Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to Win Democratic Campaigns in Collin Co.

The Democratic Party of Collin County has posted an announcement on its website that it is joining with the Democratic Campaign Development Coalition (DCDC) and Texas Democratic Women of Collin County (TDWCC) to put on a series of education seminars they are calling "How to Win Democratic Campaigns in Collin Co." The DCDC group is sponsoring the seminars.

According to a spokesperson for DCDC the group has recruited a number of guest speakers from across North Texas who have experience organizing GOTV activities and running political campaigns as well as some former North Texas Democratic candidates. "We hope to have Precinct Chairs, active Democrats and possibly some potential local candidates from Collin and several surrounding counties attend some or all our training days," said the spokesperson, "Anyone who wants to help Democratic Candidates win in Collin Co. and North Texas is invited to sign up for the training"

The training program will begin Monday evening October 12th and continuing every Monday from 6:30p.m. till 9:00 p.m. until Monday November 30th at Collin College – Frisco Campus, Library Room L245. The guest speakers will cover a variety of topics during the training series including:

  • Week 1 – How I Won: It Can Be Done
  • Week 2 - The Winning Team
  • Week 3 – Organizing to Win
  • Week 4 – The Winning Message
  • Week 5 – Marketing to Win
  • Week 6 – To Win It Takes Money
  • *No workshop Thanksgiving week – Nov. 23
  • Week 7 –Creating the Winning Plan
The county party organization is charging a nominal registration fee to cover the cost of producing the training program. Registration for the class is now open. For registration information go to the announcement posted on the Democratic Party of Collin County website.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Google Wave - A Future Campaign Support Tool?

At Google's recent "I/O" developer conference in San Francisco, the company unveiled an intriguing new tool called Wave. Wave is a web-based, open-source platform that is designed to seamlessly integrate communication and collaboration. When Wave is available it may make an interesting campaign support tool. Take a look at it in action: video left.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Poll: Public Option Favored By 65% Of Americans


By Jeff Parker, cagle.com
NYTimes.com: A New York Times/CBS poll again finds that 65% of Americans want a public health care option, while only 26% opposed such a plan. Those polled also responded that they feel President Obama has not clearly explained the main points of health care reform. Fifty-five percent said he had not explained his plan clearly, and many felt under-informed about the policies under discussion.

Maybe it's not so much that President Obama hasn't repeatedly and clearly explained the main points of health care reform, and more that Republicans and health insurance industry lobbyists have so widely and loudly sowed fear-based mis-information, that people feel confused and therefore under informed.

After all, the program of mis-information has closely and successfully followed the plan written by right-wing message guru Frank Luntz last May instructing the Republican Party how to frame the health care debate to both alarm and confuse people on the issues. More...


By R.J. Matson, cagle.com

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have You Ever Thought About Running For Elected Office?

Have you ever thought about running for elected office? With the pivotal 2010 elections fast approaching, now is the time to give it some serious thought! One great place to get experience running for and serving in elected office is by serving as a Precinct Chair in your own neighborhood. There are many other elected office positions that you might consider too.

Precinct Chairs, of either party, serve as the most direct link between voters and their respective political party and and the party's candidates. Precinct Chairs help to carry the party's and candidate's message to their neighborhoods and they help Get Out The Vote for their respective party's candidates.

The Chairperson of each county Democratic Party Election Precinct is publicly elected by precinct voters during the Primary Election. The term of office for a Precinct Chair is two years, beginning on the 20th day following Primary Election Day or the following primary runoff election day, if scheduled. (The Party's County Executive Committee can elect interim Precinct Chairs for unfilled Precinct Chair offices and for Precinct Chairs who are unable to serve out their two year term of office.)

The next Precinct Chair election for the March/April 2010 to March/April 2012 term of office occurs on Primary Election Day, March 2, 2010. Qualified candidates can file (form PDF) to have their name placed on the March 2, 2010 Primary Ballot for the position of Precinct Chair from Monday, October 5th, 2009 through 6:00 PM January 4, 2010. Contact your local Democratic County Chair to ask if a Precinct Chair vacancy exists in your election precinct and find out the requirements to run for this, or any other, elected office. To find out more about Democratic Precinct Chairs - click here.

There are many other elected office positions that you might consider too. Of coarse, nearly all the elected office positions that will appear on Collin County ballots in 2010 are currently filled with incumbent Republicans, but perhaps it is time for incumbent Republicans to have a Democratic challenger in 2010, for the first time in many years.

The following elected office positions will first appear on each of the March 2, 2010 Democratic Party and Republican Party Primary Election ballots and then finally on the November 2010 General Election ballot.

