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    • Scenarios For America’s Political Future
      Let’s run thru the most likely possible victories in the upcoming federal election and consider what they mean for America’s future. Put them in 4 baskets. Trump wins. He does more bad stuff, situation continues to get worse, American post-WWII style multilateral hegemony and trade order takes huge hits. Biden or Harris win. Harris will […]
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Dish: Health Insurance Reform

WHHHOOOOOOOOOO! Health Care Reform for white men has passed! The most historical event evah in the history of historicalness has occurred! A Democratic Congress and a Democratic President has made a Republican Healthcare Bill Law! Insurance companies will be able to not provide helpless children with adequate care at last!

All this change! All this hope! I can’t take it! I’m going to spontaneously combust!

The world is going insane, and while normally I like insanity, this is not the good kind. Obama has just passed national RomneyObamacare–a Nixon wet dream originating from the Heritage Foundation in the 1990s in opposition to Hillarycare, and yet lunatic “Tea Partiers” are running around vandalizing the houses of Congressidiots who voted for the heaping pile of shit, screaming that they are “socialists?”

Obama signs an executive order restricting women’s access to abortion, and so called “progressives” and “feminists” are having kool aid induced orgasms as they compare the passage of a Health Insurance Reform Bill that would be better served as toilet paper to the Civil Rights Act? What the fuck?

Well, maybe I’m being unfair. The Bill IS Historic. Historically shitty.

I find myself–and we all must admit that I am normally so cheerful and chipper, yes, you know you all love me– I find myself feeling gloomy. I’m walking around campus with my hands shoved in the pockets of my fake leather jacket with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth–and I don’t even smoke! Security officers are mistaking me for troubled youth and are performing random searches on me.

Well, I am troubled. I’m troubled about a lot of things, but in terms of politics and current events, I am troubled about the fact that, as MYIQ said a few weeks ago, there appears to be no end in sight.

But what really has me bummed out right now is the realization that there is no end in sight for the mess this country is in. The single biggest problem facing our nation is the illness in our political system. When I say “illness” I mean the equivalent of an inoperable cancer that has metastasized. If we fixed our political system then we would actually be able to do something about those other problems.

For most of my adult life I believed that the Democrats were the good guys so even when they were getting slapped around by the Republicans I could support them and hope that after the next election they would grow a pair and start standing up for the liberal ideals they campaigned on.

I finally realized that the majority of the Democrats who hold elected office are not only corrupt but they have the same agenda as the Republicans. Oh, the say they’re on our side, and when it’s time for them to represent us they might make some speeches andr play some parliamentary tricks but when the nitty meets the gritty they lose on purpose. Lots of times they don’t even bother to put on a dog and pony show anymore, they just vote to bail out Wall Street or take away our civil rights as if that’s what we wanted them to do.

Now as far back as I can remember the Republicans were corrupt and they tended to be pricks or assholes, and sometimes both, but they weren’t insane. Nowadays there’s a lot of GOPers that are crazy as shithouse rats. That not only includes the elected ones but the voters too. Then you got the tea baggers who don’t think the Republicans are crazy enough.

I can’t believe that I am living in a country–I country I have grown up loving with every fiber of my being despite its flaws–where this is happening. The passage of a bill that bails out the Health Care Industry is historic! And in honor of Women’s History Month we passed it on the backs of women and their reproductive rights! Cats bark! Fish have tails! Catholic Priests are ethical in their treatment of young children!

The whole world is going mad I tell you! MAAAADDDDD!

Of course, intellectually I understand, there is always hope. Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats in November and while the Republicans that come into office will be even worse, the door will open for real liberals, not phony “progressives,” to show Donna Brazile and Howard Dean’s “New Coalition” to be ineffective and thus we will be able to take our party back.

But sometimes, in this Golden Era of Hope and Change, politics just isn’t enough. For once in our lives, we needed policy. Good policy that would actually have given broke-ass students like me real Health Insurance. Just a few weeks ago, before my spring break, I came down with the flu and missed a week of classes I’m still making up. If I had insurance, I might have been able to get antibiotics and missed only one day, maybe two. This bill does nothing to help me. For one thing, I’ll be done with my undergraduates and possibly even my graduates by 2014. At this rate I’m going to have to start stripping for my ‘scrips, just like a number of poor senior citizens who will shortly be facing cuts in medicare due to this lame-assed bill.


Sometimes, I get tired. Sometimes, I don’t want to live life day to day anymore. Sometimes I think things will never get better. Trying to get something to eat, trying to fill up my gas tank–always being hungry, worrying about my mom, worrying about my friends, worrying about all the people around me at my school who are going through the same thing.

