Friday, September 19, 2014

Saving Coal Jobs is a Fairy Tale

One of the sad truths about Kentucky, my adopted home state, is that there are a lot of good people here who are poorly educated. There are a lot of historic reasons for that, but two key parts of the history are that:
  1. Coal mine owners have been exploiting the poorest of the poor here for generations. This fact is not in dispute. Hell, they didn't even pay people in actual dollars until the 1950s. Prior to that you were paid in company "scrip" that was only good at the company store. There's a song about that.
  2. For the first 150 years of coal production (1820-1970), state, local, and federal governments sided with mine owners over miners roughly 100% of the time when it came to labor disputes, working conditions etc. (today it's down to about 85%). Take a 1932 Kentucky law that forbid the conversion of scrip into actual cash as an example; I wonder whose idea that was?
Scrip is just one obvious and particularly egregious example. Dangerous working conditions, shooting workers who tried to form unions, dumping toxic waste into water supplies... mine operators are a special kind of shitty, they have been for generations, and they're not changing any time soon. 

For Eastern and Western parts of the state, coal has been the biggest (and often the only) industry that dominated local economies for 200 years. In these far reaches of our state, their whole world has revolved around coal for literally as long as anyone can remember. You maybe graduated high school, but you definitely didn't go to college, because all you needed was a job at the mine and you could raise a family, just like your dad and grandfather did. Critically, you can't talk to the electorate in these regions about the global energy market or the economics of coal extraction because they are, in the truest sense of the word, ignorant. If your only motive is profit and you have zero sense of ethics, can you imagine a better scenario than an ignorant labor force who's entirely dependent on one industry? Me either. No wonder the mine owners ("Friends of Coal") desperately want to maintain the status quo.

Kentucky's coal industry is in decline due to a wacky thing called economics. It's been in decline for 35 years. We lost our spot as the nation's top coal producer 1 year after Mitch McConnell was elected. If you're ignorant and don't trust Obama because he's a black Muslim, the EPA is absolutely to blame for this, what with their pesky regulations about keeping mercury out of the water supply and sulfur dioxide out of the air. That shit ain't bad for you, if you don't understand anything about biology or chemistry and your kid doesn't have asthma yet.
There are cheaper alternatives to coal today for running power plants, and there are other states with coal resources that are MUCH cheaper to extract than Kentucky coal. It's that simple. The US still needs coal, and it has uses other than power plants, but IT AIN'T COMING BACK TO KENTUCKY!!! To suggest that it is, to try and win votes by lying to an ignorant, poor population that has been shit on for generations, is beyond shameful, it's criminal. Both Kentucky candidates for Senate are making this claim, and for Mitch McConnell it's pretty much the backbone of his platform. Mitch has had 30 years in the Senate to reverse this trend, and he hasn't done shit (see chart). Anyone who believes he's got the ability to reverse this trend if we just elect him for 6 more years is stupid. I don't fault poor, ignorant Kentuckians for listening to his pied piper song, they literally don't know any better and they are desperate for better economic times. I do fault my educated friends here and smart people in the rest of Kentucky who should know better. Saving coal jobs is a fairy tale. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Who's taking away guns? It ain't Obama or the Feds.

Contrary to popular belief, and by popular belief I mean the GOP Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) campaign that precedes every election talking about how whomever the Democratic candidate is has secret plans to repeal the 2nd amendment, Obama has get to take away anyone's guns. When he didn't do this during his first term, the NRA need an explanation. After all, they swore this was his plan. Interesting side note, during his first term, Obama actually expanded expanded the list of places you can carry a gun while simultaneously failing to renew the assault weapons ban. The NRA should recognize this as a home run, but of course they can't give a Democrat credit for anything because they've given dump trucks full of money to the RNC. In fact, Obama has repeatedly stated that "No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society," Sounds pretty logical to me. He proposed no new laws after Sandy Hook. He proposed no new laws after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was gunned down at a speaking event. He proposed no new laws after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. While it's technically impossible for both these statements to be accurate, the Brady project and the NRA branded his first term a failure. That's right, both the gun control nuts and the gun advocacy nuts see him as an enemy of their cause. 

Meanwhile, several states have been adopting what I think are some practical, logical measures that could actually result in seizure of privately owned weapons under extreme circumstances. As state officials across the country grapple with how to prevent mass killings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, some are turning to a gun seizure law pioneered in Connecticut 15 years ago.

