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Sunday Links

Here are some good things I read, though the goodness of all things, even enormous amounts of beautiful snow, is severely diminished by the Saints losing to They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

I understand the importance of passing this bill. I also still feel it is a bad bill, not just in what isn’t there, but what is actively there. Yes, I think there are people criticizing it because of their frustration with nearly every aspect of our political situation and the crises facing us, and they are taking some of that anger out on this bill. I think that attacking that frustration as naive, futile, and unrealistic is an elitist, technocratic way of dismissing legitimate concerns. I think there are also people criticizing this bill because they have looked at it for a long time and they find this bill does some specifically harmful things. They are not angry with the bill because they are frustrated with the President or the disdain shown to progressives: they are angry with the bill because they sincerely think it is a bad bill. And they make a real case for that point of view.

As for myself, I don’t really know. The things I don’t like about it bother me immensely, and all the discussion of subsidies and political realities and reducing the deficit… it sounds fine and mature, but what sounds like a reasonable attempt to compromise and get something, anything, might not necessarily translate to that other reality: people’s lives. Millions of people who aren’t wonks or technocrats, who get their news from chatting with their neighbors and form their opinions based upon how well the ideas of the elites function on the ground… they might be hit pretty hard by this. That being said, maybe all the defenses of this bill are accurate. Perhaps it is the right thing to do, even if it’s not the best thing, and perhaps some significant good will come out of it.  I can’t be sure.

That being said, now, here was an excellent post by Digby that once again presented a very rational explanation of why some of us feel this bill has major flaws and might do more harm than good:

On the practical political level, I think that rather than being thrilled they are “getting health care” many uninsured people are going to be very disappointed to find that the “benefit” is that they are going to be required to buy something — especially from companies they don’t like or trust. And even if they get subsidies, it’s still going to be expensive by the standards of people who make between 30 and 60k a year. Suddenly requiring healthy people to come up with a few hundred dollars a month to pay Aetna isn’t really mitigated by the argument that it would have been more before the reforms. I realize that’s how mandates work but I don’t think people are being adequately prepared for that reality…

“As for the internecine politics, there were numerous graceful concessions from the left from the beginning on health care that were not exactly easy to make, from single payer to the abortion language to immigrants. But it was the late dangling of a swap on the long held dream of a medicare buy-in, getting liberals to sign on and then allowing the loathed Lieberman, of all people, to capriciously snatch it away that was the real gut punch. And admonishing them to “get with the program” within minutes of that outrage while Lieberman preened that the president thanked him was gratuitous. Lucy and the football is an overused metaphor, but this was a classic. You’d have to be soulless not to be angry about that.”

Then Ian Welsh had a link to this, which I appreciated very much:

I’m struck, in reading the support for the disastrous Senate “health” “care” bill, how much it depends on the idea than an improvement on the average level of US health care is acceptable, even though it means that huge numbers of people will be ruined, and some will die. And I think I’m starting to see a pattern: among liberals the academics and the people with secure jobs support it (even Krugman, sigh), and the people like Ian Welsh who’ve actually been poor, or who know people who’ve been poor, oppose it. It’s easy, when dealing with numbers, to forget that each click on the counter signifies a whole life: hopes and fears and dreams. I want us to remember.

Finally, while I refuse to let myself even pretend to hope that the public option could return, I think this is pretty interesting nonetheless. I wouldn’t have dreamed that I could say this a month ago, but at this point I too would rather have Stupak and a public option instead of what we currently have:

Abortion rights can’t be considered outside of the larger framework of health care, economic issues, and women’s overall needs.  And women need affordable health care, not just affordable abortions.  We need both, of course.  But your average woman has a lot more and more expensive health care needs than abortion, and we can’t forget that moving forward.

So after a long week of being bummed about healthcare, Copenhagen, rising unemployment, and the Saints losing, I am now going to watch football all day. The Redskins don’t play till tomorrow and the Saints game is over, so now there is just the happy bliss of watching people frantically charge into one another amid drifts of snow on the sidelines.

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The Man I Love

Bernie Sanders. That name… the bells I hear in my heart when he speaks, it’s like love…

This Old Heart of Mine, How it Swoons...

Or more like, the bells are actually like an enormous battle, all sorts of conflicting feelings smashing against one another, since I’m half in such utter agreement I’m floating, and half in such a mad rage about his truths that I’m looking for Aragorn’s sword.

This darling man introduced a 767-page amendment today to the healthcare bill which would (ha!) have created a single-payer option. Of course, all elected Republicans are just horrible, horrible people, and they did everything they could to block a discussion of the bill. My Man Bernie got righteously pissed off, and stood up to take the floor, where he lit into those assholes. It. was. awesome.

