Over the summer, 60 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating they “simply cannot vote for” any health care legislation lacking a robust public health insurance option. Since 218 votes are needed for a majority in the House of Representatives, and since nearly all of the 177 House Republicans are certain to vote against any health care reform, this is effectively a threat from some of the more left-wing members of Congress to defeat President Obama’s push for health care reform.
And yet, this threat to defeat President Obama’s health care legislation actually makes these 60 House Progressives the strongest supporters of President Obama’s push for health care reform. To understand why, consider an anecdote from President Clinton’s first year in office.
The 1993 budget battle was perhaps the most bitter and protracted political fight of President Clinton’s first year. The budget passed by one vote in both the House and Senate, with no Republican support in either case.
A friend just brought National Affairs magazine to my attention, with the guileless query, “…let me know what you think.” What I think, sadly, is that there are a whole lot of educated people in this country who need to tune up their crap detectors.
Looking at the About page of the new magazine, I recognized some of the names, particularly that of Bill Kristol, a well-known promoter of conservative philosophy via The Weekly Standard and FOX News. Look up the bios of the editors, authors and publication committee, and you’ll find connections to National Review, Hudson Institute, Manhattan Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century, Pepperdine University, and other hotbeds of conservativism.
This commentary was contributed by Commonweal Institute Advisor Patrick O'Heffernan.
The liberal blogosphere has been buzzing about Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst at the President last night during Obama's address to a joint session. A diary on dailykos accuses Wilson of adopting "tea bagger tactics" and calls on “kossacks” to donate to the campaign of Rob Miller, his presumptive political opponent. The Huffington Post featured an unflattering photo of Wilson and the headline, "A Muzzle for Old Yeller", plus an analysis of his allegation.
Recently, President Obama honored slain LGBT rights activist Harvey Milk, by posthumously awarding him the Medal of Freedom. One of the keys to Milk’s political success was understanding issues of concern to the non-LGBT community. Like dog poop, for example.
Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory fund, wrote:
Do we really want government making decisions? I hear the same question repeated a number of different ways: “Do we really want government making decisions about our health care?” “Do we really want government deciding how banks should be run?” “Do we want government making decisions on whether drug companies can release new products?” “Do we want government telling businesses what they can and can’t do?”
The immediate, emotional reaction is, “Of course not!” But what happens when these questions are examined more closely?
Health care reform is in the news so let’s look at decision-making in health care first. Currently insurance companies make decisions about our health care – not government, not doctors, and certainly not us. They make these decisions based on whether a procedure or drug will be expensive. But “companies” don’t make decisions, people do – not to maximize benefits to the patient but for their own financial gain.
(This article also appeared at Commondreams.org)
We must address our food system if we want to reduce the increasing costs of health care. The health care reform debate can be divided into two major issues: increasing access and decreasing costs. On one hand, no reform is complete until we find a way to provide all Americans with adequate insurance coverage. But even after we insure all Americans, we must deal with rising medical costs that result from preventable illnesses.
The easy way to refer to health problems related to food is by pointing a finger at the obesity epidemic. Obesity directly bears the blame for 9% of all health care costs in the U.S. and the health care costs for the obese are rising faster than the costs of non-obese patients. However, blaming obesity is oversimplifying the problem: chronic, lifestyle-related illness can strike people of all sizes, fat or thin.
Republicans are winning the debate on health care reform right now because they’ve spent months telling Americans that Barack Obama is plotting a government takeover of health care that will kill your grandmother. To counter these lies, Democrats have spent a lot of time nervously insisting that they aren’t supporters of euthanasia.
From this perspective it’s easy to understand why, despite holding the White House and larger majorities in the House and Senate than the Republicans ever enjoyed in their heyday, the Democrats are getting creamed on what is supposed to be their signature issue. Simply put, the Republicans have run a smart campaign against health care reform by using consistent, hard-hitting messages that fit neatly into 30-second sound bites.
Peter Daou, highly influential blogger, netroots expert, and political consultant, recently published an insightful article with the Huffington Post on the political theory behind the health care debate. Daou discusses the theory of the Overton Window as a method of influence and control in the public debate on health care reform, one that is rather effectively swinging the debate from progressive to radical right. Daou extensively quotes the Commonweal Institute's very own Dave Johnson, and rightly so, as Johnson is highly versed on the mechanics of the Overton Window and its effects on debate and policy.
Across the Midwest, the stimulus package is encouraging very strange things: cities are using it to demolish capital instead of to build it.
The signs are everywhere if you know where to look. In the Polish Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, I’m pitching my tent in a vacant lot. Until a few months ago, an abandoned house stood in the space where I’ll be sleeping tonight. A journalist was squatting in this house, free of rent, much like artists who took over empty factories and abandoned houses in the 1990s. The landlord didn’t bother to evict her: times were hard and few tenants were available. The house was falling down, and the journalist was doing basic repairs and making sure that no one damaged the property. The agreement suited everyone. Valuable housing stock was maintained; meanwhile, a woman was able to keep a roof over her head.
Last year, however, the city seized the squat, which was $6,000 overdue in back taxes. Rather than leaving it standing, the city spent about $5,000 in federal funds to bulldoze the house. The vacant lot is not likely to be rebuilt anytime soon.
Monday, August 10, saw the start of a two-day summit in Mexico attended by "the Three Amigos": US President Barack Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They juggled a handful of international and intra-national challenges—from drug war to economy to climate change—meeting for only one evening and half of the next day.
At the heart of the discussion rests, not so comfortably, an opportunity to flesh out a more progressive view of the US and her relationship with the Americas. The current – but out-dated–border-centric, fearful paradigms do not foster a healthy citizenry, but instead increasingly introduce violence and distress into society, against its natural tendencies.