Sometimes, honestly, I’m just tired. And today, forgive me, but I have to lament over the fact that politics took precedence over policy. Sorry.

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This creek smells funny. How did we get here?

Shit_Creek_
Imagine you were rowing your boat gently down the stream and one of the oars got caught in the hatch. What would happen? Logic suggests that the current would slowly move you downstream as you spun the boat in circles.

O.K. Rowboats don’t have hatches, but Orrin Hatch is a creature and a feature of the ship of state and it is people of his intellectual and moral quality who are spinning the boat in circles when it’s clearly in need of proper direction. In fact, abandoning the first metaphor, they’ve piloted the US up the creek to where it is today. When you’re up this creek, you need a paddle, not an Orrin.

In response to Charles Schumer’s statement, that the Democrats can pass healthcare reform without Republican support:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who joined Schumer on the show, said Democrats should not try to use reconciliation to force through a bill which could not overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

“If they use that, that would be an abuse of the process,” Hatch said. He also said creating a government health plan open to all would be a grave mistake. “If we do that, we’ll bankrupt the country.”

Earth to Orrin. What do you think you’ve been actively working at for the last 8 years? What do you think lying to the public to make a war in Iraq, and loosely regulating the financial community, have to do with the current economic situation?

The Republican Party set the stage for bankrupting the nation by adopting neo-conservatism as its political philosophy. Neo-conservatism, which is conservatism without moral and intellectual grounding, is bankrupt at the conceptual level, so it’s hardly surprising that Bush’s application of its principles gutted the economy of the nation. It’s also why so many Republicans continue working to bankrupt the nation by applying the principles they say prevent bankruptcy.

Ideologues whose brains can’t get beyond binaries are incapable of accepting the empirical world when it conflicts with their beliefs. One such belief is that public healthcare would bankrupt the economy, when every study ever published in The New England Journal of Medicine on the topic shows that public healthcare is more efficient and cost effective than private healthcare.

With people like Orrin at the helm, there is no reason to wonder why the country is up the creek. I can think of at least two good uses for a paddle.

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We’re being played (again)

paul-newman-and-robert-redford-the-sting


Single payer is off the table and now that ObamaCare is going down in flames they are trying to stampede us into supporting something they call “public option” that isn’t really public option.

When hustlers are running their scams and the mark (that’s us) is getting cold feet, one trick they use is to have an associate appear eager to take the deal.  The mark (that’s us) is afraid they are going to lose a good bargain and takes the bait.  So what are we seeing right now?  A big push for us to take the deal before it’s too late.

I ain’t buying it.

Marc Ambinder:

An administration official said tonight that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “misspoke” when she told CNN this morning that a government run health insurance option “is not an essential part” of reform. This official asked not to be identified in exchange for providing clarity about the intentions of the President. The official said that the White House did not intend to change its messaging and that Sebelius simply meant to echo the president, who has acknowledged that the public option is a tough sell in the Senate and is, at the same time, a must-pass for House Democrats, and is not, in the president’s view, the most important element of the reform package.

I’ll give credit where credit is due – the Obama Permanent Campaign is very good at message control.  That’s why I find it highly implausible that Kathleen Sebelius went off script yesterday.  That leaves two possibilities – she was either floating a “trial balloon” or she was part of an attempt to manipulate us.

If there is one thing that the OPC excells at it is manipulation.

From what I’ve seen this “public option” is gonna be an option for about 10 million people that can afford health insurance but can’t get it because of pre-existing conditions.  Those pre-existing conditions mean they will probably incur higher costs, which means their premiums will be higher or the plan will have to be government subsidized.  Meanwhile the private plans can focus on the most profitable categories of clientele – the young and healthy.

A true public option would be open to everyone and would prohibit private insurance companies from dumping people (or raising their rates) because of pre-existing conditions.  I’m not saying that offering insurance to people who can’t get it elsewhere is bad, but it isn’t public option.

I’m gonna have to disagree with the Big Dawg and others who think it is important that something, even a bad bill, be passed so that Obama can claim a victory on health care reform.


NOTE: My trip to Netroots Nation



You may have noticed my absence over the weekend. On the spur of the moment I decided to attend the annual blogging convention in Pittsburgh.

I had a great time listening to the speakers, rubbing elbows and having my picture taken with the elites and hoi polloi of Left Blogistan. Then I sobered up and realized I was at a Denny’s in Bakersfield.

Better luck next year.

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Why is single payer not being served at President Obama’s table?

Study_Obama_deals_with_the_abstract

Why is single payer not at the President’s table?

