“If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

Poverty in America

Robert Reich Explains the Economy

Tea Party Pubic Service Announcement

December 18, 2009

Making Nothing out of Something – or – Snatching Defeat out of the Jaws of Victory

Leading LIke a Democrat

Once again the Democrats have shown that when put in charge of the legislative and executive branches of government – with a clear mandate from the people for change – they are incapable of leading.

The so-called health care reform bill getting ready to limp across the legislative finish line is a prime example of the Democrats inability to stand up for their core values. Stripped of all real reform, this bill represents another stunning defeat for the American people and the last chance to address this burning issue for at least another generation.

While the Democrats negotiated and gave away, piece by piece, any true reform that was in the bill, trying to reach the elusive and phony target of a filibuster proof majority, they consistently ignored the wishes of a majority of Americans. Instead, due to their fear of a filibuster, the Democratic leadership elevated one man – Sen. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut – to the position of decision maker dictating what would be in the final version of the bill. Reveling in the national spotlight, Senator Lieberman served his true constituency, not the people of Connecticut that elected him nor the people of the United States that want true health care reform but the insurance industry, his true employer of record.

While serving in the US Senate, Mr. Lieberman has taken in an astonishing $2.5 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry, including health insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, hospitals and nursing homes. All poised to continue record profits and ever-bigger bonuses for the executives if a watered-down health reform bill passes with no public option. But, being the family man that he is, Joe Lieberman’s wife was also on the payroll of these very same companies. As a paid lobbyist (now there s something truly perverse about an electoral system that allows spouses of legislators to be paid lobbyists for companies that depend upon legislative initiatives and regulations) working for a company that raked in millions in fees from companies such as Glaxco Smith Kline, Sankyo Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer, Ms. Lieberman was representing those very companies that are opposed to health care reform.

So now we have Democrats and the president supporting a bill that barely chips away at the edges of needed health care reform. Gone from the bill is a public option, even though this is supported by a majority of Americans. Also excised from the bill as Democrats ran to avoid any real debate is a Medicare buy-in for people over 55 who do not have health insurance and end of life counseling. However, the democrats in the House did manage to include a clause restricting access to abortion. So not only do the Democrats manage, as only they can, to celebrate a watered down health care bill that does little that is needed, but they allowed and then endorsed the insertion of the abortion restriction.

Where is the change? Where is the hope? Where are the Democrats?

December 17, 2009

Sanders Says Single-Payer Day Will Come as He Withdraws Amendment

By Donna Smith, Healthcare NOT Warfare Co-chair
December 16, 2009

Sickening. Saddening. Maddening. And the stuff of future determination in the political struggle for healthcare for all in the United States.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate today, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont rose to offer his single-payer, Medicare for All amendment No. 2837 and to begin debate. Then, one of the two Republican doctors in Senate, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, demanded a full reading of the 700-page amendment.

From the Senate gallery, I watched as Sen. Max Baucus told Sanders the only way to halt the Republican delay tactic would be to withdraw the amendment. Sanders stated emphatically to Baucus, “I will offer this amendment.” But both men left the chamber as the amendment reading went on.

The Republicans seemed to be pleased with the procedural maneuver. Periodically one of the Democratic leadership would walk over to Coburn and chat. He’d smile and lean on his stack of documents—everything being very well staged for the C-SPAN cameras.
I thought how cold and callous it all looked from the gallery—healthcare is not a laughing matter for millions of us. This crisis has killed thousands of our fellow citizens and bankrupted millions more. I fail to find any of that remotely funny or something over which any Senator ought to feel pride as he or she blocks progress towards a better healthcare system.

The words of the amendment were clear and clean. And though not many were there to actually listen, I couldn’t help but hear the details of the amendment and wish people could grasp the simple beauty of knowing each of us, all of us would have the care we need when we needed it at a lower cost. Instead, we’re going to have more of the mess we have now—more insurance company influence over our lives and our bodies, and in many cases at a higher cost.

Single-payer, amendment number 2837 sounded pretty good to me. I was more than willing to wait out the Republican mischief and the Democrats’ worry about not passing something—anything—before Christmas. I was more than willing to listen to every word.

After two hours of reading page after page of the amendment, Sanders stepped back up to his desk and withdrew the amendment. The reading stopped. And the fight for single-payer, Medicare for all died for this Congressional cycle.
Senator Sanders stood proudly and defiantly at the microphone and delivered the floor speech on behalf of single-payer. By then it was all over except for getting his intelligent remarks and his passion on the record. Those who care about where we need to go with this nation’s healthcare system should listen to Senator Sanders’ floor speech from today, December 16, 2009.

