TIME politics

Then as Now, the Tea Party Proved Divisive

Boston Tea Party
Artist's rendering of the Boston Tea Party of Dec. 16, 1773. MPI / Getty Images

Dec. 16, 1773: Colonial activists dump 45 tons of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the Tea Act

Members of today’s Tea Party movement embrace as kindred spirits the colonists who turned Boston Harbor into a teapot 241 years ago. And while it’s true that both groups formed around a robust opposition to the government in power and an equally vigorous objection to the taxes it levied, it would be a mistake to say that the Boston Tea Party was triggered by a tax hike.

On this evening, Dec. 16, in 1773, dozens of colonists boarded three ships laden with East India Company tea and dumped the entire stock — 45 tons of tea, worth roughly $1 million in today’s economy — into the harbor to protest Parliament’s recent Tea Act. The act, however, didn’t increase taxes: It lowered the price of tea by allowing the struggling East India Company to sell directly to colonists without first stopping in England. This cut out colonial middlemen and essentially gave the company a monopoly on tea sales.

So, although organizers of the original tea party echoed the popular refrain of “No taxation without representation,” many were motivated by a personal interest that continues to motivate 241 years later: profit. Boston’s wealthy merchants, some of whom made a fortune smuggling Dutch tea, stood to lose big when the Tea Act was passed. John Hancock, one of the main agitators behind the tea party, was among them.

Ahough the Boston Tea Party has become synonymous with patriotism, not all of early America’s top patriots were on board. The protest appalled many colonists with its destructiveness and waste, according to Harlow Unger, the author of American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution. “Far from uniting colonists, the Tea Party had alienated many property owners, who held private property to be sacrosanct and did not tolerate its destruction or violation,” Unger wrote.

Ben Franklin suggested to Hancock and co-agitator Samuel Adams that they reimburse the East India Company for the lost tea. He wrote, in a letter from London shortly after the protest, “I am truly concern’d, as I believe all considerate Men are with you, that there should seem to any a Necessity for carrying Matters to such Extremity, as, in a Dispute about Publick Rights, to destroy private Property.”

George Washington was similarly disapproving. His take on the Boston Tea Party clashes with the modern-day tea party’s more reverent view — and with their claim to channel the beliefs of the Founding Fathers.

When a contemporary Tea Partier, on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, brought up the topic with a historical interpreter dressed as Washington, he was surprised by the answer, according to a 2010 Washington Post story. “…Asked whether the Boston Tea Party had helped rally the patriots, Washington disagreed with force,” the Post reported. “The tea party ‘should never have occurred,’ he said. ‘It’s hurt our cause, sir.’”

Read more about the modern Tea Party here, in TIME’s archives: Why the Tea Party Movement Matters

TIME ebola

Here Is the Lie of the Year from PolitiFact

Vaccine Research At Bavarian Nordic A/S Pharmaceuticals
An employee uses a microscope during research in a laboratory used to detect contamination in employees' clothing at the Bavarian Nordic A/S biotechnology company, where the research into infectious diseases, including the ebola vaccine, takes place in Kvistgaard, Denmark, on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Guess what spawned a "dangerous and incorrect narrative" in 2014?

PolitiFact has named the panicked response to Ebola as the 2014 Lie of the Year.

The website, which fact-checks the statements of public figures, noted 16 erroneous claims made for Ebola last year, which together produced “a dangerous and incorrect narrative.”

Those included Fox News analyst George Will’s false assertion that Ebola could spread through a sneeze or cough, Senator Rand Paul’s description of the disease as “incredibly contagious,” “very transmissible” and “easy to catch” and Congressman Phil Gingrey’s warning that migrants could carry Ebola across the U.S.’s southern border.

“When combined,” PolitiFact writes, “the claims edged the nation toward panic. Governors fought Washington over the federal response. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stumbled to explain details about transmission of the virus and its own prevention measures. American universities turned away people from Africa, whether they were near the outbreak or not.”

