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andym's Journal
Posted by andym in General Discussion
Sat Jul 30th 2011, 01:01 PM
The American political system is currently set up such that destruction is far easier than creation. But the current debt crisis shows that destruction is far easier than even maintenance of the status quo.

To do anything positive, like creating public health care requires the President, the House and 60 votes in the Senate. To shut down government or refuse to raise the debt only requires control of one chamber (or potentially the Presidency if a veto can not be overridden). And apparently it only takes a dedicated core group of supporters equal to or greater than difference in members between the majority and minority party in the House (like the Tea party congressmen) to block action, which translates into destruction. Blocking action (such as raising the debt ceiling) by conservatives threatens the progresssive safety net, and the Tea Partiers are on the verge of "victories" that will destroy the American safety net.

The threat of utter destruction associated with failure to raise the debt ceiling or a shutdown can be used to destroy valuable government social programs, research, regulations etc. So if the new conservatives are anti-government anarchists, as the teapartiers seem to be they have all of advantage of the system on their side.

This is not a system where it will be easy to do anything progressive. Now it looks likes its a system where it is difficult to even maintain progressive policies already in effect for years.

The road to any new progressive legislation appears to be a daunting one. The only hope is that progressive thought is able to vanquish that of the conservatives in public discourse. It does not seem to be happening though. Quite the reverse, as conservative talk radio and Fox and friends seem to dominate. I think the future of progressivism and the USA itself may lie in our ability to wield influence over the public. Only question is how best to do it? I am not sure sites like DU and Kos are the answer. Books? Films? Youtube?

However, the road to maintaining progressive legislation like Medicare or SS requires the invocation of powerful pro-safety net public feeling and outrage over its possible dismantling. This requires all of us and especially our political leaders to publicly defend the safety net in the strongest terms possible.
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Posted by andym in General Discussion
Sat Feb 19th 2011, 01:14 PM
Teapartiers appear to feel we're in the "last days." Not the last days of the world as in fundamentalist Christianity, but of the federal government. They see themselves as the soldiers who will finally implement Reagan's dream, thanks to the accumulated effects of tax cuts and government spending that have resulted large deficits over the years (a battle plan started by Reagan himself). Did you really think they were hypocrites about the budget? Well they are, but hypocrites with a plan. Not only do they intend to cut the federal government back to the 19th century (goodbye to NPR, EPA, FAA, USPS, FDA etc) sooner rather than later, but will end the possibility of progressive change through the government for a generation or more.

How can they achieve real change with only a majority in the House, when Democrats in the two years before could pass only the most modest progressive legislation? Because in Congress, like in real life, destruction is easier than construction. To pass anything it has to get by a 60 member Senate supermajority. But to defund government, conservatives only need pass their demands in the House, and then when the Senate disagrees refuse to do anything unless they get their way. If the Senate or President doesn't go along then shut the government down and they then effectively achieve their ultimate goal: no federal government immediately. Won't that cause them political problems? Perhaps. Perhaps not. When people scream after not getting SS checks, the GOP will simply just blame the "liberal" Democrats for forcing the shutdown. What about all the federal workers losing their jobs? To the GOP they are not real workers anyway, so they don't care. Won't it hurt the economy? Some of the deluded GOP think government evisceration would really help, the others want a bad economy to elect a GOP president next year.

So how are the moderate Democratic administration and Senate countering this war on the government: proposing very modest government spending cuts, hoping to achieve some deficit reduction, and take away enough public support from the conservatives to prevent the wholesale government destruction. But how can conservatives be stopped when they don't really care what the public thinks?

If you have any doubt that the Right is on war against the government and government workers, then look no farther than what they are trying to do to state workers in Wisconsin and Ohio for example.
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Posted by andym in General Discussion
Mon Feb 07th 2011, 08:09 PM
-- well really 28 years, until 2009. The key to his success was successfully spreading the ideas that "government is the problem," taxes should be cut whenever possible (the wealthy included), and that government-mediated corporate regulation was the main hindrance to the success of American business. The underlying ideas are that the individual is responsible for his/her own welfare and that free market competition is the key to everything.

