What would the patriarch of capitalism, economist Milton Friedman himself, have to say about the new Health Care Reform bill?
Milton Friedman, as I am sure you recall, was the chief founder and promoter of the Free Market theory of capitalism, which was, of course, the political-economic theory that has utterly dominated everything from Wall Street to MBA schools to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (not to mention both our political parties), that brought us globalization and eventually defeated Soviet Communism in the world market of ideas, or so say Reagan Republicans.
Almost every speech (and rant) against the Health Care bill is replete with references to Friedman's doctrine, despite the fact that the bill itself is extraordinarily careful to preserve "market-based" solutions---- remember, President Obama himself took off the table any government (i.e., socialist) competition in the form of even a diddly little public option, which makes it all the more puzzling when we hear major blowouts about "socialism" and the end of America, that the government is taking over one-sixth (or more) of our economy.
President Obama will speak at a pre-vote rally for health care reform tomorrow, Friday the 19th of March at the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University. The doors open at 9 AM; the President is sceduled to speak around 11 AM. The event is open to the public, no ticket required. This means Tea Party Republicans and other corporate finks (strike that, should read "Tea Partyers, Republican activists") are also expected to attend. Since many of them are retirees or paid to demonstrate, the local Democratic Committees are in high gear to rally support for health care. If you care about health care and President Obama's success, please show up.
Some of us noticed about ten days ago a remarkable flowering of public offerings at the altar of Rahm Emanuel. It began, at least publicly, with an article by Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on 21 February, where he wrote
"Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff's advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter,"
that is, Milbank implied, from becoming a failed, one-term president. The thrust of the article was that Obama had been bebopping off on his own naive and liberal path, ignoring the sage insider advice of Rahm the Enforcer, the only one in the administration who really understood How Things Work in Washington. Milbank gave every indication he was basing his expose on comments from the inner sanctum, private but high-level sources close to the top. Next, on February 28th, his anonymous source(s) advised Milbank that Obama "too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers." Ouch.
I just returned from a conference on world currency and investments held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The meeting was packed, mostly with retirees anxious about preserving (or restoring) their nest eggs, but with a heavy sprinkling of angry mid-level investors, business owners, and even a few blue collar workers, also worried about their futures. The participants were mostly white or Oriental, a few African-Americans, almost all American citizens (some Canadian, a few Latin American), overwhelmingly conservative, including a good number of Tea Party members who were generally applauded by the business people and would-be capitalists present. I considered it an education in outside-the-Beltway reality, and a serious warning about what to expect for the November elections and the general direction the country is headed economically and politically.
Democrats are fighting the lies and hypocrisies to which the Republicans are treating Americans---- at last. Here is the latest YouTube video on the Recession job loss. What do you think? Could be better? More aggressive? Too wonkish to use as a mass media ad on CBS, for example? What about those Republican hypocrits who use stimulus money in their state, while campaigning against the stimulus as such?
I know we thought Obama at long last made some great, fighting speeches recently. To the Righties, obsessed with despising Obama, those speeches were ridiculous, ego-driven lies strung together by a supreme egoist---- and, therefore, easily deprecated, ignored, and belittled. See this clip from PowerLine, a conservative blog, and the comment or interpretation of the small little clip of a fragment of an Obama speech. The righties really have to work to turn Obama's remarks into a personal assault on him, but they manage to do it:
Compare this with Gerard Alexander's attack on Obama and "liberals" in The Washington Post Outlook Section for Sunday, 7 February 2010 as being "condescending:"
PERMANENT UPDATE: I SEEM TO HAVE TAPPED INTO THE REAL NEWS PERMANENT LINK, SO WHAT YOU SEE HERE WILL CHANGE EACH DAY TO THE NEXT REAL NEWS NETWORK INTERVIEW OR STORY. SINCE IT IS ONE OF THE BEST OLD-STYLE JOURNALISTIC WORK BEING DONE TODAY, I DECIDED TO LET IT RUN
The undeniably extraordinary U.S. fiscal deficit is being leveraged into a frightening armageddon by Ron Paul libertarians, Tea Party fanatics in need of anger management, deficit hawk Blue Dogs, and Republicans seeking political brownie points against Obama while beating the no-tax-no-entitlements drum. The Real News has started a series of interviews on the deficit, and Republican attempts to privatize Social Security and reduce entitlements in general as a way to "solve" the problem. Watch this video clip (be patient with the brief opening plea for support).
