Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Should Obama be Killed?" poll un-American

Earlier this week, the social networking site Facebook removed a question from a popular polling application that allows users to create their own polls due to an inflammatory question.

The poll asked whether President Barack Obama should be assassinated or not. Facebook took down the polling app, and the Secret Service is currently looking into the matter.

It's a sad state our country currently finds herself in, when a person openly contemplates and asks his/her peers whether we should support the assassination of our nation's leader. Such sentiment may be reasonable under other circumstances -- say, if the president had assumed an authoritative rule over the entire nation. His actions thus far hardly constitute any calls for revolution, much less his death.

Despite what some on the right will tell you (the most extreme elements already assume Obama is a socialist dictator), the president has done little to warrant such outrage, such fear, such distaste and open hatred. Criticism and disagreement are acceptable forms of dissent, and should be encouraged; openly considering his death as a legitimate way to reach your goals is atrocious, treacherous, and obscene.

Fears of "socialism" running the nation are unnecessary -- in bailing out specific corporations earlier this year, the government has "socialized" less than a quarter of a percent of the national economy, and left in charge management that is unaffiliated with the administration or government in general with the goal of eventual restoration to private control.

The president's health care plan would do little to "socialize" the country as well. Rather than force all insurance providers out of business, the president's plan would provide American's without insurance the choice between purchasing a private or public plan. The key word: choice.

But the proposals being put forth in addition to the bailouts already implemented -- mch of them under the Bush administration -- have led people on the extreme right to assume that Obama is a socialist-overlord-in-waiting, biding his time for the perfect opportunity to seize control.

These assumptions come even as the negative aspects of capitalism continue to grow in our country. A new report shows that the income gap between poor and wealthy Americans has grown, with the top ten percent of American wage earners making 11 times as much or more than those who live in poverty.

So no, the president isn't a threat to capitalism. He is not trying to take over the government, to control your lives or mine, to strip us of our rights. And no, it isn't appropriate to consider an assassination as a means to achieve your ends. In fact, it's downright disgusting.

Those who think otherwise ought to be ashamed of themselves. They are the true un-Americans.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tammy Baldwin's ACORN vote justifiable

Rep. Tammy Baldwin has been taking some heat as of late for her contentious vote against a bill that passed Congress this week that strips federal funding from the embattled non-profit ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). The group, seen as a "liberal menace" by most on the right, is conducting an investigation into its own misdeeds after some of its offices were caught giving advice to undercover citizen-journalists posing as a prostitute and her pimp.

ACORN also received strong criticism during last year's presidential election. The group had been paying independent contractors to help with voter registration drives. Some offices paid these contractors on a quota -- thus they began filling out fake registration applications, hoping to get paid for work they hadn't actually done. Though they were caught by the organization itself, many on the far right were infuriated with what happened, and touted it as voter fraud being perpetrated by the left.

Of course, for that to have been true, these fake names would have had to have actually tried to vote in the election. With names being registered as "Mickey Mouse" and "Donald Duck," it wasn't likely that anything like that was going to happen. These fake names were registered so that the workers could get some extra cash -- not so they could commit fraud.

Still, these two incidents portray the potential for offices of ACORN taking things out of hand. ACORN itself on the national level wasn't promoting anything wrong, but the individual offices that were responsible for these misdeeds weren't being monitored close enough either.

ACORN had been slated to take part in the 2010 decennial census, which will have an impact on Congressional redistricting as well as how federal money will be allocated over the next ten years. Following the undercover prostitution sting, Congress passed a resolution disallowing ACORN from taking part in the census, and removed indefinitely any possible funding that the group could have received in the future . Tammy Baldwin had voted against the resolution, and thus received the scorn of many in the state, including from the Wisconsin State Journal.

Unknown to most, however, is that ACORN wouldn't have taken part in the actual operations of the census; the government hires people directly for that. Non-profit organizations like ACORN are granted funds mostly for getting-the-word-out projects, intended to promote the census for people like Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann who says she will not take part in it -- an offense that could carry a fine of $5,000.

ACORN has had its problems, and is conducting an internal investigation into them. A resolution to remove the group's funding until those problems had been resolved might have been reasonable. But the resolution passed by Congress suspends any federal money indefinitely, even though the group has done many wonderful things for low-income families.