Connecticut's law was the first of its kind nationwide and was passed after the killings of four managers at the state lottery headquarters. It allows judges to order guns temporarily seized from people after police show they are a danger to themselves or others.

Indiana approved a similar law in 2005. And now California and New Jersey officials are debating gun seizure laws, both in the aftermath of the killings of six people near the University of California, Santa Barbara, in May. Considering the overlap between the "Obama's a Kenyan Muslim Socialist," the NRA, and the "the Feds need to back off and respect states' rights" crowds, I find this, amusing. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Those pesky poor people

This article grabbed my attention last week. Among other things, it provides a historical perspective on a major topic in American politics today - rich versus poor, makers versus takers, the notion that all poor people (or a full 47% of the country, according to Romney) are freeloaders. Here's another spin on it from my ideology-shifting Senator, Rand Paul. Rand, never far from a conspiracy theory, wants you to believe that the reason Obama is  pushing for a higher minimum wage is as a diversion, to draw attention away from the fact that the middle class is getting screwed these days. Right. A diversion, which implies that the Dems for some reason are trying to hide... what exactly? They just won two presidential elections by appealing to... the middle class who's getting screwed by... the 1% who fund the PACs that fund the GOP.

If you're mad about the number of people getting public assistance, you either have to support raising the minimum wage or admit that you're being completely illogical. 40% of the people on food stamps have jobs that simply don't pay enough to feed a family. The GOP has successfully convinced most of its more mindless followers that the sick and elderly "deserve" assistance yet the working poor do not. If you're sick or old, it's not your fault, but if you're among the working poor or the under-employed, that somehow IS your fault. Doesn't matter that we're in the slowest recovery ever. Doesn't matter that the productivity gains of the American worker since 1970, which are amazing, have gone almost exclusively to the 1%. For me, this is like the Kentucky residents who vote for Mitch McConnell because he's promising to save coal. SAVE COAL?! How, exactly? Why, exactly? If you vote for the GOP because you think they're out to help the middle class by... ah yes, easing taxes on the 1%, because that "trickle down" shit has worked so well for us in the past, you're no different from the ignorant coal fan. 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Continually baffled

Yet another demonstration this week by the GOP that they are:
  • Completely out of touch with popular sentiment
  • Couldn't care less about rebuilding our shrinking middle class
  • Are much more interested in taking symbolic, confrontational stances on issues than actually doing the logical (and moral) thing. 
  • Always going to side with big business over the common man
I've blogged before about the staggering collapse of the middle class. It's a fact, not an opinion. It's not about Obama or W; it's been taking place for over 30 years now. The '08 recession definitely hurt the middle class a lot, but they were in pretty bad shape by '07 anyway. If you care to read about the topic, Carville & Greenberg wrote a great book on it. Are they biased? Hell yes they are. But let's be clear - just because they work for the Dems doesn't make them wrong. They're brilliant, and the book is filled with economic data that is not in dispute; any way you look at it the middle class in this country is not what it once was. Also, it talks about how people rightly don't trust the government today because we all know that money runs politics, which means rich white people and corporations pretty much get the policies they want. I'm a "rich" white guy who works for a big corporation, so through no fault of my own I benefit from a lot of the GOP's bullshit, but I still hate it. I hate that it takes politics away from the people, and I believe a government that works for the elites and the greed of corporations is bad for America, period.

In the current Congress, the GOP has voted AGAINST raising the minimum wage, AGAINST fair pay for women, and FOR cutting food stamps. Are too many people on food stamps? Absolutely. In the richest nation in the world, we should be collectively ashamed that 47,000,000 people can't get the food they need without government assistance. Is there fraud in the program? Absolutely, as is the case with any government program. Let's keep it in perspective though. Let's compare tax fraud by the rich and corporations to "food fraud" by people poor enough to qualify for food stamps. Some interesting facts about the food stamp program:

  • 41% of the people on it have jobs that simply don't pay enough money to feed a family
  • 14% of US families are on it
  • Today, over 900,000 of the families on it are veterans, whose unemployment rate is 2x-3x the national average
  • It costs $80 billion a year, the US budget is $3,770 billion a year, so food stamps make up just over 2% of Federal expenditures. 
  • It was signed into law originally by a Republican President (Eisenhower)
  • Its original goal was to kill two birds with one stone: help farmers by buying their surplus food production and help poor people by feeding them with those surpluses; this is why the food stamp program is still part of the farm bill
So wait, if we raise the minimum wage, we could potentially cut the food stamp rolls by 41%, shifting that burden back to employers and off the American taxpayer, while simultaneously helping our veterans and their families? Score!

