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Monday, August 31, 2009

Former Jasper County Republican Chairman on Single Payer

Beware health-industrial complex

By Jack Bernard

Physicians for a National Health Care Program
August 23, 2009

I am a Republican, former chairman of the Republican Party in Jasper County, Ga., and chair of that county commission. Under our two-party system, it is easy to see why we Republicans oppose Democratic Party reform proposals. We are the opposition party and do not want them to get the political credit for solving a nasty problem.

Since the Democrats are in the driver’s seat, it is up to them to lead and bring their stragglers in line. However, the Democrats are fighting internally, failing to articulate a straightforward vision of the future or even one bill (Obamacare, if you will).

Republican pundits are sitting back and chuckling, as they always do when reform is mentioned, and repeating the same self-serving platitudes.

What amazes me is that no one is calling these individuals to account. In my view, it is unpatriotic to continue to lie to the American public about the situation facing us. Over the last 10 years, wages have gone up by about one-fourth. Health insurance premiums have gone up well over 100 percent. We cannot continue along this path to fiscal destruction. Inaction is not an option.

It is also against American values to mislead the public into believing that everyone can get good care even if they do not have insurance. The mark of a great nation is not how well it treats its privileged, but rather how well it treats its downtrodden. On this measure, we fail miserably; strange for a nation that prides itself on being the most religious democracy in the world.

Very few health or insurance professionals advocate for a single-payer system, the best way to control costs and ensure access. I hear all sorts of reasons: rationing (really, like HMOs do not do that now), paperwork (apparently insurance company bureaucracy does not count), socialism (come on — practitioners will still be independent and we all know it) and so forth. It is rare that we hear the underlying cause openly stated: greed. It will cut my income.

The members of Physicians for a National Health Plan are an exception to this rule. If you take a look at their Web site, www.pnhp.org, the rationale for a single-payer system is clearly articulated.

Universal Medicare will both control costs and achieve universal access to high quality care. Congressmen would get the same insurance as you and I. You better believe your coverage would be just as good as or better than what you are getting now.

The problem is not technical; it is political. It is high time we put the country ahead of ourselves and establish a single-payer system.

(Jack Bernard is CEO of Monticello (Ga.) Health Care Solutions and a former chairman of the Jasper County Commission and the Jasper County Republican Party.)

Missing Richard Nixon

New York Times
Published: August 30, 2009

Many of the retrospectives on Ted Kennedy’s life mention his regret that he didn’t accept Richard Nixon’s offer of a bipartisan health care deal. The moral some commentators take from that regret is that today’s health care reformers should do what Mr. Kennedy balked at doing back then, and reach out to the other side.

But it’s a bad analogy, because today’s political scene is nothing like that of the early 1970s. In fact, surveying current politics, I find myself missing Richard Nixon.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. Nixon was surely the worst person other than Dick Cheney ever to control the executive branch.

But the Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.

As many people have pointed out, Nixon’s proposal for health care reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger. Right now, Republicans are balking at the idea of requiring that large employers offer health insurance to their workers; Nixon proposed requiring that all employers, not just large companies, offer insurance.

Continue reading here about how the rise of corporate power since the 1970's has made reform an uphill battle.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fiscal Responsibility and Health Care Reform

Posted on August 28, 2009
PNHP Physicians for a National Health Program

By Robert A. Levine, M.D.
New England Journal of Medicine
August 26th, 2009

It has been clear for some time that the primary hurdle to enacting health care reform is figuring out how to pay for it. Virtually all Republicans and some Democrats have been unwilling to sign on to increasing taxes on high-income Americans as a partial answer. The idea of taxing the most generous health insurance benefits has met with resistance as well.

The use of electronic health records and an emphasis on prevention and early treatment of illnesses have been ballyhooed as ways to generate savings to help pay for reform, but there is no solid evidence that these measures will reduce spending anytime soon, although they might improve care
Unfortunately, legislators are ignoring the option of funding reform by harvesting available savings from within the health care system itself. I believe Congress must go back to the drawing board. Given the state of the economy and the continuing rapid growth in health care expenditures, lawmakers need the political will to devise a plan that will control accelerating costs and be budget-neutral — and to disregard the expected backlash from stakeholders (organized medicine, the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and the trial lawyers) and an uninformed public.

Time and again over the past century, there have been attempts to make the health care system more effective and efficient, the only real success being the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Since then, various stakeholders have managed to block any efforts at restructuring that have threatened their profits.

When the U.S. economy faced its most severe test during the Great Depression, Social Security was enacted over vigorous opposition. The current crisis presents a similar opportunity to provide high-quality health care coverage to all Americans while bringing spending back in line. Comprehensive reform might also act as a government stimulus package, freeing up cash that consumers would otherwise be spending on medical care and thereby aiding the recovery.

Some drivers of health care costs (such as demographic changes) cannot be controlled; others (such as unhealthy lifestyles) are difficult to attack. However, great savings could be achievable in two areas: administrative costs and unnecessary care.

In the current health care system, administrative costs are generally estimated to account for 15 to 25% of total expenditures
1; if we settled on an estimate of 20%, that would amount to $500 billion annually.

The complexity of the present system, with multiple sources of coverage, is the main cause of such high administrative costs. Every insurance plan has different benefits with different copayments and deductibles, and many require preapprovals for various tests. The multiple interactions this complexity necessitates between physicians’ offices and insurance companies — to get authorization and to haggle over payment — translate into personnel requirements (and associated costs) on both sides. Insurance companies also conduct extensive vetting of applicants for individual policies to determine whether any preexisting conditions disqualify them from coverage and what their premiums should be — an activity that, along with spending on marketing, further raises companies’ overhead.

Continue reading here.

The Real News: Canadian Health Care Experts Talk to Americans

More Videos at The Real News

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Five Biggest Lies in the Health Care Debate


Town Hall Face

An unsightly condition caused by unsanitary health-care politics

By Sharon Begley | NEWSWEEK
Published Aug 29, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Sep 7, 2009

To the credit of opponents of health-care reform, the lies and exaggerations they're spreading are not made up out of whole cloth—which makes the misinformation that much more credible. Instead, because opponents demand that everyone within earshot (or e-mail range) look, say, "at page 425 of the House bill!," the lies take on a patina of credibility. Take the claim in one chain e-mail that the government will have electronic access to everyone's bank account, implying that the Feds will rob you blind. The 1,017-page bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee does call for electronic fund transfers—but from insurers to doctors and other providers. There is zero provision to include patients in any such system. Five other myths that won't die:

You'll have no choice in what health benefits you receive.

