Health Care – East and West

Vermont Governor Shumlin was on Diane Rehm on April 27 talking about the universal health care system bill he is going to sign into law. Cato Institute sent a talking head to spew disinformation on behalf of health care capitalism and insurance CEO salaries. To understand these folks you really have to watch Thank You for Smoking. Great movie.

Anyway, Vermont is storming ahead toward a single payer universal health care system that will pay on basis of healthy outcomes instead of fee for service. Managed care and managed cost? Well, we will have to wait and see, but it looks good to me.

Meanwhile, in Olympia, the Washington Governor and legislators don’t know how to close tax loopholes to generate revenue to keep the doors open, so Washington’s limited program Basic Health is on the chopping block along with all sorts of critical services.

If you want to lean on the legislators to close the loopholes, here are the bills in the Special Session currently underway. Passing these bills generates revenue and funds education and health care.

  • SB 5944 – Existing tax exemptions should be put to a vote of the people
  • SB 5945 – Modifies excise taxes and raises revenue
  • SB 5946 – Strengthen compliance measures for collection of excise taxes
  • SB 5947 – Eliminates certain non-essential tax exemptions

Call your legislators, or better yet, come to Olympia and mobilize under the dome. The class war is on, are you sitting on your hands?

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Tim DeChristopher Key Note at Power Shift

Mary at The Left Coaster is right about the methane hydrate feedback loop. Mary posted about that on Tuesday, April 26th if you are searching back.

I have been talking about methane release from thawing permafrost and icesheet melting for several years.   The release of methane is a deadly tipping point that we are approaching.

I got an email from Jack Zeiger in Olympia with a link to Tim DeChristopher’s speech at Power Shift.  I think Tim is also seeing the tipping points approaching and passed and concluding as I do that we are in for some rough times ahead. We still have the choice that no one can take away from us (thank you, Viktor Frankl) to choose how we seek meaning in our lives.

A couple of Frankl quotes for the day:

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

so thanks to Jack for sending the following:

So did you hear about the Power Shift conference that was going on in Washington, DC? Sounded pretty amazing. In addition to the bill McKibben speech below, make sure to check out Tim DeChristopher’s speech (Tim is the student who disrupted an auction of oil and gas drilling leases by posing as a bidder in 2008). Here’s his speech:

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You gotta choose your battles

How progressive should a group like Washington Liberals be?  If it’s too progressive — too anti-war, too hard on centrist Dems, too uncompromising, and too open to certain controversial views (such as Palestinian grievances) — then it risks alienating potential allies.  On the other hand, if it’s too conventional, fearful and meek, it’ll betray progressive values.

There are SO many injustices, and we can only do our little part — which makes it easier, in some sense:  ya can’t fight all injustices, you have to pick and choose.  On the other hand. it also means that you have to sacrifice certain issues, or at least de-emphasize them.

What I fear is that by refusing to be brave about my values I’m turning a blind eye to great injustices. I’m sure that many Republicans were upset with Pres. Bush’s policies but kept quiet for fear of aiding Democrats.    Now it’s we Democrats’ turn to either speak out against injustice or to pretend it’s not there.   The war in Afghanistan, for example, seems to me to be highly unjust and wasteful. So do many of Pres. Obama’s economic policies and staffing choices.  So does his treatment of Bradley Manning, and his decision to hide the truth about Bush era crimes from the American people.  He’s better than Bush and most Republicans, but that’s not saying much.  On a handful of issues, he has been exemplary (e.g., overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell).

The issue of Obama will divide Democrats for the next few years.  Can’t pretend it’s not a big problem.

Further below is a copy of an email from Pirate TV about their upcoming broadcast about the war in Afghanistan.  Every day I get lots of emails from various lefty groups, too many emails to read.  I need to pick and choose which ones I devote my time and energy to.     With so much injustice in the state, the nation and the world, you gotta choose your battles.

Malalai Joya: U.S. Out of Afghanistan Now!

Watch Pirate Television South End Edition on Puget Sound Access

PSA Channel 77 (For viewers in Renton, Burien, Kent, Auburn, Seatac, and Tukwila)

Producer: C.I. Hawkes                                Number 17
Wed. 4/27/11
at 8 p.m. PST                        Repeats: Friday 4/29/11 at 5 p.m. PST

Thanks to pressure that reversed a State Dept. refusal to grant her a visa for a three-week speaking tour, Malalai Joya was able to come to the Pacific NW anyway.  The Boston Globe reported that the refusal to grant her a visa had prompted “nationwide protests”, including one in Harvard Square Wednesday night, and support for Joya from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.