[PolitiFact]

TIME politics

Dick Cheney’s Belief in the Value of Torture Undoes America

Long wars are values wars, and we will win this one by remaining true to the ideas of liberty, equality, and opportunity

Many have decried the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture as reckless, but former Vice President Dick Cheney took the defense of the Bush administration’s policies to the next level in a Meet the Press appearance on Sunday. Declaring that he would “do it again in a minute,” Cheney insisted that he had “no problem as long as we achieve our objective.”

Dick Cheney’s belief in the value of torture—and his determination to stick with a position that is as strategically indefensible as it is morally reprehensible—is contrary to the defining values that make our country great.

Cheney and other defenders of torture (or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” for the squeamish) continue to drag the debate back to efficacy. The truth, however, is that haggling about the value of the information we extracted through torture is hollow. Suppose—in defiance of all available evidence that torture does not work—that information gained through torture led to the killing of a group leader or the foiling of a terrorist attack. How many militants do we have to kill before we realize that there are always more? Once we prevent one type of attack, they innovate and come up with a better one. We must defend ourselves, but winning the physical fight is only a temporary measure.

We cannot afford to embrace the use of torture precisely because it doesn’t help us achieve our strategic objectives. Embracing such medieval tactics, regardless of their efficacy, reduces our own moral stature, regardless of what the enemy has done. Cheney defined what the terrorists did on September 11th as torture, but as Senator John McCain has very simply argued, this conversation is “not about them—it’s about us.”

The insistence on defending torture disregards the very values that have made the United States a “city on a hill.” We will not defeat the forces of violent extremism, those that enslave women and murder aid workers, with intelligence and military force alone. Long wars are values wars, and we will win this one by remaining true to the ideas of liberty, equality, and opportunity. By releasing the torture report, forcefully renouncing the actions that our government took, and pledging to never repeat them, we will gain more ground in our conflict than from any torture-derived information.

The Cold War was such a conflict. The struggle against the Soviet Union was not won in any great battle, but through superior values. After almost 75 years of living in fear, without the liberties that we take for granted, the people behind the Iron Curtain overthrew their oppressors. The Soviet people saw our lives in the West and what could be achieved by a government that enabled its people instead of standing on their throats.

Our current fight against violent extremism is very similar. We do not need to subsume our values, holding our nose while we subject suspects to waterboarding, rectal feedings, and sleep depravation. We need to live the values that have made us great and hold them up as a beacon of hope for all to see. To paraphrase U.S. Central Command leader General Lloyd Austin III, “To defeat an idea, we need a better idea.”

Cheney, clearly, ignores both short-term facts and long-term arguments. He boils the world down to a black-and-white reality: there are evil people in the world who want to kill Americans, so we must stop them. But the truth is that we do, and we will. Everyday behind the scenes, and without any hope of glory, thousands of intelligence analysts, service members, aid workers, and diplomats fight hard against the scourge of violent extremism. They set up schools, bridge cultures, increase trade, and, when necessary, neutralize our enemies.

But torturing people, no matter what they may have done, destroys the positive image the United States can broadcast and negates so much hard work that others in our national security community have done. Torture does not work as a tactic or a strategy. And having a transparent discussion about our past mistakes is the best way to showcase our true values, make changes for the better, and win the long war—whether Dick Cheney likes it or not.

David L. Knoll is a Fellow in the Boston Chapter of the Truman National Security Project. Views expressed are his own.

TIME politics

How Obama Bungled Obamacare’s Success Stories

The president's health care plan has saved many lives. So why hasn't he told us about them?

By now, there are thousands of people who can make Barack Obama and the Democrats’ case for the Affordable Care Act. Across the nation, there must be countless tales of Americans who would be broke and broken were it not for Obamacare. They have to exist in all walks of life, in every state, of all political persuasions.

And yet this week, as Monday’s deadline approached for signing up for 2015 health plans, none of those people appeared as part of the pitch. The most frequently aired TV ad features a racially diverse cast of young people speaking in generalities about how their Obamacare plans provided “peace of mind” at a surprisingly low, low price. These folks, none of whom seem to have been sick, gush about the heckuva deal they got and how happy it makes them.

