Conservative violence undermines legit healthcare criticisms

I’m not a particular fan of this health insurance reform legislation. Don’t get me wrong, I think we need serious health care reform in America, but I’m not particularly excited about guaranteeing millions of new customers for a broken system. I’m not looking forward to supporting this system when the mandates kick in – even if my own out of pocket contribution is just a small fraction of what the government pays on my behalf, I’ll feel ripped off.

But any legitimate concerns about the legislation will be drowned out in a growing chorus of violence and threatening rhetoric. Already, politicians and their families have faced death threats and attempts at sabotage, and the discussion on right-wing echo chambers is increasingly radicalized.

There are legitimate reasons to dislike this bill, but the rational arguments are more likely to be considered “further left” in relation to the American political debate. Real reform will have to go far beyond private insurance and toward a goal of basic universal coverage in a low-overhead non-profit environment.

The rotten political center

In my short lifespan, I’ve heard a lot of talk and celebration for this concept of bipartisanship. With the possible exception of Fox News, most media outlets will applaud a so-called “moderate” politician for ignoring their platforms or the wishes of their constituents in the name of compromise.

So who are the idols of the “independent center?” We hear a lot of talk about people like McCain and Lieberman when it comes to this myth of bipartisan moderation – but check out this bill they are currently trying to sneak through Congress:

Whenever within the United States, its territories, and possessions, or outside the territorial limits of the United States, an individual is captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States who is suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism, or by other means in violation of the laws of war, or of purposely and materially supporting such hostilities, and who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent, the individual shall be placed in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status in accordance with the provisions of this Act.


An individual, including a citizen of the United States, determined to be an unprivileged enemy belligerent under section 3(c)(2) in a manner which satisfies Article 5 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners in which the individual has engaged, or which the individual has purposely and materially supported, consistent with the law of war and any authorization for the use of military force provided by Congress pertaining to such hostilities.

We’ve come a long way in this country, when the center of our political debate is owned by people like these – people who don’t believe in the fundamental values of our nation or the rules of the constitution that they have sworn to uphold.

If this is the middle then, I am proud to be in the fringe element: left or right, wherever there are people who believe in freedom and justice, I will be there.

Federal Popularity Plunges Again

The federal government isn’t a very popular institution these days, and despite a boost under the Obama brand, the public attitude toward D.C. is once again slipping toward some combination of disgust and apathy.  Disgust because of the things they do and the ways they waste our money, and apathy for the fact that we know we’re essentially powerless to stop them.

While Obama support is still running neck-and-neck with opposition, Congress and the healthcare plan have not fared so well.

Currently, about 20% or 1 in 5 Americans is confident in the job being done by Congress – 75% or 3 in 4 Americans think Congress is doing a poor job.  Obviously, this can’t be explained away by partisanship.  Its clear instead that Democrats as well as Republicans are becoming frustrated with the priorities and “solutions” being offered by federal legislation.

On healthcare, Americans have been turning against the proposal since the public option was gutted.  For every further compromise that has been made, they’ve lost even more supporters – and now just less than 40% of Americans still want the plan to go through.  It was over 50% in June, but they were discussing a much different bill at that time.  (Coincidentally, the more popular version would have been less generous to the established insurance cartel, so Congress had to fix that!)

And finally, for the direction of the country and where we are headed:  About 1 in 3 Americans are happy with the path they see, but 2 in 3 are worried about the future because of the choices we’re making today.

Will the politicians realize that they don’t have the legitimate support of popular opinion behind their acts?  Well, they probably do realize already – but they also know that doesn’t stop them from spending insane amounts of money to build up strategic alliances and personal wealth..

Bernanke Running out of Support

A lot of people (rightfully) blame the Federal Reserve and its member banks for causing and exacerbating the still unfolding financial crisis, and as a symbol of the Fed Bernanke has come under increasing fire from the grass roots, then media, and now from members of Congress themselves.

In a stunning revelation, it has been announced that Bernanke may not have the number of votes required to confirm his re-nomination by Obama.

Many liberals had blasted Obama for his decision to appoint Bernanke for a second term, and his party members in Congress are taking heed of this lesson in the wake of the unexpected Massachusetts Senate race.

The question then – if not Bernanke, who?

Is Massachusetts turning Purple?

In a relatively surprising and somewhat last-minute victory, Republican Scott Brown has won the late Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat.

While Mr. Brown counted partially on the support of various “Tea Party” organizations, his platform sounds typical of the “moderate” Republicans that manage to get elected in heavily Democratic districts in solidly blue states. While still being staunchly on social issues like gay marriage or abortion, they are somewhat more willing to negotiate spending plans – especially the ones that bring pork back to their local constituents.

So how will Scott Brown’s election impact the future of Obama’s agenda? Early signs aren’t encouraging, because the 60 vote supermajority they once sort-of enjoyed is now utterly reliant on at least one Republican breaking ranks with party discipline.

CSPAN Dares Democrats to Broadcast Health Debate

The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the healthcare bill, and now before Obama can sign it all they’ll have to do is work out the differences and come up with something that both chambers can agree on.

Now, there are quite a few differences in the bills, with the House version being a small help to some poor people and the Senate bill largely being a massive corporate give-away, so there’s quite a bit of interest among the voters and political analysts as to which one will ultimately shape the law of the land.

