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The Stories Of The Shutdown

Andrew Sullivan has a popular series of blog posts up in which readers write about how they have been hurt in tangible ways [1] by the federal shutdown. For example:

I’m a federal employee furloughed from my job teaching at one of the military academies. Our academy leadership decided to keep classes running while the 30% of our faculty who are civilian had to stay home. That means not only that civilian faculty like me have no work and no pay, but military faculty are teaching two or three sections of cadets combined. Some upper-level classes have been suspended, and fourth-year cadets who need these classes to graduate may be in danger of not meeting their course requirements for graduation. But pretty soon it will be hard to give them credit for the courses.

This is a small but useful example of how storytelling favors one particular political position, the Democratic one. To read these stories and to empathize with the storyteller is to find oneself moved to agree with them.

As an intellectual exercise in the spirit of my Storylines, Not Party Lines piece [2], let’s imagine stories that make a good case for the pro-shutdown GOP side. Let’s hear what you have, readers. I’m not looking for snark, and I’m not looking for arguments; I’m looking for stories that make the argument real.

UPDATE: I’m serious about wanting only stories. I’m not going to publish comments, pro or anti shutdown, that are not limited to stories. Not trying to be ugly here, but if you don’t have a narrative that supports the shutdown side, don’t waste your time commenting.

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97 Comments To "The Stories Of The Shutdown"

#1 Comment By SiliconValleySteve On October 8, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

I’m planning to retire in 6 months. For all of our marriage my wife and I have had our health care covered by my employment. As a teacher in CA, my wife has a total salary that is calculated without benefits and then reduced by the amount of benefits she collects. For the last several years we have monitored the cost of getting coverage with the same HMO (the most inexpensive of the plans offered her) currently use by purchasing through her employer to prepare for my retirement. We cover our family of 4 though this plan. This year the coverage will be approximately $5000 greater (24,000) than it was last year. This is a much higher increase than we have seen in the last 5 years and I assume it is the price of Obama care.

#2 Comment By Jeff On October 8, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

The BBC had a piece on the other day with one of their reporters in Texas, interviewing ostensibly about Sen. Cruz and reactions to his role. As the BBC World Service often does, they stumbled into a different story, and had the sense to let it make the shift with the subjects: people caught up in the shutdown “drama” were realizing, and talking to each other about the startling realization “Hey, this ObamaCare? We’re going to have to pay something for it.” And as one lady who claimed to be a Cruz opponent said “If I didn’t know this, as much as I support the President and what he’s trying to do, I wonder how many others don’t know this is going to cost money, either?”

So I found myself thinking: if the shutdown is actually making lots of non-ideological folk actually listen and ask and think about what the ACA is doing (like, you won’t just “get” it but you have to *buy* it), then it must be doing some good after all.

That’s my (secondhand) story of good news from the shutdown.

#3 Comment By Edward Hamilton On October 8, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

Story #1:

This morning I attended a meeting covering the financial situation of my university. Like many other universities, we’re suffering from the decline in enrollment as a consequence of the state of the larger economy. In particular, we’ve seen substantial declines in enrollment each of the last two years, forcing us to constantly pare more items from the budget in an ongoing revision process. This semester we’re leaving several vacation positions unfilled, and we’re also considering eliminating some of them. Everyone is strapped with too much work, sabbaticals are in danger of cancellation, and we’re being asked to “re-evaluate” the courses we offer that have low enrollment (basically, anything that doesn’t produce huge classes that are net money-makers on a tuition-vs-salary basis).

For the most part we’ve been able to keep salaries down, except in one category: health care. Compliance with external regulations requires us to devote more resources to this area (and hire more administrators and lawyers) at the same time we’re cutting faculty. Why is this a good thing for us to be dealing with right now? The government is willing to pump billions of dollars every month in “quantitative easing” into the financial sector, sending the stock market to the moon. But all it gives to us is more regulations, with a hazy set of consequences for non-compliance and a hazy understanding of what compliance involves.

A particularly simple solution for the
administration, alas, is to simply hire more part-time adjunct faculty who work fewer than 30 hours a week, who aren’t subject to ACA regulation. We’ve already been instructed to cut work hours to our students assistants, which is why I currently have told my TA to show up to only one laboratory a week now.

This is unacceptable, and Barack Obama doesn’t understand or relate to our frustration. Ted Cruz (our senator here in Texas) certainly does, and is willing to articulate that frustration at the cost of being dragged through the mud by any number of journalists. He’s standing up for us, by saving us from burdensome regulation that is causing administrative costs to crowd out the money devoted to real teaching.

(N.B.: I don’t actually believe all of the above, in the sense that I think it oversimplifies a complicated issue, but this is an exercise in showing how a certain type of mostly-true story can be crafted in support of the Republican position.)

