Thursday, December 17, 2009

What the Health Care Debacle Teaches About the future of US-Taiwan Relations

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige"."

Glenn Greenwald, one of America's most insightful bloggers, nails progressives, Dems, the corporate world, and Obama in a brilliant post on Obama's duplicity in the health care debacle: the truth is that Obama never intended to get a public option passed:
As was painfully predictable all along, the final bill will not have any form of public option, nor will it include the wildly popular expansion of Medicare coverage. Obama supporters are eager to depict the White House as nothing more than a helpless victim in all of this -- the President so deeply wanted a more progressive bill but was sadly thwarted in his noble efforts by those inhumane, corrupt Congressional "centrists." Right. The evidence was overwhelming from the start that the White House was not only indifferent, but opposed, to the provisions most important to progressives. The administration is getting the bill which they, more or less, wanted from the start -- the one that is a huge boon to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry.
The entire piece is well worth reading, as is most anything Greenwald writes: the Lieberman Criticism, the attacks on the Blue Dogs, it was all KMT-style political theatre. What this all means for Taiwan should become clear as we explore the announcement of weapons sales to Taiwan.....

The New York Times reported on Tuesday the 15th that the Obama Administration was going to sell weapons to Taiwan....
The Obama administration will proceed with arms sales to Taiwan despite recent protests by China, an American official said Tuesday.

The official, Raymond Burghardt, is chairman of the American Institute in Taipei, the de facto United States Embassy in Taiwan.

Speaking from Hawaii, where he lives, he said that sales of arms to Taiwan were consistent with what White House officials have been saying was President Obama’s policy. “No one should be surprised when we move forward with them,” he said.

Mr. Burghardt declined to say exactly when Mr. Obama would notify Congress of an arms sale. The American relationship with Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province, is one of the most delicate diplomatic issues between Beijing and Washington. The United States takes no position on the sovereignty of Taiwan, but acknowledges that Beijing claims that there is only one China.
(As an aside, could there be a luckier man than Burghardt, living in Hawaii but making frequent trips to Taiwan? I want that job!). The arms package (1) doesn't include the F-16, and (2) the Obama Administration declined to say exactly when it would go through. So here we have a package whose arrival is some time in the distant future, and which doesn't include the one thing that is really needed. Yes, we have a pattern here. J Michael Cole of the Taipei Times followed up with one of his patented penetrating analyses, pointing out that the arms package could be an expensive illusion:
The “new” arms package recently touted by US officials has yet to be confirmed by US President Barack Obama. Nevertheless, supporters of Taiwan are already hailing the news as a great victory, of Obama “thumbing his nose at the Chinese,” as Foreign Policy recently put it.

There are signs, however, that there is less to the news than meets the eye.

From what has been made public, the Obama administration could release PAC-3 interceptor missiles, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, as well as an operations deal for the “Po Sheng,” or Broad Victory, command and control program and design work on diesel-electric submarines.

Not only are the 66 F-16C/D fighter aircraft that Taiwan has sought for years missing from the list, however, there is also nothing new in the “new” arms package proposed by the administration.

“The real question,” Wendell Minnick, Asia Bureau Chief at Defense News, told the Taipei Times on Sunday, “is what is ‘new’ in the arms pipe that hasn’t been in there since 2001. And there is nothing, which is ominous.”

