The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: March 2010 Page 1 of 3

A Republican Couldn’t Do This

Just like it took Nixon to go to China, it takes Obama to pass Republican policies:

The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses
of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of
Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas
drilling for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies
and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of
affected states and many environmental organizations — would
end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the
East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central
coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.

Change!  Hope!

The Tea Party and the Ancien Regime

ancien-regime-dress-from-the-metThis has occasioned some comment:

The fact that many of them joined the Tea Party after losing their jobs raises questions of whether the movement can survive an improvement in the economy, with people trading protest signs for paychecks.

The economy is not going to recover enough to put most of these people back to work.  The administration’s own figures show they expect this year’s job gains to be barely at the rate necessary to keep up with population increases.  Indeed, it is extremely that employment will not recover before the end of this economic cycle.

This wasn’t necessary.  A real, properly put together stimulus bill would have got them back to work.  For example, a program to make every building in America be at least energy neutral and preferably creating energy, would have kept them usefully employed.

The bottom line in America today is that while everyone who isn’t paid not to know, knows how to fix what’s wrong with America (for example, instead of the mess called Health Care Reform, pass single payer), nothing that really fixes anything fundamental will be allowed to occur.

America is controlled by what economists call rent-seeking behaviour.  Virtually everyone important has a revenue stream, and they don’t want anyone to take that revenue stream away.  So pharma and insurance companies, who would have been damaged badly by single payer (they would have lost hundreds of billions) made sure that a plan to provide everyone with better health care for a third less than current costs was never even considered.

The most important game in America today is the contest for control of government, so that government can directly or indirectly give you money.  Health care “reform” in which the government decided to force Americans to buy private health insurance or be fined is merely the latest (and most blatant) example.  Virtually every industry, from finance to telecom to agriculture is involved in this game.  It is in all their interests to make sure the game continues, but they do fight amongst each other for the spoils.

This game will continue until the US can no longer afford it.  Indeed, even now, some industries are taking it on the chin, loosing out to their better connected cousins.  For example, the current downturn has seen the prison-industrial complex losing ground.  They get most of their money from State governments, and the States simply cannot afford to keep locking up so many people at so much cost.

This is the downward spiral of a great power in senescence.  It ends in collapse, reformation or revolution, when it becomes clear that the rents of the Ancien Regime can no longer be afforded, and too many of those who were bought off are thrown off their dole.

The Tea Partiers, however misguided they may be in many respects, have been thrown off the dole.  Whatever they are called, they will not be going away.

The Question About HCR is Not…

whether it will help some people, or harm some people.  It will do both.

Some people will get care they wouldn’t have otherwise.  People on Medicare will have half the “donut hole” for drug coverage covered, some people will get insurance who would have otherwise been refused.  Etc…

But here’s something which WILL happen as a result of this bill: some people who are not on Medicare will not be able to afford their medicine, due to the ban on reimportation and the increase in time before generics are allowed on the market. Many of them will die, others will go bankrupt.

Others will be forced to buy insurance they can’t afford, and will be fined if they don’t.  That money will have been money they would have used to buy out-of-pocket health insurance.  They will be harmed by this bill.

The excise tax will inexorably make employer provided health care plans worse, meaning more and more things won’t be covered by good plans (aka: plans that cover what you need.

Some women who need abortions won’t be able to afford them, and some of them will wind up bearing children they don’t want or will go to back alley abortion methods, and some of them will die or be permanently injured by so doing.

The point is that while there is no denying that some people will be better off under this bill there is also no denying that some people will be worse off. People will die who wouldn’t have without this bill, people will live who wouldn’t have without this bill. People will not go bankrupt because of this bill, people will go bankrupt because of the bill.

The question is not “will some people benefit” or “will some people be harmed”, the question is “on the balance does this bill do more good than harm?”

I come down on the side that says it does more harm than good. I may be wrong, I may be right. We won’t know for a good 10 years or so.

If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it and eat crow.

But I think I’ll be missing a meal.

And whether it does more good than harm, having the Federal government mandate that people buy a private product that costs as much, in many cases, as their tax bill, or the IRS will fine them, sets a bad precedent.  Saving a private industry which was in a death spiral (the insurance companies were only maintaining profits by cutting customers) sets a horrible precedent.  And refusing to do the right thing, which would have cost less, well, doesn’t set a precedent, but does continue a very tiresome trend of the US being unwilling to do the brain dead simple thing that has worked everywhere else, because its government is captured by moneyed interests.

