Friday, January 29, 2010

More. Of. This.

It's being called Obama v. GOP. Doesn't matter what it's called, today Obama walked into the House of the Reps and went toe to toe with them during an Q&A session that lasted over an hour.

This is so good, I'll forgo my comment about this sort of thing being missing during the last 12 months.

Here's the Q&A session:

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Answering the Beige One...

There was a quote in the beige one’s recent post that got my attention and I wanted to answer:

Mr. President, during the State of the Union address, you said that you didn’t choose to tackle the health care reform issue just to get a legislative victory under your belt. I believe you, but can you tell me how taking someone that is unemployed, or maybe is employed, but still can’t afford decent health insurance and making them buy some kind of policy from the very insurance companies that have screwed us in the past; how is this not capitulation? How do you go from the Public Option (and you did campaign on the Public Option) to trigger plans and not see that as dispiriting for the people who voted for you?

I must call up a post I made on Ft. McHenry earlier today:

Reforming Health Care is more complicated than what the beige one is making it out to be in his statement. This is why the Democratic solution doesn't fit on an effing bumper sticker. Short of ripping everything up and installing a Single Payer Plan (which is my preferred choice – but good luck getting the votes for that in either chamber), you’re going to be surprised at what choices you have to do reform the system.

And by the way, I’ll get to the beige one’s unemployed dude in a minute. But to debate his point, I have to go to the beginning.

First, you start off with the concept of Universal Coverage. At its core, this is what we all want. Of course, since you want everyone to have access to the system, you have start with ending the ban on pre-existing conditions. This is just basic. Everyone loves this. It polls great.

But, if you end the ban of pre-existing conditions, what happens? Well, sick people who couldn’t previously get insurance will jump into the system, and healthy people will leave figuring (at this point correctly) that they can just buy insurance when they need it (i.e. when they're sick). If that happens, Insurance rates don't just rise, they skyrocket. (I believe Paul Krugman referred to this as an Insurance Death Spiral). If everyone in the Insurance Pool is pulling money out of the system, the Industry can't cover all the costs.

Not won’t, can’t.

So, to keep the healthy people in the system, thus keeping costs low, you have to force the Healthy People to buy insurance (yes, force). This is called a mandate, which everyone hates, and polls terrible.

The mandate is not Insurance putting a gun to our heads, and demanding our healthy citizens. This is just how Insurance works (Auto, Home, what have you). It’s all about managing risk. You have multiple Healthy people putting money into the system covering the one Sick person who takes money out. Doing that keeps our rates lower (though not non-existent). One day, those Healthy People will get sick themselves, but there will be other Healthy people covering them, so the cycle goes on.

Now, if people are made to by insurance, well...some of those people aren't going to be able to afford it (like The beige one’s unemployed guy), so you need to have subsidies to help those who can't pay for this crap, or increased access to Medicaid to do the same. Once you've taken that step, you pretty much have the bills that are wandering their way through Congress.

The lack of a Public Option is a loss, but there are parts of Europe (I think the Netherlands, hardly a bastion of Conservative thought) that have similar systems but don't have Public Plans. It's not a disaster if Health Care Reform doesn't have one. It's just infinitely better with one. What should still pass isn't not pretty. It’s nowhere in the same good neighborhood of Single Payer (the best and truly cheapest way to fix Health Care), but given the fact that Health Care Costs will double in ten years, it’s our best shot.

And might I remind the beige one a little something about his unemployed guy. Sickness cannot tell, nor does not care when someone don’t have a paying job. If he or his family gets sick while he’s unemployed, he’s screwed, and the rest of us are going to have to cover him. At least with even the crappier Senate plan, he has options, like Medicaid.

This is also a basic sketch of the Massachusetts Plan, which also wasn’t popular when it passed, but try taking it away from them now.

All that mess...was just for one issue: Health Care Reform. Imagine that, multiplied a thousand times (given the thousand problems we have) where every Federal dollar spent has a lobby attached to it.

If I have a complaint about my fellow progressives, it is that they’re spending a lot of time with their heads up their arses, thinking everything is simple. “If he just did this, everything would work…”

No it won’t.

Leadership is never simple. Certainly not as simple as Liberals make it out to be.

And comparing everything to the New Deal?

My fellow Liberals may be many things, but experts on Roosevelt they ain’t (particularly at the Huffington Post where they quote the New Deal like it was the tablets Moses brought down from the mountain. Too bad none of them seem to a book on the the New Deal.)

I’ve been working on a project set in the Depression so I’ve been reading nothing but Depression stuff for the last year and a half. And let me tell you, the New Deal was horribly, horribly compromised from jump. In fact Norman Thomas (Socialist Party leader and Dennis Kucinich of his day, once compared the New Deal “cough drop for a case of pneumonia.” African-Americans were suspiciously left out of a lot of New Deal Programs. Farm Workers were cut out of the National Labor Relations Act just as sharecroppers were going on strike. FDR had a more favorable Congress (with an even bigger majority), but even then they bickered and guffawed about every little damn thing. The Supreme Court struck down a lot of the initiatives from the 100 Days, being about as ethical as the current Roberts Court. There were fears of open armed rebellion, not in the south, but in fuckin’ Iowa. And oh yeah, unemployment was at 25%, almost triple what it is now.

