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beaten, bloody, & alive

12 Jul

It really makes no sense. No matter which way I look at it, I know I shouldn’t feel tired: I didn’t do shit today. My day began per usual, I got out at 5 (maybe a minute or two after, of course), and my workload could’ve been taken care of by a can of tuna. To be quite frank, I probably spent more time on Facebook, NY Times, and Digg than responding to my work email. That’s because there was NO real work to be done. I was  just warming the seat cushion.

 

Yet I feel exhausted. My eyes are itchy, my head throbs, and I am a carbo-load away from snoozing on top of my keyboard. The commute home is worse, because I’m not only just “tired,” but anxious. I am playing back my day and feel depressed at how little I did. !?!?!

 

This has happened to me a little or a lot, depending on what job I had at the time. It was an almost daily occurrence at one particular job, where reading journals online was not enough to fill my days–I ended up writing a short story over the course of one particularly void month. It wasn’t that my genius–ha!–was not being used; it was that I, as a person, was not being used. I was a filler, and I knew it!

 

Awhile back I took on an extra responsibility. I became a core member of a local political campaign. This was unpaid and in addition to my paid full time job. Some days I would work at my 8-5, then go to a baptist church to staff a campaign booth for 2 hours, then listen to the candidate’s debate performance, and then spend another 2 hours giving him feedback and developing strategy over some beers and fries. I would be working an additional 20 hours a week just on this, for nothing more than a belief in the person I was supporting. I would go home, around midnight, bleary-eyed and truly tired. Before passing out I’d often think, “This feels great.”

 

The work we all do, day in and day out, is a part of our genetic makeup. It turns us into lethargic nowhere men, or catapult us to an invigorated life. The quality of work that we do is so important to our well-being that that the negative impact of working 20 hours at a soul-killing job would be greater than working 60 hours at an engaging one. We take this for granted, and think that this is as good as it gets. But we’ve all had  a time when we get home, tired and drained, and before succumbing to Morpheus we get a little giddy. Then there’s time where we don’t: we feel restless, frustrated, but drained in the worst way…and we remember tomorrow will be just the same. There’s no way that does not break your body and spirit.

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ObamaCare Part II: Push, Pull or Drag it to the Finish Line.

25 Feb

A certain someone asked me a few months ago whether I thought Obama was really a liberal president.  Of course I answered yes.  He then asked what Obama had done so far in office to make me think that.  After my usual sch-peel of, “well, what has he done period?” I listed a few minor policy changes that I view as far left.

Admittedly, after that conversation I thought it over again and decided that I may have been wrong. (I didn’t tell him that, but I guess the cat is out of the bag now) Despite what I may have been quick to think, at that point I felt that Obama had been a surprisingly centrist president.

But now, a few months later, I retract the ridiculous notion that Obama was actually going to govern from the center.  I’d like to take that thought, set it on fire and throw it out the window.

As always it comes down to health care reform.   We’ve all heard the sob story by now; the Democrats can’t get it passed and the Republicans are being nuisances.   Cue the image of Obama sitting in the Oval Office shaking his head at his bickering kids.  Poor Barack. No one wants to play nice.

When Bill Clinton proposed HillaryCare he faced similar opposition.  Republicans didn’t like it, voters didn’t get it and even some Democrats wouldn’t support it.  Sound familiar?  So the bill died and Clinton worked with both Democrats and Republicans to come up with less radical alternatives that made both parties moderately happy.  In other words, he started tweaking his policies and governing from the center rather than the left.

Obama, it seems, has yet to read that memo.  Unlike Clinton he’s breaking out the defibrillator and shocking his flawed bill back to life.  Again. Despite his plummeting approval ratings, lost elections and experts saying that the reform would be detrimental to the economy, he marches on.

The White House released a spruced up health care plan which fails to fix the real issue.  Americans have one main concern with health care – the rising costs.  Obama’s plan, chock full of regulations and mandates just doesn’t solve that problem.