But why? Why is America still being asked to take it on faith that the ACA is a social and moral good? Why does the Obama Administration continue, even after these many years of largely unanswered attacks by Republican opponents, with a failed marketing effort that amounts to, “Trust us! You’ll love it!”

Here’s the ACA ad they should make: a grizzled, Duck Dynasty-like Alabaman stands outside a neonatal intensive care unit. “I was against Obamacare,” he tells the camera. “I sure didn’t vote for Obama, either. And, man, I liked my health plan, wanted to keep it. When I found out I couldn’t, boy was I pissed.” The camera pans to a wriggling baby, tubes everywhere, the man’s wife gazing longingly into the incubator holding their child. “Then my daughter was born, and she almost died,” he says, choking up a little. “My old plan wouldn’t have covered this. We would’ve lost the house, probably would’ve had to go bankrupt. It’s all still pretty dang expensive, I can’t lie. But my Obamacare coverage really saved us. Thanks, Obamacare!”

You think that’s some liberal, nanny-state fever dream? It’s not. This is not conjecture; it is a statistical certainty based on all the data used by insurance carriers to set rates. A certain chunk of the 8 million people who signed on to Obamacare plans – or the millions more whose existing plans were bolstered to comply with the ACA – suffered health catastrophes in 2014. Many opposed the law and were angry when Obama’s “like it, keep it” promise was broken. But without the reform that required comprehensive plans and eliminated rejections of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, many would have met the same fate of so many in recent decades.

That is, lest anyone forget, how it was. Obama, strangely, really never told those stories back then, either. In 2009, when he stood before a joint session of Congress to make his case for health insurance reform, the political genius who campaigned in 2008 with such art and eloquence failed to use the moment to introduce skeptics to a parade of average, hard-working Americans who endured the all-too-common financial devastation of a serious illness. Can’t you see those people, their wheelchairs and colostomy bags and adorable kids, festooning the dais as Obama made his case? How could a purported Judeo-Christian nation see those faces and hear those stories and not agree that something had to change? Instead, the president gave a boring, wonky speech that nobody remembers, a teaser for the incompetent public relations effort to come.

And there they go again. The current marketing effort also failed to appeal to anyone’s emotions or sense of justice. Rather, it insisted that having good insurance makes you feel good about yourself the way, say, eating tofu or reading Tolstoy might. Perhaps Obama once had to rely on unproven predictions, but that ended on Jan. 1, 2014. Since then, ACA supporters have had their pick of uplifting stories of tragedy averted by this law.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., knows this. Last month, in a Chicago Sun-Times essay, she cited several specific cases of ACA success. Cancer-stricken David Price, for instance, saved $4,000 this year on his meds versus 2013. Gary Wood, bankrupted 18 years ago by the cost of care from a heart attack and then shut out of coverage ever since, underwent a life-saving quintuple bypass in 2014 paid for by the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. And so on. It’s not hard to find these people. They’re everywhere, even in the deepest red of states.

The gang behind this year’s campaign offered up just one limp trick: rebranding. The TV ad, for instance, opens with a woman who says, “Healthcare.gov allows me to continue on with my life.” In other words, it’s not Obamacare. It’s not even the ACA. It’s now just “healthcare-dot-gov,” as if that’s a policy or a government program rather than a place on the Internet. Given that the rollout of the website was among the biggest PR disasters of any sort in recent history, it’s an odd and ineffectual choice.

Stop being so cute. This is really, really easy; just tell the story. It goes like this: Obamacare has successes. It has already saved many Americans from financial doom. It has improved the health care of millions. It has given many entrepreneurs the courage to quit jobs they hated and start new businesses. Here, meet some of these folks. They’re just like you. You could be next.

The evidence is now on Obama’s side. It is mystifying that he doesn’t seem to know it.

Steve Friess is an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based freelance writer and former senior writer covering technology for Politico.

TIME politics

Why Is It Congress Seems Concerned With Families Only When Sex Trafficking Is at Issue?

