Archive for the ‘democrats’ category

Conservative, What Does It Mean?

November 14, 2015

Have you notices that none of the Republican Presidential candidates says, “vote for me, I’m a Republican”?  You do hear them profess that all the world’s problems are Democrat caused and that they are not a Democrat.

What you hear most is a Republican candidate say is he or she is a conservative, and then argue with emphasis, “a real conservative”. Hmmm.

For most people, the “conservative” or the “real conservative” claim, is not helpful in understanding what that particular candidate stands for (or against). The “conservativeness” examples used by the GOP candidates varies widely. It makes one wonder whether there are many types of conservatives or that the candidates really don’t know what a conservative really is.

For example, some conservative candidates are evangelicals and claim to have the ear of god (and vice versa). Other conservatives see the “boot straps” as the only measure of an American, “did the individual pul themselves up by the boot straps or not”? Still others, speak glowingly about our all volunteer Army and propose using our military to police around the world, “the world is a better place when American troops get involved”, they say.

The current crop of GOP conservatives (collectively) are for deporting (Mexican) immigrants, enacting a larger tax cut than each other, repealing the Affordable Care Act (with no details on a replacement), reforming (cutting) Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and eliminating more Federal Departments than each other (to reduce the size of Government). Do you get the feeling of “just saying no”?

The GOP appears to have lost its grip on a GOP brand. Brand management which serves as a glue to bind a political party’s message together, seems lost in today’s primary contest. Unless, of course, the GOP goal is to “be all (negative) things to all people”.

While the Democrat Party is positioned as the opposition, the Democrat brand is not the opposite of conservative. The term “progressive” might be closer to an opposite. And it is true that most Democrats see themselves as progressive (to some degree) although most Democrats would call them selves “centrists” (I wonder what that means?).

One would think that a conservative person would see a problem (like crumbling roads and bridges which are making the US less competitive globally) and choose a solution that represented a relatively small (but higher probability of working) change from the present. Progressives, on the other hand, are quite comfortable with large sweeping changes (with no means to know if the solution works or what to do if it doesn’t).

In the Republican debates, however, we hear of giant walls along the Mexican border and mass deportations of millions of undocumented aliens. Or, in an effort to simplify the tax code, we hear candidates proposing flat tax schemes which offer huge savings to the wealthy and are predicted to create enormous budget deficits. Fiscal conservatives or wild and crazy guys?


The US Healthcare Disaster

November 5, 2015

The Affordable Care Act sits precariously as the US healthcare delivery scheme. The Act brought the US kicking and screaming into the modern world with a large ethical and moral step forward. Our “exceptional” country was exceptional about healthcare but in a third world way.

Healthcare prior to ACA was marked by the label, “the best health care money could buy” and sported an out of control cost for delivering healthcare.  And best of all, not all Americans got healthcare.

Under pre-ACA conditions, an estimated 50 million Americans were without healthcare coverage. Some chose to skip insurance coverage (saving money) while most simply could not afford coverage or were denied it (pre-existing condition). In an enlightened country, one wonders how that could have been?

The answer lies mainly in two places. Most Americans were (and still are) insulated from healthcare delivery costs. Employers picked up most of the premiums and the average American simply did not see the need to question the healthcare delivery system. The second aspect of pre-ACA was the American Healthcare delivery system was a “for profit” enterprise with generous government support (namely Medicare and Medicaid) and seemed to have no ethical or moral conscience about whether the average person could afford basic coverage.

So what is different with the Affordable Care Act?

ACA strikes at the unfairness of the 50 million uninsured and does set up some strategic changes in how medical costs are generated. The individual mandate has helped prevent many Americans from “gaming” the system, skipping insurance while they are healthy and using Emergency Rooms if they do get ill. ACA also increased requirements for businesses to provide coverage, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for “pre-existing” or “extreme” illnesses, and “exchanges” were established to make available a wide range of insurance products which could be coupled with subsidies if the individual met certain income measures.

Despite ACA’s attempt at reforming how healthcare is delivered, the Act did not change the “for profit” orientation. So it should not be any surprise that healthcare costs continue to rise at breathtaking rates. Most doctors and hospitals are simply passing on increased costs and dragging their feet on any real structural changes. Drug companies who kept their ability to charge Canadians less for the same drugs as US citizens, have in a growing number of cases, raised the price of life saving drugs to unconscionable levels.

So to celebrate the Affordable Care Act, one must be careful about what one is complimenting. ACA is clearly better than what came before it, but there is a glaring deficiency with what are world class healthcare systems deliver.

