Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Every Democratic President in my lifetime has disappointed me in some measure.

And I was born during the reign of King Franklin and Queen Eleanor.

You expect that of Presidents. They just aren't going to do everything to your satisfaction. I still have high hopes that Obama will be a far better President than any of his predecessors since FDR, but I don't expect him to do everything to suit me. And I reserve the right to squeal, tantrum and pout when he does not. There has never been a President, at least a Democratic President, who didn't need his feet kept to the fire by the very ones who voted for him.

Yeah, I'm unhappy with the appearance of several major policy thrusts right now, particularly the apparent shuffling off of single-payer health care and the apparent giveaways of taxpayer money to the super-rich. However, I also recognize that, in the case of the health care proposal, we don't know anything about what sort of plan is shaping up, and Obama has something of a track record of feinting toward his opponents and then, if they don't cooperate to the extent he wants, veering away from them and essentially doing what he intended to do in the first place. The case of the stimulus package and the the Recalcitrant Republicans is an example; the current GM situation is maybe another. So he could end up putting out a health care plan that is much better than it now looks.

Likewise the bailout of the American financial empire. The fact of the matter is that I am not an economist, I don't fully understand the ramifications of everything that Obama and his advisers have to be considering, and anyway there may still be a feint-toward-the-enemy move in there somewhere.

I am glad that the Keynesians are back in force--Stiglitz, Krugman, Roubini, Galbraith--and I have the sense (following Robert Reich's analysis) that the Obamites are Keynesians at heart. But there is a vast world of difference between being an academic (or even applied) economist and being a politician who has to balance off many different factors, economic and otherwise, in arriving at a policy for a nation. The economists only have to deal with one part of reality--a part that doesn't include the political realities, or the need to sometimes make moves that appear to be 90 or even 180 degrees from the place where you want to end up.

So I know where I want to go with health care in grand terms, and I know that ultimately I want the common people to have a greater share in the wealth they produce, and I want to have a clean, thermally stable, and healthy environment. But sometimes you just got to trust they guy you hired to do the job for you. You need to keep reminding him of the outcome you want, but you have to let him turn the knobs and levers to get you there.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Call to Action. The supposed Democratic majority in the Senate

is a MINO--a Majority in Name Only. There are all these Blue Dog types running loose, and neither Obama nor God seems to have a way of getting them into line. Somehow, even while they're effectively decapitated and bleeding to death out their neck, the Republican corpus seems able to keep its components in line. They can get those votes without intraparty dissent in the House, and can get within maybe 3 votes in the Senate. I don't know what their secret is, other than threatening not to support dissenters in upcoming elections, but their Congressional leaders got some kinda mojo on the rank & file.

We don't have anything like that. It's not even a matter of herding cats. It's a matter of herding cats who think they're ocelots. It seems obvious that neither the President nor the leadership can get them with the program on the major legislation that not only defines us as a party, but that lays the groundwork for the resurrection of the nation. THIS IS NOT TOLERABLE. If the Goddam leadership can't break their lips loose from the asses of Corporate America, there is only one force left that can do it.


And we have to start right now. Critical votes, votes that will decide parts of our destiny for much longer than the next generation or two, are coming up. Health care. War or peace. Our energy and environmental future. We can't just sit around and hope for Primary challenges in 2010. We can't wait for public financing to eventually happen and decrease their reliance on deals with the Devil for campaign funding. We have to get their attention right now. To put it into technical terms, we have to scare the living shit out of them.

They need to smell torches burning in the night, and see the glint of fork tines in the flickering light of the flames.

Can we do that? Frankly, I don't know. But I do know that there is nothing more important in national politics right now.

Here are the steps.
1) We identify our blue-dog targets.
2) We let them know precisely what we want
3) We convince them that if they don't do what we want, we will have their heads.

For step 3, each BD's constituents will have a special role of communicating with them, but you don't have to be a constituent. All you have to do is let them know, preferably in writing, exactly what you want on a case by case basis. One letter or fax for each issue. Let them know that you are watching and that, while you cannot vote directly in their election, you will be sending a campaign contribution. It will go to them if they have proved themselves to you, or it will go to a more liberal Primary opponent if they have not. Then people start bombarding the papers with letters to the editor, holding rallies, calling them out wherever they show up in public, and generally making them painfully aware that they are dealing with a wave of united public activism, and the choice is theirs. They can either ride the crest to victory or be smashed beneath it.

The only problem with Madoff's Ponzi scheme

is that it wasn't big enough.

At $50 billion they give you a prison term. At 5 trillion they give you a bailout.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Nightmare of Universal Health Care

The whole purpose of a health insurance company is to collect fees from the insured and to distribute as much as possible of those funds to the executives and owners of the insurance company. This is done by several means--for example, by increasing the cost of the insurance premiums, by denying and restricting services, and by reducing or withholding payments to providers after they deliver authorized services. Health insurance companies are among the most efficient methods in our economic system for transferring wealth from the lower classes to its rightful owners, the wealthy.

It should be clear to anyone who thinks about it that any single-payer, universal health-care plan would totally defeat the whole purpose of health insurance. The “owners” of the system would be the public at large. The executives would either be government employees or bureaucrats operating under the government’s thumb, who would be perversely motivated to provide actual services to the insured.

In fact, the whole enterprise would end up frittering away virtually all the money put into it on providing care for the wretched masses rather than enriching its owners. Moreover, as experience in the rest of the industrialized world shows, once any such system gets put in place, it will be virtually impossible to ever return to a normal and sane profit system, because the public will very quickly become addicted to the idea of getting health care that actually meets their tedious little needs rather than being satisfied with whatever the insurance companies decide to let them have.