Collin County Executive and Judiciary

  • County Clerk
  • District Clerk
  • District Attorney

Collin County Commissioners Court - info

  • County Judge - incumbent Keith Self
  • Place 2 - incumbent Jerry Hoagland
  • Place 4 - incumbent Kathy Ward

Collin County Courts

  • 5 District Judges
  • 6 County Court at Law Judges
  • 1 Probate Court Judge
  • 4 Justices f the Peace

State Executive

  • Governor
  • Lt. Governor
  • Attorney General
  • Comptroller
  • Commissioner of General Land Office
  • Agriculture Commissioner
  • Railroad Commissioner - info
  • State Board of Education, place 9 and 12

State Judicial

  • Several Justices of the Supreme Court - info
  • Several Justices of the Court of Criminal Appeals - info

Regional Courts

  • Several Justices, 5th District Court of Appeals - info

State House of Representatives

  • State Rep., Dist. 66 (McCall)
  • State Rep., Dist. 67 (Madden)
  • State Rep., Dist. 70 (Paxton)
  • State Rep., Dist. 89 (Laubenberg)

State Senate

  • District 8 (Shapiro)

Federal

  • US Congress 3rd Congressional Dist. (Johnson) - info
  • US Congress 4th Congressional Dist. (Hall) - info
  • US Senate (Hutchison) possible resignation triggering a special election - info

Party Offices

  • County Chair
  • Al1 Precinct Chairs
  • And County and State Convention after the primaries.
    • State Chair
    • DNC Reps
    • SDEC Committee members

The filing period to have your name placed on the primary ballot runs from December 2009 to January 2010. The Democratic and Republican primary winners of each elected office position appearing on the primary ballot will then face each other in the November 2010 General Election.

The following "non-partisan" local city and school board trustee elected office positions will appear on election ballot for the May 2010 city and school election.

  • CCCCD Trustees( non-partisan)
  • City Council races (non-partisan)
  • School Board races (non-partisan)

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Republicans Out-Tweet Democrats

While progressive blogs, with the encouragement of DNC Chairman Howard Dean, help power Democratic electoral wins in 2006 and 2008, many in the Democratic party have been reticent about, and towards, its blogosphere echo chamber.

And now it seems that reticence has carried over into the use of Twitter.

Nearly twice as many Republicans as Democrats have accounts on the social networking platform Twitter (101 compared with 57), and the GOP dominates Twitter usage by an even wider margin, according to a report released this week by the Congressional Research Service that analyzed two weeklong periods in July and August. During those spans, congressional Republicans posted 932 messages — or tweets — compared with 255 for Democrats, CRS analysts found.

Twitter allows users to text short messages of 140 characters or fewer from their phones, BlackBerrys or computers to their profile pages and their followers’ phones and computers. And though some experts question the effectiveness of Twitter as a political communication tool and more than a few lawmakers have already experienced the downside of the unfiltered communication it offers, Republican communications staffers have actively encouraged their lawmakers to tweet away. And so they have.
Democrats seem all too willing to let it all slip away by not leveraging the new media approach to political campaigning.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Conservatives Ask - What Recession? What Health Care Crisis?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, declaring last week that Texas is recession proof said, "... someone had put a report out that the first state that's coming out of the recession is going to be the state of Texas ... I said, 'We're in one?'" (video left)

Paul Burka of the Texas Monthly: "This gaffe is going to stick. ... You cannot be callous and cavalier when people are losing their jobs, [their health insurance] and their homes. I don't care how ideological the Republican base is. ... Everybody knows someone who is suffering in these times."
The Labor Department reported last week that 42 states lost jobs in August, up from 29 in July, with the biggest net payroll cuts coming in Texas, Michigan, Georgia and Ohio.
Texas lost 62,200 jobs as its unemployment rate rose to 8% in August for the first time in 22 years. The state's leisure, construction and manufacturing industries were hardest hit, losing 35,500 jobs.
The Labor Department report shows jobs remain scarce even as most analysts believe the economy is pulling out of the worst recession since the 1930s. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said earlier this week that the recovery isn't likely to be rapid enough to reduce unemployment for some time. The jobless rate nationwide is expected to peak above 10% next year, from its current 9.7%.

Back in late July we posted that Gov. Perry, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Sam Johnson and every Republican elected official in Texas made headlines for months pronouncing that President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) economic stimulus plan was unneeded and unwelcome in Texas.
Gov. Perry, the top Republican in Texas, proclaimed that federal money from Washington is so onerous to "all" Texans that Texans might rise up in revolt and secede from the United States, by invoking the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, rather than accept "Washington money."
In March, Gov. Perry rejected $555 million in federal stimulus funds to fund unemployment benefits. By July, Perry was forced to ask the federal government for a $170 million loan to cover unemployment insurance. The state is expected to request a total of $650 million to fund unemployment insurance, around $100 million more than Perry originally rejected.