The myth that a "health choices commissioner" will decide what benefits you get seems to have originated in a july 19 post at blog.flecksoflife.com, whose homepage features an image of Obama looking like heath ledger's joker.

In fact, the house bill sets up a health-care exchange—essentially a list of private insurers and one government plan—where people who do not have health insurance through their employer or some other source (including small businesses) can shop for a plan, much as seniors shop for a drug plan under medicare part d. The government will indeed require that participating plans not refuse people with preexisting conditions and offer at least minimum coverage, just as it does now with employer-provided insurance plans and part d. The requirements will be floors, not ceilings, however, in that the feds will have no say in how generous private insurance can be.

No chemo for older medicare patients.

The threat that medicare will give cancer patients over 70 only end-of-life counseling and not chemotherapy—as a nurse at a hospital told a roomful of chemo patients, including the uncle of a NEWSWEEK reporter—has zero basis in fact.
It's just a vicious form of the rationing scare. The house bill does not use the word "ration." Nor does it call for cost-effectiveness research, much less implementation—the idea that "it isn't cost-effective to give a 90-year-old a hip replacement."

Continue reading here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How the Profit-Hungry "Medical Industrial Complex" Hurts Health Care

Huffington Post
First Posted: 08-28-09 11:39 PM | Updated: 08-28-09 11:59 PM

"Bill Moyers Journal" aired a new documentary on its show Friday about how the "medical-industrial complex" affects America's health care. Based on the book "Money-Driven Medicine" by Maggie Mahar, the film looks at why our health care costs are so high and yet the care is so often lacking.

Mahar, who has reported on health care for years, explains the situation as follows:

What I learned, during those years, is that in our health care system, profits often trump patients.
A great many people are selling and selling hard. By law, for-profit corporations are supposed to put their shareholders' interests first: this means that they must strive to maximize profits. And this goes a long way toward explaining why U.S. healthcare is so expensive.

Click this link to watch a clip from the film. Watch the full length VIDEO at Bill Moyers Journal. And here is the rest of it.

Health Insurance Exec Admits Her Industry Rations Care: "We Believe In Controlling Utilization"

David Sirota
Huffington Post
Posted: August 28, 2009 09:21 AM

In a New York Times story today about health insurance executives and their employees complaining about criticism of the health insurance industry, one executive acknowledges that the industry is all about rationing care:

"I believe we're getting the pushback because we are standing up for what we believe in," said Cheryl Tidwell, 45,Humana's director of commercial sales training. "We believe there's a better way to control costs by controlling utilization and getting people involved in their health care."
Now, I know we're supposed to think that private for-profit health care companies don't ration care, while government-run programs like Medicare do - but as the insurance industry admits right here for all to see, that's just not the case.
The obvious truth is that the health insurance industry works hard to "control utilization" - that is, it works hard to make sure that when you need a costly medical service, you are "controlled" (read: prevented) from getting it.

Sure, we're all against excessive testing - and there are good ways to deal with those inefficiencies. But that's not what the insurance industry is talking about. It is talking about its practice of rationing care - and now that reality is right there in black and white for all to see.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Insurance giant attacks Democratic plans: Enlists its customers

By Ben Smith
August 27, 2009

The California insurer Anthem Blue Cross -- a subsidiary of the insurance giant WellPoint -- today blasted out an email to its customers, attacking the Democrats' health reform plans and asking customers to help fight them.

The email says legislation "does not meet our definition of responsible and sustainable reform and "would likely have a significant negative impact on our partners and customers."

The email warns the plan could wind up:

· Causing tens of millions of Americans to lose their private coverage and end up in a government-run plan;

· Limiting customers' choices of the products they can purchase and how they can purchase health coverage; and
Increasing the premiums of those with private coverage by imposing new mandates and coverage requirements.
The emails asks customers to "make your voice heard on this important issue by writing Congress and encouraging your elected officials to get health reform done -- and done right -- by acting in a bipartisan fashion to make health care more affordable, improve quality, and cover all Americans in a sustainable way."
The email directs customers to its "grassroots Web site" for instructions on contacting legislators. And WellPoint, which has some 33 million customers whom it surveyed on the subject in April, has access to a pretty large pool of citizens to persuade.

The health insurers "grassroots" online campaigns have already taken fire from the liberal site ThinkProgress.

Click here to read the full email.

EXCLUSIVE: Health Insurance Lobby’s Stealth Astroturf Campaign Revealed

By Lee Fang on Aug 27th, 2009 at 3:02 pm
Think Progress

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that AHIP — the multimillion dollar lobbying juggernaut for the health insurance industry — has mobilized 50,000 employees to lobby Congress to defeat the public option.

ThinkProgress has learned that AHIP’s grassroots lobbying is being managed by the corporate consulting firm Democracy Data & Communications.

DDC has made a name for itself as one of the most effective stealth lobbying firms. Earlier this summer, DDC was caught by reporters using a front group called “Citizens for a Safe Alexandria” to attack the Obama administration for seeking to prosecute Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Alexandria, VA.

According to the server-information hub Domaintools.com, the AHIP grassroots outreach website AHIPAdvocacy.org is hosted on a server owned by DDC. Though DDC conceals the hosting of its other websites using a service called DomainsByProxy, ThinkProgress has obtained a list of the domains hosted on DDC servers. A review of this data shows that DDC maintains the grassroots outreach websites for large health insurance companies, but also for big tobacco and Koch Industries:

– phillipmorrisusaactioncenter.org (Altria)
– tobaccoissues.com (Altria)
– kochpac.com (Koch Industries)
– aetnavotes.com (Aetna)
– healthactionnetwork.org (WellPoint)
– humanapartners.com (Humana)
– ahipadvocacy.org (AHIP)

DDC is a firm that promises “high impact” outreach programs to not only influence the grassroots, but “change attitudes for the long term.” As the Washington Post explains, DDC pays over 500 contract workers to “spend much of their day telephoning people around the country and asking them to sign letters to Congress that press for legislation.”

The firm helped orchestrate “grassroots” support for President Bush’s push to privatize Social Security, and helped manage online efforts for the right-wing attack group Freedom’s Watch. DDC is headed by B.R. McConnon, a former associate of Jack Abramoff’s lobbying partners, and a former employee of the Koch-funded astroturf organization known as Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Click here to find out more about the formidable lobbying power aimed at killing the public option. Follow the money.

Southern Arizona Health Reform Tele-Town Hall *TONIGHT* hosted by Reps. Sinema and Fleming

Representatives Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, and Patricia Fleming, D-Sierra Vista will host a telephone-town hall on health reform tonight for southern Arizona as part of the White House Health Reform Task Force.

