Some Early Mid-Term Election Results

U.S. Governor's Races

In California Jerry Brown has defeated Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina has lost to Barbara Boxer but refuses to concede at this time.

 

U.S. Senate Races

In Nevada Harry Reid has defeated Sharron Angle and the Democratic Party has retained control of the Senate but lost the House.

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U.S. History in the Making (Health Care)

(Big3News)

My political predictions have once again proven true.

I predicted at the onset of the national and Congressional debate over health care coverage in the US that we would see a bill pass both House and Senate but that it would a “watered-down” bill that addressed preexisting conditions and state-to-state plan probability more than it addressed the larger problem of controlling costs.

This Senate bill hardly resembles what I would call “sweeping reform.”

In the course of the debate over the past few months I was in the “incrementalism-reform camp” that was frustrating my fellow Democrats advocating for single-payer, but in the end this bill will fall into indeed too small a step. I was only saying along with others that we have studied government and nothing this big is done all at once. However, like I have heard many say, I would have liked to get a lot more out this process.

The last time I spoke of this I was urging Harry Reid for “reconciliation” in the Senate; without the civics lesson needed here it is quicker to say that once the public option was removed from the table, the process of reconciliation was removed as well.

To encapsulate what is going on this country: we are a constipated nation when it comes to social programs.

There is the very real ideological constipation against positive social reforms dating back to the days of FDR and further still. Then there is the constipation specific to this issue of the monopolistic health insurance companies spreading public disinformation like the stuff is on sale. This, and other factors like Sara “Death Panels” Palin and Glenn “Fearmonger-in-Chief” Beck, make this one of the most hostile environments one could possibly hope to create against pro-reform activities.

The entire experience feels like we pro-reformists have fallen flat on our face and bloodied our nose, which would be correct. But I remind everyone sharing with me in this feeling that we did just run head-first into a brick wall of highly funded anti-reformism.

We have made history in the US Congress in that we have finally cracked the brick wall against fixing a system that every informed person agrees desperately needs reform. To shatter this brick wall is a much larger task and the true importance of these recent national debates over health care coverage has been the value of flushing the wolves out into the open more than it was about the larger picture.

Urban Institute Overviews The Public Option

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post has called this the “best overview of the public option” he has read so far, and I concur:

Getting to a Public Option that Contains Costs: Negotiations, Opt-Outs and Triggers

The debate over a public option has essentially become a debate over the size and role of government in the health care system. The central argument, as we see it, should be one of fiscal conservatism—that a public option should play a role in addressing the very serious problem of health care cost containment. The current debate between the left and the right on this issue is obscuring the fact that consolidation in both the insurance and provider markets is propelling a higher rate of growth in health care costs. The consolidation of power, particularly in provider markets, makes it extremely difficult for insurers to negotiate rates for their services and contributes to rapid growth in health care costs. A strong public option is one that ties provider rates in some way to Medicare rates (though set at likely higher levels), and that is open to any individual or firm regardless of firm size. It would thus provide countervailing power to providers and help control cost growth.

We argue that a strong version is necessary because there is little else in health reform that can be counted on to contribute significantly to cost containment in the short term. Capping tax-exempt employer contributions to health insurance has great support among many analysts (including us), but it faces considerable political opposition. Proposals such as comparative effectiveness research, new payment approaches, medical homes and accountable care organizations, all offer promise but could take years to provide savings. Thus, the use of a strong public option to reduce government subsidy costs and as a cost containment device should be an essential part of the health reform debate.

We recognize that there is opposition to a strong public option. Both the House and Senate proposals are considering relatively weak versions to make the public option more acceptable. Both proposals would have the public option negotiate rates with physicians and hospitals. We see two problems with this. One is that negotiating rates is not simple and it raises difficult implementation issues; for example, with whom would the government negotiate? Further, negotiations are most likely to be unsuccessful with providers who have substantial market power. Since this is at the heart of the cost problem, a strategy of negotiations seems unlikely to be effective, as has been affirmed by cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate has proposed a public option with an opt-out provision. This has the advantage of recognizing regional diversity in political philosophy by allowing states to pass legislation to keep it from being offered in their states. A disadvantage of this proposal is that it would exclude many who would potentially benefit from a public option. The states likely to opt out are likely to be those with high shares of low-income people and many uninsured.

The other alternative is to establish a strong public option but not implement it unless a triggering event occurred. The goal would be to allow the private insurance system to prove that it can control costs with a new set of insurance rules and state exchanges. The triggering events could be the level of premiums exceeding a certain percentage of family incomes or the growth in health care spending exceeding certain benchmarks. Since the public option would only be triggered because of excessive costs, however measured, we assume that a relatively strong version of a public option would come into play.

