Why Government Run Health Care is Important (article 2 of 3)

Forgive the Crab.  I am having trouble staying on one topic.  So please forgive the wanderings of the blog:

I admit, I am not an economist (though took my share of courses in college) or a health care professional (though my wife is a psychologist), or anything else that qualifies me to talk with authority on the subject of health care.  What I am, though, is a Liberal.  Despite the connotations derived by the Right, it doesn’t mean I am a Nazi or a Socialist.   In the most typical context for a majority of us in this country, it means personal freedom and the need for social injustices to be fixed.

Contrary to myth, it does not mean limiting Capitalism, creating social programs for all people, or taking from the rich and giving to the poor (or simply taking from everyone).  Understanding those truths and accepting them, may give Conservatives an understanding of why I (we) feel health care reform is important and why the Government solution is the right choice.

A friend of mine made the point – “health care is a right, not a privilege” and broken down into that simple phrase, sums up the biggest problem with health care today.  There are over 46 million people (and growing) that health care is, in fact, a privilege and one they are not granted a right. In our society, that’s a tragedy. It’s an embarrassment.  And, it’s very very sad.  In response back to my friend’s simple but accurate summation of the problem, I stated that I have *never* met anyone who either has been severely sick or without insurance that doesn’t believe the system is fine and aren’t supporting what the President is trying to accomplish.

That’s very telling.  Those who have actually lived through the costs and/or the lack of insurance see a problem.  The people that are opposed are those with health insurance or have never had a serious illness.  I know there are exceptions – there are 300 million Americans in this country and people can always provide a contrary view.  But, going on sampling – it’s still a strong indicator.

To deny what some of us have to others is selfish at it’s best and cruel at it’s worst.  Health care needs to be reformed in this Country to guarantee every single American is covered.    Those who will not even accept that point, should simply be ignored.  They can’t be rationalized with and they care not about the wellness of our society as a whole.   Unfortunately, in the debates I’ve had over the years, I’ve actually met several that have admitted as much.

To those who say, ‘yes – we have a problem, but Government is not the solution’ – then the question should be asked, what is your solution?  Very rarely will you get a succinct response when you ask them what is their alternative solution.

Here’s the secret – there isn’t one.  Government is the solution and that’s something they cannot accept or admit, particularly if it falls away from their ideology.  Health care and insurance, depending how you measure it, is the Country’s biggest industry.  To change that industry without Government intervention is impossible.  The Government must be involved.  Whether it’s through regulation or involvement, Government must play a role.

Regulation alone is not going to radically change health care/insurance.  The industry is simply too complex to cover everything required to bring costs in line and ensure everyone has coverage.  Too many loop holes exist to ensure policy changes work.  Further, lobbying on the Hill will weaken any policies that come up for a vote.

“Heath care is a right – not a privilege”.  If that is a truth, then the Government needs to do everything in their power to ensure that guarantee for everyone.  This is not one of a thousand other social programs that might be more of a privilege than a right.  The US Government is the richest and biggest company in the World.  To really affect change in the health care industry, money and competition must be prevalent.  Money will  put the Government on the same foothold has the Cignas, Aetnas, and Blue Crosses.  From there, the Government (as competition) can set rules to allow everyone to be covered – all 46 million Americans.  In addition, those who are being squeezed by increasing premiums and larger deductibles through private insurance will have an opportunity to be with a health care program that doesn’t increase premiums to meet profit goals, rather premiums will increase with inflation.

By allowing the Government to enter and covering 46 million Americans, they become the biggest health care company in the Country.  They will be able to facilitate setting prices, reducing costs through economies of scale, and be the biggest buyer of health care (which has many benefits – such as oversight, setting expected service levels, etc.).

