Thursday, October 29, 2009

Odds and ends 3: Politics

The main podcasts I've been listening to in the car are audio captures Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, since I don't have time to watch them -- or, indeed, the Daily Show -- most days of the week.

So anyway Congress is infuriating me at the moment. I keep starting to write a post, then deciding I don't have enough to cobble together except little one liners. Also, many things I think have already been eloquently expressed elsewhere. But it's odds and ends day, so here are a few things I think.

The health care issue is a bit personal for me. I was not receiving health care when I worked as a consultant for Motive, and there was a brief period when I simply wasn't covered. I tried to replace my old job-based coverage with private coverage from Blue Cross, but I discovered to my dismay that they would not accept me because I have an -- extremely minor! -- history of high blood pressure. No joke, they didn't try to take me on at inflated rates, they just said... sorry, look elsewhere.

I admit that there were other avenues I could have pursued more aggressively, but I got a bit apathetic and didn't follow them up. I got Ben insured and that was the most important thing. Now that my job is covering me again, it's become moot.

But anyway, I think this highlights the fact that the insurance industry does not provide insurance, which is to say, spreading risk around a diverse pool of people. Their response to attempts at "reform" has been to threaten to raise rates, which only highlights the critical need for more competition. Hence the public option, which at this point looks likely to be presented in some form, but very watered down.

Now in the first place, I do not ever want to hear any more press or whiny Congressman saying "Everything we do requires 60 votes!" There is no rule that says they have to get 60 votes. The rule is that you need at least 40 people who will not filibuster, and 50 votes.

Now filibustering is a very different action from voting against something, but you'd never know that from the press. Remember how Congress worked until 2006, when Democrats were actually in the minority? Every time a Dem even dared to breathe the word "filibuster," Republicans would scream and moan about "obstructionists", and wring their hands and talk about the need for a "nuclear option" which would eliminate the barely-Constitutional practice of filibustering once and for all. And Democrats caved. Every time.

I don't know how filibustering suddenly went from "horrible miscarriage of justice" to "this is the way we do things on every vote as a matter of course!" Freaking hypocrites.

Democrats absolutely have enough votes to pass whatever legislation they want, never mind bipartisanship. The problem is that not only are Democrats still scared of their own shadows, as they still insist on eliminating everything useful about health care reform in their haste to capitulate to President Snowe (as Grayson put it). If they had any party unity there could be no filibuster possible. But now Joe Lieberman, of the prestigious Connecticut for Lieberman party, wants to join the filibuster.

Hey, anybody remember why it was important that Lieberman defeat his primary opponent, Ned Lamont? It's because:

"What I’m saying to the people of Connecticut, I can do more for you and your families to get something done to make health care affordable, to get universal health insurance."

Lieberman argued that Lamont was SO liberal that he would hurt the Democrats' credibility enough to be a liability on the important issues. Issues like universal health insurance. Whew! I'm glad we dodged that bullet, so now we have Joe Lieberman fighting for us on that subject!

What's astounding is that Joe Lieberman still holds a key chairmanship position within the Democratic party, even though he is not a Democrat. Reid insisted at the time, and probably continues to say, that we need to do whatever we can to make Lieberman happy so that he will continue to stand with Democrats instead of jumping ship and doing something ridiculous like, say, filibustering against his own former party.

How's that strategy working out, guys?


  1. I think you are pretty much dead on here. Excellent commentary.

    I do worry a bit about the mandate without having a public option that everyone can buy into, not just those that cannot get insurance through their jobs. Maybe competition will keep prices down, but I just have a difficult time seeing how mandating coverage for everyone, in the private sector, and mandating that insurance companies take everyone, will actually reduce prices without some sort of government regulation and intervention into how much the insurance companies can charge for the services, like energy companies and car insurance companies. As far as I know, price controls are not part of the health care bill. If we are going to go with a primarly free market option, then I think cost controls need to be a part of it.

    Then again, maybe I just don't have the faith in the free market that others do.

    Have you heard any word on what Arlen Specter is going to do on this health care bill? If he filibusters it, then I think his switch to the democratic party is meaningless. And I also think, about joe liberman, if he filibusters this, then they should just kick him out of the party. Because really, what is the point of claiming allegiance to a party if you are going to filibuster it? It is one thing to actually vote against your party. Frankly, I have no problem with dems doing that. It is another to prevent your own party from even calling a vote! what idiots!

    Also, I will post it to my blog probably over the weekend, but I have written both my congress people (Brad Miller and Kay Hagan) about health care. Brad Miller seems pretty cool. He addressed, then dismissed a single payer option, saying it would be nice, but not possible, and he seems to support a strong public option. Hagan on the other hand, in addition to engaging in that anti-atheist bigotry here last election, says she would rather have health care co-opts, and would not want to do anything that threatens the insurance industry.

    And another thing about this crap, that I did talk about on my blog a bit, is the issue of forcing the government to separately negotiate rates with hospitals instead of paying the same rate as medicare. Hagan supports that, along with the moderate dems that are worried about the cost of the plan and the impact on the federal deficit. Then why the hell take out the one ability of the government to control the impact on the deficit, using medicare to increase its bargaining power and get lower rates by forcing the public option (which is not a public option if only the uninsured can get access to it) to pay higher fees to hospitals. This is a politically calculated move I think by conservatives and moderate dems to protect the health insurance industry, and to protect their ideological positions that government programs cost to much and do not work, by adding provisions that prevent this government plan from working the way it should. This is fucking stupid. It is like forcing blue cross blue shield to negotiate rates with hospitals not as a collective single entity, but instead group the negotiations on the individual plans they offer. By shrinking the pot that they have to negotiate with, they are making it more difficult for them to get lower rates.

    Fuck, if Wal-Mart can use its massive size to bully suppliers into doing whatever the fuck it wants them to do, why can't the government, which is the democratic institution and best mouth piece for the people that we have in this country, do the same thing. Why is it that when Wal-Mart (a undemocratic and tyrannical organization) does it, it is seen as freedom, but when the government (a body that "supposedly" represents the views and wishes of the people) does it, it is tyranny, and an assault on freedom. Makes zero logical sense.

  2. When has Libermen done ANYTHING useful for the democrats? Seriously, does he have secret sex videos or something? There has to be some reason they don't want to offend him by dumping that millstone.

  3. Donna Muller12:41 AM

    Russell, great post. I listened to three full "A.E." episodes today on a long drive and was reminded to check in on your blog. I feel the same way you do: mounting frustration with this limp Congress. I work at home and have either video or audio political podcasts or CSPAN on all day, and aside from Anthony Weiner and Alan Grayson, I've about had it. Why don't they just chant, "No We Can't!" instead? It's the same with my local Democratic party; I can't even get anyone to return my phone calls or respond to my emails about my desire to volunteer.