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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Archive for October 2009

The Birthers and Beckers Triumph Over the GOP

In what may well come to be seen as the culmination of the death throes of the Reagan Republican party, the first echoing retort shot across the media today as the cracks in the GOP began to give way to calving chasms and massive bergs sheared off the weathered cliffs.  The ability of Michael (“No, really! I’m, like, hip to your happening shizang my home young gentlepersons!”) Steele and the GOP “leadership” (or is that “GOP” leadeship?) to maintain anything like coherency even among the reduced ranks of Republican membership is not only in retreat:

It’s in hiding.

In the special election in the 23rd Congressional District race, Dede Scozzafava – the Republican candidate – quit the race today after hearing that she is being out-polled by the Conservative Party candidate that Alaskan blogger Sarah Palin is supporting.

Do You Have a "Read" on Pelosi's and the House Democrats' Proposed Bill for Healthcare Reform?

I’m not quite sure what to make of this latest, nearly $900 billion Healthcare Reform bill from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other key Democratic House leaders, without yet having read the fine-print within the nearly 2,000-page bill proposal.

At least, at first blush, it looks like the Pelosi House bill is somewhat less Byzantine and convoluted than the previous “Opt-Out” Senate bill from Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Max “No-Public-Caucus” Baucus, but I’m not sure if that says much? Specifically, I haven’t come across press reports  of the Pelosi House bill incorporating any of the Senate buzz-word floaters like “Opt-Out,” “Opt-In” and “Trigger” yet.  So this could be a positive step up in making this Pelosi bill somewhat more decipherable compared to other previous bill proposals, but at 1,990 pages, it would be advisable to buy a case of Vivarin to get through the fine print of this Tolstoy-sized epic.

Most notable unknown left open to speculation: Does this mean the Pelosi bill proposal has a better chance of passing a first vote in the House, even if some of conservative “Blue Dog” Democratic representatives and Republicans vote against it and their Big Healthcare minders threaten to pull their pull their big-buck contributions?

Under the bill, NPR reports most Americans would be required to have insurance by 2013 through their employer, a government program or the new exchange. Federal subsidies would be available to lower-income individuals and families to help them pay for the policies.  (It also means if you among the ranks of the 47 million or so Americans without health insurance, you may have to wait 3 or 4 more to secure aid under the projected trigger date.)

As changes are phased in, a temporary government program would help people turned down by private insurers because of poor health or a pre-existing condition. The plan would also expand Medicaid, the health program for the poor.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the plan will cost $894 billion over the next 10 years, according to House Democrats, but we all know the track record of the federal government ever staying within its projected budgets. It would be paid for by cuts in planned Medicare spending and an income tax surcharge of 5.4 percent on individuals making at least $500,000 annually and couples making at least $1 million.

The bill “reduces the deficit, meets President Obama’s call to keep the cost under $900 billion over 10 years, and it insures 36 million more Americans,” Pelosi said at a news conference on the west steps of the Capitol, according to NPR.

Still, there is eye-opening caveat: Pelosi promised the plan will lower costs for patients, but it still leaves 4 percent of the population – about 12 million people – without coverage, according to NPR.  Now, I’m still wondering why there is such a large percentage/number of Americans left uninsured and why it falls short under this proposed “Universal Healthcare” plan?

House Democrats have also not worked out disputes over thorny issues regarding abortion services and health care for immigrants, issues that must be settled before the bill can come to a vote.

Perhaps a recognition over pubic outrage regarding For-Profit/Big Health Insurance carriers being able act with almost complete impunity when it comes to denials of medical claim procedures and a systemic pattern of policy revocations for persons found to have “preexisting conditions,” the Pelosi bill indicates there may actually be a compulsion to act in the “Public Interest.”

According to The Associated Press, the bill would strip the health insurance industry of its 64-year-old antitrust-exempt status covering market allocation, price fixing and bid rigging. Democratic officials said the bill also would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to look into the health insurance industry on its own initiative.

