Monday, October 05, 2009

All Aboard

As the Democrats struggle with health care reform, I think it's a good time to remind ourselves why they seem to struggle to get meaningful legislation passed, even with control of the Congress and the White House. When the Republicans are in power, they band together to form a single voice. There are few dissenters and they push through their agenda with seemingly little debate from inside the party. The Democrats, however, end up looking like a model for the modern dysfunctional family. Are the Republicans more united than the Democrats? No doubt. Are the Republicans more effective at advancing their views? No doubt.

Why are the Republicans more effective than the Democrats? It's simple really. The Democrats try to incorporate many views under their banner, while the Republicans are basically tolerant of only one. Being a "conservative" means that you believe in God and the Bible. That you believe in a strong national defense above all else. That you believe in the 2nd amendment as an absolute. That you believe abortion is a sin. That you believe illegal immigrants (and frankly all immigrants of color) are the cause of many of the ills of society. That you believe that government has no place in your health care (as long as Medicare and VA benefits are tended to by some invisible force that is definitely not the government). These along with a few others are the tenants of the Republican cause. You either believe these things or you have no place in the party. When Colin Powell dared to admit that he was voting for Barack Obama, the right wing press attacked. Rush Limbaugh said that the only reason he was voting that way was because of skin color. Rush said that there was no place in the Republican Party for him.

That is the modern Republican Party. It is monolithic and at times monosyllabic. The Democrats are a "big tent" party. It is made up of a diverse coalition of views and beliefs. Some believe in God and the Bible, some believe that abortion is a sin, some have no love for immigrants and some even believe that government should have no place in their health care. The difference being that the Democrats do not try to expel people for those views or beliefs. The current uproar over the "Blue Dog" Democrats would have you believe differently, but unless one of those representatives were to declare himself or herself a Republican, they will still receive the majority of support of their party members against any opposition.

It does make the Democratic Party a whole lot messier and seemingly less effective, but you have to remember the legacy that the big party approach has left behind. From social security, to desegregation of the military, to the civil rights bill, to Medicare, the Democratic Party has been the driving force behind each of these landmark changes to our country. It was a struggle each time to get these things done. Arms had to be twisted, promises had to made and sometimes the rules had to be bent just a little in order to give the American people real change. But always remember which side of the aisle those changes came from.

I am a declared Independent who has been at times very frustrated with the pace of progress in Washington, D. C. At times I've thrown up my hands at the President's seeming lack of urgency. I've cursed the Blue Dogs and the Progressives. I've sworn off writing on this blog a time or two. I've written angry articles, I've called my Senators and Congressmen and demanded action. I have even said out loud that I wished the Democrats could be a little more like the Republicans. But with a calmer head I do realize that wishing for such a thing is more than foolhardy. It would be downright dangerous. Imagine a Congress in which we only had far right and far left fighting each other. We would see and endless string of leadership trying to dismantle what the other party did while in power. I long for the day when the Republican leadership will realize that a narrow vision is not necessarily a better vision. Until that day, we have the Democratic Party, warts and all, that still invites disparate views to share the stage.

I want meaningful health care reform. I want an end to the war in Afghanistan. I want public education to be a priority for this country again. I want an end to the abuse of the Constitution. I want a lot of things, but as I make my endless demands, I do occasionally stop and realize that there is only one party that's listening. It may not be perfect, it may not be the most effective, but it is the only one that genuinely values ideas that may not fit exactly into its platform. So I take today to celebrate the Democratic Party. Tomorrow may be a different story though.


SJ said...

Well put.
Historically, the Right organizes and marches in lockstep while the Left argues with itself.

The way Lincoln Chaffee and subsequently Arlen Specter were ostracized is entirely in keeping with today's Post Reagan GOP. You are either with them or against them, and should one of their Republican politicians get into power, -well tough shit for you. George W. Bush all but told half of the country in words and deeds that he was not their President for eight years, -that he was not about building any kind of consensus or representing anybody but the moneyed elite core of his base.
The Republicans are now rooting against America itself, they are hoping that Democrats fail because only their opposition's failure will take attention away from the fact that we already tried it the GOP's way, and it fucked the country over very badly.