In Texas, the ARRA stimulas is expected to save or create 269,000 jobs over the next two years. The plan also includes provisions to help both employed and unemployed Texans. Nearly 8.2 million workers will receive the Making Work Pay tax cut of up to $1,000, and 677,000 unemployed workers will receive an additional $100 in unemployment benefits per month. In addition, the plan includes funding to help unemployed workers pay for COBRA coverage. [Monster.com]
On the issue of health insurance reform Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) also threatens 10th Amendment secession. [Star-Telegram] Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Sam Johnson and every Republican elected official in Texas have again lined up with Gov. Perry to reject the idea that Texans need health insurance reform.

According to facts given in a The Dallas Morning News article, Texas may need health insurance reform more than any other state:
"[Even after removing illegal immigrants from the numbers] Texas virtually leads the nation in percentage of residents without health insurance, according to both conservative and liberal researchers.

Only 49.5 percent of [Texas] residents were covered by employer-sponsored insurance, in a two-year average ending in 2008, compared with 58.5 percent nationwide, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated this month. Between 1996 and 2006, the cost of family coverage for private sector workers in Texas increased 86 percent, while incomes increased by less than 9 percent, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which finances health care research and supports universal health coverage.

Compared with the rest of the nation, the Texas economy relies heavily on small businesses and relatively low wages. So although most of the state's uninsured live in households with people who work, fewer employers offer coverage, and fewer employees can afford it.

For an average family of four in Dallas, medical care and health insurance this year will cost nearly $17,000. Of that, 41 percent – almost $7,000 – will be paid by the employee, MHBT found in a survey of 139 local businesses. "
Texas has the highest percentage of those without health insurance in the entire country. A Families USA report released in March found that the number of uninsured in Texas throughout 2007 and 2008 is around 9.3 million:
The report went further to say that 7.5 million Texans were uninsured for six months or more during that same time period and about 82.6 percent, were in working families, either working full or part-time.
An estimated 5,550 Texans are losing their health coverage each week, Families USA says in another report out in July 2009. “Rising like a deadly tide, escalating health care costs will have caused 866,580 Texans to lose their health coverage between January 2008 and December 2010,” the organization says.
The average health-care coverage for the average family now costs $13,375, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2009 Employer Benefits Survey. Over the past decade, premiums have increased by 138 percent. And if the trend continues, by 2019 the average family plan will cost $30,083.

About 160 million Americans receive health coverage through their employers. In general, the employer picks up 73 percent of the tab. This seems like a good deal. In reality, that money comes out of wages.

As Ezekiel Emanuel, who advises Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag on health-care policy, has pointed out, health-care premiums have risen by 300 percent over the past 30 years (and that's after adjusting for inflation). Corporate profit per employee has soared by 200 percent. Hourly earnings for workers, adjusted for inflation, have fallen. The wage increases have been consumed by health-care costs.

In a new study, "Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults," published in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health, Harvard-based researchers found that uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40 percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25 percent excess death rate found in 1993. The researchers estimate that lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually which are hight than previous estimate of 18,000 annual deaths published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2002.

“I can’t imagine that anyone from Texas who cares about this state would vote for Obama Care. I don’t care whether you’re Democrat or Republican,” Perry has said. Gov. Perry has no need to worry - Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Sam Johnson and every conservative Republican elected official in Texas stand united in their support of giving the private insurance industry a free hand to increase fees annually for increasingly reduced health coverage insurance policies sold to only those most likely to not get sick.
Though luck if you are unemployed and without health insurance. If you are employed, though luck, if neither you nor your employer can afford to buy health insurance coverage. Though luck, if you have insurance, but your insurance company cancels your policy as soon as are diagnosed with cancer or some other expensive to treat disease. Though luck trying to buy insurance, if you have a pre-exisiting health condition. And, tough luck, if your big corporate employer moves your job to China or India, where the government provides health coverage, to cut its overhead cost of U.S. employee private health insurance.

Rachel Maddow: From Fear To Eternity
On Health Reform - 09/21/09


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527 Restrictions Lifted - Federal Appeals Court Overturns Campaign Finance Reform Law

A federal appeals court overturned campaign finance reform law regulations in a ruling on Friday that, if not reversed on appeal, will make it easier for independent "527" political groups to raise and spend money to influence elections.

The ruling frees political action groups to accept unlimited contributions and to spend unlimited funds independently supporting or opposing federal candidates.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit came in a lawsuit brought by Emily's List, a nonprofit political organization that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.

The group challenged several Federal Election Commission regulations, arguing that the rules violated its First Amendment rights by limiting its ability to spend and raise money to influence elections. Circuit judges Brett M. Kavanaugh and Karen LeCraft Henderson agreed that the regulations violate free speech rights. A third judge, Janice Rogers Brown, said the regulations were invalid for other reasons.