All these items were approved by former US president George W. Bush in 2001. Also problematic is the fact that the design work on the submarines would be both costly and may not even result in actual subs. Even if it did, it would only be many years from now and make an insignificant contribution to Taiwan’s current and mid-term defense requirements.
Let's see -- Ma and the KMT have been making noises about soft power, and about waiting patiently for weapons -- it's not unreasonable if they take years, says Ma. The KMT doesn't want weapons, and what this whole three year long three-card monte game with she-will-sell-weapons, she-won't-sell-weapons appears to mean is that the Administration does not plan to help Taiwan upgrade by selling it new weapons, either. They'll probably keep dangling the F-16s in front of us like a salty snack held just above the nose of a Golden Retriever. In the Cole piece long-time Taiwan watcher John Tkacik peers through the magician's stagecraft, echoing what I said the other day:
“I suspect that if Obama approves a new arms package, Ma’s government and the [Chinese Nationalist Party, KMT]-dominated Legislative Yuan will, once again, go out of its way to temporize, shilly-shally and complain about the costs, utility, and political tensions with China of the sales — and use those factors as excuses to stall procurements. That way, Obama can say ‘it’s Taiwan’s fault’ and [President] Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九)] will say ‘it’s the Americans’ fault.”
Ta-da! The Obama Administration fufills its Pledge to sell weapons to Taiwan. It's just like Obama's health care reform (and it pleases the same consituency): you can have what you already would have had, if we hadn't taken any further action at all. What this means for Taiwan's future, with the corporate side eager for "cooperation" with China, isn't good.
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Daily Links
  • Marketplace with my friend Mark Forman about Taiwan, IT, and branding.
  • Spencer with excellent piece on traffic cams in Taiwan, with comparisons to US traffic cams, and links to Google Maps.
  • This is what Afghanistan is really about: gas pipelines.
  • Ma again pushes the line: if we move closer to China, we will become more globalized. In the KMT view, sinicization = globalization.
  • AFP once again completely fails to get Taiwan correct. The poll asks: Do you think that cross-Strait political negotiations should be held to achieve mutual recognition during the tenure of President Ma Ying-jeou? Yes 57% Ask yourself if this is equivalent to AFP's report that Fifty-seven percent said Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou should negotiate with Beijing to prevent war and secure peace . Really, I have no idea why they bother to spend money to keep people out here. They could source from Xinhua with exactly the same effect. DPP poll on same topic discussed at Taiwan News. Have fun with them both.
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Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

33 comments:

Thomas said...

I was stunned when I read the AFP story this morning, but for a different reason. AFP has chosen to focus on only one question from the poll. AFP overlooks the fact that more people have identified themselves as Taiwanese than ever before, that over 60 percent don't understand the ECFA, that Ma's popularity is lower than ever, that Wu's is not much better, that most Taiwanese would not choose to live or work in China, that the percentage of Taiwanese who say they support the DPP or KMT is pretty close, while those identifying themselves as independent is around 60 percent, etc.

All of these questions, taken together, show a general discontent with the current government and with both parties.

Yet all AFP talks about is the question about politics. And even if the AFP had been correct about the forumlation of the question, this would still not mean that Taiwanese supported the type of political negotiations that Beijing is advocating. If I asked you, "do you think that your president should negotiate to ensure peace," would you say, "NO"? Who on earth wants war?

AFP has cherry picked a question and altered it, thereby completely overlooking the viewpoints that the survey seem to show -- viewpoints that are not by any means in line with those of the Ma administration and Beijing.

This is a disgrace!

Raj said...

Michael, about the arms sales.

I don't think you can fault the White House for not saying when the new arms sales will go through. Congress may go into recess at the end of the week or next week - Obama doesn't control that. Notifications can only be made when Congress is in session, and the last thing Obama will want is the Chinese to walk out of Copenhagen at the last minute. So he will wait until the deal is done or the summit ends in failure. If Congress goes into recess before he's able to think it over, notifications will be made in January. If there's nothing in Jan, then and only then should you bitch about Obama.

As for F-16s, I think there's an unhealthy obsession with them. They will not solve Taiwan's "air problem" (read the PLAAF) for the forseeable future. If they're not forthcoming it would be better to spend money on upgrading Taiwan's much larger F-16 Block 20 fleet, which the US would have less problem with.

This would also lead to all the IDF fleet being upgraded and new advanced IDFs being made to replace the retiring F-5s. All good for AIDC and potentially a source of funds for designs for a new jet, which Taiwan will need one day.

As for Ma, even if he is the Devil incarnate and is planning to sell Taiwan out for a diamond-studded pension plan, he will want chips to trade to get it. Arms are a good source of chips.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of health care debacles, it may not be news that the Taiwan health care system is deep, deep in the red, and that it's likely we'll all see big jumps in the premiums. However, the sticker shock aside, the Ma government has also decided we will also be paying for the healthcare children of communist Chinese who are living here. Talk about chutzpah!

Arty said...

Health care in the US is not a debacle. It is only a debacle in some of extremists plus some idiots' eyes. I am for public option, but it is not a necessity to run a successful universal health care. One of the most successful universal health care systems in the world is without public option e.g. Switzerland. Get the health care bill passed, and we can fix the little problems later on.

Again, the health care bill should be passed by end of this year in about two weeks, and signed before the state of the union addresses next year. S@rXw you Republicans and f@xk you Libertarians.

Michael Turton said...

This would also lead to all the IDF fleet being upgraded and new advanced IDFs being made to replace the retiring F-5s. All good for AIDC and potentially a source of funds for designs for a new jet, which Taiwan will need one day.