#4 Comment By The Wet One On October 8, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

Erm, the rate going up 5% is probably not that plausible. Maybe 2% is more realistic. Otherwise though, I think it’s not bad. And a happy story for seniors.

#5 Comment By Jeff On October 8, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

Oh, and I think lots of folks who have muddled ideas about how the National Park Service is paid for, and likewise the Postal Service, have been learning that: a) NPS is a direct, discretionary ward of the state, and no, your concession costs don’t pay for the rangers and upkeep, and b) USPS in fact *is* self-supporting, and not the recipient of federal funds. So there’s that little ray of sunshine . . .

#6 Comment By Frank C. On October 8, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

I live in Arlington, VA, and a lot of my friends are either Federal employees or contractors. At least last week, they were enjoying long lunches and early afternoon happy hours in their home neighborhoods, which normally would not have had that traffic during a week day. For those businesses (many of which were offering “shutdown specials”), the shutdown may result in a revenue upswing, at least for early October. Probably pretty isolated, though, and not what I’d call a compelling narrative.

I also heard second-hand that some smart-alecks in a friend’s college communications class pointed out they could theoretically Tweet a bunch of imprudent things that might not be recorded for posterity by the Library of Congress (which is archiving every public tweet) because it too is closed.

I think, from a larger perspective, Rod, what would be useful would be stories about people’s lives that would be improved by less federal government intrusion or have been hurt by the (un)intended consequences of legislation or regulation. I think that’s probably the conservative narrative counter-perspective to Andrew Sullivan’s series, rather than specific benefits from the shutdown.

#7 Comment By Edward Hamilton On October 8, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

Story #2:

Two weeks ago, my wife had her second baby! (Cheer!) Like our first birth, we elected to use a traditional midwife and a home birth. Unfortunately, our current employer insurance only provides coverage for a hospital birth, so I was obligated to pay for all expenses (including pre- and post-natal) out of my own pocket. That amounts to nearly 10% of my annual salary, and my wife is a stay-at-home mom.

Disappointed with that coverage policy, I decided to look for an alternate insurance provider this summer. My intent was to find a program that would simply cover my own preference for certain forms non-traditional medical care, including home birth. Nothing too crazy, just a desire to see a more holistic approach to moves issues like pregnancy out of the paradigm of institutional medicine. (It’s not a sickness, after all!)

While reading Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s book “God’s Economy” (a rousing critique of the excesses of capitalism!) I learned about the existence of various Christian health-care cost sharing ministries. Unlike insurance, these are entirely non-profit entities which pool health care costs. They are totally friendly toward cost-reducing models for health-care that de-emphasize expensive institutional medicine to move away from baffling hospital bill adjustments and reimbursements, and empower consumers to make individual purchase decisions themselves. This sounded like something that would be worthy of support!

I contacted our HR director about opting out of our official employer program. While this was possible up until this year, the threat of poorly understood regulations under the ACA has lead the administration to remove the ability of employees to seek their own coverage. This is trapping me in a policy I don’t want! (There are plenty of other problems with our insurance provider as well, and it generally compares poorly in premiums and deductible to the plans I’ve seen offered on the statewide exchange.)

It’s easy to see why insurers have stopped fighting the ACA, and decided to embrace it. Now everyone is effectively forced into buying a particular type of insurance, and unable to escape from having part of what should be their own salary compensation package (to be spent in any way desired) sent to a large corporate entity that is effectively being protected from competition by government regulation, stifling consumer choice.

At the same time, I am afraid that virtuous non-profit ministries that offer lower-cost healthcare with little or no deductible will be forced out of business, unable to compete with the high-powered lobbyists who protect a vastly larger industry. Why is Obama taking away my freedom to choose my own healthcare model? We need more heroes like our Senator Ted Cruz, who is willing to stand up to this kind of dreadful power grab that represents the worst kind of collusion between an arrogant government and a greedy industry that is already flush with cash.

Terminating the ACA is vitally important to me, and standing up to Obama is worth forcing public sector employees to share in some of the pain that the private sector suffered during the last recession.

(N.B.: I’m still laying it on a bit thick, but this is closer to being an honest representation of my personal dislike of the ACA, despite my appreciation for it’s good motives. Again, entirely true story, and one that at least feels persuasive to me! But I can certainly understand that it would be better to propose positive reforms of the law that help to maximize consumer freedom, though, rather than just venting non-constructively against it.)

#8 Comment By Irenist On October 8, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

I don’t support the shutdown, but I think this is a good exercise, so I’ll give it a shot.

I suppose the cliche story to tell would be something like, “Imagine Eddie the Entrepreneur, who can barely afford to run his picturesque diner–a local institution–with insurance regs as they are now. Obamacare is going to ruin him.” I’m not that good at that kind of thing, though, so I’ll spare you.