"The First Amendment, as the Court has construed it, safeguards the right of citizens to band together and pool their resources . . . to express their views about policy issues and candidates for public office," Kavanaugh wrote in his 44-page opinion.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) spokeswoman, Judith Ingram, said commission officials will review the opinion for a possible appeal to the full slate of appellate court judges or to the Supreme court.
The FEC's 2005 regulations, now repelled by the DC Circuit Court, prevented political groups such as Emily's List from raising unlimited amounts of "soft money," donations by unions, corporations and individuals, for activities such as voter registration drives and issue advertising. Soft money could not be donated to candidates or used to advocate the election of a candidate.

During the 2004 campaign, political groups, known as 527s, aggressively raised and spent soft money to run advertisements that attacked and supported candidates. The 2005 rules were designed to rein in such behavior by requiring groups to rely more on "hard money," strictly limited donations by individuals or political action committees.

The FEC regulation required political committees to use hard money for at least 50 percent of their generic get-out-the-vote efforts and voter registration drives. It also compelled the organizations to use hard-money accounts to pay all costs of advertisements that referred to a federal candidate. If a group's solicitations mentioned a specific candidate, the regulations required them to treat the donation as hard money.

Judge Kavanaugh wrote that such campaign finance restrictions were unconstitutional because they limited speech by political groups such as Emily's List. The rules "do not pass muster," he wrote, adding that they did not serve an anti-corruption purpose and had been enacted to "better equalize the voices of citizens and groups who participate in the political process."

The challenge by Emily's List is just one of several assaults on campaign finance laws and regulations in the courts. Last week, in a case with high stakes for campaign finance advocates, the Supreme Court heard arguments in an appeal that seeks to strip decades of restrictions on corporate support of candidates. [LATimes, RawStory]

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New Texas Law Authorizes Bible "Literacy" In Public Schools

You may have recently heard news accounts of a new Texas law that authorizes Bible literacy studies in public schools. The law, which went into effect at the start of the 2009-2010 school year, was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2007 and allows Texas public schools to teach from the Bible as literature or as cultural context to history.

The ACLU has posted a notice about this law on its website and published a "Know Your Rights" document (PDF) for students and teachers. Here's an excerpt from the email they recently distributed:

My fellow Texan,

You may have recently heard news accounts of a law that deals with teaching Bible literacy in our state's public schools and went into effect at the start of the 2009-2010 school year.

This law, passed by the Texas Legislature during the 2007 session, authorizes Texas pubic schools to offer a high school elective course on the Bible’s role in history and literature.

We have received numerous inquiries from parents, students, teachers and concerned citizens regarding this law. To help guide you, the ACLU of Texas has published a fact sheet, titled Know Your Rights: The Bible In Texas Public Schools (PDF) ...
Parents interested in finding out how their individual school or overall ISD plans to introduce the Bible into classroom teaching plans should contact their their local school administrator, ISD board representative, and State Board of Education (SBOE) representative.

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Republican Party's Favorability Strongest In The South


Northeast:
DC, ME, VT, NY, MD, PA, CT, DE, MA, NH, RI, WV, NJ
South:
FL, NC, SC, AL, MS, GA, VA, TN, KY, LA, AR, TX
Midwest:
IL, MN, MI, OH, WI, IA, MO, KS, IN, ND, SD, OK, NE
West:
NM, CA, OR, WA, AK, HI, MT, ID, UT, NV, AZ, WY, CO

New results from the weekly Research 2000 poll conducted for Daily Kos. Most of the results are about what we've come to expect -- President Obama's ratings are more favorable than unfavorable (55% to 38%); neither congressional caucus is popular, though Dems are more than twice as popular as Republicans (39% to 18%), and the Democratic Party has a 41% favorable rating to the GOP's 23%.

When the Republican Party favorability poll numbers are broken down by region, the GOP's favorable vs. unfavorable numbers are very weak in Northeast (7% vs. 87%), and only marginally better in the Midwest (13% vs. 78%) and West (14% vs. 75%). In the South, however, 50% have a favorable opinion of the GOP, and only 37% have an unfavorable view.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life In A Conservative World

Last weekend, tens of thousands of right-wing protesters invaded Washington, DC for the 9/12 March. Not only were they rallying against President Obama’s plans for health care reform, but more generally against government-run services “socialism!”

A large number of the tea party protesters relied on DC’s big "socialist" government run Washington Metropolitan Transit system to get around the city. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX 8th Dist.) has written a letter to DC Transit Authority complaining that the tea baggers found the DC transit service crowded and inadequate. In his letter, Rep. Brandy demands answers for the crowded and inadequate conditions on the metro line:


By David Horsey
published in The San Antonio Express News
“These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas [on 'socialist' built and maintained roads funded by the federal government] to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration,” Brady wrote. “These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this ['socialist' DC Metro] public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of ['socialist'] transit for them.”
A large part of the reason that the DC metro has had so many problems in recent years is that its tax-based funding was cut in the years conservatives controlled congress and the White House. Conservatives such as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-TX), has said that we [congress] shouldn’t steal tax money so that we can ride on the Metro. When a bill containing $150 million for emergency maintenance funding for the DC metro system came up this summer, Rep. Brady himself voted against such big government socalist spending.