We shouldn't punish an organization for the misdeeds of a select few within it. We can liken this to the controversy within the Catholic Church in our country. Many within that organization had been engaging in inappropriate behavior with underage children, and those who had done so were punished for it. But the Church itself was never punished by the government, and never once did anyone argue that its tax exemptions (for being a religious organization) be removed because of those misdeeds.

Nor should it have been brought up: the Church didn't do anything wrong as an organization, but still worked tirelessly to rid itself of that problem internally. ACORN is doing the exact same thing (though it should be noted that the number of instances that ACORN has had isn't nearly as much as the Catholic Church's); and while it shouldn't receive funding until it figures out how to fix its messes, it shouldn't be denied funding indefinitely either.

Tammy Baldwin was right to vote against the resolution on cutting ACORN funding. A more appropriate resolution would have recognized ACORN's contributions to our nation and expressed the urgent need for the organization to fix itself before expecting any more federal dollars. Overall, the organization is one that helps people enormously. Tammy Baldwin recognizes this, and shouldn't be hounded for her decision based on that observation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seven facts on health care reform that will should change some minds

Through the tumultuous summer of health care lies (i.e. death panels and the like), it now seems important -- dire even -- to spread around some truths about health care reform in this country. With that in mind, here is a list of facts that should drive even the staunchest of conservatives to back reform to the system. To simply accept the status quo as acceptable, after reading the following, would seem heartless.
  • Currently, the U.S. spends over $2 trillion dollars on health care per year, amounting to over 16 percent of our gross domestic product (more than any other country). This is double what the president is proposing for health care reform, and certainly some cuts to the current system could result in savings for the American taxpayer, even with the public option as part of the overall package.

  • For what we pay, however, we get very little in return: the U.S. ranks 37th in the world in terms of health care, and 44th in infant mortality rates. It's unacceptable that the wealthiest country in the world ranks so low compared to other countries, especially in infant mortality.

  • Today, anyone without health care coverage is still treated for emergency care -- including undocumented immigrants. Doctors don't care about a person's heritage or their green card status when they're bleeding out on the ER's floors -- they're going to treat a person who needs emergency medical assistance. It's an issue of morality, really: do you let a person die simply because they're from another country? Do you require proof of citizenship before you begin treating a victim of a car accident? The answer to both should be a resounding "no." The proposed reforms offered by President Obama and Congressional Democrats wouldn't change that -- but they also wouldn't give undocumented immigrants the right to receive care under a public plan, contrary to what Republicans and conservatives are saying.

  • 46 million Americans went without health insurance last year. It wasn't necessarily because of choice, either -- many simply cannot afford to buy into a private plan when employers don't provide coverage, but are still ineligible to apply for government assistance. Lower-middle class families suffer greatly because they cannot provide coverage for themselves -- doing so will devastate them financially, since the average health costs for a family of four is $16,771.

  • Six in ten bankruptcies are due partially to overwhelming health costs. Whether insured or not, people can't afford to get sick in this country. When they don't have insurance, the costs of medical coverage are overwhelming; when they do have insurance, the companies don't always cover enough to stave off financial duress (80 percent of those who became bankrupt due to health costs had insurance).

  • In California, one in five claims are denied by insurance companies. This trend isn't limited to persons in the Golden State; millions of Americans face denial by their insurance providers even if they're paying for coverage.

  • If those first six points didn't convince you -- if they didn't move you to embrace a drastic change of some kind -- then this will: a recent study shows that 45,000 Americans die yearly due to lacking adequate health coverage. That's ten times the number of American casualties in the Iraq war -- every year. That's like losing the combined populations of Fitchburg, McFarland, Verona, Black Earth, and Maple Bluff -- every year. A population similar to the size of Madison would perish in less than five years, all because people couldn't afford to get insurance or because the insurance they do pay for refuses to pay for their expenses.
Now, the debate on health care is a big one, with many different opinions intertwined with one another. But unwarranted fears over socialism are not worth debating over when you look at these seven points. Costs and other factors are worth scrutinizing -- but claiming that the president is trying to turn America into Soviet Russia just deviates away from any real debate on the issues.