Honestly, the “story” that comes to my mind is that of the English parliaments that wrung concessions from kings who needed money for their wars. Legislators saying “no more money unless you listen to us” is the plot of the oldest story in the Anglophone democratic tradition. Open any history of England to any chapter from King John onwards (and particularly from Edward I onwards), and there are plenty of “stories” just like that.

(I know, I know, these are not the kind of personal vignettes you were looking for, but as an opponent of the shutdown, I thought I it would be sporting of me to at least try to come up with something. If you don’t like the comment, by all means don’t publish it. Frankly, it’s revealing–whether about the liberal bias of your commentariat, or of reality, or both, I really don’t know–that no one can seem to come up with anything.)

#9 Comment By Edward Hamilton On October 8, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

As you’ve probably noticed, the weak point here is that there’s no element of any story that anyone can tell that explains why the shutdown is an effective way to change the ACA. If anything, it makes it harder to change the ACA by locking both sides into increasingly inflexible positions and making them terrified of saving face.

I tried to structure both of my stories so that they represented the idea of the shutdown as a symbolic protest of the helplessness of opponents of the ACA, who probably would themselves rather have a different set of tools to force Obama to negotiate unpopular aspects of his legislation. The House Republicans aren’t really “pro-shutdown” in an objective sense, they’re just so fanatically anti-Obamacare that the shutdown feels like the lesser of evils.

#10 Comment By Erin Manning On October 8, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

Well, here’s a story; don’t know if it meets the criteria. Source:



“Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama.

“Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law.

“Vinson, of San Jose, will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy, while Waschura, of Portola Valley, will cough up almost $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four. […]

“Both Vinson and Waschura have adjusted gross incomes greater than four times the federal poverty level — the cutoff for a tax credit. And while both said they anticipated their rates would go up, they didn’t realize they would rise so much.

“Of course, I want people to have health care,” Vinson said. “I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.” (End quote.)

#11 Comment By Maryland On October 8, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

I’ll give it a shot. These are all stories I’ve heard personally, not friend of a friend, but I’ve obscured some of the details for privacy.

A high school acquaintance works for a federal department in a middle management position. They make around $90,000 a year, plus all the benefits, time off and job security that comes with having a federal job, despite not being yet 30 or being able to explain what they do or why they do it. They got the job through high-level academic connections. Unfortunately the states are still paying them because of the arcane way the federal government takes in revenue. Their job is certainly not essential.

A friend complains constantly about the time servers they have to deal with at another large department. These folks earn 6 figure salaries and can’t be gotten rid of because of nepotistic connections. These folks are not being paid during the shut down.

Another acquaintance who works for a federal agency told me a story of a coworker who regularly eats foods they are intolerant to and thereby soils themself and their workplace two or three times a week. They refuse to wear any sort of adult diaper and so the materials in their cube have to be replaced two or three times a year. No one there has any courage apparently, and so this person still has a job. During the shutdown, this person is not being paid their $85,000 a year salary, and is not forcing hazmat cleaning of their cubicle at the expense of the taxpayer.

Any one who has spent any time in the metro DC area has stories about the ridiculous people, waste and foolishness that Washington pours money into. And it is difficult for me to work up a ton of sympathy for folks with stable, secure, well-compensated, white collar jobs who have to endure a couple weeks of uncertainty and unemployment every couple of decades.

#12 Comment By mm On October 8, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

the whole point of much of economic analysis is to consider the “unseen” effects- Bastiat for one. The media’s simple minded story telling undermines good analysis- hence the media’s inability to understand the broken window fallacy. We hear about so & so who lost his gov’t (insert job/benefit/subsidy/program) and is hurt–but fail to see the ill effects of providing such a item to one man from the sweat of another’s brow.

[NFR: See, that’s the point, though: you have to find some way of telling these stories. It’s a political necessity! — RD]

#13 Comment By William Dalton On October 8, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

I’ll be happy to give you stories of those who have already suffered the effects of Obamacare, Rod, but first tell me why you label Andrew Sullivan’s story as something that favors the Democratic side? Why would you label Republicans in Congress as being “pro-shutdown” when it is the President, not they, who have ordered these people off the job? When House Republicans have passing bills which have died in the Senate to fund the departments not associated with Obamacare and force the President to reopen them? When every single member of the House leadership is on record as opposing the shut-downs the President has effected?

Republicans are, indeed, seeking to force a shutdown of Obamacare. But nothing else (although there is a lot else they should be seeking to shut down as well). So why echo the spin put out by the Democratic Party that Republicans are forcing a shutdown they aren’t?