To be clear, if you're mad about government spending and your solution is to go after the food stamp program, you're an idiot. The GOP cuts trimmed $8.7 billion, which is a lot, until you realize that it's 11% of 2% of the federal budget. So congrats GOP you just saved 0.22% of federal expenditures by taking dinner away from poor people. In who's country is that an awesome move? I hope not America.

What about minimum wage? Who does that affect? Who makes minimum wage anyway?
  • 4.7% of hourly workers
  • 76% of minimum wage earners are NOT high school kids
  • Over half of them are women
By paying its employees minimum wage, the average Wal-Mart store costs taxpayers an estimated $900K/year, because those employees need assistance programs like... FOOD STAMPS! (that report has some flawed assumptions, but the basically calculate an average taxpayer burden of $3,000 per minimum wage employee per year) Wal Mart has over 3200 US stores, for a total taxpayer burden of... $2.8 billion! That's just Wal-Mart! Now let's add in all the other stores, hotels, and other businesses that pay minimum wage. 4.7% of the 75,000,000 hourly workers in the US, $3,000 taxpayer burden per minimum wage worker gets us... $10.5 billion dollars. Raising the minimum wage would save more money than they cut from the food stamp program. Not only would it not screw poor people and veterans, it would actively help them move towards the middle class. 


The most frustrating part to me is that much of the GOP base today is dumb enough to believe their bullshit. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

History of Putin's rise

Excellent reflection on the rise of Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin: The rebuilding of ‘Soviet’ Russia http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26769481

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Real stories of Obamacare

Obamacare has been in the news so much this week because of the looming deadline, it got me to thinking more about the real people who are impacted by it directly. Living in the mid-west (sorry kids, Kentucky ain't the South), and having grown up in a very nice whitey-McWhitey-pants suburb, it's not surprising that I have a lot of conservative friends. To clarify, when I use conservative I mean it in the true sense, not the Fox News idiot sense (although I have some friends in that category too). I mean people who don't like big government, and people who generally support free and open markets. If you think the government should be involved in banning gay marriage or protecting religious bigotry, you're not a conservative (but there's a good chance you're a jerk).

Anyway this means I have a lot of friends who hate Obama, and also hate Obamacare. I have a generally favorable opinion of both, though I fully recognize they're not without their flaws (see my recent post on why I prefer national health care). I didn't vote for Obama because I think he walks on water (as some Democrats do), and I know the ACA represents massive government interference in one of the biggest sectors of our economy, it'll cost a ton of money and we won't know if it's achieving its goals for several years. But we desperately needed something, and I think this particular something is better than nothing.

Sure, lots of people lost their coverage and/or couldn't keep it due to Obamacare's new minimum standards for insurance. And Obama was an idiot to promise that "if you like your insurance you can keep it," which we all now know was a lie. A lot of Americans were paying for insurance policies that covered almost nothing. They fall into three groups:

  1. Some percentage of those Americans knew what they had, and are rightfully upset that they can't keep their crappy coverage. I argue that those Americans are not much better than the ones who choose to not carry insurance at all - both groups are likely to end up receiving free care when something bad happens. If you, like me, believe that we have a problem with a lack of individuals taking responsibility for themselves and their own actions in this country, and if you know the statistics about how much free care doctors and hospitals give out in this country and how that "free" care translates into the higher premiums the rest of us pay, then you almost have to agree with me that those people are freeloaders. Conservatives hate freeloaders. 
  2. Some percentage of those people with crappy plans had no idea that they were buying crappy insurance, and are right now a) mad at the company who sold them the snake oil policy and b) signing up for Obamacare because they want actual coverage for wacky things like preventative care.
  3. Some percentage of those Americans knew what they had but also knew that there were no viable alternatives to them. They lost their policy but they're NOT mad about it because now they have a viable option for real insurance. These people are also singing up for Obamacare.
Remember, 70% of the country gets health insurance from their employer or the government (Medicare/Medicaid/Veterans Administration). So we're really only talking about the 30% who don't. There was an argument that tons of employers would stop offering coverage because of Obamacare; that they'd simply pay the fine for not offering coverage and dump their employees off onto the public exchanges. This has not happened. There was an argument that small businesses would go bankrupt from being forced to offer coverage. This has not happened, largely because there are massive tax incentives to offer coverage and any small business operator with two brain cells will take advantage of an opportunity to 1) attract & retain employees while simultaneously 2) lowering her tax burden. 

