Posts tagged with 'blue dogs'
By Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger
The economy is still getting worse. Foreclosures are surging above last year’s epic highs and the unemployment rate marches upwards every month. As the misery grinds on, Wall Street lobbyists and their allies in Congress are pushing hard to distract the public from the real causes of the current global economic crisis. Corporate America is trying to pin the blame for our empty pocketbooks on President Barack Obama and the phantom socialist menace, and cable news pundits are taking the bait. (more…)
By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger
Reports of the death of the public option were greatly exaggerated. According to Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly, liberals are once again optimistic that health care reform will include a publicly-run insurance option to compete with private insurance companies. The main excuse to drop the public option was that Republicans wouldn’t go for it. As Benen explains, now that a bipartisan bill is out of reach, Democrats can move further to the left. Progressive Democrats have convincingly argued that the public option would save money, which undermines the Blue Dogs’ opposition for the sake of fiscal conservatism.
The Senate Finance Committee will tackle the public option tomorrow. Meanwhile, the House Democratic caucus is wrestling over what kind of public option to support. Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly rejected a so-called “trigger” which would activate a public option only if private insurers failed to control costs. “A trigger is an excuse for not doing anything,” she said. By contrast, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports a trigger. The views of the Speaker and the Majority Leader are important because they will lead negotiations to merge the House and Senate versions of the bill, creating the final text that both houses will vote on.
Meanwhile, in international news, scholars at the London School of Economics released new research last week showing that reproductive choice is the most powerful tool in the fight against climate change. The news broke as nearly a hundred heads of state gathered in New York for the UN Summit on Climate Change. As Amanda Marcotte notes in RH Reality Check, the report’s recommendations are sure to spark controversy from both the right and the left:
It’s easy enough to assume that the Obama administration and the Sierra Club are shying away from the issue because reproductive rights are such an explosive topic, and even touching it brings a hail of crazy from the anti-sex nuts down on your head. … But I can honestly say that I don’t think it’s the fear of the Anti-Sex Mafia that causes this sort of allergy. It’s the history of the fear of overpopulation being used as an excuse to coerce childbirth choices, and the fact that as soon as the potential for coercion is introduced, you suddenly attract a sea of racists who love to pontificate about eugenics all day, and would love to be able to influence policy to reduce the number of non-white people in relation to the number of white people.
At Feministing, Ann Friedman argues that the rubric of population control is irrevocably tainted by its historical links to eugenics and other forms of racism. She argues that international development should focus on empowering women for their own sake, not because we hope that they will have fewer babies.
I agree that the phrase “population control” is a misleading frame. You could just as easily call it “helping women have as many children as they want.” The key is that virtually all women want fewer children than they will bear if nature takes its course. And the more opportunities women have for education, paid work, and healthy children, the fewer kids they tend to want. The phrase “population control” should be scrapped, but the effort to put women in charge of their own fertility must continue, for the good of humanity and the planet.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.
By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger
Will healthcare reform include a public health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance? President Obama campaigned on the promise of a public option, but over the past week he and his top advisers have repeatedly signaled that they aren’t willing to fight for it.
On Saturday, Obama told a town hall meeting in Colorado: “Whether we have it or we don’t have it, [the public option] is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.”
“I don’t understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo,” an unnamed senior White House official gripes in this morning’s Washington Post.
The White House is sorely mistaken if it thinks that the public option belongs in the “nice but not necessary” category. Josh Holland of AlterNet explains why the public option is the pillar of healthcare reform. Without it, there’s little hope of containing costs or reigning in the power of insurance companies:
It may be just one “aspect” of health reform, but without it, the legislation promises to be a massive rip-off; a taxpayer give-away of hundreds of billions of dollars to an unreformed ‘disease care’ industry.
The industry would get millions of new customers thanks to generous government subsidies and a law requiring that (almost) everyone carry insurance. And that windfall would come without the structural changes needed to bend the medical “cost curve” in years to come — without any provisions that might endanger the industry’s bottom line.
In Salon, Robert Reich agrees. Competition between private insurance companies and the public option is the only hope to controlling costs. A public plan could bargain with providers to reduce costs and pass the savings on to taxpayers. The private insurance industry would have to slash its prices to compete.
Without a public option, “reform” would likely involve subsidies to private insurance companies, temporarily dulling the pain as premiums rise unchecked. That’s the worst of both worlds.
Progressives shouldn’t be surprised at the White House’s noncommittal stance, though. Obama campaigned on a public option, but he has always framed it a darned good idea, not as a non-negotiable demand.
Why is it so difficult to get a healthcare bill through the Senate with the supposedly filibuster-proof majority? The simple answer is that the Dems need 100% of their delegation to cooperate in order to break a filibuster. So, the Democrats have 60 seats in the Senate but no way to advance their agenda without capitulating to the conservative Blue Dogs. The Republicans can be counted on to filibuster whatever the Democrats come up with. Which means that conservative Democrats like Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) hold the balance of power.
As Ari Berman of The Nation explains, Baucus and his Republican counterpart Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also rule over the powerful and conservative Senate Finance Committee, which has been tasked with writing the Senate version of the healthcare bill.
Also in The Nation, Tom Geoghegan argues that it’s time to break the stranglehold by abolishing the procedural filibuster. Unlimited debate in the Senate is enshrined in the constitution. In an old school filibuster, senators simply refuse to shut up until the session ends and the bill dies without a vote. In 1975, a group of liberals wrote a rule of Senate procedure that effectively allows senators to “filibuster” simply by saying they want to. In the old days, a filibuster was a grueling public ordeal. Senators slept on cots and spelled each other off. Today, “filibustering” means signing a form. It’s private, easy and cost-free. The Republicans can, and will, filibuster all major Democratic legislation without having to stand in public and risk being branded as obstructionists.
As a result, 60 is the new 50 in the Senate. Since it’s just a rule, the procedural filibuster could be abolished by a simple majority vote. Friends of the filibuster defend it as a bulwark against tyranny. Abolishing the procedural filibuster would discourage frivolous obstructionism, but keep the old school filibuster for cases when legislators actually care enough to lose sleep over it.
Ever wonder why the strongest public option, single-payer, was never on the table? Maybe because even the strongest proponents of the public plan are taking money from the insurance and biomedical industries. Mother Jones Rachel Morris wants to know why UNITEDHealth consultant Tom Daschle was on Meet the Press Sunday. A former Democratic senator, Daschle is a senior adviser to Obama on healthcare reform and a leading advocate of a public plan. However, he recently resumed a private consulting arrangement with UNITEDHealth, America’s largest health insurer. Even public plan champion Howard Dean is a strategic adviser on healthcare policy to the lobby firm of McKenna, Long, and Aldridge. Dean won’t disclose his clients, but McKenna represents a number of clients in the biomedical and health science industries.
The prospects of a public option are dimming, but not necessarily because of any rapid about-face by the White House. The Senate bill is in the hands of the Blue Dogs, who say they won’t have legislation until November. Obama won’t put the screws to the Blue Dogs, but there’s still plenty of time to for citizens to make their voices heard.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about healthcare and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.