Let's have that debate -- let's not distract the public with unnecessary scare tactics based out of lies. The truth -- what millions of Americans experience daily -- is of greater concern than what "supposedly" will happen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obama snubs FOX News...and rightly so.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama went on an unprecedented five Sunday talk shows in an attempt to shore up support for his health care plan. He appeared on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and Spanish-speaking Univision.

Missing from that list? FOX News.

The president apparently snubbed the conservative-leaning network, opting for media sources that were less biased against him. Many will undoubtedly look down upon this, and see it as the president refusing to work with people who oppose his ideas -- an odd charge to make seeing as he has many Republican allies within his administration.

There is a simple explanation for why the president chose not to go on FOX: the news station rarely, if ever, gives him positive (or even objectionable) media attention, often distorting his views and perpetuating myths about his proposed reforms.

This is a network that regularly gives a voice to a movement that considers the president a non-citizen, that has compared the Obama administration to Hitler's Nazis and Orwell's "Big Brother", and that continues to flat-out lie about things the president has said. That doesn't even take into account the countless guests who appear on network programming and label the president as a socialist or fascist.

It's no wonder, then, why the president might try to avoid FOX: when a network treats you like an enemy, causing viewers to overwhelmingly consider you a menace to American politics, it isn't likely that you're going to change many minds by trying to appeal to that base. It's tantamount to a Democratic presidential candidate trying to campaign in Republican-stronghold Utah: you're just wasting time.

Obama shouldn't be looked down upon for not appearing on FOX News earlier this week -- it's his right to only appear on media outlets that will give him a fair shot to explain his proposals, leaving it up for the people to decide for themselves if they're right for America or not. After all, the same corporation chose instead to air "So you think you can Dance" rather than Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress...where do you think their priorities lie?

Obama wasn't likely going to get a fair shot by appearing on FOX News, seeing as the network generally gives the president no shot at all on a daily basis, leaving little room for free thought among the cable station's viewers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Are there racist elements within the conservative movement?

This week, former President Jimmy Carter drew heat for comments he made regarding the present day conservative movement. Carter made the accusation that some of the protests being held nationwide against current President Barack Obama were based out of racism:

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American," Carter said.

The White House has pushed aside such assertions, publicly stating that the president doesn't believe that racism is playing a significant role in the rallies and demonstrations against the administration's key policies.

It's clear, though, that some on the extreme end of the conservative movement today are racist. When protesters hold up signs of Obama as an African witch doctor, or purchase/sing/broadcast on their radio stations the song "Barack the Magic N____," it's more than his policies that people are fighting against.

The conservative movement as a whole isn't racist; there are genuine concerns that the right can have over policy initiatives that Obama is pushing for, and those concerns should be vocalized. It'd be wrong to assume a conservative is a racist simply for being a conservative.

However, there are fringe elements of the conservative movement that appear to be based out of the president's skin color. Much of the "birther" movement and some of the images these protesters are holding up are, in my mind, blatantly racist. Any notion that these protests are free from racist elements is simply naive.

The fact that threats to the sitting president have gone up 400 percent since Obama took office should be indicative that something afoul is up. Racism didn't just disappear when Obama took office.

We shouldn't accuse all conservatives of being racist; however, when we see those racist elements within their ranks, we shouldn't tolerate it, and neither should the conservatives who are standing next to them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why the Wilson resolution was needed

The House of Representatives today passed a resolution of disapproval for the actions of Rep. Joe Wilson, Republican from South Carolina. Many GOP representatives condemned the resolution, saying it was a waste of time and a political "game" being played by Democrats.

In all seriousness, the resolution was desperately needed.

The nation is currently embroiled in a heated debate centered upon the role of government in people's lives. Conservative critics have pushed their supporters to take to the streets, to demonstrate in so-called TEA Parties, and to disrupt town hall meetings of Democratic members of Congress.

This resolution is not critical of the position Joe Wilson took (even if it's factually inaccurate), nor on his right to free speech. What it IS critical of is the lack of decorum that is engrossing the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

It is not acceptable to call the president a liar in the middle of a joint session of Congress. If that sort of behavior is acceptable, what will be next?

