August 28, 2009

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (MN CD6) missed the chance to lead

Posted in health care, John McCain's campaign, senior citizens tagged , , , , , , , at 2:04 am by realitytax

Minnesota’s 6th district congressional Representative, Michelle Bachmann, missed a golden opportunity this afternoon to step back from the partisan talking points and rumor-mongering before an overflow crowd at her town hall meeting in a Junior High School auditorium in Lake Elmo. Fresh from criticism that she had been much too quick to depart an event earlier in the week in St. Cloud, Bachmann responded to virtually every question or comment from the crowd with long-winded recitations of her already familiar litany: that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world despite outcomes surpassed by many other nations, and that the government would be interfering in and controlling medical decisions in some vast bureaucracy that was somehow worse than the actuarial and profit-driven bureaucrats at insurance companies who already countermand medical orders.

The tone was set early on, when despite the moderators admonitions that the only topic open to discussion was health care, Ms. Bachmann launched into such a long-winded, wandering opening statement that the crowd grew restless.  The session was obviously scripted to limit both the questions/comments and her need to respond, complete with a Texas congressman who also responded to virtually every question, yet evidently hadn’t gotten the “death panels” talking points from Bachmann’s staff. If the Congresswoman was really interested in hearing from her constituents she might have talked less, but alas like so many D.C.-based politicians she relied on posturing at length and repeatedly for the media and her base after paying lip-service to listening as the lines of questioners grew restless.

Ms. Bachmann had the chance to reach out to those looking for real information, she even repeated her recent notion that there would have to be a “safety net” for those without insurance (divining how this differs from a public option is left as an exercise for the voter, evidently,) after assuring the crowd that everybody wants the system reformed. Then, however, she resorted to amateurish theatrics (at least we didn’t see the Grassley dragon) and cheer-leading for unsupported assertions while cherry-picking points to assure her already-confirmed supporters that she wouldn’t let taxes on their children reach 80-90% to pay for reform (which she is in favor of, make no mistake about it) without addressing what she would do, or even suggest, to improve matters. All in all, while her base was delighted with the Obama-bashing, for the vast majority of those in attendance, including the dozens who couldn’t ask their questions, or thought they might hear ideas about how to address the skyrocketing costs of health care insurance, it was a waste of time.

The one accomplishment was the ratcheting up of polarization, in utter contrast to the Representative’s stated goal of attaining a bi-partisan solution.  She lacks the rhetorical polish, and the quick familiarity with the facts, that her wingman (Congressman Burgess, R-TX, a self-described “McCain surrogate”) displayed, which made her look under-prepared, if not outright insecure. From the outset it was clear that the crowd was split, and while the majority were Bachmann loyalists that didn’t mute the opposition, which roared their own approval as one questioner started out by declaring she’d turned him from a Reagan voter into a Democratic (DFL) activist.

One has to marvel at the staunch GOP line regarding government ineptitude coming from those who have controlled the White House for such a large fraction of the last quarter century, at times complete with majorities in the Congress. Still, it’s clear that Ms. Bachmann has spent little time examining her positions logically; perhaps it’s all that special interest money she gets that keeps her aiming partisan criticism at the very institution that writes her paycheck, provides for a very generous retirement, and – ironically enough – provides and pays for her health care insurance plan.

August 4, 2009

Let’s talk about euthanasia and abortion?

Posted in attack ads, health care, media coverage, Obama administration, Rove and Rovian attack politics, senior citizens tagged , , , , at 5:53 pm by realitytax

Abortion is a time-tested “wedge” issue, in the finest tradition of Karl Rove’s masterful divisive politics, and it’s arguably being used that way again right now in the health-care insurance reform debate.

Most of us have good enough insurance, and we all get to make the choice to keep our current system.  This isn’t about the majority, this is about the 1 in 6 Americans who aren’t covered.  1 in 6 – that’s not quite 50 million Americans.

Now, nobody’s proposed socialized medicine – if they had the doctors wouldn’t be mostly in favor of reform. But it’s a tested sound bite that shaves off a few votes. Did you know they need more billing clerks at Duke Medical Center than they have nurses?  Does that get through to the opponents of reform at all? No, apparently they’re happier with it spun by lobbyists and CEOs than sticking with reality.

So, too, with abortion.  It’s being dragged into the debate for the express purpose of derailing the whole package – undermining an honest debate about our values, and shaving off a few votes here and there. It’s classic Rove/GOP/special interest “divide and conquer” in the face of Obama’s attempts to make real improvements.

