it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due.”

Lots of people didn’t approve of Palin likening government borrowing to the awful legacy of buying and selling African-Americans.

But Bashir chose to tell his audience of the diary of a plantation overseer in Jamaica named Thomas Thistlewood.

“In 1756, he records that a slave named Darby ‘catched eating kanes had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, sh** in his mouth.’

“This became known as ‘Darby’s Dose,’ a punishment invented by Thistlewood that spoke only of inhumanity. And he mentions a similar incident in 1756, his time in relation to a man he refers to as Punch. ‘Flogged punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper, made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.’”

And that brings Bashir to his disgusting denouement: “When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.”

That’s right. Wrapped in the language of literary allegory, Bashir is saying he’d like to see someone assault and abuse Sarah Palin in this horrifying fashion.

And no one at MSNBC bats an eye? This is deemed acceptable discourse?
What would MSNBC say if a conservative had talked about defecating on, say, Hillary Clinton?
In his televised apology, directed to both Palin and to viewers, Bashir said his remarks were “unworthy” and “deeply offensive,” and that he is “deeply sorry.” He said he wished he had been “more thoughtful” and “more compassionate.” He said “the politics of vitriol and destruction is a miserable place to be and a miserable person to become,” and promised to learn a lesson.

An abject apology is all well and good. But as Mediaite’s Joe Concha writes, invoking MSNBC President Phil Griffin: “Could you imagine if Neil Cavuto or Jake Tapper, who occupy the same timeslot on Fox and CNN, respectively, suggested anyone s*it in anyone’s mouth on national television, as Bashir did last week?
“And it’s not as he’s killing it in the ratings. Day after day, Bashir easily owns the lowest-rated show in his timeslot among the big three. If Griffin were smart, he’d use this episode as an excuse to get rid of Bashir.”
MSNBC rightfully suspended Alec Baldwin for two weeks for hurling an anti-gay slur at a photographer. But the corporate attitude is different because Palin is the target?

This is nothing short of shameful, as even Martin Bashir now seems to recognize.
All Ford All The Time

You might think a mayor might lay low for awhile after admitting to smoking crack, getting too drunk, threatening to murder someone, and using a sexually explicit term on live television while denying that a female friend was a hooker.

Not Rob Ford.

Instead, Toronto’s hard-living chief executive gives interviews to Fox and CNN as he prepares to launch his own Canadian TV show. Oh, and he knocked over a female City Council member yesterday as he rushed to help his brother in an “altercation.” Oh, and he’s thinking of running for prime minister.

"I’m seeking professional help, I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not a drug addict," Ford told Fox’s John Roberts. "Have I had my outbursts in the past? Absolutely I have John. But you know what I’m only human. I’ve made mistakes I’ve apologized. That’s all I can do."

Ford also turned on CNN’s Bill Weir, saying: “I’m not an addict. You can spin it. You can tell me whatever you want. These people know that I’m not—have you ever got drunk before, Bill?” After Weir allowed that he had, Ford said: “I don’t look at myself as the mayor. I look at myself as just a normal, regular person.”
“Normal” and “regular” are not the first words that come to mind. There’s a reason that “SNL” is lampooning Ford, who crashed a Toronto Argonauts Canadian football game despite a request by the league’s commissioner that he stay away.

Why do we give Ford all this coverage? Most politicians are boring, and this one is a slow-motion train wreck. Every day he seems to top himself. And Canada, usually ignored by the American media, hasn’t gotten this much coverage since the War of 1812.

November 15, 2013

Health Law Rollout’s Stumbles Draw Parallels to Bush’s Hurricane Response

Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times
Hours after announcing changes to his health care law, President Obama spoke to steelworkers in Cleveland on Thursday. “We are not going to gut this law,” he said, vowing to “push back.”

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama won the presidency by exploiting a political environment that devoured George W. Bush in a second term plagued by sinking credibility, failed legislative battles, fractured world relations and revolts inside his own party.

President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.

But unlike Mr. Bush, who faced confrontational but occasionally cooperative Democrats, Mr. Obama is battling a Republican opposition that has refused to open the door to any legislative fixes to the health care law and has blocked him at virtually every turn. A contrite-sounding Mr. Obama repeatedly blamed himself on Thursday for the failed health care rollout, which he acknowledged had thrust difficult burdens on his political allies and hurt Americans’ trust in him.

“It’s legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general,” Mr. Obama said. The president did not admit to misleading people about whether they could keep their insurance, but again expressed regret that his assurances turned out to be wrong.

“To those Americans, I hear you loud and clear,” Mr. Obama said as he announced changes intended to allow some people to keep their insurance.

But earning back the confidence of Americans, as he pledged to do, will require Mr. Obama to right more than just the health care law. At home, his immigration overhaul is headed for indefinite delay, and new budget and debt fights loom. Overseas, revelations of spying by the National Security Agency have infuriated American allies, and negotiations over Iran’s nuclear arsenal have set off bipartisan criticism.
For the first time in Mr. Obama’s presidency, surveys suggest that his reserve of good will among the public is running dry. Two polls in recent weeks have reported that a majority of Americans no longer trust the president or believe that he is being honest with them.

“When you start losing the trust and confidence, not only of Congress, but the American people, that makes it even more difficult,” said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. “You can work yourself out. But you have to be sincere, and you have to be honest.”

The difficulties have put Mr. Obama on the defensive at exactly the moment he might have seized political advantage in a dysfunctional Washington. If not for the health care disaster, the two-week shutdown of the government last month would have been an opportunity for Mr. Obama to sharpen the contrast with Republicans. Democratic lawmakers expressed growing frustration on Thursday with the opportunities the party had missed to hammer home the ideological differences between the two parties. The lawmakers say there is intensifying anxiety within the Democratic caucus that the poor execution of the health care law could bleed into their 2014 re-election campaigns.

