November 23, 2008

How Obama’s Healthcare Plan will Help Your Kids

Obama’s health care plan is good for everyone, and can even serve to stimulate the economy, but in many cases it might be better to boil it down for eager parents who are worried about their childrens’ futures.

While adults twiddle their thumbs and the free-marketeers scrabble for government bailouts with one face and then tell us that universal anything is socialism with another, the rest of us have seen the greedy, self-mutilating monster (no, the market is not self-correcting, sorry Friedman) that the free-market is not just in the news every day but in the faces of the people who have gone bankrupt or even died because they can’t pay their medical bills, can’t afford live saving medical care or preventative treatment, the health care of children in America continues to suffer from the crushing SCHIP blockade from congressional Republicans just over a year back.

The American people know where their interests are best served, and frankly, they’re not served by people who think that health care is a challenge that’s “too big” for America, or that the well being of their families is “too expensive,” and should be left up to the types of profit-driven markets that brought you the credit crunch.

Over at MainStreet.com, there’s an excellent dissertation on how Obama’s planning to hit the ground running by bringing SCHIP back to the table, fully funding it, and proving his commitment to America’s health care by putting our children’s health and livlihoods first.

Cook thinks that a large energy plan will be in the works for Obama in the upcoming days, as will the beginnings of healthcare reform. But, don’t expect to see a huge ground shift when it comes to healthcare. “The Democrats learned their lesson with the Clintons,” says Cook, referring to President Bill Clinton’s failed 1993 healthcare plan that was prepared in secret within the White House, and dropped on Congress all at once. “Obama will want to roll things out in small increments.”

On his Web site, Obama’s healthcare plan offers six ways towards new, affordable health care. One of them is the expansion of SCHIP, or the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan, which President George W. Bush vetoed in September of 2007 after it had passed the House (265-159) and the Senate (67-29). “SCHIP is a great example of incremental change,” says Cook. “It’s something that’s already in the pipeline and should be easy to get out.” If Obama chooses, he should have no problem passing SCHIP through Congress and signing it into law on his desk.

Obama’s nomination of Tom Daschle to head up the massive Department of Health and Human Services is more proof of his commitment to health care and real medical research and advancement. Read the whole article below.

[ How Obama’s Healthcare Plan will Help Your Kids ]
Source: Main Street

My Shameful Confession: I Owe Bush Everything

It’s been a little while since the election, and I have to admit that I’m still thrilled. Even with the downturn in the economy, the American auto industry in turmoil and the prospect that congress not willing to do anything about it (I’m personally a fan of taking the money out of the existing $700 billion TARP bailout), things may be looking bad. But there’s more than enough proof that things are already starting to turn up.

Hillary Clinton is looking to be the Secretary of State, something that will all but certainly improve international opinion of America abroad, Obama’s pick for Treasury sends stocks soaring, it’s been looking more and more like good news come January.

But that being said, I have asked myself: when Bush is gone, whatever will we do? We’ll have an intelligent person in the White House now, so there’ll be no silly blunders, no mispronunciation of words, no absolute disregard for seriousness or civility. And it’s all of those things on top of his horrific policies that burned my ass so much that I had to raise my voice against it.

They say that if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention, and when I was outraged I had to do something, and getting active was the way I dealt with it. Joining the rising chorus of voices opposing Bush’s policies and those of his cronies, shouting about injustice, hatred, and our eroding civil liberties in the face of a senseless war and deteriorating domestic landscape was all I could do. And I’m not the only one.

But nowhere did I benefit more from the First Fool’s reign of error than when I started “The Rant”. Writing it has been a joy that I can’t even describe and I’ve made thousands of friends worldwide. I never imagined it would get the response it seems to be getting but I’m truly grateful for it. And to think that I owe it all to the nasty, half-witted little frat boy who at this very minute, is tucked away under his quilts, sleeping soundly in the Executive Mansion. Life is kind of funny that way, isn’t it?

Yeah, I owe an awful lot to George W. Bush. Me ‘n’ George have been on one hell of a journey together. The awful irony is the fact that the moment the disgusting little bastard breathes his final breath in the infirmary of the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kentucky, he will probably have lived his entire life not knowing that Tom Degan ever existed. That doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is that you and I and our children – and the great grandchildren who will never even know our names – will know the name of George W. Bush. The American people will be living with the strychnine-like aftertaste of his legacy for generations.

But not me, man! This imbecilic man has given me a direction and a purpose that I had previously been lacking. His failure has tuned out to be my ultimate triumph. In a very weird and disturbing way that I can barely articulate, George W. Bush really is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I owe the bastard — BIG TIME!