Conservatives who protest "socialist" government services and advocate secession from our federalist form of government do not seem to stop and think about the comforts and safety they would give up in their conservative world of no federal government. The following essay says it all.
Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican
by John Gray

Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.

All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.

Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican’s would still be sitting in the dark)

He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.

He turns on a radio talk show, the host’s keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, “We don’t need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have”.xx

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Civility

By Stuart Carlson posted at carlsontoons.com



NPR Fresh Air Program [37 min 27 sec]
"A 'Shattered' Republican Party?"
In his new book "Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party," investigative reporter Max Blumenthal the movement that has transformed the Grand Old Party.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Dozen Blue Dogs Block Insurance Reform


By Tom Daley
2008 Democratic candidate
U.S. House of Representatives,
TX 3th Congressional District
Last night, the President, in a blockbuster of a speech, reminded us that we all agree on the need for health insurance reform. He's right. Other than a few wing nuts on the Blogosphere and FOX, every one agrees that health insurance reform is badly needed. And in all polls--ALL POLLS--large majorities of the American people agree.

So what's stopping us?

The House of Representatives is ready to pass a strong, deficit-neutral bill. But as usual, it's the Senate that stands in the way. But it's not the entire Senate. In fact, an easy majority of Senators are on board. But as we've all come to know, either through 6th grade civics class or recent news stories, for all practical purposes, it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass any substantive legislation.

I'll leave the details of the civics lesson to others. But what this means is that a simple majority won't do the trick--we need 60 Senators. Republicans continue to hide behind the numeric Democrat majority in the Senate by effectively saying, "If you want reform, then you've got the votes: go do it."

Exactly who in the Senate is blocking insurance reform?

The 12 blue dogs listed below. That's all. And here's where the most egregious antidemocratic effect lies: The Democrat Senators who are blocking reform represent barely 16% of the American population!

Here's the honor roll along with the population of the state (in millions)
  1. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), pop 0.967 (more about his "framework" tomorrow)
  2. Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), pop 6.376
  3. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), pop 6.549
  4. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), pop 0.873
  5. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), pop 0.641
  6. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), pop 4.410
  7. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), pop 3.501
  8. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), pop 2.855
  9. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), pop 18.328
  10. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) , pop 1.783
  11. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), pop 2.855 (be sure not to count AR twice!!)
  12. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), pop 3.790
That's right. Senators representing barely 16% of the American population are blocking insurance reform for 100% of the nation.

Once again, I urge you to keep writing letters, phone banking, and doing what you do. But direct it to those folks on the list above. They are the only people who stand between us and comprehensive insurance reform. That's it: TWELVE DEMOCRATS ARE BLOCKING COMPREHENSIVE REFORM.

Don't blame FOX "news" for spreading lies (they do, but we have to progress in spite of that).

Don't blame tea-baggers for their Klanish histrionics (it's an apt description, but they are side show freaks).

Don't blame Republican House members like Sam Johnson, Pete Sessions, or the rest of the North Texas delegation (they are irrelevant).

It's just 12 dogs who need to be heeled in and made to behave like the progressives they pretend to be at election time.

Last night, in what is probably the most substantive and powerful speech I've ever heard from any president, Pres. Obama rejoined the fight with fierce determination. Let's follow up by hammering on the last bastion defending the status quo: The Dozen Dogs.

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Socialist Canadian Health Care


Gus Porter, American Legend with Thomas Haden Church from Thomas Haden Church - Video Gus Porter gets mauled by a bear, but he won't let the socialist Canadian health care fix him up, so he'll hike back to America.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Death of Conservatism

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C. / picture left) called Pres. Obama a liar from the floor as the President addressed a joint session of congress. It is politicians like Rep. Wilson that are prompting increasing numbers of Americans to reject modern-day conservatism. But what's even more important is the fact that modern conservatives are failing because they abandoned the principles on which the Republican Party was founded.

GoLeftTV:
Part 1
Part 2
Responsible conservatism honors and respects America's institutions, both governmental and societal.

The epithets so many on the right now hurl at Obama—"socialist," "fascist," "liar"—precisely echo the accusations Herbert Hoover and "Old Right" made against FDR in 1936. And the spectacle of citizens appearing at town-hall meetings with guns recalls nothing so much as the vigilante Minutemen whom Buckley evicted from the conservative movement in the 1960s. In the 1960's, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being "so far removed from common sense" and later said "We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner."

In the two video segments Mike Papantonio talks about the Republican Party with Sam Tanenhaus, author of the new book "The Death of Conservatism." [Amazon]

By late Wednesday, congressman Wilson's Web site had crashed, he had taken a beating on his Twitter page and his Democrat challenger, former-Marine Rob Miller, had raised thousands of unexpected dollars online for a possible rematch with Wilson in next year's midterm elections, according to Lachlan McIntosh, Miller's campaign manager.