Republicans readily made the Hurricane Katrina comparison. “The echoes to the fall of 2005 are really eerie,” said Peter D. Feaver, a top national security official in Mr. Bush’s second term. “Katrina, which is shorthand for bungled administration policy, matches to the rollout of the website.” Looking back, he said, “we can see that some of the things that we hoped were temporary or just blips turned out to be more systemic from a political sense. It’s a fair question of whether that’s happening to President Obama.”
The president’s top aides vehemently reject the comparison of Mr. Obama’s fifth year in office to the latter half of Mr. Bush’s second term. They say Americans lost confidence in Mr. Bush because of his administration’s ineptitude on Hurricane Katrina and its execution of the war in Iraq, while Mr. Obama is struggling to extend health care to millions of people who do not have it. Those are very different issues, they said.

“I’m always very leery of these apocalyptic predictions,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama. 

Senior White House officials are nonetheless in crisis mode over the failure so far of what was supposed to be the president’s most significant legislative achievement. “We get that it is a big deal for him, for the law, for the Democrats who voted for him,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director. “We are taking it deathly seriously.”

Some Democrats are warning their colleagues against a rush to count Mr. Obama out prematurely. Steve Elmendorf, who was an influential Democratic aide on Capitol Hill in President Bill Clinton’s second term, insisted that Mr. Obama would recover and thrive, much as Mr. Clinton did.

That message was echoed in a memo that Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York, distributed to his colleagues during a caucus meeting on Wednesday. In the memo, Mr. Israel, who is the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said coming clashes with Republicans over the budget and the debt would once again play to the strengths of Democratic candidates.

In an interview, Mr. Israel said that he was confident that the administration would be able to put Mr. Obama’s current troubles behind it. “The website will get fixed,” Mr. Israel said. “The issue with insurance policies has been addressed.”

Still, the president’s own words on Thursday betrayed a realization inside the White House that for all his travails over the last five years, this situation could be different.

Never before has Mr. Obama been as hard on himself and his staff in describing failures of both policy and politics. He repeatedly apologized and said that the criticism of the health care rollout was more justified than criticism of him in the past.

“There were times I thought we got slapped around unjustly,” the president said. “This one is deserved. It’s on us.”

But speaking to steelworkers later in the day in Cleveland, Mr. Obama was combative. “We are not going to gut this law,” he said, adding that to “those who say they are opposed to it and can’t offer a solution, we’ll push back.”

November 12, 2013

Chris Christie's provincial problem: Can he win outside the Northeast?
A recent poll indicates that Christie's popularity might not extend far beyond his home state
There's a whole lot of country out there.
There's a whole lot of country out there. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
f the entire nation were one big New Jersey, Chris Christie would have the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in the bag.

Except there is only one New Jersey and, as a result, Christie's hypothetical path to the nomination will have to wind through far less favorable territory than solely the Garden State. And while it's tempting to extrapolate Christie's blowout re-election last week as a sign of his superior electability and presumed frontrunner status, there are questions about whether the New Jersey governor's broad support will extend beyond his home turf.

In the latest such indicator, an NBC poll out Tuesday found that Christie was the preferred candidate of GOP voters in just one region, the Northeast. There, 57 percent of Republicans said they would support Christie in a GOP primary versus 22 percent who said they would not.

However, pluralities of Republicans everywhere else said they would prefer a different candidate. Christie trailed a generic "other" GOPer in the Midwest (35/30 percent), the South (29/27 percent) and the West (40/22 percent.)

All told, Republican respondents nationwide are equally split between Christie, anti-Christie, and unsure. Of course, this poll might just illustrate the power of hometown advantage — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) could be the preferred candidate in the West, for instance — but it does highlight the governor's main problem should he launch a presidential campaign. Though he has significant bipartisan appeal — he won a third of Democrats and two-thirds of Independents in his re-election bid, according to the New York Times' exit polling data — that might not be much of a draw to many conservatives.

Other recent polling bears out that point.

In a recent survey conducted by Quinnipiac, only one-third of self-identified conservatives nationwide had a favorable opinion of Christie, while one-quarter viewed him unfavorably. And while Christie took the top spot in a PPP survey of a theoretical GOP primary earlier this month, he was the top choice among only three percent of "very conservative" respondents. That put him dead last with that demographic, behind the likes of Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio — as well as some more farfetched candidates like Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Matt Lewis remarked on this problem in The Week way back in February, comparing Christie to Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who positioned himself as the electable moderate in 2012 only to fizzle out in remarkable, whimpering fashion. Though Christie had some true conservative bona fides, Lewis wrote, conservative voters still suspected his high popularity back home was more so "directly related to his willingness to throw fellow Republicans under the bus. "

Christie has notably sparred with unions, slashed state spending, and wagged his finger at teachers, all of which should win him support with conservatives. But he's also developed a moderate image, dropping a challenge to gay marriage, endorsing some limited gun control reforms, and suggesting illegal immigrants should be given in-state tuition rates.

Those latter positions, which padded Christie's re-election margin, could become huge liabilities in a Republican primary with its typically more conservative electorate. Fox's Brit Hume noted that problem on Sunday, saying Tea Party types "are not persuaded by electability arguments, and they don't like anybody who they think may turn out to be a moderate."

"In some respects Chris Christie is indeed a moderate," he added, "so he has that to be concerned about."
Plus Christie infamously embraced President Obama following Hurricane Sandy, drawing ire from virtually everyone else in his party in the process. If he does indeed run, you can only imagine what sort of fun his opponents would have with all the pictures of him hugging, high-fiving, and just plain broing out with Obama.
Christie, with his name recognition and enviable fundraising platform, would be a formidable candidate in a general election. Yet the biggest question about his 2016 ambitions may not be whether he can defeat Hillary Clinton or whoever else emerges from the Democratic side, but whether he can first convince his own party's skeptics that he's really one of them.