So with every Republican Presidential candidate positioning themselves to repeal and replace ACA, what would one think their justification might be and how would they reform it?  Hmmm.

All candidates, in one way or another, say ACA is too costly and we can’t afford it.  A simple repeal means no more exchanges and no more expanded Medicaid services. It also means a return of insurance denying coverage for “pre-existing” conditions and being free to put a cap on benefits in catastrophic illnesses.  With the GOP it will be back to “the best healthcare money can buy”.

This is not world class.

GOP – Near Sighted?

August 29, 2015

The 2016 Presidential elections preliminaries are underway. Both Parties have begun their primary processes, and pundits speculate daily over which candidates will become their party’s standard bearer. Hillary Clinton has appeared the Democrat favorite and in polls has been preferred over all the GOP hopefuls. So, is the election over (already)?

Not so fast.

Hillary Clinton is like honey, she attacks all sorts of attackers who hunger for her defeat. Clinton, however, is every bit their match. She campaigns in a highly controlled manner and provides as few openings for her opponents as possible. The “Bengazi morphed into private email server” controversy has lasted this long mainly because Clinton has chosen to not engage the issue (apparently because she believes it is irrelevant). Clinton’s strategy, however, has given credence to a “trustworthiness” issue and the original Clinton glow has faded somewhat. She appears beatable although defeat is by no means certain.

The GOP seems unwilling to accept this opportunity to win back the White House. With Donald the Trump leading the way, most of the Presidential candidates have made prejudicial comments while campaigning. To be sure, with 16 hopefuls, attracting voter attention is not easy. A “near sighted” party, however, must recognize that the way they attract attention now will have consequence in the future election.

Recent reports indicate the broader GOP controlled Congress might enter the election dynamics. When Congress returns from its summer recess, it will be facing a budget and debt hurdle of their own making.

GOP Congressional members have laid down the gauntlet that any budget or any debt extension bill must contain measures that “defund” planned parenthood. Do you see the connection?

Apparently these GOP Congress members think they can hold hostage the budget and debt extension (that is the US paying its bills) until Democrats agree to defund Planned Parenthood. It is hard to image anything more nearsighted. Women and poor citizens vote in the national election and will remember a Government shutdown (again).

One can question whether Planned Parenthood represents a substantive issue or whether GOP support is just a cynical sop for their evangelical wing. In either case, Planned Parenthood has nothing of meaning to do with either the Budget or the Debt. Even worse, politically speaking Planned Parenthood plays right into the Democrat’s claim that the GOP is conducting a war on women.

As in 2012, the GOP sees things differently. Focusing two inches away, they see a path to defund Planned Parenthood, and see no consequences. Maybe the country is not ready for nearsighted President.

Political Lessons

June 11, 2015

Jeb Bush is currently touring Europe. With his “Statesman’s” glasses, former Governor Jeb Bush is taking every photo op he can muster in order to project a learned, but tough on defense image. The bad guys while in Europe are the Russians. While this is a safer position than getting involved talking about ISIS or the Middle East, Bushes comments beg many questions.

For example, Bush said he thought the US should increase its troop level in Europe. Hmmm.

Bush said that recent Russian actions in Crimea and the Ukraine should not go unnoticed. When asked should the US station troops on the Russia boarders, he replied “I don’t know yet”. What more does he need to know? What would he think about Russian troops in Cuba, Venezuela, or some other nearby Latin American country?

Beyond the obvious chest pounding and “how much better a President I would be compared to President Obama” symbolism, Bush’s comments seem shallow and poorly thought through. These are comments anyone could have already made from the US mainline. There was no need for a trip to Europe to suddenly gain this insight. (Most reasoned Statesmen, however, would keep this type of blustering demagoguing under control since there are limits to what the US can do without encountering an equal and opposite response from Russia.

Possibly the most cynical aspect of Bush’s comments, of course, comes back to the simple question, “how do you propose to pay for these increases in defense spending”?

It should be no surprise that Bush would either propose cuts in entitlements or emergency spending (code for putting the cost on the credit card and increasing the debt). There would be no references to increased taxes.

Bush’s comments sound attractive, almost leadership wise. They are, however, typical of what we are going to hear from most all the GOP candidates. Wrapping the American flag around themselves and proposing extending American presences around the world, this rhetoric sounds great. In addition to the patriotic appeal, GOP politicians will imply a contrast with President Obama and how today’s complicated world could have been different had one of them been President instead of President Obama. Hmmm.