Joya is a vigorous opponent of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and advocates U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan . In February 2010, she said: “[My] country is occupied. Obama couldn’t care less about peace. What has he done in one year? By sending more soldiers, he is only spreading the war and the massacres that have fallen on the Afghan people, especially women; they risk returning the Taliban to power. His policies are dangerous, worse than Bush’s. It’s all a waste of blood and money for nothing.  Even if I have often looked death in the face, what I’m most afraid of for my people is silence, the victory of power over justice. We must not be abandoned in this fight. Foreigners have had eight years to make of this country a paradise and they have made it a field of ruins.”

This talk was recorded 4/5/11 at UW Tacoma.

Thanks to Peace Action

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We've Sacrificed Enough Already

In a nation and state where we operate under the rules of democracy, the blame for our budget woes belongs to “we the people”. Not “them”, “us”. We have to take the credit and the responsibility for the situation, and we have to be accountable to fix it. Everyone has their role in creating the situation, pulling and pushing in various directions. The Adam Smithian and Ayn Randian mentality that our Western Culture has says that the world is best when it is every person for themselves, trying to do things in their own best interest and such a great movement of “best interest” would lead us to fair markets and paradise. We can’t think like that and try to fight against it at the same time, and that’s what progressive/liberal activists have been doing.

I think Tim Eyman believes what he preaches. I’ve never really doubted that. I know he’s wrong, but that’s not saying he doesn’t think he is right. Right wingers have the same ideas and ideals. Voters are gullible, indeed. They are too often led like sheep to the slaughter, and don’t know exactly what is wrong or how to fix it until they hear a good idea. Increasing their taxes doesn’t sound like a good idea to them (baaaa), so they fight against the idea of raising any and all taxes. It’s hard to claim that everyone is “us” while saying we need to raise taxes on “them” (i.e. the rich). We all need to share in the sacrifice that makes our society possible. If we don’t ALL share in it, then it won’t be possible.

It’s not a good frame, in my opinion, to say that Democratic activists need to “pressure” our leaders. We need to lead the debate and push our ideas so that they become obvious.

Tax fairness means everyone shares the sacrifice in order to maintain and build our society. Most of us feel that sacrifice on a daily basis. I think we’ve Sacrificed Enough Already. It’s not just about taxes, it’s about our quality of life. It’s about the American Dream of being able to see our children grow up and succeed in a world with more opportunity than we had.

Rise the SEA Party, and let’s drown the right wing TEA party in their own tide.

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House Debate on The People's Budget

After about an hour searching around for information in the record about the people’s budget, I found the following:

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-hc34/amendments

Amendment number 3 to H CON RES 34 was introduced by Mr. Grijalva (D-AZ-07) at 9:41AM on April 15, 2011.  The House used a total of 30 minutes to debate the amendment, which was the People’s Budget.  You can learn more about the People’s Budget here on the Congressional Progressive Caucus website.

You can read the text of the debate here (PDF): http:/wa-demchairs.org/progressives/housedebateonpeoplesbudget.pdf

You can watch the video of the debate here: http://houselive.gov/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=5068

April 15, 2011 Roll call number 274 in the House
Question On Agreeing to the Amendment: Amendment 2 to H CON RES 34

Total House Rollcall: http://www.opencongress.org/vote/2011/h/274

Washington State Roll Call:

  1. Jay Inslee (WA-01) – Nay
  2. Rick Larsen (WA-02) – Nay
  3. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) – Nay
  4. Doc Hastings (WA-04) – Nay
  5. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) – Nay
  6. Norman Dicks (WA-06) – Nay
  7. James McDermott (WA-07) – Aye
  8. Dave Reichert (WA-08) – Abstain
  9. Adam Smith (WA-09) – Nay

Thank you to Jim McDermott for voting Aye!  The rest will need to explain Why.

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Inspire Seattle: whither progressives?

How can we meet basic community needs during difficult (if not desperate) economic and political times?

This was the question addressed at a meeting of Inspire Seattle on Saturday night, at the home of David and Shamah Gamrath in West Seattle.

