Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You talkin' to me?

Like a lot of Kennebec Dems, we have a Subaru with an Obama sticker proudly on it.

Oh, I ought to answer her question:
"Pretty gosh darn good Sarah! And how's that fakey shtick no retreatin' and reloadin' thing working fer ya?"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reform Rx - Real Life Benefits

If you have coverage, insurance that was in effect before the bill becomes law is grandfathered in. Still, some provisions in the sidecar bill, like bans on lifetime benefit caps, would apply even to those plans.
That would solve a big problem for people such as Amy Wilhite of Marblehead, Ohio. Her family is insured through her husband's employer, but her 12-year-old daughter, Taylor, a leukemia survivor, has already gone through more than $1 million of medical care in her life and is approaching a $1.5 million cap. Taylor has been delaying or forgoing some care to stretch out coverage as long as possible.

This change, as well as rules against insurers' yanking policies if you get sick, and forcing family policies to generally include kids up to age 26, takes effect six months after the bill becomes law.

Retiree Daniel O'Connell of Greenville, S.C., said closing the doughnut hole was "very beneficial to me." Mr. O'Connell—who lives on a fixed income of about $40,000 a year—hit the coverage gap in August last year, and said he incurred about $1,500 in out-of-pocket costs.
"At a certain point you're not covered, even though you're paying the premium," he said.
All the above were found in an article in the March 22 Wall Street Journal online titled Steps You Can Take Ahead of Changes in Coverage, Taxes. It was not in the Monday printed edition I received. The Journal editorialized heavily against the legislation and will continue to do so. However it is apparent that once the law is in force that there is a pragmatic real life financial set of benefits that even the Wall Street Journal cannot ignore in their reporting.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reform Rx - Bye Bipartisan – Be Partisan

Health Care Reform Has Passed!

This final bill was not my health care reform preference. It is a result of good intentions being diluted by industry lobbying and money. It suffered a thousand little cuts by Republicans seeking to defeat it. A final effort to tear it completely down with teabagger threats and hate was undertaken.

But it has passed. It will be the law of the land. It will be a measure that we can alter, improve, correct, refine, expand, and build upon. In seven more years of an Obama Presidency we can surely accomplish much more reform of health care.

The process was endlessly dragged on through last summer’s futile search for bi-partisanship in which our own Maine Senators Snowe and Collins dumped their moderate posturing to aid right wing and corporate interests by creating more space for time killing delays.

The confrontation should have come last spring. The vote would have perhaps been exactly the same but it would have been on a far stronger and less diluted measure.

We must learn from this. We do not have a single honest bipartisan partner in the Republican Party. The leadership from President Obama to finalize passage of this measure indicates he understands this reality. The evidence now tells us that leading toward what is morally right henceforth requires us to unabashedly be partisan on the side of this county’s people.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reform Rx - CBO: HCR cuts deficit; GOP: NO

According to the New York Times:

The House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had determined that the package of legislation would produce "the largest deficit reduction of any bill we have adopted in Congress since 1993," when it passed President Clinton's budget proposal including substantial tax increases.

In the first ten years, the legislation would reduce deficits by $130 billion, Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the House majority whip, said after a meeting of the party's caucus. The effect on deficits over the following decade would be much greater, a total of $1.2 trillion, he said.

Of course Republicans, who take the high road in public and low road in private on deficits, once again respond with a NO according to the Hill's Blog Briefing Room:

"The American people know we're broke," Boehner told reporters at the Capitol. The last thing we need to do is add debt to our kids and grandkids."
To imediately state that a bill "adds debt to our kids and grandkids" in the face of a CBO report that actually says the direct opposite demonstrates how disingenuous the right is willing to be in their effort to willfully mislead.

Reform Rx - Reform the Reform

I am not a fan of the current health care reform package because I tend to favor the sweeping change over incremental steps. However I do want this package to go through because it establishes health care to a greater degree as a right and will be a baseline that we can build upon once in place. I'll be looking to individuals like Dennis Kucinich to reform the reform.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stock tip of the day: SHBY

In answering criticism that he appears to favor the banking business over consumer protection, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said on Tuesday’s (03/16/10) PBS NewsHour:
“I represent no banks. I own no stock in any financial institution. I am not beholden to anybody dealing with this.”

Actually it is the opposite we ought to be concerned about because banks and many other financial interests do own “Shelby stock”:
Shelby received $1,115,146 in campaign contributions (for the last six years of available data, Jan 1, 2004 - Dec 31, 2009)that included the following: banks and credit companies donated $315,147 to him, securities and investment firms delivered $489,150 to his coffers, and insurance companies invested $310,849 in him.