Now let's go to the polls. Americans hate Obamacare. More than half of them say they "don't want it." But from what frame of reference are they looking at Obamacare? 45% of Americans get coverage from their employer. Do they get to complain about Obamacare? I suppose so, because they are also tax payers and it's an expensive program. But these people don't need the coverage Obamacare offers to people who previously had no alternative, and I think that's important to bear in mind. If you're only looking at the federal and state budget implications of Obamacare, it's easy to hate. 

25% of Americans get their healthcare from the government anyway. Do they get to claim that this is wasteful government spending? I think not, since that would be pretty hypocritical. Yes, the burden on state and federal health care programs will go up, but there is a very real chance that Obamacare will achieve its other goals of improving outcomes and lowering costs. Part of the goal of this legislation was to address the very real skyrocketing costs of healthcare by getting more people preventative care options AND by holding providers responsible for outcomes, and taking insurance companies to task for inflating administrative costs. 

The 30% of the country that's not insured through their employers or the government is either uninsured, or falls into one of the 3 categories of "I previously had lousy insurance that is now illegal." Some percentage of the uninsured are now quite happy to sign up for something. There are some compelling stories about this compiled in a nice marketing piece by HHS. Contrary to the Romney narrative, most people in this country do not like handouts and want to provide for themselves and their families. They simply had no good options for affordable care prior to Obamacare. Now that they have options, they're signing up to the tune of 5,000,000 plus.

Remember, just because it's marketing doesn't make it imaginary - these are real people. I also am friends with a number of artists on facebook who write glowing reviews of their experience, in particular some of the New Orleans musicians I miss so much. Oddly enough, when you play on street corners and in bars, those gigs don't offer good health coverage, yet these musicians do want to take better care of themselves and they recognize the risk they have been taking by not having coverage. It was just truly un-affordable to them. There are still some freeloaders out there, but there always will be. 

I think the approval rating of the ACA today should be determined by the uninsured who want coverage, and groups #2 and #3 from the "I previously had lousy insurance that is now illegal" crowd. Those are the people for whom the ACA has the greatest short term impact. If you still get coverage from your employer or uncle same, your opinion on the sign up phase is irrelevant. You can weigh in a couple years from now when we have some real evidence as to whether this thing lowers the cost of care and improves patient outcomes. By then we'll know if it's worth the tax burden or not. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The American Cell-phone saga - a new era dawns

It's been a while since my last rant about the stupid model by which Americans get mobile phones and wireless plans. Part of this model is driven by the fact that our wireless carriers here have really strong lobbies in Congress, so they do everything they can to protect their vested interests in NOT having an efficient market. CDMA, LTE, UMTS, HSPA+, EDGE,GSM... I don't even try to keep with all the variations in technologies used in this country, but that's one of the things that locks people into a particular carrier. Technically there are 4 major carriers in the US, but since there are really only two main technologies deployed, what we really have is 2 pairs of carriers, and even within those pairs they've done what they can to make it useless to switch. In Europe and Asia, any phone works on any network. It's wacky.

The other big difference of course is this subsidy/contract model. Americans tend to sign two year contracts for their phones, and part of the monthly fee they pay is actually a subsidy for the handset they use. So they think they're getting an iPhone for $199 instead of the full retail $699, but all they're really doing is signing up for an iron-clad contract where they payoff the other $500 over the course of 2 years. American's don't think about it this way - they think they're getting an iPhone for $199, and that their generous wireless carrier is going to "let" them upgrade two years from now. In point of fact all the carrier is doing is offering them the opportunity to sign away their freedom of choice for two more years when the initial contract expires. What a deal! The result? 33% of Americans now use pre-paid (no-contract) phones.