His televised summit with the Republicans seems like a great way to convince the public he’s trying to compromise with both sides. The reality is he’s clearly intent on passing this bill quickly. There has been talk about using reconciliation, which would allow the Democrats to pass parts of the bill with only 51 votes.

Columnist David Corn commented that it is time to “crash the bill” over the finish line.  Do American’s really want a major overhaul of their health care system that has to be drop-kicked over legitimate concerns in order to be passed?

Obama needs to scrap his plan and start from scratch.  He should host a summit with Republicans but actually listen to what they have to say instead of showing up with a plan already set in motion.  Enough with the fake bipartisanship.  If he truly wants to lead and be elected for a second term, he must drop this radical reform and work with both parties to develop a more centrist approach to health care.

Healthcare Tumbles, Democrats Fumble

16 Dec

“This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.”

Howard Dean is not happy. The healthcare reform bill that has bounced up and down the walls of Congress is nothing more than a vestige of its peak form. There is immense frustration within the liberal ranks due to the back-breaking compromises made by Democrats and the President to appease a few, or sometimes just one (Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT), to get the bill signed by the holiday break. The public option was the first to be offed, then the Medicare buy-in, and now the option to purchase more affordable medicine abroad was deemed too much to support.

Within the ranks of the Democratic party there is a sense of brewing mutiny. Dean is not the only Democrat suggesting a scratch and re-do. Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) says he cannot vote for the bill as is. Too much has been compromised, he says, for him to feel this will enact true reform:

“I am committed to voting for a bill that achieves the goals of a public option: competition, cost savings and accountability. I will not be able to vote for lesser legislation that ignores those fundamentals […] My colleagues may have forged a compromise bill that can achieve the 60 votes that will be needed for it to pass. But until this bill addresses cost, competition and accountability in a meaningful way, it will not win mine.”

On the other side of the same aisle, moderate and conservative Democrats are still not swayed and unwilling to back this bill, even after it has been watered down so much. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) cannot vote for a bill that includes any provisions that fund abortions. Period.

“I’m not on the bill. I have spoken with the president and he knows they are not wrapped up today. I think everybody understands they are not wrapped up today and that impression will not be given.”

Friendlies within the other party, like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), are still hesitant about the bill but involved in the process. In all, the support Harry Reid took months to solidify, and the outreach the Democratic caucuses and President Obama have made to other parties has resulted in an impasse that is quickly deteriorating the strength of the reform.

What Howard Dean is suggesting, redoing the bill through the reconciliation process, is immensely risky. Essentially, passing a bill through the reconciliation process can be done with only 51 votes, a simple majority. It gives the image that it was stuffed down the throat of the minority. In order for the bill to qualify for reconciliation, it would need to go through major changes, as the legislative maneuver is only used for budget measures. This is what Dean meant by a simpler bill.

This is gaining some steam in both houses, but Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) says it simply cannot work due to the complexity of the bill:

“Reconciliation is a very spare and thin process with limited opportunities. For example, no insurance reform if we do reconciliation. We won’t give American consumers the tools that they need to fight back against the health insurance companies.

And I think they understand, as we do, that’s a very, very important element in this package.”

This does not mean it will not be used. It may just mean that the bill will become a budgetary reform of healthcare, focused on the numbers, not so much the provisions.

At this point, the Democrats feel the breath of an electoral defeat in 2010. The bill is almost alien to those who initially supported it, and those who do not are waiting for all the spinning plates to come crashing down. President Obama and the Democrats are fumbling their political strength after 2010. Maybe a rematch is not such a bad idea.

Lieberman's Medicare Tantrum a Flip-Flop

15 Dec

Sen. Joe Lieberman loves the spotlight. He relished running with Gore in 2000  as his VP; he was giddy when all eyes jumped on him for breaking ranks with the Democratic Party and becoming and Independent; and he savored the months when he was considered the frontrunner to be McCain’s VP choice (which he was, if it weren’t for outside forces that bent the Maverick’s hand).