He was influential enough to help load the word "liberal" with negative connotations. So much so that Bush senior used the word as weapon against Mike Dukakis.

Thanks to him, conservatives own the word "freedom" and use it against liberals and progressive policies at will.

It is very important to note that these cultural values are continually brought into play to impede progressive legislation, even today. Which means that they still resonate with the American public.

Ironically, his actual conservative legislative success is at best very modest, and a strong case could be made that the current administration has been more successful at achieving progressive goals than Reagan was at achieving conservative ones.

So why was he successful at moving the country to the right? He was a great salesman and stagflation was finally conquered during his term (see Paul Volcker for why), which made his economic polices appear good.

Modern progressivism is informed by many ideas. Two of the strongest are that government can make a positive difference in people's lives and that large corporations have too much power that must be reduced (by the government). It is clear that the current administration does not embrace the anti-corporate plank of progressivism. However, it does believe in the potential of government to make lives better, and has enacted many laws predicated on this principle. The success of the economy under this administration is closely tied to how liberalism and progressivism will be seen by the American public, no matter how moderate many of this administrations policies may appear to us. Therefore, ironically there is a chance that President Obama may be seen as the left's Reagan in the future.

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Posted by andym in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Nov 30th 2010, 03:06 PM
1) either pass all taxcuts (including for the wealthy) now
OR
2) prevent Democrats from extending middle class tax cuts, now
which will further damage the economy and
make everyone in the middle class mad
both of which serve to defeat the Democratic President and Congress in 2012

if 2) comes to pass, then the GOP will repropose all taxcuts in next congressional session and blame Democrats if they block the taxcuts (due to taxcuts for the wealthy), while the economy suffers and the middle class are angry.

I can hear their rhetoric now: "Obama's job-killing tax increases taking away your hard earned money..." At the same time, they would hypocritically probably take credit for cutting the deficit due to the absense of taxcuts because they "control" the House.

I believe that they want this second alternative more than the first, because it benefits them more. Damage to the economy and the middle class is not their concern.

They can't lose it seems (since they calculate that the Democrats will get all of the blame)...
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Posted by andym in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Thu Oct 28th 2010, 11:55 AM
Not that he actually accomplished much of the conservative agenda, but he accomplished a cultural revolution of the "government is the problem" that is corrosive for progressivism. He also stole the mantle of "freedom" for the conservatives, which they use to manipulate the American public. Any proposed big government program can be taken down by appealing to the dual bogeymen of "inefficient big government," "loss of freedom" and "no new taxes." This has immense consequences, for example, until this changes, there will be no single-payer health care (once it is taken seriously the GOP anti-dream machine will take it down).
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Posted by andym in Latest Breaking News
Tue Sep 28th 2010, 09:03 PM
when it comes to balancing equality and freedom, and to the role of government. The inertia of "government is the problem" and complete freedom for corporations to do whatever they wanted with fewer and fewer regulations that has been with us since the Reagan days is finally ended. Movement for the last two years has been for expanded government, the idea that government is effective and benevolent, which is the key to progressive advance in America. Movement has been to increase equality, by better ensuring that almost everyone can get health care (which is anathema to Republicans), the first major, though modest increase in the social safety net since the early 70s.

What I'm saying is that there will be no single-payer or strict anti-corporate power regulations until the government is viewed as efficient and benevolent by more than a majority of citizens, in most of the regions of this country. That's beginning to happen now, and keeping the moderates in place who have started the move toward the left is critical for the new inertia to be maintained.

Turning such a large mass as American public opinion around is hard work, and slow, but once people can be convinced that government is not the problem, but part of a potential solution, the power of progressivism should grow, just as the opposite happened when Reagan was President.
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Posted by andym in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sat Jan 30th 2010, 03:28 AM
Single payer as described in HR676 will stimulate the economy, create new jobs and save hundreds of billions from indirect costs according the CA Nurses' study. Americans on average will pay less for health care. American workers would be competitive.

However, according to the CA nurses study it would cost about $2 trillion/year in direct costs (savings come from lower indirect costs). That compares with a total federal budget last year of 2.9 trillion, so it increases the budget by 69% to 4.9 trillion. It would increase the deficit by 2 trillion/year unless various tax increases are passed.