They hope we’ll ignore that the leading cause of personal bankruptcy filings is medical expenses.  Never mind that the number of uninsured Americans grows by over 10,000 people each and every day.  No, no, don’t fret about your neighbors who aren’t as well off as you, that’s not your problem – just keeping listening to the $pecial interests as they spend millions of dollars per day, raised by bureaucrats at companies who decide your premiums and what they’ll cover or not cover, all to influence congress and public opinion. The bureaucrats who control our access to health care right now live rich, lavish lifestyles with no incentive to change the system, let alone to cover those who need it most.

More than half of personal bankruptcy filings are triggered by medical costs. Really.

Do you think this is about somebody else?  Do you think everybody you know is really covered?  Do you mind that most of the raises in the last three decades for low and middle-income earners have gone right into the pockets of health insurance profiteers, because premiums have been rising at triple the rate of inflation?

Lots of money – special interest money – is being thrown at this debate, and it’s up to us to keep the truth out there, because when people hear things like abortion, socialized medicine, or alleged euthanasia for senior citizens, many have a visceral reaction and stop thinking, let alone listening.
Are you still thinking?

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October 16, 2008

Can somebody explain McCain’s goals and priorities?

Posted in 2008 debate, 2008 Elections, foreclosure crisis, health care, John McCain's campaign, mortgage reform, Presidential campaign, Senator Barack H. Obama, senior citizens, taxes, U.S. Economy tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:11 pm by realitytax

I don’t understand McCain’s priorities or his rationales. Maybe he’s never heard of insurance companies controlling medical procedures and limiting access to prescriptions – he’s got better coverage than I do, certainly. After watching the final Presidential debate of 2008 I can’t see how most senior citizens in the U.S.A. can afford McCain’s policies; he voted against much needed-increases in Medicare funding, taking away many seniors’ only access to health care.  He thinks the health care system is working just fine.

Senator McCain evidently has a different view of Social Security than I do. McCain wants to privatizes Social Security, as Bush had championed, so we’re all dependent on the vagaries of the stock market. We’ve seen the downside of that risky approach.  McCain, who championed deregulation in the stock markets, thinks the health care insurance industry should be similarly allowed to regulate itself. He asserts that will improve our health care without getting bureaucrats in the way, but he wants government bureaucrats to ride to the rescue of 11 million homes with bad mortgage deals, armed with $300 billion from the bailout plan. Am I the only one who sees a disconnect?

Turmoil in financial markets threatens – if not undermines – our retirement savings. Coupled to rising costs for everything from health care to energy, senior citizens and others on fixed incomes are looking for a leader who will use the office of the Presidency to improve our financial security via fiscally sound,  robust economic policies.  Yet McCain wants to deal with health care reform by granting insurance companies the latitude that banks used to crash the stock market?

Obama-Biden spokesman Bill Burton called on McCain to support Obama’s New Small Business Rescue Plan, saying:

Barack Obama supports allowing senior citizens to delay withdrawals from 401(k)s, and believes we don’t have to wait for Congress to act to provide seniors with these protections. He’s calling on the Treasury Secretary to temporarily suspend Treasury regulations and allow seniors to delay these withdrawals. He also hopes that Senator McCain will reconsider his ill-advised support for Social Security privatization, which suffers from the very same problem he is now trying to solve since it would potentially force seniors to retire when the market is down and their retirement accounts have disappeared. Senator Obama also calls on Senator McCain to support his new small business rescue plan that will extend badly-needed credit and tax relief to the men and women who are creating jobs in this troubled economy.

Senator Obama has a plan to help America’s senior citizens. Barack Obama and Senator Biden intend to protect Social Security and make sure Americans can afford to retire. The Obama-Biden proposals will expand retirement savings program and create new pension programs. Obama’s plan will eliminate income tax altogether for seniors who make less than $50,000 per year.

The Obama-Biden plan will protect and strengthen Medicare, and allow the federal government to negotiate for cheaper drugs for the Medicare program, so seniors can afford their pills. Obama will also increase funding for LIHEAP, to help seniors pay their winter heating bills.  I get that McCain wants to win, that he seeks the prestige of being President after years of service in the U.S. Congress, but I prefer the vision Obama and Biden have expressed – their ambition to use the influence of the White House to make changes that foster financial security and bolster national pride while positioning the U.S.A as a leader on issues ranging from energy and the environment to fundamental human rights.

McCain’s a fine man, and I’m sure he’d be an adequate President for those who are so wealthy that taxes are a theoretical number handled for them by an accountant that never impact their daily spending decisions.  The rest of us - the folks on Main Street who are still waiting for Bush’s economic policies to trickle down some personal economic prosperity or to create some jobs – will be better off under the inspired leadership of “that one.”

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