Progressive Enablers

So, these last few days we’ve seen virtually every major progressive blogger say that the health care bill was worth passing and that progressive members of Congress who promised to vote against it if it didn’t include a public option were right to do so.  (I, of course, think that the public option as offered was crap, but that’s not the point, they made explicit promises not to vote for a bill that didn’t include one.)

The argument I have heard is that of course they never meant it, “everyone” knew they were lying, and that it is unreasonable to expect them to keep to their word.

What I take from this is that most progressive bloggers believe that we should just assume that politicians are liars and not take them at their word.

Is that really what they want to argue?  That all progressive politicians, every single one, are liars who won’t keep their word?

I’m willing to agree with them, if that’s what they’re trying to say, or rather, I think they’re gutless.  I think when the pressure is put on them, they fold.

And almost every  “major progressive” forgives them, which is why they keep lying and keep folding, because they know they will be forgiven for being gutless liars.

That’s the behaviour most progressive bloggers, and everyone else making excuses for them, enables.

This entire generation, whether in media or power, is hopeless.  A write off. Gutless, stupid and liars.  They all need to go.  And forgive me, that includes most of the high ranked bloggers, many of whom I consider my friends.  Instead of being people who challenged power, who had the moral and intellectual integrity to speak from a place of principle, they have become apologists for the worst sort of craven sell-outs imaginable, constantly decided that if some group wins it’s ok to hurt other groups, including by taking away their rights.

The blogosphere I grew up in, is dead.  And the hope that the Democrats would be enough better than the Republicans to fix America, well, that too is dead.

How To Save Abortion Rights

Lots of crying amongst women about how their abortion rights are being sold down the line to get this lousy health care bill passed.

I’ll say publicly what I have said privately: start a serious Draft Clinton movement, start it now.  (Her denials of interest won’t matter).

Nothing will change unless Obama personally thinks his own reelection is on the line.  Sitting presidents don’t survive serious challenges from within their own party.

Obama flexes his muscle

And Kucinich caves and agrees to vote on HCR.  Kucinich’s email is a piece of work:

I know I have to make a decision, not on the bill as I would like to see it, but the bill as it is. My criticisms of the legislation have been well reported. I do not retract them. I incorporate them in this statement. They still stand as legitimate and cautionary. I still have doubts about the bill. I do not think it is a first step toward anything I have supported in the past. This is not the bill I wanted to support, even as I continue efforts until the last minute to modify the bill.

Basically, he seems to have gotten nothing for his vote. Nothing.  And he can’t even find a good reason to vote for it.

Obama is proving, again, that he is very good at arm bending.  What I am hearing is that threats are being made to cut off all Democratic party support for many Reps who vote against the bill.  Some blue dogs will be allowed to vote against, but progressives as a group, and even some conservative Dems are expected to bite the bullet, vote for the bill, and suck up the consequences.

This is the moment when Obama flexes his muscle, proves he has control of the party, and that he will use that control against those who stand in his way.  It’s what he has to do, and progressives should take note, because this sort of hardball politics is what they’ll have to do if they ever get in power.

This is the second time Obama has really bent arms.  The first time was the bailout bill, before he was even president, which would not have passed without his intervention, an intervention which I have been told was extremely heavy handed.

It’s a pity that Obama is only good at strong arming Democrats, prefers to strong-arm progressives instead of conservative democrats, strong arms for conservative bills which are giveaways to corporate interests and appears completely incapable of playing any sort of hardball with Republicans, but this is the President that Democrats wanted.

(Full text of Kucinich’s letter after the jump)

Killing the Health Care Bill is Best

Jane’s right on this:

The White House is telling people that if they don’t pass this bill, it will be a disaster for Democrats in the fall. That’s abject nonsense — their “fallback plan” for health care doesn’t have the toxic mandate that makes the IRS the collection agency for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, or any of the abortion issues that inflame both pro- and anti-choice groups.  It’s a better bill on the merits anyway, and most of the country wouldn’t know the difference over a bill that doesn’t kick in until 2014 anyway.

Kill the health care bill, pass the fixes that can be put through, minus the mandate and abortion restrictions.  Sounds like a win to me.

Why would anyone think Obama wants to reshape the courts?

The hand wringing about how Obama isn’t using his opportunity to push through liberal judges (or even many judges at all) misses the point.

If he couldn’t even be bothered to replace the majority of the Justice Department’s USA’s, men and women chosen by Bush for their partisan credentials, which is completely within his purview and not subject to Republican filibustering, why would anyone  think that he wants to push the courts to the left?

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