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inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #76 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 5 Oct 04 16:16
    
I certainly don't think that independence from centralized party 
structures means we don't have cooperation, organizing principles, or 
discipline.  I do think there's an understandable tendency to resist this 
kind of thinking because it feels chaotic and uncontrollable to some. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #77 of 111: Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Tue 5 Oct 04 17:53
    
> Do we really need parties at all? 

Bingo!!! I like a zero-party system, though if we had a good second
party it would help.

Today’s parties seem like a conspiracy, and I’m surprised they haven’t
been challenged as such. I think independent politicians can cooperate
on some issues and not on others, as most of them do today when there
are not mounds of money buying their votes and driving the issues.

Having just retired after 25 years as a health care provider, Michael,
I support a national health care system. Easily 30% of the cost of
medicine is insurance company and HMO administration costs and profits,
thus a single payor system like those in Canada and Europe makes sense
(though the patient’s right to chose their physician must be
retained).

Yes, their systems have flaws and delays in care, but we don’t have to
have these problems. We can be better, the public will demand that we
are better, and we will be better. 

And if the public really thinks about it, the costs of a national
system done right will not be any more than the current system done
wrong. An estimated 18,000 people per year die in the US because they
can’t afford health care and medicines. That’s unacceptable. 

Physicians and hospitals are compensated on how much they do, not on
how much the patient needs, and that too is unacceptable. But the
health care and pharmaceutical industries have a financial lock on
congress and the president ($98 million since 2000), so I won’t hold my
breath for a fix.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #78 of 111: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Tue 5 Oct 04 21:27
    
Undeniably there are many arguments in favor of national health insurance.  
There are also arguments against it. My point is not whether it is or
is not a good idea -- there are other topics for that -- but that
failure to enact despite the "vast majority" in favor of it is not
necessarily evidence of some sort of mailign conspiracy or failure of 
democracy, but is in fact democracy at work. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #79 of 111: Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Wed 6 Oct 04 07:07
    
If that’s democracy at work, Michael, it is proof that democracy can
be bought and sold, and that being the case only the wealthy have it.
The top 5% of wage earners are running the country for the rest of us.

When the masses favor a particular issue and the fat cats prevent
corrections with their millions of dollars in campaign contributions, I
call that bribery and payola. They do that in Mexico and Italy and we
call it corruption. Why is it any different here?
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #80 of 111: Uncle Jax (jax) Wed 6 Oct 04 07:28
    
I don't think that's a fair assessment, or at least, not a complete
assessment of why there's no national health care. My personal
physician, a liberal Democrat, is desperate about the situation. He's
having to turn away new medicare patients becauase he only gets about
10% of what it costs to treat them from the government.  He says,
"Nationally, we have to do something about this, but have you ever
seen the Veteran's Administration hospitals?"
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #81 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Oct 04 08:24
    
Jax, that's so typical: assume that the government is inefficient because 
visibile government operations are strained. Could it be because they're 
underfunded and understaffed? That's not because government administration 
is inept, necessarily. It's because we won't give them what they need to 
do it right.  Also because we - or our reps - create senseless regulations 
in the legislative sausage factories, and that's something we could fix 
with a bit of diligence.

Meanwhile we're drifting here, perhaps our guests can drift us back 
on-topic?
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #82 of 111: Uncle Jax (jax) Wed 6 Oct 04 08:41
    
>Could it be because they're underfunded and understaffed? That's
>not because government administration is inept, necessarily.

Well, maybe it is, necessarily. That which everyone owns, no-one owns,
as they say. If you have a social institution which encompasses 300
million souls, how do you keep it tidy and shiny? This is not an
irrelevant observation when one starts discussing national health
care.

Furthermore, when the gov't. delivers a service, it *always* costs
more total than private enterprise, for pretty obvious reasons: e.g.,
redundancy, staffing, supervision, paperwork, inertia as a survival
technique, etc.

My take is that in any sufficiently large institution, initiative
is stifled and less and less work gets done by fewer and fewer
people while the rest try not to get in trouble.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #83 of 111: Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Wed 6 Oct 04 08:50
    

I think mcb makes an interesting point -- that the frustrations we often
feel with regard to how politics works stem primarily from the
inefficiencies inherent in democracy and not from any (possibly malign
but certainly selfish) behavior on the part of moneyed corporate interests.
Do the authors see in any other government an example of politics working
properly without undue money-related distortions?  If so, what can we learn
from those systems?