Those opposed to Government getting involved in health care claim that it’s too expensive for the Government and the Government is not good at running anything.  Yes, Government run health care will be an additional burden, in the short-term, to the the tax payers.  But, are we a compassionate society that believes everyone should have health care or not?  I was brought up believing in helping others.  If it costs me another $500 of my income to pay into this new system and it says just one child’s life, then it’s worth it.  The truth is, the cost wouldn’t be that high and it would be less to those making less.  Again, how can you say that isn’t worth it?  In addition, after several years of a Government run health care program, cost savings will be seen throughout the economy (and thus a recoupment of initial outlays).  Cost savings will be  seen in slower rising premiums and smaller out of pocket costs.

Another argument, from those opposing the Government entering as player in health care, is that private industry can run things more efficiently than the Government.  Even if they were not the most efficient executor of health care, with the lack of profits, economies of scale, and resources available, they could still provide the same quality of service for less cost than the profit-making health industry giants.  VA and Medicade/Medicare are examples of cost savings through a Government run program.

Quite frankly, the solution is to have  a fully socialized health care program in this Country.  However, that will never occur as health care is too big a giant to kill and rebuild.  But, a Government run health care option will put the checks on the industry that are needed.

To those opposed – what is your solution?  How will you guarantee health care for 46 million Americans?


Mr. President, there has Never Been a Time Like Now to Pass Healthcare Reform (article 1 of 3)

If President Obama isn’t careful, he is going to let a golden opportunity to go by.  As cliche as the phrase is, being used by so many politicians to demagogue so many issues, it rings true with healthcare: “There has never been a better time or a more important time to act on healthcare.  Never will we see this opportunity again.”

The stars are aligned for major healthcare reform – torpedoes be damned!  Full speed ahead! That is what President Obama should be doing right now.  Why:

  • President Obama was elected with a clear mandate (another cliche) for change.  He won a majority of the electorate – 52%.  This was the highest total in 2o years.  People expect this President to bring change.  His historic election and the enthusiasm should carry him to be successful in his policies and have the trust of the American people.
  • The majority of the American people want reform.  59% are concerned about the health care in this Country per a Washington Post/ABC News poll in late June.  This has dropped, but it’s not because people don’t want reform, but because the President hasn’t been the staunch advocate to rally support he should be.  Regardless, people see a real issue with healthcare.
  • Costs are spiraling upwards and more and more people are getting caught short without healthcare.  The evidence is dramatic, apparent, and scary.  It’s not a hard case to make that something needs to be done.  The disagreement might be on what, but not that there isn’t a problem.
  • Political memories are short.  President Obama needs to put it on the line.  He’s got four years to work with.  If the plan works, he can reap the benefits and his naysayers will have less to attack.  If it fails, he can still prove his Presidency through all the other legislative agendas that are planned.  Yes, Congress has an election next year.  But the President has enough political capital to ram this through.  If he waits, that will go away and as mid-terms get closer, the opportunity will close.
  • It’s the right thing to do.  The difference between a good politician and great politician is guts.  It’s doing what you believe to be right and dealing with the consequences.  It’s Roosevelt and the New Deal.  It’s Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was Abraham Lincoln and slavery.  Obama wants to be a great President.  But words alone don’t make it so. Nor does trying to pacify everyone.  It’s the right thing to do. It’s what Democrats and Liberals stand for.
  • The numbers in both the House and the Senate for the Democrats are as high as you should ever expect to see.  A pseudo-filibuster proof majority in the Senate and a significant advantage in the House.  You don’t need bi-partisan support.  You can do it yourself.   No negotiating, no need to water down.  You can do what you want.

Regardless of what the media state or what is portrayed by the drug and insurance companies, people want change.  Couple that with a popular president, an overwhelming  majority in Congress, the moral high-ground, and in early in the Presidency – he’s got a recipe to go for doing what he wants with healthcare.

