Your voice in Democracy & American Exceptionalism

The Electoral College was created to ensure that no foul demagogue, appealing to the lowest impulses and rages of the populace, would ever be elected president. Alexander Hamilton crowed about this ingenious safeguard of our democracy in Federalist Paper No. 68, if memory serves.  He wrote it pseudonymously, under the name of Schmuck, if I recall correctly, and his crowing sure came back to bite him in the posthumous ass, didn’t it?

“Well, I don’t know that Hamilton or any of the founding fathers really gave a shit one way or the other.  This guy who lost the popular vote this time by a fairly impressive three million votes, and eked out Electoral College victories in a few key states by under 100,000 votes total, is a member of that eternal ruling class, born ‘booted and spurred’ in the famous phrase stolen by the eloquent and erudite Thomas Jefferson, also born booted and spurred, to ride the saddled masses of mankind.  You can ask Jeeves about the man who, as he stood about to be executed in the 1680s, uttered the words now ascribed to The Author of Liberty.  

“You know, democracy is the worst form of government in the world, as Churchill said, except for every other form.  American Exceptionalism means that we can have as the Author of Liberty a visionary genius who held 300 humans as chattel, even after his death, although he eloquently argued against the soul-destroying evils of slavery.   American Exceptionalism, as you know, means we can drive the original inhabitants off the land in order to possess it, to the profit of a few privileged speculators, guys like the populist psychopath Andrew Jackson, who will become unimaginably wealthy.   We get to do these kinds of things because we are exceptional, Elie, you understand that, right?” The skeleton fixed me with a look.  

Oh, believe me, dad, I get it.

“So for those who complain that a candidate who got 3,000,000 more votes than her opponent deserves to be the president over a compulsive liar and snake oil salesmen who appealed to every prejudice and hatred imaginable I have two words: American Exceptionalism.   You want a voice in democracy?  Simple solution. Money equals speech, as Scalia and his buddies unappealably ruled.  Just get a lot of money and speak as freely as you like.  Like in the halls of justice, you get the justice you can afford to pay for.  If you are poor, bend over and shut the fuck up.  No whimpering!

“Look, you’ve had a nice taste of being poor, though you’ve never actually been close to poor.  I have hand it to you, though, you’ve managed to live like a poor person, I’ll give you that.  So your income last year, what you actually lived on, was 167% above the arbitrarily low U.S. poverty line.  If they set a realistic poverty line, more than 50% of the country would be living in poverty.  That would be unthinkable.  So we keep the line artificially low and the percentage of the country living in poverty becomes about right.  In the richest country in the history of the world it would not do to have a 50% poverty rate.  25% sounds much better, I’m sure you’d agree.

“So, dig, you eke out your modest lifestyle on 167% of the federal poverty level.  In 2015 that meant a 50% subsidy for your mandated health insurance.  You paid an affordable rate of about $250 a month for mediocre but adequate health insurance.  The care you got was not what a well-to-do person gets, but there was no major nightmare attached to it either.  Then, in 2016, New York State came up with a new innovation called the ‘Essential Plan’ that was virtually free to poor consumers.  At the poverty line you qualify for Medicaid.  Between 101% and 249% of the poverty line you get assigned this new plan, the ‘Essential Plan’.  You pay about $60 a month for your premium, $15-50 every time you see a doctor and have an out-of-pocket annual deductible of $1,500.  Fair enough, right?”

It took me a while to understand why it was called the Essential Plan until I had it for a while.  You essentially get whatever health care you can force them to pay for.

“Hey, you want to live like a poor bitch, make sure you do it under the poverty line.  Then you can have all those fancy programs they give to poor people, live out your days sucking luxuriously at the tit provided by your wealthier tax-paying fellow citizens.  Give ’em the punchline, Elie, I’m not feeling up to chatting much more today.  I’m suddenly remembering I’m dead and the thought is exhausting me.”

OK, in November, after a long bout of numbness in both arms and tightness in my chest,  I went to the Emergency Room on the advice of my doctor, just like in the days before Obamacare.  I’d been waiting only three months by then to see a cardiologist to discuss my dilated left atrium.  To my shock, the ER doctor admitted me to the hospital for tests.   I passed the tests and was released the next afternoon.  

My insurance carrier, fucking Anthem/Empire, the nation’s largest health insurance conglomerate and indefatigable provider of assdicking to marginally poor people, referred me to a cardiologist.  The doctor’s office confirmed I was good to go insurance-wise.  The cardiologist, ten minutes into the Q & A part of my consultation, had second thoughts and sent me away, telling me my insurance had informed his office that he was out of network.  

“So, basically, the cardiologist was a dick who had hypocritically taken his Hippocratic oath,” said the skeleton.  

Basically.  Anyway, this and related fuck-ups had me call the mega-corporation I was paying my premium to every month.  Hours of maddening calls, a long letter to the New York State Attorney General’s office and hours of snarling at inanimate objects around me later I eventually found myself talking to a rep at Anthem/Empire named Jamie.  

I realized that for purposes of any kind of legal action I needed to create the paper trail to support any further complaint I had against this massive engine of fraud I was paying premiums to every month for the ‘Essential Plan’.   My question for Jamie was simple: where do I mail my written complaint, since the website which allows Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum level customers to file on-line complaints does not seem to have any on-line complaint form for the Essential Plan.  

Jamie was a good guy.  He diligently looked through his on-line manuals, found the pertinent passage and read it aloud to me, with a tone of disbelief, and though I shared his disbelief, I also laughed the bitter, knowing laugh of a man who had just been handed the golden spike for his arguments to the Attorney General. It’s written in red, he told me, the way I wrote it for the complaint and to the AG, but WordPress doesn’t seem to let me have it appear in red.  Picture, then, these words in a beautiful shade of red.

Essential Plan members do not have a right to file complaint appeal (sic).  If they need assistance filing a grievance or appeal, they may also contact the state independent consumer assistance program at:  Community Health Advocates, 105 E. 22nd Street, NY NY 10010 or 888-614-5400 or email at

source: Anthem’s National Contact Center Document, under NY Market tab for “Essential Plan” updated 12-14-15 at 7:56 a.m.

“They may ALSO contact… you got to love that, Elie,” said the skeleton.  

I love it so much it’s hard to describe.  

“Reminds me of Chief Justice Roger Taney’s great line about Negroes having ‘no rights a white man is bound to respect’, from Dred Scott, one of the final straws before the so-called Civil War, though we can all agree that war was anything but civil,” said the skeleton.  

Heh, reminds me of Taney’s infamous bit of honesty too, dad.


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