I take your point. But the F-16s are an important signal of US commitment, I think. And $11 billion for US workers. :)

Michael Turton said...

Thomas I agree with your analysis. AFP just sucks. Unfortunately I do not know how to change the way they cover. I am thinking of a commentary in a rival newspaper in the capital.

Robert R. said...

Arty, sure the Swiss have a good all-private health sector (or so I'm told), but they're also regulated out the wazoo, and effective & thorough regulation in the US is even less likely than a public option...

Anonymous said...

However, the sticker shock aside, the Ma government has also decided we will also be paying for the healthcare children of communist Chinese who are living here.

Shock! Chinese people legally resident in Taiwan will be offered the same treatment as other foreign residents. They will also be paying into the system like anyone else. Is this really too much for the green crowd to accept?

Michael Turton said...

Shock! Chinese people legally resident in Taiwan will be offered the same treatment as other foreign residents. They will also be paying into the system like anyone else. Is this really too much for the green crowd to accept?

Yes, because clearly, one commenter on a blog represents the entire green crowd.

Anonymous said...

"As for Ma, even if he is the Devil incarnate and is planning to sell Taiwan out for a diamond-studded pension plan, he will want chips to trade to get it. Arms are a good source of chips."

But he's not out for personal benefit. He's out for ideological satisfaction. He will be happy if Taiwan is forced, out of a weak military position relative to China, must accept unification on some level.

Anonymous said...

Shock! Chinese people legally resident in Taiwan will be offered the same treatment as other foreign residents. They will also be paying into the system like anyone else. Is this really too much for the green crowd to accept?

Yes, because clearly, one commenter on a blog represents the entire green crowd.

Other people in the green crowd have made similar calls. I wonder if the site owner repudiates such calls for discrimination against one group of legal residents?

Anonymous said...

"Is this really too much for the green crowd to accept?"


Jerk! Who said I was green????

Michael Turton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Turton said...

Other people in the green crowd have made similar calls. I wonder if the site owner repudiates such calls for discrimination against one group of legal residents?

Sure, as soon as the one group of legal residents takes down their missiles pointed at Taiwan, renounces the use of force, and renounces all attempts to annex us.

Until then, my position is that each person must decide for himself how they will respond to oppression and aggression, and to citizens of nations that oppress and aggress against them.

As I have noted before, there are many ways to handle others demanding that you die so they can annex your land. If the Chinese meet those different ways, perhaps it will dawn on them how evil they are being, and they will change their minds.

Note that I am not advocating that Chinese here be denied health care. I personally don't support that position. But I'm not going to condemn or judge people for responding to people who demand that they submit or die by excluding them from privileges that other citizens of non-threatening nations receive.

Surely you are not dense enough to miss the justice in that?

Michael

Anonymous said...

Sure, as soon as the one group of legal residents takes down their missiles pointed at Taiwan, renounces the use of force, and renounces all attempts to annex us.

Michael-legal PRC residents in Taiwan do not have any missiles pointed at us, nor are they in any position to renounce the use of force on Taiwan. I think you are confusing the policy of the government in Beijing with the position of individual PRC citizens in Taiwan (who have no input into that government policy). Discrimination which ever way you look at it..

Anonymous said...

I believe the original post about the Chinese using the Taiwanese medical system refers to a news report that claims that the Chinese are not paying into it.

Arty said...

Arty, sure the Swiss have a good all-private health sector (or so I'm told), but they're also regulated out the wazoo, and effective & thorough regulation in the US is even less likely than a public option...

Our health reform bill has regulations. Also, the bill can be modified later if it needs to be. Paul Krugman blog about it, and I think he is smarter than average Americans, and can put it way better than I am.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/

People think they are smart but actually are not, shouldn't blog. I don't blog by the way, just commenting. Obama did everything I wanted the moment he pushes the health bill through.

Michael Turton said...

I think you are confusing the policy of the government in Beijing with the position of individual PRC citizens in Taiwan (who have no input into that government policy). Discrimination which ever way you look at it..

Sure, and you're just a hopelessly full of shit troll who deliberately confuses political action with discrimination.

Michael

Robert R. said...

Our health reform bill has regulations. Also, the bill can be modified later if it needs to be. Paul Krugman blog about it, and I think he is smarter than average Americans, and can put it way better than I am.