Thank you, Georgie.

Indeed, thank you!

[ My Shameful Confession: I Owe Bush Everything ]
Source: Alternet

November 8, 2008

Yes, We Can: Electoral Musings and Thoughts for Tomorrow

we hold these truths to be self evident

(click to enlarge)

In a way, I wanted to let the results from Tuesday night sink in before I put fingers to keys, as it were, to describe exactly how I feel and my outlook for the future. Over the past couple of days, I’ve been elated, angry, hopeful, distressed and worried, but above all, optimistic. I’ve seen reactions across the spectrum, from the spontaneous elation that came on election night to the cautious optimism that followed to the anger and angst of disgruntled conservatives who have even threatened – as we did in 2004 – to leave the country for parts unknown (don’t let the door hit you, and good luck finding someone as conservative as American conservatives are).

As millions sat in front of their TVs waiting for results Tuesday night, my girlfriend and I sat in front of our computers, listening to NPR pumped through our home theatre system and wearing out our F5 keys refreshing election results. (personally, I was watching MSNBC’s election map, Yahoo!’s Election Dashboard, the BBC’s election map – who called states before their American counterparts, which was amusing, and the real-time map from the fine folks at DailyKOS) When it became all but clear that John McCain could never recover from the loss of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, when Iowa and Ohio went blue, when states like Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, were at first competitive and then all turned blue on the big map (some sooner than others) and John McCain called Barack Obama to concede the race and subsequently make perhaps the classiest concession speech I’ve heard from a Presidential candidiate, and when it was finally over and every major network called the race for Obama, the entire world changed. When Obama got on stage and delivered the finest victory speech I’ve ever heard, we all knew the world had changed.

I could almost hear the sigh of relief from around the world, the cheers of millions of Americans. I could almost hear the music myself as people flooded the streets in cities across the country, cheering, chanting, playing music – street parties erupted from Washington DC to Chicago to Los Angeles to Seattle. Here in Washington DC, poor George Bush couldn’t possibly have felt very good looking out the window of the White House to the growing mass of people at the gates dancing, playing drums, and holding each other and crying with joy outside of his doorstep.

The world changed, and everyone knew it. While Americans partied, world leaders rushed to call the new President-Elect to congratulate him and warmly open the doors of diplomacy to him; even long-time American rivals like the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez offered to re-establish full diplomatic ties with the US and send an ambassador.

Back at home, my girlfriend and I held each other, tears welling up in our eyes, hopeful that our long nightmare of fear was over and that our hope for a better tomorrow had finally been rewarded. But where do we go from here? We’re ecstatic now, basking in the historic nature of not just a transformational and transcendent moment in American politics but also in American history, but the honeymoon will only last until the inauguration, at the longest.

The next day, my girlfriend was lucky enough to get one of the last newspapers on the stands in Washington DC, and the news was flooded with stories of people looking to find tangible reminders of the election of America’s first Black President to save for posterity. Civil rights leaders from decades gone by reminded us what a long, hard-fought battle it’s been to get here, the cost of lives, liberty, and livelihoods that brought us here, but made it all worthwhile. Political analysts of all stripes reported of an energized progressive America looking proudly to the future, and a disaffected conservative minority wondering where it all went wrong.

Over the next several days, the fog started to clear, and a few patterns started to make themselves apparent: a lot just happened, and a lot more is about to happen. Let’s take a look.

(more…)

Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls

Amidst all of the commentary and opinion, there’s room for news, including a brilliant piece from The New York Times on the day after the election – an article that if you didn’t read it online, you’d be lucky to see since The New York Times literally sold out from coast to coast that day (copies are still available on eBay if you’re willing to pay for them).

A watershed moment in American politics, they’re calling it, and I couldn’t agree more:

The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis – a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country.

But it was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation’s fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago.

Even I was skeptical. Before his nomination, I didn’t think America would vote for a Black President. I didn’t think America was ready. I was sure there were too many people in America who wouldn’t listen to him and would vote against him simply because of the color of his skin. There are those people – without a doubt – but what I was reminded on Tuesday night is that there are few enough of them that they don’t matter anymore. I was pleasantly reminded that while to many people I’ll always be “just another ni**er,” to many many more people, I’ll be judged on my words and actions. I can’t describe how refreshing that is.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” said Mr. Obama, standing before a huge wooden lectern with a row of American flags at his back, casting his eyes to a crowd that stretched far into the Chicago night.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the president-elect added, “but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

[ Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls ]
Source: The New York Times (courtesy of TruthOut)

10 Moving Stories and Images as America Celebrates Obama’s Win

Street parties. Music. Cheers. Drums. People crying on the street hugging each other. Tears in my own eyes, and the words of my elders that echoed around my mind: “I never thought I’d live to see the day.” The past week has been absolutely beautiful. Hearing from old civil rights pioneers who only hoped that they would leave a world behind to their children that would approximate this one; hearing from friends and neighbors, even the one Black coworker who smiled and shook my hand in the hallway this week during a very private moment – he said “We did it, man – can you believe it?”