On another matter, the VP candidate debates last night spent a lot of
time talking about the vice president's connections to Halliburton (and its
infamous no-bid contracts) -- any comment from Micah and Nancy?
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #84 of 111: Nancy Watzman (nancywatzman) Wed 6 Oct 04 10:57
    
Hi to all. Sorry for my absence--I've been busy working on a new
report Public Campaign is releasing next Tuesday, the Color of Money:
the 2004 Presidential Race. We've done an analysis of campaign
contributions to the '04 presidential candidates alongside U.S. Census
data on race, ethnicity, and income. I'll give you a hint about what we
found: that very little campaign money came from neighborhoods that
are majority people of color. Meanwhile, if you're curious about our
Color of Money project, I urge you to visit www.colorofmoney.org.

I'm glad some folks saw our Book Notes show last weekend. We didn't
know the show was repeating then. A C-Span appearance is a form of
eternal life, isn't it? My question is: could anybody tell I was six
months pregnant at the time? (I'm now getting on more toward eight
months...)

Anyway, I'm glad Seahorses brought up the VP debate and Halliburton
specifically. Seemed to me that Cheney spent a lot of time avoiding the
issue. The no-bid contract Halliburton received is an excellent
example of corporate welfare at work. Cheney's personal connections and
campaign money ($2.4 million since 1989, according to the Center for
Public Integrity,
http://www.publicintegrity.org/wow/resources.aspx?act=contrib#31)
certainly didn't hurt the company in securing the contract. 

Btw, I'm not sure if everybody caught Cheney's blooper--when he
referred viewers to check out factcheck.com for the facts on the
Halliburton situation. Factcheck.com took web browsers to George Soros
web page, of all things. Cheney had meant to direct viewers to
factcheck.org, a project run by former CNN reporter Brooks Jackson out
of the Annenberg School of Communications. 
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #85 of 111: Nancy Watzman (nancywatzman) Wed 6 Oct 04 10:58
    
Btw, the $2.4 million is a figure for Halliburton's campaign
contributions, not Cheney's personal contributions. When I reread my
post, I realized that I didn't make that clear.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #86 of 111: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 6 Oct 04 11:07
    
> Factcheck.com took web browsers to George Soros
 web page, of all things.

Looks as if that's because he mispoke -- com for org -- and factcheck.com
was available for purchase as of the time of broadcast.  It appears that
sorros's folks were the ones who were clever enough to buy it on the spot
and have it sitting there denouncing Bush.   Wating for someone to fact
check that ...
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #87 of 111: Nancy Watzman (nancywatzman) Wed 6 Oct 04 11:18
    
Soros' people are denying it, according to Joshua Marshall's blog 
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/. It will take a little while for the
facts to emerge. Meanwhile, it's an interesting side cyber-story for
this election.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #88 of 111: Micah Sifry (micahlsifry) Wed 6 Oct 04 11:38
    
On the VP debate last night, I actually thought Edwards missed a lot
of opportunities to really make an important point. Take Halliburton.
Yes, its no-bid contract in Iraq is a convenient lightning rod, one
which has gotten a lot of attention. But it really ought to be talked
about as emblematic of the closeness of the Bush Administration to the
energy sector (oil and gas companies, coal, nuclear and electric
utilities like Enron). 

No one brought up the Cheney energy task force, which basically took
proposals wholesale from the energy lobby and wrote them into the
Administration's energy bill. Cheney’s task force report recommended
drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, weakening
regulation for air pollution controls at power plants, increasing oil
and gas exploration on public land; repealing a Depression-era law
preventing national utility monopolies; expanding nuclear energy;
building new refineries; and increasing reliance on coal. And all of
these recommendations have made it into policy or pending legislation.

How did they come up with these policies? Cheney is still refusing to
release all the pertinent information. But we do know that his task
force was predominantly focused on listening to energy lobbyists and
not environmentalists. As we write in our book, Is That a Politician in
Your Pocket? <http://www.publicampaign.org/politiciaininyourpocket> 

"Over all, from January through September 2001, according to an
analysis by NRDC, task force officials had 714 direct contacts with
industry representatives and only 29 with non-industry representatives.
What organizations were represented? They included the National
Association of Manufacturers, the mammoth trade association whose
members include ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, and Arch Coal; the Nuclear
Energy Institute; the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association
for the utility industry; the National Mining Association;
Westinghouse; the American Petroleum Institute, the lobby group for the
oil and gas industry; and yes, Enron, among others."

Bush has raised over $4.2 million from the energy and natural
resources sector for his re-election campaign; by contrast, Kerry has
raised just $560,000.

Edwards could have made these points and connected them to things that
really matter to people, such as the alarming rise in childhood asthma
rates that is occurring while Clean Air Act regulations are weakened.