I've generally been happy with Krugman's comments. However, I'm not so certain that the bill can be modified later, considering the trouble modifying it now. But I hope it can be fixed before some of it's big deficiencies start causing problems. (i.e. the ability to charge much much higher premiums for those with pre-existing conditions... This is only a bit better than not being covered at all. OK, much better, but when tied to the mandate, it can cause problems for a lot of the people that are just above the subsidy limit).

As for the substance of the regulations, it's hard to discuss intelligently because the bill has changed so much since the last version was made public. Who knows what's actually in there now?

But I'm also sympathetic to Howard Dean who says to kill this bill and go to reconciliation. Truthfully, I don't know why they can't do both. Cut out some of the bad crap from this bill AND pass some of the more progressive parts in a separate reconciliation bill.

Anonymous said...

Michael-please stop calling everyone who disagrees with you a troll. Banning PRC citizens who are legally resident in Taiwan from health insurance is not effective political action. Beijing will not care one bit. But it will effect the health and well-being of many residents of Taiwan.

Michael Turton said...

Michael-please stop calling everyone who disagrees with you a troll.

I only call trolls, trolls. Do you realize how many people disagree with me in the course of a week?

Why do you think that original post was there? Pure trolling.

Banning PRC citizens who are legally resident in Taiwan from health insurance is not effective political action. Beijing will not care one bit. But it will effect the health and well-being of many residents of Taiwan.

I didn't say it was (1) effective or (2) smart, so why are you trying to muddy the waters? But the troll who posted on it tried to claim it was discrimination. Smart or stupid, political action is not discrimination. And people who deliberately confuse the two are just trolls.

Anonymous said...

"Michael-please stop calling everyone who disagrees with you a troll."

Nice! A troll comment that's meant to provoke a reaction from Michael if I've ever seen one. And you got it! Congrats.

On the issue itself--I find it disgusting that there's ANY language that singles out special treatment for Chinese ("Mainland") spouses and their kids. There are no special clauses for any other foreigners, and if it's about equal treatment, then Chinese spouses and their kids can be covered by existing laws and that should be the end of it.

But we can see of course how the KMT is back to their old ways of legalized, governmental social engineering. To promote unification, they will do anything, including making it as easy as possible for Taiwanese to marry Chinese. If you take a couple of steps back, it's not so dissimilar from the degrading of the Taiwanese language and culture and the institution of chiefs in Aboriginal tribes that did not have them. All that social engineering so that the KMT can have greater control and achieve their religious goals.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:14 said: "To promote unification, they will do anything, including making it as easy as possible for Taiwanese to marry Chinese..."

Maybe not even require marriage. I think the mainlanders are being handed citizenship without marriage--just bring your families and your cash. It so easy to unify by just allowing the Chicoms to do what they did to HK: quickly and quietly move in!

Anonymous said...

Michael- I wrote all the posts. As you admit, banning PRC citizens legally resident in Taiwan from healthcare is not effective or smart political action.

I took exception to the comment below, which is why I posted something:

"However, the sticker shock aside, the Ma government has also decided we will also be paying for the healthcare children of communist Chinese who are living here."

This comment was both inaccurate in the sense that PRC citizens resident in Taiwan also pay into the system through taxes and premiums, and also discriminatory.
I am not trolling, but it appears you only welcome comments from people who agree with you. No wonder I decide to post anonymously.

Arty said...

I've generally been happy with Krugman's comments. However, I'm not so certain that the bill can be modified later, considering the trouble modifying it now.

Well, even our constitutions can be changed, I don't see how you can believe a simple law can't be changed in the future. All countries that passed universal health care likes it if not loving it. I predict US will be the same, and Republicans and Libertarians knows this. That's why they are fighting so hard against it because they know after the bill passed people will know that they are full of sh!t.

Unless you are like some people on this blog just hates life and believed that people who control the power are all evil, have no heart, and out to screw ordinary people. Contrary to public believes, a lot of individuals from powerful families in the US lives an ordinary lives just like rest of us.

Michael Turton said...

I am not trolling, but it appears you only welcome comments from people who agree with you. No wonder I decide to post anonymously.

Hey troll, your comments are here, along with many others that don't agree. In this set of comments alone there are at least three people who don't agree with me. D'oh! But if you troll, you'll be labeled a troll. Accusations like "you only welcome comments from people who agree with you" are pure unadulterated troll. Time to grow up, doncha think?