#14 Comment By Roland de Chanson On October 8, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

True story. Albeit, with some literary embellishment. The first embellishment being “albeit”. Frequent flyer points for identifying the subsequent ones.

I called the IRS number to ask whether, since the guvvamint ain’t spending no money, whether I had to file a quarterly tax payment. I had expected an apparatchik’s guffaw at the other end and a bit of persiflage back and forth. Those guys and gals need a break.

I dialed the number and the sexy computer voice said that my waiting time would be 3 weeks. Mmm, that’s better than usual, I bethought myself.

So I put down the phone on the desk and waited. I’ll run up their 1-800 bill for the next 21 days with no conscience at all. Of course that means my wife, who is away, can’t call me.

Did I mention the serendipitous double boon of this call?

BTW, is anyone up for a general tax strike? Like if everyone who reads this blog withholds tax payments then we can all Benedict-opt-out at Leavenworth or some other sanctuary where the Normans won’t attack us with sword and mace.

Oh, wait…

Never mind.

#15 Comment By Withywindle On October 8, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

I don’t think you can find “shutdown benefit” stories because it isn’t a shutdown that shutdowns the negative things government does, only the positive. I.e., the bureaucrats don’t show up to work, but all bureaucratic rules are still in force; expenditures don’t go out, but our taxes don’t go down. Since the shutdown is selective, the lack of “positive shutdown stories” isn’t particularly informative.

[NFR: Again, I don’t think you’ll find many “the shutdown is terrific for us!” stories. What I’m asking for is stories that illustrate the belief that it’s worth forcing the shutdown to achieve GOP goals. — RD]

#16 Comment By Withywindle On October 8, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

Well, my health insurance provider went out of business because of ObamaCare, and right now I don’t even know if the supposed replacement is going to be up and running by the end of the year. And I wonder if my employer will lay me off once ObamaCare costs start to kick in. So even if I don’t know if the shutdown effort will work, I don’t mind that someone is trying something, anything, to throw a spanner in the works of this horrible law.

#17 Comment By Sam M On October 8, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

Here is a pro-shutdown story.


The government isn’t out of money.

#18 Comment By Mia On October 8, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

You stumped me, RD.

#19 Comment By Steve On October 8, 2013 @ 9:45 pm

Rod, I’m not saying there aren’t stories. But there are many issues where you are balancing one very specific large benefit to a few individuals vs. a small harm to a large number of individuals. It’s my sense that liberals are very attuned to the former while often neglecting the latter, and the former is where the tear-jerker stories come. Here’s a good example: Someone falls off a ladder and is badly injured. They sue the manufacturer. A large punitive award would be emotionally satisfying to many, but one needs to balance it against the thousands of ladders that will cost an extra $10 due to an out-of-balance legal system. The latter doesn’t lend itself to good stories, but it still adds up to a significant burden on the economy.

[NFR: You may be right, but my point is that if conservatives want to even the odds of influencing the public, they need to come up with stories that illustrate conservative principles and beliefs. I’m not just lecturing others here. We were flat-footed in fighting same-sex marriage because it was easy for the other side to point to gay couples who suffered from its lack, but much harder to concretize the harms that social conservatives like me believe will ensue from SSM. Without being able to tell stories, it’s harder to reach people and to persuade them. — RD]

#20 Comment By Richard Johnson On October 8, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

It seems that the GOP has chosen a narrative of “Democrats use government shutdown to close parks and treat visitors like criminals.” Compare that to the narrative many Democrats use, which usually goes “Republicans want to take insurance away from 25 year old disabled child” or “Republicans shut down government and military members who die no longer receive their insurance benefits.”

Which story is more compelling? I get your point, Rod, and it goes back to a post you made a couple of weeks ago about conservatives needing to become better story tellers. Here, the GOP’s park closings go up against disabled twenty-somethings and flag-draped coffins.

It’s a no-brainer which one wins in the public opinion race.

#21 Comment By rf On October 8, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

Thanks for your response to my comment. I think we’re talking past each other. I don’t disagree that stories are a compelling way to persuade.

My only point is that it is unfair to start from the premise that stories of those suffering from the shutdown are necessarily pro-Dem stories. If you believe that the Dems are being unreasonable (and I know you don’t believe this), then those stories are pro-GOP.

The issue boils down to whom you believe to be at fault, which doesn’t depend on who has the best story.

#22 Comment By Turmarion On October 8, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

Rod: I’ve seen a few entries on this thread that talk about how bad Obamacare is going to be, which might lead one to conclude that stopping it is worth the shutdown risk. But don’t you see that being unable to come up with a compelling narrative with which to fight the stories about people being hurt by the shutdown makes it harder for Republicans to win?