For comparison the Senate/House HCR bills cost about 90 billion/year. So single payer costs about 20 times more.

It would take immense political courage on the part of congress to create such a big program and the taxes necessary to pay for it. I have yet to see such courage outside a few state houses, like in California which is about to again try to pass a version of single-payer.
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Posted by andym in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Dec 29th 2009, 01:21 PM
Take the American Progress quiz (thanks to Clio the Leo for the link) and report your score below.
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/200...

Let's see how progressive DU really is....

For reference (American Progress' partial results from a poll conducted earlier this year)
mean scores (by self-identification):
Progressives 237.6
Democrats 237.7
Liberals 242.3
2008 Obams voters 244.0
Liberal Democrats 247.1

I would be very interested to know the standard deviations or variance.

For those interested their full report is here:
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/200...
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Posted by andym in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sat Nov 14th 2009, 12:15 AM
including suffering. And I strongly agree with them. My own father and grandmother were exemplary of this. My Dad so loved life, that even though he hated the idea of depending on others and had lived his life in a very independent manner, he wanted every second of life. Even after a crippling heart attack had reduced him to a painful dependent existence in the hospital, he accepted the loss of everything he could previously do and was planning how to make the best of his situation should he have been able to be brought home. He believed that one gets one life (with no after life) and that every second was to be treasured, no matter what.



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Posted by andym in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Mon Nov 02nd 2009, 01:46 PM
It seems quite to the contrary. There must be upward pressure to raise costs. It's been estimated that around 15%-20% of the costs in the USA are due to insurance company profits and overhead and another 10-15% is due to inefficiency in medical billing and administration-- that's where the 30% number you often see comes from.

Let's take the example of CT head scans from the graph in the OP.
Even if you take out the 30%, US private costs are still way higher 0.7(850-1800)=595-1200. Medicare is substantially less 300 (at least 50%).

So, even removing the greedy insurance companies' overhead and the inefficient administration means that the US system still costs way more than other countries or Medicare.

Why? Insurers have little motivation to rein in total costs, as long as they can pass on the cost to the consumers. In fact, the gross number of their profit increases as more total dollars are spent. So their overhead is not the main problem, rather it is their inability or desire to negotiate lower rates with providers. One could motivate them with a premium cap, that prevented them from passing on increasing costs. But while that would help, it would not completely solve their own problem with the medicare care providers.

So the best solutions are when somebody (usually a regulator) negotiate cost rates on behalf of a very large group (or everyone). That is the biggest advantage of single-payer, although technically, a regulator could negotiate rates that would apply to all payers (which is done in many European countries that do not have single payer).

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Posted by andym in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Sun Sep 20th 2009, 03:23 PM
Some of may wonder why the creation of single-payer health care was never "on the table" even last year during the primaries, when none of the major candidates proposed it. Some may wonder why it appears so difficult to even get a strong public option in health care reform.

A popular answer is that various corporate special interests have too much influence over even Democratic politicians. No doubt that this is correct. But it is not the whole story. The problem is also ideological and it is the current ideological state of affairs that give corporatists "room to operate."

Liberal ideology especially as it relates to the potential benevolent role of government has been in decline since at least the time of Reagan. The idea that the government is inefficient at best and at worst pathological to political and economic freedom must be defeated. The benevolent role of government acting in the public interest may seem obvious to many here, but it is not the prevailing ideology in the USA, especially in the South and Mountain West.

There are two ways to change to the tide: continually talk about successful examples of the positive role government plays (from Medicare to biomedical research, from the interstate highway system to the creation of the internet, etc) in the USA (and to a lesser extent around the world-- because Americans tend to discount foreign exemplars). And to enact as strong as possible legislation that shows the government is capable of efficiently executing new services--for example, a strong public option health insurance organization beating the pants off of private insurers in fair competition will do wonders for future liberal efforts to create even more effective programs like single-payer.

