Monthly Archives: December 2009

Priority One: Campaign Finance Reform – A Plan

It should be obvious to all by now that the number one priority for America needs to be an overhaul of our campaign and lobbying processes.  The core objective needs to be to eliminate any and all conflicts of interest that prevent representatives from acting in the interest of their constituents.

Here’s the plan.

  1. Use Wiki technology to perfect language for a constitutional amendment (necessary because it must be able to stand on a par with the First Amendment) that will:
    1. Limit total campaign contributions individuals can make to the political process as a whole in any given year, tying increases over time to increases in the minimum wage.
    2. Allow for substantial public matching funds for campaigns demonstrating an ability to raise money via the small amounts above.
    3. Ban campaign contributions from all sources other than individuals and government matching funds
    4. Eliminate the concept of corporate “personhood” and then subject corporate lobbying to strict limitations
    5. Limit the “revolving door” between regulators and the regulated
    6. Increase the maximum congressional district size to 100,000 citizens and end “gerrymandering”.
  2. Found organizations in all 50 states to promote legislative passage of said amendment among 3/4 of the states
  3. Stage “Solidarity” style demonstrations and general strikes until Congress ratifies
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Dear President Obama,

I received your e-mail today and there were several things in it that I couldn’t let go without responses.  I understand your desire to have your progressive base be enthusiastic about this bill, but I have to say… if you want us to be enthusiastic, you should try giving us something to be enthusiastic about.  Conservatives may be willing to believe that if their leaders polish a turd it becomes something else, but we progressives know shit when we see shit, and it doesn’t matter how big your smile is when you hand it to us… we still know its shit.

In your e-mail you said this.

We will have beaten back the special interests who have for so long perpetuated the status quo.

No, actually, you did not.  The pharmaceutical companies are one of the two major special interests most responsible for the healthcare crisis and instead of beating them back, you bought them off by promising not to reform them.  When Congress balked at the sweetheart deal you gave them, you protected this special interest with a vigor you didn’t use when it came time to protect their customers.

And you certainly did not beat back the insurance companies.  The insurance companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning against health reform, and why?  Because it was an investment well worth making because they won!  You handed them 30 million new customers, a trillion dollars of revenue straight from the US Treasury, you walked away from any means of controlling their prices or healthcare costs in general, you left gaping loopholes in the supposed limitation on their administrative costs… lets face it.  The lobbying money they spent this year was a rock solid investment for them.  It paid dividends unlike any investment they have ever made in the past.  And every last dollar of them is coming out of your constituents’ hides.

You said in your e-mail:

Parents will have the security and stability of knowing their insurance can’t be revoked at a moment’s notice.

No, they won’t.  While insurance companies cannot kick people out for getting sick… they have never been able to do that.  What they kick people out for when they get sick is “fraud” which they have been able to define as any little typo, mistake, omission, error, misspelling, smudge, or flyspeck on an application.  And you did nothing to change this.  They will still be able to do this, and they will.  You could have closed this loophole, but you decided to leave it open… and to take credit for fixing a problem you left there.

You said:

And the skyrocketing costs plaguing our small businesses will be brought under control.

Again, no, they won’t.  You allowed Joe Lieberman, apparently without even so much as asking him to explain why let alone pressuring him not to, to eliminate the last vestige of any mechanism to control insurance costs.  Surely you do not think these costs will be brought under control because you want them to be.  If you wanted them to be controlled, you would have insisted that the bill contain some mechanism for controlling them.  But you didn’t, it doesn’t, and they will increase however fast the insurance companies would like them to increase.

The most irritating statement you made is this one.

When you make calls, write letters, organize, this is the change you’re making — a better life for your family and for men and women in every state.

When we made calls, wrote letters, and organized, it was entirely for naught.  We got no change.  We got nothing.  We got a bill that hurts us and helps corporations… exactly what we would have gotten if we’d made these calls during a debate under the Bush administration.  We got zero for our efforts.  We got ignored by you and by the Congress and the insurance and pharmaceutical companies will be laughing at our quaintness for decades to come.

Toward the end of your e-mail you said this.

There is still more to do before I can sign reform into law — a last round of negotiations and final votes in the Senate and the House — and I’m counting on your help every step of the way.