Edward Hamilton (whose stories, in my mind, are the best here; my emphasis): As you’ve probably noticed, the weak point here is that there’s no element of any story that anyone can tell that explains why the shutdown is an effective way to change the ACA. If anything, it makes it harder to change the ACA by locking both sides into increasingly inflexible positions and making them terrified of saving face.

There you have it in a nutshell. To use an analogy from the Pixar movie Up, we all sympathize with Carl Fredrickson’s initial refusal to sell his beloved house so a skyscraper can go up. However, if instead of accidentally hitting the construction worker with the mailbox, he’d barricaded himself in the house, mined the yard, set explosives with trip wires around his house, and shot any construction workers who came near, we’d be, to say the least, less sympathetic to him (although that could have been a Charles Bronson movie….).

In short, we could sympathize with Carl’s plight but not his methods. There are legitimate stories to be told about problems with the ACA and real people who have been hurt by it; but there needs to be a way to show why a government shutdown and a possible default next week are the appropriate method to deal with this; just as in the hypothetical re-write of Up, Carl, at his trial, is gonna have to explain the fifteen people he shot and the SWAT team and the three innocent bystanders killed and maimed by the mines he laid, and why that was the right way not to get evicted.

As Edward says, what needs to be done is fix the ACA; but a further problem that he doesn’t mention is that the GOP (or at least the Tea Party faction controlling it) doesn’t want to fix it, but to scrap it; which hypothetically is OK, except that they have not a single realistic alternative.

Anyway, I think that regardless of one’s politics, the nature of this situation makes a “pro-shutdown” narrative extremely difficult. It’s the nature of this beast.

#23 Comment By lasorda On October 8, 2013 @ 10:43 pm

a) My wife had our youngest baby soon after the ACA was signed into law. When the baby left her plan for his own, her plan “reset,” and was no longer grandfathered. A couple of weeks ago, her plan and my son’s were cancelled.

b) Our beloved family doctor is no longer taking insurance and has switched his practice to a concierge system. He hosted an evening explaining his reasons. It seems he just can’t survive as a small family practice under the new system.

c) The two best hospitals in Los Angeles (UCLA and Cedar’s Sinai) will only be accepting one of the plans offered by Covered California (the exchange). So much for shopping among plans!

#24 Comment By Annek On October 8, 2013 @ 11:19 pm

If reimbursement rates for doctors under the ACA are low, medicine will stop attracting the type of highly qualified people it now attracts. Current doctors who have practiced for awhile and amassed some wealth, will leave the profession. This will exacerbate the already anticipated doctor shortage that we’re expected to experience as the formerly uninsured get health insurance. Sadly, the quality of health care available in our country could diminish for all, except perhaps the wealthy.

Rod, How can you have a personal story about something that is a future concern?

#25 Comment By Maxi On October 8, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

lasorda: “The two best hospitals in Los Angeles (UCLA and Cedar’s Sinai) will only be accepting one of the plans offered by Covered California (the exchange). So much for shopping among plans!”

No one is forcing you to buy your insurance through the exchanges. The exchanges are necessary only if you’re trying to get a federal subsidy to help you pay for your insurance. You’re free to buy insurance outside the exchanges and there are plenty of insurers in CA who will sell it to you. And, now that the ACA is law, these insurers won’t be able to deny you coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

Secondly, concierge medicine is absolutely NOT the result of the ACA. Concierge medicine has been around for years and there are plenty of doctors in CA who don’t require this.

A simple Google search will verify everything I’ve just written.

#26 Comment By surly On October 8, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

This isn’t a story, but I was reflecting on how difficult it is to make a story out of opposition.

Andrew Sullivan’s people are describing what happens when you lose your paycheck, lose your job, lose your sense of purpose. Now, that purpose may be a complete waste of time, but think of the other side of this story:

I’m an ecologist and I film otter interactions. Not only am I not getting paid, but think of the priceless otter interactions that are going unrecorded.

That’s a pretty good story. Who doesn’t love otters? Now the other side..what do we say?

“I’m a Republican Congressman and otter interaction videos must be stopped! It is a foolish waste of public resources!”

See..no story there. Now it may be absolutely true that the otter biologist is wasting public resources, but how do you make a compelling story out of shutting things down? Especially if you are shutting down the study of charismatic mammals?

Now…is there any way we can get a story about how the NSA had to shut down and all go home and our interwebz are gloriously un-monitored? No…don’t think so….

#27 Comment By Gretchen On October 8, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

Some of these are “stories” in the sense that they sound like fiction. Case in point, Ashley Dionne, who claims to be a Michigan grad, but doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe. As a Michigan grad myself, that doesn’t pass the smell test. Her story comes to us as the always-reliable friend-of-a-friend Facebook post. And her second degree to get a night job in a gym? Could totally have happened. Or not. Having this one in the mix makes me wonder how many of the “my premium quadrupled” stories are the fruits of vivid imaginations also.