There are two other ideological problems that remain from the Reagan era. One is the idea that taxes should never be raised. Taxes are mandatory, and there are many who do not like to be told that they have to give someone else their money. Unfortunately, services whether private or governmental are not free, and must be paid for. The best that can be promoted here, is that a government program really can be the most efficient way to accomplish something like health care payments. The idea that the government provides the "best deal", the most bang for one's buck needs to take root. The only real way for this to happen is by example. When this is understood, a program like single-payer becomes a no-brainer to the American public.

The final problem is that government programs are seen as hierarchical and inflexible, which implies that individual freedom of choice and innovation are limited. Depending how a program is structured this is a potential problem, however, there are examples of government programs where decisions are made in ways that preserve competition and freedom. One good example is the funding of extramural biomedical research by the NIH. The government decides which general areas of research to fund, but has created a system where individual researchers are asked to create their own proposals. The proposals are then examined by panels of their peers (not the government) and then the panels' recommendations are funded by government employees who must to a large extent follow the recommendation. New programs should incorporate this kind of decentralization where possible.

If we are successful, the moderate Democrats currently in office will will either act more progressively, or will be replaced by Democrats who are more liberal. Most importantly, we will promote the creation of government programs that improve our lives.
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Posted by andym in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Sun Sep 20th 2009, 02:37 PM
Liberal ideology especially as it relates to the potential benevolent role of government has been in decline since at least the time of Reagan. The idea that the government is inefficient at best and at worst pathological to political and economic freedom must be defeated. The benevolent role of government acting in the public interest may seem obvious to many here, but it is not the prevailing ideology in the USA, especially in the South and Mountain West.

If and when the tide turns, the fake Democrats will act more like real ones, or will be replaced by them.

There are two ways to change to the tide: continually talk about successful examples of the positive role government plays (from Medicare to biomedical research, from the interstate highway system to the creation of the internet, etc) in the USA (and to a lesser extent around the world-- because Americans tend to discount foreign exemplars). And to enact as strong as possible legislation that shows the government is capable of efficiently executing new services--for example, a strong public option health insurance organization beating the pants off of private insurers in fair competition will do wonders for future liberal efforts to create even more effective programs like single-payer.

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Posted by andym in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Tue Sep 15th 2009, 05:03 PM
However, on personal rights, at least there the Democratic party has moved leftward.

As for corporate "control", large corporate interests have had a large influence on government since at least the turn of the last century. However, their influence waxes and wains. Therefore I prefer the term "influence" rather than "control." The two Roosevelt administratons were particular low points for corporate influence. But for example, by the Truman administration, corporate interests representing the medical establishment were able to shelve universal health care reform.

It's also important to realize that corporate interests are not monolithic, and that corporate interests are often in conflict. Health care reform is one area where many manufacturers would no doubt benefit greatly from real reform like single-payer, where of course the health insurance industry would suffer.

I'm not sure they have more influence now than they did in the 60s when Medicare passed. The military industrial complex was probably stronger then. The key question is which corporate interests are having the greatest influence on government and how much could public pressure undo that influence. Under the Bush adminstration there wasn't a chance that the public could do much good. Under the current administration, it is yet to be determined. But so far I see VERY FEW attempts by the public (and here I especially mean self-described "progressives") to identify the malefactors, and then whip up public support to the extent needed. One clear example, is how few stories are circulating in mass emails that tell how insurance companies are rescinding coverage or bankrupting people.
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Posted by andym in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Tue Sep 15th 2009, 04:35 PM
would be critical to the creation of new social programs/entitlements.

Since the early 70s, we are operating in an era where government is considered wasteful and entitlements considered ineffective. The triumph of a strong public option against private industry would change that.
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Posted by andym in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Thu Sep 10th 2009, 11:10 AM
As many of us expected, credit card companies are busy trying to subvert the new credit card reform act. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/conte...

But there's one solution that they won't be able to completely weasel out of: interest rate and total penalty CAPS. They are needed, and I hope that Senator Dodd will revisit them.

Furthermore, caps on premiums and consumer total cost could essentially turn US healthcare into a European style healthcare on the backs of the insurers.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discu...

The key to the Cap and Trade bill? Caps...


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