The fight will go on. As surely as the deaths attributable to a lack of access to healthcare in the United States will continue to mount and as surely as the number of bankruptcies directly related to medical crisis will also continue to rise, so too will the cry for real healthcare justice. This Congress and this President are not going to get to the place we needed them to go. They are not extending healthcare as a basic human right to all of us.

It makes me wish I had purchased a little health insurance stock along the way. Because as soon as Joe Lieberman made sure that he cleared out any chance of any public insurance expansion at all from this bill, the for-profit health insurance companies saw their stocks begin to rise again.

So, how do we get through this cycle? Will there be a conference committee effort to restore a state based single-payer amendment to health reform legislation? Or will we just watch as Congress passes some messy piece of something that isn’t likely to do very much at all to mitigate the healthcare crisis in this nation just to claim they did something?

And what of the single-payer advocates and movement? Well, in the words of the brave nurses who never took “no” for an answer on other healthcare issues from the “Governator” or anyone else, “We’ll be back.” Healthcare is a human right now and it will be when we win this struggle. It’s just going to take more time and, unfortunately, more suffering to get where we need to go.

Meanwhile, many of us wait anxiously for reports out of Pennsylvania where they were having a state Senate hearing today on their state single-payer bill. We have miles to go before we sleep.

Mass-Care: The Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care
33 Harrison Ave - 5th floor
Boston, MA 02111
Ph: 617-723-7001
Fx: 617-723-7002
Em: info@masscare.org

December 15, 2009

Where's Obama - The Sequel to the Sequel

Barak Obama is Now Our War President

Now that President Obama has taken ownership of the failed war effort in Afghanistan that he inherited from the failed Bush Presidency, it is no longer Bush’s war it is now Obama’s war. Just one week before traveling to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Obama ordered an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The annual cost to maintain one soldier in Afghanistan is $1 million, totaling $30 billion a year to maintain these extra 30,000 troops.

According to a September report The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11 published by the Congressional Research Service, the annual cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for fiscal year 2009 was $150 billion, with the total cost so far equaling a staggering $944 billion. While these numbers are beyond any individual’s ability to conceptualize, it might make it more understandable to take a look at what these staggering amounts of taxpayer dollars might have accomplished if used to improve the quality of life in America, instead of costing countless lives and adding astronomical amounts to the federal debt.

To help put things into perspective, the highest cost estimate (the one used by opponents of single payer health care) is $1.6 trillion over ten years. Although ths is a wildly inflated number, and no responsible policy or budget analyst uses this number, it is still less than the cost of running two failed wars, over a similar period. Yet the very same politicians who say we cannot afford health care reform, have voted for every allocation to support these wars.

With the added cost of the additional 30,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan, the annual cost for both wars will rise to $180 billion. This amount if directed toward human needs rather than toward destruction could pay for important improvements in the quality of life for millions of US citizens. For example, $180 billion could buy health care for more than 34 million Americans currently without health insurance, providing quality, affordable care for people to whom health care is now a luxury that is out of reach.

Looking at just the added cost of sending additional troops to Afghanistan will provide some insight into what each and every American is sacrificing every day that we continue these failed wars. Thirty billion dollars a year can provide health coverage for 5.6 million people, or it could provide full college scholarships for five million young people, making college affordable to students who are now denied this expensive opportunity.

Other examples of how these funds could have been spent include building 173,000 affordable housing units or hiring 354,000 elementary school teachers, or providing 5.7 million college Pell grants to help defray the cost of college or creating 3.4 million Head Start spaces so every child gets a head start on their education.

Remember candidate Obama talking about a green revolution and creating jobs through green industries? What ever happened to that? Well for one thing it is not affordable because of the growing deficit and shrinking tax collections. Instead of seizing the opportunity to redirect our national economy this administration chose to bail out the very people who caused the economic meltdown and who are now rewarding themselves with billions of dollars in undeserved bonuses. If President Obama were as sincere as candidate Obama, instead of bailing out the banks and instead of continuing and building the war efforts, these funds could have been dedicated to developing a green economy, creating millions of well-paying jobs and setting the Untied States in the forefront of the new worldwide economy. For example, just the $30 billion annual cost of the additional troops in Afghanistan could have paid for converting 57 million American homes to renewable forms of energy. Not only creating jobs, but also taking a giant step forward in addressing global warming.