Now, there will be some who will say, "Well, President BUSH was booed during such a session of Congress!"

That may be true, and that sort of behavior is not acceptable either. However, the former president was never singled out and called a liar before a joint session of Congress. That body may have disagreed with his views, and may have expressed them vocally -- but they never called him a liar during one of those speeches in a way as demeaning as Joe Wilson did to Barack Obama.

Bush also faced many protesters who called him a fascist, just as they're calling Barack Obama that today. However, that sort of behavior was never tolerated by the Democratic Party as much as it is today by the Republicans. The mainstream left never accepted the 9/11 Truth movement as legitimate the way the right is legitimizing the "Birthers" today.

The behavior exhibited by extremist conservatives today is outrageous. That it's become a pivotal part of the Republican Party's base is disturbing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Polls show support for public option from doctors and citizens alike

I recently published a blog post on how many Wisconsin doctors supported the idea of the public option in the health care debate. 65 percent of doctors in the state thought that a national insurance plan was a good idea.

But how would that number fare nationally?

It turns out, you'd see similar numbers. According to a national survey of doctors, nearly 63 percent of primary care physicians supported a system of health care with both public and private insurance available -- similar to the plan President Obama and Democrats in Congress are proposing.

That number stays constant across the nation, too: in every region of the nation, support for a dual system of both public and private plans available to the people had support of doctors, ranging from a high of 69.7 percent in the Northeast, to a low of 58.9 percent in the South.

Again, we see support for a public option plan from doctors. But the people of America, too, want to see such a plan!

An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 55 percent of Americans support a public option, with only 42 percent opposing such a plan.

So why do we see politicians backing down from a public plan? The conservative smear-job and drumming up of vocal town hall demonstrators has scared lawmakers into thinking that support for a health care reform bill with the public option included will cause a backlash so severe that they'll lose their seats in office come 2010.

I, however, disagree with that view; if Democrats can win this debate, with a public option intact, they will remain as popular as ever -- they will have delivered what they had promised and will give millions of Americans the health care they so desperately need.

If they drop the public option, however, even with some reforms in a final bill, they will still be despised by the hard-line conservatives they fear; but they will also lose respect from progressives that helped get them elected in the first place. And in my opinion, it's harder to get reelected with a dissatisfied base.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

MLK a Republican? I don't think so.

I visited friends this weekend in Milwaukee, and on our way home to Madison, I noticed a billboard. I couldn't make out the words, but I saw the image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I smiled a bit, because the words of Dr. King always have a way of motivating me to become a better person.

When we reached the sign, my jaw dropped; it read:

"Martin Luther King, Jr. Was A REPUBLICAN!"

I was incensed. The sign is being advertised by the National Black Republicans Association, who assert that "MLK was a minister and a Republican who embraced our traditional values."

The NBRA is hoping that, by pointing out the political allegiances of the former Baptist Minister, they can bring more African Americans to the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential election, Obama garnered more than nine-in-ten African American voters.

"Obama is no MLK," says the NBRA. "Obama is a far left-wing radical Democrat who does not share our values."

Now, it isn't too hard to conceive that Dr. King was possibly a Republican (no known record of his political affiliation actually exists). Many African Americans had been Republican-affiliated from the days of Lincoln until Franklin Roosevelt, when northern Democrats began shifting their views on segregation laws.

However, to claim that Dr. King would accept the current incarnation of the Republican Party as representative of his own views is downright wrong.

Dr. King was a fierce opponent of the war in Vietnam; there is no way he would accept the war in Iraq during the tenure of George W. Bush as acceptable.

Dr. King was also an advocate of labor; he would be seen as a far-left liberal by many extremist conservatives active in the GOP today. Take a look at some of his words:
I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream—a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed...
Can you imagine a Republican saying something like that today?! He'd be run out of the party!

How can the NBRA assert that King was a conservative when he was being monitored by the FBI for his far-left views?

Dr. King may well have been a Republican; but the party was different ideologically in the 1960s than it is today. The Democrats who advocated segregation branched off to form the Dixiecrat Party, with many of those members eventually joining the Republican Party.

