Friday, May 02, 2008


McCain on Health Care

Posted by David Bernstein

John McCain's recent speech accompanied by his newly unveiled "reform" plan demonstrates the GOP's serious problem addressing health care -- what is probably the number one domestic issue facing the country.

McCain's proposal is an ideological hodgepodge of various band-aid approaches that have been floating around the Hill and think tanks for some time. Some are good, some are bad, and some are outright ugly.

The Good: Tort reform (although this more of a moral issue than an economic one); portability beyond COBRA; expanded HSAs. Combined these are a nice little package of benefits which will provide a little help to a lot of people in the short-medium term.

The Bad: Reimportation of prescription drugs. This is one of McCain's "maverick" issues where he thinks he's siding with the people against evil pharmaceutical companies. And while big pharma may well be evil in many ways, sometimes even evil folks can be right on an issue. Essentially this is a money laundering scheme where the Canadian government subsidizes the cost of drugs for the American public. Stupid.

Also Bad: Offering tax credits to individuals and families to offset insurance costs -- $2500 for singles and $5000 for families. A nice idea in principle, but the amount is way to small, and I'm willing to bet it won't be indexed for inflation. Meaning it will be an expensive proposition for the government that ultimately isn't nearly generous enough to address the problem its aimed to alleviate. Kinda like, uh, $600 tax rebates.Or summer-long gas tax holidays. Seeing a pattern here, kids?

The Ugly: Insuring the chronically ill. Let me quote from McCain's website:

As President, John McCain will work with governors to develop a best practice model that states can follow - a Guaranteed Access Plan or GAP - that would reflect the best experience of the states to ensure these patients have access to health coverage. One approach would establish a nonprofit corporation that would contract with insurers to cover patients who have been denied insurance and could join with other state plans to enlarge pools and lower overhead costs. There would be reasonable limits on premiums, and assistance would be available for Americans below a certain income level.
Now, If I'm reading this correctly ... what this sounds like to me is that he's going to pass the burden of chronic care even further on to the states, but without additional Federal funding -- thus forcing further increases in state debt, income taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes. I hope I'm reading it wrong. But if I'm not, this is a measure certain to push states and localities into near-bankruptcy as they are hammered with still more unfunded Federal mandates.

The Rest: A lot of nice-sounding stuff about prevention, reduction of medical errors, and setting up more "storefront clinics". None of which will address the real problems.

The bottom line is two-fold: First, the causes of the health care problem are complicated -- too complicated to discuss in this post, and certainly too complicated to be addressed by a laundry list of unconnected, untested, and unhelpful little proposals that were clearly put together in order to impress focus groups, not to solve anything.

Second, the GOP tone-deafness and political ineptitude on health care will cost the party far more votes than Iraq in the Fall, and will increase the chances that we'll see socialized medicine in our future. As much as I'm skeptical of universal care, a single-payer system would actually be preferable to the continuation of the current mess, which is threatening simultaneously to bankrupt American families, businesses, and government. Sadly, the so-called free market party is too timid to put market-based alternative on the table.

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Open Thread

Since you guys were so chatty this week, the open thread goes up early! Oh, and Dr. Golub, welcome to the RT Comment Band of Irregulars!

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Proven Metal

Iron Man is easily in the Top Five of the recent superhero film explosion -- up there with the first Spider-Man, Batman Begins and either of the first two X-Men features.

Robert Downey Jr. was meant to play Tony Stark, in the same way Hugh Jackman was meant to be Wolverine and Patrick Stewart was meant to be Professor X. The casting is perfect. And that's not even referencing the substance problems the real-life Downey and the fictional Stark have experienced.

The origin is appropriately updated, but remarkably faithful to the original. Stark is wounded in Afghanistan instead of Vietnam.

Some conservatives will undoubtedly dislike the bias against weapons-makers, but overall this movie is more pro-business than most films. Stark is almost as arrogant and intense at the end of the movie as he is at the beginning.

Jeff Bridges makes for a great mentor/foil in Obadiah Stane (fans of the comic book will realize the implications of Stane's role early on). Gwyneth Paltrow is a nice Pepper Potts, but doesn't exactly stand out in any significant way.