During the first hour or so, people networked and ate the pot-lucked food. (It was an odd feeling to be networking in person, instead of online.) The next hour was spent on comments by the panelists in response to questions from the host, David. During the last half hour there was time for questions and answers from the audience.

The three panelists were:

  1. Julia Sterkovsky, Executive Director of the Seattle Human Services Coalition, a multi-racial, multi-cultural group of human service providers and concerned community members committed to helping Seattle-King County residents meet their basic human needs
  2. Richard Conlin, President of the Seattle City Council and founder of Sustainable Seattle.
  3. Eric Oemig, former Washington State Senator for the 45th district, who served from January 2007-2011. Eric has been called one of the most liberal senators. His defeat last November was due, in part, to funding by the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. Eric was also a founding member of Inspire Seattle.

Of the 40 or so attendees, there were maybe two or three people who appeared to be conservatives. Everyone else was progressive or apolitical.

BTW, the next meeting of Inspire Seattle will be on May 21, when the topic will be the Washington Investment Trust (state bank).

David began by asking: are we entering a stage in American history in which there is a new “normal” for what government is expected to provide? In other words, will we just have to make do with fewer  government services and a smaller safety net?

Article continued at http://waliberals.org/inspireseattle-whither-progressives/

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Hey, Road Killers, Defend the Constitution!

The Road Kill Caucus is a group of conservative Democratic Washington State legislators who regularly vote with Republicans to block progressive legislation, especially on bills involving fiscal matters and the BIAW.

Because of the recession and because of the passage of Tim Eyman’s regressive I-1053, which requires a 2/3 super-majority vote for legislators to raise taxes or eliminate tax exemptions, Washington State is in a dire situation, with multi-billion dollar deficits. Education and social services are being slashed. Yet the rich continue to get richer, and corporations and wealthy individuals enjoy all sorts of taxbreaks and subsidies. (If this is news to you, what rock have you been hiding under?)

Luckily, I-1053 is manifestly unconstitutional, since the State Constitution is clear that a majority of legislators can decide which bills become law and since the state constitution cannot be amended by initiative.

Here’s the immediate problem.

Governor Gregoire has asked the legislature to hold a special session, which will begin on Tuesday, April 26. One bill that will be considered is HB 2078, which would raise revenue by overturning certain taxbreaks for wealthy corporations.  In order for HB 2078 to become law, EITHER (1) 2/3 of representatives and senators will need to approve it (highly unlikely, since 17 senators would have a veto), or (2) the legislature can challenge the constitutionality of I-1053 by voting, via a 50% majority, to approve the bill, thereby inviting a court challenge which is likely to end up in our favor. See How our legislators can overturn I-1053.  And in order for 50% of legislators to agree, the likely opposition of the Road Kill Caucus will need to be overcome.

What’s needed is strong pressure from Democratic activists, advocacy groups, and the People to ask the Road Killers to defend the Constitution and stop helping Tim Eyman drown government in a bathtub.

According to Publicola,

The [Roadkill] group includes: Sens. Steve Hobbs, Brian Hatfield, Derek Kilmer, Chris Marr, Mary Margaret Haugen, and Paull Shin and Reps. Judy Clibborn, Deb Eddy, Chris Hurst, Kelli Linville [retired], Larry Seaquist, and Larry Springer.

Here is their facebook page.   Here are the official legislative webpages  of the Road Kill Caucus members. (Let me know if there are errors or additions.) Let’s all flood their phones and inboxes with messages.

Sen. Steve Hobbs (360) 786-7686 http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/hobbs/
Sen. Derek Kilmer (360) 786-7650 http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/kilmer/
Sen. Brian Hatfield (360) 786-7636 http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/hatfield
Sen. Mary Haugen (360) 786-7618 http://www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/haugen/
Sen. Paull Shin (425) 673-1393
http://www.leg.wa.gov/senate/senators/Pages/shin.aspx
Rep. Judy Clibborn (360) 786-7926 http://www.leg.wa.gov/house/representatives/Pages/clibborn.aspx
Rep. Christopher Hurst (360) 786-7866
http://www.leg.wa.gov/house/representatives/Pages/hurst.aspx
Rep. Deb Eddy (360) 786-7848 http://www.leg.wa.gov/house/representatives/Pages/eddy.aspx
Rep. Larry Seaquist (360) 786-7802
http://www.leg.wa.gov/house/representatives/Pages/seaquist.aspx
Rep. Larry Springer (360) 786-7822
http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Representatives/Pages/Springer.aspx

House Speaker Frank Chopp has a mixed record of supporting progressive causes.  Former 41st LD State Senator Brian Weinstein and former Rep. Brendan Williams have spoken critically of Chopp’s defense of BIAW.  However, I have heard Chopp speak, and from his speech and from what I have read, Chopp is a master of political compromise. I am optimistic that Chopp will support efforts to overturn I-1053.

