Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hoekstra Is A Danger To Your Health And Well-Being

While Hoekstra runs around trying to profit from the attempted bombing over Detroit and score points with teabagger Republicans, it's important to put this incident into perspective. Via Blue Texan at FDL (see his chart below):

Terrorism Still Less Deadly in US Than Lack of Health Insurance, Salmonella
If you count the Ft. Hoot shooting as a terrorist attack, which even the likes of Pantload doesn’t, 16 people have died in the United States as a result of terrorism in 2009. The other three deaths include the Little Rock military recruiting office shooting (1), the Holocaust Museum shooting (1), and Dr. George Tiller’s assassination (1), the last two coming at the hands of right-wing extremists.

On the other hand, 45,000 Americans died because they didn’t have health insurance and 600 died from salmonella poisoning.
Clearly, lack of health insurance is more of a threat to Americans than a terrorist attack, yet Hoekstra voted NO on health care. He's clearly in no position to be shooting off his mouth and calling on the president to "lead in the fight to keep Americans safe" after that vote.

From FireDogLake, causing of death in US

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Here's a Christmas card for all my blogging friends from man's best friend (no, not Joe Lieberman) - and me!

May all your Christmas wishes come true.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Senate Health Bill Provides Enormous Help To Poor

Everyone seems to be trashing the Senate's health reform bill. That's fine, dissent is good, but I don't think we should let it blind us to the positives, such as the enormous good the bill will do for the poor and middle class. (Via Jonathan Cohn at TNR.)
This bill would mean Medicaid coverage for an additional 15 million people a year, all of them living below or just above the poverty line. For a sense of scale, that's more than double the entire population now covered by the state Children's Health Insurance Program.

This bill would also subsidize coverage in the exchanges for (roughly) another 15 million people a year, the majority of whom would also qualify as low-income by any reasonable standard.
"Do the math," he says, and we'll see that this bill is "arguably, the single most progressive initiative in a generation."

And if you don't believe Cohn, he asks you to consider what his colleague Harold Pollack at the Huffington Post had to say [emphasis mine]:
Fully implemented, the bill would provide about $200 billion per year down the income scale in subsidies to poor, near-poor, and working Americans.

$200 billion is a big number. It exceeds the combined total of federal spending on Food Stamps and all nutrition assistance programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, TANF cash payments to single mothers and their children, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Institutes of Health.
That money won't be allocated to wars or tax cuts for the rich, it's going to help the poor and middle class.

Trash the bill if you want, but don't let yourself lose sight of the good it will do.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bottled Water Tax: "The People Deserve To Get Something In Return"

LG John Cherry has an op-ed in the Detroit News today that talks about his plan to restore the Michigan Promise Scholarship with a water bottle tax. Go read it, but here's the best part (emphasis mine):
Right now, bottlers across the state remove water from our wells essentially for free, and we lack the necessary funding to safeguard this precious resource. In other words, we're losing one resource -- our talented work force -- while giving away another resource, our water, for free.

You don't need a Ph.D. in mathematics to solve this terrible equation. It's time for the bottlers to pay their water bill, just like you and I do. We can use the proceeds from that water bill to fund the education that our young people need to compete, as well as protecting the water resources that Michigan desperately needs.

By conservative estimates, a charge of 10 cents per bottle, paid by bottling companies that operate in Michigan, would raise $118 million per year. The cost of the Michigan Promise Scholarship, on the other hand, is about $100 million per year. Not only would this modest charge on each bottle of water that leaves Michigan raise enough funds to pay for the entire Michigan Promise program, we'd still have $18 million a year to spend on wetlands regulation and other conservation initiatives. [...]

This is the people's water, and the people deserve to get something in return.
Ironically, employers like to point out they need an educated workforce to be successful and profitable, and Nestle, the parent company of Ice Mountain, is no exception.
Like every Michigan employer, we rely on an educated workforce.
Yet Nestle is complaining that Cherry's proposal penalizes Michigan employers, risks jobs, and that bottlers may resort to supplying products from outside the state in order to remain competitive on the price consumers pay for bottled water products.

A Nestle Water Company spokesman also claimed that the tax would nearly double the price consumers paid for a case of water.
"Let's look at the math," said Flaherty. "Most bottled water is purchased in cases of 24 bottles of .5 liter size, for about or less than $4.00 per case -- putting the price per bottle at about 16 cents. A 10-cent per bottle tax on Michigan manufactured products nearly doubles the price for consumers, and would be unsustainable in the highly competitive beverage marketplace.

"Consumers are very savvy, and rarely could be convinced to pay nearly double for Michigan-produced bottle water when lesser-priced options exist," said Flaherty. "I challenge you to ask consumers if they'd pay $6.50 for a case when they can pay less than $4 for the same product made elsewhere."
True, consumers are savvy, but we also care about educating our children. I have a suggestion for Nestle. You pay the 10 cent tax per bottle on the water you currently get for free without passing it on to consumers and in return you'll get an educated workforce, an improved "corporate neighbor" image and the gratitude of citizens who just might go out of their way to buy your product. I'd say that's a win-win for everyone involved. After all, your company admitted that bottled water profits were down in part because of public criticism. Why would you want to anger us even more?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don't Give Up On Health Care Now