Even the opposition, complaining now and saying the same things they derided us for in 2000 and 2004 and claiming they’ll be leaving America for parts unknown (good luck finding a more conservative country, even Australia isn’t as bad as we are, and their immigration policies are so tight they won’t let them in – but at least they’ll have someone else’s immigration policies to complain about for a change), and my coworker’s words to them: “Don’t go away angry, just go away.”

The stories, videos, and commentary from Tuesday’s historic election keep rolling in, but Alternet assembled some beautiful ones for a top-ten list. A mix of personal stories and videos, they’re definitely worth watching.

[ 10 Moving Stories and Images as America Celebrates Obama’s Win ]
Source: AlterNet

Morning Again in America

Robert Scheer is one of my favorite writers/commentators. He never pulls his punches, but he always manages to stay logical – something that I like to hope that I manage to do, maybe with a little more venom than he manages to show. But even he’s ecstatic given the news from Tuesday, and his words remind me exactly how I felt when I woke on Wednesday morinng, after too little sleep, ready to go to work without gloating too much to the Republicans in my office.

It is “Morning Again in America,” to reclaim and revise the slogan from the 1984 campaign of President Ronald Reagan, only this time the promise of an American renewal is in the hands of a moderate post-Cold War leader who embraces, rather than denies, the diversity and complexity of the modern world. It is difficult to imagine Obama ever asserting the arrogant jingoism that has come to mark Republican stewardship of this nation in the eyes of the world.

How refreshing for Americans to have elected a leader who was among the first to reject the imperial hubris that led this nation to invade Iraq over the objection of most of our allies. A leader who had the courage in the midst of a hotly contested primary election campaign to refuse to play the inveterate hawk in order to qualify as commander in chief, and instead had the audacity to advocate efforts at dialogue even with those we despise.

Scheer goes on to dissect some of the brilliant moments of the campaign, how the tactics of fear and division simply didn’t work – or didn’t work enough to change the outcome, and how, even though there’s a lot of work to be done – a lot of work, for now, take a few deep breaths and enjoy the fact that it’s morning again in America, a new day for all of us- those of us who voted for Obama, and those of us who didn’t or are still skeptical that he can lead us to a better place. When you’re finished breathing, we can all set to work to get to that better place.

[ Morning Again in America ]
Source: TruthDig (courtesy of TruthOut)

Barack Obama’s Many Majorities

“If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,” wrote the poet Walt Whitman on the occasion of a distant election, “I’d name the still-small voice vibrating – America’s choosing day.”

On this day after voting day, as Whitman’s “final ballot-shower from East to West” finishes, we are reminded once more that an American election, aggressively campaigned and well conducted, yields not the measure of men or parties, but of the country itself. Despite all the talk of spin, strategy, polls and personalities, an election ultimately tells us what America can conceive, what it is capable of, what indeed it demands.

John Nichols, writing for The Nation, introduces himself far better than I could hope to.

He too discusses the mandate for change, the screaming desire from Americans from sea to sea to send a man to the White House who, even in his very appearance, embodies the change the Americans want to see happen to their government. If they can’t send Mr. Smith to Washington, they’re sending Mr. Obama instead.

Nichols runs down some of the impressive numbers from the election:

Here are just some of the measures of Obama’s victory:

* He has won the presidency with the highest percentage of the vote attained by any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson’s landslide win of 1964.

* He has gained a higher percentage of the popular vote and a higher number of electoral votes than George Bush attained before his post-2004 election declaration that: “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.”

* He will a take office with a dramatically more Democratic Senate and a significantly more Democratic House of Representatives. In the Senate, the majority may not be a filibuster-proof 60, but it will be close enough for a persuasive president to appeal to moderate Republicans.

* He will arrive in Washington with the knowledge that he has disproven the cynics who suggested a majority white nation was incapable of choosing as its leader an African-American man born not to privilege or prominence but merely to the possibility of the American experiment.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and even now, days after Election Day, I still believe with all of my heart that Barack Obama is the man to do them.