I'm not saying that the Republican Party today is full of racists; there are haters within both parties. And though more racists identify with conservative causes, it should be noted that that fact doesn't make ALL conservatives racist.

What I AM saying is this: Dr. King was an advocate of liberal causes. He pushed tirelessly for the emancipation of blacks across the country from the binds of Jim Crow, was against the growing conflict in Vietnam, and pushed for workers' rights in the later years of his life. These are not the stances traditionally assigned to a conservative political party; these are the calling cards of a liberal.

The sign I saw today, then, is highly misleading; the NBRA ought to be ashamed for their deliberate manipulation of facts.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Joe Wilson, GOP, pushing fear, stupidity

Rep. Joe Wilson's voice rang throughout the chamber. "You lie!" said the Republican from South Carolina, disregarding the decorum normally afforded to a president before a joint session of Congress.

This sort of behavior, unfortunately, is now typical of the right wing in this country. In the same speech, several conservative lawmakers held up pamphlets of their own health bill (that would give a $5,000 credit to families to pay for premiums, while the average cost of premiums for a family of four is $13,000); House Minority Whip Eric Cantor was also seen texting on his blackberry several times while the president spoke.

That's just the tame stuff. Conservatives across the country have engaged in shouting matches in Democratic politicians' town hall meetings. One conservative pastor says that he wants Obama to die. One school that refused to let students hear Obama's speech on the importance of education and self-determination now plans to bus those same students to hear former (Republican) president George W. Bush speak.

Extreme conservatism is driving this country to a boiling point politically. The normal talking points of a conservative -- concerns over costs, implementation, etc. -- have been replaced with irrational fears and, consequently, behavior. Fears over "death panels," immigrants abusing a public option plan, "birthers" continuing to assert Obama isn't a citizen...these are all arguments that carry no substance.

And yet, politicians and commentators continue to push them.

There's one simple explanation: they know it works. More Americans are starting to believe these lies. If they repeat it enough, they just may be able to defeat health care reform, not through an alternative plan or true concern over the legislation being proposed, but through manipulating the people into believing things that are just plain untrue.

I agree with Keith Olbermann, who said tonight:
The time has come to rise up and take this country back...this nation cannot survive the continued acceptance, the continued endorsement, the continued encouragement, the continued institutionalization -- of stupidity.
Not every conservative is stupid -- not every American who believes the lies of the extreme right is stupid, either. But those who perpetuate those lies, who continue to believe with every fiber of their heart that they are true despite the evidence being presented to them daily, are stupid.

We need to reclaim our country. Support those politicians who bring an informed approach to the debate -- not those who are only trying to scare you. The fears they are trying to sell you pale in comparison to the actual situation millions of Americans face currently in this health care debate.

WI Doctors want health reform, universal care

A lot of politicians against health care reform often state that a national health insurance would get between you and your doctor.

But for some reason, Wisconsin doctors support such a plan.

A majority of Wisconsin doctors (54 percent) support a national health insurance plan, similar to the proposed public option. Even more (55 percent) "support incremental reform toward universal coverage." The number was even higher for primary care physicians, of which 65 percent support a nationally-run insurance program.

Only 37 percent of doctors overall were opposed to a national insurance plan, with only one-fourth disapproving of eventual universal coverage. Specialists were the largest group to oppose reform, with 46.3 percent in opposition.

However, a similar number of specialists (46.2 percent) supported reform as well.

So what does this mean? Do Wisconsin doctors, as Republicans would like you to think, want someone to get between you and...themselves?

More likely, Wisconsin doctors can see through the lies that politicians against reform continue to perpetuate; they have seen how well universal health care works in other countries; and they are likely concerned with the infant mortality rates of the U.S. compared to other countries (6.2 per 1,000 births, compared to 2.75 for Sweden, 3.33 for France, and even 5.82 for Cuba), as well as the overall World Health Rankings (the U.S. ranks 37, with Sweden at 23, France at number 1, and Cuba just two spots below America).

If you're concerned over what your doctor has to say on universal care, ask them. More likely than not, your doctor is going to support such a system. And if it's good enough for them, shouldn't it be good enough for you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Californians face real "death panels" from private insurers

Feel like playing the lottery today? If you health insurance and live in California, you already are.