Compromise should not be an option.  The GOP has overplayed their hand.  Kudos to them.  They came out of the gate the right way- strong, on message and dedicated.  But like Obama, instead of holding some of their cards close to their vest – they played them all.  They have admitted they don’t want reform, that they won’t support any bills, and are going to slow down the progress of a bill.  This was their fatal error.  The President can regain control of the debate.  Those things – the public option, employee mandate, etc – are all back in play.  If the President truly wants to be a great one, he needs to pass the bill we need instead of the political bill the Congress wants.

The ire of the left was not anticipated by the Administration and the media.  The right-wing has so often been able to demagogue any issue they choose, they didn’t realize there is a new breed of liberals tired of compromise and willing to raise their voice.

If you support healthcare reform – raise your voice. Raise it to the politicians, raise it to the media, your friends, and your co-workers.  If reform doesn’t happen now, it’s not going to happen in any meaningful form for many years to come.

A compromise will be just as bad.  This is not like the civil rights movement, as some have equated where small incremental changes worked until all issues were addressed.  The outrage is not the same.  The ability for the GOP to sell a compromise as the end all of the healthcare debate will be strong. No.  The full reform needs to occur now.  Those who live in blue-dog democrat areas need to rally support, as the Liberal Crab does with Frank Krativol in his home district.   We need to let them know that unless they support a comprehensive solution, they aren’t helping solve the problem and they need to be replaced.

46 million uninsured Americans is too much.  Tripling of healthcare costs is too much.  If it doesn’t touch on you now, it will touch you or someone you love soon.  Whether it’s the family member with cancer, or the child that needs surgery to fix his heart, or you needing your drugs to take away your chronic pains.  It affects all of us and we need to make the chance now.  We let it slip away in 1992.  As the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, Mexico, even Cuba have socialized medical programs that the people want – we continue to debate on false grounds of Nazism, Socialism, or selfishness.  Rather, the debate must be on what is the right solution.

This is the first of three articles regarding healthcare.

A Pragmatic President – Disappointment or Kudos?

Slate Magazine has an article Today discussing what we’ve learned about President Obama so far.  It certainly wasn’t an endorsement of his presidency, nor was it overly critical.  However, one point was how he’s become a pragmatic leader rather than an ideological leader.  The tone suggested that this may not be what the electorate had hoped when he was elected.

President Obama gets it.  He understands the polarization in Washington, the extent of problems facing the Nation and the World.  The time is not right for ideology alone to rule.  The country’s problems are too severe to say it’s ‘my way or the highway’.  For those who are disappointed that the rhetoric of the campaign has not matched action during his term should be patient.  When looking over Obama’s body of work in four years, or eight, the promises and ideology promoted through his 2008 campaign will have been achieved.  This doesn’t mean his specific promises of releasing torture photos or cutting taxes to 98% of Americans.  It means the larger ideologies that these more specific promises are inclusive of.  He will end torture and investigate and cut taxes.  Patience and these will come to light.

The torture issue is a pefect example.  The Left is disappointed that investigations haven’t taken place, all memos not released, pictures still held secret, and prosecutions are not forthcoming.   The loudest opponents of torture claim to hear similar themes and words that President Bush used.

It was easy during the campaign to rail against the Bush policies and techniques.  But without being in the White House, one cannot fathom the political, legal, and ideological issues that face a President when trying to live to his campaign promises.  President Obama is willing to take the heat being slow in investigation or prosecution.  He’s willing to be railed against in the media and for not keeping his promise not to release the pictures of torture.  But he sees the bigger picture.  Why is important to release the pictures? Why is it important to prosecute torture?  Why?  It’s not for political payback or gain.  It’s the values of this Country have been corrupted.  Our standing around the World compromised.  That’s what needs to be fixed.  Will releasing pictures do that? No.  Will a rush to judgement do that? No.  Does alienating all of the Right do that? No.

