The "dirty dozen" Democrats who blocked Dick Durbin's bankruptcy "cramdown" legislation will, no doubt, rear their ugly heads again when healthcare reform comes up for debate in the Senate. Chief among the bad guys, besides Benedict Arlen Specter, who let's face it, can't be counted on by either party, is Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, who not only has no use for homeowners when he can get so much money from big banks, he also has no interest in reforming healthcare if it involves the option of a public plan. Per ThinkProgress:
Nelson’s problem, he told CQ, is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. “At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game,” Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a “deal breaker.”
Why so hard hearted, Ben? Could it be that your biggest contributors include insurance companies? Per OpenSecrets.org, we find that over the years, Nelson's campaign kitty has been significantly fattened by the industries he's protecting now:
Nelson, who was first elected in 2000, raised more money for his 2006 re-election campaign than he ever has, before or since, and he out-fundraised the average Senate member two-to-one:
When you buy Ben Nelson, apparently you get what you pay for. Other potential Democratic opponents to real healthcare reform have similar fundraising profiles. Max Baucus of Montana is also heavy on insurance and financial services companies, and his top five industry contributors include insurance, financial services, health professionals and pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly, he too opposes a public plan that would compete with private insurers. And whither Evan Bayh, for whom insurers are only number five on his Big Industries list...
As Arlen Specter makes the case for his own defeat
in the Democratic primary. Today, on "Meet the Press," a feisty Benedict Arlen stated his case firmly: he is not now, nor has he ever been, a loyal Democrat. Oh, and he absolutely, positively will NOT support a public/single payer health care plan, or, as we already know, the Employee Free Choice Act. Watch:
All I can say is, "Go Sestak!" And as for Harry Reid: you've been suckered again. And your constituents, both at home in Nevada and in the Democratic caucus, deserve to know: just what did you get in exchange for Specter's disloyalty, other than the humiliation of already having promised him a gavel?
Every so often, Chris Matthews gets Philly with it. Like today, for instance, when during the 5 p.m. iteration of "Hardball," in an interview with Howard Dean, Chris expressed his frustration with America's inability to get universal healthcare done.
CHRIS: We haven’t been able to do this in good times, we haven’t been able to do this, Republican, Democrats... we’ve been dickin' around about this thing for years, decades no. It’s just not gotten solved. Why do you think we can solve it during the worst economic crisis since the 30s?
DEAN: Because it’s the worst economic times since the 30s. people finally get this. The business community really has been in trouble for years because of this particular issue and finally they just can’t afford it anymore. Because we’re in tough ec times, a large number of middle class people are losing their health insurance or know somebody who’s losing their health insurance. ...
Oh, Chris also endorsed HoDo for HHS secretary on the show. Nice.
UPDATE: MSNBC scrubbed the audio for the 7 p.m. version (and they'll probably do the same with the transcript.) But this is Chris at his best, truly keeping it real. Enjoy the original, real muthaf**n South Philly version here:
The New York Times recounts just one of the myriad ways the Israeli attack on Gaza has made things worse in the region. This time: the victims are Palestinian patients, whom their government are now refusing to fund into the care of Israeli hospitals.
With Tom Daschle out as HHS chief, it's going to be tough to find someone with his unique skill set (knowledge of healthcare plight plus knowledge of buried bodies on the Hill...) Rumor has it Team Obama may be considering bringing back yet another Clinton administration figure: University of Miami President Donna Shalala. She surely deserves to be on the short list, and UM is a premier medical educational institution. Apparently, HoDo and B.O. are not tight, to say the least, so there will likely be no Dean scream in the Health and Human Services department, which might not be so bad, since I'm not sure how effective Dean would be at wrangling the Hill. Still, liberals would love to have him.
The bigger problem, however, will be replacing Daschle's potential Cap Hill mojo. As TIME's Karen Tumulty puts it:
it is probably more important to watch what happens with the second job that Daschle had been slated to hold — that of head of a new White House Office of Health Reform. Thus far, Administration officials have not been willing to say if that White House job will even exist in the wake of Daschle's decision to end his bid for health secretary amid reports that he had failed to pay $128,000 of income taxes on time. But that White House office was where Daschle's expertise and clout would have mattered the most. While his former deputy Jeanne Lambrew is widely respected for her policy knowledge, no one still there has Daschle's savvy and connections for shepherding legislation through the Senate, where the likes of Ted Kennedy and Max Baucus have their own strongly held notions of what reform should look like. His stature and close relationship with Obama also would have helped fight the impulses of some in the Administration — including chief economic adviser Larry Summers — to delay the push for health reform until after the economy gets fixed.
(CNN Analysis) ... Some 74% of companies said that eliminating the tax exclusion would have a "strong negative impact on their workforce," according to a September survey by the American Benefits Council.
Estimates vary, but the Tax Policy Center estimates that 20 million people would lose their employer-based coverage by 2018. Roughly the same number would gain insurance through other means. But, overall, McCain's plan would do little to reduce the number of uninsured.
Also of concern, experts say, is the fact that the $5,000 tax credit would be indexed to inflation. As a result, it would not keep up with the swiftly rising cost of health care, which was soaring as much as 13% a year in the middle of this decade.