One out of every five persons in the Golden State who buy insurance from the top five providers there -- who pay for the care and believe it covers them completely -- will have their insurance provider deny them their health care needs, based off of pre-existing conditions or the expense of the procedure involved.

People covered by PacifiCare, one of the largest providers in that state, had a worse fate: nearly 40 percent of all persons under their plans were denied coverage.

The data was collected over a period of seven years, from 2002 to the present.

This study shows that death panels are indeed real: they've been here for years, and exist solely in the private sector. You have a better chance at being denied coverage by your provider than you do of winning any real jackpot lottery.

There is another choice: you could support health care reform, with a public option included that would give you a real choice and create real competition within the system. Reform would also eliminate discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, making it illegal to refuse treatment because you had acne as a teen.

But, hey, if you'd rather preserve a private sector health care system rather than your own health, that's fine too. Just be prepared to live with the consequences -- and don't get sick in California (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Monday, September 7, 2009

More on the president's prepared remarks to schoolchildren

President Barack Obama released his prepared remarks he will deliver to schoolchildren nationwide tomorrow. Commentators had previously warned that the president was planning to indoctrinate the children into socialists, an idea so bizarre it was, frankly, laughable.

But just LOOK at these quotes from his prepared remarks!
"...we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

"And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

"Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide."
Each of these children has to take responsibility for their own education? They can't just rely on teachers and tax dollars? Aren't those the talking points of conservatives?
"at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

"Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future."
If this sounds familiar, it's because it is: look up Horatio Alger and see what rags-to-riches stories you can find. Not exactly a favorite read for socialists, making the claims of socialist indoctrination even more absurd.

That these parents and commentators on the right-wing were so worried over this speech (and continue to worry) speaks volumes -- the respect that is afforded to every president, regardless of political party, is no longer afforded to Barack Obama. We've known this for some time...the perpetual lies, mistruths, and blatant propaganda against the current commander-in-chief have been going strong since before he took office, and will continue on long after this posting.

Why this trend will go on, however, still mystifies this author. Despite each lie being debunked, each mistruth being explained, the hard-right in this country continue the lies, continue to misinform the public over the president's policies and ideals.

It's a shameful display of pseudo-patriotic zealotism that some people feel they need to display. A true American -- whether they agree with the president's policies or not -- still shows respect for the office, no matter who the current occupant may be.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

On Socialism, the Commons, and health care

What has socialism ever done for us?

The question is one that will surely generate a lot of response. Many will look at it and say, "Nonsense! Socialism is a terrible evil that needs to be done away with!"

Most of the time, people who feel that way are referring to the fear of socialism in a Soviet sense: they are reminded of the Cold War and how America defeated the socialist threat around the world through the strength of capitalism.

But Soviet-styled socialism and the reforms that Democrats are pushing for -- often confused for socialism -- are hardly the same. The definition of what is "socialist" is different for many people.

Dictionary.com provides us with a decent definition:
...a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
It is my opinion -- as well as the opinion of many Americans -- that such a system cannot work if it's applied to the society as a whole. Private enterprise ensures that competition remains strong; competition, in turn, ensures that the best product available is produced and that the consumer will pay the best price for that product (usually) rather than an artificially-created price made up by the socialist state.

There are, however, instances when some aspects of society need to be socialized. We call these the "commons," and fund them through the taxes we raise. The commons include things like a common police force, a common fire department, a common school system, a common system of parks (local, state, or national), and, perhaps surprisingly to most, a common defense (the military).

These are not things that we may consider to be constitutionally required (with the exception of the common defense that the military provides us with). There is no constitutional requirement to have a common fire department, for example. And yet, we have decided to have publicly financed fire departments throughout the nation. No one wants to have a fire break out in their house only to hear that the fire department won't put out the fire because they didn't pay the proper fee. We've made it so everyone gets the same, equal protection.

There are some -- present company included -- who believe that the commons should be extended to help those without health care coverage. There are a couple reasons for this. First, the current system is draining far more capital than it should. When patients show up to the ER without insurance, they still get treated -- but the bill gets passed on to the other patients who do have insurance.