76% of Americans want single payer health care. President Obama, judged by his actions, is staunchly against giving this 76% what they want. He did not invite one advocate of single payer to his advisory panel. The majority of the U.S.’s elected representatives are also staunchly against representing the taxation wishes of the majority of their constituents. When elected representatives refuse to allocate tax dollars based on the wishes of the majority of their constituents, then the elected representatives are practicing a type of taxation without representation. Why are the POTUS, the Democrats, and the Republicans so strongly in favor of taxation without representation on the issue of health care? What would it take to make single payer healthcare a reality in the U.S.?

Rather than repeat or add to the mass of research that suggests U.S. citizens are systematically denied the fruits of their constitution and their nation by the corrupt relationship that exists between the Presidency, the Senate, Congress, and numerous powerful blocks of lobbyists, I will take a different tack. (This is not to say that the corruption is not a significant part of the problem or even the most significant part of the problem, however, it is merely to point towards another piece of the “why not single payer” healthcare puzzle.)

I suggest that one reason the majority of America’s elected representatives refuse to represent the wishes of their constituents on the issue of healthcare is because the U.S. does not have a left wing, it only has a right wing and a center. The Republicans are the right. The Democrats are the center. The left lacks a serious representative party.

Quibblers will rightfully point out that the left end of the center is America’s left, but that misses the point, which is to say that single payer healthcare was a policy of the European and Canadian left. It only became adopted by the center because single payer healthcare was so rational, moral, and desirable to the electorate, that going against the policy, or not going for the policy, caused the center and the right to lose electoral support to the left, and in some cases, so much that the left formed the government. The first province that got single payer healthcare in Canada did so by electing a socialist government.

President Obama did not invite one advocate of single payer healthcare to his advisory group, even though 76% of U.S. citizens want it, because neither he, nor the anti-single payer Democrats, are afraid of citizen backlash. They are not afraid of citizen backlash because, without a perceived viable party on the left, citizens do not have an effective way to punish them at the ballot box. The point to take here is that the only thing that either party respects about the citizens is the ability of the citizens to hurt them at the ballot box.

Given the history of the U.S., it’s unlikely that a viable left will materialize anytime soon, so does this mean getting single payer is dead?

Not necessarily, but it will be difficult and take hard work. Because 76% of Americans favor single payer, its wide base of support, necessarily including Republicans, makes it a potential wedge issue, which means that anti-single payer candidates can be targeted at the ballot box. This seems possible, when one considers it’s high level of support, despite the flood of anti-single payer propaganda and the willful attempts at distortion using  a “public option.” The power of single payer as a wedge issue is further enhanced by President Obama’s confidence-based betrayal of the progressive movement, which should turn them towards the Nader/Green left or independent status and make Democrats more susceptible to the wishes of their constituents.

Nothwithstanding, single payer healthcare can only become a wedge issue, if single payer supporters act as single payer advocates by letting the Republican and Democrat candidates in their area know that being anti-single payer makes them a non-starter. Many people writing two letters or making two phone calls can trump bagfulls of lobbyist donations.  Doing so is a potential good step in the direction of “A Republic, if you can keep it” and The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” After all, and as noted in “The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen“, sometimes the enemy is inside the gates.

There is no shortage of stories about politicians receiving policy revelation when their political futures are in jeopardy. Barack Obama(h/t to John at LR), for example, converted from single payer to anti-single payer when faced with losing access to the funding from the healthcare lobby. If citizens who support single payer can find a meaningful way to punish their elected representatives at the ballot box for not supporting single payer, then it might be possible to create a circumstance where President Obama will roll out the video from 2003 and read from his teleprompter, “I’ve always supported single payer healthcare.”

This is an open thread.  Have a great Friday night!

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Friday Morning at The Confluence

North Dakota sunflower field (posted just because I like it)

North Dakota sunflower field (posted just because I like it)

Rather than posting lots of links this morning, I decided to highlight just a few stories that interested me.

New Jersey Governor’s race

First up, a story that will warm the cockles of Riverdaughter’s heart: Jon Corzine’s wealth has deteriorated so much that he has to beg for campaign donations. Karma’s a b&tch, ain’t it?

Mr. Corzine, 62, famously spent $60 million of his own money on a record-shattering Senate race in 2000, then $43 million more laying siege to Trenton four years ago.

But now, after a costly divorce and a steep decline in his net worth, Mr. Corzine, the onetime chief executive of Goldman Sachs, is in the unfamiliar position of seeking donations to help foot the bill for his campaign.

