Monthly Archives: August 2009

Gerry Connolly Lies to His Constituents

For more than a month, I have been calling my congressman, Gerry Connolly, to ask when he was planning a town hall meeting.  Whether his Fairfax district office or his Capitol Hill office, I was always given the same answer:  He hasn’t planned any, or he hasn’t “finalized his schedule.”  Then I read this:

Still, [Connolly]  sought to put the best face on his own largely civil town hall, the third he’s held during the month among seniors, noting that he had conducted “a pretty meaty discussion.”

While they were described as meetings “among seniors,”  I have no doubt the meetings were open to the public.  Yet, his staff lied to me.  When I called his office this morning for an explanation, I was told that the meeting “was at the request of the Greenville community residents.”  Did that mean it was not open to the public? I asked.  The staffer repeated the previous answer.

I don’t know about some Virginia Democrats.  Sen. Warner and Connolly seemed to have lost any backbone they once had.  Here I am trying to counter the lying SOBs on the other side, and he won’t be honest with me about his meetings.

Is the Public Option A Sword to Fall On?

Steve Pearlstein says no.

One goal of health-care reform is to begin to address these market imperfections. But there’s no particular evidence that a government-run insurance plan will be any more successful than what we currently get from big private insurers — unless, of course, the government-run plan is so big or so powerful that it can dictate prices to providers, as Medicare now does. Proposing that, however, would immediately unite doctors, hospitals and drug companies in opposing reform.

You also hear the argument that government-run insurance would have lower costs because it wouldn’t have to generate a profit (that’s true) and would be more efficient than private insurers (that isn’t). The evidence of greater efficiency is Medicare, which spends about 2 to 3 percent of its budget on administration. But if a government-run plan had to spend its own money to collect premiums, market itself to customers, maintain a reserve, and manage care in a way that lowers costs and raises quality — none of which Medicare now does — then you can be sure its administrative costs would be nowhere near 2 or 3 percent.

Pearlstein, who will discuss this article at 11 a.m. on The Washington Post web site, makes some cogent arguments.  But what strikes me most about this article is that I must read an opinion piece to get good information on the debate.  Shouldn’t Post reporters be detailing the pros and cons of healthcare reform?  Instead of spending time covering town hall shoutfests, shouldn’t reporters look into the debate and collect expert opinion on how reform might work, what consequences and trade-offs are, and what other countries have done to address the issues we face?

Swift Boating Healthcare Reform

Indeed, it’s the same scenario.

But what has been perfectly consistent is the way the press has, again, fallen for a right-wing smear campaign and dressed it up as news. Just as with the Swifties, the press has turned over its summer coverage to a band of agitators spreading misinformation. Five summers ago, the Swift Boat Vets helped hijack the election. They lied about documents, they lied about eyewitness, and they lied about their partisan affiliations and connections. For several crucial weeks during the campaign, journalists turned away from the pile-up of Swift Boat falsehoods and contradictions, rarely daring to call the Swift Boat attack out for what it really was — a hoax. Too spooked by the GOP Noise Machine and its charge of liberal media bias, the press propped up the Vets as serious men and showered them with attention.

The key point here is that the right has had a decades long, disciplined campaign to discredit the mainstream media.  The MSM, with their thin skins, reacted by bending over backwards to be “fair,” which means they give prominence to the most outrageous charges from the right, afraid of the abuse they might get if they resist.

Why doesn’t the left do the same?

A Pittance for the Poor

The rich are getting richer.

The wealthiest 15,000 households, those making more than $11.5 million a year, got a record 6.04 percent of the nation’s $8.7 trillion in income, according to the study by University of California-Berkeley economics professor Emmanuel Saez. The previous year those households amassed 5.46 percent of the total, the tax data shows.

In Saez’s study, the richest Americans represent the top 0.01 percent of all households. In 1928, the year before the Great Depression began, the share of the nation’s income for this slice of households was 5.04 percent.

Hey, the poor are getting richer, too. 

Tax Notes said the richest 0.01 percent of Americans has had greater income growth than the rest of the country since the early 1970s. From 1973 to 2007, the average income for taxpayers in that category grew 758 percent, or more than $30 million. Excluding the wealthiest 10 percent, the rest of the population got an average increase of $286 over that period, or about $8.41 annually, adjusted for inflation, Tax Notes said.

It’s enough for a pack of smokes and a coke.  And you get it every year!  What are you complaining about?

Is Obama Tough Enough?

The left punditry is starting to come down on Obama, wondering whether, as Politico’s Roger Simon points out, Hillary Clinton was right:  You may campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose. 

In her former life as a presidential candidate, Clinton warned voters that Obama would let them down. She warned them that when the going got tough, he would fold up.

She said it was not just a matter of Obama lacking experience — that was the least of it — but that he lacked the strength, the toughness, the will to get the job done.

