Sunday, June 28, 2009

Americans would support for health care bill if they understood it

While searching for the polling data reported in this post, I came across a blog comment that relates to my own observation: that the public knows little about the Obama health care bill. Eliza Jane Dodd commented at Healthcare Now:
Why is the WHITE HOUSE AFRAID to TAKE a POLL or have a PETITION for HR676 Universal Health Care ? I know the Bill would Pass ! Every Single Person is Blown away [...] Never have Heard about it and when they read it they all ask: How do we get it and want it! I think something is very FISHY SMELLING in America’s White House. I have E-Mailed over 3,000 E-mails […] EVERYONE WANTS HR676 NOW!
Dodd's observations about the reaction of her countrymen after she tells them the specifics of HR-676 are not surprising if you consider the polling data. The polls show that American want that which happens to be in the bill. Of course, the White House has done more to advance the issue since Dodd's comment was posted in February -- but arguably not nearly enough.

Certainly a lot of blame goes to the media, but the White House is hardly off the hook.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Health care reform: a priority for Obama?

Earlier in the month, I noted that "In domestic politics . . . Obama's inclination to play the "unity card" has tended to undermine the position of many of his supporters at the bargaining table to the advantage of his Republican opponents." Well, he's at it again. Krugman blogs:

My big fear about Obama has always been not that he doesn’t understand the issues, but that his urge to compromise — his vision of himself as a politician who transcends the old partisan divisions — will lead him to negotiate with himself, and give away far too much. He did that on the stimulus bill, where he offered an inadequate plan in order to win bipartisan support, then got nothing in return — and was forced to reduce the plan further so that Susan Collins could claim her pound of flesh.

And now he’s done it on a key component of health care reform. What was the point of signaling, right at this crucial moment, that he’s willing to give away the public plan? Let alone doing it at the very moment that he was making such a good case for it?

There are two possibilities. Obama is 1) just a really lousy negotiator, or 2) not at all serious about achieving meaningful health care reform.

Given that it was Edwards who put health back on the Democrats' agenda, I am not convinced Obama is committed.

Daily Show interviews Iranians and Americans

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Health care reform: What does industry want?

So where does big business likely stand with respect to health care reform? Pharmaceutical and banking industries can be expected to stand behind the insurance companies who stand the most to lose. Agriculture, of course, is the dominion of the petrochemical industries (fertilizer and pesticides); naturally, petrochem is going to be fully behind whatever big pharma wants: that's no real reform.

On the other hand, industries that employee lots of full-time workers who make things or provide services ought to favor reform. For example, military-industrials stands to gain from health care reform. That's because under the current system companies are saddled with paying for -- often expensive -- health insurance plans for their workers.

So does this mean that the oligarchs are split over health care?

Not exactly. The problem is that even industries that must pay the full burden of insuring workers have often been able to escape the burden of employer-financed health care by passing the costs along to their workers in the form of lower wages. So I don't imagine that the oligarchs are going to have a civil war among themselves over this particular issue.

The principle beneficiary of real health reform is middle-class America. The only question is whether the people still count in Washington.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Poor Americans forced to hunt for food

Barbara Ehrenreich, NYT:

There are other, less life-threatening, ways to try to make ends meet. The Associated Press has reported that more women from all social classes are resorting to stripping, although “gentlemen’s clubs,” too, have been hard-hit by the recession. The rural poor are turning increasingly to “food auctions,” which offer items that may be past their sell-by dates.

And for those who like their meat fresh, there’s the option of urban hunting. In Racine, Wis., a 51-year-old laid-off mechanic told me he’s supplementing his diet by “shooting squirrels and rabbits and eating them stewed, baked and grilled.” In Detroit, where the wildlife population has mounted as the human population ebbs, a retired truck driver is doing a brisk business in raccoon carcasses, which he recommends marinating with vinegar and spices.

Ehrenreich observes: "Larry Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, offers data showing that blue-collar unemployment is increasing three times as fast as white-collar unemployment."

Her sobering conclusion?
The recession of the ’80s transformed the working class into the working poor, as manufacturing jobs fled to the third world, forcing American workers into the low-paying service and retail sector. The current recession is knocking the working poor down another notch — from low-wage employment and inadequate housing toward erratic employment and no housing at all. Comfortable people have long imagined that American poverty is far more luxurious than the third world variety, but the difference is rapidly narrowing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why should businesses foot the bill for health?

Blogging about the US "from an international perspective" sometimes all you can do is wonder in astonishment at the things Americans take for granted. I'm talking about that big stuff that makes sense to nobody who lives anywhere else in the world -- but seems to be an article of faith in the USA.

Why do Americans continue insist -- year after year -- that it is the responsibility of companies to fund the health insurance of employees? Why would a country that would hope to be competitive in the global marketplace saddle employers with health care costs -- especially when that same country champions free trade? Why would that country-- or any other -- perpetuate a system that effectively chains many workers to jobs they don't like; to jobs they keep just because they need the insurance, reducing productivity and happiness (supposedly one of the founding goals of the Republic!)

....His small company can't hope to compete with the benefits much larger companies can afford to offer their employees.

"Their premiums are dramatically lower than ours are," Guernsey said. "They have leverage over the health care industry to be able to drive their premiums down, and yet we have to be able to compete with those folks. So it increasingly becomes a major competitive issue for us."
On one hand, you gotta feel for these small business guys. On the other, you sit next to one of these guys the plane and he will tell you he always votes Republican because he "hates taxes." But do the Democrats deliver anything different? We shall soon learn the answer...

And there are those Americans who don't have a clue what is in their own self-interest. A woman described as "a real estate appraiser and a massage therapist" is quoted as saying:
"I personally don't have health insurance because it is too expensive," she said. "But I want to get for myself what I need. And I don't want to be told what I can have and when I can have it. And I sure as hell -- excuse me -- don't want the government having my medical records running throughout the United States."
Certainly when you hear a comments like that, you realize a lack of health insurance is the least of her problems. When did the brainwashing start? Notice the CNN article makes no effort to correct her many mistakes. Such reporting -- the quoting of one inaccuracy after another without comment -- may go a long way toward perpetuating the myths.
SPECIAL COVERAGE I live-blogged the spontaneous Obama victory celebration in Washington DC. Experience what it felt like to be among thousands of deliriously happy people gathered outside the White House. Click here.

Previously, I had been blogging about the Obama, McCain and the US election. I wrote about Sarah Palin on this blog even before McCain chose her to be his running mate. The choice was disappointing, and a possibility I had anticipated.

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