#28 Comment By lasorda On October 9, 2013 @ 12:41 am


1) Yes, I’m hoping to get a subsidy. I have four small children, so even with my decent income, a subsidy is available.

2) Our doctor and his partner cited the ACA explicitly as their reason for switching to concierge.

#29 Comment By M_Young On October 9, 2013 @ 3:16 am

“No one is forcing you to buy your insurance through the exchanges. The exchanges are necessary only if you’re trying to get a federal subsidy to help you pay for your insurance.”

Okay, off the ‘stories’ angle again…but I can’t resist.

The ACA forces certain insurance practices (not considering pre-existing conditions, not considering age, etc) that raise, dramatically, the cost of providing insurance (going by the actuarial tables). It will, apparently, only subsidize programs within the ‘exchanges’ but all insurance policies must bear the cost of the new regulations.

That, in effect, forces people into the exchanges, on pain losing significant amounts of money.

It’s like the government saying “we want you to eat hot dogs’. We are going to refund 60% of the cost of your hotdog consumption out of general revenue, i.e. your taxes. Sure, you can go ahead and eat hamburgers if you want, but you won’t get that refund. In fact, we are going to penalize hamburgers for being round rather than oblong.

#30 Comment By M_Young On October 9, 2013 @ 3:18 am

“Who doesn’t love otters? ”

Sea urchins?

#31 Comment By Patrick in Michigan On October 9, 2013 @ 4:31 am

Well, Rod, there’s this:

My friend, John, who works for the IRS. He basically right now, is unemployed.

Here’s his facebook page:


He has a young son named Conner. He has to support him and right now; because of this idiotic nonsense game, being played by the House — John cannot support his son.

How’s that for a real story?

#32 Comment By Sam M On October 9, 2013 @ 9:06 am

The problem is that people are looking for the wrong stories. You don’t need to demonstrate that the ACA is full of rubbish. Too complex. Nobody cares. Focus on the shutdown. There is a story in Slate today talking about how the Congressional gyms are still open.

Where did this story come from? Think Progress. A progressive think tank.

But the spin on that could just as easily be conservative, no?

#33 Comment By Keith On October 9, 2013 @ 9:31 am


A follow up to my earlier comment. Since the age of 5, my wife wanted to be a doctor. That desire never waivered through elementary school, high school and college. She has loved what she does. Last night she came home from a meeting of all of the doctors at one of our local hospitals where they discussed the impact of the ACA on the way they practice and how they get paid. None of the news was good. She learned that one of the best surgeons in town (if not the best) was retiring early because of the ACA. She was almost in tears. She made our children promise never to become doctors.

This isn’t about making sure a few people who couldn’t get insurance have it – it is about fundamentally altering health care in America and it has to be stopped.

The Founding Fathers didn’t have a “winning strategy” in hand when they signed the Declaration of Independence.

#34 Comment By Annek On October 9, 2013 @ 11:19 am


“This isn’t about making sure a few people who couldn’t get insurance have it – it is about fundamentally altering health care in America and it has to be stopped.”

Current trends in cancer treatment focus on medicines that target just cancerous cells, rather than ones that also destroy healthy tissue in the body. I’d like to see us take a similar approach to solving our country’s health care problems. The ACA is poised to damage many of the positive aspects of current health care in America.

The prevalence of those without insurance and the depth if the problem might be less than we’ve been led to believe.

In 2010, Gallup put the percentage of uninsured people in the U.S. at only 16%. A poll they conducted at that time showed that 82% of Americans were happy with the healthcare they were receiving. These figures do not suggest that a complete overhaul of our system is warranted.

Further, there seems to be be a lack of clarity regarding the demographic make-up of the uninsured. A recent report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation seems to contradict U.S. government statistics about the uninsured. For example, last month Kaiser released a report that stated that the majority of those who are uninsured are low-income working families. However, in 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources released a report that showed that 57% of the uninsured are childless adults and only 25% are parents.If 57% are childless adults and only 25% are parents, Kaiser’s claims that the majority of uninsured are working families seems unlikely. Further, 63% are under age 34 (42% are 18-34, 21% are below 18). Due to their youth, people in this group are generally quite healthy. Also unsettling, and politically incorrect to mention, is the fact that 21% of the uninsured are foreign-born non-citizens. Wouldn’t it make more sense to work with the home countries of these people to try to find ways for them to cover their citizens’ health care needs?