This movie is more like Batman Begins in that Downey (like Christian Bale in BB) really drives the movie. Unlike any of the other movies, when the major foe appears, he doesn't take over the film in the way Magneto, the Joker and the Green Goblin have done in other comic book flicks. Tony Stark is front-and-center for almos the entire picture.

The other thing I liked about this movie is that, while the special effects were excellent, director Jon Favreau (who also plays chaffeur Happy Hogan) never let the CGI overwhelm the film and turn it into a Playstation game.

Best line: "I had to do a piece for Vanity Fair." (You'll realize why the line is so good when you hear it.)

This summer may set a record for comic-book related films (The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight, Hellboy, The Spirit, etc.). Iron Man has set the bar high from the start.

Oh, and for the fanboys out there -- stick around through the (very) lengthy credits. You'll be glad you did (particularly those who are readers of contemporary Marvel Comics).

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Thursday, May 01, 2008


God Forsaken

Via Andrew Sullivan, Mike Huckabee has an interesting take on the Rev. Wright insanity:

"His (Obama's) campaign is not being derailed by his race, it's being derailed by a person who doesn't want him to prove that we have made great advances in this country," Huckabee told reporters.

"Jeremiah Wright needs for Obama to lose so he can justify his anger, his hostile bitterness against the United States of America," Huckabee said.
Huckabee's almost gets it. I would go even further. This isn't just about how far race relations have progressed in America. This is also about what form -- and what institutions -- black progress will take and use in the years again. As my colleague Fred Dicker reported in Wednesday's paper, there appears to be real enmity -- not just from Jeremiah Wright, but from others associated with the Trinity church -- that Obama hasn't sufficiently "boosted" the church's role in the black community:

The Post has learned. "After 20 years of loving Barack like he was a member of his own family, for Jeremiah to see Barack saying over and over that he didn't know about Jeremiah's views during those years, that he wasn't familiar with what Jeremiah had said, that he may have missed church on this day or that and didn't hear what Jeremiah said, this is seen by Jeremiah as nonsense and betrayal," said the source, who has deep roots in Wright's Chicago community and is familiar with his thinking on the matter.

"Jeremiah is trying to defend his congregation and the work of his ministry by saying what he is saying now," the source added.
"Jeremiah doesn't care if he derails Obama's candidacy or not . . . He knows what he's doing. Obviously, he's not a dumb man. He knows he's not helping."
The source spoke yesterday about Wright's motivation for thrusting himself back into the news, the day after the pastor appeared at the National Press Club on Monday and embarrassed Obama by accusing the United States of terrorism.
Wright has said the reason he has begun granting interviews and making public appearances now is that he wants to defend black churches.
In other words, Obama by omission or otherwise, has somehow "dissed" the black church. The church, of course, has been a major institution within the black community for centuries. While Obama has been a member of the Trinity congregation, it is clear that he represents a new generation of black politician. He is not Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. And, by that, I don't mean that he is not some race "confidence man" or agitator. I mean, Obama is a secular, professional, polished, mainstream politician. He is a secular elected official.

Wright arose this week to, in effect, say to Obama, "Not so fast, boy, you're not going to advance in the way you want without giving due obeisance to the black church -- the historic foundation of our community."

It's not surprising that Wright would say that "Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy." Because, he's not. He is an ally -- not necessarily in the racist, paranoiac view of America (though, clearly, there is some crossover there) -- but in their shared belief that religion must be the controlling power within the black community. The corollary to this, of course, is that religious leaders must be the first among equals in the black power structure.

Barack Obama is a mortal threat to that notion and he is paying the price for it.

Over at National Review, Lisa Schiffren quotes two e-mailers who assert that Obama isn't "mature" enough to be president. One e-mailer says, "He's not yet a full adult." I disagree. I think Obama has been far more straightforward as to who he is and where he comes from -- flaws and all -- than just about any other presidential candidate (with the possible exception of five-books-written John McCain). No, if anyone or anything needs to have the "not yet a full adult" charge sent in that direction, it may be Jeremiah Wright -- by extension -- the black community.

It is one thing for the community to place all of its political eggs in one basket by overwhelmingly supporting the Democratic Party. It is something far different to allow a black "leader" to sabotage the efforts of the most mainstream black figure to rise out of that party -- just because he chooses not to sufficiently, ahem, "worship" at the feet of leaders of the foremost community insitution of the previous two centuries. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. took the community very far by daring to dream. But subsequent leaders haven't moved the ball much further. Obama had -- and still has -- an amazing opportunity to take that next great step. And who goes out of his way to destroy that dream? If a black minister still has that much power, then the black community must assess its own political maturity that it has permitted a member of the social institution that led it for so long to destroy perhaps its greatest political hope.