Obama seems at this juncture weak-kneed.  The right’s tried and true strategy of intimidation seems to be working, as it does whether they are in power or out.

Even Gene Robinson, the Washington Post columnist and one of Obama’s most ardent defenders, is beginning to wonder.

It’s true that politics is the art of the possible, but it’s also true that great leaders expand the scope of possibility. Barack Obama took office pledging to be a transformational president. The fate of a government-run public health insurance option will be an early test of his ability to end the way Washington’s big-money, special-interest politics suffocates true reform.

…What the president hasn’t done is the obvious: Tell Congress and the American public, clearly and forcefully, what has to be done and why. Take control of the debate. Consult less and insist more. Remind the Blue Dogs who’s president and who’s not.

Giving up on the public option might be expedient. But we didn’t elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one.

It’s fair to criticize the country’s most progressive voices.  While some leaders are vocal, the progressive base is silent.

So where are the liberal protesters? The initiative has passed to the know-nothing right for two big reasons.

One is Obama himself. This president recoils from confrontation, even with those who are out to destroy him. He has had ample opportunities to put himself on the side of popular economic grievances and to connect America’s economic troubles to the forces that Roosevelt called "economic royalists." But Obama, whose propensity for consensus is hard-wired, keeps passing up those opportunities.

…Despite the president’s history as a community organizer, his style as president is to tamp down popular protest, not rev it up. I know of several cases in which the White House requested allied progressive groups to cool it.

Cohen’s second reason for the lack of protests is that unions can’t organize the necessary protests.  I disagree.  When you’re unemployed, there’s plenty of time to go to meetings and rallies to demand the change Obama promised.

Simon thinks that the president will eventually push for a public option and make it happen, even if it takes reconciliation so it can’t be filibustered.

I’m skeptical, but have been surprised before when Obama has pushed hard when he gets near the goal line.

I can’t believe that he thinks ditching the public option and other concessions to the right will help him electorally.  If he caves on this, I won’t be working for him next election.  By then, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to work for a new progressive party.  It may not be practical, but if you want to get a party to move in your direction, build a movement that threatens to take votes from them.  Maybe then Democrats, including Mr. Congeniality, will take notice.

White House Caves…Again!

What chance is there for a public option – or even significant healthcare reform, if the White House caves in to GOP pressure on such a small matter as this.

Following a furor over how the data would be used, the White House has shut down an electronic tip box — — that was set up to receive information on “fishy” claims about President Barack Obama’s health plan.

…Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote a letter to Obama raising privacy concerns about what the senator called an “Obama monitoring program.”

Media Incompetence

Another voice calling for calling a lie a lie.  Obama’s hope for a new kind of politics because of media’s incompetence.

I warned that his vision of a “different kind of politics” was a vain hope, that any Democrat who made it to the White House would face “an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false.”

Krugman goes on to challenge Obama to get better at delivering his healthcare reform message.

It would certainly help if he gave clearer and more concise explanations of his health care plan. To be fair, he’s gotten much better at that over the past couple of weeks.

What’s still missing, however, is a sense of passion and outrage — passion for the goal of ensuring that every American gets the health care he or she needs, outrage at the lies and fear-mongering that are being used to block that goal.

What Krugman leaves out is that it is up to Obama to challenge MSM to engage in something remotely related to responsible journalism.  Right now, MSM is letting the cable news echo chamber define the debate.  At least the New York Times is trying.

Post Ombudsman Agrees

Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander agrees with my points in a post of a few days ago.

The Post yesterday gave prominent play to a story about disenchantment among Virginians who supported Barack Obama last November. Unease with the president’s economic policies, it said, are influencing the strategies of those running for governor of the commonwealth.

But about a dozen readers complained that the thrust of the story isn’t buttressed by the reporting. They noted that only three would-be voters are quoted. And while the story said that national polls show Obama’s approval rating has slipped since he took office, it cited no survey data to suggest that is the case in Virginia.

I think the readers have a point.

A Vote for the Worst

Thanks to Political Wire for pointing this out.

After going on for several days now, who looks worse in this town-halls-gone-wild story? An Obama administration that promised a new era of American politics, but that isn’t delivering on it? A Republican Party/conservative movement — less than seven months removed from the White House — stoking this anger and hoping it returns them to power? American citizens who can’t treat their neighbors or elected officials with respect, even when they disagree? Or a media covering the story but also amplifying the exaggerations and outright lies being told at these town halls? Ah, the classic political story … nobody wins, we’re all losers in these eyes of the true silent majority: the radical middle? To look at this debate through the prism of campaign politics, has anyone raised their POSITIVE ratings or simply succeeded in raising the NEGATIVE ratings of an opponent?

For the worst, I vote for the media.