[ Barack Obama’s Many Majorities ]
Source: The Nation

Transformational Presidency

Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor-in-Chief for The Nation and all around brilliant person, has some incredible thoughts about the election that are more than worth sharing:

Obama’s election marks a remarkable moment in our country’s history–a milestone in America’s scarred racial landscape and a victory for the forces of decency, diversity and tolerance. As our editorial board member Roger Wilkins reminded us on the eve of the election, Obama’s win “doesn’t turn a switch that eradicates our whole national history and culture.” But “win or lose, Obama has already made this a better country, made your children’s future better.”

This long and winding campaign has been marked by highs and lows, necessary and unnecessary divisions, indelible characters and high drama. For the first time in decades, electoral politics became a vehicle for raising expectations and spreading hope–bringing in millions of new voters. The Obama team’s respect for the core decency, dignity and intelligence of the American people was reflected in the campaign’s organizing mantra –“Respect-Empower-Include.” In contrast, the McCain campaign chose to denigrate voters’ intelligence, spread the smears and mock the dignity of work with its cynical celebration of a plumber who wasn’t really a plumber.

Grassroots engagement and record-shattering turnout contributed mightily to Obama’s decisive victory. Moving forward, this small-d democratic movement –broad-based and energized–will be critical in overcoming the timid incrementalists, the forces of money and establishment power, that are obstacles to meaningful change. And it will be needed to forge the fate and fortune of a bold progressive agenda.

Already we hear calls that the new Democratic majority must not “overreach.” That is code for “do not use your mandate.” Ignore those calls— this election was a referendum on conservatism that has guided American politics since 1980. Indeed, future historians may well view Barack Obama’s victory as the end of the age of Reagan and the beginning of something substantially new. And progressives can justifiably claim that the election outcome was a clear repudiation of conservative economic ideas and absurd claims that a more egalitarian approach to growth constitutes “socialism.” This ideological rejection, the sharp failures of the Bush Administration and, perhaps most important, the shifts in public views on the economy and the war have led to this watershed moment–a historic opportunity for a progressive governing agenda and a mandate for bold action.

The only point that Katrina and I disagree on (and damn if I wouldn’t be lucky enough to talk to her about this over coffee) is the issue of overreaching. While I certainly agree that Obama has a mandate, I think it’s only a mandate to make his massive campaign promises reality – and as long as he can keep the American people focused on those promises as goals, he won’t have a problem leading us out of the wilderness, even if we trip and fall a few times along the way.

But he’ll have to work with people who want to take us back, deeper into the forest, where the light isn’t so bright and the darkness all-consuming. He’ll have to convince them that it’s not “their way or the highway,” and that we need their help for a better, more prosperous America. If he starts behaving too heavy-handed, we’ll be looking at Carter or Clinton all over again, and no one wants that. Obama needs to make some serious change, but he also needs to lay the groundwork for – to borrow from our nemesis Karl Rove – a permanent progressive majority.

[ Transformational Presidency ]
Source: The Nation

Obama’s Path to Greatness: Health Care as Stimulus

Now that Barack Obama is now President-Elect Barack Obama, there will likely be a laundry list of things that people want him to do; there’s so much mess to fix, so many dreams to turn into reality. One of them – and one of them that got him elected – is a desperate call from the American people to give us all health care. It may be expensive, and it may be difficult, but we need it desperately to stay competitive in the global economy and to look out for the basic rights and well-being of our citizens.

Americans shouldn’t be afraid of preventitive care anymore; we shouldn’t worry about whether or not we can get a test done because of the bill that’ll come with it, and we shouldn’t have to choose between one life-saving medication and another. Best of all, universal health care for all Americans can serve to jumpstart our flagging economy:

A stimulus should also include increases in infrastructure spending, which will come about by moving plans forward for projects already on the books. There should also be a substantial green component, involving retrofitting homes, businesses and other buildings, which will reduce our energy use.

However, after we get through this list, the sum total for the stimulus package is probably still in the neighborhood of $150 billion a year, at best half of the targeted sum. This is the gap that will be filled by extending health care coverage.

As a basic outline, the government can give a substantial tax credit (e.g. $3,000) to employers who cover workers for the first time in 2009 and 2010. It can also offer a tax credit covering most, or all, of any additional payments by employers who increase their coverage.

This means that an employer who picked up the workers’ share of insurance payments, or got a better plan, would have much of the cost reimbursed by the tax credit. Credits can also be given to individuals who are either self-employed, unemployed, or not otherwise covered through their employer.

If 20 million workers get coverage through this tax credit, that would cost $60 billion. If another 60 million get an average of $1,000 in additional health care benefits, this would cost another $60 billion. If we also throw in funding to reduce the health care burden for Medicare beneficiaries, for example by $1,000 each, this will cost roughly $40 billion. The total cost would be $160 billion a year, a reasonable target for the stimulus package.