Three years ago I bought my first phone, a Nexus One. I loved it. I still have it as a backup phone. Google engraved my name on it. I've used it on AT&T, T-Mobile, Tata Wireless, Vodafone, Orange, O2 and KPN. I still take it with me to Europe sometimes. I paid $500 for it. The Nexus is an Android phone, and it got all the updates for 2 years until its hardware became out-dated. After that I bought a Nexus 4, and it's serving me equally well.

Now, 3 years after I adopted this model myself, the major wireless carriers are coming along. T-mobile has lowered its rates and no longer offers contract plans. You literally cannot sign a service contract with them anymore. Bring your own phone, or finance one, but they're not subsidizing it. And they lowered their rates. $50/month gets most users all the data they'd ever need, and my 4G LTE signal here in Lexington is sometimes 3X, even 4X what I get from our cable internet provider. True, T-mobile doesn't have the coverage that the big guys do, but it's improving, thanks largely to the $1 BILLION payout from AT&T when a recent merger attempt failed. So be a smart consumer and at least shop around and know your options before blindly signing up for a contract just to get a phone. There are a lot of pre-paid and virtual network operators now - you can get your phone service at Wal-Mart of Kroger, and it's probably a better deal than what you can get from AT&T or Verizon.





Obamacare's Birthday

This weekend marks 4 years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The GOP re-branded it as "Obamacare," in hopes that those who hate Obama would similarly hate "his" healthcare plan. There are at least 3 flaws with that: 1) he didn't write the bill 2) some Obama haters directly benefit from this plan and 3) the GOP has given the Dems a great marketing tool here: there are now over 10,000,000 people who are fans of Obamacare because it has given them the health insurance they wanted and couldn't get previously. Ask P&G about the marketing power of 10,000,000 consumers who are out there saying "I just bought this product and it's really helping me and my family."

There's not much point reviewing the law and how it's been rolled out, as that is a well-documented and over-analyzed debacle. I find the IT issues particularly embarrassing as I work in that industry and it reads like a classic case of how NOT to run a large IT project. Because I work in that industry though, I'm also aware of how notorious the government is for NOT being able to manage IT contractors, being difficult to work with, and changing requirements on the fly without adjusting timelines or budgets appropriately. This example just happened to get a ton more media attention than others, and rightfully so, but rest assured there are several hundred other IT initiatives that Uncle Sam is screwing up at this very moment. In short though, adoption has been less than expected, a majority of Americans "disapprove" of Obamacare although I'm certain a majority of Americans don't understand it either (who does?), and the true costs of this thing will not be known for years.

Is Obamacare bad for America? I don't know. It's certainly ugly, and poorly executed, but is there a net benefit to it at the end of the day? What's the point of comparison? Obamacare is awful compared to what - doing nothing? Compared to the national health care systems that a VAST majority of advanced industrialized nations have successfully deployed with better outcomes, lower costs, and none of the rationing & death panels the GOP desperately wants you to believe exist? That's the system I want, by the way, and there is overwhelming, conclusive evidence that national health care systems work AMAZINGLY well if the standard of comparison is the health care "system" we had in place before Obamacare. I'd love to see every insurance company put out of business, because I believe they're the root of the problem, and the doctors and hospitals have simply evolved & adapted to maximize their own outcomes because of how they have to deal with the insurance companies. No rational person can look at this system which has:


  • An annual enrollment process (what's the cost to our economy of the lost productivity when we all have to do that crap each year?) 
  • Denial of coverage to the sick and/or pregnant 
  • The artificial inflation of and wide regional variations in the costs of care due to the absurd relationships between insurers, providers, and hospital systems 
  • Having to get permission from insurance companies before you get treatment
  • Coverage that is often tied to your employer, which completely skews labor force participation and job mobility...
and say "yes, that's an awesome system, I want that!" I've lived in the UK. I've done long term IT projects in Sweden and France. And I'm here to tell you those systems work well. Are they perfectly efficient and without flaws? Nope. There is bureaucracy, there is corruption, and those things will be true for ANY system that tries to provide healthcare for millions of people - some of the exact problems we see in Medicare here in the US. But I'm here to tell you that the GOP is full of crap when they want you to believe that you get poor quality care or that it's difficult to see a doctor. That's just simply not true. Anyone who gives the "they pay way higher taxes than we do" doesn't understand the big picture either. First off most of us already pay 40% in taxes, we just don't get healthcare thrown in with it. Then consider the insanely higher cost of care in the US, which WE ALL PAY FOR ANYWAY, just not in the form of direct taxes. You cannot analyze the big picture and come to any conclusion other than to say that most national health care systems provide better care at a lower net cost, full stop. 