But President Obama is a far cry from candidate Obama. Or as Jay leno said "I'm trying to sum up President Obama's first 11 months in office. He gave billions to Wall Street, cracked down on illegal immigrants getting health care, and he's sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. You know something, he may go down in history as our greatest Republican president ever."

December 7, 2009

Where's Obama - The Sequel

Where's the Health Care Reform We Were Promised?

Now that President Obama has given his pep talk on health care to Senate Democrats with apparently little impact, it brings me back to Where’s Obama the Sequel. In danger of losing his signature issue – health care reform – Mr. Obama comes out of hiding on this issue in an attempt to rescue health care from the jaws of defeat. Too little, too late.

When Mr. Obama came riding into town on his Change Express, health care reform, the economy and the wars were on the top of his list. After ten months in office, he has given billions in bailouts to banks and the auto industry, intensified the war in Afghanistan and is on the verge of watching health care reform go down for the count. If health care reform is lost this time, it will be off the public agenda for at least another decade, if it even makes its way back on. Remember what happened after the Clinton debacle on health care.

So in the spirit of the Where’s Obama series, I have constructed the speech that Mr. Obama should have given to a joint session of Congress and publicized to the American people, instead of a private “pep talk” to Senate Democrats. It, would be short and to the point, and would go something like this:

My fellow Americans, I come before you today to speak about the nation’s health. We are in the process of releasing another 10 million doses of H1N1 vaccine, getting this to the American people as quickly as possible, and doing all that is humanly possible to avoid a flu epidemic. If you desire a flu shot and have not yet had the opportunity to get one, please be patient, help is on the way.

There is another epidemic that we are facing, one with much more dire consequences and one that has been with us for generations. I come before you today because it is time that we faced this epidemic and wiped it out. I am speaking of the epidemic facing more than 50 million Americans, lack of access to health care. That’s right, today in the United States of America, 50 million of our fellow Americans live in fear of the simplest illness because they do not have health insurance. As a candidate for President I promised that if elected I would do something to address this gross inequity in our society. You elected me and now I owe it to you, my fellow Americans, to address this issue in the best way possible.

It is estimated that as many as 18,000 Americans die each year from preventable causes because they lack health insurance and cannot receive timely or preventive care. In good conscience how can we allow this to happen? Any disease that would claim that many lives annually would receive our attention and the resources in an attempt to address it. But yet, too many of us find this denial of basic health care to millions of our fellow citizens acceptable.

We live in the richest, most prosperous nation in the world, yet we are the only industrialized nation that does not offer health care to all of its citizens. The very people in this chamber, who would deny so many Americans the chance to live healthy lives, themselves enjoy free, lifetime health care. How can you, each of you seated before me today, deny American citizens the same privilege that you have as their representatives.

My friends, on both sides of the aisle who rail against a so-called public option, enjoy that public option for themselves and their families. I ask you, and I ask the American people, is this fair? The members on the Republican side of the aisle, and the so-called moderate Democrats who speak against the government’s ability to provide a quality service, also condemn a public option as “unfair competition.” Well if the government can’t provide quality health care at affordable prices, private insurers should welcome the competition to prove that they can do it better.

But you and I know the truth, and it is time to stop deceiving the American people. We already have public health care in the form of the Veterans health system and Medicare. Both of these public programs consistently receive higher satisfaction ratings than private insurers. Does anyone know any of their constituents that are satisfied with their private insurers?
Each and every one of you was elected to serve the people in your districts. The majority of Americans desire a public option while 50 million Americans wake up each morning praying not to get into an accident or to get sick. Not providing health care for so many people ends up costing the American taxpayer more in the long-run. When people do not have health insurance they forego preventive exams and put off treating an illness until it is so severe that they have to go to the emergency room, the most expensive form of primary care.

If you were truly concerned about your constituents and the cost of health care you would not only support a pubic option but you would support universal health care in the form of Medicare for all. It is time that we stopped chipping away at the edges of this very serious condition and addressed the need head on. So today, I come before you and the American people to tell you that I will not sign a health reform bill that does not include a public option, and tomorrow I will be releasing a plan for truly universal health care in the form of Medicare for all. We have a successful public option and it is time to make it universal to all who choose to enroll. I will not allow the Party of No or a few members of my own party to stand in the way of progress. It is time for the naysayers to step aside and for the rest of us to stand up for the American people. I will take my plan directly to the people and each and every one of you will be answerable to your constituents if you stand in the way of progress.