If Congress proves to have the teeth to strip the antitrust-exempt status from Big Insurance, it could mark a significant turning point in the quarter-century pattern of unchecked deregulatory actions made in favor of Corporate Big Business in this country.  But it has to be kept in mind that promises made in this bill or any other House/Senate compromise bill may only hold as long as the coming 2012 election cycle and will not likely be enacted until 2013.  In other words, there could be some lofty pre-election-year point scoring being attempted here, but maybe that’s the cynic in me speaking?!

NOTE: Under a proposal from our nonpartisan citizens advocacy organization, Trans-American Alliance for National Consensus (TANC), a 23-page position/research paper, “Rx for U.S. Healthcare Reform” (http://www.transamericanallliance.org), is advocating the expansion of a little-known, 25-year-old  sub-classification of NONPROFIT “Social Managed Care Plan” organizations (aka “Social HMOs”) offering “Medicare-minimum” base-rate premiums ($96.40 per month in 2009) with enhanced health insurance coverage/care services for Seniors.  

TANC’s plan places more of the taxation burden for the STARTUP of this broadened nonprofit “Social HMO” structure and a Pulbic-Option aid component to come from a new special 5% or 10% corporate tax on the producers/distributors of “Unhealthy/Addictive Consumable Products” (tobacco, alcoholic beverages, fast food chains, sweetened non-alcoholic beverages, candy/confectionary products, and packaged snack foods) – the biggest burdens on the U.S. healthcare system.  TANC has also proposed a 1-2% general corporate tax (outside of the producers of “unhealthy/addictive” products) to help cover the startup costs (which TANC is projecting at no more than $200 billion) for these “Social HMOs,” which will expeditiously become SELF-FINANCING/SELF-SUSTAINING health insurance organizations from direct “Medicare-minimum” base-rate premium sales and billings to both under-65 and over-65 American consumers.

What do you think is “more” fair, placing the taxation burdens of healthcare on upper-income individual taxpayers or on corporations (as TANC proposes above)?   I’m just really curious on the Moosers’ takes on this — inquiring minds need to know!

Original Piece: Why Britain Can't Do the Wire

It’s been a slow burning fuse. From its first broadcast on the US pay-TV channel HBO, it took seven years for The Wire to accumulate widespread critical recognition in Britain. But it has grown into something bigger than just an artistic success. Like some great Victorian reforming novel David Simon’s epic portrait of the policing, crime and politics of post industrial Baltimore is  regularly cited by politicians and leader writers. When they start asking “Why can’t we write The Wire?,they beg question about the state of one of core cultural industries. A raft of other US drama imports from The West Wing to Mad Men all point to the same conundrum. How come American television drama has captured the high end of the market, and we seem to have abandoned it?

It wasn’t always this way. Though America dominated post-war popular television drama from Bonanza to Dallas and Dynasty, Britain still had a healthy export trade. Till Death us Do Part was transformed into All in the Family; Monty Python revolutionised American comedy. But our most important impact was not in quantity but quality. Epic historical series such as Jewel in the Crown, or experimental melodramas such as Pennies from Heaven, set a benchmark for American writers and producers

Though British television drama still basks in the reflected glow of this legacy, something major has happened in the last ten to fifteen years. Back in 1994, I wrote a tribute to Dennis Potter in the New Statesman called “The Death of the TV Author,” about the decline of the single authored play on British TV.  This was partly due to a shift towards towards single films which made the director the auteur, but the most obvious cause was the concentration of commissioning In a few hand. Despite the growth of the independent sector, there was actually a centralisation of power and by then four men decided what millions would watch. The difference between 1994 and 2008 startling. Instead of being in the hands of four network controllers, most drama is now commissioned by one person.