Now, the spotlight is shining on him once more. This time as the Gang of 1 against healthcare reform.

His latest objection is over the expansion of Medicare to those below the current qualifying age of 65. Proponents of the current healthcare bill want the qualifying age to be lowered to 55, as a way of helping people who don’t have coverage and cannot afford it due to the high premiums their age would trigger. Lieberman was clear this past weekend on his refusal to accept such a preposterous measure.

Too bad he was for it a few months ago. The video below surfaced yesterday and is set to deflate the hot air balloon Lieberman has been riding for years. Is he for-gainst it, or just against whatever everyone is for?

Don’t expect 2010 to be 1994. Part 2: Healthcare

23 Nov

“I’m not going to get into the numbers today, but it’ll — I think if you’re not impressed, you should be.”

Harry Reid is pretty proud of his healthcare bill.  The next few weeks will be intense and immensely important to him and his party. The ramifications of this bill will be seen and discussed for generations, similar to other fundamental legislative changes in the relationship between American government and its people, like the GI Bill and Medicare. They can’t afford to pull a 1994 again.

After the House passed their version of the momentous reform Obama promised during his campaign, Reid and his Senate Democrats are about to make the hardest push yet. Republicans hold considerable power in the Senate–mainly by just lying dead in the hallways–and the Democrats have an ideologically diverse party to wrangle. Reid will lose the sleep Pelosi is now making up.

Healthcare reform is not just economically important and a revision of 1/6 of our economy. It also is vital for Democrats seeking re-election. If healthcare reform fails, it would not be 1994 all over again–it would be worse. The GOP would make a comeback after years of mismanagement, corruption, and ineptitude, and after having done close to nothing of substance in their role as a minority party. .

When healthcare reform does pass (Democrats cannot fathom a plan B), it will pay handsome dividends. As mentioned in the last post of this series, it will give them enough of a nudge to help them avoid the GOP takeover many pundits predict. Democrats need accomplishments to regain the footing they didn’t have most of this decade, and right the wrongs of administrations passed.

Jobs will rule 2010. Unfortunately, they will probably continue to be scarce well into next year. But those that do spring up, the green shoots economists and politicians always look for, will be seized for political ammunition. Healthcare reform has the potential of giving Democrats a shot of momentum, especially if the public option comes with the package. In part that is because healthcare reform and job production are not correlated factors, but causal.

The public option is an often misunderstood thing. But it is just another government-run and funded competitor, like the US Postal Service,  in a market full of thriving private competitors.

As any other new business, it will need people and create jobs. The jobs will come from new bureaucratic institutions, new auxiliary departments, additional support by other already existing government agencies, and by the secondary markets and services any new business can create (developing applications for the iPhone is a prime example). Some are already predicting that healthcare reform, even without a public option, may help businesses create as many as 10 million new jobs due to the money saved in covering their employees. Adding the public option element will make this an exclusively Obama’s Democratic Party victory; any good news that trickles in will be attributed to no one else.

This big picture landscape will be used in small doses for 2010. Even if a few million jobs are created because of healthcare reform, they will not all suddenly appear in one year. It may take years to see the full effect of reform, but those jobs that pop up will be framed as part of a larger outcome. There are regional estimates of how much impact reform will have on local jobs and economies. (An example of that for the state of Colorado).  Democrats will be most convincing if they keep their pleads for re-election local, and measured but hopeful. Otherwise, even the most ignorant voter will know they are making castles out of straw.

While they wait for the jobs to come in, the political boost Democrats will get after reform is passed will be felt instantaneously.  It will revitalize a party that is exercising in shaky fashion the most power it’s had this decade. The last large piece of legislation the Democratic Congress passed was the stimulus earlier this year. The effect of that is still materializing and debated, so they can hardly count that as an achievement. But healthcare reform, which many thought was close to impossible, which crushed their party over 15 years ago, which most thought was just another campaign promise, would communicate political power like very little else could. “Yes, we ARE the majority party…See!” It boosts confidence in the loyalists and makes the undecideds curious: “Who are those studs with a hop in their step?”