It's an old tradition in America, going back to the Mann Act of 1910

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

In one of the rare instances of bipartisan cooperation, the House’s Ways and Means Committee and the Senate’s Finance Committee passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183/H.R. 4980), which President Obama signed into law on September 29, 2014. On the whole, the law seeks to encourage states to reform their foster care systems by encouraging and streamlining adoption processes. Though foster care reform is an admirable legislative concern that intersects with the real-world needs of children, what interests me is the way that foster care reform has been linked to sex trafficking within this bill.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) declared, “This legislation will ensure no state turns a blind eye to child sex trafficking by requiring state child welfare systems to identity victims and build a systematic response.” Looking at the public record, it is incredibly unlikely that any state could turn a blind eye to domestic minor trafficking as states have raced to save the children from traffickers. According to the Polaris Project, starting in 2003, all 50 states have passed laws prohibiting sex trafficking within their borders, and an additional 45 states have passed domestic minor sex trafficking laws. These state laws are fortified with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000, reauthorized in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013) and the Mann Act (1910). Indeed, looking at the public rhetoric coming out of city halls, state houses, and halls of Congress, it seems that the United States is plagued with the scourge of sex traffickers preying on children. In a period of intense bipartisan division, the issue of sex trafficking seems to be one of the few issues that brings together members of rival political classes. One hundred years ago the United States was just as captivated by the issue of sex trafficking and the dangers it posed to youth.

Sensational stories about sex trafficking dominated the nation’s newspapers from 1907 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Called white slavery at the time, newspapers and magazines warned that a clandestine network of sex traffickers imported sex slaves from Europe to the United States to fill America’s brothels. But foreign-born girls were not the only youths at risk. Edwin Sims, a U.S. Attorney in Illinois, noted in 1909, “Literally thousands of innocent girls from the country districts are every year entrapped into a life of hopeless slavery and degradation…[by] ‘white slave’ traders who have reduced the art of ruining young girls to a national and international system.”

As numerous historians have noted, these sensational stories of sex trafficking encapsulated a host of intersecting anxieties circulating during the period: fears of the immigrant hordes, worries over the new heterosocial recreations offered by the city, dismay over the availability of legal prostitution, dread of interracial relationships, unease over women’s increased entry into the wage marketplace and public life, and concern about the eroding of traditional familial and community relationships in a period of marked rural-to-urban migration. With so many fears expressed within the stories of sexual slavery, it wasn’t long until social purity reformers, women’s rights activists, and other moral reformers turned to congress to protect “somebody’s daughters.”

In 1909, Edwin Sims and his ally Clifford Roe approached Illinois Congressman James R. Mann about drafting a nation-wide domestic anti-trafficking law that would complement existing immigration laws. Mann’s proposed law would make it illegal to take a woman or girl over state lines for the purposes of prostitution, debauchery, or “any other immoral purpose.” Debated in 1910, most congressmen signaled their support for the law, with Thetis W. Simms (D-TN) urging passage of the law to “take care of the girls, the women—the defenseless.” He suggested that “we will prevent, I hope forever, the taking away by fraud or violence, from some doting mother or loving father, of some blue-eyed girl and immersing her in dens of infamy.” Within the Progressive imagination, the most sympathetic victim of sex trafficking was the young, white girl who had a previous reputation of chastity who through no fault of her own had become alienated from a stable family structure—the doting mother or loving father. The legislation sailed through the House and Senate and was signed into law on June 26, 1910 by President Taft.

Enforcement of this broad anti-trafficking law, with its vague “any other immoral purpose” clause, fell to the young Bureau of Investigation (renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935). When handed the mandate of the Mann Act, the Bureau had only 61 special agents, yet within three years it would have well over 300 special agents scattered across the nation. When initially enforcing the law the Bureau faced two challenges: 1. it questioned whether a widespread network of traffickers preyed on innocent young women; 2. the parameters and constitutionality of the “any other immoral purpose” clause was very much in doubt. In the face of such concerns, the Bureau initially used the law as an anti-prostitution law to expand its reach until 1917 when the Supreme Court ruled that the “any other immoral purpose” clause truly meant any other immoral purpose.