November 10, 2013

Up in Arms


Last December, when Adam Lanza stormed into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with a rifle and killed twenty children and six adult staff members, the United States found itself immersed in debates about gun control. Another flash point occurred this July, when George Zimmerman, who saw himself as a guardian of his community, was exonerated in the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida. That time, talk turned to stand-your-ground laws and the proper use of deadly force. The gun debate was refreshed in September by the shooting deaths of twelve people at the Washington Navy Yard, apparently at the hands of an IT contractor who was mentally ill.

Such episodes remind Americans that our country as a whole is marked by staggering levels of deadly violence. Our death rate from assault is many times higher than that of highly urbanized countries like the Netherlands or Germany, sparsely populated nations with plenty of forests and game hunters like Canada, Sweden, Finland, or New Zealand, and large, populous ones like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. State-sponsored violence, too—in the form of capital punishment—sets our country apart. Last year we executed more than ten times as many prisoners as other advanced industrialized nations combined—not surprising given that Japan is the only other such country that allows the practice. Our violent streak has become almost a part of our national identity.

What’s less well appreciated is how much the incidence of violence, like so many salient issues in American life, varies by region. Beyond a vague awareness that supporters of violent retaliation and easy access to guns are concentrated in the states of the former Confederacy and, to a lesser extent, the western interior, most people cannot tell you much about regional differences on such matters. Our conventional way of defining regions—dividing the country along state boundaries into a Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest—masks the cultural lines along which attitudes toward violence fall. These lines don’t respect state boundaries. To understand violence or practically any other divisive issue, you need to understand historical settlement patterns and the lasting cultural fissures they established.

The original North American colonies were settled by people from distinct regions of the British Isles—and from France, the Netherlands, and Spain—each with its own religious, political, and ethnographic traits. For generations, these Euro-American cultures developed in isolation from one another, consolidating their cherished religious and political principles and fundamental values, and expanding across the eastern half of the continent in nearly exclusive settlement bands. Throughout the colonial period and the Early Republic, they saw themselves as competitors—for land, capital, and other settlers—and even as enemies, taking opposing sides in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

There’s never been an America, but rather several Americas—each a distinct nation. There are eleven nations today. Each looks at violence, as well as everything else, in its own way.

The precise delineation of the eleven nations—which I have explored at length in my latest book, American Nations—is original to me, but I’m certainly not the first person to observe that such national divisions exist. Kevin Phillips, a Republican Party campaign strategist, recognized the boundaries and values of several of these nations in 1969 and used them to correctly prophesy two decades of American political development in his politico cult classic The Emerging Republican Majority. Joel Garreau, a Washington Post editor, argued that our continent was divided into rival power blocs in The Nine Nations of North America, though his ahistorical approach undermined the identification of the nations. The Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Hackett Fischer detailed the origins and early evolution of four of these nations in his magisterial Albion’s Seed and later added New France. Russell Shorto described the salient characteristics of New Netherland in The Island at the Center of the World. And the list goes on.

The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps—including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history. Our continent’s famed mobility has been reinforcing, not dissolving, regional differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities, a phenomenon analyzed by Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing in The Big Sort (2008). Even waves of immigrants did not fundamentally alter these nations, because the children and grandchildren of immigrants assimilated into whichever culture surrounded them.

Before I describe the nations, I should underscore that my observations refer to the dominant culture, not the individual inhabitants, of each region. In every town, city, and state you’ll likely find a full range of political opinions and social preferences. Even in the reddest of red counties and bluest of blue ones, twenty to forty percent of voters cast ballots for the “wrong” team. It isn’t that residents of one or another nation all think the same, but rather that they are all embedded within a cultural framework of deep-seated preferences and attitudes—each of which a person may like or hate, but has to deal with nonetheless. Because of slavery, the African American experience has been different from that of other settlers and immigrants, but it too has varied by nation, as black people confronted the dominant cultural and institutional norms of each.

The nations are constituted as follows:

YANKEEDOM. Founded on the shores of Massachusetts Bay by radical Calvinists as a new Zion, Yankeedom has, since the outset, put great emphasis on perfecting earthly civilization through social engineering, denial of self for the common good, and assimilation of outsiders. It has prized education, intellectual achievement, communal empowerment, and broad citizen participation in politics and government, the latter seen as the public’s shield against the machinations of grasping aristocrats and other would-be tyrants. Since the early Puritans, it has been more comfortable with government regulation and public-sector social projects than many of the other nations, who regard the Yankee utopian streak with trepidation.

NEW NETHERLAND. Established by the Dutch at a time when the Netherlands was the most sophisticated society in the Western world, New Netherland has always been a global commercial culture—materialistic, with a profound tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry and conscience. Like seventeenth-century Amsterdam, it emerged as a center of publishing, trade, and finance, a magnet for immigrants, and a refuge for those persecuted by other regional cultures, from Sephardim in the seventeenth century to gays, feminists, and bohemians in the early twentieth. Unconcerned with great moral questions, it nonetheless has found itself in alliance with Yankeedom to defend public institutions and reject evangelical prescriptions for individual behavior.

THE MIDLANDS. America’s great swing region was founded by English Quakers, who believed in humans’ inherent goodness and welcomed people of many nations and creeds to their utopian colonies like Pennsylvania on the shores of Delaware Bay. Pluralistic and organized around the middle class, the Midlands spawned the culture of Middle America and the Heartland, where ethnic and ideological purity have never been a priority, government has been seen as an unwelcome intrusion, and political opinion has been moderate. An ethnic mosaic from the start—it had a German, rather than British, majority at the time of the Revolution—it shares the Yankee belief that society should be organized to benefit ordinary people, though it rejects top-down government intervention.

