Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Lesson

Many will draw many different lessons from the Massachusetts Senate election that sends Republican Scott Brown and not Democrat Martha Coakley to Washington. Both gloating and gnashing of teeth will echo across radioland, the blogosphere, and among the spinning-talking heads.

Consider the essential elements that all the opinion rendering and reporting regurgitation is excitedly racing toward en masse: Democrats are being repudiated for multitudes of reasons, a referendum with negative results for President Obama has occurred, health care reform is being rejected as a failure, fickle independents are but Republicans-in-waiting, and the evil forces of socialistic liberalism are in serious decline because true Americans are taking their country back. The spinners further offer the prescriptions that Democrats need to "dial it back", abandon health care reform, and figure out how to best respond to polls cited by the same spinners to retain meaningless seats of powerlessness.

Perhaps this ought to be the key question we reflect upon: Is the significance of electing Scott Brown to the US Senate a repudiation of the seat's former holder, Senator Edward Kennedy?


We did lose this seat. Campaign tactics, political capital expenditure, election spending, and attack strategies are mere sideshows. We lost due to dissatisfaction and anger that is not simply pinned on a singular issue or the heat of the moment. And we were and are participants in our own vulnerability.

We err by almost always letting the opposition define us. We allowed the anger churned up by Republican obstruction and repeated false mantras about big government socialist elites gleefully cramming tax and spend schemes in the faces of average Americans define us. We then err again by becoming increasingly reactive which allows even more opportunities for the opposition to define us.

We need to define ourselves. We must explain why and how we would approach problems with genuine liberal solutions. We need to stop reading and reacting to polls and reject the news and opinion cycles running the show. We must reject "lowering our sights", "playing it safe", and "dialing it back". We need to forcefully place in discussion our deep concerns about health care, a financial class run amuck, workplace fairness, environmental ignorance, and other major issues. To most of these concerns, liberals intuitively know the answers from devising essential fair reforms to regulating fraudulent behaviors.

Above all we need to put forth a principled and convincing consistent moral vision that rallies our own adherents, delivers workable changes sought by many independents, and even reaches out to those who have bought into right wing anger before the real elites, the tax nor regulate-us-not financial class, betray their front line supporters once again. Solid principles can trump shoddy politics.

"The great adventures which our opponents offer is a voyage into the past. Progress is our heritage, not theirs. What is right for us as Democrats is also the right way for Democrats to win." Senator Ted Kennedy, Address to the Democratic National Convention, August 1980

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reform Rx: Giving health care a nose job

From the Wall Street Journal:
Perhaps it's not that America spends too much on health care, but that other nations don't spend enough.
This the conclusion of an opinion piece penned by Dr. Mark B. Constantian, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon from New Hampshire declaring that we have great health care by singing the same tired conservative hypnotic hymn:
Certainly some goes to inefficiencies, corporate profits, and costs that should be lowered by professional liability reform and national, free-market insurance access by allowing for competition across state lines.
The subhead on this opinion piece asks, “Isn't 'responsiveness' what medicine is all about?” The author seems to say that if we can deliver on one selective segment out of the vast array of health care performance indicators, and this one is dubious when it comes to results, then cost, quality, and other factors are minor matters. Perhaps all we need is a talented plastic surgeon to put a better face on US health care.

In Maine one has access to the full text of current and past articles in the WSJ. If the above online link is "locked", use Maine's virtual library: MARVEL ,to access articles with a state library card or by registering online.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Reform Rx - Private Options are the Future!

Not quite at Christmas but some Maine citizens could get a late present from Senators Snowe and Collins courtesy of their unyielding support of only private options.

AP update today:

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine has proposed a 22.9 percent rate increase for two health insurance plans targeting individuals.

The filing comes as Anthem awaits a judge's ruling on an earlier rate case. Maine Insurance Superintendent Mila Koffman last spring denied Anthem's proposed 18 percent rate hike for its individual insurance plans. Instead, she approved a revised request for a 10.9 percent increase, which provided for a zero percent profit margin.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Clean Elections - Democracy's Essential Service

This morning A.J. Higgins reported on MPBN that the glut of candidates in the gubernatorial race threatens to drain Maine’s Clean Election Fund. One privately funded Democratic candidate commented that now was not the time to ask taxpayers to cut back on essential services in order to give money to political campaigns. This viewpoint presupposes an erroneous choice. Trying to score a political point by insinuating that properly funding clean elections will take away money from schools and nursing homes and hand it over to political operatives (i.e. opponents) is not a fair assessment of what public financing of elections are about.

Public financing of elections needs to take place in times when the state is flush with funds and in lean years to meet the goals of clean elections. Reducing moneyed interests or private funded campaign machine advantages to give wider opportunity for non-wealthy voices and office seekers to address the issues that affect our lives is not a luxury. Clean election funding is about protecting our democracy from unspoken quid pro quo expectations and providing equal access to the electoral processes. It is something that Democrats ought to stand behind through thick and thin. It is about leveling the playing field.

Maine has built a clean election model to be proud of with broad popular support and it is an essential service to Maine’s citizens that deserves to be protected in concert with many other essential services. We should be pleased that we have a large number of clean election candidates committing themselves to the reduction of money interests in the race for Governor. And we acutely need public financing in lean times to protect our elections from being bought during moments of economic weakness.

We need to reject the myth that Maine has bloated budget full of faceless bureaucrats and frivolous expenditures to hack away at to save taxpayers from being gouged with nothing in return. Maine has a both a temporary revenue challenge and a long term need to address revenue structuring. It is time to recognize that government is not a business nor at the unreasonable sole service of business but is a collection of vital public services, including public financing of elections, that deserve our creative energies and investment.