Thursday, February 25, 2010

President Jimmy Carter

A frequent commenter on my blog once said "Oh, and agreeing with Carter on nearly anything is a sad state of affairs as I wouldn't trust him to bus tables."

We were discussing President Carter's statement last year that some of the opposition to President Obama was driven by racism. The way he said it might have overstated the current impact of racism, but to me it almost goes without saying that his basic point was right. Some of the opposition to President Obama was racist at its core.

I have thought about that and about President Carter's legacy alot. So I went back and read his famous "Malaise" speech. I mourn for this country that he did not achieve what he set out to do and how much better off we would have been had he succeeded

As I read it, his speech had two core messages. That we had lost our sense of national community and that we had to take radical action to reduce and eventually eliminate our dependence of foriegn oil.

These words are even more true today than they were in 1979 when he gave this speech.

"The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else -- public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We've always believed in something called progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning."

His message was simple if not easy

"One of the visitors to Camp David last week put it this way: "We've got to stop crying and start sweating, stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying. The strength we need will not come from the White House, but from every house in America."

And the first test of America's ability to rise to new challenges was energy. He proposed drastic actions to address what was already an energy crisis. He challenged American's to rise to the challenge, to take on a great cause. And we failed him.

Imagine what our country would be like if we weren't spending almost a Trillion dollars a year now on imported oil. What it would be like if we got 20% of our electricity from solar energy. Imagine how many jobs would have been created selling that technology to other nations instead of us buying it from Europe and China. If all of our houses and office buildings were more energy efficient and our cars got better gas mileage.

No, thats not what we did. President Carter, for many reasons, was a one term President. His successor turned back much of what President Carte had accomplished. He removed the Solar Panels from the White House roof. He stopped the next increment in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. Like so much of his legacy, President Reagan's approach to the energy needs of this nation have left this nation with a huge burden.

President Carter was right then, we just didn't listen.

And we will pay the price for our short sightedness for a long long time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maybe My Party is finding their Balls

At least 20 Democratic Senators have signed up with using Reconciliation to pass a Public Option medical plan with a simple majority of votes in the Senate. Imagine that, being able to pass laws using a simple majority vote.

For all the pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth, I have yet to hear a fact based argument against creating a publicly chartered health insurance company to complete with the private companies that currently provide health care to those of us who can afford health insurance.

I love it.

Doing something good for the country based on a majority vote.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

President Obama the Socialist

Will/Can anyone explain to me what President Obama has proposed or done that qualifies him as a socialist?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

They say its not true

I was just watching Greta Van Susteren interview Rep John Boehner.
He repeated the Republican lie that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (otherwise known as the Stimulus Bill) did not work.
I don't generally get into discussions about economic statistics since the numbers can be awfully slippery.

But the stimulus bill worked and everybody who has studied it knows that it worked

This is the article addressing the President's State of the Union claim that the Stimulus Bill had created or saved 2 million jobs. As the article points out, you can argue the statistics whether the Stimulus bill created 800,000 jobs or 2 million jobs. I personally would have been happier if he had chosen a more middle of the estimates number like 1.6 million but the President wanted to put as good a face on the Stimulus Bill as possible so he used the 2 million number.

But all the estimates agree.

The Stimulus Bill worked

It put people back to work.

It saved jobs

It kept the unemployment rate from going higher

It helped to stimulate the economy.


Did it work perfectly?? Certainly not. But there is no real argument that it worked.

Yet Republicans like Rep Boehner keep repeating the same lie. Some Republican Senator (I think it was Judd Gregg) claimed that the Stimulus Bill had not created even one job. Clearly either a lie or a statement by a US Senator who is completely uninformed.

I have been accused on this blog of whining.

I guess that is true.

Republicans uniformly opposed the Stimulus Bill, but many Republicans have been more than happy to pose for pictures trying to take credit for stimulus spending in their Districts or States.

Racheal Maddow did a great segment on Republicans who proposed or supported legislation (like a Bi-Partisan Debt Commission or Pay as you Go) but then turned against it when the President supported it.

Some Republicans continue to refer to President Obama as a Socialist without being able to point to anything that he has done or proposed the is even vaguely socialist.

Republicans complain that FBI agents read the Underwear Bomber his rights and that the Justice Department plans on trying him in US District Court without acknowledging the HUNDREDS of terrorists (including the Shoe Bomber) that were tried in US District Court under the Bush Administration. Somehow now that we have a Democratic President, trying terrorists in US District Court is a threat to our nation and proves that the President is not serious about fighting terrorism.

On almost every issue that we are facing, Republicans have chosen to simply lie in their opposition to what ever the President proposes.

They lie compulsively about the cost and deficit impact of the Health Care bills before Congress

They lie repeatedly about the potential costs to the American Public of the proposed Cap and Trade legislation.

They lie about his prosecution of the war on Terror/Al Queda.

I suspect that our President would welcome an honest debate on any of these issues. But Republicans aren't interested in honest debate.

The percentage of Americans who support the currently proposed Health Care Reform legislation continues to drop largely due to the incessant stream of lies told by Republicans. Despite that, most Americans, when asked about specific provisions of the Health Care Bill support the vast bulk of those provisions.

Barack Obama has not done as good a job as I would have liked in selling his programs, particularly Health Care and Cap and Trade. But he is largely constrained by the facts. Republicans don't seem to have that constraint.

I guess I am just whining. But I think that we, as a nation, are better served by honest debate. A consistent stream of lies isn't part of that honest debate.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tort Reform revisited

Tort Reform, particularly malpractice tort reform, has long been a rallying cry of Conservatives/Republicans. They have repeatedly claimed that reducing or capping non-economic damages (mostly punative and pain and suffering) will have a significant impact on medical cost inflation.

And, like many arguments they have made in opposition to the President's proposed health care reform proposal and their opposition to the watered down versions that passed out of the House and Senate, these claims are exxagerated at best, down right deceptive at worst.

I had planned on presenting a unfortunately complex proposal for tort reform that protected doctors (and their insurers) who had clean records of not losing malpractice suits. It would advocate normalizing the definition of clean records by speciality since some specialities get sued far more than others. Doctors who had repeatedly lost malpractice suits would not have any limitations on punative award. Good doctors are rewarded with a level of protection, bad doctors are exposed to huge awards. It would forbid sealed judgements and would require that all settlements be reported even if they were settled out of court.

But I just don't see any need for a system that complex. The cure would be worse than the disease.

The best studies that I have seen indicate the the total cost of malpractice cases in the United States is about 1.5% of all health care costs. How ever you measure the cost of excessive awards, whatever you think that means, the vast majority of that 1.5% slice is valid and wouldn't be reduced by any of the things Republicans/Conservatives have proposed. The OMB puts the total potential savings to the US government from tort reform at $5Billion a year. Thats nice money, but a very tiny fraction of what we are spending.

There is no statistical evidence that I can find that malpractice costs are driving physicians out of the practice of medicine or driving them from high liability states to states with restricted liability.

And there is no evidence that caps on non-economic awards have actually led to reduced rates of litigation or to lower premiums for malpractice insurance.

So, unless I have got the facts wrong, what is the driver behind malpractice tort reform?

Other than protecting Insurance Company profits, what problem is tort reform trying to fix and have the caps on awards that many states have imposed on malpractice awards actually addressed those problems?

If someone can make a real fact based case for tort reform, lets see it.

But just to keep making the same old claims that aren't supported by the studies that have been done, is just another example of Conservatives/Republicans fact free arguments.

What am I missing here?