Amid the changing cultural mores of the 1920s the Bureau became a force for conservative values within the federal government. Mann Act investigations continued to make up the bulk of the day-to-day activities of the agency; but the type of Mann cases pursued changed. The Bureau actively responded to parents’ requests to track down run-away daughters and husbands’ demands for help locating adulterous wives. Until the outbreak of WWII, the anti-sex trafficking law was used to uphold patriarchal familial privilege, and the dependency of wives and daughters—strengthening family along the values of the early twentieth century.

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act fits into a long tradition linking the dangers of sex trafficking to the frailty of family stability. Senator Wyden argues that the new law “helps build bridges to permanent families and stable relationships, which are key to protecting children from predators.” But as the Bureau’s investigations into Mann Act cases reminds us, building stable families and fighting sex trafficking has historically meant empowering the law enforcement state, rather than growing social services or providing for victims’ assistance. Legal scholar Jennifer Sheldon-Sherman notes that the current trend in sex trafficking policy follows the same pattern of prioritizing law enforcement over victims’ services and preventive care. Perhaps the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, with its efforts to protect vulnerable foster kids from prostitution, represents a step towards constructing a comprehensive way to combat sex trafficking.

Jessica R. Pliley is an assistant professor of women’s history at Texas State University and the author of “Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and the Making of the FBI” (Harvard University Press, 2014).

TIME Senate

Senate in Rare Saturday Session as Shutdown Threat Looms Again

Senator Sherrod Brown Holds Hearing On "Regulatory Capture" With New York Fed's Dudley
From Left: Senator Elizabeth Warren a Democrat from Massachusetts speaks with Senator Joe Manchin a Democrat from West Virginia during a Senate Banking Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 21, 2014. Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The House passed a bandaid spending bill Friday but the Senate is locked in a showdown

For its grand finale before it concludes early next year, the 113th Congress is staging yet another procedural showdown in a rare Saturday session, as lawmakers work to pass a bill to fund the federal government before it runs out of money at midnight.

The House of Representatives Friday averted a government shutdown with a temporary spending bill to fund the government for five days, but the Senate must still approve the bill. The Hill has been locked in debate over a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September of next year.

The Senate had hoped to close up shop for the year Friday, but lawmakers could not come to agreement after some Republican senators demanded a vote on a measure protesting President Obama’s controversial immigration order issued in November, which shields some four million undocumented immigrants in the United States from deportation.

“Before the United States Senate is a bill that does nothing, absolutely nothing to stop President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty,” said Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Some Democrats, however, are worried about changes to financial regulatory laws included in that measure, McClatchy reports. “A vote for this bill is a vote for future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street,”Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D—Mass.), a longtime advocate for financial regulation reform, said Thursday.

If lawmakers cannot come to an agreement on a temporary spending bill by midnight Saturday the federal government will run out of money. A final vote on the full $1.1 trillion spending bill could come on Monday.

[McClatchy]

TIME politics

What Happened When I Spoke Out About the CIA’s Guantanamo Black Site

Detention at Guantanamo grinds on: 13 years and counting, 148 captives remain
A soldier walks by Camp Delta, which no longer holds detainees, on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this photo approved for release by the U.S. military. Miami Herald—TNS via Getty Images

Joseph Hickman is a senior research fellow at Seton Hall Law Schools Center for Policy and Research.

In 2006, I was a guard on duty at the time of the Guantanamo 'suicides.' What I saw directly contradicted the government’s explanations

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture program released Tuesday revealed many disturbing facts. Importantly, it exposed the lengths to which the CIA went to keep their brutal torture program a secret and the lies that they told to other branches of the U.S. government, the media, and the public about what they were doing, how they were doing it, and the intelligence they were getting from it.

This is not the first time the curtain has been pulled back on the CIA’s actions. Americans have spoken out against the torture program before and been punished for it. In the coming months, as the CIA tries to justify the program and paint its actions in rosier colors, it’s important to remember that because of the agency’s lies, men and women who spoke about the torture program were defamed, discredited, and even, in one case, imprisoned.

