Inkwell: Authors and Artists
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.
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. Todays parties seem like a conspiracy, and Im surprised they havent 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 patients right to chose their physician must be retained). Yes, their systems have flaws and delays in care, but we dont 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 cant afford health care and medicines. Thats 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 wont hold my breath for a fix.
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.
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Wed 6 Oct 04 07:07
If thats 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?
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?"
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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. Cheneys 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.
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.)
Edmund G. "xian" Brown, Jr. (xian) Wed 6 Oct 04 15:17
Nobody cared aboout Enron either, right?
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 Id 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 industrys $49 million in contributions since 2000 that has blocked progress in this area. Thats 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?
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.
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.
Jack E. Lohman (jlohman4cfr) Thu 7 Oct 04 01:49
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, Id be interested in knowing if the authors or Public Campaign have done any studies on it. Hopefully they will demonstrate that I am wrong.
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.
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 isnt 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.
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?
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.
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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