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.

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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.

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.

Continue reading

Session-omics and the Rail Runner

The RailRunner couldn’t have come at a better time, for me at least. With the legislative session starting up in six weeks, the RailRunner has already posted schedules for the Albuquerque to Santa Fe roundtrip, with a stop just south of the Roundhouse. The times work great, the pick-up and drop-off locations work great and the price is just $8, roundtrip.

That means less gas and a cheaper trip for me, less wear and tear on my car, more time to work rather than just sit behind the wheel of car and never having to spend 20 minutes finding a parking spot again up in Santa Fe.

I don’t know how many new jobs the Rail Runner construction created, but those jobs couldn’t have come at a better time either. I also bet that the Rail Runner project spurred additional private investment – supply companies, new construction technology and equipment and service enterprises.

That’s a formula that works. When government can initiate a project that unleashes long term private investment, everyone wins.

Rail Runner website

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

Are Taxes Evil?

The roads we drive on, the Medicare that helps senior citizens, the garbage that is collected every week – we all know the source of funding for these services – the taxes assessed and collected by the government, paid for by you and I.

In today’s political climate, there’s no way in hell a candidate would be caught dead calling for an increase in taxes. We’ve all been trained since Nixon’s first campaign to repeat the mantra: tax cuts good, tax increases bad.

But the worldwide financial crisis has changed things considerably. America’s taxpayers bailed out not just America’s largest banks, but quite possibly, the world’s economy. Before all the knee jerk reaction starts about how the government overstepped its bounds, let’s remember who was frantically calling for this governmental action – bank CEO’s, leading investors, leadership of both political parties and the President. 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.