Awww…poor guy. Thanks probably to Corzine’s sellout of Hillary Clinton voters (Clinton won the New Jersey primary by 10 points) at the Democratic Convention last August, President Barack Obama showed up yesterday at a $5,000 to $10,000 a plate luncheon expected to raise around $1 million. But that’s just a downpayment on the $15 million Corzine hopes to raise from donations so he doesn’t have to spend more than $25 million of his own money.

Bernard L. Schwartz, the retired chairman of Loral Space & Communications, said a somewhat downcast Mr. Corzine visited him in Manhattan recently to ask for money. The governor offered a clear-eyed assessment of his chances against Christopher J. Christie, a former federal prosecutor and the Republican nominee, telling Mr. Schwartz the race would be costly and he could not guarantee a victory as a return on Mr. Schwartz’s investment.

“He said it was going to be a tough race,” said Mr. Schwartz, a major Democratic donor. “He was not happy about it.”

Mr. Schwartz wrote a $25,000 check.

Obama also attended a rally with Corzine, who is trailing in the polls behind Chris Christie, his Republican opponent. Ha. ha. ha.

Goldman-Sachs and the Bilking of the American Taxpayer

Matt Taibbi has a new post up about Corzine’s former employer Goldman-Sachs and their massive second quarter profits–even more massive than predicted.

So what’s wrong with Goldman posting $3.44 billion in second-quarter profits, what’s wrong with the company so far earmarking $11.4 billion in compensation for its employees? What’s wrong is that this is not free-market earnings but an almost pure state subsidy.

Last year, when Hank Paulson told us all that the planet would explode if we didn’t fork over a gazillion dollars to Wall Street immediately, the entire rationale not only for TARP but for the whole galaxy of lesser-known state crutches and safety nets quietly ushered in later on was that Wall Street, once rescued, would pump money back into the economy, create jobs, and initiate a widespread recovery. This, we were told, was the reason we needed to pilfer massive amounts of middle-class tax revenue and hand it over to the same guys who had just blown up the financial world. We’d save their asses, they’d save ours. That was the deal.

Instead the big investment banks–Goldman-Sachs most of all–are laughing their asses off at us taxpayers who were suckered into handing over the contents of the U.S. Treasury to a bunch of bankster greedheads. Instead of returning any of the money to taxpayers, the banksters are using their profits to pay out more million dollar bonuses to themselves.

Taibbi lists five types of government funding that have enabled Goldman to rake in the huge profits they just reported, including $10 billion in TARP funds and $13 billion more from the AIG bailout. Goldman has now paid back the $10 billion, which was basically an interest-free loan from you and me; but the government still holds warrants to buy G-S stock at low prices in order to make some money back for us taxpayers. Guess what? Goldman is trying to weasel out of that deal now; and they’ll probably succeed, since they are pretty much in control of our government.

Taibbi:

Taken altogether, what all of this means is that Goldman’s profit announcement is a giant “fuck you” to the rest of the country. It is a statement of supreme privilege, an announcement that it feels no shame in taking subsidies and funneling them directly into their pockets, and moreover feels no fear of any public response. It knows that it’s untouchable and it’s not going to change its behavior for anyone. And it doesn’t matter who knows it.

Here is an interview with Taibbi and Mike Lux on the Goldman-Sachs “coup” by Laura Sanders.

How the Corporate Media Cannibalized Michael Jackson

I’m going to be honest. I never enjoyed Michael Jackson’s music or had any interest in him as a person other than realizing that he probably had a rather interesting psychological disorder: Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). People who suffer from BDD are obsessed with perceived flaws in their appearance and go to extremes to correct these imagined or exaggerated defects, often having multiple cosmetic surgeries. Jackson may very well have had several other types of psychological disorders. When Jackson died, it really had little effect on me and I was surprised to see how many Conflucians were very upset by his death. Nevertheless, Chris Hedges, a very fine writer, has a long piece at Alternet about Jackson that gave me a lot to think about. I highly recommend it. Here are just a few of excerpts:

The commercial exploitation of Michael Jackson’s death was orchestrated by the corporate forces that rendered Jackson insane. Jackson, robbed of his childhood and surrounded by vultures that preyed on his fears and weaknesses, was so consumed by self-loathing he carved his African-American face into an ever-changing Caucasian death mask and hid his apparent pedophilia behind a Peter Pan illusion of eternal childhood. He could not disentangle his public and his private self. He became a commodity, a product, one to be sold, used and manipulated. He was infected by the moral nihilism and personal disintegration that are at the core of our corporate culture.

[….]