I am in receipt of Postcards pre-printed by The Republican Party of Virginia to be signed by me specifically, and mailed to Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, and to Congressman Gerry Connolly. They proclaim:
"As a Virginia resident and taxpaying American, I demand that you reverse your vote on the government takeover of healthcare bill. I do NOT support this bill in any incarnation and will hold you personally responsible should you vote in favor of its passage.
(They called me by my full name including the middle one, preceded by "Mr.," which shows you how much they know about the gender of names.... or maybe they forgot that females can now vote, and assumed if I am on the voter rolls I must be a "Mr.")
This discourteous demand arrived with an explanatory letter signed by Pat Mullins, Chair of the Virginia GOP, who stated bluntly (underlined in italics) that "if Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Jim Webb didn't sell out the taxpaying citizens of Virginia... this letter wouldn't be necessary." Such Capitol Hill-style treachery is possible because (underlined, bold-faced): "President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are feverishly working behind closed doors" (end underlining and boldfacing) "in Washington" which, as we all know is an evil place. Their (evil) objective is to "force the government takeover of healthcare on Virginians and the American People" (Note the persistent use of "healthcare" as one word, as if extracted from the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf----- I suspect this is an invention of Republican sematicist Lutz), and the healthcare plot is really, really bad because it:
It is reality check time in the postmortem on the recent election in Massachusetts, where a hard right Republican State Senator handily won the US Senate seat held for 58 years by Democrats, most recently by Ted Kennedy. Good grief! How come such a staggering event? Here is a grabbag of some current analyses in the running for becoming the new Accepted Wisdom:
* Republicans and their pundit stable are riding the race horse called Rejection: the great American populace is conservative, Obama is a flaming liberal, and said populace is rejecting his entire big government agenda out of hand, especially the socialist health care bill, therefore Obama and Democrats must now follow the Republican lead on everything (Mona Charen, Townhall.com, 21 Jan 2010).
* Blue Dogs and Senators Bayh (D, IN) and Lieberman (I-CT) have saddled up the gelding called Fake Centrist: Democrats are losing because they overreached, veered too far to the left, and now must over-correct to the right.
* They are joined by Senator Webb (D-VA) and Representative Barney Frank D-MA) and DLC types betting on the tough little pony named Realism: The election was a referendum on health care, Democrats need to pause, reassess their position, and "respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results" in Webb's words, meaning accept the chastisement by Massachusetts voters and try even harder to work with Republicans.
Howard Dean has come out in favor of scuttling the Senate's current health care "reform" bill unless it's given back its teeth--i.e. a public option and protections for consumers.
Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.
Instead, it fines Americans if they do not sign up with an insurance company, which may take up to 30 percent of your premium dollars and spend it on CEO salaries -- in the range of $20 million a year -- and on return on equity for the company's shareholders. Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG. (My emphasis)
Remember the odd little story on 17 November about a passenger on AirTran Flight 297 from Atlanta to Houston who refused to stop using his cell phone, so the plane returned to the gate, and the flight was delayed for two-and-a-half hours? As anyone who flies nowadays knows, you are not supposed to use electronic devices on a plane in flight, why would some one defy the rule, and ignore requests from the stewardess to cease and desist?
There is a story circulating on the Internet among our conservative citizens that says this was a dry-run exercise in hijacking, that the cell phone user was accompanied by 10 other men, all Muslims, who seemed to be gathering in the front of the plane until stopped by two passengers. The plane was still on the tarmac, at which point TSA agents accompanied by police officers boarded the plane and removed the eleven Muslim men and their luggage, but soon thereafter returned the Muslims and the plane was told to take off. According to the story, the crew refused to fly with the Muslims on board, and left the plane. Another crew arrived to replace them, and this time so many of the passengers rebelled and deplaned that they cancelled the flight.