Second, the current system is unfair. It places people who can afford insurance ahead of those who can't. Every life is equal, regardless of income level. We shouldn't value one life as more valuable than another based on the capital they have.

Finally, besides being unfair and costly, the current system is driven by profits, not care for people. Even people who pay for coverage don't always get it. High profit-earning companies concerned with making more money are not looking out for the best interests of their customers; the denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions is proof positive of that. When people are told that their operations or medications are too costly for the company to provide while the CEOs are earning lucrative paychecks, something is wrong.

We shouldn't allow a service that is meant to help people to be driven by anything other than genuine concern for the well-being of the customers. The actions of private insurance companies are despicable, and certainly warrant action by the federal government. A public option for people to opt into -- if they want to deviate from the private options -- is a reasonable proposal to fix the health care problem in our country.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Irrational fear-mongering hurting American discourse

With all of the irrational behavior that's been exhibited by the conservative movement lately, you'd think it was the start of the apocalypse. People are concerned with a president they feel is vying for unprecedented power in the federal government.

But the fears that people are worrying about are really not that worrisome at all. The "death panel" provision in the health care bill never existed in the first place; Obama does indeed have a birth certificate, available online for anyone to examine; any tax increases that people are literally screaming over are planned to be placed upon the super rich, the top 2 percent of the wealthiest of Americans; and planned speeches aimed towards schoolchildren are meant to address the importance of individual responsibility and a sound education, not actual policy or indoctrination of any kind.

That's just a handful of the craziness that's been discussed about the presidency of Barack Obama since he took office earlier this year. With his poll numbers dropping, however, it seems that this craziness is a weapon that works.

The problem with conservatism today is that it's not concerned with political stances or an ideology anymore. The movement has been overrun by extremists who are hell-bent on destroying the Obama presidency, no matter what the cost may be, with some even advocating full-out secession if they don't get their way.

It should be noted that conservatism itself isn't to blame; the leaders and commentators who see a potential political advantage in fear-mongering are the ones perpetuating the lies, pushing the fear level into hyper drive in an effort to win back a few seats in Congress come 2010 and perhaps the presidency in 2012.

The liberal movement, on the other hand, is presently concerned with facts, figures, and empirical evidence to back their claims. They're also concerned with improving the lives of millions of Americans, of making the country a better place for all and not just corporate interests.

The average conservative, too, is concerned with improving America; however, the movement itself has no plans for doing anything to help the country, opting instead to preserve the status quo by striking fear into the public en masse. In order to win their point, extremist conservatives have taken the low-road, appealing to a person's fears through irrational scare-tactics rather than rational arguments.

An emotional response to public policy isn't anything to worry about; irrational fear-mongering and the response it generates is. Neither party nor ideology should engage in such conduct, and it's disappointing that such tactics are being used to influence people today.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Conservatives accuse Obama of "indoctrinating" nation's children

If the opportunity came for your children to meet an important figure in American history -- say, the president of the United States -- would you deny your child that experience?

It seems that several parents are doing just that.

The president plans to speak to the nation's children next week, via the internet and C-SPAN, on "the importance of education and staying in school."

Republican critics, including Texan Gov. Rick Perry, see the address to students as more political.

"I think it’s disturbing when you get this message, that you will have your kids, in a forum where the president of the United States is, obviously he’s got a message there," he said. He added, however, that he was "certainly not going to advise anybody not to send their kids to school that day."

Other conservatives commentators have suggested, however, that Obama is planning to indoctrinate your children in this planned address.

The hype is astonishing -- other presidents have, in the past, also addressed students directly about the importance of education. What's more, the "lesson plan" for Obama's speech is available for parents to view, and the speech he will give will be available to watch the day before the event is to occur, should parents still not be convinced.

It is the hysteria over events like this that have me convinced that there is no decency left in much of the conservative movement. Whatever decency is left, it is rare, but needs to blossom.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Obama needs to own health care debate

Even Bob Dole agrees: Barack Obama needs to be the leader on health care reform for the Democrats.