The CEO of CSPAN is even offering to help the Democrats publicize their “great” reform of a critical social system – but the party’s leadership doesn’t seem too interested in showing their constituents how this money-stuffed sausage is made.

Of course, its not like reconciliation of other legislation gets broadcast on cable TV, so this isn’t a new trend toward secrecy (its just the old one we’re used to by now.)  Instead, CSPAN is giving the Democrats a chance to live up to Obama’s campaign ideals of open discussions and transparent political processes.  Only problem here is that publicizing the political process is unlikely to win them many fans – especially as they’ve gone out of their way to make sure the insurance companies are the #1 group represented by said reform.

A public conference would probably require Congress to stand up for the common voting folk, but it would do incredible damage to their ability to raise funds and deliver on the expectations of their corporate sponsors.

I won’t be holding my breath for live coverage of the legislative reconciliation process, but I’m getting the popcorn ready for what will promise to be an interesting public response to an incredibly unpopular bill.  Aren’t you glad to know that you’ll be forced into buying an inefficient product from a publicly traded for-profit business?

Democrats Face Election Fears

It is fairly rare in American political history for any party to long maintain a super-majority above 60 seats in the Senate, so its a natural fear that they may lose some elections in the coming term.

Complicating this is the fact that the final healthcare bill was relatively unpopular by the time it had been compromised down to little more than a big corporate giveaway.

Unfortunately, a loss on this legislation would potentially be worse than a victory, so the partisan reps will continue to support it despite the damage that they’ll still receive for doing so.

Of course, any losses the Democrats suffer do not necessarily become gains for traditional Republicans.  In many polls, voters would support “Tea Party” Republicans over GOP-insiders, but since the GOP controls the Tea Party PACs it probably doesn’t matter too much.  Republicans who do get elected will probably run on a more populist platform than we’ve seen in the past, and many of them will set themselves up in opposition to both Obama and other aspects of  Bush’s legacy.

Another source of danger for the Democratic super-majority is the rise of progressive parties and the general drift of those on the farther parts of the left who have so far been disappointed with Obama’s progress in changing or undoing many of Bush’s administrative trends.

In the coming years, voter dissatisfaction and Congress’s inability to please both sponsors and voters will lead us to a wild ride that re-aligns American political alliances for generations to come.  Some of the players are starting to group up and get ready for the coming election rounds, but we probably won’t conclusively know what the new scene looks like for another six or eight years.

A Healthcare (Insurance) Nightmare

Congress keeps compromising and tweaking their “healthcare reform overhaul” legislation, and every step it gets toward the number of needed votes is a disaster for the actual American people.

By last count, the public option is completely gone, but all U.S. citizens will still be forced by the threat of penalty to buy a private insurance plan. Although there are some regulations in how these private providers can set prices and make their services available, the biggest change for private insurance companies will be that the government is magically coming in to swoop up all the 55 and older folks.

As Medicare absorbs all the older people, the real risk of the insurance companies will drop close to zero – at the same time they have a captive market of 18-55 year olds with little choice in whether or not they want to participate. Fundamentally, the young will subsidize corporate insurance profits, while also paying the taxes necessary to take care of the 55 and older crowd.

Unfortunately, all of the good jobs are still being held by the 50-60 year olds!

Unemployment is a nightmare for the under 30 crowd, and so many people have never officially become a part of the work force because they never got a job after finishing college.

I’ve had enough of this messing around – I’m ready to see Congress come up with a plan for universal coverage that doesn’t simply put pressure on those who haven’t yet bought coverage. If you want everyone under the government’s protection, go ahead and do it.

Just don’t dare force us into supporting private profitability under the guise of doing some great social charity…

No Love for the Government

Despite a promise of hope and change, Americans are increasingly disillusioned with the performance of the federal government, and they’re becoming increasingly pessimistic about the direction our country is currently headed in.

For the majority of Obama’s first year in office, his approval ratings had hovered above the 60% mark – leaving a much smaller 40% to complain about his actions or lack of actions (as the case may be.)  In the last few weeks, however, this number has quickly slid down to a much closer 50-50%.  For every Obama fan, there is someone who thinks he should be doing a whole lot less or a whole lot more.

And this highlights another problem the government currently faces in its attempt to legislate from the center – the voices of complaint are splintered, and thusly do not point to a more popular course of action.

Congressional job approval is now at about 27% nationwide, so just about one in four Americans is happy with the work being done by our highest paid representatives.  Unfortunately, this offers little danger to incumbents, because as unpopular as the entire body is, people tend to appreciate their own corrupt bastard.

So all in all, about a third of the nation is happy with the direction we’re headed in, and there’s not a whole lot of evidence that this direction is likely to change any time soon.  In fact, the momentum of the machine is intent on self-preservation and resistance from true change – but that won’t stop us from hoping for some kind of real future change.

Congress does something right – kicks banks out of student loan guarantees

The federal student loan policy over the last twenty years has been an exceptional case of failure.  Despite costing the government tons of money, they somehow managed to “privatize” the profits of these debts.

So while we see a downturn in students becoming doctors, we have to wonder if that has something to do with the fact that medical students end up with $200,000 in student loan debt before they’re licensed to practice medicine.

Maybe kids heading to college can save a few bucks on interest rates, and maybe the tax payers of America can even save a few bucks by cutting out an unnecessary middle-man.

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