Participants will be able to ask questions, share their ideas on health reform, as well as share their stories and concerns.

What: Arizonans for Health Reform Tele-Town Hall

When: Thursday, Aug. 27, 6 p.m.

Instructions to join the call/RSVP:
Please e-mail azhealthreform@gmail.com with your name, address and phone number included. You will receive a reply e-mail with the phone number to call. Each participant must e-mail their own information separately

*Send all inquiries for this event to azhealthreform@gmail.com.And here is the rest of it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Olbermann Exposes United Health Group

ACLU: Constitutional Rights in the Classroom

Click on the picture to enlarge.

The Dream Shall Never Die: Ted Kennedy on Health Care

This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, "that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American...will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege." For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it's always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.

— Ted Kennedy
Here's where you can share your memories of Senator Kennedy.

Biden's Emotional Kennedy Tribute: "It Was Never About Him"

And here is the rest of it.

In Memoriam: Edward M. Kennedy, The Last Lion of The Senate

posted by AZBluemeanie

"I've described Ted Kennedy as the last lion of the Senate...He remains the single most effective member of the Senate if you want to get results." -- Sen. John McCain

"Last Lion" became the title of the book by Boston Globe Reporter Peter S. Canellos, who writes this piece in today's Boston Globe, following the death last night of Sen. Edward Kennedy Beyond Camelot: His shining moments endure:

Ted Kennedy played a leading role in perhaps the greatest political drama of the 20th century - the dawning of the New Frontier and the soul-crushing assassinations that followed - but he will be remembered by history for his legislative achievements in health care, education, civil rights, and immigration.

The fact that his tangible accomplishments transcended his mythic role in the Kennedy drama attests to the vast extent of his legislative impact. In each of four areas, he dominated legislative politics for more than four decades, spanning ten presidencies, and played a large role in transforming the government’s relationship to the people.

Bill by bill, provision by provision, he expanded government health support to millions of children and the elderly, helped millions more go to college, opened the immigration doors to millions of new Americans from continents other than Europe, and protected the civil rights bulwark of the ’60s through a long period of conservative domination.

And by the time his life ended yesterday, surrounded by loved ones in a gentle scene that contrasted sharply with the violent deaths of his brothers, Ted Kennedy had built a nuts-and-bolts legacy to stand beside that of his presidential brother as a figure of hope and his senatorial brother as a figure of compassion.

“He was always prepared, always worked hard, really managed to get things done,’’ said Michael Corgan, history professor at Boston University. “He’ll be remembered as the foremost senator of his day.’’

Much of the world, however, is only starting to catch up to Kennedy’s legislative accomplishments, having long ago closed their memory bank on him.

For more of an outstanding collection of tributes about the life of Ted Kennedy click here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Health Care and the Democratic Soul : It's time for Obama to channel Harry Truman.

By Thomas Frank
The Wall Street Journal
AUGUST 25, 2009, 10:40 P.M. ET

What is at stake in the debate over health care is more than the mere crafting of policy. The issue is now the identity of the Democratic Party.

By now we know that Democrats can bail out traditional Republican constituencies like Wall Street, but it remains to be seen whether they can enact a convincing version of their own signature issue, health-care reform.

At this point, it's fair to ask whether Democrats remember why health care is their issue in the first place. As health-care debates always have done, this one has pushed to the fore all the big questions about the rightful role of government, and too many Democrats have sought to avoid them with mushy appeals to consensus and bipartisanship. The war is on and if Democrats want to win they need to start fighting.

In the early years of the campaign for national health insurance, the battle lines were more clearly drawn. Back in the '40s, the issue was part of an "economic bill of rights," a grand Rooseveltian idea pushed by President Harry S. Truman.

Truman had a knack for populist phrasing. "In 1932 we were attacking the citadel of special privilege and greed," he declared in accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in 1948. "We were fighting to drive the money changers from the temple. Today, in 1948, we are now the defenders of the stronghold of democracy and of equal opportunity, the haven of the ordinary people of this land and not of the favored classes or the powerful few."
The Democrats won that particular battle with "the powerful few" but, fighting among themselves as usual, failed to enact national health insurance.

Read the rest of the story here.

How other nations beat the US on health care


By T.R. Reid
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.25.2009
Arizona Daily Star

As Americans search for the cure to what ails our health-care system, we've overlooked an invaluable source of ideas and solutions: the rest of the world.

All the other industrialized democracies have faced problems like ours, yet they've found ways to cover everybody — and still spend far less than we do.

I've traveled the world from Oslo to Osaka to see how other developed democracies provide health care. Instead of dismissing these models as "socialist," we could adapt their solutions to fix our problems. To do that, we first have to dispel a few myths about health care abroad:

1. It's all socialized medicine out there.

Not so. Some countries, such as Britain, New Zealand and Cuba, do provide health care in government hospitals, with the government paying the bills. Others — for instance, Canada and Taiwan — rely on private-sector providers, paid for by government-run insurance. But many wealthy countries — including Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland — provide universal coverage using private doctors, private hospitals and private insurance plans.
In some ways, health care is less "socialized" overseas than in the United States. Almost all Americans sign up for government insurance (Medicare) at age 65. In Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, seniors stick with private insurance plans for life. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the planet's purest examples of government-run health care.

2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines.

Generally, no. Germans can sign up for any of the nation's 200 private health insurance plans — a broader choice than any American has. If a German doesn't like her insurance company, she can switch to another, with no increase in premium. The Swiss, too, can choose any insurance plan in the country.
In France and Japan, you don't get a choice of insurance provider; you have to use the one designated for your company or your industry. But patients can go to any doctor, any hospital, any traditional healer. There are no U.S.-style limits such as "in-network" lists of doctors or "pre-authorization" for surgery. You pick any doctor, you get treatment — and insurance has to pay. Canadians have their choice of providers.

As for those notorious waiting lists, some countries are indeed plagued by them. Canada makes patients wait weeks or months for nonemergency care, as a way to keep costs down. But studies by the Commonwealth Fund and others report that many nations — Germany, Britain, Austria — outperform the United States on measures such as waiting times for appointments and for elective surgeries.
Click here to read about 3 other misconceptions about the broken American health care system and find out the reasons health care system in the U.S. is so inefficient and needs reform.