In a Harper’s Magazine article written by Scott Horton in 2010, I spoke out about three suspicious Guantanamo detainee deaths that were reported as suicides in 2006 by the U.S. government. I was a guard on duty at the time of the deaths and saw things that directly contradicted the government’s explanations. I believe the detainees were tortured and died at a CIA black site located on the base. Government officials and critics said the site was not a CIA facility, that I was lying, and that my story was “nonsense.” Some even called me a traitor and said I was dishonoring the men and woman in uniform. An investigation into the detainees’ deaths was conducted, but no one was ever charged. The results of the investigation only brought up further questions in my mind.

Almost four years after the government tried to discredit me in 2010, an Associated Press article revealed that the very site where I said the detainees died was in fact a CIA black site. Though I felt betrayed by my government and even punished for trying to report a war crime, others that have come forward and reported wrongdoings have experienced far worse than I.

In 2007, retired CIA Agent John Kiriakou became the first to report publicly on ABC News that the CIA was waterboarding detainees. In later interviews he called for national debates on waterboarding and asked Congress to address the issue. Afterwards, the CIA went after Kiriakou. They reported him to the Justice Department for leaking classified information and confirming the identity of one of the interrogators in the CIA torture program to a reporter (though the reporter never published the agent’s name). The Justice Department bought into the CIA’s lies and charged Kiriakou with violating the Espionage Act and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Out of money and fearful of serving decades behind bars, Kiriakou pled guilty to one count of passing classified information to a reporter and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

The Justice Department stated Tuesday that they will not pursue criminal charges against anyone that was involved in the CIA’s torture program. Ironically, that decision makes Kiriakou the only person serving a prison sentence for the program.

As more is revealed about the torture program and the CIA tries to prove their patriotism, the American people have to ask themselves how much they can trust the CIA and who the real American patriots are. Is it the leaders in the CIA’s torture program and the government officials that lied to the public? Or are the real American patriots people like John Kiriakou, who spoke truth to power and reported injustices?

Joseph Hickman is author of the upcoming book Murder at Camp Delta and senior research fellow at Seton Hall Law Schools Center for Policy and Research.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME brazil

Brazilian Politician Tells Congresswoman She’s ‘Not Worthy’ of Sexual Assault

Brazilian Congressman Jair Bolsonaro seen in 2011 Rogério Tomaz Jr./CDHM—Flickr Creative Commons

He said it on the floor of the legislature

A Brazilian Congressman apparently told a female colleague who had allegedly called him a rapist that he wouldn’t sexually assault her but because she’s “not worthy” of it.

Representative Jair Bolsonaro reportedly made the comments on the floor of the national legislature Tuesday after lawmaker Maria do Rosário gave a speech condemning the human rights abuses of the U.S.-backed military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, a regime Bolsonaro defends, according to a translation from the Huffington Post. “Stay here, Maria do Rosário. A few days ago you called me a rapist, in the Green Room,” he said. “And I said I wouldn’t rape you because you’re not worthy of it.” The Green Room is a private room in the capitol building.

“I was attacked as a woman, as a Congress member, as a mother,” do Rosário told the Brazilian news agency O Globo. “When I go home, I have to explain this to my daughter… I’m going to press criminal charges against him.”

[Huffington Post]

TIME democrats

The Last Southern Democratic Senator Gave Her Farewell Speech

Democratic Senator Landrieu reacts while delivering a concession speech after the results of the U.S. Senate race in Louisiana during a runoff in New Orleans
Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu reacts while delivering a concession speech after the results of the U.S. Senate race in Louisiana during a runoff in New Orleans on Dec. 6, 2014. Jonathan Bachman—Reuters

The loss of her Senate seat completes a political realignment that began decades ago

Departing Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu promised to spend her retirement from politics working to repair the environmentally degraded Gulf Coast Thursday in an emotional farewell speech delivered from the Senate floor.

“It is something worth fighting for,” she said. “We would not be a country without the Mississippi Delta.”

In a runoff election December 6, Landrieu lost decisively to Republican Bill Cassidy, making the last statewide elected Democrat in the Deep South. The loss of Landrieu’s seat completes a political realignment in the once solidly Democratic South that began decades ago.