Likewise, I think it would have strengthened Edwards' points about the
administration's Medicare prescription drug program, which is indeed
an enormous boon to the pharmaceutical, insurance and HMO companies, if
he had mentioned how much money Bush-Cheney have raised from those
interests.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #89 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 6 Oct 04 13:27
    
FYI re. the Halliburton discussion: someone asked Matthew Dowd of the
Bush-Cheney campaign on MSNBC today, and he dodged the issue, saying 
simply that "no one cares about Halliburton." I think you'll hear that 
mantra from others associated with the administration and the campaign. 
Clever way to bury an issue you can't address.

(I have more I could say in response to Jax, above, but realize it's 
off-topic.)
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #90 of 111: Edmund G. "xian" Brown, Jr. (xian) Wed 6 Oct 04 15:17
    
Nobody cared aboout Enron either, right?
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #91 of 111: Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Wed 6 Oct 04 18:25
    
One short comment on the health care issue, though I recognize that is
not directly the subject, it is one of many domestic issues that will
not be resolved because of the moneyed political system (the authors
have thoroughly outlined dozens of others). Clearly the VA system and
Medicaid are not programs I’d model national health care coverage on,
but if everyone were on Medicare the only people complaining would be
the physicians and hospitals because they cannot make gobs of profits
on because it is tightly controlled. And it is the health care
industry’s $49 million in contributions since 2000 that has blocked
progress in this area. That’s not democracy at work; it is bribery and
payola.

I would also ask Micah or Nancy address how campaign contributions
have fueled the passage of NAFTA, GATT and WTO. Who paid how much, and
what did they get in return? What is the true cost to the public as a
result?
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #92 of 111: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Wed 6 Oct 04 18:32
    
Cost!?!?!  I would estimate the *benefit* to the public of GATT/WTO/NAFTA 
in the trillions...

And remember, in the absence of various special interests pushing
protectionist legislation, those trade liberalizations would not have
been necessary.  You speak as if protectionism were a law of nature
and that trade liberalization were some sort of special pleading. 

Free trade is broadly popular in the U.S., especially as signified by
the voracious and enthusiastic consumption of foreign-made consumer
goods.  
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #93 of 111: Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Wed 6 Oct 04 20:32
    

One thing free trade means, or should mean, is the ability to buy cheap
drugs from Canada.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #94 of 111: Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Thu 7 Oct 04 01:49
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #95 of 111: Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Thu 7 Oct 04 01:53
    
NAFTA, GATT, and WTO indeed may all benefit the public in terms of
being able to buy cheap product made in countries with labor rates
one-tenth ours, but I like to follow the dominoes to see where the
public is going to be when the last one falls. I also believe that (a)
multinational companies and investors do not do things that are in the
best interest of the public and (b) that we have only begun seeing the
effects of outsourcing in America. 

I worry about what American jobs will be left for my grandchildren, so
I expect that great costs will offset the benefits, and we should not
be short-sighted. We are already seeing it in terms of depressed wages
(about $4000 per year) and that means the inability for some to buy a
new home, car or sending their kids to college.

In that respect I am a protectionist and refused to send the work my
company was doing off shore, which would have cut costs greatly and I
would have retired rich, but at great expense to about 70 employees. 

Free trade does mean the ability to buy cheap drugs in Canada, but
CM/CE means the ability to buy those same drugs in the US at the same
low cost. I write about this in
www.wi-cfr.org/High_health_care_costs_plus.pdf

And though this subject might best be covered elsewhere, I’d be
interested in knowing if the authors or Public Campaign have done any
studies on it. Hopefully they will demonstrate that I am wrong.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #96 of 111: Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Thu 7 Oct 04 04:50
    
Read PROFILES IN COURAGE.  In every case, Kennedy cited examples of
independent judgment and conviction.  Perhaps the most telling was
Thomas Hart Benton.  In article for the Georgia Numismatic Association
about the Hard Times Tokens known as "Bentonian Mint Drops" I called
Benton "The Senator Who Fell From Grace With the South."  Clay,
Webster, Calhoun, and Benton, their independent convictions in the face
of overwhelming forces is a standard to be lived up to.  However,
characterize them by "mill owner money" and "plantation money" and
"land speculation money" and you spin them to a cocoon of petty
foibles.

It sounds fine and refined to claim that politicians should hold the
public interest highest above all, but what does that MEAN?  Who
defines the public interest?  Most often, the so-called public interest
is a veil for private interests. It can be no other way.  "The public"
does not exist as an entity.  Only individuals exist.  Therefore,
anyone who speaks of "the public interest" is only masking the private
interests they really speak for.