Jeb Bush’s comments come as no surprise. What else would a candidate do in similar circumstances? IMO, Bush knows the shallowness of his comments and knows the complications reluctant American citizens could bring to anyone proposing more military engagements. Bush’s comments provide a “political lesson” should other GOP hopefuls want to learn.

Extending America’s military reach will be both dangerous and expensive, and come with a wide range of unanticipated consequences. With a political base that does not want to see any increase in taxes and has been condition to expect a decrease in the debt, there is no way Bush can accomplish these overseas moves without draconian cuts in entitlements.

Grandpas and grandmas get ready, your social security and Medicare will soon be in play.

Whose Bluffing Who?

November 7, 2014

President Obama said in an interview that he would put forth new rules covering immigration by year end unless Congress moved to pass comprehensive reform. That’s pretty clear (although the President has said that before). House Speaker John Boehner in a different interview said the President was playing with fire and the President might get burned. Boehner implied that any hope of cooperation would go out the window if the President acted unilaterally. Hmmm.

So, are these two bluffing?

Hmmm. I wonder.

Or is Speaker Boehner using these words “playing with fire” to hide the “I” word? Impeachment would be relatively easy to accomplish with the GOP House majority. Conviction is at least conceivable with a GOP controlled Senate. But would moderate Republicans go along with this? Would any sensible Republican go along with this?

The Democrat calculus may be that since the GOP has no interest in cooperating on any substantive legislation in any case, why not begin doing what will appeal to Democrat voters (at least Hispanics) through executive orders?

The more clever Democrat strategists may also seek to invite dysfunctional GOP behavior so they can say, “see we told you Republicans cannot govern”.

The “congratulations on your victory” mood which President Obama had presented appears very short lived. The 24/7 news media couldn’t be more thrilled with the prospect of venomous sound bites filling hours of mindless TV and radio talk shows.

With so many Republican Senators up for reelection in 2016, a dysfunctional Congress might be well received by Democrats.
Of course, fire often burns both ways…

Don’t Blame The Electorate

November 4, 2014

Today is election day. The mid-term Congressional elections are underway. Pundits are predicting a big Republican win. With a single digit national approval rating, the GOP, never the less, is poised to take control of Congress. How can that be?

One simple reason is that Democrats have given voters no comprehensive reason to vote for them.

Another reason is that Republicans have stopped shooting themselves in their foot.

Most people can hold one issue, and sometimes maybe two, in front of them. With the thanks of the Supreme Court, conservative candidates have dumped buckets of money into divisive issues blaming Democrats for everything but tooth decay. And, Democrats once again have chosen to hunker down and try to sneak through one more election. That Democrat choice will turn out to be both cowardly and shortsighted.

Running from President Obama has denied Democratic candidates with the opportunity to paint a different picture.

  • Why should voters wish to return to a healthcare system in which they can be denied or priced out of healthcare coverage?
  • Why should voters wish to follow a foreign policy where American young men and women are sent off to wars of choice?
  • Why should voters wish to return to policies which lead to massive unemployment and huge deficits?
  • And what’s wrong with Democrats affirming the need to document all workers?
  • What is so strange about Democrats seeking tax reform closing loop holes for the wealthy while at the same time seeking alignment of Union wages and benefits with those of like non-union industry?
  • What is wrong with Democrats offering plans to increase taxes (like to fix crumbling roads and bridges), reducing spending (eliminating unneeded programs), and providing more efficient government services?
  • And what greater promise could Democrats make then to unequivocally assert a clear separation of Church and State and that religious freedom does not include the right to prevent others from living their life freely.

Well, I’m sure it will be a cold day in July before any politician takes on this last proposition. It would, however, put the rest of the issues back on a scientific or fact based basis. Too bad.

The electorate can be rightfully criticized for a lot of things. Mob rule didn’t get its bad name for no reason at all. The electorate, however in its own way, appears ready to send Democrats a clear message. I wonder whether anyone will be listening?

Senate Showdown

November 3, 2014

Tomorrow is voting day. Midterm Congressional election will be held across the Country. If history is any judge, relatively few Americans will show up at the polls. Hmmm.

Several reasons have been offered. For many districts, the only race involves the House of Representatives. In other districts, it might be just the House and maybe the State Governorship. And in a few, there might be the trifecta of all three. What there won’t be in any State is the President’s election. For that voters must wait another two years. For tomorrow, there will be a lot less voter interest, so why not stay home?

Another reason offered is that voters are disillusioned. What? How could that be?