“Everybody in this country understands that our nation faces a significant number of major crises, whether it’s the disintegration of our health care system, The fact that 17 percent of our people are unemployed or underemployed, one out of four of our children are living on food stamps, we’ve got two wars, we’ve got global warming, we have a $12 trillion national debt, and the best the Republicans can do is try to bring the United States government to a halt by forcing a reading of a 700 page amendment.  That is an outrage.  People can have honest disagreements, but in this moment of crisis it is wrong to bring the United States government to a halt.”

Bernie. Bernie!! I love you. Thank you for being you. I sincerely regret Dan Snyder ruined Progressive 1260 in DC so I can no longer listen to the Thom Hartmann program, and most especially, to the Friday Lunch with Bernie. I miss you, buddy.

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Howard Dean: I LOVE YOU.

Howard Dean is trouncing Chris Matthews all over the place and I LOVE IT. Here is a summary (things in quotes were actually said. The rest is Me, and I think it’s pretty accurate!)

Chris Matthews: blah blah blah I am very silly blah blah blah

Howard Dean: facts and details and points

Chris Matthews: blah blah Joe Lieberman is the problem with everything and I am a genius!

Howard Dean: No, you are not a genius. You are wrong. The problem is much bigger than Joe Lieberman.

Chris Matthews: No, shut up, let me interrupt you, I’m not listening, I’m not listening. Joe Lieberman! Why are you afraid of Joe Lieberman?!

Howard Dean: No, the problem is “Democrats aren’t tough enough”.

Hell yeah, Howard Dean. Joe Liebermans arise because reconciliation isn’t used, because the White House pressures Harry Reid to listen to Joe, and because Senators like Landrieu (who are corporate, incompotent jokes) control and obstruct the public will. You can say all you want that “Democrats are tough enough,” but that’s not true. Some of them are awesome and excellent, but they’re hindered at every point by people like Joe and Landrieu and Nelson and Lincoln and Bayh. You guys are fools who don’t listen, who are so busy enjoying your own voices and power that you’ll shit all over people who are able to sit still and listen and learn something. It’s not a “different view”, it’s the difference between “right” and “wrong”. Also, being a Senator, as Chris Matthews grossly implied, does not make one a fucking genius in terms of policy. It doesn’t mean they know what’s best. Arrrrghhhh! Chris Matthews, you need to stop talking over people and try listening as if you weren’t the Supreme Media Lord of MSNBC Who Knows What is Best For Everyone, Ever. Because, maybe, you don’t.

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Howard Dean was on Olbermann tonight (with Lawrence O’Donnell, whom I adore), and he spoke quite clearly about why this health care bill is not reform and it’s time to start over. Not give up or walk away, remember, but start over. He said that this health care bill is “a terrible disappointment,” and he reminded us (as Rachel Maddow eloquently did herself just a little while later) that this bill basically gives the insurance companies 30 to 40 million new customers without providing any public alternative, and it neglects the damage that will be done to the self-employed who will see their rates sky-rocket. It’s all well and nice to speak about being a “pragmatist” if you are not the one who is going to have to cut back your money for food.

There are a lot of things about this bill that are discouraging, and it’s not just the loss of any sort of public option. I first heard the idea of mandating insurance, i.e. forcing people who can’t afford coverage to buy it anyway or pay enormous fines to be shocking. It happened in one of the numerous Democratic primary debates in 2007 (gosh, I don’t miss those at all), somewhere between Kucinich whipping out his constitution and Mike Gravel ranting from his corner. Edwards and Clinton turned on Obama and were saying all this, and I looked up and went “really? what the fuck is all this about? that has to be one of the more outrageously disgusting things I’ve ever heard.” And, hey, look! It’s in the bill!

Which is why I love this post at Digby, specifically the second half of it which deserves to be quoted in full:

If this is the only chance for reform in generations, wouldn’t it have made more sense to fight for a truly comprehensive bill that actually solved the problem? If you’ve only got one bite of the apple every couple of decades, it seems remarkably foolish not to really go for broke. To end up with a bill like this as your once in a generation liberal accomplishment is about as inspiring as a Bobby Jindal speech.

And Obama can say that you’re getting a lot, but also saying that it “covers everyone,” as if there’s a big new benefit is a big stretch. Nothing will have changed on that count except changing the law to force people to buy private insurance if they don’t get it from their employer. I guess you can call that progressive, but that doesn’t make it so. In fact, mandating that all people pay money to a private interest isn’t even conservative, free market or otherwise. It’s some kind of weird corporatism that’s very hard to square with the common good philosophy that Democrats supposedly espouse.

