Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
They call us the kingmakers.
In a move that will surely shake the political world to its core, the editorial board at CC2K has decided to depart from its usual routine of writing extensive rants about Indiana Jones and Harry Potter to voice its support for the re-election of Barack Obama. As one of the founders of the site, I’ll try to make this as personal an endorsement as I can. I’ll start with my most selfish reasons and telescope out to my most altruistic reasons.
• The stimulus bill helped me afford health insurance when I went fully freelance. After I left my last full-time day job in 2009, I moved over to COBRA coverage. The last time I left a full-time job had been in 2004, and the monthly rate to keep my HMO was about $450. At the time, I chose to simply leave my health insurance behind. Happily, in 2009, the stimulus bill, aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, brought my monthly payments down to about $130. Later they got bumped up to $150, and after the subsidy ran out, my payments jumped back up to that $450 level.
So here’s the thing: By lending me a helping hand, the Obama administration freed up some of my money to help me build my freelance career. Meanwhile, I also wrote two novels during this time. (I was probably about midway through my fourth novel, The Remnants, when the subsidy ran out.) And you know what? By that time, I was making enough money to afford the $450 a month to keep my insurance active. When COBRA ran out entirely, I applied for a single-person plan, and I was able to secure a far more affordable deal.
Most important: By helping me afford health insurance, the Obama administration kept me from becoming a parasite. I’ve been a parasite before. In 2002, I got a vicious stomach virus, and I had to go to the emergency room for treatment — all without insurance. I got hit with a $2,000 medical bill, and I wound up begging it down to $1,200. My father helped me pay for part of it, but that $800 I didn’t pay simply went back into the system as higher insurance premiums for everyone.
By contrast, when I had health insurance and I got sick, I went to the doctor. I had been paying my way the whole time, and it helped keep me an active, contributing member of society.
Moving on with another selfish reason:
• The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 has been a huge help for me. Freelance life, like many of you know, is feast or famine. Because of some major sacrifices made by my mother, I was lucky enough to come out of Northwestern University with no student loan debt, but as I’ve moved through adult life — and especially as a freelancer — I’ve had to rely on debt to be able to afford groceries during leaner months.
I’ve had some hellacious experiences with credit card companies before. Somehow, I’ve never, ever been late with a card payment, but it hasn’t always been easy. Close friends of mine know that I speak of 2004 in hushed tones; it was one of my worst years on record. A great deal of that was due to my own credit card payments. The company I was with increased my APR to a point where I just couldn’t afford the payments.
To be sure, the 2009 Credit Card Act didn’t change everything. I had to get my own finances in better order, and part of that involved finding a better job, which I did. Eventually, this led to the solid freelance career I have now. But along the way, I also changed credit card companies. When I did, I found that the government was suddenly on my side. My APR was hilariously low — so low that I called my new credit card company to double-check the rate’s accuracy. In addition, the Credit Card Act mandates that companies fully disclose any policy changes they make. My current plan has a very low rate, but if I were to miss a payment, it would increase dramatically.
Needless to say, I’ve still never been late with a payment.
Here’s the TL;DR for my selfish reasons: I’ve been able to build a small business and maintain my artistic pursuits under the Obama administration in a way that I couldn’t under George W. Bush.
Now let’s move on to:
A SLIGHTLY LESS SELFISH REASON
• The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is going to be good for so many people. Moreover, it’s only a first step. In California, Blue Shield adopted a policy of limiting its profits to 2% of revenue. Any money made above that is paid back to consumers. Full disclosure: I’m not sure why Blue Shield enacted such a rule, other than to improve its image. I’ve done quite a bit of research, but I haven’t been able to turn up a proper answer. Here’s one news story about the policy change:
How does this tie into the ACA? Well, the ACA includes a similar provision. The language controlling it is different, but for all intents and purposes, the law now forces health insurance companies to behave more like nonprofits. I realize that there’s a conversation to be had about this. Capitalism hawks may argue that this is unfair; that a for-profit company should be allowed to act as such. (Note: I may be building a straw-man there. I invite correction.) But if you’re asking me, this provision — nicknamed the “bomb” in the ACA — is a necessary first step toward a single-payer system.
On the other side of the health care debate, there’s a compelling narrative of self-reliance you’ll often hear. We shouldn’t be forced to buy insurance (or do anything) if we don’t want to. There’s a lot of allure to this narrative. It calls to the mind the image of hardy frontiersmen who choose to live or die according to their own will.
But for me, this narrative breaks down pretty easily. Not only are there other forms of insurance we’re required to buy (auto, for one), but we can’t choose to not have a body, and bodies will always, always malfunction. Health care is an expensive service, and I submit that it’s incumbent on us all to pay for that service in increments to lower costs for us all. Beyond that, a single-payer system — and a far less insane society — awaits.