There is nothing "discriminatory" about taking political action against the citizens of a nation that has sworn to kill and maim your own citizens, suppress your democracy and your culture, and steal your land. You'd have to be both utterly heartless and totally ignorant of history to adopt another position. Not to mention ethically challenged.

If you want to blather about discrimination, invest some time in exploring what happens to foreign laborers here.

Michael

Robert R. said...

Well, even our constitutions can be changed, I don't see how you can believe a simple law can't be changed in the future.

Can is much different from "is likely to." Sure, they can change the bill to roll back the many compromises during the past 6 months, but the likelihood of that occurring in the next 5 years is unlikely in my eyes.

If the right (or Liebermann) were to work in good faith on policy grounds, and based on the will of their constituents, sure it'd be much more likely. But given the growing partisanship in the last decade, I get more and more skeptical.

I'm sure the majority people I fundamentally disagree with aren't evil, but they oft seem to work on theories that seem to haven been proven wrong by history. I'm sure Reagan was not evil at heart when he said Medicare would lead us to a Soviet-style 100% planned economy, but that doesn't make him less wrong.

And, yes, people love socialized medicine, even Medicare, but that doesn't stop these "non-evil" folks from trying to cut it.

Anonymous said...

Michael: Clearly by calling people trolls and insulting them, you are making them unwelcome.
There is no excuse for discrimination against any group of legal residents of Taiwan. This is not the only type of discrimination PRC citizens have faced. The DPP forced spouses from the PRC to wait an absurdly long time to get permission to work legally (much longer than those from other countries).
As for exploitation of foreign labourers- I fully agree. If you make a post about that subject I will add my thoughts.

Michael Turton said...

Michael: Clearly by calling people trolls and insulting them, you are making them unwelcome.

Clearly, when you put up troll-bait like "will the blogger condemn..." you consign yourself to a certain demographic.

There is no excuse for discrimination against any group of legal residents of Taiwan. This is not the only type of discrimination PRC citizens have faced. The DPP forced spouses from the PRC to wait an absurdly long time to get permission to work legally (much longer than those from other countries).

My heart bleeds for them, and as soon as China grows up and treats Taiwan normally, I'm sure Taiwan will be happy to treat them normally as well. In any case their allies now govern, so this whole discussion is basically moot.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, when you put up troll-bait like "will the blogger condemn..." you consign yourself to a certain demographic.

I only posted that in response to being called a jerk (by another poster), and your rather snarky response to my initial post. I'm sorry you thought I was trolling.

My heart bleeds for them, and as soon as China grows up and treats Taiwan normally, I'm sure Taiwan will be happy to treat them normally as well. In any case their allies now govern, so this whole discussion is basically moot.

So you think it is acceptable to discriminate against a citizen of a given country because you disagree with that country's policy? Would that also apply to regime opponents? How will this help you achieve your political objectives?

Anonymous said...

This whole discussion is nuts. Every country regulates other countries citizens based on the danger or threat that they pose to their nation. Everything from visas to immigration quotas to drivers licenses to taxes--are you proposing that countries should treat citizens and non-citizens all completely alike?

China is a huge threat to Taiwan. The vast majority of illegal immigrants and illegal workers in Taiwan are from China, and this does not even consider the danger that Chinese spies pose.

I know of NO country that acts that way, and until we are all conquered into one super nation (boy is that a scary thought), I find it perfectly justified that countries differentiate between citizens and non-citizens, and to differentiate among different countries. As long as it's within a basic standard of human rights and not racially based, and is based on actual, real threats, then you really can't call it discrimination, unless you want to argue for the complete abolishment of borders themselves.

Michael Turton said...

Basically, what the anon above says.

Thanks for the apology.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Every country regulates other countries citizens based on the danger or threat that they pose to their nation. Everything from visas to immigration quotas to drivers licenses to taxes--are you proposing that countries should treat citizens and non-citizens all completely alike?

China is a huge threat to Taiwan. The vast majority of illegal immigrants and illegal workers in Taiwan are from China, and this does not even consider the danger that Chinese spies pose.

No I am not arguing that PRC residents receive the same treatment as ROC nationals, I am only arguing that LEGAL residents in Taiwan with PRC citizenship are entitled to the same treatment as other foreign citizens. For example they should not be excluded from health care benefits available to all other foreign citizens.
This has nothing to do with illegal immigrants or workers (or spies who I bet are almost entirely ROC citizens-they are the ones who have access to sensitive information).