His approach is more finessed.  Let’s not release these pictures to give our enemies more fight or continue to rekindle the vivid details of our programs.  Instead, release information that helps us understand (e.g. the memos) what’s happened.  Allow independent investigations to occur – on Capitol Hill and through the media.  Continue to gather evidence and let the guilty continue to incriminate themselves (e.g. Cheney).   To do this right, the Left and Right, need to come together – to show the World that, united, this Country doesn’t believe in torture.  When it isn’t the central item on the news for the sensational aspects, that’s when real progress can be made to repair our Nation’s image.  Obama realizes this can’t happen overnight and to do it right, we can’t rush to complete.

Torture is only one issue, but this philosophy works across everything Obama is trying to accomplish.  His platform has moved forward in every direction he’s promised.  He can’t be Ronald Reagan and say to hell with the Democrats.  He can’t be Kennedy and talk in grandiose terms of this Country and our capabilities.  He has to be more like his hero, Abraham Lincoln who did what was nescessary to save the union – simply not out of ideology, but the practical side of what was happening in the Country at the time.

To be bogged down in one issue – nuclear arms, terrorist states, budget deficits, energy, gay marriage, abortion, the economy will stagnate all the other issues.  Utilizing all his political capital will render him useless.

Give President Obama some time.  His ideology has remained sound. Has he not provided the visual accompaniment to those views – no.  But his picture and expectations are much larger than single point hits for political purposes.

The Liberal Crab Watches the Tea Baggers (and is amused)

For the past several weeks, the Crab has paid only little attention to the Tea Bag Parties being planned across the Country.  Keith Olbermann did a segment last night on the April 15th protests.  For those not familiar, the TBP is supposed to be a rallying cry against Government taxation and the direction of Socialism that Obama is taking the Country.

Fox News is really the only organization ‘pimping’ this event.  Most of the main stream media, except for the Liberal Bastion of MSNBC, is ignoring.  MSNBC is simply mocking the event.  Which, does needs to be done.  Fox has been promoting for weeks and claimed 100’s of 1000’s of people were going to attend.  When the Crab heard on of the events was going to be in Lafayette’s Square, two blocks from his office, his ears perked up.

I figured I’d head down there.  I went under the guise that I just wanted to see how small an event it really was and to say I was there.  Of course, in the back of my mind it was my intention to get into the S$%$ with folks.

As I walked up, I was surprised.  It wasn’t the 10-20 people I expected.  But, it wasn’t the 1000’s either.  It was 100-200 folks – not bad in the rain.  People from all ages and backgrounds.  Each event had well known Conservative speakers – so maybe it wasn’t so shocking that at least some folks showed up.

The signs that were being held up started to raise my ire and I knew it was only a matter of time before I started discussing my positions with folks.  As is typical when you talk politics – some people are ignorant and just want to yell at you and ignore everything you say, some selectively hear, and some actually are willing to have a intellectual debate.

I probably talked to about five different folks.  I called for attention by asking the general audience on where they were for the last eight years when we spent money like there was no tomorrow.  AH!  That got attention.  The first person to engage me was an older gentleman, who thought I was a lunatic for supporting any type of tax policy.  He didn’t want to listen – just tell me I was wrong.  The next was a woman who came right up to me and said "I hope you enjoy driving your SUV".  Not sure how that was relevant, but I did point out I didn’t drive an SUV.  So, she followed up with (and now less than a foot from my face), "the Green people must LOOOOVVE you."  Again, puzzled.  If I drive an SUV I am wrong and if I drive an efficient car I am wrong.  After establishing a comfort zone – I asked what this has to do with taxes and she didn’t have a response.  She and the old man continued to scream and me and tell me I am crazy as I talked ot other people.

I then had a spirited conversation with a group of folks – me against four??  Another gentleman came up to me and wanted to interview me.  I don’t know his intent or his ideology, but went with it.  I’ll probably be mocked on YouTube – but so be it!  He did interview in an objective way.  He asked why I disagreed with the protest and why I supported Obama.  Occassionally I would get mocked or ribbed by my previous ‘spirited’ group.  He asked them to pipe down and they’d eventually get a chance to be interviewed.

