Health Care Reform 2.0

In an emotional town hall in suburban Annandale, VA today, President Obama spoke with Americans who shared their nightmarish experiences with the existing health insurance industry.

In pledging his commitment to health care reform, Obama spoke favorably of the so-called public option, a government-sponsored health care plan that would operate in competition with private insurance.  Recent polls show an overwhelming number of Americans favor the public option when considering health care reform.

Public forums like the one the president held today have given Americans a high-profile way to air their troubles – and have distinguished Obama as a great “Listener In Chief.”
But at the risk of overplaying the dreaded empathy card, Obama is doing even more to highlight Americans’ agonizingly real problems with the cost, availability and quality of their health care.

The folks at Organizing for America, Obama’s grassroots political organizing arm,  have compiled an archive of personal stories from regular Americans who share their health care horrors.  Organized by city (there are a number of Albuquerque ones),  the archive chronicles real problems from real people, in their own voices. It’s a great outlet for people who want to talk about why our health care system is screaming for reform –  and a handy resource for those who still need convincing.

Check it out.

California’s Nightmare State

closedIf the so-called teabaggers need an example of what life would look like without government, they need only to look at what’s happening in California right now.

Government there is under siege after voters rejected tax measures that would have funded vital state services and resources.

Now California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’s forced to shut down large sections of state government for lack of funds.

Stunned Californians are standing by as the state closes summer schools, shuts down programs for seniors and makes plans to close hundreds of state parks.

Those kind of cuts affect everyone.

But as usual, the poorest and the neediest will bear the brunt of the shutdown of resources and services.

Gov. Schwarzenegger is proposing a complete elimination of the state’s welfare program for families, medical insurance for low-income children and Cal Grants cash assistance to college and university students.

It’s sad that millions will have to suffer.

But maybe California in its misery will serve as a living, agonizing example of what happens when people don’t make the connection between government, paying taxes and maintaining the standard of living Americans have come to expect and deserve.

They know all about you…and it’s not the government

electrodeThey know everything about you.  They use sophisticated databases and enhanced psychological techniques to bend you to their will.

“They” are the credit card industry.

Award-winning investigative reporter Charles Duhigg (an Albuquerque native and Valley High School grad) has the incredible story in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine — What Does Your Credit-Card Company Know About You?

Learn how the industry peers through the window to your soul:

The exploration into cardholders’ minds hit a breakthrough in 2002, when J. P. Martin, a math-loving executive at Canadian Tire, decided to analyze almost every piece of information his company had collected from credit-card transactions the previous year… Martin could often see precisely what cardholders were purchasing, and he discovered that the brands we buy are the windows into our souls — or at least into our willingness to make good on our debts. His data indicated, for instance, that people who bought cheap, generic automotive oil were much more likely to miss a credit-card payment than someone who got the expensive, name-brand stuff. People who bought carbon-monoxide monitors for their homes or those little felt pads that stop chair legs from scratching the floor almost never missed payments. Anyone who purchased a chrome-skull car accessory or a “Mega Thruster Exhaust System” was pretty likely to miss paying his bill eventually.

Continue reading

Teabag protest is not about responsible tax policy

As we face another April 15, the great American debate over taxes and the proper role of government has taken a turn toward the grotesque.

Those screaming the loudest this Tax Day are the self-named “teabaggers,” who are angrily carrying signs and delivering tea bags to elected officials in actions they say are based on the 1773 Boston Tea Party.

In that historic event, American colonists dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes levied by the government of England. At the time, the more than 1.5 2.2 million colonists (roughly a quarter of the size of population of England) were not allowed to elect members to Parliament – they were taxed without any representation.

That’s a far cry indeed from the massive turnout – and resulting mandate – produced by the U.S. electorate in November 2008.

Many have noted that it’s a rather disingenuous for the teabaggers to scream about Obama’s tax policies, inasmuch as Bush’s policies transformed a budget surplus into a massive deficit with tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthiest members of our society.  The Obama  tax cuts benefit 95% of Americans — those whose incomes have been stagnating.

Sadly, the teabaggers are open to ridicule for so much more than their unfortunate name.

In the face of a relentless publicity push by Fox News and right-wing talk radio, questions  have arisen over who is really organizing the protests and whether they truly sprang from grassroots protestors or in fact are backed by corporate lobbyists or multi-billionaire media companies. It’s suggestive of a word coined a few years ago – astroturfing.  Astroturfing is basically fake grassroots organizing.

Consider it all together and it’s almost funny.

But taxes – who pays them, how much different people and companies are required to pay and what is done with the money that’s collected – is too important an issue to laugh off.

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Conservative Crack-up News: Frank Luntz says Americans want more government

When Republican pollster Frank Luntz came to Albuquerque four years ago, he was smug and snarky cuss. That was when the local NAIOP affiliate brought the GOP’s most notorious message manipulator (Contract for America, Clear Skies Initiative, Death Tax) to teach local sprawl developers how to re-spin and recast their image. “Never, ever refer to yourselves as ‘developers’,” he told them. It didn’t poll so well, he explained. Use the term “designers” and “creators” instead, he said.

Well, it’s 2009 and Luntz is stunned by the massive shift in public opinion regarding taxes and spending on infrastructure. Continue reading

The people spoke, but will legislators listen?

In poll after poll prior to November 4th, New Mexican voters voiced their desire for change – not just generic change for change’s sake, but real change in the economy, real change in health care, real change in the war, real change in energy sources and real change in the ethical behavior of elected leaders.

Voters put their voice into action on November 4th, electing new leaders at all levels of government, and by historic margins. With much of the media focused on our new President and Congressional leaders, will state legislators heed the call as well, or will we get inaction on these critical issues?

Here’s a great example of the change we need. It’s a story about Schott Solar, an Albuquerque company that has come away unscathed by the economic catastrophe. Continue reading

Time for an Intervention

Bob Herbert sums up well what happens when a society’s (ours) priorities go awry. A crumbling infrastructure, a lack of emphasis on education, an election contest turned into a horse race – it’s all here.

What a perfectly lovely mess.

I think we can pretty much rule out drowning government in a bathtub as a prescription for righting this ship.