McCain advisers counter these concerns. Changing the tax treatment wouldn't hurt the employer-sponsored system and would allow more of the uninsured to buy their own coverage, they say. Also, his advisers say a McCain administration would keep an eye on the credit to make sure it didn't lag behind the cost of coverage, while also working to lower the rate of medical inflation.
Younger, healthier workers likely wouldn't abandon their company-sponsored plans, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain's senior economic policy adviser.
"Why would they leave?" said Holtz-Eakin. "What they are getting from their employer is way better than what they could get with the credit."
Was that in the talking points???
Well, at least he's being honest, because if McCain healthcare were to ever become law, most Americans would be screwed.
My article about Barack Obama's healthcare plan and how it could impact African-Americans is up and running. And now for a highly intellectual response courtesy of somebody called NorthernDog at Lucianne.com, who said this to me via email:
Rather than bling, KFC, IPods, and 200 dollar Jordans sneakers, why don't blacks buy their OWN health insurance instead of being parasites on the backs of everyone else? Just "axing". JCH
Isn't that brilliant? Read some of the winger commentary here, by people apparently too stupid to figure out that Obama's plan ISN'T JUST FOR BLACK PEOPLE ... (sigh. Are there any smart people over there on the right???) The original article can be found here.
The Obama campaign just finished a conference call for reporters to discuss the new ad, "Article," which hits John McCain on his love of deregulation, and his plan to do to healthcare what his and Phil Gramm's policies have already done to the financial markets. Watch the ad:
Ever since McCain's article from the September/October edition of Contingencies Magazine was first re-posted by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Friday, Democrats have been chomping at the bits to ram it down McCain's throat. After all, what better way to deflate the idea that the Republican nominee, after years of pursuing deregulatory policies, all the sudden was a champion of government oversight? Or, for that matter, what better way to drive home the notion that McCain would put one's health care - not to mention Social Security - at play in a clearly erratic market.
Here’s what McCain has to say about the wonders of market-based health reform:
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
So McCain, who now poses as the scourge of Wall Street, was praising financial deregulation like 10 seconds ago — and promising that if we marketize health care, it will perform as well as the financial industry!
The full McCain article is available as a PDF file here. The McCain response, according to one reporter on the call, is as follows:
The sharp decline in America's standing the in the world since the Bush administration came into power is bad enough, but a new study suggests that the real, and breathtaking, American decline after nearly eight years of Robber Baron era politics has been in our status as a developed nation. From the Guardian:
Despite spending $230m (£115m) an hour on healthcare, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed country. And while it has the second-highest income per head in the world, the United States ranks 42nd in terms of life expectancy.
These are some of the startling conclusions from a major new report which attempts to explain why the world's number-one economy has slipped to 12th place - from 2nd in 1990- in terms of human development.
It gets worse. According to the The American Human Development Report, which is funded by groups like Oxfam America and the Rockefeller Foundation, countries that are beating us in things like long life and infant mortality are doing it with far lower levels of government spending.
Japanese, for example, can expect to outlive Americans, on average, by more than four years. In fact, citizens of Israel, Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica, South Korea and every western European and Nordic country save one can expect to live longer than Americans.
More findings that will curl your hair:
The average Asian woman lives to be 89 years old, while the average African-American woman can expect to live until 76, a 13 year gap. For men, the gap between Asians and African-Americans is 14 years.
One in six Americans has no health coverage. That adds up to 47 million people.
The US ranks 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in terms of infants surviving to age one. "The US infant mortality rate is on a par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia and Poland. If the US could match top-ranked Sweden, about 20,000 more American babies a year would live to their first birthday."
"The US has a higher percentage of children living in poverty than any of the world's richest countries. In fact, the report shows that 15% of American children - 10.7 million - live in families with incomes of less than $1,500 per month."
14% of Americans (40 million people) - "lack the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks such as understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals."
American enrollment of three and four-year-olds in preschool is at 50%, while most of Europe, Canada, Japan and Russia are at 75%.
In terms of human deveopment, "some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living. For example, the state human development index shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind those in first-ranked Connecticut."
"The richest fifth of Americans earn on average $168,170 a year, almost 15 times the average of the lowest fifth, who make do with $11,352."
The U.S. is "far behind many other countries in the support given to working families, particularly in terms of family leave, sick leave and childcare" but first among the 30 richest countries in terms of the number of people in prison, both in absolute and percentage terms. The U.S. "has 5% of the world's people but 24% of its prisoners."
Word on the street (okay, word from Obama) is that Barack will be consulting with none other than Elizabeth Edwards on the issue of healthcare. From ABC News:
... At the first event on his "Change That Works for You" tour, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama was joined by John and Elizabeth Edwards, making known for the first time that he'll enlist Elizabeth Edwards' help in health care policy.
Thirty minutes into his speech, Obama interrupted his prepared remarks and pointed to the wife of his former Democratic rival to declare his intention of her role.
"I'm going to be partnering up with Elizabeth Edwards - we're going to be figuring all this out," Obama said when addressing his proposed reform to the health care system.