TIDEWATER. Built by the younger sons of southern English gentry in the Chesapeake country and neighboring sections of Delaware and North Carolina, Tidewater was meant to reproduce the semifeudal society of the countryside they’d left behind. Standing in for the peasantry were indentured servants and, later, slaves. Tidewater places a high value on respect for authority and tradition, and very little on equality or public participation in politics. It was the most powerful of the American nations in the eighteenth century, but today it is in decline, partly because it was cut off from westward expansion by its boisterous Appalachian neighbors and, more recently, because it has been eaten away by the expanding federal halos around D.C. and Norfolk.

GREATER APPALACHIA. Founded in the early eighteenth century by wave upon wave of settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands, Appalachia has been lampooned by writers and screenwriters as the home of hillbillies and rednecks. It transplanted a culture formed in a state of near constant danger and upheaval, characterized by a warrior ethic and a commitment to personal sovereignty and individual liberty. Intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers alike, Greater Appalachia has shifted alliances depending on who appeared to be the greatest threat to their freedom. It was with the Union in the Civil War. Since Reconstruction, and especially since the upheavals of the 1960s, it has joined with Deep South to counter federal overrides of local preference.

DEEP SOUTH. Established by English slave lords from Barbados, Deep South was meant as a West Indies–style slave society. This nation offered a version of classical Republicanism modeled on the slave states of the ancient world, where democracy was the privilege of the few and enslavement the natural lot of the many. Its caste systems smashed by outside intervention, it continues to fight against expanded federal powers, taxes on capital and the wealthy, and environmental, labor, and consumer regulations.

EL NORTE. The oldest of the American nations, El Norte consists of the borderlands of the Spanish American empire, which were so far from the seats of power in Mexico City and Madrid that they evolved their own characteristics. Most Americans are aware of El Norte as a place apart, where Hispanic language, culture, and societal norms dominate. But few realize that among Mexicans, norteños have a reputation for being exceptionally independent, self-sufficient, adaptable, and focused on work. Long a hotbed of democratic reform and revolutionary settlement, the region encompasses parts of Mexico that have tried to secede in order to form independent buffer states between their mother country and the United States.

THE LEFT COAST. A Chile-shaped nation wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade and Coast mountains, the Left Coast was originally colonized by two groups: New Englanders (merchants, missionaries, and woodsmen who arrived by sea and dominated the towns) and Appalachian midwesterners (farmers, prospectors, and fur traders who generally arrived by wagon and controlled the countryside). Yankee missionaries tried to make it a “New England on the Pacific,” but were only partially successful. Left Coast culture is a hybrid of Yankee utopianism and Appalachian self-expression and exploration—traits recognizable in its cultural production, from the Summer of Love to the iPad. The staunchest ally of Yankeedom, it clashes with Far Western sections in the interior of its home states.

THE FAR WEST. The other “second-generation” nation, the Far West occupies the one part of the continent shaped more by environmental factors than ethnographic ones. High, dry, and remote, the Far West stopped migrating easterners in their tracks, and most of it could be made habitable only with the deployment of vast industrial resources: railroads, heavy mining equipment, ore smelters, dams, and irrigation systems. As a result, settlement was largely directed by corporations headquartered in distant New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco, or by the federal government, which controlled much of the land. The Far West’s people are often resentful of their dependent status, feeling that they have been exploited as an internal colony for the benefit of the seaboard nations. Their senators led the fight against trusts in the mid-twentieth century. Of late, Far Westerners have focused their anger on the federal government, rather than their corporate masters.

NEW FRANCE. Occupying the New Orleans area and southeastern Canada, New France blends the folkways of ancien régime northern French peasantry with the traditions and values of the aboriginal people they encountered in northwestern North America. After a long history of imperial oppression, its people have emerged as down-to-earth, egalitarian, and consensus driven, among the most liberal on the continent, with unusually tolerant attitudes toward gays and people of all races and a ready acceptance of government involvement in the economy. The New French influence is manifest in Canada, where multiculturalism and negotiated consensus are treasured.

FIRST NATION. First Nation is populated by native American groups that generally never gave up their land by treaty and have largely retained cultural practices and knowledge that allow them to survive in this hostile region on their own terms. The nation is now reclaiming its sovereignty, having won considerable autonomy in Alaska and Nunavut and a self-governing nation state in Greenland that stands on the threshold of full independence. Its territory is huge—far larger than the continental United States—but its population is less than 300,000, most of whom live in Canada.

If you understand the United States as a patchwork of separate nations, each with its own origins and prevailing values, you would hardly expect attitudes toward violence to be uniformly distributed. You would instead be prepared to discover that some parts of the country experience more violence, have a greater tolerance for violent solutions to conflict, and are more protective of the instruments of violence than other parts of the country. That is exactly what the data on violence reveal about the modern United States.
Most scholarly research on violence has collected data at the state level, rather than the county level (where the boundaries of the eleven nations are delineated). Still, the trends are clear. The same handful of nations show up again and again at the top and the bottom of state-level figures on deadly violence, capital punishment, and promotion of gun ownership.

Consider assault deaths. Kieran Healy, a Duke University sociologist, broke down the per capita, age-adjusted deadly assault rate for 2010. In the northeastern states—almost entirely dominated by Yankeedom, New Netherland, and the Midlands—just over 4 people per 100,000 died in assaults. By contrast, southern states—largely monopolized by Deep South, Tidewater, and Greater Appalachia—had a rate of more than 7 per 100,000. The three deadliest states—Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, where the rate of killings topped 10 per 100,000—were all in Deep South territory. Meanwhile, the three safest states—New Hampshire, Maine, and Minnesota, with rates of about 2 killings per 100,000—were all part of Yankeedom.