But today I want to talk about elections and call out the GOP for pulling a classic "I hate your idea but I'm not actually proposing a viable alternative" move. You know, the kind that your mom called you out for as a kid, and your colleague calls you out for today. This is yet another dimension of where the GOP has completely alienated its TRUE base - moderates like me. There are literally millions of us, Reagan Republicans who know full well that Reagan wouldn't take the time to spit on John Boehner's shoes, that compromise is not a sign of weakness, it's how you get things done in Washington. Back to my point #1 about why the GOP was stupid to paint Obamacare as Obama's law, this law was written by the Dems in Congress, the GOP had a chance to participate and shape things, but they chose not to. I'll be the first guy to admit that Nancy Pelosi is useless, so why on Earth would anyone let her craft such an important piece of legislation? 

The answer is simple politics. The GOP, "led" by Mitch McConnell, openly stated that their goal was for Obamacare to fail, NOT because they had a better plan, but PURELY because if it failed big time that would help them win elections. That motive must be used to frame anything and everything they try to tell us about Obamacare and/or their alternative proposals, if they ever come up with one. They could have collaborated with the Dems in writing this thing, they chose not to.

If you're a true conservative and you want to get rid of government waste and improve our economy, the healthcare sector is a perfect place to start. Our nation spends way too much on it, it's crippling our economy, and it should be a prime target for reform. But today's GOP big shots aren't leaders, they're self-centered jerks who care far more about winning the next election and sticking it to the Dems than actually giving this country what it needs: healthcare reform, entitlement reform, a simplified tax code. They are absolutely owned by big pharma and the big insurance companies & hospitals, the exact organizations that have the most to lose from a more efficient health care system. 

The strongest evidence of this is that, four years on, they have yet to propose a viable alternative. They've wasted 50 votes in the House to repeal Obamacare. These jerks can't pass anything meaningful, but the notion that Congress can't pass a bill is nonsense. If they can find time for 50 symbolic votes that get them nothing more than a sound byte for the next election cycle, they could find time for more meaningful debate if they wanted to. They don't. All they care about is being able to say "we tried to repeal it over 50 times, it's the Dems that stopped us so blame them." Well, the reason the Dems stopped you is because they outnumber you, because you guys ran on a "repeal Obamacare" platform in 2012 and that failed to win you the majority you'd need in Congress to actually DO that. My favorite part of this dimension of the story is that many of my GOP friend now deny that the 2012 cycle was a referendum on Obamacare; that instead it's the upcoming 2014 mid-terms that will be the referendum. This is because they figured 2012 would be a landslide for the GOP and it wasn't. They lost 2 seats in the Senate and 6 seats in the house. 

So where does this leave the GOP for 2014? I think they're actually in a really bad spot. True, more people disapprove of Obamacare today than 2 years ago, but there's another pesky statistic that I think offsets that: we've now got 10,000,000 Americans who just GOT coverage through Obamacare that didn't have it previously. In states that setup their own exchanges, the participation rates are staggeringly high and the percentage of the population who's uninsured has dropped dramatically. In Kentucky, our uninsured population has dropped by 75% and half of the newly insured are under 35 years old. 

One of the GOP's best talking points is that there are a few million people who lost coverage, in particular Obama's failure to deliver on his promise that "if you like your coverage you can keep it." Well, the truth is that a lot of people had terrible coverage that is no longer legal, but this is America and if you want to pay for an insurance product that doesn't even cover basic preventive care, that's your "right." Here's the rub: if your key argument is that Obamacare is bad because people lost coverage from it, you can't repeal it today because you'd be killing coverage for 10,000,000 Americans! All the GOP can feasibly do in terms of reforming it is to further Frankenstein a law that's already ridiculously complex. The GOP knows this, and I'm betting they also know it's not worth the fight this year to try to pass an alternative. Much easier to stick with the current strategy of just throwing stones at it. The smart voters already know that the GOP isn't actually proposing any alternatives, and the dumb voters don't care, they vote based on sound bytes anyway.