Editorial Comment by 26Dems: T.R. Reid was a Frontline correspondent for the PBS documentary "Sick Around the World" Reid examined healthcare systems in other developed countries, concluding that in nations where there is some private-sector role in health financing, one of the central lessons is that they “all impose limits”—including that insurance companies “can’t make a profit on basic care.” The show discussed single-payer alternatives, including Taiwan’s healthcare system.

Reid was contracted to do the companion documentary "Sick Around America" but he walked away because the final program omitted his conclusion that basic insurance cannot be profit-based. Frontline/PBS censored that conclusion by interviewing Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of American's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the leading health insurance industry lobbyist and failing to challenge her biased views.

For a review of T.R. Reid's new book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (Hardcover) Amazon Bestseller. click here.

Taking a Dump In Someone Else's Backyard: Six of the Ten Top U.S. Drug Companies Aren't American

Take a look at this well-sourced journal on Democratic Underground.

By McCamy Taylor

The U.S. pharmaceutical market, the world's biggest, rose 3.8 percent to $286.5 billion in 2007…


That is a lot of money. It is almost a bank bailout every year. Of course, we know where this money is going. It is being recycled right back into the U.S. economy, unlike the cash that the banks refuse to loan. That is good for America, right? Even if our drugs are overpriced, and our pharmaceutical industry is waging a quiet war against healthcare reform, at least we can say that the dollars we spend on expensive designer copycat drugs like Nexium help pay for our roads and schools. And the companies that make them have a personal interest in seeing Americans and their communities prosper, because they are our neighbors….

There is just one problem with this rosy picture. It is not true.
Did you know that six out of the world’s top ten pharmaceutical companies are European owned? And even though they are headquartered in countries that boast of having the best healthcare systems in the world, these companies have no qualms about ripping off the American healthcare consumer. And interfering in our political process. Because, hey, money makes the world go round, and there is a lot of cash to be made from the wasteful, inefficient, expensive U.S. way of doing medicine.

Click here to read more to find out why it's easier for foreign drug companies Glaxcosmithkline,
Bayer, Hoffman-La Rouche, Sonofe-Aventis, Novartis, and AstraZeneca to gouge the American people on drug pricing.

GOP Sen Coburn Tells Women Crying Over Health Care "Govt Is Not The Answer"

Opposing view: Forget bipartisanship Republicans don’t want middle ground; they want to kill reform.

By Raul M. Grijalva
USA Today

Reforming health care in this country is an urgent matter. For decades, we have endured a broken system that restricts and denies coverage when individuals need it most, leaving many of us one illness away from bankruptcy.

I am open to bipartisanship on legislation when it yields action and solutions. However, I am not in favor of bipartisanship when the other side's principal intention is to delay progress and undermine a bill.

Let's call it like it is. Most of what the Republicans want in the health care reform bill represents a victory for well-financed, private-interest greed. It's a gift to corporations, not consumers.

Moreover, introducing ideas that do not improve health care for the American people holds up the reform process. This, too, is an underhanded tactic. Delaying the process is not about making a better bill; it is about killing health care reform.

The basic principle of any bipartisan deal must be to ensure that health care is about the individual, not the corporation. We can achieve this through a public option.

Thus far, Republicans have refused to look at the public option through a bipartisan lens. Instead of giving it a solid evaluation, they have waged a war of words in an attempt to discredit something they do not seem to fully understand.
For example, this month the Republican attacks on the public option have been rife with doublespeak. In one breath, we hear that "the government can't do anything right" while, in the next breath, we hear that "the government would run a public option so well and so inexpensively that it would knock out competition." Which is it?

The public option that so many of my colleagues and I support is not the downfall of health care, as Republicans would have you believe. Rather, it is what will end the insurance companies' monopoly and control over our individual health.

The public option is one of the choices that individuals would have as consumers of health insurance. Furthermore, studies have found it to be cost effective for all taxpayers, as it would lower the cost of subsidies while preserving private coverage for most people.

The Republican agenda is to stop health care reform and, specifically, the public option; the Trojan horse of malpractice and frivolous litigation is part of that strategy.

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Posted at 12:21 AM/ET, August 25, 2009 in USA TODAY editorial

Who's Paying to Kill Health Reform

Chart Designed by Campaign for America's Future

Click on chart to enlarge in another browser window.

Health Care Puts Progressives On the Verge of Changing the Power Dynamic

By David Sirota
Open Left
Tue Aug 25, 2009 at 09:15

So, here's the deal, folks: Looking at the current state of play on health care through the multicolored lenses I acquired working on Capitol Hill and then working in politics out here in the West, I'd say it's a good bet that the House will pass a health care bill with a solid public option in it, and the Senate will pass a health care bill without a solid public option in it. I'd say it's also a good bet that the major reason - though probably not the only reason - Obama has gone back and forth on the public option is because the administration is solely focused on getting bills - any bills - passed through each chamber and into one conference committee for a final negotiation.

Once that happens, the health care shit hits the legislative fan. We won't have to speculate anymore about whether the president is really committed to the public option, nor will we have to speculate about whether top senators and House members on the conference committee are committed to the public option. At that point, their actions will be far louder than their words.
Obama will be forced to take a position on the public option as he either draws a veto line in the sand, or doesn't - and if he doesn't on the public option, it means he's willing to sell out the public option.
Similarly, conference committee lawmakers will either have to vote for a public option, or vote with the insurance industry against it.

A month ago, I would have said that the administration was planning to lay low while two templates got into a conference committee, and then sell out the public option in that committee, believing that ultimately, progressives will vote for a bad health care bill (ie. one sans public option but with a few regulatory goodies) rather than kill it outright. The White House is, after all, packed with staffers like Rahm Emanuel and Jim Messina who have made their careers coddling corporate lobbyists - and the president himself is a guy who has often chosen to seek common ground instead of confrontation with moneyed interests when an avenue is available to do that. That's why, for instance, this administration has exhibited two different standards for dealing with progressive and conservative Democrats - it tries to push progressives around while kissing the fat, mostly white and mostly southern asses of the so-called Blue Dogs.

A month ago, all of these forces might have made the "roll the progressives, sell out the public option" strategy a legislatively successful one, even as it would produce a bill that would likely be terrible public policy. I say that because let's be honest: the bloc of congressional progressives who the White House would be hoping to steamroll, while fighting the good fight in the lead up to key votes, has nonetheless capitulated on nearly every single do-or-die final-passage vote in recent memory (and I say that sadly, having served as an aide to Progressive Caucus leader - and dear friend - Bernie Sanders).

However, after the fantastic organizing/whipping/fundraising being done by Firedoglake, OpenLeft and Moveon and after the strong progressive media pressure on radio, TV and in newspapers, I believe the dynamic - and therefore the White House political calculus - could change.
Indeed, all the forces seem to be coming into line: Click here for the rest of the story.