Moving on to …
MORE LESS SELFISH REASONS
• If you feel empathy for anyone different than you, the worldview of the current Republican party simply isn’t tenable. Let’s be clear: I’m a white, male, straight, cisgendered guy. I’m not religious, but I live in a place where that’s not really an issue. I belong to a privileged demographic that by and large, votes Republican for a variety of dubious reasons:
Despite my online clashes with conservative people — and my smaller Facebook contacts list because of it — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being conservative or republican. Far from it. In an better world, we would be having a lively conversation about the future of our society. In a better world, we would be having an animated discussion about how, as a species, we can converge on an array of values we can all cherish.
There’s a conversation to be had there. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for the current GOP to participate in that conversation. Let’s take Governor Romney. For Crom’s sake — he was the governor of the most liberal state in the land, and he helped pass a perfectly respectable body of health care law for Massachusetts. In a better world, there’s no reason why Romney wouldn’t have crowed about that as one of his cardinal accomplishments. But he wasn’t able to, because of hardline elements in his party. Nowhere has this disconnect been more memorably lampooned than in the pages of the redoubtable Onion:
In addition, the current republican party simply can’t engage with nonwhite, nonmale, nonstraight, noncis people. They just don’t exist to them as actual, literal entities.
Women? They don’t exist, and this unhappy reality manifests itself in GOP policies that seek to limit access to birth control and abortion services, as well as a host of other legislation that blocks women’s ability to receive equal pay and take maternity leave. There are dozens of links I could share here, but as much as it pains me to direct any traffic to GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s homepage, I’ll link to his 1,500-word essay that outlines his opposition to abortion rights — all without using the word “woman” or “women” once:
I’ve written extensively about abortion rights before, but more than anything else, I can’t help but think that in order to oppose such rights, a person has to engage in a kind of magical thinking that transforms an embryo into a person and a woman into an incubator. There’s a conversation to be had about how best to support women’s rights and reproductive health, but it begins with an axiom that the hardliners in the GOP can’t seem to accept: That women exist.
The Obama administration has consistently supported women’s rights, starting with the Ledbetter Act:
The Obama administration has also taken steps to support the availability of birth control coverage for women everywhere, no matter where they might work:
Moving on: Gay people do not exist to the current GOP. They don’t. One of the most principled achievements of the Obama administration has been the repeal of the military’s dismal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. You’d think that gay people might find a way to exist in the military to the GOP. After all, the military is the one segment of the populace that the Republican party esteems above all others, right? But despite an excellent study that demonstrated the tolerant character of our armed forces, and despite a follow-up study that describes the repeal of DADT as a “non-event,” the official platform for the Republican party includes coded language that supports the reinstatement of DADT.
DADT at the one-year mark:
The GOP platform:
Relevant passage regarding DADT: “We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness.”
Furthermore, the official platform of the Republican party includes explicit language in support of heterosexual-only marriage:
Relevant passage: “[A]s we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity.”
I suspect that we’ll look back on this era in our history with hanging heads and a sense of shame, wondering how we, as a people and a species, could have opposed marriage rights for gays and lesbians. President Obama, spurred by his vice-president, voiced his support for gay marriage on national television earlier this year:
And in addition, his administration has voiced its support for gay marriage rights with regards to (at least) three ballot initiatives at stake tomorrow:
To be sure, these gestures of support aren’t enough, and pursuant to the theme of gay people not existing, it’s worth noting that LGBTQ issues didn’t come up once during all three presidential debates:
His administration has many, many other accomplishments. You can check them out here:
YES, IT’S A COMPLICATED QUESTION
I won’t pretend like Obama’s first term has been without disappointment. A persistent narrative over the last four years has been the Democratic party’s growing disappointment in Obama’s first term. There’s a conversation to be had there, and I submit that part of the conversation points toward democrats’ unrealistic expectations for what a president is and what he or she can do.
But there are other reasons to criticize Obama’s first term that resonate with me. The president’s record on civil liberties hasn’t been great:
And his use of drones raises the specter of a creepy police state:
Furthermore, there’s been a disheartening trend by the executive branch to seize more power. This pattern goes back decades and spans both political parties. Part of me hoped that the Obama administration would divest itself of some of those alarming powers, but there seems to be no end in sight to the expanding powers of the president.
There’s a conversation to be had there. There are many conversations to be had. But again: The current Republican party simply can’t engage with this conversation.
BUT LET’S GET BACK TO EMPATHY
But more than anything else, a two-term Obama presidency would move us, as a society, in a more tolerant, pluralistic, inclusive direction. I would submit such a claim as an axiom. Electing Governor Romney would not only delete many of the president’s signature achievements (repealing DADT, passing health care reform), but it would also tell a depressing story about our nation’s character. It would embolden the hardliners in the GOP and dismiss the last four years as a quaint footnote in American history; a childish jaunt into tolerance and inclusion that was somehow at odds with the true nature of the American experience.
It wasn’t. Despite the difficult road, we’re moving in the right direction, and re-electing the president will ensure that we keep moving in that direction.
We here at CC2K know we’re just a bunch of geeks. But all the same, we proudly offer our endorsement to Barack Obama.
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.