Within eight hours of Wilson's outburst, his Democratic challenger had received nearly 3,000 individual contributions raising approximately $100,000, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said. [Update Friday Sept. 11, 2009 @ 9:30 AM - The money is still coming in for Iraq War veteran Rob Miller, the Democratic House candidate who has received a flood of donations since his opponent, incumbent (R-SC~02) Rep. Joe Wilson, shouted "You lie!" during President Obama's address to congress. Miller has received more than $733,000, from over 20,000 donors through all ActBlue fundraiser channels. ]

The conservative website RedState.com, as well as many other conservative support groups and individuals, has declared Wilson a "great American hero" for his actions and launched a fundraising effort for the lawmaker.

On "Countdown" Keith Olbermann offered a "Special Comment" about Republican Congressman Joe Wilson yelling out "you lie"

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President Obama's Address To Congress on Health Care

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Address to a Joint Session of Congress on Health Care
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
Washington, DC

Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, and the American people:

When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.

As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.

I want to thank the members of this body for your efforts and your support in these last several months, and especially those who have taken the difficult votes that have put us on a path to recovery. I also want to thank the American people for their patience and resolve during this trying time for our nation.

But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future – and that is the issue of health care.

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.

Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can’t get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can’t afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.

We are the only advanced democracy on Earth – the only wealthy nation – that allows such hardships for millions of its people. There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.

But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem of the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you’ll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won’t pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.

One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.

Then there’s the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren’t any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It’s why so many employers – especially small businesses – are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It’s why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally – like our automakers – are at a huge disadvantage. And it’s why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it – about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else’s emergency room and charitable care.

Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.

These are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The question is how.

There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada’s, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.

I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.

During that time, we have seen Washington at its best and its worst.

We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors’ groups and even drug companies – many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about eighty percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.

But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

The plan I’m announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:

It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It’s a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge – not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals. And it’s a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans – and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.

Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.

That’s what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan – more security and stability.

Now, if you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange – a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It’s how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it’s time to give every American the same opportunity that we’ve given ourselves.

For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can’t get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it’s a good idea now, and we should embrace it.

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those – particularly the young and healthy – who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don’t sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people’s expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don’t provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek – especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions – just can’t be achieved.

That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that’s been spread over the past few months, I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I’d like to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.

My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a “government takeover” of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.

So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company. Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly – by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates.

Insurance executives don’t do this because they are bad people. They do it because it’s profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called “Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations.”

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I’ve already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea. They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government. And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers. It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.

It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn’t be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.

For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.

Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public – and that is how we pay for this plan.

Here’s what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.

Second, we’ve estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system – a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn’t make us healthier. That’s not my judgment – it’s the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.

In fact, I want to speak directly to America’s seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that’s been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.

More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That is how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. That is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan.

The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies – subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead.

These steps will ensure that you – America’s seniors – get the benefits you’ve been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pocket for prescription drugs. That’s what this plan will do for you. So don’t pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut – especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past, and just this year supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare.

Now, because Medicare is such a big part of the health care system, making the program more efficient can help usher in changes in the way we deliver health care that can reduce costs for everybody. We have long known that some places, like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, offer high-quality care at costs below average. The commission can help encourage the adoption of these common-sense best practices by doctors and medical professionals throughout the system – everything from reducing hospital infection rates to encouraging better coordination between teams of doctors.

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. Much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money – an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long-run.

Finally, many in this chamber – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle – have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It’s a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

Add it all up, and the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years – less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. Most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent – but spent badly – in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle-class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.

This is the plan I’m proposing. It’s a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight – Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed – the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in emails, and in letters.

I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.

In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, and his children, who are here tonight . And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform – “that great unfinished business of our society,” he called it – would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that “it concerns more than material things.” “What we face,” he wrote, “is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”

I’ve thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days – the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and sometimes angry debate.

For some of Ted Kennedy’s critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their mind, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.

But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here – people of both parties – know that what drove him was something more. His friend, Orrin Hatch, knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient’s Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.

On issues like these, Ted Kennedy’s passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick; and he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance; what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent – there is something that could make you better, but I just can’t afford it.

That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people’s shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgement that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

This has always been the history of our progress. In 1933, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism. But the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that’s not what the moment calls for. That’s not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.

Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.

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Sen. Max Baucus Calls For 50+ Health Insurance Co-Ops

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Tuesday unveiled his "compromise" blueprint for healthcare reform, proposing new taxes on high-end insurance plans and offering fifty or more separate non-profit state level insurance cooperatives as an alternative to a national health insurance option. (A health coop is in reality an insurance company owned by the policy holders.) [LATimes - Raw Story]

The Baucus version of health insurance reform would provide federal funds to help set up nonprofit, state-level cooperatives in which consumers would would have the option to purchase health insurance.