MadMike said...

SJ you are so right. The fact is the Democrats are interested in crafting bi-partisan legislation, at the urging of the president. This is hurting them and us. The Republicans are not interested in helping America. They are interested in destroying this president and regaining the majority. Their mouthpieces spew vitriol that is treasonous and their followers are fools and fanatics. The faster the Left realizes this and stops trying to bend over backward to accommodate the Right the faster legislation will become a reality as opposed to a dream.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The diversity within the Democratic party is clearly a strength AND a weakness. And, yes, a lot of it is regional. I really think that these big city liberals who run virtually unoppsed in their general elections need to realize one thing. If a Blanche Lincoln or a Mary Landrieu consistently voted the way that they do, they'd (Lincoln and Landrieu) be voted out of office. Democrats from red/purple states have only a few % points to work with. Liberals need to ask themselves, do you want a moderate Democrat or a redneck conservative Republican? It basically boils down to that, I'm afraid to say.......Hey, how you guys doin', by the way? LOL

Vigilante said...

Mycue, you might want to consider the very excellent/troubling column of Neal Gabler's Armageddon Politics, from the L.A. Times.

SJ said...

I'm still betting on Moderate Democrats.
I've been lucky. My Senators pick up the phone when people call. I called to complain to Chuck Schumer on two occassions this year and actually got him on the phone both times... which scared the crap out of me. Gillibrand replied by email to a voicemail.

Mycue23 said...

Nice article. When the Republicans tied their fortunes to the backlash against civil rights, they started down a road that has led to a regional and quasi-religious base. There is no room for debate in religious dogma based platform. Let's hope that one day the party is returned to a state where people actually disagree with each other. Perhaps pre-1968, when there were such things as moderate Republicans at the national level. We can only hope that a Nelson Rockefeller/Barry Goldwater type debate will once again make the Republicans a true national party that is open to opposing viewpoints (of course Rockefeller got crushed by Goldwater and that basically led to the modern Republican party, but at least there was a debate within the party at one point).

Vigilante said...

Well said.

Beach Bum said...

Great post Mycue, although at times i find myslef thinking along the lines of what I heard Lewis Black say recently. That the two party system is a bowl of shit looking in a mirror.

-Sepp said...

The reason the dems can't push this crap bill through has a pretty easy answer...the voters! While most voters have no problem fixing the healthcare system's flaws, most people don't care for the bill as it's written and all the shady crap thats jammed between the pages.
The dems need those voters to remain in office and aren't willing to sacrifice their political careers simply to appease the party.
The question you should be asking yourself is whether you want democratic leaders who have princples or, those who just do as the party honchos tell them to?

SJ said...

Mycue wrote this post but I'd like to chime in, and you'll have to define "crap bill"

Ultimately, if we're honest with ourselves, you and I American to American -we both know the real reason Healthcare doesn't pass uncontested in this country, not for 50 years and not now. It's the Healthcare lobby. Period.

They've bought Senators on all sides of the aisle.
Don't believe the hype.
The Healthcare industry doesn't want anything to happen that would affect its profits, and they'll probably get away with it again because we're a nation of suckers who respond when people start screaming

If you don't like the government involved in healthcare? Then get rid of the medicare benefits your parents have, get rid of the coverage servicemen and women have.

Do you know who invented the term "Socialized medicine?"

Take a wild guess.

-Sepp said...