We recognize that taking a strong public option off the table may be necessary to enact reform legislation. But this will mean, at a minimum, higher government subsidy costs by not permitting a payer with substantial market power to bring cost containment pressure on the system. The outcome is likely to be that costs will continue to spiral upward. In effect, the nation would be relying on the range of promising pilot approaches to cost containment that would take some time to be successful. If they are not, we may be left with increasingly regulatory approaches, such as rate setting or utilization controls that apply to all payers. This would mean much more government involvement than giving people a choice of a low-cost public option that would be required to compete with private insurers.

(Read entire paper in PDF)

Open Letter to Harry Reid (Public Option)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Firedoglake has a section entitled “FDL Action” in which I found an easy way to send Senator Harry Reid a little bit of my mind on the health care debate & the matter of the need for a government-run public option intact:

I doubt this message will reach you Senator Reid but it is important to impress that I support reconciliation not as a matter of due course but as pertaining to the current circumstances. The Republican filibuster must not be allowed to further mire the process and they surely intend to continue to pander to anti-government fears using misinformation tactics.

Reconciliation is needed, we cannot proceed without a public option.

Join in the cause to fight for reconciliation!

Also please join with me & Public Option Please (POP) in getting out the word that we need comprehensive health care reform in the U.S.

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reconciliation: a legislative process of the United States Senate intended to allow a contentious budget bill to be considered without being subject to filibuster.

filibuster: a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body whereby one attempts to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a proposal by extending a debate on that proposal.

Cheney Deserves His Day in Court

“When just one single piece of information could prevent a nuclear-armed terrorist [we can‘t take any chances.]”

Former-Vice President Dick Cheney continues to spread the myth that inhumane torture tactics, mislabeled as ’enhanced interrogation,’ are necessary to protect the nation from extremist violence. His continued use of fear-tactics by insinuation of nuclear attack on American soil is a throw-back to the selling of the Iraq War to the American People, which ultimately was proven to be based on bad intelligence. The use of these tactics will only produce more bad intelligence and not to mention legal ramifications of using techniques that are clearly ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’

I could only speculate if he is a man bereft of all humanity or simply a man of very strong and very flawed convictions, but the fact remains that putting our nation in danger and violating the US Constitution are all that is accomplished in following this destructive version of course of action proposed by both Cheney and Bush.

I continue to advocate investigation and prosecution based on any evidence gathered that can meet the standards of a courtroom. If sufficient evidence to convict Dick Cheney of war crimes exists then, we the American people, deserve to hear the facts out before a jury of his peers.

Alan Keyes Done Got Locked Up

Mr. Keyes, please report to the commissary.”

—–

Locked Up” by Akon

I’m steady tryin’ to find the motive, why I do what I do,

The freedom ain’t gettin’ no closer, no matter how far I go,

My car is stolen, the registration,

The cops patrolling, and that ain’t done stop me,

Then I got locked up,

They won’t let me out,

Head up town to re-up, back with a couple [Keyes],

Making so much money, products moving fast,

And as I sold the last bag,

Fuqed around and got locked up,

They won’t let me out,

Visitation long longer comes by, seems like they forgot about me,

Commissary getting empty, cell mates getting food without me,

Can’t wait to get out and move forward with my life,

Pay me a visit! Send me some money orders! Where’s my lawyer?

Get me out of here!

Please accept my phone calls!

Dick Cheney is an American Disgrace

55_cheneyI wholeheartedly disagree with the statement that President Obama has made the country any less safe since entering office. The notion that immoral practices will make us any more safe from terrorism is counter-intuitive to my core beliefs.

The CIA Enhanced Interrogation Program was one of the most effective terrorist recruitment tools and a project expressly advocated by former-Vice President Cheney which is now noticeably absent from terrorist recruitment methods.

The approved torture methods of the Bush administration have presented one of the greatest threats to our continued national security to date.

Not only is it disgraceful for Cheney to criticize the current administration as a member of the former but also as to his own level of personal integrity to turn the issue of national security on it’s head by denying the immorality of torture tactics.

The Politics of Fear remain the only tool left to Neo-Conservative Americans.

I see a land of injustice where prosecutions of some order are not undertaken. Those who wrote the legal opinions used to justify these torture tactics must face consequences.

The Justice Department cannot dispense justice onto itself.

A Special Prosecutor must be appointed.

If anything, President Obama has yet to do enough to restore justice and security to our nation.