Just as auto coverage is now mandatory in nearly all states, Baucus would mandate that all Americans get health insurance either through a private insurer or their local state cooperative. Penalties for failing to buy health insurance would start at $750 a year for individuals and $1,500 for families. Households making more than three times the federal poverty level — about $66,000 for a family of four — would face the maximum fines. For families, it would be $3,800, and for individuals, $950.

The Baucus plan would require insurers to take all applicants, regardless of age or health. But smokers could be charged higher premiums. And 60-year-old people could be charged five times as much for a policy as 20-year-olds. Baucus' co-op plan would not drive down health insurance costs and would do little to insure the 48 million people now without health coverage, but the mandate penalties would drive many into the waiting arms of private health insurers. (see: Insurance Industry Pushing For "Private, For Profit" Insurance Mandate In Reform)

Many doubt that replacing a national public health insurance option with fifty smaller and unassociated state health insurance co-ops is a good idea.

Robert Reich: Co-ops are a "bamboozle" that "won't have any real bargaining leverage."

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich described Sen. Kent Conrad's (D-ND) reported cooperative health insurance proposal as a "bamboozle" and said that "nonprofit health-care cooperatives won't have any real bargaining leverage to get lower prices because they'll be too small and too numerous. Pharma and Insurance know they can roll them. That's why the Conrad compromise is getting a good reception from across the aisle." [The American Prospect, 6/11/09]
Krugman: The "supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham."
In his August 20 New York Times column, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote: "And let's be clear: the supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham. That's not just my opinion; it's what the market says: stocks of health insurance companies soared on news that the Gang of Six senators trying to negotiate a bipartisan approach to health reform were dropping the public plan. Clearly, investors believe that co-ops would offer little real competition to private insurers." [New York Times, 8/20/09]
Jacob Hacker: Co-ops are "not going to have the ability to be a cost-control backstop."
In a June 14 post to The New Republic's blog The Treatment, University of California-Berkeley professor Jacob Hacker argued that Conrad "has offered no reason to think that the cooperatives he envisions could do any of the crucial things that a competing public plan must do." Hacker continued:
An easy way to think of the public plan's functions is the three "B"s: We need a national public plan that is available on similar terms in all parts of the nation as a backup. This plan has to have the ability to improve the quality and efficiency of care to act as a benchmark for private insurance. And it has to be able to challenge provider consolidation that has driven up prices to serve as a cost-control backstop.

Cooperatives might be able to provide some backup in some parts of the nation, but they are not going to have the ability to be a cost-control backstop, much less a benchmark for private plans, because they are not going to have the reach or authority to implement innovative delivery and payment reforms. And so Conrad's idea appears to be yet another compromised compromise that cuts the heart out the idea of public plan choice on the alter of political expediency. [...]
A national cooperative would still fall so dramatically short of a public plan that it would only be attractive in addition to a national public plan, not as a substitute for it. Indeed, this point holds more generally. Given the need for countervailing power in the health care market, the federal government should encourage a range of consumer-oriented health plans and state-based public plan options, so long as there is also a national public plan capable of being a backup, benchmark, and backstop. [The New Republic, 8/14/09]
Baucus and his staff forgot to delete the name of the author of the Finance Committee's health plan from the Acrobat version of the document.

In the Properties dialogue box of the PDF, in the "author" slot, the name Liz Fowler appears. Fowler is a Baucus staffer who was with the senator in the early part of this decade but left to take a breather in the private sector and only returned to Capitol Hill last year. During her time in the private sector, can you guess where Fowler worked?

She was the VP for Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint, the health insurance parent company of Blue Cross.

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Plano Balloon Festival

Plano Balloon Festival
Balloons
Gracefully Floating Across The Texas Sky
Fri. Sept. 18 to Sun. Sept. 20, 2009


The Plano Balloon Festival is coming Friday, September 18th through Sunday, September 20th. At its usual Saturday night peak attendance level over 50,000 people will be in attendance.

The Democratic Party of Collin County has had a booth at the event for years. The organization is again asking for volunteers to help cover shifts in their booth over the three day festival.
Contact Micky Mayer at 972.818.9595 if you are able to help.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rolling Stone: How Washington Is Screwing Up Health Ins. Reform

Matt Taibbi writes a hard hitting article in the Rolling Stone on the health insurance reform debate. It's long, but it's worth reading the entire thing - it details the health insurance debate describing the actual plans proposed in the House and Senate committees. Through it all Taibbi weaves observations about how the insurance reform idea has gotten so screwed up:

Let's start with the obvious: America has not only the worst but the dumbest health care system in the developed world. It's become a black leprosy eating away at the American experiment — a bureaucracy so insipid and mean and illogical that even our darkest criminal minds wouldn't be equal to dreaming it up on purpose.