And to my colleagues in the Democratic leadership I call upon you to end this charade and mockery of the legislative process by claiming that you require sixty votes to put this bill forward. Sixty votes is the number needed to end debate and stop a filibuster. If the members of my own party had the courage of their convictions they would allow the threatened filibuster to go forward. Let each and every one of those senators who would stop progress and thwart the will of the American people stand on this podium and speak against health care. Why protect them behind the false shield of the silent filibuster? I, along with millions of Americans, would like to hear their faulty reasoning as they try to make a coherent case against true health care reform. In the name of democracy, you must put this bill forward, all that is required to pass it is a simple majority. Stop hiding behind the threat of a filibuster. Your work is cut out for you and you were elected to represent the will of the people. I call upon you to do just that and not the narrow self interest of any one industry.

Thank you and good night.

December 5, 2009

Where's Obama

After President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan I feel like I am caught between two alternate realities. The first one reminds me of Where’s Waldo, where you have to search through complex pictures looking for the little man in the red striped shirt. Well, I kept looking at the screen trying to find the man that we elected President. That’s right, the one who was going to end the war and bring the troops home, the one who was going to finally institute universal health care and a few other things that we haven't seen yet. So all I could think of instead of where’s Waldo was where’s Obama!

The second alternate reality that I thought I was caught up in was that perhaps I had inadvertently wandered into a Ken Follett novel, you know the one where they create a double for the president and then kidnap the President and put his double in his place. I kept watching the TV looking for a sign that this wasn't really the same Barak Obama that we had elected, that perhaps he had been replaced with a body double and this new guy was only a puppet.

If this were the Barak Obama that we elected he would have given a different speech, one that would have recognized that generals fight wars they do not create peace. General McChrystal would have been derelict in his duty as a soldier if he did not ask for more troops. That is why our Commander in Chief is a civilian. Civilians don’t fight wars and the President should have served as a check on the need of generals to fight and try to win wars, even those that are unwinnable. Unfortunately by splitting the difference, ordering only 30,000 troops instead of the 40,000 requested, President Obama convinced himself that he was providing that check on the power of the generals.

That speech that I hoped he would have given went something like this:

My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight weary as you are of endless wars that you and I have inherited. After seven years of war without end in sight and after spending almost $1 trillion it is time for a new tactic. One that will indeed guarantee our security and that of the world. One that will take us away from the path that we have followed for the last seven years. One that has helped to make Al Qaeda stronger and weakened our ally Pakistan.

Today Afghanistan, a once beautiful and verdant country is now barren and nonproductive. After three decades of endless war, the children of Afghanistan know nothing other than war, devastation and fear. No foreign power has experienced military success in this country. The Soviet Union, the world’s second strongest superpower at the time, retreated from Afghanistan in defeat after many years of war. It was this Russian invasion and our support of the opposition that gave birth to Al Qaeda. History suggests that this pattern is repeating itself as I speak to you tonight. The American people are tired of this war as are the people of Afghanistan.

It costs approximately $1 million a year to maintain a single combat ready soldier in Afghanistan. For a fraction of the cost of training, deploying and maintaining an additional 40,000 troops in Afghanistan as requested, we can have a greater and longer-lasting impact on the that country and the entire region. I ask you for one moment, to join me in envisioning a future where the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan can dream about their future. A time where they can no longer be seduced into extremist ideologies because they have an education, adequate food and the possibility of a peaceful future for themselves and their families. Isn’t this what all of us want for our children. I have met and spoken with many of the mothers and fathers in Afghanistan and Pakistan and this is all that they want for their children also.

We have the ability to help make that dream a reality, but this cannot be done by merely continuing a war without end.

I did not run for President to be the man that sends more of America’s young people to fight and die thousands of miles from home. I was elected because the American people yearned for change. Americans saw before them two failed war efforts that were primed to go on without a strategy for success or exit. The billions of dollars spent on the wars were crumbling the very foundations of the United States economy. And the people wanted change.

Next month I will be accepting one of the world’s most coveted prizes, the Nobel Peace Prize. I could not, in good conscience, accept such an honor if I were to expand the war effort. Isn’t it time that we showed our children and the children of the entire world that peace can be waged through peaceful means?

Today I am announcing that I will send no more troops to Afghanistan to wage a war without end. Instead, I pledge to spend $20 billion, half of what it would cost to deploy and maintain 40,000 troops, on rebuilding the infrastructure of Afghanistan – including schools, hospitals, roads, agriculture and economic development in the tribal areas. Today, I also call upon our allies throughout the world to match this pledge so that we can truly see peace in Afghanistan.

I end tonight by pledging to you that no American young woman or man will ever have to risk their lives or their livelihoods to fight an ill-conceived war on foreign soil while I am their Commander in Chief.