The stats get a little dicey when it comes to the working status and classification of families of the uninsured. The 2005 report states that 74% of the uninsured worked full- or part-time (46% FT, 28% PT). This seems pretty straightforward. but then the report classifies the 26% of the uninsured who are not working as “those not in working families” without defining what they mean by the word “family.” Generally, one thinks of a family as being comprised of a married couple and more generally including children. But since 57% of the uninsured are childless, the government doesn’t seem to be including the presence of children as part of its definition of family. I didn’t see a statistic for the percentage that are married, which would seem to be a requirement for being considered a family unit.

Lastly, 49% of the uninsured were uninsured for a period of less than 12 months. This suggests that being uninsured is a temporary state for almost half of the uninsured. There was not a break-down in the stats for periods without insurance greater than a year.

What’s lacking in our discussion over our country’s health care problems is a set of clearly defined facts that is widely available and agreed upon by both conservatives and liberals. Without such facts, the arguments for different approaches to improving health care for Americans become largely based upon emotionally-charged anecdotal stories. These stories have a role to play, but they should not be the primary drivers of serious discussions.

#35 Comment By Tom S. On October 9, 2013 @ 11:30 am

Because the Feds are no longer able to enforce camping, hunting and fire regulations in national forests, me and some of by hunting buddies were able to bag a year’s worth of game for storage! We’ll be able to save money by not having to shop for meat. We were able to smoke it on the spot, too! One of my friends also shot a Bald Eagle, which will look good in his den, once he gets it stuffed. Or maybe he’ll be able to sell it an Asian collector on Graigslist!

Um, our campfire’s gotten a bit out of control, better dial 911.

Crap, a flaming tree branch just fell on one of my hunting buddies. We were able to douse the flames, but it looks like he can’t move his legs. When is help going to arrive??? We’ve been calling and calling.

Damn Feds, they’re never there when you need them.

#36 Comment By Liam On October 9, 2013 @ 11:37 am

FWIW, the stories about doctors limited or ending their practices because of the evolution of the health insurance market are not likely to be compelling. First, they tend to underscore rentier aspects of medicine that are not sustainable in any event. Second, we’ve all learned that other countries have fine medical care with better aggregate results than in the US, so the rentier dimension of current medical compensation is not integral to good medical care. Third, people with an aptitude for medicine are not en masse going have an aptitude for anothter rentier profession that will gain them more income than they would have under the evolving health care insurance system. The story won’t hunt for long, I suspect, and could end up boomeranging.

#37 Comment By Annek On October 9, 2013 @ 12:32 pm


Why didn’t you post my comment? There has been a dearth of facts put forward in comments relating to this issue on your blog and elsewhere, and isn’t that one of the stories of this whole debacle – how facts have been pushed aside in favor of emotional anecdotal stories? I adore you’re blog, but sheesh.

[NFR: Because I asked for stories, not arguments. I’ve been not-posting comments left and right because few people will honor my request. But that post is almost a day old, so I’ll probably just give up. — RD]

#38 Comment By Annek On October 9, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

Thanks and sorry! 🙂

#39 Comment By Annek On October 9, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

This article, “Why Are Hundreds of Harvard Students Studying Ancient Chinese Philosophy?” that TAC has linked to today is fascinating and relates to your writing about the importance of stories. It can also can be related to topics, such as problems with promiscuity or the frequent viewing of pornography (the ideas that we are what we do and that rituals inculcate a certain sensibility in a person).

#40 Comment By alcogito On October 9, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

Rod, it is hard to find/write a story about how the shutdown helps people because it is unusual and not a desirable condition except in how it make us all pay attention to how continuously raising the debt limit is bad for the country. That the scope of current fraud/waste and pointless wars are intolerable Plummeting approval ratings for Congress and the administration show that people recognize this, that the selectiveness of the shutdown is totally unfair. Kicking tourists out of national parks but giving a permit to illegals to march on the mall provides stories galore.

Want a story? Look to the past. When the English kings wanted money to carry on their wars, Parliament dug in and demanded concessions. James II was immovable, so he was out/replaced. Those who cannot remember the past …

#41 Comment By The Wet One On October 9, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

I tried to write a story (well it wasn’t much of a story, but it would have been a positive news story), about how yield starved seniors were getting higher interest rates on their deposits (initially I put in 5% higher, but dropped it to 2% as being more realistic) due to interest rate hikes triggered by debt default, but somehow that didn’t constitute a story.

Ah well. I’ve never been much of a story teller in any event, so it’s no big deal that my story got rejected, even if the 5% yield on treasuries was a bit out to lunch. No worries though, I don’t blame it on the moderation. Given how poorly the rules were followed, I’m not surprised that a whole schwack of comments got deleted in one inbox clearing button press. I’d do the same thing.

But seriously, higher yields for seniors’ investments is a good news story likely to come out of the shutdown and default. They’re screaming for yield right now from all I hear, so they’d be happier with higher rates, however they may come about.