Not surprisingly, black Americans have it worse than whites. Countrywide, according to Healy, blacks die from assaults at the bewildering rate of about 20 per 100,000, while the rate for whites is less than 6. But does that mean racial differences might be skewing the homicide data for nations with larger African-American populations? Apparently not. A classic 1993 study by the social psychologist Richard Nisbett, of the University of Michigan, found that homicide rates in small predominantly white cities were three times higher in the South than in New England. Nisbett and a colleague, Andrew Reaves, went on to show that southern rural counties had white homicide rates more than four times those of counties in New England,
Middle Atlantic, and Midwestern states.

Stand-your-ground laws are another dividing line between American nations. Such laws waive a citizen’s duty to try and retreat from a threatening individual before killing the person. Of the twenty-three states to pass stand-your-ground laws, only one, New Hampshire, is part of Yankeedom, and only one, Illinois, is in the Midlands. By contrast, each of the six Deep South–dominated states has passed such a law, and almost all the other states with similar laws are in the Far West or Greater Appalachia.

Comparable schisms show up in the gun control debate. In 2011, after the mass shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others in Tucson, the Pew Research Center asked Americans what was more important, protecting gun ownership or controlling it. The Yankee states of New England went for gun control by a margin of sixty-one to thirty-six, while those in the poll’s “southeast central” region—the Deep South states of Alabama and Mississippi and the Appalachian states of Tennessee and Kentucky—supported gun rights by exactly the same margin. Far Western states backed gun rights by a proportion of fifty-nine to thirty-eight.

Another revealing moment came this past April, in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, when the U.S. Senate failed to pass a bill to close loopholes in federal background checks for would-be gun owners. In the six states dominated by Deep South, the vote was twelve to two against the measure, and most of the Far West and Appalachia followed suit. But Yankee New England voted eleven to one in favor, and the dissenting vote, from Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, was so unpopular in her home state that it caused an immediate dip in her approval rating.

The pattern for capital punishment laws is equally stark. The states dominated by Deep South, Greater Appalachia, Tidewater, and the Far West have had a virtual monopoly on capital punishment. They account for more than ninety-five percent of the 1,343 executions in the United States since 1976. In the same period, the twelve states definitively controlled by Yankeedom and New Netherland—states that account for almost a quarter of the U.S. population—have executed just one person.

Why is violence—state-sponsored and otherwise—so much more prevalent in some American nations than in others? It all goes back to who settled those regions and where they came from. Nisbett, the social psychologist, noted that regions initially “settled by sober Puritans, Quakers, and Dutch farmer-artisans”—that is, Yankeedom, the Midlands, and New Netherland—were organized around a yeoman agricultural economy that rewarded “quiet, cooperative citizenship, with each individual being capable of uniting for the common good.” The South—and by this he meant the nations I call Tidewater and Deep South—was settled by “swashbuckling Cavaliers of noble or landed gentry status, who took their values . . . from the knightly, medieval standards of manly honor and virtue.”

Continuing to treat the South as a single entity, Nisbett argued that the violent streak in the culture the Cavaliers established was intensified by the “major subsequent wave of immigration . . . from the borderlands of Scotland and Ireland.” These immigrants, who populated what I call Greater Appalachia, came from “an economy based on herding,” which, as anthropologists have shown, predisposes people to belligerent stances because the animals on which their wealth depends are so vulnerable to theft. Drawing on the work of the historian David Hackett Fisher, Nisbett maintained that “southern” violence stems partly from a “culture-of-honor tradition,” in which males are raised to create reputations for ferocity—as a deterrent to rustling—rather than relying on official legal intervention.

More recently, researchers have begun to probe beyond state boundaries to distinguish among different cultural streams. Robert Baller of the University of Iowa and two colleagues looked at late-twentieth-century white male “argument-related” homicide rates, comparing those in counties that, in 1850, were dominated by Scots-Irish settlers with those in other parts of the “Old South.” In other words, they teased out the rates at which white men killed each other in feuds and compared those for Greater Appalachia with those for Deep South and Tidewater. The result: Appalachian areas had significantly higher homicide rates than their lowland neighbors—“findings [that] are supportive of theoretical claims about the role of herding as the ecological underpinning of a code of honor.”

Another researcher, Pauline Grosjean, an economist at Australia’s University of New South Wales, found strong statistical relationships between the presence of Scots-Irish settlers in the 1790 census and contemporary homicide rates, but only in “southern” areas “where the institutional environment was weak”—which is the case in almost the entirety of Greater Appalachia. She further noted that in areas where Scots-Irish were dominant, settlers of other ethnic origins—Dutch, French, and German—were also more violent, suggesting that they had acculturated to Appalachian norms.

But it’s not just herding that promoted a culture of violence. Scholars have long recognized that cultures organized around slavery rely on violence to control, punish, and terrorize—which no doubt helps explain the erstwhile prevalence of lynching deaths in Deep South and Tidewater. But it is also significant that both these nations, along with Greater Appalachia, follow religious traditions that sanction eye-for-an-eye justice, and adhere to secular codes that emphasize personal honor and shun governmental authority. As a result, their members have fewer qualms about rushing to lethal judgments.

The code of Yankeedom could not have been more different. Its founders promoted self-doubt and self-restraint, and their Unitarian and Congregational spiritual descendants believed vengeance would not receive the approval of an all-knowing God. This nation was the center of the nineteenth-century death penalty reform movement, which began eliminating capital punishment for burglary, robbery, sodomy, and other nonlethal crimes. None of the states controlled by Yankeedom or New Netherland retain the death penalty today.

With such sharp regional differences, the idea that the United States would ever reach consensus on any issue having to do with violence seems far-fetched. The cultural gulf between Appalachia and Yankeedom, Deep South and New Netherland is simply too large. But it’s conceivable that some new alliance could form to tip the balance.