I fail to see identified here exactly who benefits from this trashing
out of "moneyed interests."  The authors have books to sell and someone
in the Well management figured it was good to give them a boost.  Is
that my Well subscription fee being put to the use of some special
interest by insiders?  

With some audiences. you can slam anyone with language like that. 
Myself, I believe that as a first approximation at least, the market is
always right.

However, Power and Market are different.  Benton, Clay, Calhoun,
Webster... or even Goldwater, Rayburn, Humphrey, Stevenson... Political
processes are what they are.  
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #97 of 111: Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Thu 7 Oct 04 05:06
    
#57 of 95: Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Fri 01 Oct 2004 (12:23 PM)
I would add that it isn’t just Democrats and Republicans who like the
clean money approach, even Libertarians have joined in praising it.

I would like to see some documentation on that.  I agree that Greens
are big on getting public money for their agendas.  Big government is
what the leftwingers are all about.  They are just angry because _they_
are not the Big Government.  I went to the LP website and did not find
any hits looking for key words used in this topic.  I would like to
see proof that it is a Libertarian Party platform plank to have
government financing of candidates.

#69 of 95: Micah Sifry (micahlsifry) 
the availability of clean money appears to have
convinced at least some third-party supporters to shift toward the
major party route. I know of former Greens in Maine who ran "clean" as
Democrats in 2002...

1.  That supports my point above.  This so-called "clean money" talk
is really an agenda for the leftwing of the Democrat party.  

2.  What killed the Whig Party in America was just that taking on of
all manner of factions based on conveniences and expediencies. Whatever
the Whig Party was -- and it might not have been much even when new --
it lost all character and identity.  Strengthening the Big Two Parties
is not how I would optimize American politics.

#74 of 95: from JOHN ADAMS (tnf)
"The vast majority of Americans, voting and
non-voting, want some form of national health insurance."

1. I would like to see some proof of this.  It is an example of what I
mean by people who claim to speak for "the public."  The GOP says that
they represent the mainstream of America.  They have polls -- and
actual election results -- to prove that.  Who speaks for the public?

2. Even if everyone in America said that they want national health
insurance that would not make it right.  Morality is not a matter of
arithmetic. If everyone decided that this John Adams TNF person should
not be protected by the Fourth Amendment -- if we even amended the
Constitution according to the mechanics of the law -- that would not
make it right.

3. Wrongheaded ideas like "national healthcare" are exactly why we
have a republic rather than a democracy.  We do not let the majority
(however defined) take away the rights of the minorities. The smalliest
minority is the individual.  Therefore, our republic was founded on a
commitment to individual rights.  To protect those rights, we limit the
power of government... in theory.  National healthcare would be as
disasterous here as it has been everywhere else.  Also, the problems we
have in healthcare today come specifically and exactly from
"socializing" it through insurance, private and public.

#74 is yet another example of one person with collectivist ideas
claiming to speak for everyone else... and I assume, wanting public
money for the privilege of doing so.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #98 of 111: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 7 Oct 04 05:06
    
Aren't those Canadian drugs cheap because the government subsidizes
them? Isn't the Canadian government going to get pissed at subsidizing
things for Americans?
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #99 of 111: Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Thu 7 Oct 04 05:14
    
Government funding brings government control. Government control of
candidacy is a bad idea.  We have basic and broad rules.  Born in
Canada, Michigan's governor Virginia Granholm cannot be president of
the United States. (She could be Secretary of State like Kissinger or
Albright, but not president.)  A naturalized citizen, she participates
in governmment at some other level.  Those broad rules are fine.  

Actually taxing people who may or may not support this or that
candidate in order to give their money to that candidate is wrong.

More to the point, MOST people CHOOSE not to vote.  Now come the
collectivisers who will not let them alone.  They must be forced to
fund elections -- all elections -- even above the general funding for
the processes now in place.  Anyone who can scrape up some as yet
undefined number of $5 contributions suddenly has a right to take the
food off the tables of those who prefer not to vote.

As I said, in the old USSR, they had over 90% turnout: lots of
participation -- and government funding of candidates -- but not much
freedom.
  
inkwell.vue.225 : Micah Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?
permalink #100 of 111: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 7 Oct 04 07:34
    
>cannot be president

Actually, I've seen her cited as an example, along with Ahnold, about
why the law should be changed. So perhaps, though I find it unlikely
that it could get approved by both Houses and 3/4 of the states in any
sort of reasonable time frame.
  

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