Monday, August 24, 2009

All the President’s Zombies

New York Times
Published: August 23, 2009

The debate over the “public option” in health care has been dismaying in many ways. Perhaps the most depressing aspect for progressives, however, has been the extent to which opponents of greater choice in health care have gained traction — in Congress, if not with the broader public — simply by repeating, over and over again, that the public option would be, horrors, a government program.
Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism — by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.

Call me naïve, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.

Let’s talk for a moment about why the age of Reagan should be over.

First of all, even before the current crisis Reaganomics had failed to deliver what it promised. Remember how lower taxes on high incomes and deregulation that unleashed the “magic of the marketplace” were supposed to lead to dramatically better outcomes for everyone? Well, it didn’t happen.

To be sure, the wealthy benefited enormously: the real incomes of the top .01 percent of Americans rose sevenfold between 1980 and 2007. But the real income of the median family rose only 22 percent, less than a third its growth over the previous 27 years.
Moreover, most of whatever gains ordinary Americans achieved came during the Clinton years.
President George W. Bush, who had the distinction of being the first Reaganite president to also have a fully Republican Congress, also had the distinction of presiding over the first administration since Herbert Hoover in which the typical family failed to see any significant income gains.
For the rest of the story, click here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Howard Dean on Face the Nation: Co-ops lack Market Strength

Warning: Co-op Kool Aid Is Bad for Your Health

by Wendell Potter
Saturday, August 22, 2009

I’m beginning to think that the Kool-Aid being served at meetings of the Senate Finance Committee’s soon-to-be infamous Gang of Six is coming from either fantasy land or the health insurance industry.

For those of you who might not be following the sorry machinations of health care reform in the Senate Finance Committee, the Gang of Six is a group of three Democrats and three Republicans hand-picked by Committee Chair Max Baucus, who is one of the three Democrats. The gang meets often, supposedly drafting a bipartisan bill. In reality, if such a bill emerges, it will be a gift to the insurance industry because the gang includes some of the industry’s best friends on Capitol Hill.

Thanks to gang member Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, the gang reportedly is giving serious consideration to replacing the good idea of a public insurance option with an idea that is sheer fantasy: a few nonprofit co-operatives that would be expected to compete with the cartel of giant for-profit insurance companies and “win in the marketplace,” to use a favorite term of my former CEO and cartel heavyweight, H. Edward Hanway.

If you don’t believe anything else I have said or written, please believe this: nonprofit co-operatives don’t stand a snowball’s chance of competing with those big companies and making a whit of a difference in the lives of the 75 million Americans who either have no insurance or have such marginal insurance they might as well have no insurance.

Kool-Aid came to mind as I was reading a story in the Wall Street Journal this week about Conrad’s continuing and naive insistence that co-ops could work. I remembered sitting in a meeting of other insurance company executives a few years ago.
A leading advocate of the high-deductible plans the industry is trying to force us all into these days (and out of the plans insurance industry pollsters and politicians say we are all happy with and can stay in--if we wish upon a star), grew so exasperated after failing to convince us that these plans would be good for most Americans, he finally said, “Look, you’re just going to have to drink the Kool-Aid.”

It looks as if the Gang of Six is about to offer its co-op Kool-Aid to the other members of the Senate Finance and to tell them to drink up.

The reality is there has been a tremendous consolidation in the health insurance industry over the past 15 years. A cartel of very large for-profit insurance companies now dominates the industry. One out of every three Americans is enrolled in some kind of plan offered by just seven of those large companies.
Almost all metropolitan areas in the country—and states that are more rural than urban— are now dominated by just two or three insurers. It is impossible for even one of the other large insurers to break into a market dominated by its competitors.
Take Philadelphia, where I live and where CIGNA, my former employer is based, as an example. The lion’s share of the insurance market in Philly is controlled by Independence Blue Cross and Aetna. CIGNA would love to be a big player in its own hometown but has never been able to scale up to be a serious competitor. It has some business there but not much compared to Independence and Aetna. If CIGNA can’t overcome the huge barriers to entering that market, a nonprofit co-op wouldn’t have a chance.

Advocates of co-ops point out that they work in a few other segments of the economy, and primarily in a few rural parts of the country, such as in the cranberry and raisin businesses.

Growing cranberries and raisins is a heck of a lot different from providing health care coverage to 50 million Americans who don’t have it because they can’t afford the overpriced policies from Big Insurance—or because they can’t buy coverage at any price because of a “pre-existing condition.”

To be sure, health insurers take every opportunity to badmouth co-ops, saying they are a backdoor to socialized medicine. Their criticism is disingenuous. Secretly, they would love to have a bill that creates co-ops that won’t work instead of a single-payer or public option that has proven successful in other western countries.

Wendell Potter is the Senior Fellow on Health Care for the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin.

'A minus': America lags other nations' bang for the buck

by Mike Newcomb - Aug. 18, 2009 12:00 AM
Special for the Republic
AZ Republic

I would give President Barack Obama an "A-" for his efforts to date on health-care reform. America spends more on medical care than any country on the planet. But instead of a Cadillac, we get a clunker.

The facts don't lie. The United States ranked 50th in life expectancy. France and Canada ranked in the top 10. Cuba, Canada, England and France all have lower infant-mortality rates.

Of 19 leading industrialized countries, the United States ranked last in preventable deaths from treatable illnesses. France was best. If we treated our patients like the French, 100,000 more Americans would be alive annually. In addition, 100,000 Americans die annually of medical errors. Tragically, these 200,000 preventable deaths alone are equivalent to a 9/11 tragedy occurring every 5.4 days!

Do we not have a compact to protect all our citizens from harm? Diabetes, heart disease, stroke and the swine flu are also terrorists with the potential to kill millions of Americans every year.

We now spend over $630 billion annually on military defense. What about health-care defense? Would we accept a military that doesn't protect 47 million Americans? Why should we accept a health-care system that does just that?

Obama proposes revamping our health-care system to the tune of $90 billion a year over the next decade. That's only one-seventh of what we spend annually for military defense with the upside of saving countless lives. Military and health-care defense in tandem provide the greatest security.

Obama presents a bona fide free-market solution to the current crisis. It's called free-market competition. It's called the public option of which a majority of Americans favor. If Obama capitulates, it will be his Waterloo.