Among the eleven regional cultures, there are two superpowers, nations with the identity, mission, and numbers to shape continental debate: Yankeedom and Deep South. For more than two hundred years, they’ve fought for control of the federal government and, in a sense, the nation’s soul. Over the decades, Deep South has become strongly allied with Greater Appalachia and Tidewater, and more tenuously with the Far West. Their combined agenda—to slash taxes, regulations, social services, and federal powers—is opposed by a Yankee-led bloc that includes New Netherland and the Left Coast. Other nations, especially the Midlands and El Norte, often hold the swing vote, whether in a presidential election or a congressional battle over health care reform. Those swing nations stand to play a decisive role on violence-related issues as well.

For now, the country will remain split on how best to make its citizens safer, with Deep South and its allies bent on deterrence through armament and the threat of capital punishment, and Yankeedom and its allies determined to bring peace through constraints such as gun control. The deadlock will persist until one of these camps modifies its message and policy platform to draw in the swing nations. Only then can that camp seize full control over the levers of federal power—the White House, the House, and a filibuster-proof Senate majority—to force its will on the opposing nations. Until then, expect continuing frustration and division.

Colin Woodard, A91, is the author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. An earlier book, The Republic of Pirates, is the basis of the forthcoming NBC drama Crossbones. He is currently state and national affairs writer at the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, where he won a George Polk Award this year for his investigative reporting.

November 8, 2013

Right Wing’s Surge in Europe Has the Establishment Rattled

Laerke Posselt for The New York Times
Mikkel Dencker, a mayoral candidate in Hvidovre, Denmark, put up campaign posters. He has made the removal of meatballs from kindergarten in deference to Islam a campaign issue.
HVIDOVRE, Denmark — As right-wing populists surge across Europe, rattling established political parties with their hostility toward immigration, austerity and the European Union, Mikkel Dencker of the Danish People’s Party has found yet another cause to stir public anger: pork meatballs missing from kindergartens.
A member of Denmark’s Parliament and, he hopes, mayor of this commuter-belt town west of Copenhagen, Mr. Dencker is furious that some day care centers have removed meatballs, a staple of traditional Danish cuisine, from their cafeterias in deference to Islamic dietary rules. No matter that only a handful of kindergartens have actually done so. The missing meatballs, he said, are an example of how “Denmark is losing its identity” under pressure from outsiders. 

The issue has become a headache for Mayor Helle Adelborg, whose center-left Social Democratic Party has controlled the town council since the 1920s but now faces an uphill struggle before municipal elections on Nov. 19. “It is very easy to exploit such themes to get votes,” she said. “They take a lot of votes from my party. It is unfair.” 

It is also Europe’s new reality. All over, established political forces are losing ground to politicians whom they scorn as fear-mongering populists. In France, according to a recent opinion poll, the far-right National Front has become the country’s most popular party. In other countries — Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland and the Netherlands — disruptive upstart groups are on a roll. 

This phenomenon alarms not just national leaders but also officials in Brussels who fear that European Parliament elections next May could substantially tip the balance of power toward nationalists and forces intent on halting or reversing integration within the European Union. 

“History reminds us that high unemployment and wrong policies like austerity are an extremely poisonous cocktail,” said Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister and a Social Democrat. “Populists are always there. In good times it is not easy for them to get votes, but in these bad times all their arguments, the easy solutions of populism and nationalism, are getting new ears and votes.” 

In some ways, this is Europe’s Tea Party moment — a grass-roots insurgency fired by resentment against a political class that many Europeans see as out of touch. The main difference, however, is that Europe’s populists want to strengthen, not shrink, government and see the welfare state as an integral part of their national identities. 

The trend in Europe does not signal the return of fascist demons from the 1930s, except in Greece, where the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has promoted openly racist beliefs, and perhaps in Hungary, where the far-right Jobbik party backs a brand of ethnic nationalism suffused with anti-Semitism. 

But the soaring fortunes of groups like the Danish People’s Party, which some popularity polls now rank ahead of the Social Democrats, point to a fundamental political shift toward nativist forces fed by a curious mix of right-wing identity politics and left-wing anxieties about the future of the welfare state.

“This is the new normal,” said Flemming Rose, the foreign editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. “It is a nightmare for traditional political elites and also for Brussels.”

The platform of France’s National Front promotes traditional right-wing causes like law and order and tight controls on immigration but reads in parts like a leftist manifesto. It accuses “big bosses” of promoting open borders so they can import cheap labor to drive down wages. It rails against globalization as a threat to French language and culture, and it opposes any rise in the retirement age or cuts in pensions.

Similarly, in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam leader of the Party for Freedom, has mixed attacks on immigration with promises to defend welfare entitlements. “He is the only one who says we don’t have to cut anything,” said Chris Aalberts, a scholar at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and author of a book based on interviews with Mr. Wilders’s supporters. “This is a popular message.”

Mr. Wilders, who has police protection because of death threats from Muslim extremists, is best known for his attacks on Islam and demands that the Quran be banned. These issues, Mr. Aalberts said, “are not a big vote winner,” but they help set him apart from deeply unpopular centrist politicians who talk mainly about budget cuts. The success of populist parties, Mr. Aalberts added, “is more about the collapse of the center than the attractiveness of the alternatives.” 

Pia Kjaersgaard, the pioneer of a trend now being felt across Europe, set up the Danish People’s Party in 1995 and began shaping what critics dismissed as a rabble of misfits and racists into a highly disciplined, effective and even mainstream political force. 

Ms. Kjaersgaard, a former social worker who led the party until last year, said she rigorously screened membership lists, weeding out anyone with views that might comfort critics who see her party as extremist. She said she had urged a similar cleansing of the ranks in Sweden’s anti-immigration and anti-Brussels movement, the Swedish Democrats, whose early leaders included a former activist in the Nordic Reich Party. 
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, has embarked on a similar makeover, rebranding her party as a responsible force untainted by the anti-Semitism and homophobia of its previous leader, her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once described Nazi gas chambers as a “detail of history.” Ms. Le Pen has endorsed several gay activists as candidates for French municipal elections next March.

