Monday, March 22, 2010

Krugman: Fear Strikes Out, Significant Other news

Hi. Without presenting a long, personal argument, much of what
I believe about issues surroounding the healthcare debate has
been sent you in comments by Dennis Kucinich and now, this
article by Paul Krugman. But the future lies with Jerry Kay's
understanding that the way forward was severely damaged by
the Obama forces not engaging the massive, young and popular
forces which elected him, almost certainly out of fear that their
politics would be far more progressive than the administration's.

We're now in a reality which could become worse, or lots better.
The American public is now much more educated about health
insurance and supports a national form of Medicare. The germ
of re-engagement of youth activity seems to he happening around
education concerns and the new Coffee Party's, as reported by
friends who've become part of that. The Health Care bill, cum law,
is changeable for the better, but requires an intelligent, massive
popular movement in states and nationally, whichever the approach.
At minimum, a public option and women's full health care rights,
including abortion must have the highest priority. They remain entirely

In other words, it's up to us.


BTW, Kucinich will be on Lila Garret's show, kpfk, 7 AM Today.

Fear Strikes Out

Published: March 21, 2010

The day before Sunday's health care vote, President Obama gave an unscripted
talk to House Democrats. Near the end, he spoke about why his party should
pass reform: "Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance
to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this
country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you
made ... And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound
to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are
bound to let whatever light we have shine."

And on the other side, here's what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former
speaker of the House - a man celebrated by many in his party as an
intellectual leader - had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, "They
will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the
Democratic Party for 40 years" by passing civil rights legislation.

I'd argue that Mr. Gingrich is wrong about that: proposals to guarantee
health insurance are often controversial before they go into effect - Ronald
Reagan famously argued that Medicare would mean the end of American
freedom - but always popular once enacted.

But that's not the point I want to make today. Instead, I want you to
consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to
our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts
their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it
means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who
in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for
racial equality? (Actually, we know who: the people at the Tea Party protest
who hurled racial epithets at Democratic members of Congress on the eve of
the vote.)

And that cynicism has been the hallmark of the whole campaign against

Yes, a few conservative policy intellectuals, after making a show of
thinking hard about the issues, claimed to be disturbed by reform's fiscal
implications (but were strangely unmoved by the clean bill of fiscal health
from the Congressional Budget Office) or to want stronger action on costs
(even though this reform does more to tackle health care costs than any
previous legislation). For the most part, however, opponents of reform
even pretend to engage with the reality either of the existing health care
system or of the moderate, centrist plan - very close in outline to the
reform Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts - that Democrats were

Instead, the emotional core of opposition to reform was blatant
fear-mongering, unconstrained either by the facts or by any sense of

It wasn't just the death panel smear. It was racial hate-mongering, like a
piece in Investor's Business Daily declaring that health reform is
"affirmative action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a
doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin color." It was wild claims
about abortion funding. It was the insistence that there is something
tyrannical about giving young working Americans the assurance that health
care will be available when they need it, an assurance that older Americans
have enjoyed ever since Lyndon Johnson - whom Mr. Gingrich considers a
failed president - pushed Medicare through over the howls of conservatives.

And let's be clear: the campaign of fear hasn't been carried out by a
radical fringe, unconnected to the Republican establishment. On the
contrary, that establishment has been involved and approving all the way.
Politicians like Sarah Palin - who was, let us remember, the G.O.P.'s
vice-presidential candidate - eagerly spread the death panel lie, and
supposedly reasonable, moderate politicians like Senator Chuck Grassley
refused to say that it was untrue. On the eve of the big vote, Republican
members of Congress warned that "freedom dies a little bit today" and
accused Democrats of "totalitarian tactics," which I believe means the
process known as "voting."

Without question, the campaign of fear was effective: health reform went
from being highly popular to wide disapproval, although the numbers have
been improving lately. But the question was, would it actually be enough to
block reform?

And the answer is no. The Democrats have done it. The House has passed the
Senate version of health reform, and an improved version will be achieved
through reconciliation.

This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph
for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. But it is also a victory for America's
soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block
reform. This time, fear struck out.


Student Loan Bill Poised to Pass in Health Vote

NY Times: March 21, 2010

WASHINGTON - Along with the major health care legislation, the House on
Sunday approved a major revamping of federal student loan programs that
eliminates fees paid to private banks to act as intermediaries.
Instead, the government will expand a direct lending program, a step that
the Congressional Budget Office said would save taxpayers $61 billion over
10 years, and use the money to increase Pell grants for students.

The student loan bill is a centerpiece of President Obama's education
agenda, and it was included in the budget reconciliation measure that also
made final revisions to the Senate-passed health care bill.

The bill sets automatic annual increases in the maximum Pell grant,
scheduled to rise to $5,975 by 2017 from $5,350 this year. The new Pell
initiative also includes $13.5 billion to cover a shortfall caused by a
steep rise in the number of Americans enrolling in college and seeking
financial aid during the recession.

In last year's budget resolution, Congressional Democrats put forward a plan
to complete major education and health care legislation through a
reconciliation bill.

The budget reconciliation rules set goals for reducing future federal
deficits, and the loan bill helps to meet those goals by redirecting $10
billion in savings from subsidies to private banks toward deficit reduction.

The student loan bill will spend an additional $36 billion on Pell grants
over 10 years.

Private banks lobbied against the student loan changes, which eliminate a
long-flowing source of revenue for them.

Some Democrats, including Representative George Miller of California, the
chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said the student loan measure
represented a landmark shift in education policy that was getting
overshadowed by the larger health care fight.

In a floor speech, Mr. Miller called the budget reconciliation measure
"truly historic legislation that addresses two of America's greatest
troubles: the crushing costs and high obstacles of obtaining both quality
health care and a college education."


Rating Schwarzenegger

Published: March 21, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A survey by The Field Poll shows that the approval
rating of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California has slumped to a new low.

Results from the survey released Sunday show that 23 percent of people
interviewed approved of the job the governor was doing, while 71 percent
disapproved. Poll officials say the assessment is the lowest approval rating
Mr. Schwarzenegger has received since he took office.

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