Agreed SJ, the lobby has bought many on each side.
I, have actually lived in and, utilized hospitals in socialist countries. I used to live in Europe and saw firsthand the crap conditions that come along with socialized medicine.
The birth of my daughter in Ruthweiler Germany...wife with legs spread wide open pushing a baby out with NO door on the room and spectators walking by and stopping! Wife and baby 1 overnight hospital stay...the price the government was charged? 45,000 marks which equated to 38 grand american money and did NOT include the prenatal (1 visit) and post natal care!
All that "free" healthcare came at a cost of a 55% income tax which was supplemented by a 19% national sales tax!
Our next child was born here in America...private room, sterile conditions, weekly ultrsounds and thorough post natal care for my wife AND son! Total cost $4000 billed to my insurance with 2 $20 co-pays at the doctor at the 1 and 2 month stage for the baby!
My out of pocket was $2300 to pay the insurance premiums over the course of 1 year!
So tell me, would 55% of my gross wages and paying a 19% sales tax on EVERYTHING really be the better deal?
Is it NOT impossible for this country to expand the eligibility of it's existing programs in order to care for those who make less money?
The bill the democrats have put out has more to do with control than it does healthcare! They've already acknowleged that income taxes must be raised and a VAT tax would have to be imposed in order to make their idea work!
Sorry but, I'm not willing to cough up more than half my wages and pay out the ass via a sales tax for everything...when I know full well that an alternative solution CAN be found!
The democrats are simply trying to push something through in order to call it an accomplishment. I'd rather see them accomplish something better than copying a failed idea from Europe!

SJ said...

Man that sounds terrible. I'm sorry you had to pay for the indignity. I hate hearing that kind of stuff especially when it pertains to the birth process.
But the fact that Germany's (or every country in Europe) system has it's big drawbacks doesn't mean we don't need to fix our own.
Our healthcare system is bankrupting other industries, like Automotive manufacturing.
-For every horror story in terms of pricing and outcome in Europe and Canada, we have scores more here.
The current bill may not be your idea of a solution or mine in iot's current state, but the answer to that is to get Republicans, who are supposed to be the fiscal watchdogs in America to offer adjustments, not stall for time and say "let's scrap it" or worse lie about provisions in it. The Right seems to oppose reform outright. We just can't afford to do nothing. Renumeration and all the other mechanics including taxation, reimbursement and price controls need to be refined. I'd like to see some Conservatives say something other than "no way." I really would.

Jack Jodell said...

Mycue23 and SJ,
Congrats on your Yankees beating my Twins in the ALDS. Though I am heartsick at being swept for the season by the Yanks, I'm glad you guys are feeling good, and with good reason. That is a tremendous club you have there, and if they don't go all the way, I'll be amazed.

Remember early in the season when you were bemoaning the (then) mediocre play of the Yankees? This should serve as a reminder to not let pessimism overcome you, in both sports and politics. We still have at least 3 + more years of a non-conservative, non-Republican presidency, and it's still more than a year until the midterms. Keep the fight, and those spirits up, because there is much we can still accomplish politically, just as there is much the Yanks can still accomplish baseball-wise! :)

-Sepp said...

SJ,Not too many folks can deny that our system has it's problems. My axe to grind is that the democrats are simply trying to jam a bad bill through as fast as they can for what appears to be no other reason than playing the legacy fullfillment game in order to hand Obama an accomplishment. What they seem to be missing is that a fast accomplishment could come back and bite his legacy in the ass later due to the emphasis being placed on speed as opposed to quality.
I completely believe that something can be accomplished if cooler heads prevail and intelligent people are brought into the equation. I'm seeing congressmen who can't fill out a tax return authoring bills for a total revamp of a system they don't even understand and are willing to import the worst aspects of other country's bad ideas.
It may not always appear so, but, I think there are still some great minds somewhere in this country that can find the right solution for everyone in this. We're not going to find them in the government!
Sure you can easily blame the GOP for going against the current bill. It's just plain bad and politics aside, I can't see how anyone could support it with a clean conscience.
In your post, you mentioned you'd like to see an end of constitutional abuses...some of the crap in the current bill simply legitimizes and makes some abuses into government policy! It's filled with privacy rights violations galore and freedom of choice violations just to scratch the surface.
I think we can do better than this and I think we should!

SJ said...

sorry about your Twins. And I should say, I've never been an ardent supporter of instant replay... until this weekend. That sucked. It shouldn't have cost the Twins the game. And yes, the beginning of the season seems like a long, long time ago. The Bullpen was mess at the start but eventually corrected course.

They all need to work on it together for all our sakes, every last Representative and Senator should be on the phone with one another and that just doesn't seem to be happening.

Mycue23 said...