But a whiff of extremism still lingers, and the Danish People’s Party wants nothing to do with Ms. Le Pen and her followers.

Built on the ruins of a chaotic antitax movement, the Danish People’s Party has evolved into a defender of the welfare state, at least for native Danes. It pioneered “welfare chauvinism,” a cause now embraced by many of Europe’s surging populists, who play on fears that freeloading foreigners are draining pensions and other benefits.

“We always thought the People’s Party was a temporary phenomenon, that they would have their time and then go away,” said Jens Jonatan Steen, a researcher at Cevea, a policy research group affiliated with the Social Democrats. “But they have come to stay.”

“They are politically incorrect and are not accepted by many as part of the mainstream,” he added. “But if you have support from 20 percent of the public, you are mainstream.”

In a recent meeting in the northern Danish town of Skorping, the new leader of the Danish People’s Party, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, criticized Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, of the Social Democrats, whose government is trying to trim the welfare system, and spoke about the need to protect the elderly.
The Danish People’s Party and similar political groups, according to Mr. Rasmussen, the former prime minister, benefit from making promises that they do not have to worry about paying for, allowing them to steal welfare policies previously promoted by the left. “This is a new populism that takes on the coat of Social Democratic policies,” he said.

In Hvidovre, Mr. Dencker, the Danish People’s Party mayoral candidate, wants the government in, not out of, people’s lives. Beyond pushing authorities to make meatballs mandatory in public institutions, he has attacked proposals to cut housekeeping services for the elderly and criticized the mayor for canceling one of the two Christmas trees the city usually puts up each December.

Instead, he says, it should put up five Christmas trees.

November 4, 2013

Expert: At least 129 million will ‘not be able to keep’ health care plan if Obamacare fully implemented
Posted By Jamie Weinstein On 12:45 AM 11/04/2013 

If Obamacare is fully implemented, 68 percent of Americans with private health insurance will not be able to keep their plan, according to health care economist Christopher Conover.

Conover is a research scholar in the Center for Health Policy & Inequalities Research at Duke University and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. In an interview with The Daily Caller, he laid out what he estimates the consequences of Obamacare’s implementation will ultimately be.

“Bottom line: of the 189 million Americans with private health insurance coverage, I estimate that if Obamacare is fully implemented, at least 129 million (68 percent) will not be able to keep their previous health care plan either because they already have lost or will lose that coverage by the end of 2014,” he said in an email. ”But of these, ‘only’ the 18 to 50 million will literally lose coverage, i.e., have their plans entirely taken away. This includes 9.2-15.4 million in the non-group market and 9-35 million in the employer-based market. The rest will retain their old plans but have to pay higher rates for Obamacare-mandated bells and whistles.”

Conover also says it is hard to imagine President Obama didn’t know these statistics when he was flacking for his health care bill by promising Americans they could keep their health insurance if they liked it.
“If President Obama himself believed this the first time he said it, he was poorly advised,” Conover said.
“The problem is that he said it at least 24 times, most of which occurred after his own rule-writers had estimated that 49-80 percent of small employer plans would have lost their grandfather status by 2013, along with 34-64 percent of large employer plans. The same rule estimated that each year 40 to 67 percent of non-group plans not already grandfathered would lose their grandfather status. Given how extensively presidential statements — especially to a joint session of Congress — are vetted and fact-checked, it is pretty inconceivable that President Obama was not aware that he was engaged in some degree of truth-twisting.”

Some current and former Obama administration officials are now admitting that the president’s “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it” promise is not technically true. But, they argue, it is only not true for a very small percentage of those insured. Do you agree with that assessment?
Absolutely not. Technically, every single health plan in the country already has been subject to at least some new Obamacare requirements. That is, even “grandfathered” plans and self-insured plans were required to eliminate lifetime and annual limits and to cover dependents up to age 26 on their parent’s plan. Each of these “improvements” in coverage costs money, just as every feature you add to your car costs money (anti-lock brakes, all-wheel drive). For instance, an Aon Hewitt survey of insurers showed that expanding dependent coverage to age 26 could increase premiums by 1 percent for some in the large group market, 2 percent in the small group market and up to 3.5 percent in the non-group market.

So strictly speaking, NO ONE who was entirely satisfied with their pre-Obamacare coverage has been able to keep it. But the degree of new restrictions/added costs is a continuum, with the added requirements/costs imposed in the following order (starting with plans facing the least added restrictions):
· Grandfathered plans (in theory, any plan in the large group, small group and non-group market can be grandfathered, but the restrictions are so tight that eventually every plan is expected to lose grandfather status)
· Self-insured plans (most of these are large employers with at least 100 workers)
· Large employer plans that are not self-insured (for now, small group only includes those under 50 workers, but this will grow to under 100 workers by 2016 and states have option to expand the definition further in future years)
· Non-group plans (inside and outside Exchanges)
· Small group plans (inside and outside Exchanges)
Thus, the degree to which you are dissatisfied with the new restrictions imposed by Obamacare or adversely affected by higher premiums depends heavily on what type of coverage you currently have.
By your calculations, how many people could lose their health insurance plans as result of Obamacare’s implementation?