How ironic that, after so many predictions last year that the religious right would create chaos for Republican presidential candidates, it has been a figure from the religious black left that has seemingly blown up the Democratic nomination process?

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Wright's Wrongs

Salon asked a few folks -- including your humble blogger -- about Rev. Wright and what Obama should do about him. No, I didn't have an answer for the latter part of the request.

Will Obama's press conference today be enough? I fear not. Obama's Philadelphia speech was the best he could do to respond to the Wright that appeared on YouTube. To some extent, a large segment of the public was willing to accept that Wright may have been taken out of context. Alas, the Wright of Monday was seen fully in context.

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Monday, April 28, 2008


You can quote me on that

Yesterday on my blog, I did a simple post reviewing the NFL draft. Today, I get a voicemail from a friend I used to work with telling me I was quoted in the USAToday.

My initial reaction: Say what?!

So after work, I picked up a USAToday, and darned if they didn't quote me in an aricle about the allegedly "winning" Kansas City Chiefs draft:
A dissenting voice belongs to Ed McGonigal (an Oakland Raiders fan) of the Politics and Pigskins blog. "I am putting the Chiefs in the losers category for now," he writes, "only because they got a lot of players with question marks. Even their top pick, defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, was probably the most questionable among the top 10 picks in the draft."
While my little blog appreciates the free publicity, I probably should add something to what I said about the Chiefs draft, since what I said was more of a summary of my opinions of what a lot of teams did.

First off, I am an unashamed Oakland Raiders fan, which the USAToday quote correctly states. However, when it comes to AFC West teams, I don't really hate the Chiefs. Truth be told, I kind of liked them when Dick Vermeil was there. I grew up with Vermeil's Eagles, so I have always been a fan of his.

Then when the Chiefs hired Herm Edwards as head coach, I was overjoyed, after Edward's less than auspicious years with the Jets. I knew the Chiefs were going downhill soon, so I didn't really need to worry about them too much in the AFC West. It is hard to hate, or even dislike, the pitiful.

I far more despise the Broncos. If the Raiders beat the Broncos twice in a season, it's a good year (even if the Raiders go 2-14).

So when I wrote my little blurb about the Chiefs, I was NOT doing it out of spite for a division rival. I was merely going through the various teams and seeing how they did after three rounds.

But there is a final aspect to my comments which I did not mention: Herm Edwards has never developed a potential Hall-of-Famer in his coaching career, let alone a Super Bowl contender. How can anyone be enthusiastic about a team's draft when the head coach has NEVER shown any ability to develop talent?

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The Wright Stuff

I ran into Ralph Reed at the White House Correspondents Dinner this weekend. In response to a question as to whether McCain would have problems with the GOP base, Reed said (paraphrased), "No. They're already coming home. It has nothing to do with McCain. Jeremiah Wright has united the religious conservative base."

Wright's speech this morning at the National Press Club (carried by the three major cable stations and C-SPAN) -- following up on his stemwinder to the NAACP Sunday -- may have thrown Barack Obama a political lifeline in its affirmation of the history and values of the black church. While assertive, he had clear intellectual foundations from which he was speaking.

However, his combative and dismissive Q&A may have cut that lifeline and left Obama swimming for his political survival. Wright said several times that various parts of the black community and culture are "not inferior, just different."

As Public Enemy once said, "Too black, too strong."

White Americans don't have to think that Barack Obama -- as a presidential candidate -- is racially inferior to deem that the tradition to which he is part is too "different" to support as a presidential candidate.

Arguably, his least helpful statement was that Obama would say what he had to "as a politician." While he may have been making a contrast with what he (Wright) says as a pastor, the effect, I believe, undermines the ecumenical and spiritually lifting tone of Obama's much-credited speech on race. In short, Wright reduced the Obama speech to, in a phrase, "just words."

Not good.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008


A Boulder Take On Race

My Sunday Post column on the broader lessons gleaned from my trip this month out to Boulder, Colorado.

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