Clarence Page, writing in "Page's Page" for the Chicago Tribune asks "Are storm clouds brewing on the horizon for Democrats," referring to the elections coming in 2010, based on some startling figures from the latest weekly tracking poll by Daily Kos (http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/pagespage/2009/11/new-dangers-for-dems-in2010.html
The first figure is certain/likely to vote; the second is unlikely/certain not to vote in 2010 in the congressional elections:
This does look as though Republicans are far more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting; 81 percent of Republicans are certain or likely to vote, compared to 65 percent of Independents and only 56 percent of Democrats. Why did this happen?
Mr. Page says progressives are "demoralized or burned out by Washington's political compromising on issues like health care, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Young voters, their Obama fever flamed out, have retreated to study for finals or look for work amid growing unemployment." While some conservative and moderate Democrats are spooked by polls like this, saying they prove Democrats should drop health care reform and run to the right, Nate Silver at Five Thirty-Eight.com disagrees. He believes Democrats are now forced to pass health care with a strong public option, since people who oppose the plan will blame the Dems whether they pass the bill or not, and people who like the plan will become even more despondent if the Dems fail to pass health care reform---- a case of double damn.
Thousands of lobbyists are being swept off federal advisory panels thanks to a policy initiated quietly by President Obama at the instigation of White House ethics counsel Norm Eisen. Eisen disclosed the policy on the White Houe blog last September, saying:
"Some folks have developed a comfortable Beltway perch sitting on these boards while at the same time working as lobbyists to influence the government"
The General Services Administration has estimated the number of advisory committees at 915 with over 60,000 members, but no one knows for sure. The committees no doubt seemed like a good idea back in the early 1970's when Congress followed the recommendations of Robert Vastine, a top Republican staffer at the time, and passed the Federal Advisory Committee Act apparently hoping to provide Congress, composed mostly of laymen, with guidance from professionals in dealing with the confusions of modern life. From simple beginnings the advisory committees have turned into what Vastine, now a lobbyist for the Coalition of Service Industries, frankly calls a "bureaucratic labyrinth" inter-twined with every aspect of federal government, including helping to write legislation and regulations or advising on the letting of government contracts.
After hours is a little creepy, when they turn off the lights, put the chairs on the tables, and bring in the undocumented with the mops. Now, reality arrives. Okay, man up folks, our side just wasted a great opportunity and threw away our advantages. And lost. In the first installment we acknowledged that:
1) Democrats squandered a great opportunity when the Party failed to integrate all those new Obama voters into the Party, turning them into lifelong Democrats who could have made the difference in the recent election, and
2) Democrats must immediately cease pretending to be Republican Lite, stop making obeisance to disastrous Feidman Free Market economic theories, and fight openly for a coherent alternative economic philosophy with better political implications. That is, quit sucking up to the Conventional Wisdom. But wait, there's more:
Disturbing news out of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal coal mining has begun at Coal River Mountain in the southern part of the state. Here's the breaking news alert from ilovemountains.org:
Just last night, we confirmed reports that Massey Energy has begun blasting on Coal River Mountain in southern West Virginia. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has stated that the mining operation on the mountain is "actively moving coal." Workers were seen throughout this past week moving heavy equipment up to the mining zones, and blasting and plumes of smoke were seen and heard near the Brushy Fork coal slurry impoundment on Friday.
The Brushy Fork impoundment is an enormous retention pond holding 8.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry waste. If the impoundment were to fail due to the blasting, hundreds of lives will be lost and thousands more will be in jeopardy from an enormous slurry flood.
A 2006 study confirmed that Coal River Mountain-the highest peaks ever slated for mining in the state-is an ideal location for developing utility-scale wind power. Local residents have rallied around this proposal as a symbol of hope, a promise of a new and cleaner energy future, but that hope may be destroyed unless quick and decisive action is taken right now.
This just in from the AP: President Barack Obama has been named the winner of the 2009 Heisman Trophy. The decision comes only a few days after Obama announced his intention to play in the Sugar Bowl.
The Heisman Trust noted that he still has four years of eligibility left over from college, and since he's pretty good at basketball, he's probably awesome at football too. Naturally, the Republican reaction has been harsh.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele made his feelings known on Sunday's Meet the Press.
"We are so super pissed that Obama gets to win the Heisman," Steele said. "He doesn't even have that good of a passing game!"