I am extremely disillusioned with the shape the healthcare bill has taken, but I'm not willing to say it shouldn't pass and/or we should start over. I'll let Kevin Drum speak for me. He makes a compelling argument for seeing this bill through.
With the public option now out of the healthcare bill, is it still worth passing? Regular readers will be unsurprised that I think the answer is pretty firmly yes—and that liberals who now want to pick up their toys and hand reform its sixth defeat in the past century need to wake up and smell the decaf. Politics sucks. It always has. But the bill in front of us—messy, incomplete, and replete with bribes to every interest group imaginable—is still well worth passing.
Six defeats. Think about that. More from Kevin:
When big legislative efforts go down in flames, they almost never spring back onto the calendar anytime soon — and that's especially true when big healthcare bills fail. It didn't happen in 1936, it didn't happen in 1949, it didn't happen in 1974, and it didn't happen in 1995. What makes anyone think it will happen in 2010?
Drum also makes the point that if healthcare reform dies this year, it dies for a good long time, and Republicans know it. And even though it's not the bill we wanted, it's a good start. Via Ezra Klein:
"This is a good bill," Sen. Sherrod Brown said on Countdown last night. "Not a great bill, but a good bill." That's about right. But the other piece to remember is that more than it's a good bill, it's a good start. With $900 billion in subsidies already in place, it's easier to add another hundred billion later, if we need it, than it would be to pass $1 trillion in subsidies in 2011. With the exchanges built and private insurers unable to hold down costs, it's easier to argue for adding a strong public option to the market than it was before we'd tried regulation and a new competitive structure. With 95 percent of the country covered, it's easier to go the final 5 percent. And with a health-care reform bill actually passed, it's easier to convince legislators that passing such bills is possible.
Here's some other things we'll be getting:
  • Insurers have to take all comers. They can't turn you down for a preexisting condition or cut you off after you get sick.

  • Community rating. Within a few broad classes, everyone gets charged the same amount for insurance.

  • Individual mandate. I know a lot of liberals hate this, but how is it different from a tax? And its purpose is sound: it keeps the insurance pool broad and insurance rates down.

  • A significant expansion of Medicaid.

  • Subsidies for low and middle income workers that keeps premium costs under 10% of income.

  • Limits on ER charges to low-income uninsured emergency patients.

  • Caps on out-of-pocket expenses.

  • A broad range of cost-containment measures.

  • A dedicated revenue stream to support all this.
  • Drum is right. This is still a huge achievement, one that will benefit tens of millions of people in very concrete ways and will do it without expanding our long-term deficit. And he also points out "this is more than Bill Clinton ever did, more than Teddy Kennedy did, more than LBJ did, more than Truman did, and more than FDR did."

    Don't throw in the towel now.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Poll: Let The Wealthy Pay Higher Taxes

    A new Bloomberg poll shows Americans want the government to do something about the economy.
    Americans want their government to create jobs through spending on public works, investments in alternative energy or skills training for the jobless.

    They also want the deficit to come down. And most are ready to hand the bill to the wealthy.

    A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Dec. 3-7 shows two- thirds of Americans favor taxing the rich to reduce the deficit.
    Raising taxes on the rich was popular across party lines too: About half of Republicans back the idea and it is more popular among Democrats and Independents.

    Steve Benen summarized the polls results best:
    In other words, here's a poll showing widespread support for the Democratic economic agenda.
    That's because mainstream America is rational, unlike those teabagger Republicans whose only answer for every problem is cut taxes, cut taxes...

    (Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    Who's More Popular Than Traditional Republicans?

    Teabagger Republicans. According to the latest Rasmussen poll, Republicans have fallen to third place in terms of popularity.
    In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.
    So are Republicans worried? Nope. Greg Sargent asked for the GOP's leadership view of the poll and this was one senior GOP aide's reply:
    This proves one of the major points that Democrats have tried hard to deny: the Tea Party movement is not some fringe group of ultra-conservatives, it is most popular among independents, many of whom believed President Obama’s campaign promises about doing things differently in Washington, and feel burned by the fact that he has governed in a relentlessly partisan fashion.
    Partisan? Did he really say partisan? Three words: Health care reform. Obama reached out to Republicans and they said NO.

    I think GOP leadership has to spin this in a favorable light. After all, several Glenn Beck inspired Tea Party candidates are causing problems for a number of GOP lawmakers, including John McCain. They're caught between a rock and a hard place. They can't afford to ignore the teabaggers, and they can't afford to embrace them at the risk of losing their moderate members.

    And I don't take too seriously the GOP spokesperson's comment that "the Tea Party movement is not some fringe group." Again, really? What else would you call a group that invited Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman to speak at their national convention next year. And don't forget about Joe the Plumber.

    I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing that any independents with a smidgen of commonsense will embrace the teabaggers, the same group that shows up at rallies with guns and posters comparing health care reform to pictures of dead bodies at the Dachau concentration camp. These people are not mainstream Americans, they're extremists.

    And when a fake party "that doesn't have organized candidates or organized fundraising is more highly thought of than one of the two traditionally dominant political parties," that's a sign that Republicans are in big trouble, no matter how much they spin this poll.

    Thursday, December 03, 2009

    All I Want For Xmas Is...

    (Via Fox News Detroit)

    A man in Riverview has an unusual Christmas display on his lawn and the neighbors aren't too happy about it. His signs support national health insurance, but the mom next door is upset because her kids are asking questions. "I just don't think Christmas is the time to make a political statement," she said.

    Fox asks what you think. I say that young man probably speaks for millions of people who would love to wake up to health insurance under their tree on December 25th.