And as TPM's Election Central points out, Edwards famously said during the campaign that Obama's health plan wasn't her favorite. She's hugely popular with women, and would make a fantastic surrogate. Particularly since she's no Obamaniac: during the early stages of the campaign when her husband John was still in, Liz famously said that "we can't make John Black. We can't make him a woman," (ahem...) and she never did tell us who she supported, even after her husband endorsed Barack. (Though she did tell us that she liked Hillary's health plan better...) Clearly, Elizabeth can relate to skeptical Hillarettes everywhere.
On a serious note, both the Edwards' are terrific surrogates for Barack. They are an attractive family with a "real woman" (rather than plastic glam --- Cindy...) wife who has real-life health problems, and John has that southern drawl. These two could be Obama's MVPs on the campaign trail.
That could be the headline for the Democrats' election narrative this year and next, after the GOP president and his pesky little minions in Congress swatted down health coverage for millions of U.S. children last week. Bush's veto of the SCHIP expansion means that smokers won't have to worry about paying $0.61 more per pack for their carcinogens, but some 3.8 million kids between now and 2012 will have to go without health insurance. Funny that. Jon Stewart explains:
Here in Florida, the hunt for 15 Republican votes in the House to override Bush's veto is on and popping.
Healthcare veto could haunt GOP BY LESLEY CLARK President Bush's veto of a bill to expand a popular children's health program already is a focus for Democrats in Florida looking to score gains in the 2008 congressional election. Bush vetoed the measure this week, saying it wouldn't help the poorest kids and that it was a step toward nationalized healthcare.
But with Democrats, children's groups, unions and liberal advocates vowing to push for a veto override -- and vowing to run ads against Republicans who resist it -- the battle is likely to echo at the polls next November.
Already, activists have held rallies outside the Miami congressional offices of Republican Reps. Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, criticizing the two for supporting Bush. Former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, a Democrat who has been considering a run against Díaz-Balart, assailed the administration Friday on Spanish-language radio in Miami.
And a coalition of advocacy groups Friday announced plans for an advertising campaign they said will rival a 2005 effort that helped derail Bush's efforts to revamp Social Security. The coalition wants to persuade moderate House Republicans to support an override of Bush's veto.
''The theme is don't hitch your wagon to George Bush, hitch your wagon to the kids of America,'' said Alan Charney, program director of USAction, whose group is planning vigils and protests at congressional offices that will include children and little red wagons. ``We're going to create such a firestorm of passion and anger that these Republicans will have no choice but to switch.''
The efforts have done little, however, to persuade Díaz-Balart or Ros-Lehtinen, who said they support extending the popular program -- but not the current legislation.
''There's an overwhelming consensus in support of the children's health program in Congress, but we don't need these massive tax increases,'' Díaz-Balart said.
The override vote is scheduled for October 18. More on the Florida showdown to come:
The bill would have boosted funding by $35 billion over five years, to $60 billion, through steep tax increases on cigarettes and other tobacco products, including cigars.
It cleared the Senate with a veto-proof majority, but Democrats need 15 or 20 more votes in the House to override the veto. Eight House Democrats, including Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, voted against the measure, and advocates say they're working behind the scenes to persuade them to switch sides.
Castor, who represents an area with cigar manufacturers, said she thinks the legislation relies too heavily on tobacco taxes.
Díaz-Balart said the bill also does not provide insurance for the children of legal immigrants. Advocates on a conference call Friday said House leaders have suggested the issue will be revisited.
Said Raul Martinez: ``That's not an excuse when you have in Dade County more than 50,000 kids who would benefit. The president has made a mistake, and now the House members can correct the mistake.''
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican who has been criticized by editorial boards at some Florida newspapers for voting against the legislation, is championing his own proposal that would extend coverage by providing a tax credit to some families. Martinez is scheduled to host a healthcare forum Wednesday at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Should be a nice little get-together...
Oh, and here's the new ad produced by Families USA.
The 17-year-old uncle of the two toddlers who were videotaped smoking weed has tried to justify his actions by telling reporters in Texas that, well, that's just the way they do it in the hood. Folks just give their kids weed like white people serve their toddlers beer. Well, alrighty then! Meanwhile, he and the mom, Shattoria Russell's mother is bemoaning the fact that the boys, aged 2 and 5, were taken from the home and put in state custody. And the mom? Well, she says her younger brother shouldn't have to do "hard time" and that her children should be returned to her. She was asleep in the other room while her brother, Demetris McCoy, and his apparent robbery partner, 18-year-old Vanswan Polty passed the blunts around to her kids -- apparently, she had a toothache -- and a 16-year-old friend videotaped. Nice.
And speaking of a toothache, who'd have thought a 12-year-old boy could die of an abcessed tooth in the United States of America in 2007. Who indeed.
And what sets off a crazy astronaut? Love mail, man. love mail.
Hey, if it's Tuesday, it must be time for another stupid comment from Rush Limbaugh!
And the atrocities of the Japanese during World War II are illustrated in stark, chilling fashion, by some of the soldiers themselves.