Conservative talk radio is in near meltdown, with Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity questioning why the Heisman Trust hates freedom.
Rush Limbaugh was quoted as saying, "This is Obama's America, isn't it? We're on our way to Canadian-style football, I don't even wanna buy a team anymore!" Limbaugh went on to conjecture that a grand, Chicago-based conspiracy is to blame.
But Fox News commentator Glenn Beck was philosophical about the developments.
"Don't step on the white ones," Beck said, pointing at the studio floor tiles. "Hot lava."
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin also weighed in during a pretend press conference in her basement.
"It's gotta be all about rushing yards, and such as, also folks are just real concerned about the quarterback sneak, sneakin' in to raise yer taxes," Palin said. "Are we gonna make a triple play and keep the socialists from scoring a touchdown? You betcha!" Palin added that she can see Brett Favre's ego from her house.
Even some of the president's allies were less-than-enthusiastic about the award.
"I mean, I guess it's pretty cool," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "The congratulatory resolution will probably pass with or without the Blue Dogs...I think." Pelosi added that bipartisanship is still the goal on the resolution, noting that the word congratulations is not absolutely crucial and could be replaced with way to not screw it up.
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said she wished the President would pick one battle and win it before training for the Sugar Bowl.
At least one close Obama associate has maintained strong support for the decision. When asked about the reaction to his boss receiving the Heisman Trophy, Vice President Biden became visibly upset.
"I just think that's really unfair," said Biden, wiping away a tear as his voice broke. "That's my teammate...that's my quarterback. If you guys do that, man, that's unfair!"
Yesterday was quite a day for phone calls begging for donations---- to political candidates, to charities like Thanksgiving dinner soup kitchens or the arts, and to national political party organizations. I suppose it's the end-pf-month rush to show money on the books. Among the blizzard of calls, two were notable, one from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and one from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee asking me for donations. This is what I told them:
"I am unable to make a contribution right now, and I want you to know that you will not receive one more dime from me until you pass health care legislation that includes the public option. No public option, no money."
DailyKos (http://www.dailykos.com/) today reported on two new polls which show strong support for the public option, including by voters in swing Districts represented by Blue Dog Democrats who continue to oppose that option. According to a new poll released by respected Democratic pollster John Anzalone, a majority of likely voters in districts represented by Blue Dog Democrats support requiring all but the smallest of employers to provide health insurance, a public option, and raising taxes on households making above $350,000 to pay for it. As "mcjoan" pointed out, Blue Dog Democrats rise and fall with Obama, and if Obama and the Democrats fail to deliver on health care, the Blue Dog Democrats will likely be the first to fall to a Republican challenger in 2010.
An even newer poll shows that nationally voters oppose a mandate to purchase private insurance by 64 percent to 34 percent BUT support a mandate to purchase health insurance with the choice of private or public insurance by 60 percent to 37 percent. The Baucus bill has the mandate to purchase insurance but without the public option, a set-up long sought by the insurance industry because it gives them a captive market without any controls over premiums. California Lt. Governor Garamendi, a Democrat who for eight years was California's commissioner of insurance, was quoted in today's Los Angeles Times as saying:
"We are about to force at least 30 million people into an insurance market where the sharks are circling....Without effective protection they will be eaten alive"
That pretty well sums up the Baucus plan, which is totally unacceptable.
This is Part II, today's situation as I see it, a follow-up to the brief time line in Part I from yesterday.
The key to Capitalism 3.0 is that corporations acquired a fully realized personhood, giving them all the rights of living people so carefully described in the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights and subsequent Amendments. This did not happen accidentally, it resulted over the 19th century from deliberate cases brought by corporations in the Courts (with the help of compliant activist judges, by the way) and by constant political pressure, just as Jefferson feared. It is generally agreed that final personhood was achieved in the 1886 decision by the Supreme Court in Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad Company.
Corporations were always able to engage in commercial activities, similar to a person, but with the ability to shield stockholders from extended liability. Now corporations had all the rights delineated in the First, Fifth, Sixth, and even the 14th Amendments. The 14th, remember, was originally intended to protect the newly freed slaves when it said:
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