The living end, of course, was finally being settled enough to check in a get writing... only to discover that I couldn't get my computer hooked to the internet (in one of those scenarios where people try to give you the kind of advice people give to elderly aunts who never use a computer - "did you plug it in?" "Did you find the right internet service provider?"... a good lesson about not assuming other people are dumb... but also a reminder about how few people can really help at moments like this.
In any case, Mom and I had some lunch (and I got the most awesome hamburger I've had in months), I cooled down, and we made our way back to the Rockland Public lIbrary... which, longtime readers know, I've used before.
It's nice to be back in Maine - the weather is, if nothing else, cooler, my Mom's family still as political and gracious as ever. The drive yesterday was long, and we got off late... but the payoff was a lovely lunch in mid-Connecticut which I hope to detail shortly, and a visit with an old friend of my Mom's in Ogonquit Maine (the big resort destination around Kennebunk, where the Bushes stay).
Getting settled, and being in vacation mode, I've decided to start slow with blog postings... so I'm going to leave it here for now... and hopefuly put up something else later today. If not, expect to see me tomorrow, full of a fabulous lobster dinner and possibly some of the best ice cream ever. See ya later...
Sorry for the long-ish break; work has been a bit hectic, and I'm leaving on vacation (but writing during it) tomorrow.
While I work on a couple of fresh posts... here, via Portly Dyke over at Shakesville is, as she puts it, a new womanist folk anthem: it's indeed so tuneful I found myself bursting into the chorus afternoon and evening yesterday. At work.
(and, as she notes... totally NSFW. You were warned.)
Sorry for the delay... two days of opening left me a little more tuckered out than I expected... and Friday I got a little sidetracked. As I was debating with Red about how this piece over at her place would come together, we got into one of our engaging, many-layered debates about politics and personal views.
As I told her, I love the discussions, because Red, true to her hair, is feisty, determined and not one to back down. And she makes me think, makes me work to get my points across, and doesn't accept the easy answer.
So that gave me an idea for something I should say here: about my possibly excessive reliance on the pronoun "we."
Rep. Marsha Blackburn makes, for my money, a reasonable case for ending the fiction of off-budget "emergency" spending... and gets ridiculed by the usual progressives. She's not my favorite... but I'm more with her on this one than not.
I wish I felt strongly about what happened to Henry Louis Gates. I don't. I do wish people (you too Mr. Obama) would stop calling him "Skip" in the context of discussing a news event about him (but if I see him at a certain wedding... I'll call him anything you want).
Continuing on the politics of healthcare reform, it should be noted that there are Republicans who can talk, knowledgeably, about healthcare; it's very easy for progressives to lull themselves into assuming that no one can, or will, cogently complain about provisions in the reform bill. That's a big mistake, because while the "conservative talking points" of screaming "Socialized Medicine!" may be absurd, behind that are some conservaoves who can make doing nothing (or doing something else) sound eminently reasonable.
The depressing reality is that JIndal doesn't offer much; he's got your basic right wing "massive government takeover" rhetoric which adds little substantive to the discussion, and while he's right about the high price tag with no clear way to pay for it, he's a little faux-naive in suggesting that somehow real reform can be done for less; he knows better, if only because he's faced some hard choices, at a number of points in his own career, about trying to rein in health care costs.
What I'd like to do, though, is focus on the "seven principles" he suggests as conservative ideals in health reform, because I think he both offers a blueprint for an alternative right-side approach to healthcare issues... which, ultimately, is as problematic, or more so, than what's on the table.
Continuing my healthcare focus... I've largely ignored the politics surrounding the healthcare reform debate, mostly because the lack of a firm proposal has made the political arguments especially disconnected from anything real. That has been changing in the last few weeks, as we've begun to focus (not entirely well) on specifics. And now I think is the time to admit that the politics of healthcare reform... are not looking good.
This isn't surprising, and much of the unwinding of the political momentum has been predictable. Along with others, I've been arguing for months (okay... years, but let's focus on recent events) that we needed a full debate, in public, about our health care issues in the United States. Instead, for months, the major efforts to craft health care reform took place largely behind closed doors, and any debates about big issues took place largely among people very familiar with all the policy issues and who, generally, agreed on potential solutions.
The net effect has been, much as I and others expected, that as the reform bill's proposals have become more widely disseminated we are re-arguing points that many knowledgable people consider settled. As well, an issue like controlling costs of care now has the ability to derail the whole debate precisely because the people crafting the bill kept the cost of care debate out of their discussions. Had the reform bill been subjected to a more public (or... transparent) process, I suspect a number of key objections could have been raised and dealt with sooner.
I'd like to stick with the questions coming up around healthcare reform, because I think what's about to fall apart there is an indicator of what we're facing on a number of other issues coming this fall: the issue of what happens as we face facts about the lack of money within the Federal government.
The hardest question - though serious progressives hate it - that healthcare reform raised, all along, was how it would be paid for. Even when he initially proposed ideas about reforming health insurance, Barack Obama admitted that, in his theory, he knew of about half the money needed to pay for what was likely to cost about one trillion dollars. Though the plan specifics have been a moving target, that price tag has not moved substantially; for a minute it appeared that the Senate Health (HELP) committee had gotten to a $600 billion price tag... but that turned out to leave aside reforms to Medicaid and Medicare, which are under the Finance committee jurisdiction. The House bill comes in at about $1.3 trillion, all in.
The House also has offered the most mischievous solution, sure to become an easy partisan debating point - they proposed a surcharge on "high income" earners, with high income now defined at about $300,000 (bitter earners making $275,000... are now mad to discover they are not rich). The proposal to raise taxes has pretty much died on the vine: it's pretty clear that the full House can't pass a tax like this, the Senate leaders called it a non-starter, and the White House didn't really back it. And that's before conservatives had a field day going back to their familiar lines about "tax and spend liberals."
Conservatives, though, are not the problem; the problem is... we have no money. Even rich people.
As much as I have been following the healthcare debate closely, I haven't been writing about it; I feel bad about it, because it's been ceding the field to a number of people (Jon Cohn and Ezra Klein perhaps most prominently), who tend to offer the establishment views of the left without generally facing or examining the things that call the status quo perspective into question.
But the main reason for not writing has been that very status quo - despite a flurry of blogging and anxious "reporting" of minute developments, in fact, very little has happened; while the House has a bill out of committee (3 committees actually), and the Senate Health Committee (HELP) has passed their part of a Senate bill... there is, still, not a comprehensive, finished proposal to address healthcare reform. All the bills are messy works in progress, and a key piece of reform - the Senate Finance Committee's bill which would be the best guide to what's doable in actually paying for these reforms - is just about nowhere to be seen.
The reason to start writing again, though, is that in the past month, as the possibility of actual reform has begun to take shape, the actual health care debate we've needed all along is actually beginning to surface. Finally, people are waking up to the fact that in order to have a public that understands what's at stake, you have actually discuss what the stakes are, what's working, and what isn't in our national healthcare system (or, more precisely, systems). The start of that discussion, which I find to be the most heartening development, has, of course, thrown a wrench into that "Establishment" plan... but that's probably all to the good. Doing the "healthcare reform" that's been lurching along, and not subjecting it to a "kick the tires" assessment of what's actually being proposed, whether it makes sense, and just how much it will cost, was an unrealistic way to approach reform all along.
And now, as we look at it... this may not be the right reform, and it may not get done at all. And while that would be the worst of all possible worlds... I think we may have the necessary wake up call here to finally think seriously about a different kind of reform - the one where we ask more about the healthcare we're getting, and less about the insurance we use to "pay" for it.