Stay tuned for action plans.

Even if we don’t succeed our message must be heard!

When religious conservatives, DeLay Republicans, and Teanaggers  took over the GOP, there were ugly fights.  If necessary, that’s what will be needed to turn the Democratic Party into what it used to be in the glory days of FDR. This will require both long term strategic coalition building and education, as well as shorter term tactical moves to win over or defeat enemies of progressive values.

 

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Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Some thoughts on the apparently cyclical nature of human endeavor.  A hundred years ago some of our really brave grandmothers stood and fought for their rights.  Their efforts were not appreciated by the powerful men who controlled the economy and the nation.

Iron Jawed Angels if you are interested.

These women were successful and the right to vote was extended to women.  Breath-taking in it’s success, this movement did not dislodge or change the power structure of the US significantly.  The first two decades of the last century was an era of robber barons and wild speculation.  Anarchists, wobblies and other ne’er-do-wells were less successful with their campaigns against the ruling class.

The era of rampant speculation, deregulated economies (glass-steagall anyone?)  ended with the crash of Wall Street in 1929 and a long period of economic stagnation followed.  Sound familiar? Maybe it should sound familiar.

The country started to come out of the Great Depression with the Keynsian government policy embraced by FDR, but the push-back of the moneyed interests against the deficit spending slowed the recovery.  Luckily (!?) Germany came out of its economic depression post-Versailles World War I treaty and provided an opportunity to really ramp up the world economy by roaring through neighboring countries and launching World War II.

Those with an interest in history will remember the era of American superpower dominance in the 50s and 60s.  An era when steeply progressive tax rates and a regulated economy model produced prosperity, Medicare, LBJ’s War on Poverty and more.  The country was so far left back in those days that it was a Republican – Richard Nixon – who established the Environmental Protection Agency, signed the Clean Air Act.  Of course he did that good work a little later and in the shadow of carpet bombing countries who posed no danger to the US, but by that time a permanent war economy had established itself and needed Korea, Vietnam, Russia, China, and an endless chain of scary others that have included such lackluster characters as Manuel Noriega, Sandinista Daniel Ortega, Arbenz and whoever the threat was when we invaded Grenada in 1983. A lovely little war, that one.

We might have thought harder about how we were blowing through trust funds for Social Security and cooking the books to support war and the permanent war economy, but Ronald Reagan brought a new morning to the country with a plan to unleash the US economy by flattening tax rates and regulatory agencies.  Reagan certainly had an amiable persona, he eclipsed earlier american icons like FDR, Walter Cronkite and others who inspired trust and led us to a return of the era of robber barons.

We have burned through all of the speculative economic power that could be managed by flattening blue collar wages, by exporting industry to countries with cheaper labor and non-existent or unenforced environmental rules, by revolutionizing the Ozzie and Harriet model american family by forcing families to have Harriet find a job outside the home paying 59 cents of the dollar for that job done by a human with a pair of testicles.

The speculative economy has run its course.  We have blown through the illusion of wealth of the dot com economy, we have eroded the infrastructure of the country to pay for war and at the end of the day, it turns out that there are some limits to what can be gained by stimulating the economy with a tax cut approach.  That approach worked to a certain extent when JFK proposed it against the backdrop of a really steeply progressive tax rate, but now that we have flattened the tax rates so dramatically, it just produced deficits, cuts in services, and a return to the feudal model of America.

Some say, “We have to fix Social Security!”  I say, Hey, fix the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, then get back to me.

I hear we have we have to fix Medicare!  It is going to blow up the entire federal budget.   Give me a break.  You want to fix Medicare?  Start with a single payer system that rewards health care systems that produce healthy outcomes for human beings instead of treating illness as a profit opportunity.

We have entered an era of frank and open class war. Which side are you on?

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