Interestingly, Medicare simulates free-market principles more so than the private sector. Any doctor can contract with Medicare. Private insurers close their panels, then exact a surcharge if a doctor is not in their network. Medicare allows doctors and patients to make decisions without meddlesome bureaucrats. Private insurers interpose in the doctor-patient relationship by mandating preauthorization for services.

Medicare spends less than 5 cents per dollar to administer the benefit. Private insurers spend upward of 400 percent more. More choice, less regulation and more efficiency is what you'll get with the public option.

Both the private and government-run systems do things well. Obama is taking a "best of" hybrid approach. Let's give him a chance.

Mike Newcomb, MD, is a geriatric and hospice physician. He also has a daily radio talk show on 1480 KPHX-AM from 3-6 p.m. Listen live at http://www.1480kphx.com/He can be reached at docmike@1480kphx.com.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Progressive Dems Refuse to Back Healthcare Reform Without Public Option

Democracy Now
Aug. 20, 2009

"We speak to Rep. Raul Grijalva, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, on the latest in the debate over healthcare reform. Grijalva has threatened to vote against any healthcare legislation that does not include a public health insurance option. He also recently co-wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, criticizing her for saying that the public option is not the essential element of comprehensive reform."

Former New Mexico Secretary of State Indicted on 50 Counts

By Ellen Theisen on 8/21/2009 12:01PM

Once again confirming checks, balances, and transparency --- not trust --- as the bedrock of democracy
Guest blogged by Ellen Theisen, VotersUnite.Org
The Bradblog

Rebecca Vigil-Giron, who oversaw New Mexico elections for ten years, was indicted last Wednesday on 50 counts including fraud or embezzlement, money laundering, tax fraud, tax evasion, illegal kickbacks, tampering with evidence, and conspiracy
Like last year's indictment of 13-year Monterey County, CA, Registrar of Voters, Tony Anchundo on 43 criminal counts, and last March's indictment of five Clay County, KS officials for changing votes at voting machines and showing others how to do it, Vigil-Giron's indictment reminds us that democracy thrives on checks, balances, and transparency --- and is threatened by conditions that force us to trust in election officials.

Ion Sancho, Leon County Supervisor of Elections in Florida, and Freddie Oakley, Yolo County Registrar-Clerk in California understand that threats to elections come from the insiders. They warn us --- in their speeches and writings --- not to trust election officials. Vigil-Giron's indictment warns us in a more sensational way...

In "Prosecutors allege the theft of millions of dollars," Heath Haussamen writes that Vigil-Giron was indicted by a grand jury along with three others:

The others indicted are lobbyists Joseph Kupfer and Elizabeth Kupfer and Armando Gutierrez, who headed the company Vigil-Giron hired to help the state implement a federal voter education program.

Joseph Kupfer was a lobbyist for the secretary of state. Elizabeth Kupfer, his wife, was the administrative services director for the Attorney General’s Office at the time in question.
Vigil-Giron used federal funds to pay Gutierrez’s firm $6.3 million for advertising and voter education work leading up to the 2006 election. The federal audit found that the company can’t account for how more than $2 million of that money was spent.

Haussamen summarizes the indictment:

The 50 counts against each include:
• Four counts of fraud over $20,000 or, in the alternative, embezzlement over $20,000.
• 11 counts of money laundering over $100,000.
• Five counts of money laundering over $20,000.
• Eight counts of tax fraud.
• 13 counts of tax evasion.
• Four counts of making or permitting false public vouchers.
• One count of soliciting or receiving an illegal kickback.
• One count of offering or paying an illegal kickback.
• Two counts of tampering with evidence.
• One count of conspiracy.

Meanwhile Vigil-Giron continues working at the state Department of Workforce Solutions as a constituent liaison for the department’s labor and industrial division, because, according to Deputy Secretary Ken Ortiz, the indictment was for actions that are unrelated to her work with the department.

Read the indictment here

Kyl: "I Don't Think A Single Republican" Will Support Health Care Reform

The Huffington Post | Rachel Weiner
First Posted: 08-21-09 09:17 AM | Updated: 08-21-09 09:33 AM

In an interview with Fox News' Neil Cavuto, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) affirmed that neither health care reform bill currently in circulation will get any Republican support. "For either the bill that passed the House Committee or the bill that passed the HELP committee in the Senate, I don't think a single Republican in the Senate would support either of those bills," he said confidently. Kyl went on to say that negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have become "very difficult because" of "liberals in both the House and the Senate." Later he suggested, "Let's start over."


At the Plum Line, Greg Sargent points out that even as Senate Democrats offer concessions to retain GOP support, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) keeps increasing his demands.

This is a relatively minor shift, but the larger pattern is obvious. First Grassley raised the number of votes he wants for a truly bipartisan Senate bill to 80. More recently, Dems handed Grassley a win, nixing the public option from the Senate bill. [...]

There's nothing wrong with Grassley negotiating for whatever he can get. That's his role. But the point is, the question of who's to blame forstalling compromise isn't just a matter of dispute. There's a factual reality we can point to here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ASTROTURF: Who Pulls the Strings?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Luntz's "gambit": Fearmongering that Obama is "declaring war on Medicare"

Media Matters
August 19, 2009 9:00 am ET

On Fox News' Hannity, GOP consultant Frank Luntz forwarded the false conservative talking point that President Obama plans to cut Medicare benefits, claiming that it "is almost like he's declaring war on Medicare because it's the only way for him to pay for health care," and that it is a "fact" that "[t]hey're talking about lowering the reimbursements for Medicare."
In fact, as FactCheck.org noted: "The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false."

From the August 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

LUNTZ: That's half of it. And the other half is that he's actually attacking Medicare. And that is something that's really important for your audience, whether you're 65 or older, you've got parents who are 65 or older. Barack Obama -- from this language -- I've got the text -- it's almost like he's declaring war on Medicare because it's the only way for him to be able to pay for health care. It's an interesting gambit, Sean, and I don't think it's going to work.


LUNTZ: I think that this debate can and should be conducted in a civil and meaningful manner. That said -- again, I point to the language that -- "Not these wild misrepresentations." I've started to read the bill. They're talking about lowering the reimbursements for Medicare. That is not a misinterpretation. That is a fact. And every senior has the right to know exactly what will be paid for and what won't be.

And every doctor, Sean, has the right to know whether they're going to be reimbursed for their service or not.