The plans that come closest to conforming to the president’s original promise are grandfathered plans. But most Americans are not in grandfathered health plans anymore:
· Only 30 percent of large firm workers are in grandfathered plans in 2013, meaning the other 70 percent have already had to upgrade to more expensive policies covering, for example, all preventive services without any cost sharing (including contraception, sterilization and abortifacients).
· Similarly, only 52 percent of covered workers in small group plans are in grandfathered plans.
· It is estimated that 85 percent of non-group plans cannot qualify for grandfather status.
Bottom line: of the 189 million Americans with private health insurance coverage, I estimate that if Obamacare is fully implemented, at least 129 million (68 percent) will not be able to keep their previous health care plan either because they already have or will lose that coverage by the end of 2014. This includes:
· 9.2 to 15.4 million in the non-group market
· 16.6 million in the small group market
· 102.7 million in the large group market
But of these, “only” the 18 to 50 million will literally lose coverage, i.e., have their plans entirely taken away. This includes 9.2-15.4 million in the non-group market and 9-35 million in the employer-based market. The rest will retain their old plans but have to pay higher rates for Obamacare-mandated bells and whistles. It’s worth noting that RAND Corporation estimates that 3.8 million of these plan losers will not be able to find affordable coverage and will end up becoming newly uninsured.

Obama administration officials now say that those losing their insurance plans are actually losing inadequate coverage and that the new coverage they will be forced to get will be better and often cheaper. What do you say to that claim?

Here’s the problem: for additional coverage to be “better,” it must be worth the added cost from the perspective of the buyer. Prior to March 2010, there was nothing stopping employers or individuals from adding these benefit enhancements voluntarily, and indeed, many did. But tens of millions of others concluded that it wasn’t worth the added premium cost to extend dependent coverage from age 21 to age 26, for example, or to completely eliminate an already generous lifetime cap on benefits (e.g., $2 million). Obamacare essentially says “Uncle Sam knows best” by letting the judgment of government experts and bureaucrats trump that of American citizens, who used to have the freedom to make their own choices on these matters.

It’s true that some Americans will end up with cheaper coverage, but not the vast majority. Study after study shows premiums on average will be higher in the non-group, small group and even large group markets:
· The Society of Actuaries predicts premiums will rise 31.5 percent on average in the non-group market.
· Heritage Foundation found that average premiums for a family of four in the non-group market will increase in all but five states.
· American Action Forum (headed by former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin) estimates that premiums for healthy 30-year-olds in the non-group market will increase in all fifty states and the District of Columbia – from a low of 9 percent in Massachusetts to a high of 600 percent in Vermont.
· Even for 40-year-olds, Manhattan Institute estimates that premiums in the non-group market will increase an average of 99 percent for men and 62 percent for women.
These studies do not account for Exchange subsidies; however two studies have addressed this issue directly:
· In a state-by-state analysis, Manhattan Institute calculated the “break-even” income level needed to ensure that an individual’s subsidies would entirely offset the full estimated increase in premiums they would face in their home state. Both for 27-year olds and 40-year olds (whether male or female), the break-even income was well below median household income. Since by definition half of households are below the median, this result implies that a majority of individuals in the non-group market will pay higher premiums even after accounting for exchange subsidies.
· National Journal’s independent assessment concluded that even after taking into account subsidies available on the exchanges, 66 percent of workers with single coverage and 57 percent of workers with family coverage will face higher premiums on the exchange compared to what they would pay for employer-sponsored coverage. The analysis showed that a single wage earner must make less than $20,000 to see his or her current premiums drop or stay the same under Obamacare. For a family of four, income would have to be less than or equal to $62,300 in order to see net premium savings (i.e., after subsidies are taken into account). This finding is particularly important since up to 35 million with employer-based coverage may lose it and thus be forced to buy on the Exchanges.
Is it possible President Obama truly believed his “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it” promise at the time he was saying it? Or were the consequences of Obamacare so foreseeable that such a scenario is hard to imagine?

If President Obama himself believed this the first time he said he, he was poorly advised. The problem is that he said it at least 24 times, most of which occurred after his own rule-writers had estimated that 49-80 percent of small employer plans would have lost their grandfather status by 2013, along with 34-64 percent of large employer plans. The same rule estimated that each year 40 to 67 percent of non-group plans not already grandfathered would lose their grandfather status. Given how extensively presidential statements — especially to a joint session of Congress — are vetted and fact-checked, it is pretty inconceivable that President Obama was not aware that he was engaged in some degree of truth-twisting. How much truth-twisting? Well, the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker, Glenn Kessler, has awarded the president Four Pinocchios for his pledge. That sounds about right to me.

What do you believe will happen if the Obamacare exchanges fail to sign up the needed percentage of the young and healthy? How serious a problem will that be?

There are mechanisms in place to protect individual health plans against ending up with an unexpectedly high selection of poor health risks. Nevertheless, if this phenomenon is occurring market-wide, it will result in substantially more taxpayer subsidies on the exchanges. Moreover, this adverse experience is likely to greatly influence decisions by health plans whether to re-participate in Year 2 (not to mention the companies that wisely sat out the first year so they could get a more accurate handle on the cross-section of health risks they would face so that they could more accurately price their products). Year 1 already suffers from pretty poor health plan participation (only 2 carriers offer coverage in North Carolina’s exchange, for example, even though there’s a half dozen carriers that previously offered plans in the non-group market). But this will make the exchanges even less desirable except for those heavily in need of subsidies (sicker/poorer). So I don’t think the death spiral will cause the immediate dissolution of the exchanges necessarily, but absent a change in the basic structure of Obamacare, I think it is close to inevitable.

Obamacare is a really bad deal for most young people. As one illustration, all the people who for many years used to be in 34 state high risk pools now will be channeled into the exchanges and the young are bearing the biggest burden of carrying this load (which previously used to be spread across all people with insurance and/or general taxpayers, depending on what state you lived in). As well, they are carrying the burden of paying for many older people who have much higher incomes. Young people only now are discovering this and I think it will become even more obvious this coming year. As young people discover how easy it is to evade the individual mandate penalty — i.e., make sure you don’t have a tax refund due and you’re home free — non-compliance is likely to increase rather than decrease over time even though the penalty itself will keep going up between now and 2016.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 
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