At the same time that this health stimulus is enacted, we should open up the Medicare system, allowing all employers and individuals the option to buy into a Medicare-type plan. This is important, because a well-working public sector plan will be important to controlling costs over the long term.

After 2010, the tax credits would be cut back, with the goal being a system of subsidies that pay the full cost for low-income people, but phase out at higher income levels. It will also be important to use the Medicare-type plan and other tools to squeeze waste out of the system, since controlling health care costs is essential to sustaining a healthy economy over the long term.

Extending health care coverage in this way is effectively eating dessert before dinner, but this is exactly what we want to do to counter the recession. It is important that we spend money now to boost the economy. We will be getting double value if this stimulus can be spent usefully toward meeting a longstanding goal, such as providing national health care insurance, rather than just buying things at the mall.

Fixing the health care system so that costs are effectively contained will be a long and difficult political battle. Powerful interest groups, like the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, will use all their power to obstruct this effort. The health care system’s waste is their profit.

There you are, President-Elect. While I’m sure you’ve heard something like this – now the rest of us have seen it as well: there’s a plain and clear way to turn providing health care to all of us and giving businesses with huge benefit weights on their backs a break into real, lasting economic stimulus that can carry us through this recession.

[ Obama’s Path to Greatness: Health Care as Stimulus ]
Source: TruthOut

What Obama’s Election Means Abroad

The American media noted the street parties that broke out all across the country, including here in the great city of Washington DC, after John McCain conceded the race and Barack Obama gave his victory speech as President-Elect of the United States.

What was subtly missed until the next couple of days, and even then only on talk radio programs dedicated to real analysis (read: NPR programming) is the fact that the rest of the country breathed a sigh of relief along with us. Even conservatives in the UK and Australia were thrilled at the news, and celebrations broke out around the world on every continent cheering for a new day in America’s standing in the world – what was seen as a mistake made in 2004 following an innocent mistake in 2000 were finally rectified, and the rest of the world was watching closely to see if they really were mistakes, or a real course America wanted to chart for itself.

Thankfully, we all knew they were just mistakes – we just had to ante up and prove it to the global community. When we did, they were estatic – front pages around the world heralded a new day in politics, and world leaders rushed to call President-Elect Obama to congratulate him in the middle of the night.

As Wednesday dawned rainy and gray on the Champs- Élysées, a Parisian waiter spontaneously gave a fist pump and shouted, “Obamamania! Yeah!”

Johannesburg, South Africa – The world, which has tracked this American election like no other, sees Barack Hussein Obama as their president, their choice. And they see him through their own geographical and cultural prisms. To many, he represents the restoration of faith in American democratic ideals, of equality. The global euphoria over the election of the first black US president is also partly an expression of a populace that wants to believe that the same principles can apply to their lives, too.

Of course, as the son of a Kenyan goatherd, he’ll be Africa’s man at the White House, say Kenyans. But his appeal seems to transcend his heritage or his skin color. In Pakistan, for example, where politics has been the province of a wealthy elite, Mr. Obama is a powerful symbol for the dispossessed masses. Yes, he went to Harvard University. But also went to a Muslim elementary school in Indonesia. “They will say, ‘He is one of us,'” says Rasul Baksh Rais, a political scientist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

In Saudi Arabia, many young Saudis have been affectionately using his middle name, dubbing him “Abu Hussein,” or “Father of Hussein.” Here, he symbolizes a restoration of faith in the democratic freedoms that Saudis don’t yet have. “Saudis … did not really believe in the American version of democracy. How could they when all the presidents of the so-called ‘melting pot’ were Anglo,” writes Eman Al-Nafjan in her post on the Saudiwoman’s Weblog. “But now they are rubbing their eyes in disbelief.”

Similarly, Liu Na, a high school teacher in Beijing, China, said Wednesday that “his victory proves that there is real democracy in the United States.” She added, “He is not from a family of profound influence…. Obama has a very international background, which represents America’s special situation; so many citizens are immigrants. He relied on his own hard work and abilities to go so far.”

It’s more than heartwarming to know that not only are so many of us here at home incredibly proud to be Americans – more so than we’ve ever been – but that there are so many people out there looking at the people of our humble corner of the world not with the suspicion, fear, and wary that have been cultivated over the past 8 years, but with thoughts of love, peace, justice, and like us, hope.

[ What Obama’s Election Means Abroad ]
Source: The Christian Science Monitor (courtesy of TruthOut)