FactCheck.org, AARP have rebutted notion that health reform will reduce Medicare benefits
FactCheck.org: "The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false."
From FactCheck.org's August 14 article, "Seven Falsehoods About Health Care":
False: Medicare Benefits Will Be Slashed
The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn't keep it from being repeated ad infinitum.
The truth is that the pending House bill extracts $500 billion from projected Medicare spending over 10 years, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, by doing such things as trimming projected increases in the program's payments for medical services, not including physicians. Increases in other areas, such as payments to doctors, bring the net savings down to less than half that amount. But none of the predicted savings -- or cuts, depending on one's perspective -- come from reducing current or future benefits for seniors.
The president has promised repeatedly that benefit levels won't be reduced, reiterating the point recently in Portsmouth, N.H.:

For the rest of the story click here.

Seniors Take $15 an hour Line Stander jobs

Huffington Post

LOBBYIST STAND-INS Apparently, holding places in line for lobbyists isn't just something fun for the homeless anymore. The elderly are getting in on the action!

Rose and Zine Hosein have stand-up jobs -- and get paid $15 an hour for it. They've also learned that being a line-stander is tougher than being a bystander.

The 60-something couple has the ultimate niche occupation in Washington's influence economy, holding places in line for lobbyists outside crowded congressional hearing rooms. They bring folding chairs, coffee and patience to a job regarded by some about as highly as the influence brokers who hire them.

Their days can start before 3 a.m., leaving them to wait -- sometimes outdoors -- for six or more hours. They take off after turning over their spot in line to their customers, and the hearing-room doors swing open. Finding elbow room is up to them.

Alliance for Retired Americans Busts GOP Myths about how Health Insurance Reform Will Affect Seniors

White House Health Reform Public Forum:

Arizonans for Health Reform Task Force to host Public Forum in Tucson on senior issues
Join Representative Kyrsten Sinema D-Phoenix (District 15) - one of 32 legislators nationwide and the only state lawmaker from Arizona selected for President Obama's White House Health Reform Task Force, in Marana to learn about the President's vision for health [insurance] reform, what is happening in Congress. Ask questions and get answers. Share your stories, concerns, hopes, and more about health reform.

Date: Thursday, August 20, 2009
Time: 10:00am - 11:25am
Location: Heritage Highlands Clubhouse, Dove Mt. Ballroom
Street: 4949 Heritage Club Blvd.
City/Town: Marana, AZ

Google Map:

For a list of Congressional Health Care Town Halls or Tele-Town Halls being held in Arizona, please contact your member of Congress.
Phoenix event: Friday 10/2/09 - see below.

Myth Busters:
Health Insurance Reform & Seniors

Right now rumors are circulating that falsely claim seniors will be hurt by health insurance reform. On the contrary, health insurance reform includes improvements to Medicare - a government-run program that is the largest, most successful health care program in history - and provides access to affordable, quality coverage for retirees and seniors. Below are the myths and lies that opponents to health insurance reform are using to scare seniors and retirees, and the facts that are true.

MYTH: Government-Run Healthcare Will Destroy America! Congressmember Doc Hastings (R-WA) said,"... [A] government takeover of health care would increase taxes, eliminate choices, cut Medicare, [and] force Americans out of their current plans...." (July 21, 2009)
FACT: Health insurance reform will limit tax increases to the richest Americans, ensure continued choice and access to doctors by making sure they are reimbursed
fairly for quality care, cut overpayments to private insurance companies in Medicare and protect the right of Americans with health insurance to stay in their own plan.

MYTH: Seniors will be the ones footing the bill for healthcare reform! Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, "[I]t appears as if they want to pay for [health care reform ] on the backs of seniors through Medicare cuts..." (Fox News) Congressmember John Boehner (R-OH) said, "the Democratic [health care] plan cuts Medicare and takes away choices for millions of seniors." (July 20, 2009)
FACT: Health insurance reform will eliminate wasteful overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, extend the solvency of Medicare, and include improvements to Medicare benefits and health care for seniors. Medicare will remain strong and stable and seniors will continue to have the choice of doctors and hospitals and increase access to coordinated, high quality care. Health reform is actually key to protecting Medicare.

MYTH: The Government Wants Seniors to Drop Dead!
Congressmember Ginny Browne-Waite (R-FL) said, "Last week the Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America's seniors ''drop dead.''
This bill would cut ... the Medicare Advantage program in order to pay for the government expansion of health-care for the young, the healthy, and the wealthy..."
(July 21, 2009)
FACT: Private health insurance companies that profit from Medicare Advantage plan overpayments are lobbying Congress to stop health care reform because they know that reform will result in cuts to their bottom line. This is not a bad thing for seniors. The truth is, MA plans are overpaid at least 15% more than they should be, so these cuts will only hurt their profit, not seniors' benefits. In fact insurance companies are the ones telling seniors to "drop dead," because if they can't make a profit off of the government, then they won't want to give seniors health care!?

MYTH: They Want You to Consider Euthanasia!
Congressmember Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said the Republican reform effort was unlike the Democrats' proposal in that it "is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government." (July 28, 2009)

FACT: In a cruel and appalling distortion of the truth, opponents of health care reform have shamefully alleged that health insurance reform will lead us to government- sponsored euthanasia. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is an OPTIONAL and helpful provision in of the reform legislation that will provide coverage for advanced care planning. This counseling will make it easier for people to consult with their doctors about end-of-life decisions we all have to make, and what services and supports are available, including palliative care and hospice. This advanced planning concept that has been in federal law since the Patient Self-Determination Act in 1990 and has been supported by Republicans and Democrats alike for decades. The difference is that such counseling would now be covered, not an out of pocket expense.

MYTH: They Want You to Lose Your Prescription Drug Coverage! Congressmember Tom Cole (R-OK) said, "The Democratic proposal will force drastic cuts in Medicare Advantage, causing millions of seniors to lose their coverage for prescription medicine." (July 21, 2009)

FACT: Again, private Medicare Advantage plans are using Republican puppets to scare seniors into thinking that if overpayments are cut, then seniors will go without prescription drug coverage. The truth is, health insurance reform saves seniors hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs because it cuts the cost of brand-name drugs by half once you reached the Part D coverage gap; and phases in completely filling in the "donut hole."

MYTH: They Will Increase Our Long-Term Care Costs!
Congressmember Leonard Lance (R-NJ) said, "Most disappointing to me is the fact that the Democratic health plan would increase, not reduce, our Nation's burgeoning longterm health costs." (July 21, 2009)
FACT: For the first time ever, health care reform will create a new, national system (CLASS Act) of delivering affordable long term care to all Americans in the environment they choose - even in their own home.