Landrieu, who is from New Orleans, said she will focus her work out of office on issues impacting children and the environment, including coastal restoration, a hot button issue in Louisiana, where wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate.

“The city is going to stay there and the region is going to stay there,” she said.

Landrieu thanked a litany of staffers and lawmakers but had less charitable parting words for one elected official.

“President Bush was not that forward-leaning,” she said of Bush’s response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans. “I’ll just leave it at that. There will be a lot more in my book.

During her 18 years in the Senate, Landrieu was a dependable ally of the oil and gas industry and an unabashed pork-barrel dealmaker who touted her success at diverting federal funds to her state—she famously traded her key vote in favor of Obamacare in exchange for millions of dollars in extra federal support for Medicaid in Louisiana.

Landrieu told Politico it is “highly, highly unlikely” she will run for office again.

TIME politics

Obamacare Turned Our Health Insurance Into a Game of Musical Chairs

medical chart
Getty Images

A year of major illnesses and expenses has our family changing doctors and health plans

At the exact moment President-elect Barack Obama proclaimed that “change has come to America,” I stood at the foot of my husband’s bed in the cardiac ICU of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. I was praying. Jim lay, with a ventilator tube down his throat, recovering from open-heart surgery to replace a congenitally defective aortic valve.

I was elated — for his survival, for Obama’s victory. I looked forward to one of Obama’s major campaign promises: to provide national healthcare reform so Americans with a pre-existing condition could get insurance Since his heart diagnosis in 2005, Jim, who probably couldn’t have found a policy as an individual because of his condition, had been covered by small-business group insurance — because his self-storage business in Banning had one other employee. But his work, and his coverage, were always subject to change.

I remained vulnerable as a freelance writer and part-time university professor who had to pay for her own health insurance. I also had had a few recent health hiccups, including a surgery to repair a herniated disk from spinal degeneration, and so I lived with the daily realization that one bit of bad health news could cause my policy to be canceled.

As it happened, the 2008 election was the first time Jim and I were bitterly divided on candidates. Jim foresaw healthcare reform as an addition to the federal deficit more worrisome than any health benefit. When I told my husband about Obama’s victory in the hospital, he grumbled, “I guess I can’t blame Obama for breaking my heart.” But, he worried that he would eventually be able to blame the president “for keeping me from getting better.”

The transition to Obamacare — at least for a 59-year-old man and a 56-year-old woman in south Orange County — wouldn’t be quite that bad. But it would be, in three big ways, far rougher and more frustrating than I’d ever dreamed.

1. Obamacare brought us new health insurance options – but cost us our more affordable plans.

“If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable,” President Obama promised in 2012.

The fact that this wasn’t true would be our biggest disappointment. In November 2013, Jim learned his small-business policy would be cancelled because it didn’t comply with the new mandate to cover pediatric dentistry and maternity care. So Jim went to Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, to look for coverage for his employee and himself.

He found that the cost of his employee’s individual “bronze” plan monthly premiums went up 13 percent , and that his own new individual “silver” plan was also more expensive. In 2014, Jim was individually paying $82 more a month in premiums. The deductible (the amount you have to pay before the insurance company starts footing the bill) did go down — from $5,000 to $2,000 for each individual insured. But if you added together 12 months of premiums, the deductible, and the new policies’ out-of-pocket maximums, we were potentially on the hook for $13,260 — rather than the $11,024 from 2013 — if Jim got very sick. Around this time, Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer, so the threat of high medical bills was real.

The individual plan I had with Blue Cross was cancelled, too. The bronze plan I got at Covered California raised my monthly premium payment from $301 to $422, with a $5,000 deductible. The maximum I might be responsible for if I got really sick went from $8,612 to $11,314.

2. We learned patience, but we couldn’t keep our doctors.

The only way to decrease the cost of our premiums was to get the subsidy offered by the federal government to lower- and middle-income people. And the only way to get the subsidy was by getting insurance through Covered California. But contacting Covered California, especially by phone, was maddening. The elevator music they played on hold became our winter soundtrack.