I explained to him that my frustration is where were all these folks over the last eight years.  I also advocated a continuation of deficit spending until we can right the economy (to which the old man could barely control himself against my socialist tendencies).   The interviewer asked what really needs to happen to build a consensus.  I advocated for Conservative and Liberal leaders to put politics aside and really discuss why we need to spend money during down economic times and educate the American people.  (for those who get the reference – I think they figured out my General Population Theory). 

After the interview, I had two relentless gentlemen – one middle aged and one younger corner me into another conversation.  I found this one the most amusing of all.  First, they kept repeating information they claimed I said – which I hadn’t.  They claimed I supported all of Clinton’s policy – and while I supported most of them, I realize now some were wrong and I didn’t mention his policies anyway.  What I did mention was the deficit was eliminated and debt reduced under Clinton.  They said, Bush had a free pass for his debt/decificts because of Katrina and 9/11  and Obama is the one that (already) has mortgaged our future with his budgets.

Their favorite topic was Geitner.  It started out that we can’t support him because he doesn’t know how to use Turbo Tax.  Really – that’s your argument?  Are you that stupid or do you think I am that stupid?  Yes, he did lie and cheat on his taxes.  But to claim he is too stupid to use Turbo Tax – really??  They then claimed he was in the Bush Administration. When I protested that claim – they said he was a Sr. Bush Advisor.  When I told him he was Deputy Treasury Secretary to Clinton – they still persisted and said he was a Bush advisor.  Really? What – when he was working on Wall Street? (btw, I can’t find anything on the ‘net that says he was a Bush advisor).

They then said we are heading towards Nazi Germany – not that we will become Fascist –  but we are getting close.  They also discussed this protest wasn’t about Obama or taxes but our whole economic philosophy – I disagreed. It’s exactly what it was about – Obama (or I misinterpreted the Obamaomics, go home Obama, and Socialist-Obama signs).  They claimed he had no plan (except they are arguing against his plan).  Then, somehow, it was about Obama being soft on Terrorists. I thought this was about the economy.

They then moved on to say that Obama has no support for his policies – no mandate.  They asked me what the vote margin was for Obama’s victory – I told them 10M votes.  Umm, that wasn’t the answer they were expecting because they were speachless.  But nevertheless, they recovered to say that wasn’t a major vicotry.  They also didn’t seem to think it was a big deal that he had the first majority win since Carter and even the great Reagan who claimed a mandate – didn’t have that (only a plurality).  I’m sorry, in a closely divided society a 53/46% victory is huge.

At this point, I was growing tired of the conversation.  But, since I put myself there and I didn’t feel like should take my marbles and go home (and I like being the center of attention) I decided to let them pepper me with more questions.  I was honest – when I didn’t know enough about an issue – I said so.  They took my innocent comment about having a college background in Economics to me being a practicing Economist – even though I corrected them about ten times.  This was related to deficit spending and recessions – something, by the way, Conservatives and Liberals agree.  They wanted to talk Cap and Trade energy and slowing down rebuilding infrastructure.  They believe there is no real problems now (with infrastructure).  They also think we are 100% free market.  That Government should not intervene ever on the behalf of a company. 

What I found is these folks were close minded and didn’t even listen to what you were saying.  I even, to get their attention, said that Reagan spending in the early 80’s was the right thing to do.  So, apparently a) I am a supporter of Reagan and b) While it was appropriate for Reagan to deficit spend to get out of the recession, it’s not the right solution now.  They somehow faulted the Democrats for any growth in the debt/deficit in the last 8 years when it wasn’t related to Katrina/Sept 11.  Remember, they only had a majority after Jan 2007. 

It was fun. It was entertaining.  It was frustrating.  The problem has been and will always be that most Conservatives are so ideologically set, they cannot believe anyone else has a point of view that is worth considering.  At times they tried to placate me, but it was shallow and obvious.

And for the record – I did offer up my hand for a handshake to each of them at the end of the discussions – to which they reciprocated appropriately and politely.