Save the Date - Friday, October 2, 2009
The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans is preparing to hold its 2nd Biennial Convention on Friday, October 2, 2009 at the Wyndham Hotel in Phoenix. Please mark your calendar for an exciting and informative day on senior issues, including the latest on the health care debate! Transportation from Tucson Alliance members is being arranged. Stay tuned for more details on our Convention!
We hope you found our revised Alert and E-Newsletter informative. If you have any suggestions for content or improvements, please contact us at jserviss@cox.net

-Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans

The Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans is a non-profit organization representing senior activists and retired workers throughout Arizona. It is a state affiliate of the National Alliance for Retired Americans, a national grassroots organization representing 3.5 million retirees. For more information, go to www.arizonaretiredamericans.org And here is the rest of it.

Without Public Option, Enthusiasm for Health Care Reform, Especially Among Democrats, Collapses

Rasmussen Reports
Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just 34% of voters nationwide support the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats if the so-called “public option” is removed.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% oppose the plan if it doesn't include a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurers.Last week, Rasmussen Reports tracking found that support for the Congressional plan was at 42%.

While the tracking question did not specifically mention the public option, it referred to the bill proposed by the president and congressional Democrats now working its way through Congress. All of the congressional committees that had passed reform legislation included a government health insurance plan.

Therefore, it is reasonable to compare those results with the current polling to measure the potential impact of dropping the public option.

The most dramatic impact is a sharp decline in enthusiastic support.
Without the public option, only nine percent (9%) Strongly support the legislation. The earlier poll found 26% Strongly in favor of it.

That enthusiasm gap is especially significant since the percentage of those opposed to the legislation has consistently been higher.
Last week’s poll found 44% Strongly opposed to the reform legislation. If the public option is dropped, 37% remain Strongly opposed.

The other dramatic shift can be found in the partisan dynamics. Click here to read about the rest of the survey's findings.

And here is the rest of it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Reich calls for 'march on Washington' in support of public option

By FRED BARBASH | 8/18/09 2:44 PM EDT

Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary, scholar and commentator, called Tuesday for a “march on Washington” on Sept. 13 —“Grandparents Day” — in support of a health care bill that offers a public option.

While he said organizing was not his strength, he would be prepared to assist. “If enough people feel that’s the best way for their voices to be heard, and can’t be heard in any other way, then we march,” Reich said in a reader question-and-answer session in POLITICO’s Arena.

A group of conservatives have already announced a “tea party” movement march on Washington for Sept. 12. An opposing march the next day, if one were to materialize, could make for an interesting weekend.

Reich’s suggested march is the latest manifestation of liberal anger about signs that the Obama administration may be willing to live without a public option if it means a health care bill can become law.
“Very few things happen in Washington that are in the public's interest when corporations have huge financial stakes in the game, as they obviously do with health care — unless the public is actively involved, engaged and organized,”
Reich wrote. “We won't get a public option, or anything close to it, unless people who feel strongly about it make a racket.

  • The “first step is to be very loud and very vocal: Write, phone, e-mail, your congressional delegation and the White House. 
  • Second step: Get others to do the same. 
  • Third step: Get voters in Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and other states where Blue Dog Dems and wavering Senate Dems live, and have them make a hell of a fuss. 
  • Fourth step: March on Washington.”

He suggested the morning of Sept. 13 because “that's a Sunday, and it's also Grandparents Day.
I've just become a grandparent, and I'm worried as hell about the kind of world my little granddaughter is inheriting. “

Monday, August 17, 2009

Arianna: GOP Fearmongering Aimed at Drowning Government

Man Carrying Semi-Automatic Assault Rifle And Pistol Outside Obama Event (VIDEO)

Huffington Post | Lila Shapiro
First Posted: 08-17-09 01:58 PM | Updated: 08-17-09 05:35 PM

A man was spotted Monday afternoon carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle and a pistol at a pro-health care reform rally next to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Arizona where President Obama was speaking.

The local paper The Arizona Republic reported:

A man, who decided not to give his name, was walking around the pro-health care reform rally at 3rd and Washington streets, with a pistol on his hip, and an AR-15 (a semi-automatic assault rifle) on a strap over his shoulder.

"Because I can do it," he said when asked why he was armed. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms."

Two police officers were staying very close to the man.

CNN has video from the scene, and according to their reporter at the event, Ed Henry, there was another man, also carrying an assault rifle at the event.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Opinion: It's past time to ask Democrats for help

By Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.17.2009

Senate President Bob Burns and Gov. Jan Brewer need to remind themselves how to ask for help, because in order to keep Arizona out of even more extreme financial distress, that's exactly what they need to do.

President Burns' comments in Daniel Scarpinato's article in Thursday's Star are not a good start. In the article, Burns, R-Peoria, asserts that "bringing Democrats into the process would drag the process out even longer."

Apparently, eight months and two weeks is exactly the amount of time required to come up with a state budget. Any more than that and it's just too long. Just another example of the Swiss-watch precision by which the Republican-led Legislature under Burns has been run.

Brewer is no better. By her standards, "continue to work with legislators from both sides of the aisle" means continually asking Democrats to support a flawed Republican budget and a sales-tax increase. The answer to that question has always been and will continue to be "no."

Both Burns and Brewer fail to grasp the fact that Democrats are not here to be disregarded for eight months while Republicans labor under the self-imposed restriction of creating a "majority budget" with only Republican votes, only to come to Democrats at the 11th hour to vote for a budget that we don't agree with and didn't have any input on, because including us would take too long.

Last week Burns announced his continued refusal to negotiate with Democratic leaders, preferring to try to buy individual Democratic votes with pet projects or other political trinkets. He already tried it once, and failed.

It was Republicans' choice to effectively reduce the size of the Legislature to 18 senators and 35 representatives by only including Republicans. When you do that, you make your job more difficult.

Democrats did not choose that path, and we will not encourage it by simply handing over votes for a budget that was formulated without bipartisan input.

Now there is precious little time to negotiate the best budget possible before Arizona really begins to fall apart. We should never have arrived at this place, but unless Brewer is prepared to abandon the prospects of raising additional revenue for Arizona, she will have to veto this budget, and Democrats will have to be asked for our input and ultimately, our support.

We are prepared to do our part to preserve Arizona, but we will not be bullied into supporting something that we don't believe in just because Republicans failed to get the job done on their own.

Their failings are not our responsibility, and we will not apologize for standing up on behalf of Arizona's children, teachers, working poor and vulnerable adults.

We understand that these are tough times, but we can develop a true bipartisan plan that has something for everyone. It just won't have everything for some.

President Burns, Gov. Brewer: Democrats are willing to help. But you have to be willing to put partisanship aside and negotiate in good faith.

Write to Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia at jgarcia@azleg.gov