I'm sorry that I haven't responded sooner. SJ has done a good job though. Everytime I hear one of those so called "horror" stories from the evil socialized medicine world, I think of the tens of thousands of people who die here every year because they don't have the option of a "horrible and demeaning" govenment run health care system. We need solutions, not finger pointing. Unfortunately the Republicans can only offer criticism as opposed to solutions. There is a better solution, but there certainly hasn't been anything even approaching a useful suggestion from the Republicans. Could the bill be better? Of course, but when one side refuses to help and only offers opposition, you do not get the most effective legislation. As far as the "constitutional" issues with the bill, you'll have to point out exactly what you're talking about. I don't see anything that would be a constitutional matter in the current bills proposed by either house. Thanks for reading.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I'm in a tough spot here. I don't trust the insurance companies. But I don't exactly trust the government, either (that poor lady in Oregon denied potentially life-saving cancer drugs and, instead, offered drugs to end her life). I personally like Dr. Emanuel's plan of vouchers/an idependent board (along the lines of the Fed) to set minimum standards and provide dispute resolutions. A Medicare for all plan (in my opinion) would be extremely problematic. The low-balling of payments to doctors and hospitals would either reduce care OR cause providers to see more patients for a shorter period of time. And then there's the fraud component. The last time they did a study on Medicare fraud was 13 years ago. They found that 10% of the Medicare budget went to pay bogus claims (a by-product, paradoxically, of the system's supposedly low overhead). I guess the bottom line is that I agree with you folks. Let's take our time and do this sucker right.

-Sepp said...

Well, Mycue, my interactions with the German health system are firsthand accounts of what I personaly saw and dealt with. Our current system looks state of the art when measured side by side with socialized health systems.

On the fiscal side, the citizens of those countries are heavily taxed up to 60% of their income from the rich on down to the guy sweeping the street. When Obama says "deficit neutral", it means either, the govt will shell out healthcare money only until the allotted amount runs dry...or, the government will tax the populace to pick up the entire tab...which he vowed wouldn't happen but, is impossible to sustain unless it does happen.
Taxing the rich and stopping fraud waste and abuse to pay for it is a ridiculus plan...if it can even be called a "plan".

On the liberty side of the issue, I don't see where govt has a need to realtime access to everyone's bank accounts and personal records. I don't see why the IRS also has to be incorperated into the healthcare system. Mandatory inclusion of everyone's private doctor / patient records into a national database? The database bothers me because a 15 year old kid in Russia was able to hack into the DoD database and had access to top secret information. I don't see a networked database accessable by every hospital nationwide as being "secure" in the least.
Also, I live in Toledo...home of Joe the plummer...and saw exactly how not one but two politicly motivated people with access to personal records released the information to the public...for pure politics! I saw what 2 unethical people with special privleges did not only to JTP, but to his entire family who didn't deserve the scorn and threats.
The bill as it stands pretty much erases your right to privacy and legitimizes it as being "for your own good".
They now also want to add a penalty to the bill for those who CHOOSE to not buy insurance at all. A fine will be levied every year...freedom of choice? And then I'm left to wonder what happens to those who simply don't pay the fine? Jail? Siezure of property or revokation civil privleges? The exact repercussions haven't yet been completely explained.
Perhaps I just sound paranoid but, after the last 8 years, anyone who isn't has'nt paid attention. And right when you thought the cloak and dagger could end...we get "report people to fishy dot gov" crap!

If we're going to fix healthcare, I feel that turning it into another government run machine is going to be bad for all of us. Instead of career politicians crafting this, we're better off getting the private sector thougoughly involved in the solution.
I trust the politicos to build healthcare as much as I trust them to build airplanes!

Vigilante said...

It's the most blatant form of Robin-Hood economics ever proposed. The House of Representatives' universal health-care bill, pays for the health insurance of the poorest 20 percent of Americans who need help affording it with a tax surcharge on the richest 1 percent.

I don't remember a redistribution this direct ever coming out of Congress. I mean, occasionally Congress closes a few tax loopholes at the top and offers a refundable tax credit to people near the bottom. Or creates a poor people's program like Medicaid, paid for out of general revenues from a progressive income tax. But to say out loud that those in our society who can most easily afford it should pay for health insurance of those who can not is, well, audacious.