A little Video for T-Day, Thanks to Sarah Palin

I haven’t gone away!  My comentary will begin again soon, just taking a break from some intense posting over the election.  I am also looking for ways to improve the page.  Keep checking back for updates.

So, this might make you not want to eat turkey.  But leave it to Sarah Palin and her staff to pick a great place for an interview.

Hillary Clinton – Enough With the Past and Focus on the Future

The discussion of Hillary Clinton becoming the next Secretary of State has picked up to a feverish pitch in DC – and in the media.  The media, with very little to talk about, is wondering how two political rivals could possibly work together, particularly with the animosity that was shown during the campaign.  The media is asking – could she support his policies?  The answer is an emphatic YES.  Look, the campaign is all about exploiting differences regardless of how minor they may be.  It’s the only way to differentiate a Republican from a Republican or a Democrat or a Democrat. 

That answers the question about such things as when Hillary Clinton claimed Obama would be meet with our enemies.  There is no doubt she supports diplomacy with them, as most analysts and former Secretary of States have confirmed.  Her issue was the level at which dialogue should initially take place.  It’s a nuance in a position that becomes larger than life when competing against another candidate.  The 3:00am phone call is another Clinton classic.  But that’s just politics.  One of the oldest campaign tactics is to show you are more qualified.  However, that doesn’t mean that the other candidate isn’t qualified.

Clinton and Obama both realize it was a campaign and that’s what you do in a campaign.  Like her husband, Bill Clinton, she knows that once the race is over you very often can find common ground and realize the other candidate is intelligent and there may be value in working together.  Bill Clinton did it with both George Bush, Sr. and Bob Dole.  Are there times when there is a true bitterness and reconciliation may be tough or can’t happen? Sure.  There was a little of that with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama after Hillary’s defeat.  And certainly some relationships will always remain tepid.  Somehow I believe that George W. Bush and Al Gore will never work together.  But we are also talking rival parties.  The ideology within one party is strong enough to overcome many of thsoe concerns and issues.  So can we stop with the nonsense talk on whether she respects his position enough to work with him?

This appointment has tremendous potential.  Forget about the politics, they ilrelevant.  She is smart and a challenging figure to Obama.  She can provide him her experience working with foreign leaders, being a veteran in the Senate, and certainly has an inside view how foreign policy works within the White House.  Obama is smart to look at appointing people who challenge him.  She will challenge his decisions, as well as providing insight and an alternate point of view to issues.

Certainly, they may have some conflicts.  Beyond that, Vice President Biden’s role becomes slightly more muddled.  If Obama chooses a John Kerry or Bill Richardson, they wouldn’t create the headlines that Clinton would.  Formally or informally, Biden’s foreign policy role may be slightly diminished.  But that’s ok.  Putting the best team together is the priority and Obama is taking with all the seriousness it deserves.

Washington is a Small World!

Podesta, Emanuel, Reich, Summers, Christopher, Richardson, Daley, Pena, and Tyson are just some of the former Clinton Administration people who have or will play a role in the new Obama administration.  For as much as Obama says he will bring change to Washington, the cast of players, in many ways, remains the same.  That’s absolutely not a knock on Obama and his choices.  You can either choose a full cabinet of oustiders to learn the job and waste two years, as Clinton did, or you can pick a team with Executive Branch experience.  Bush 43 did the same thing, bringing in former Nixon/Reagan/Bush 41 advisers such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, and Card are examples. Bringing ‘change’ to Washington does not mean your team has to be new, but your ideas and the conduct of the administration should be.  Having veteran advisers will help a young President blossom into his role much more quickly.

Yet, it does feel like a club that admits few new members during each adminstration.   You wonder if these folks sit on the sidelines during an oppositions administration, knowing that with their party’s win, they will be back in their ‘career’ role.  Doesn’t it feel like the Blues Brother’s movie?  “Hey, we’re putting the BAND back together.”