From the start, Obama has left it to Democratic leadership in Congress to push the health care bill through. He's had a "hands-off" approach to the whole process, advocating bits and pieces of things he'd like to see in the bill but leaving most of it up to Democrats in Congress to figure things out.

That sort of approach isn't working.

By leaving the health care debate up to Congress to hash out, Obama leaves the plan vulnerable to attacks without a central figure responsible for its defense -- nor does he give it a leader to advocate for it on its behalf. A disorganized plan by the Democrats (with some supporting a public option while others waver on it) cannot defeat a strong oppositional force led by Republicans and the conservative movement in general.

Such an oppositional force is able to, through a repetitive smear-and-fear campaign, defeat an unorganized and split Democratic coalition for reform.

It's not that the people don't want such reform either -- poll after poll has shown that there is strong support for a public option plan and for reform in general. But by creating a perception of falsehoods, causing fear and panic in the people, and by making a vocal minority seem larger than it is, the conservative movement is slowly defeating this health care bill.

Strong leadership is needed to help overcome such tactics. Barack Obama must become that leader; he can reframe the debate on health care reform and show that the worries caused by conservatives over lies and mistruths are nothing to fret about.

Without a central leader on this debate, Americans will rely upon too many individual voices, legislators who have their own priorities and own stances on the bill. With Obama taking charge, however, as the head of his nation and his party, he can define what actions are needed and what stances his party should take on the bill.

Next Wednesday, he will address Congress and the American public. It's the first step Obama should make towards taking hold of the health care debate on a more personal level.

Through his leadership, we may be able to save health care reform with a public option intact.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Debunking health care myths: the true cost of reform

The conservative movement in this country continues to use scare tactics to win the debate on health care reform. With arguments like the infamous "death panels" coming to kill your grandparents, or how the bill will supposedly allow illegal immigrants to have health care coverage -- with neither claim carrying any weight of truth whatsoever -- it's worth asking: Do conservatives even remember how to argue using facts anymore?

Take the fiscal argument. Even on an issue that seems to be legitimately worth debating, the conservatives can't come up with a reasonable argument against health care reform.

They like to point out the price tag that would come along with the health care package, H.R. 3200, that will likely pass in the house. The cost of implementing that bill, they remind us, will be over $1 trillion! That's nothing to laugh about -- it's a serious amount of cash, worth debating over.

Except there are several things conservatives like to omit from that debate, probably because they start to lose the argument as soon as certain things come to light. For example, that trillion dollar figure? That number is over the next ten years. So, right away, the projected yearly spending for the bill, if we average it, comes to about $100 billion per year. Still, a lot of money -- but the way conservative pundits were putting it, they made it seem like it was one large lump sum.

Then, there's the fact that the trillion dollar figure isn't all deficit spending: in fact, over the ten year period, the health reform bill would only increase the budget deficit by one-fifth that number, roughly $200 billion, or just a little more than $20 billion a year (again, if we're to average things).

The argument, then changes significantly: instead of the perceived large sum all at once (the original fear of $1 trillion), you really have $20 billion per year.

Still, $20 billion per year to the deficit is a lot of money, especially if you're doing it every year for ten years. We shouldn't consider such large sums of money as no big deal.

But there's more to this tragic mistruth set up by the conservative fear machine: according to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit won't be close to that $200 billion figure. In fact, taking into account cost savings and additional revenues in H.R. 3200, the resulting increase to the budget deficit over the next ten years would be $65 billion. Total.

So let's examine this a little deeper: our average yearly deficit spending for health care reform over the next ten years would be about $6.5 billion per year. That amounts to about $542 million a month.

Surely, conservatives could agree that we could cut some government waste to come up with $65 billion over ten years. And if we can agree to that, then why can't we agree that health care reform, at least on an economic level, is attainable?

Conservatives on the far right of things tend to make up stories about how liberals are bad, such as the health care reform forcing seniors to face "death panels," or that Barack Obama isn't a naturally born citizen. But even when debating a subject normally considered a conservative strong suit -- a subject such as economics -- lawmakers and talking heads can't seem to understand the argument past the first sentence. Yes, the program will cost a trillion dollars -- but in terms of deficit spending, it will do minimal damage that can easily be offset through cuts to other wasteful spending.