Mr. President, I’m sorry to say… you are on your own on this.  I don’t think you’ll mind since you’ve been acting all along as if you were all alone when you weren’t, but I think most of us are done.  I cannot in good conscience help you any more with this bill.  I don’t support what it has become and I don’t appreciate you taking the Bush stance that we should think something is good because it is good for your presidency, even though it is clearly bad for us.  That is not change, and it isn’t what I was hoping for.

Lastly, you said this, and this is what really stung me the most.

P.S. — Organizing for America supporters are signing a note of appreciation to all the senators who have worked so hard to make this possible. I hope you’ll join them:

Honestly, Mr. President.  Forgive my French, but… are you shitting me?  Right after you said “This isn’t going to hurt a bit” these senators shoved a whole stethoscope up our ass.  The only appreciation I have for them right now is that they left the Sphygmomanometer off when they did it.

Merry Christmas to you, Mr. President, though, and lets hope for a happier New Year than this one has been.


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Healthcare in the Senate: Another Example of the DESPERATE Need for Campaign Finance Reform

Time and again we have seen good ideas to benefit the people by regulating companies emerge from Congress in the form of legislation that does exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do, and amounts to nothing short of massive theft by the very industries that were supposed to be regulated.  That certainly appears to be where healthcare reform is headed.

While all the details have not been released yet, by all accounts the Senate has finally killed off the public option and replaced it with weakened non-profits run by for-profit insurance companies and an opportunity for uninsured people age 55-64 to buy into Medicare.  Many progressives have reacted with jubilation to the Medicare proposal because ultimately they would like to see this concept extended to all citizens.  They should be cautious with their enthusiasm.

It is really important to remember the core dynamic of health insurance, which is that statistically speaking, young and healthy people pay for more insurance than they consume in healthcare.  As they get older and sicker, they start consuming more healthcare than they pay for.  When insurance is structured this way, young people are essentially forced to save in advance for their future healthcare costs and the net effect is “low” premiums for everyone.  If young people are not included in the insurance pool and the only people with insurance are those who have very high healthcare costs, then the premiums will be very high because the insurance company essentially ceases to spread risk among the population and begins to be just an unnecessary payment processor, but one that has enormous administrative costs and a requirement to generate a profit.

So now look at what is shaping up in the Senate.

The insurance companies have won a mandate for all people to buy insurance from them.  This guarantees that young, healthy people will be in the insurance pool, which will allow companies to do some combination of A) increase the profits they distribute to their shareholders and B) manage the cost of their insurance premiums.  By giving people age 55-64 the ability to buy into Medicare, the insurance companies have also, probably, increased the ease with which they can force people in this age group out of their insurance pool.  So they have brought in millions of young, healthy, highly profitable customers, and they are getting ready to kick out millions of older, sicker, less profitable customers.  You wonder why they have been saying all day that they won?  This is why.  It is good to be them.  They are now essentially getting ready to sell expensive insurance exclusively to people who have no healthcare costs.

Medicare, on the other hand, is being set up to fail because just the opposite is happening to it.  It is being forced to take on millions of new older, sicker, customers with high healthcare costs but it will not get any younger, healthier customers to which they can spread the costs.  So Medicare is becoming more of a “payer” and less of an “insurer”.  This is going to cause Medicare’s average cost per customer to be much, much higher than the average cost of the private insurers.  Because Medicare coverage for this age group is going to be forced to be self-financing, the premiums are going to be very, very high. The effect will be that as people turn 55 they will be forced out of their lower cost private insurance, where young people subsidize them, and into Medicare which will end up having much higher premiums than they’ve been paying.

And when Americans look at the two systems side by side they will see private insurance with low premiums (they’ll forget that private insurance only has healthy customers) and Medicare with high premiums (they’ll forget that Medicare only has older, sicker customers) and they’ll conclude that “government can’t compete”.  Republicans will have a field day.

The single-payer proponents should be in favor of giving a buy-in to people age 55 -64 only if they know that next year it will be extended to people 45-54, the year after that to people 35-44, the year after that to people 25-34, and the year after that to everyone.  To be excited about what is currently on the table now is to be cheering the tsunami that is about to wash them away.

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