This could turn two ways for the Democrats. It could either give them a short-term or a long-term boost. They can either have readily available results to tout in their favor in 2010 and 2012: new jobs, great hopes, a new, fairer, America. Or, it could give them a boost years down the line. This could be a legacy legislation.

The Republican party often recalls with pride President Eisenhower’s Highway Act of 1956. It was transformative, innovative, and had the long view always in mind. It was a bold stroke of risk taking that paid off. That was a legacy legislation. Democrats hope this will be as well. But they also need to show Americans they can benefit today. That is why linking small improvements to grand outcomes is so important. There jobs depends on it.

Why the 'Opt-Out' option is genius

26 Oct

You have to respect Harry Reid’s determination. Despite flagging support from his constituent state, the Senate majority leader from Nevada is not giving up his ambitious agenda. He has taken the reins of a healthcare debate that was swerving and dipping under Pelosi’s leadership. Now, with a palpable sniff of victory in front of him, Reid is going in for the kill.

He is expected to unveil the newest, shiniest version of the healthcare reform bill yet. This time, he is mostly trying to garner enough support to push it through in decisive fashion. His silver bullet: an opt-out option that allows states to remove the public option from their constituents’ list of healthcare choices.

This is genius. It’ nearly bulletproof. The shrewd Harry knows  doing this allows him to calm the public option doubters, while simultaneously making sure the public option stays embedded in American healthcare for generations.

It comes down to politics. The opt-out option would allow a state to pass a law, which both the legislature and the governor of that state must approve, that bans the public option. What this does is bind the governor and any state legislator that voted for the “No Public Option” law to it, thereby tying them to the popularity, or lack thereof, of that decision.

According to recent polls, support for the public option is anywhere between the high 50’s and mid 60’s percentage points. It is safe to assume that this will stay the same once the bill is approved and it becomes law.

It’s easy for a Senator from Alabama, or a governor from Texas to skewer the idea of a public option from an ideological/illogical standpoint, knowing that he is one of many against it. But when it’s easy to single out those in favor and those against it, and when people in Texas see that people in California are saving so much more money because they have a public option in place that puts pressure on insurance companies to stay competitive, it won’t be so safe to do such grandstanding.

Let’s say a brave governor decides to declare his state “Public Option Free,” what could happen then? It will become a campaign issue. It might be powerful enough to kill that governor’s, or even worse, that governor party’s chances at re-election. Same goes for legislators. A vote against the public option could prove to be a vote they will have to explain ten times over when seeking to keep their seat.

If the public option proves to be the money saver many, including the Congressional Budget Office, says it will be, that is strong enough argument to persuade the nay-sayers that they are on the wrong end of the debate. Good job, Harry. Keep that gutsy cleverness coming–and keep away from Pelosi, she is a photo-op killer.

Why is healthcare reform so hard to sell to Americans?

16 Sep

photocredit: aflcio2008

The Baucus bill finally came out today in its 200-page plus package, a daunting piece of legislation. Some of the highlights are also some of the lowlights–Sen. Max Baucus has essentially watered down a bill that was intended to bring sweeping reform into the industry that accounts for about 1/6 of the country’s economy. The deconstruction of the bill is coming from both sides, but one thing is definitely clear: revolutionary change this is not.

After almost a year of researching, proposing, listening, and drafting this reform bill, and after nearly 100 years of unsuccessful pursuits at reform, even if just a smidge, it is once again coming to a screeching halt. This bill, which is likely to change before long, is currently a dissapointment. I started wondering, however, if it is the fault of Congress, Baucus, Obama, or the GOP, that changing an inefficient system is so difficult…or maybe that is just how we Americans are built. I think it may be the latter.

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