#42 Comment By stef On October 9, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

Are newspaper stories OK? According to this article ( [6]) a group of elderly people on a tour to Yellowstone were treated rudely by National Park Service rangers who made them leave the Old Faithful resort hotel in the middle of the park. Many of them were foreign tourists and some were confused and frightened by their interactions with the NPS rangers.

#43 Comment By Adam On October 9, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

The story is one of collusion. It is a story about the worst excesses of cronyism and lobbying, disguising corporate protectionism as a benefit to all, with a few sweeteners thrown in to some legislatively, to literally buy votes. It is graft and corruption wrapped in festive paper and tied in a pretty bow. That’s the story of how the ACA came to pass.

Personally I’d prefer a public option but that wasn’t allowed by my betters.

#44 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 9, 2013 @ 11:13 pm

It costs no money to run the land, but the Administration wants us to suffer just so we’ll get mad at Republicans.

That’s a childish thing to say. Its like getting a home in your grandmother’s will, and thinking that as long as you move in and live there, you will never have to spend money on maintenance, but it will always remain the pristine attraction you remember from Thanksgiving at grandma’s house when you were a kid.

Au contraire, my late mother, the Republican in the family, always pointed out that one should be prepared to spend or set aside about ten percent of the purchase price every year for upkeep and repairs. No doubt there will be some years when it is far less, but eventually the pipes will burst or the roof will leak.

Any land granted for public use requires care and maintenance, and any sizeable number of people using a property needs to be supervised and regulated, however lightly. All good things cost something to sustain them. Some good things can best be sustained by government. Other good things can best be sustained by anything but government. Knowing the difference is one of the ultimate points of wisdom.

#45 Comment By Dan On October 10, 2013 @ 12:42 am

When I was younger, I lost my job in advertising because the client I was working on decided to switch agencies. It was heart wrenching and punishing on my finances.

But then I bucked up, got out my interview suit and found another job.

Now, because of the “shutdown” (that keeps 83% of the government funded), government workers finally get a taste of the real world. If that’s not heat-warming, I don’t know what is.

To ice the cake, as it were, just a few weeks ago I had to tell the largely young and healthy employees at the ad agency that I now own that we could only cover a small percentage increase in their health care costs and that they should expect at least a 30% increase that the agency couldn’t cover. I’d like to cover it, but I would prefer to be in business (and employ almost 50 people) instead.

Maybe this effort to defund ACA will work and those young kids won’t have to pay 30%+ more for the same health care coverage they had this year. They might pay down student loans, give to charity or start their own ad agency. Just think what they could do if freed from government coercion!

#46 Comment By Maxi On October 10, 2013 @ 12:57 am


1) So your complaint with the ACA is that the government won’t give you money to go out and buy medical coverage from anyone you personally choose? I’m sorry, but I don’t see how the ACA has made your situation worse than the status quo. No one is currently giving you free money to get care from UCLA or Cedars Sinai so how is the fact that the ACA also won’t give you free money to do this making you worse off?

2) I know that what you’re saying about doctors making this claim is true – I know of others who’ve had this same experience, but the fact remains that concierge medicine has been around a lot longer than the ACA. If you Google “concierge medicine” you’ll be able to verify this for yourself. I suggest you call b.s. on your doctor and tell him/her to waive this fee or else you’ll check with your insurer to see if this is permissible or find another doctor.

#47 Comment By EG On October 10, 2013 @ 6:36 am

Dear Rod:

A comment from another TAC thread speaks to the point why radical reactionaries (not true conservatives in the R. Kirk tradition) have a problem telling human stories about their position on governing. In short, it’s all about worshiping mammon and ideology; human people who are not lucky to have all the money they could possibly need in a Randian dystopia be damned:

‘Adam says:

October 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Conservatives, or Republicans that like to wear the label, often complain that the Democrats steal votes by essentially buying them based on stuff people will get. Well duh. Why would I elect someone that wants to take something away from me? So called Conservatives are against the “welfare state.” But other than talking about government transfers like they’re some form of slavery, why not explain how their ideas will actually benefit our society as a whole? In a world without pensions, and 401k’s that are simply one more way for the financial industry to siphon money from everyone, how will attacking social security and medicare as it is currently offered be better for the average person? Instead of calling Obamacare a “train wreck” and an “assault on freedom”, give me some valid points on why the previous way of getting medical care for the uninsured was through emergency room visits that are ultimately paid for by the taxpayer anyway. How about showing me a world where people aren’t wiped out in bankruptcy from a medical condition? Until the likes of Ted Cruz can actually formulate a so called conservative agenda that actually has some sort of benefit to the populace, I am just going to continue assuming he is nothing more than a carnival barker.’