The system doesn't work for anyone. It cheats patients and leaves them to die, denies insurance to 47 million Americans, forces hospitals to spend billions haggling over claims, and systematically bleeds and harasses doctors with the specter of catastrophic litigation.

The cost of all of this to society, in illness and death and lost productivity and a soaring federal deficit and plain old anxiety and anger, is incalculable — and that's the good news.

Click to read the full story...

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Letter From Lewisville ISD Parent On The ISD's Decision To Block President Obama's Speech

From whosplayin.com - A letter from a Lewisville ISD (LISD) parent to the LISD school board in response to the ISD's decision to block President Obama's speech to school students.

snippets...

. . .Before moving here, my husband and I were both Active Duty servicemembers with the United States Navy, we served proudly for a number of years. During the course of our duty we were faced with the tragedy of September 11th. For me that time was painful and frightening.

. . .My reason for sharing my anecdote with you, was that during this time I never forgot that I had my country behind me. I knew that my government was doing everything in its power to protect its citizen and maintain the greatest country in the world. I knew that the Office of the President of the United States and my Commander in Chief had worked tirelessly to win the position of the most powerful man in the world and that when he spoke, we listened. Not because we always agreed with him but because it was part of the social contract of being a citizen of the United States of America.

. . .After hearing the news that Lewisville Independent School District chose not to televise President Obama's speech to America's school children on the importance of an education and staying in school, I became outraged. As a veteran of the Armed Forces, I am offended that the elected officials who supervise my son's education are disrespecting the Office of the President of the United States. ...I am truly offended by what appears to be a partisan decision that you have made out of fear.

. . .You are robbing my son of these moments that make him American and I will not allow to do so. We will be keeping him home on Tuesday, September 8th so he can witness first hand, the President of the United States address him directly.
Click here to read this concerned parent's letter in full...

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The GOP Wants To Save School Children From Obama!



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Friday, September 4, 2009

What’s In the House Health Insurance Reform Bill For Seniors?

Rising health costs are hitting seniors’ wallets—with the average Medicare Part D plus Part B premium consuming an estimated 12% of the average Social Security benefit in 2010—and 16% by 2025. Medicare, the government program that provides health care for Americans age 65 and older, will be strengthened under America’s Affordable Health Choices Act. In fact, for Medicare enrollees, the House bill lowers prescription drug costs, makes preventive care free, ensures that you can keep your doctor, and improves the quality of your care.

In a press conference to discuss what health insurance reform means for America’s seniors Rep. Xavier Becerra, Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, dispelled myths about the legislation. Rep. Becerra was joined by Richard Fiesta from the Alliance for Retired Americans and representatives from the Center for Medicare Advocacy and National Womens Health Network.


What’s in the health reform bill for seniors?
LOWER DRUG COSTS
Ending the ‘doughnut hole’ for prescription drug coverage. The reform bill will result in lower overall prescription drug costs for seniors, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Right now, evidence suggests the “doughnut hole” coverage gap reduces seniors’ use of drugs prescribed by their doctor by an average of 14%, posing a real health threat to seniors who simply cannot afford the drugs.
FREE PREVENTIVE CARE
So you pay nothing on recommended preventive services that will keep you healthier longer. Right now, one in five women age 50 or over did not have a mammogram in the last two years, and 38% of adults age 50 or over have never had a colonoscopy – with costs often a factor.
BETTER PRIMARY CARE
Ensuring you have access to and can spend more time with your primary care doctor, and making sure your care is better coordinated to ensure you get recommended treatments, particularly for chronic diseases. Right now, about 12 million seniors lack access to a primary care doctor in their community.
GUARANTEED ACCESS TO YOUR DOCTOR
Eliminating the 21% pay cut your doctor was facing for Medicare reimbursements, ensuring that these doctors will still be able to care for seniors—especially in rural areas. Right now, without reform, 40% of doctors say they will reduce the number of Medicare patients they treat.

IMPROVED SAFETY

Developing national standards on quality measurement and reporting, investing in patient safety and rewarding doctors and nurses for high quality care. Right now, nearly one in five Medicare patients who are discharged from the hospital are readmitted within 30 days—many for preventable reasons.
PROTECTION OF MEDICARE
Extending the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by five years, to help ensure Medicare can cover every American as they get older. Right now, the Medicare Trust Fund is projected to be exhausted in just eight years, in 2017, which could cause cuts to services and care.
TIGHTER OVERSIGHT
Focusing health care dollars on your care and benefits and cracking down on waste, fraud, abuse, and overpayments to enrich private companies. In the last year alone, improper Medicare payments that were discovered and stopped totaled more than $450 million.
Rep. Becerra also released a guide on health insurance reform for seniors — including frequently asked questions and the facts on repeated myths. Download a copy(.pdf) here>>

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