Source: MAPLight.org, a great resource.

It’s not just what a Congressperson owns and might make a buck from that we need to watch for but who owns the Congressperson and how they will make a buck from his or her votes. We need to keep a very close eye on this factor as any financial reform moves forward to become either a robust set of consumer protections or a weak screen for the financial overlords to hide behind.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reform Rx - Conservative Faction Fractions

Paul Krugman's NYT column took on three myths about health care reform today including the right wing panic attack concerning government takeover of "one-sixth" of our economy:

The first of these myths, which has been all over the airwaves lately, is the claim that President Obama is proposing a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy, the share of G.D.P. currently spent on health.

Well, if having the government regulate and subsidize health insurance is a "takeover," that takeover happened long ago. Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs already pay for almost half of American health care, while private insurance pays for barely more than a third (the rest is mostly out-of-pocket expenses). And the great bulk of that private insurance is provided via employee plans, which are both subsidized with tax exemptions and tightly regulated.
That's how the conservative faction does fractions in seeking their lowest common denominator of sound bite attack.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Viewer Recession Advised

The struggle for a Consumer Protection Agency continues to be under attack. We need a champion like Elizabeth Warren:

Monday, March 8, 2010

School Funding Fallacy and Folly

Throughout the state we see headlines about school budget slashing that actually avoid the overarching topic of school funding in favor of budget tinkering chatter that will not, in the end, deliver the resources schools desperately require. We need to understand how we arrived at this point. Public schools are under pressure financially due to three reasons:

- Repeated assault from the right to ultimately push schools into the privatization sphere where the selfish use of personal resources will determine education outcomes and a new business paradigm of education delivery will arise to create profits for investors. This privatization effort is characterized by an over reliance on high stake testing to create winners and losers. Instead of concentrating on egalitarian success for all, there is a drive to deprive the losers of funding while funneling a lopsided amount of cash resources to the winners, presumably charter and private schools. Underlying this privatization effort is a distain for unionized workers and hence a great deal of meaningless talk about merit pay and meaningful emphasis on non-union teacher forces. In the end, should the right destroy public education, schools for the general populace will continue to exist as dilapidated warehouses for those without voice or capital full of advertising and low cost service delivery but profitable for some investor. Private schools will become like private colleges, expensive and out of reach but securing a network for a small upper class and the financial elites to which vouchers will be applied in part toward the cost.

- The funding of education is inordinately built on a myth of local control. In days of yore, local control meant a community building a schoolhouse, hiring a teacher, and providing financial support. This small town 19th century approach is no longer applicable because localities are so much of a part of a larger web of services that are appropriate to be delivered by government and funded with broad based taxes. Localities also had their own industries, sheriff, poor house, et cetera which became outmoded as towns became suburbs, cities evolved, and rural population percentages and jobs declined. Education’s role in society became of increased interest of national and state politics. However, the national role became one of authority by issuing mandates with little funding role. States became an unreliable funding partner dependent on the ups and downs of the national economy that also issued unfunded directives. Rules, laws, and expectations have grown far beyond the scope of local control and thus the myth within local control is that it really is one of primarily local control of limiting budgets to keep at bay upset property tax payers unless it is a wealthy community.

- Education is not a priority in the United States of America. It gets much rhetorical lip service, we hear constantly about our solemn duty to children through education, and the vital importance of excellent education in a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive world. But that is where it ends; we will not place education as a funding priority. We seek ways to tinker with this enormous system to tune out a few bucks toward a goal of efficiency. We have blinders on to the fact that excellent education may not be efficient with a traditional business bottom-line. Sure, the bus routes ought to make sense, the buildings should be smartly designed, and wastefulness of financial resources that do not support or create knowledge value ought to be controlled. But the largest expense, staffing, especially if contracted is not going to improve education. Our emphasis on high stakes testing or racing to the top creation of winners and losers does nothing to establish and maintain a critical funding foundation to be placed under all students to maximize educational success on an egalitarian basis. To simplify the understanding of our priorities as a nation, one needs only to look at the portion of our budget devoted to defense versus that devoted to education. Would balancing the two or reversing the equation be of greater strategic value to the United States? This is a debate we seem to avoid at all costs to avoid costs that may in the end create the greatest costs.

We need to repel the right’s assault, dismiss the myth of local control and get on with a national debate to quickly yield solid funding for public schools as a strategic priority.