Nobody’s “getting covered” here. After all, people are already “free” to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won’t make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn’t or didn’t want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people’s money against their will, saying it’s for their own good. — and doing it without even the cover that FDR wisely insisted upon with social security, by having it withdrawn from paychecks. People don’t miss the money as much when they never see it.

And as for the idea that insurance reforms are a huge progressive victory that can only be accomplished once in a generation, well that’s a pretty sad comment on our country — and progressivism.

What this huge electoral mandate and congressional majority have gotten us, then, is basically a deal with the insurance industry to accept 30 million coerced customers in exchange for ending their practice of failing to cover their customers when they get sick — unless they go beyond a “reasonable cap,” of course. (And profits go up!) If that’s the best we can expect of progressivism for the next generation then I’m afraid we are in deep trouble.”

I really understand people who are annoyed at polls showing some Democrats are going to want to stay home in 2010. Of course, that’s beyond frustrating, it’s a nightmare. In a two-party system like ours, it just means the Republicans will be rewarded with seats for having obstructed the will of the majority, for having ignored the wants and needs of the people. It’s terrible. Then “far-left” people who are very dissatisfied with the Democratic party in general are latched on as the reason that this might have happened (because remember, it’s not 2010 yet!).

I don’t know, I don’t think that sounds right. Chris Hedges, whom I also adore, wrote a, well, ahem, passionate article about how liberals are, eh, useless. It’s a bit of a… righteous bit of work. But then a lot of criticism that flew at him was also very righteous. I think it, too, lacked perspective. The Democratic Party has massively failed its base over the past few decades. It moved steadily to the right. Let’s not forget that President Reagan had to deal with Democrats in Congress and the Senate. The accusation that a good many Democrats operating on the national level are corporate lackeys isn’t exactly … untrue. Blaming people who are frustrated about this, blaming Nader (and of course, to an extent, Nader played a role in the 2000 debacle; but this neglects the role of the far-right neocons who showed up to stop the recount) is probably the least helpful thing to do.

The point is that people, that voters, millions of them, are fed-up and pissed off. They’re not all tea-baggers, and they’re not stupid. A lot of them just don’t have the luxury of blogging or reading online news articles for hours a day. Blaming dissatisfied people on the left simply isn’t helpful. The point of fact is that millions of people are sitting at home getting letters from Blue Cross that their insurance premium is going to be raised yet again, and they are angry. They see a deal which could be a lot stronger, and it’s not. Maybe it’s because the Republicans are obstructionists. Maybe it’s because the moderate Democrats are self-satisfied egomaniacs who think they’ve been elected president. Maybe it’s because the White House has been vague enough in its messages (and if Rahm Emanuel did pressure Harry Reid, well, that’s gross). But I’m not going to tell them they shouldn’t be angry. I’m not going to say they should think Obama is their only chance for progressive reform. Because when those 30 million people without insurance, most of whom can’t afford it, people who choose to pay their rent and skip their medical bill, are forced to get insurance, they certainly are going to be enraged. And personally, I think they will be absolutely and entirely right to feel that way.

Amanda Marcotte wrote a very good response to the notion that Obama’s critics on the left are not the issue; the lack of progress is the issue (she probably would have phrased that much more diplomatically, but I’m summarizing here and so I shall take liberties). She had multiple excellent points, but the best part was how she really attempted to sort of give a voice to people who don’t have much of one in debates like this. For example:

Sure, it seems crazy to suggest that voting is too much work to be bothered if you perceive both parties as being wholly owned by corporate America, but that’s easy for those of us who have flexible schedules and are looking for an excuse to get out and about once in a while to say.  The same people who have the most immediate need for a public option or a Medicare buy-in are probably the people who don’t have the sort of high-esteem jobs where they can tell their boss they’re going to duck out to vote.  As long as voting remains a one-day affair put in the middle of the week, the “voting’s easy!” thing needs to be dialed way back.”

Another point I really agreed with was the fact that the people who voted for Obama aren’t really so interested in bipartisanship:

I don’t want to let him 100% off the hook for this debacle of health care reform, for two major reasons.  One, it was Obama who insisted on making this entire thing “bipartisan”, which any fool could see what going to be an epic failure.  What that goal did was not get any Republican votes, but it meant that Democrats came to the table with an already-compromised bill and a mindset to keep compromising, to get a single Republican vote and get that precious bipartisanship medal that counts for nothing in the real world.  Voters are more interested in whether or not their health care improves, not whether or not there’s an R in the yay votes.  If nothing else, the goal of bipartisanship meant that more time was spent on this bill than should have been, and gave opponents time to gather momentum.”