The stories we like best are “real life” stories—early fame, wild success and then a long, bizarre and macabre emotional train wreck. O.J Simpson offered a tamer version of the same plot. So does Britney Spears. Jackson, by the end, was heavily in debt and had weathered a $22 million out-of-court settlement payment to Jordy Chandler, as well as seven counts of child sexual abuse and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in order to commit a felony. We fed on his physical and psychological disintegration, especially since many Americans are struggling with their own descent into overwhelming debt, loss of status and personal disintegration.

[….]

The moral nihilism of our culture licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Education, building community, honesty, transparency and sharing are qualities that will see you, in a gross perversion of democracy and morality, ridiculed and voted off any reality show….Life, these shows teach, is a brutal world of unadulterated competition and constant quest for notoriety and attention. And life is about the personal humiliation of those who oppose us. Those who win are the best. Those who lose deserve to be erased. Those who fail, those who are ugly or poor, are belittled and mocked. Human beings are used, betrayed and discarded in a commodity culture, which is pretty much the story of Jackson’s life….Compassion, competence, intelligence and solidarity are useless assets when human beings are commodities. Those who do not achieve celebrity status, who do not win the prize money or make millions in Wall Street firms, deserve their fate.

It’s an angry article. Hedges used Michael Jackson’s life and death to demonstrate the cruel emptiness of our media culture. But he could have found many other celebrity examples. We build these people up, and then we tear them down. And we tear ourselves and each other down at the same time.

Health Care “Reform”

Will we actually get reform? Frankly I doubt it, but you never know. A miracle could happen. Here are few health care stories I came across late last night.

Senator Max Baucus is complaining because Obama is opposed to taxing health care benefits.

Maybe Montanans will return Baucus to the Senate if he makes them pay taxes on their employee benefits. I don’t think it would go over that well here in Massachusetts. What about in your state? Could it be that public rejection of Baucus’s idea is the reason Obama changed his mind about using a benefits tax to pay for a windfall for insurance companies?

Someone leaked the news that more than 50 House Democrats have banded together to oppose a health care plan they see as unsatisfactory.

Progressive Democrats are taking a hard stand on health care reform, with a majority committing to oppose any health care reform package that doesn’t include a robust public option. On Wednesday, they got an inadvertent assist by an anonymous leak of their “whip list.”

A whip list, which is generally tightly guarded, is used by congressional leaders to keep track of the private pledges made by members before a vote. The list is kept private to encourage frank answers from members so that leadership can gather accurate intelligence.

Ezra Klein claims Senator Ron Wyden has an idea that will “save health care reform.” Then he goes into a long, complicated explanation of something that sounds to me like a very bad idea. What is heck is wrong with just expanding Medicare to cover everyone? Why not single payer?

Please feel free to use the comments to post any stories that have piqued your interest.


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How much will it cost ME and what will I get?

This idea doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and I’m getting dizzy trying to decide (like my opinion matters) if I should support a “strong public plan” in the absence of real reform with a single-payer plan.  And then I realized that there are two questions that hover in the back of my mind whenever I read an update about the health reform issue – how much will it cost ME and what will I get?

And boy-oh-boy no one is letting that information leak out!

How much will it cost me?

Then (from TNR, believe it or not) comes THIS idea:

A Moneyball Approach to Health Reform

Every time we mention the impact of a health reform proposal on the federal budget with a CBO score, we should also give an estimate of how the proposal impacts a family budget. Call it the Consumer Budget Impact–the CBI. It would indicate how a family’s premiums would go up or down–and how much their exposure to significant medical debt would decline.

True, no single number can capture this. So we may need to come up with a set of numbers and perhaps compile them into an index, the way Dow Jones uses a mix of stocks to demonstrate the performance of the market as a whole. Elected officials should know if John’s family at just over the federal poverty level will be able to get coverage–and if we are expecting too much for Alice the 60-year old who is around 400 percent of the poverty level.

Remember, the subsidies in health reform don’t simply help the uninsured get coverage; they also help people who already have coverage but are struggling to pay for it. Think of the early retiree who spends over $1,000 a month, and thus over a third of his or her limited income, to keep coverage. Or the underinsured young adult who can only afford the bare-bones, high-deductible health plan. Or the workers who would lose coverage if not for the assistance and new affordable options their employer is being offered.

All of these people are insured, but in a way that is inadvisable and/or unsustainable. Depending on their income, they and millions of others will get help, so they don’t have to pay over a certain percentage of their income for premiums to get a standard package of benefits.

And while we’re at it let’s Tell Rangel to Score HR 676 so we can properly evaluate the Consumer Budget Impact of that along with all the rest.

And what will I get?

Yesterday commenter Masslib said:

I guess I’m just not interested in access. I’m interested in actual high quality health administered health care.

And THAT’s a pretty good start.


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