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.


Borrowed Time: Predatory Lenders vs. Native Americans

Great White SharkWhen President Barack Obama comes to New Mexico on Thursday, he’ll apply the considerable power of his presidency to the problem of credit card consumer abuse.

In a speech at Rio Rancho High, Obama will endorse current federal legislation that would force the powerful credit card companies to outlaw sudden interest rate hikes, unfair penalties and hidden fees while prohibiting them from giving cards to anyone under 21.

This consumer advocacy is welcome, coming from the only people with the power to actually make the hugely profitable industry retract apparently arbitrary policies that hurt millions of Americans.

But the shameful practices of the credit card companies are just one leg of a sticky web of predatory lending practices that include car title loans, payday loans and tax refund anticipation loans.

That point is borne out shockingly in a new report that says New Mexicans living in counties with high Native American populations paid more than $12 million in fees in 2005 to obtain tax refund anticipation loans, or RALs. The loans, which are unregulated in New Mexico, can carry interest rates of up to 500 percent.

The report, Borrowed Time: Use of Refund Anticipation Loans Among EITC Filers in Native American Communities, was done by the Colorado-based First Nations Development Institute and the Center for Responsible Lending.

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Week in Rewind: More on TIDDs, Monahan’s ego, Animal Spirits, Blockgate, NM’s New Media, Bogus Polls and Val Kilmer too

Just now recovered from the legislative session. Here’s a buffet of the past week’s posts to re-taste and savor.

Downfall of the SunCal TIDD revisited: It came down to the wee hours of the session — David vs. Goliath and you know how that one came out.  Read all about it.

Environment Wins in Final Hours of NM Legislative Session

What about the other TIDD bills?

We still don’t know how much SunCal spent on all those TV spots, slick mailers and its army of high-priced lobbyists.  It was curious how, with each successive SunCal ad, the estimated number of jobs the development promised to produce would coincidentally keep going up and up and up — inversely tracking with the economy that was going down and down. But 33 House members didn’t go for the $408 million taxpayer handout.   At the end of the day, maybe all those lobbyists  just didn’t take Nick Naylor’s advice to “argue correctly.”  (From the movie, Thank You for Smoking).

Veteran Roundhouse reporter, Jay Miller (Inside the Capitol) offered his authoritative postmortem on the legislative session – including a harsh verdict on who was to blame for the demise of some ethics reform measures:

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Obama’s Latino Mandate

Steve Cobble and Joe Velasquez, no strangers to New Mexico politics, analyze the historic impact of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 election. (link)

No. 44

It’s quite a lineup. Add another one to the list of No. 44s. Henry Aaron, Willie McCovey and now President Barack Obama.

Personal reflections on Obama’s speech

Barack Obama’s speech from Philadelphia today was a eulogy on the twentieth century’s conversation on race. Seeing a candidate – a Presidential candidate no less – pen a speech that holds the mirror up to all of America, equally, unashamedly and nakedly, made me exhale deeply and say, “finally.”

As one who has advised several candidates, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to green light that speech. Obama and his team have at stake millions of dollars, millions of supporters and incomprehensible pressures to win on November 4th. That’s not to be underestimated or undervalued. Above all, if Obama does not win, he will not be able to enact the new ways of governing about which he so eloquently speaks. In spite of, or more likely, because of all that, Obama and his team made a bold decision: to say what everyone is thinking, but no one wants to say out loud.

As a child, my lens on race was shaped by classmates making fun of me or chasing me home from school because I looked different than they did. As an adult, I came to understand race through my deep friendship with Carolyn Goodman, whose son, Andy Goodman, was murdered by the KKK in Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964. Continue reading