Truth be told, as a dedicated Democrat, I do realize there are millions of people who don’t give a shit about either party. They want change. Real change. The media pundits may value bipartisanship, and I think it would be a mighty nice idea myself if by ‘bipartisanship’ we meant ‘bipartisan’: as in, Republicans stop being hate-mongers and liars and actually try to further the public debate. So, though those so-called millions of people who might stay home in 2010 haven’t done so, if they were to, I don’t think it would be because the far left was too critical or something. I think it would be because millions of middle-class and working-class people are being robbed, and they’ve decided they’re sick of it. As my lovely grandfather once said when discussing New Jersey politics, campaigns are “an opportunity to give another guy a chance to do some looting and stealing for a while.”

The Democratic party has the chance to prove that idea wrong, but if they pass a bill which forces millions of Americans to pay money they don’t have (because otherwise they would fucking have insurance) to insurance company executives, I truly would not be surprised if they just decide to skip it and not give up one of their precious few vacation days to go vote for someone else to rob him/her.

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I’d really like to feel good about healthcare reform right now. I should find it easier than I do, since there are a number of liberal pundits and bloggers out there eager to tell me to calm down and acknowledge that this is a great start. I think their intentions are entirely innocent and good. They really do think it is a good start, that it’s better than nothing. But I remain skeptical.

For starters, I think it’s difficult for some of these well-meaning people to accept the possibility that they have been soundly and terribly defeated. For months I’ve read articles and posts as things have gotten steadily worse and worse: “Okay, it’s a weak public option, but there’s no trigger, folks! There’s no trigger!” Then it was “There’s no public option, it’s terrible, but hey look at this…” Then it was “Hey, the public option is back! It’s great!” Then, “Hey, there’s no public option, but there’s a trigger! Oops, it’s hard to pull and we’ll have to ditch it for Lieberman, but forget about all that. Health care reform is being passed!” I think some of these voices have spent so many years being in the midst of this fight that they can’t realize that something they’ve so passionately attached themselves to has been turned into meaningless reform-in-name-only.

This part I more strongly resent: the idea that I don’t understand that this really is reform and I just haven’t spent enough time on the details. I’m a smart enough girl, and I know our government and corporations are run by technocrats. But it’s disappointing to see advocates of reform telling me I don’t get it. Noam Chomsky is one of my favorite examples of a brilliant man who is pretty accessible. You can talk about difficult, complex things and make them understandable. And, regardless, at the end of the day, it’s the general population, free of elitist language, who have held fast to the public option. It’s our pundits and others who have used elitist language to cloak their disappointment and declare we should just accept all this.

Finally, I’m surprised and embittered to see people touting the idea of opening up Medicare to people 55 and up. I was flipping through the Washington Post yesterday in a mechanic’s waiting room, and there it was: “People as young as 55”. Whoa. 55 is young? Lie to yourselves much? Really, after over 40 years since Medicare was passed and life expectancy has soared up, the fact that we’re opening up Medicare to people “55 young” is shocking. It should have been obvious years ago. But it really riles me that I’m supposed to think of that as a victory. I don’t want to pit generation against generation, but there’s something gross about this. My grandparents were able to have their first child when my grandma was 17. They had to work hard, but they could afford it. My father had me when he was 26. Me? I’m 26 today, and I couldn’t even think about having a kid. I’m a fucking nanny. I pay for my own health insurance, and it doesn’t cover a thing. My last job didn’t provide health insurance.

But it’s not just me. It’s all my friends. Some are getting their masters, and they’re tens of thousands of dollars in debt. There are thirty-year olds who are just living at home with their parents. And it’s not just them. I know people, practically kids, who are going to join the army so they have insurance. I often chat with the lady who comes to clean my employer’s house. She works from 8 am to 7 pm cleaning houses. Sometimes she works a night job as a janitor. She has two children. Her oldest son is nearly illiterate, and she’s afraid he’s going to join a gang. Her husband works three jobs. She is not in great health (I mean, cleaning ladies can’t afford normal decent food, so they get sick eating the processed subsidized shit which passes for food) and though nothing major has gone wrong their health care expenses are huge (cleaning ladies don’t get nice employer-based healthcare!) and they can’t afford a house so they pay rent on a place which is not even their own. She’s in her early 40s. How is opening up Medicare going to help her? How is it going to help the poor, the people trying to raise families? How is it going to help people my age, who’d like to have a family at some point, and who hate the idea that we have to wait till we’re 40 and enough of the baby-boomers have retired so people can get promoted? How it will help those of us who will be paying off student loans till we’re 50, then our childrens, and then, hey, maybe we can buy into Medicare?

Thanks. Great reform. This country is so far from valuing “the pursuit of happiness” and its ideals it’s sick.

Also, don’t get me started on mandates. Mandates! Punish the poor more, you bastards.

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