Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cohen: We Won a Robust Public Option, Krugman: Going to Extreme

Bravo, Jeff Cohen, for this illumination. It's a trifecta of rationality,
broad appeal and good government. It should make sense to many
students and parents now bedazzled by Beck, et al, and provides a
critical pillar for organizing in healthcare and other appropriate areas.

We Won a Robust Public Option . . . on College Loans

by: Jeff Cohen,
t r u t h o u t: March 26, 2010

We won!

When President Barack Obama signs the health care reconciliation bill on
Tuesday, we can crow about a robust public option - en route perhaps to a
more inclusive, cost-effective single-payer system. Soon, private profiteers
(and subsidies to them) will be sidelined, and the government will save
taxpayers billions by providing service directly to Americans in need.

I'm not hallucinating. We should savor this victory.

Unfortunately, it's not a health care victory.

Attached to the health care reconciliation bill is an unrelated college loan
measure that goes in the opposite direction of health care reform. The loan
measure sidelines private profiteers - the banks - and saves taxpayers money
by making the government something of a "single-payer" which will soon be
directly issuing most college loans in our country.

Direct lending by the government will cut out the middleman and save
taxpayers, according to the Congressional Budget Office, $61 BILLION OVER 10
YEARS - with $40 billion in savings being redirected to higher education in
the form of more Pell grants, more aid to minority-serving colleges and more
aid to lower-income graduates for paying off their student debt.

What a concept!

Instead of moving to subsidize a bulky private industry and its waste,
profits and exorbitant executive pay (as the new health bill does by
mandating that millions become new customers of corporate insurers), the
college loan reform reduces bureaucracy, profit and streamlines the system.

Yes, the right-wing in Congress yelled "government takeover."

And, yes, corporate lobbyists put up A FIERCE FIGHT to stop this common
sense approach that ends years of wasteful subsidies to private banks.

But Democrats in Congress stood up to them - passing a measure in the public
interest that can easily be explained and justified to the public.

It's a far cry from the backroom deal-making Obama and top Democrats engaged
in with lobbyists as health care reform got watered down, as even a weak
public option got jettisoned and as private insurers and big pharma deepened
their control over the system.

I want to be happy at a time like this. I keep hearing everyone from
liberals to mainstream media to right-wingers hailing this health care bill
as a world-historical event. Sort of like the first man walking on the Moon.

To the skeptic in me, it's more like "one small step for humankind, one
giant leap for private insurance firms."

But, today, it's great to be able to crow about some good news - college
loans - where Congress put the needs of the public and students and families
above the needs of private interests.


Going to Extreme

NY Times Op-Ed: March 25, 2010

I admit it: I had fun watching right-wingers go wild as health reform
finally became law. But a few days later, it doesn't seem quite as
entertaining - and not just because of the wave of vandalism and threats
aimed at Democratic lawmakers. For if you care about America's future, you
can't be happy as extremists take full control of one of our two great
political parties.

To be sure, it was enjoyable watching Representative Devin Nunes, a
Republican of California, warn that by passing health reform, Democrats
"will finally lay the cornerstone of their socialist utopia on the backs of
the American people." Gosh, that sounds uncomfortable. And it's been a hoot
watching Mitt Romney squirm as he tries to distance himself from a plan
that, as he knows full well, is nearly identical to the reform he himself
pushed through as governor of Massachusetts. His best shot was declaring
that enacting reform was an "unconscionable abuse of power," a "historic
usurpation of the legislative process" - presumably because the legislative
process isn't supposed to include things like "votes" in which the majority

A side observation: one Republican talking point has been that Democrats had
no right to pass a bill facing overwhelming public disapproval. As it
happens, the Constitution says nothing about opinion polls trumping the
right and duty of elected officials to make decisions based on what they
perceive as the merits. But in any case, the message from the polls is much
more ambiguous than opponents of reform claim: While many Americans
disapprove of Obamacare, a significant number do so because they feel that
it doesn't go far enough. And a Gallup poll taken after health reform's
enactment showed the public, by a modest but significant margin, seeming
pleased that it passed.

But back to the main theme. What has been really striking has been the
eliminationist rhetoric of the G.O.P., coming not from some radical fringe
but from the party's leaders. John Boehner, the House minority leader,
declared that the passage of health reform was "Armageddon." The Republican
National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, surrounded by flames, while the
committee's chairman declared that it was time to put Ms. Pelosi on "the
firing line." And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic
lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.

All of this goes far beyond politics as usual. Democrats had a lot of harsh
things to say about former President George W. Bush - but you'll search in
vain for anything comparably menacing, anything that even hinted at an
appeal to violence, from members of Congress, let alone senior party

No, to find anything like what we're seeing now you have to go back to the
last time a Democrat was president. Like President Obama, Bill Clinton faced
a G.O.P. that denied his legitimacy - Dick Armey, the second-ranking House
Republican (and now a Tea Party leader) referred to him as "your president."
Threats were common: President Clinton, declared Senator Jesse Helms of
North Carolina, "better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a
bodyguard." (Helms later expressed regrets over the remark - but only after
a media firestorm.) And once they controlled Congress, Republicans tried to
govern as if they held the White House, too, eventually shutting down the
federal government in an attempt to bully Mr. Clinton into submission.

Mr. Obama seems to have sincerely believed that he would face a different
reception. And he made a real try at bipartisanship, nearly losing his
chance at health reform by frittering away months in a vain attempt to get a
few Republicans on board. At this point, however, it's clear that any
Democratic president will face total opposition from a Republican Party that
is completely dominated by right-wing extremists.

For today's G.O.P. is, fully and finally, the party of Ronald Reagan - not
Reagan the pragmatic politician, who could and did strike deals with
Democrats, but Reagan the antigovernment fanatic, who warned that Medicare
would destroy American freedom. It's a party that sees modest efforts to
improve Americans' economic and health security not merely as unwise, but as
monstrous. It's a party in which paranoid fantasies about the other side -
Obama is a socialist, Democrats have totalitarian ambitions - are
mainstream. And, as a result, it's a party that fundamentally doesn't accept
anyone else's right to govern.

In the short run, Republican extremism may be good for Democrats, to the
extent that it prompts a voter backlash. But in the long run, it's a very
bad thing for America. We need to have two reasonable, rational parties in
this country. And right now we don't.

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