Ben Stephenson, currently BBC controller of drama commissioning, has faced a mounting barrage of criticism since he made ill advised remarks last year about a “limited pool of talent” for TV drama. First to speak out was the former head of drama Northern Ireland, Robert Cooper, who explained that the BBC £228m drama budget constitutes a “near monopoly.” A few months later Tony Garnett, who has a 50-year track record which includes launching the careers of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, accused the nation’s public service broadcaster of being a cause of the decline, having “hired McKinsey and ended up a McDonald’s”. In a recent interview for the Guardian Ben Stephenson offered to meet his detractors and have “robust conservations” with them. But both Ben and his interviewer seemed to have missed the most glaring issue of all: why on earth are these questions being addressed to only one man?

Back in 1994 I was worried about the cultural power of the four network controllers. You can now forget Channel 4 and BBC2: though they can produce fantastic one offs, such as Red Riding and Freefall this year, both have basically dropped out of long-form adult dramas. ITV has fared no better. Back in the 90s the powerful regional baronies such as Granada, Yorkshire TV, LWT and Thames had some autonomy in drama production. But their amalgamation into one corporation, swiftly followed a catastrophic fall in advertising revenue, has turned ITV drama into a shadow of its former self. Whatever one’s view of public service broadcasting – and I personally support it – the combination of monopoly power in the BBC and an almost perfect internal pyramid  is a recipe for disaster.

One key argument used to defend management from this mad drive to centralisation, is bizarrely, competition. We live in an increasingly competitive “multi channel, multi platform world,” they say, the BBC needs to concentrate its power to survive.

The Wire debunks this lame defence.  

Why Britain Can't Do the Wire

No, this isn’t another piece about Gun Control, or some smirk that our UK murder rate is one fifth of yours because of the absence of guns. By way of apology for my prolonged Moose absence, I’m linking to a piece just published by Prospect Magazine (and causing a bit of a furore on The Guardian) about why British TV drama has declined, in relative quality, compared with the US.

This is a bit of a geeky professional piece about one profession, and with a UK slant. But you’ll know a lot of the programmes I cite, and the more interesting point is about…

Competition, Monopoly, and the role of the state and marketplace in Arts/Entertainment.

When did Liberals become Whiners?

One wonders why liberals have hard times winning arguments…for me, it can be explained with an exchange I had with someone on OpenLeft today.

In my defense, I was there because I actually was having a good conversation with people on why the House appears to be giving up on a Medicare +5 option

Tuesday October 27, 2009: The Day in Tubes

Are you having problems finding a costume for you or your little one(s) this Halloween? The Onion is in with some sage advice for those tough decisions.

I was always the hopeless little tomboy. I used to like to wear my Dad’s overcoat, buttoned up over a pillow wrapped around my head, and a bloody looking scarf tucked into the neckline. Voila! Instant headless horseman. Actually I just liked wearing Dad’s topcoat.

Senator Boxer is having some difficulty with some of her colleagues. Can you guess who?

Someone remind me, what is it that republicans actually do these days?

The Public Option

The Republicans always seem to beat the Democrats when it comes to framing a message.  The health insurance reform “public option” is the latest victim of unfavorable framing.

According to the rightwing, the public option is government run healthcare.  The Democrats have been trying to explain that it isn’t but the issue has become so muddled nobody really understands it.

I don’t understand why we don’t just call it government insured healthcare.  When someone gets sick, the government insures that the caregivers get paid even though the patient doesn’t have the cash and hasn’t paid in enough to cover the expense.  Seems pretty simple to me.  

I would compare it to government insured bank accounts.  If a bank goes belly up, the government insures that the depositors get their money back.  Nobody seems to have a problem with that.

Opt-Out Equals Sell-Out of "The Public Trust"

Congress’ Corporate-Driven “Laws Of Diminishing Returns” On Healthcare Reform


NOTE:  The use of ALL CAPS in this diary has been rectified.  Please follow reasonable non-shouting formatting guidelines in future.

-The Editors

Alan Grayson Meets Macaca

You know, I like Alan Grayson, I really do. I think it’s great to have a genuine progressive representing Orlando.

However, even Grayson should know that as a politician and public figure, you don’t get the luxury of allowing words to fly out of our mouth before being filtered through your brain.