Roosevelt got some things he wanted, some things he didn’t. (He was, it is often forgotten against the creation of the FDIC). You have to look at the whole picture, and not just your imagined corner of it. It is the overall metric of FDR's Presidency that we judge him on, and judge him rightly. It has to be the same standard for Obama, or otherwise the Progressive movement is more full of shit than I feared.

Originally posted at Fort McHenry.

GOP – The Party of “No!” The Party of “Gimme!” The Party of “Fuck the Rest of You!”

And nothing that took place after Obama’s State of the Union is going to change that impression (and before any potential conservative wags start their bellyaching about being painted in that light, let me ask you this: How would you fix this very real problem? Hint: Glib answers only prove my point).

In the meantime, have you read or listened to any of the Republicans’ replies to Obama? They all pretty much say the same thing, with tiny derivations of the following: “The President is not listening to the American people,” “job killing agenda” “same old liberal agenda” “they just wanna spend spend spend” ad infinitum.

In other words, after Obama’s call for bipartisanship, he was met with more non-bi-curious partisanship. Big surprise, and let’s just take as a given that this sort of behavior won’t change anytime soon.

While political points can and likely will be gained from continued conservative obstreperousness, there’s the matter of helping the left/progressive/Democrats find its spine; for if the Republicans are the party of “LALALALALALAICAN’THEARYOU!”, then Democrats are the party of “Why’d he hit me even after I gave him my milk money?” Current Democrats are the political equivalent of the simp at the beginning of that old Charles Atlas ad you used to see in the back of comic books, the one who got his girl taken away from him after some douche came along and kicked sand in their faces. (“It’s just fucking sand, you pathetic sack of flesh!” I’d think.)

This is an untenable situation, and if our elected representatives on the left are wondering why it is they can’t seem to get traction for their policies for longer than a couple of days, they would do well to remember that there’s a lot to be said for consistency, backbone and, ultimately, being able to deliver. I know a number of people who identify as Republican, whether they agree with the right’s policies or not, simply because they get things done.

Historically for the left, sticking to our guns has proven extremely effective. Roosevelt’s New Deal faced an unbelievable amount of opposition before its passage, and most of those programs are still standing to this day. Medicare has been so successful over the decades that the modern day base of conservatives believes its existence is their god-given right; the same is true with Social Security. Even right wing sops to progressives have proven necessary; whatever else could be said about Nixon (the last real conservative/Republican president in my estimation, nasty piece of business that he was), it was under his administration that the EPA was created.

This is why I appreciated Obama’s open admonishing of legislative Democrats during the State of the Union address, delivered just before he chastised their Republican counterparts.

However, admirable though it was, it’s surely not enough; at least not to satisfy my thirst for real progressive movement within our government, and, to be plain, the problem starts at the top.

Mr. President, beneath the fervent feelings the Left, the Progressives (oh, but not the Liberals, no; perish the thought) among us expressed for your candidacy during the 2008 campaign, was not just a desire for change or hope, but for leadership. It’s the sort of thing Jon Stewart expressed succinctly in this clip from the Daily Show.

Leadership is more than delivering uplifting, tough and compassionate oratory rhetoric. Leadership means sticking your neck out and providing ever important details, not just throwing out a blanket statement and then leaving the minions to figure out how to deliver that, and if they screw up, well, it’s their mess. “We still got some version of what we wanted, right?”

It means holding the hands of those doing the leg work, if necessary, in order to get them to deliver the desired policy you want. It means bolstering those who quake in their boots in the face of loud diversionary tactics as it is happening. It means browbeating those in your party who are visibly caving to the interests of lobbyists and industry.

It means not capitulating on goals and ideals in order to simply get things moving. It means remembering that bipartisanship is achieved by having a strong detailed plan and bartering over the small stuff. It means acknowledging that the other party isn’t being reasonable long before they just start saying no and acting appropriately at that moment, not weeks or months down the line.

Mr. President, during the State of the Union address, you said that you didn’t choose to tackle the health care reform issue just to get a legislative victory under your belt. I believe you, but can you tell me how taking someone that is unemployed, or maybe is employed, but still can’t afford decent health insurance and making them buy some kind of policy from the very insurance companies that have screwed us in the past; how is this not capitulation? How do you go from the Public Option (and you did campaign on the Public Option) to trigger plans and not see that as dispiriting for the people who voted for you?

Is it better than what we had before? I guess, but it isn’t Bold. Not as bold as the New Deal. It’s watered down Clinton progress and that is saying something.

That’s just health care reform; there are numerous areas where you’ve caved, Mr. President. I agree that some of that caving was probably necessary, but I don’t think that’s the case in every instance.

Lastly, I implore you not to take Progressives for granted. Please. One could say that it was moderate Republicans who put you in office, but beneath that, there was the massive Progressive support that provided the large bulk of your votes.

There is a school of thought that says that progressives will always turn out for the Democratic candidate, that they’d rather swallow a scumbag than face the alternative. You could argue that this has been true for quite some time.

But, increasingly, the more we get left out in the cold, the more potentially foolish notions get in our heads. Corrupt voting practices in Florida and the Supreme Court may have been responsible for handing George W. Bush the presidency in 2000, but let's remember that Ralph Nader was around to seduce valuable votes away from Al Gore.

It may be akin to cutting off our nose to spite our face, but not being heard, paid attention to, or appeased will drive anybody to extremes.

Consider this a friendly reminder.