Erika Eichelberger

Erika Eichelberger

Reporter

Erika Eichelberger is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She has also written for The NationThe Brooklyn Rail, and TomDispatch. Email her at eeichelberger [at] motherjones [dot] com. 

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Why Conservatives Are Saying Obamacare Could Take Your House

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 12:29 PM EDT

The health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act opened for business on Tuesday, allowing uninsured Americans to buy subsidized coverage. By Wednesday, conservative websites had a fresh conspiracy theory running: if you decline to purchase health insurance, the feds may put a lien on your home.

InfoWars cites this Facebook post as proof:

 

I actually made it through this morning at 8:00 A.M. I have a preexisting condition (Type 1 Diabetes) and my income base was 45K-55K annually I chose tier 2 'Silver Plan' and my monthly premiums came out to $597.00 with $13,988 yearly deductible!!! There is NO POSSIBLE way that I can afford this so I 'opt-out' and chose to continue along with no insurance.

I received an email tonight at 5:00 P.M. informing me that my fine would be $4,037 and could be attached to my yearly income tax return. Then you make it to the 'REPERCUSSIONS PORTION' for 'non-payment' of yearly fine. First, your drivers license will be suspended until paid, and if you go 24 consecutive months with 'Non-Payment' and you happen to be a home owner, you will have a federal tax lien placed on your home. You can agree to give your bank information so that they can easy 'Automatically withdraw' your 'penalties' weekly, bi-weekly or monthly! This by no means is 'Free' or even 'Affordable.'

The Affordable Care Act itself states that the IRS cannot file a lien on a property because an uninsured person fails to pay a penalty. Nor can it seize bank accounts or garnish paychecks to recover Obamacare fines. Nor will Americans who refuse to pay for mandatory health insurance be subject to criminal prosecution of any kind.

Infowars acknowledges all this, but concludes that the Facebook poster, Will Sheehan, still might be right: "Either Sheehan’s claim that he received this notice is a lie, or the feds have been dishonest with the American people all along, and the revolt against Obamacare is about to take 'don't tread on me' to a whole new level."

As Obamacare moves from legislation to reality, many of the old conspiracy theories making the chain email rounds will be laid to rest. It seems there will be no shortage of new tin foil hat tales to take their place. 

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"Inequality for All": A Must-See Movie For the 99 Percent

| Fri Sep. 27, 2013 3:00 PM EDT

Jacob Kornbluth's new documentary Inequality for All, which stars economist and former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich, is being hyped as a "game changer in our national discussion of income inequality." It probably won't be that, since it's preaching to the choir, but the film is a welcome addition to that discussion.

Inequality for All, which opens Friday, weaves between scenes of Reich lecturing clear-eyed Cal coeds in his Wealth and Inequality class, 1950s-style graphs and charts illustrating growing income disparity, and archival clips of happy white people in the post-World War II age of prosperity. There are also interviews with working-class people left behind by the American Dream, such as a worker at a California power plant that has hired anti-union consultants, and a mom who works at Costco and has $25 in her bank account.

Kornbluth also chats with the odd member of the 1 percent. "The pillow business is quite tough because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy the products that we make," pillow-making millionaire Nick Hanauer explains. "The problem with rising inequality is that a person like me who earns a thousand times as much as the typical worker doesn't buy a thousand times as many pillows every year. Even the richest people only sleep on one or two pillows."

In a comprehensive and digestible way, Reich lays out the stark facts of income inequality (for example, the 400 Americans richest currently earn more than half the country's population combined) and how we got here. He blames the decline of unionization, globalization, and technology for suppressing pay, and enriching the few, who then use their increasing political clout to protect their status. "When the middle class doesn't share the gains, you get into a downward vicious cycle," Reich explains as the film cuts to an Wheel of Fortune-type animation illustrating that cycle: Wages stagnate, consumption drops, companies downsize, tax revenues decrease, government cuts programs, workers become less educated, unemployment rises—and so on.

As Reich notes, he's been "saying the same thing for 30 years" about growing income inequality. He worked to combat it during his stints in the administrations of Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton, and now he's fighting it from the outside, writing books, recording commentaries, and trying to instill his righteous fire in others. On the last day of class, he gives an inspirational sendoff, telling his students to go out and "change the world."

The ending of Inequality for All is predictable, but that's okay, because Reich is so likable—and he's right.

8 Reasons Defunding Obamacare Would Be More Dangerous Than You Think

| Thu Sep. 26, 2013 12:10 PM EDT

Despite all the bluster, brinksmanship, and fauxlibustering, Obamacare is not going to be defunded. But if it were, that would do a lot more damage than you'd imagine. As health care law scholar Timothy Jost pointed out in The Hill Wednesday, the massive law "contains provisions affecting nearly every aspect of our health care system." That means defunding it would not only block implementation of the individual and employer mandates, and insurance subsidies for low-income Americans; it would also cut off money for things like Medicare, preventive medicine, and programs for low-income kids.

Here are 8 additional ways that "defunding Obamacare" would hurt Americans (all via Jost):

1. It would slash funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by 70 percent. CHIP provides health coverage to nearly 8 million children in families with incomes slightly higher than the Medicaid cut off line.

2. Funds would be eliminated for the Early Childhood Home Visiting program, which sends health workers into low-income homes to help prevent child abuse and neglect, improve newborn health, and boost school readiness.

3. Defunding Obamacare would cut back preventive services under Medicare, impacting millions.

4. It could also end payments for certain private plans offered through Medicare.

5. Funding for community health centers in medically underserved areas would be cut by nearly 60 percent.

6. The ACA helps close the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole," the dollar limit on the drug costs the plan will cover each year (right now the limit is $2,970). Defunding Obamacare would leave that coverage limit in place.

7. Funds would be eliminated for scholarships and loan repayment programs for doctors who chose to practice in communities with limited access to health care.

8. Money would be slashed from the Department of Health and Human Services' anti-fraud efforts, increasing the costs of state and federal health care programs.  

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