There's another word for it: fair. According to the most recent data, the richest 1 percent of American households now take home about 20 percent of total income, the highest percentage since 1928. Now, yes, I know: Critics will charge that these are the very people who invest, innovate, and hire, and thereby keep the economy going. So raising their taxes will burden the economy and thereby hurt everyone, including those who are supposed to be helped.

But there's no reason to suppose that taking a tiny sliver of the incomes of the top 1 percent will reduce all that much of their ardor to invest, innovate and hire in the future. Yet if this tiny sliver means affordable health care for a far larger number of Americans, they'll be able to get regular checkups and thereby stay healthy and productive. And a more healthy and productive workforce will do far more to build the American economy.

One other virtue of this funding mechanism is its simplicity. A surtax is simple to administer. And the whole idea is easily understood.

Tax the very wealthy to keep everyone healthy.

Not even a bad bumper sticker.

-Sepp said...

If it were just so easy to adapt national policy from a bumpersticker slogan, the debate would be minimal.
And if they could so easily cover the uninsured segment by simply adding a surcharge to the rich, the bill would be 3 pages long and NOT have all the hidden cloak and dagger crap tucked between the pages.
What fun would that be?

SJ said...

Well said/written on all counts.

it's all about money, this whole debate. If the Rich paid the same proportionate share of their taxes as the folks who serve and defend the county, we'd have money for a lot of coverage, besides just healthcare for our Senators and Congressmen.

Mycue23 said...

Our current health care system looks state of the art, IF YOU HAVE HEALTH CARE!! If you don't have health care or if you have a shitty plan or if you happen to reach the dollar limit of your coverage, then our system looks like shit.

We have no right to privacy now. Were you even paying attention during the Bush administration? I'll point you to a article I wrote which outlines just which rights we still have and trust me, privacy isn't one of them (

Sepp, I'm going to tred as lightly as I can here because I am not in the habit of insulting the people who come here to read our thoughts. If you look at a problem from only one side, you only get a one-sided solution. From the view of someone who has health care and has always had it, there seems no sense of urgency to solve a problem that is (as far as you're concerned) not a "crisis". You must also look at the problem from the other side. Think of someone without health insurance. Or someone who had insurance but reached their yearly limit and couldn't keep up with the bills and had to declare bankruptcy. Hell, think of yourself, if the birth of your child had some untold complications that the insurance company refused to pay for because your wife had a minor proceedure that she didn't disclose. Health Care reform is needed not only because this country can't sustain the every growing cost, but because hundreds of thousands of Americans have died because they couldn't afford to see a doctor.
It has been 60 years since President Truman called for universal health care, so for the love of God, don't talk to me about how this bill is being jammed down the throat of Americans. Or say things like, "what's the rush?". Those kinds of warmed over, rote, straight from Fox news, quotes serve no purpose. Propose solutions, do not talk about how awful what is being proposed is. That is pointless and a frankly a waste of everyone's time.

By the way, you have already come up with the perfect plan. I'll use your own words here, "Taxing the rich and stopping fraud waste and abuse to pay for it". Perfect.

-Sepp said...

Mycue, where I'm comming from with my "rushing it" point of view is that the dems have only cobbled the same rejected crap together over and over again...only to see it rejected over and over again. As for privacy, The HOPE and CHANGE I was looking for in Obama and the Dems was some reversals in Bush's anti-privacy skulldruggery. But, as I suspected, they were only against it until THEY had the power to use it too...and are now seeking to extend those powers! The crap in the health bill made the invasions even more intrusive if you can believe that!
NOBODY...and I mean NOBODY I know will say that the system is perfect and doesent need to be retuned and more inclusive but, as it stands right now, the bill is unacceptable period. The two sides will have to engage in productive dialog and drop the political crap and focus on something viable. Sacrifices and comprimises will have to come from both sides. If not, we might be getting a monster that NOBODY wanted or intended.
I know it's comming and I think I'm within my rights to demand that cognizant thought be put into this BEFORE we end up with a over politicized P.O.S that makes things worse than we've ever imagined.
The "lets pass this and worry about the consequences later" way of thinking will bite the nation in the usual.