We had applied online and sent copies of our passports to California Covered for verification, but we received no bill, no confirmation of our coverage, no insurance cards. Jim spent an hour and a half on hold once before getting disconnected. He tried again the next day, waiting another two hours before getting disconnected.

After a few more calls, Jim drove to a pop-up Covered California shop in the Laguna Hills Mall on Jan. 15, 2014, the deadline for adding coverage. He hoped to avoid website computer glitches and phone hang-ups. All we had were verbal assurances — not enough to see the cardiologist and a urologist at the insurance-negotiated rate. Receptionists at the doctors’ offices said we could pay cash — $150 per visit for the urologist; $203 for the cardiologist, plus lab and treatment expenses.

On Jan. 22, we finally got our enrollment number and made our first payment to Blue Cross so we could start seeing doctors. Jim finally went to his cardiologist on Feb. 10, only to discover the doctor had left Blue Cross.

Thus began a session of musical chairs as we tried to match our insurance to the doctors we wanted to see before the music stopped. This was one time we had the advantage over an employer-sponsored health plan, which has only one open enrollment period in a year. Due to the start-up problems with state insurance exchanges, the deadline for Affordable Care Act insurance kept being pushed back, allowing us to change coverage twice.

We canceled Blue Cross and enrolled in Blue Shield so Jim could see his urologist. Then, when the urologist’s office said they didn’t accept Blue Shield patients enrolled through the state exchange, we canceled California Covered Blue Shield and bought directly from the insurance company, even though that meant foregoing the subsidies.

But the urologist wouldn’t accept our new Blue Shield plan — even though the Blue Shield website said he did. Jim’s regular dermatologist left Blue Shield, too.

In each case, the doctor’s office said the reimbursements for the insurance we had were too low. In each case, the receptionists chirped, “We’re happy to make you a cash patient.”

Eventually, we requested records and sought new doctors. Although we read frequent reports of patients unable to find physicians willing to take new patients, in our case Jim found a new urologist he liked better than the old.

3. The Affordable Care Act saved us money this year, but it didn’t alleviate our concerns about obtaining affordable medical care.

Jim treated his prostate cancer with radiation, and received his recommended echocardiogram and MRI. So in 2014, we paid the maximum out-of-pocket expense and the insurance company covered the rest. Tallying his medical costs, Jim said, “I take back what I said. Obamacare did help me get better.”

I’m well below my annual deductible. I baby my back, neck, knees, and hip degeneration with regular walking, yoga, and acupuncture. I’ve benefited from regular $28 acupuncture treatments, something that wasn’t covered in my old plan. But my licensed acupuncturist hasn’t received any reimbursement yet. It’s also harder for her to make a living — the insurance company cut her pay by 25 percent.

What Obamacare hasn’t eliminated is worry: We’re deeply concerned about our ability to get quality medical care from doctors we trust. The day may soon come when we can’t afford the plans our doctors accept, or we’ll have to wait hours to seen. Will the best doctors flock to a cash-only model? How long can a good doctor be satisfied with the $39.75 the insurance company paid her for my annual check up a few months ago?

We had thought that our work and businesses had paid us enough to live on in these older years — but we’re discovering we didn’t account for such dramatic increases in health care costs. Medical expenses already gobble up 20 percent of our income. In 2015, if we keep the same plans, our premiums will rise $95 a month. We have no choice to opt out of the required pediatric dentistry or maternity coverage we’ll never use, so we’ll eventually have to settle for less generous policies, with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. My husband isn’t required by law to insure his one employee, though he feels it’s the right thing to do. As costs continue to rise, we may have direct him to buy his own health insurance at his own cost.

We’ve already started the dance of enrollment all over again and are having a hard time finding partners. As I write this, the “Find a Provider” link on the Covered California website offers 2014 health providers, but not 2015, even though we’re shopping for 2015 insurance policies. Ditto Blue Shield. Administrators at our medical group won’t say yet if they’ll remain with Blue Shield. At least this year we think we know the steps to the dance. Let the music begin.

Catherine Keefe is an essayist, poet, editor, and writing instructor at Chapman University in Orange, California. She wrote this for Zocalo Public Square.

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