After weeks of mind numbing TV ads which collectively offered less than 1% educational value, how can we blame voters for saying, “enough!” If the negative ads were not enough, Congress’ dismal performance could easily suppress any voter interest. Why vote for this clown or that one when which ever gets elected will renege on what ever he or she promised? Hmmm.

The center piece election this year is for the Senate. Polling results have indicated that Senate control could pass from Democrats to Republicans if current trends continue. A GOP controlled Senate coupled with a GOP controlled House would place the legislative branch in Republican control. Executive, Democrat, legislature, Republican. Sounds like gridlock or the highest form of safety depending upon ones view of Government.

If Republicans do gain control of Congress, it will be with a razor thin majority. Consequently it will be unlikely they could enact legislation which President Obama opposed. His veto should hold.

Republicans, however, might be tempted to pass legislation which they believe would be popular with their base. For example the Ryan budget, privatization of Social Security, tax cuts, increased military spending, reductions in welfare safety net spending, and the center piece, repeal of Obamacare. In many ways Democrats could not hope for something better. This type of legislative record (tried but vetoed) would set up a clear choice in 2016.

The main downside of a Republican controlled Senate would occur if there was a need to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice. The current ideological divide has produced some short sighted and dangerous decisions (corporations are people, unlimited spending is unlimited free speech). It should not be surprising if in the event of the need to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice, President Obama to be unable to get a vote on his choice.

But this is all speculation. Tomorrow will be the vote and the next day, the sun will rise just as it did today. Democrats have hardly distinguished themselves while in control of the Senate. How bad can it get?

Obama’s Failed Policies

November 1, 2014

Every Congressional GOP candidate has a set of stock lines.  This year GOP candidates like “I am running to change Washington and turn around President Obama’s failed policies”. Hmmm, I wonder what they really mean?

Iowa Senate candidate, Joni Ernst says it like this, “Are we going to stay on this path that President Obama and Congressman Braley (her opponent) set for us, which is higher unemployment, low participation rates in the workforce, weakened nation security, or do we make a change?”

What is Ms Earnst smoking? The economy is booming (doing well and relatively great compared to the last months of President Bush’s term) and unemployment is continuing to decline? In fact the American economy is the strongest and most respected in the world. And what’s this “participation rate” suppose to mean? Or for that matter, where is the evidence of weakened national security?

Other politicians and plenty of Super Pac ads castigate the President over healthcare and immigration too. The two most popular phrases are “repeal Obamacare” and “secure the boarders”. Most Americans still receive their health insurance through their employer and for the most part, this is unchanged. Why talk to them?

Immigration is even stranger to attack. During President Obama’s term more undocumented aliens have been deported than under any previous President. So many have been deported that Hispanics have toned down their support of President Obama.

National security, what’s that? How could getting bogged down longer in Afghanistan or re-entering Iraq or Syria help our national security? Does anyone remember the “cold war” and how long it lasted? Confronting well armed, ideologically differing nations, without committing American lives is a serious and challenging task.

So, what’s really going on?

Maybe 1% of those criticizing President Obama present valid arguments and deserve thoughtful responses. For the rest, we are hearing political double speak. Say one thing and mean another.

Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said it well. “47% of voters will not vote republican”, so let’s forget them and get the rest. How?

The GOP strategy is too (1) impede as many Hispanics and African Americans (assumed Democrat voters) as possible from reaching voting booths, and (2) remind everyone else that the real enemies standing in the way of the American dream are “lazy African Americans, selfish Union members, and undocumented workers.

Most Americans have no idea why there are no more jobs available but do recognize that most of the ones they come in contact with pay a very low wage. Who causes that? Why it must be illegal workers.

Healthcare is another example. Union members with Cadillac plans or low co-pays, or African Americans lining up to take free Medicaid are just causing the cost of coverage to increase for everyone else. And by the way, why should African Americans get free coverage when “I” have to pay? Why don’t those poor African Americans go out and get a job (just not mine)?

Raising national security is like using a shot gun. The gun’s discharge sprays widely and can hit many targets. First, increasing the defense budget can bring jobs to many Congressional districts. Paying for these new jobs can come from cutting the social safety net which, of course, means reducing support for immigrants and African Americans. Sending Americans to war, on the other hand, would offer employment for these same poor struggling Americans.

Second, for politicians, wars are good. Wars spread fear and support the notion of “not changing horses in the middle of a riverr”. Conflicts provide fodder for political hyperbola. And the best part, wars are complicated and finding someone in Congress at fault is near impossible.

At the end of the day, there is no good way to assess President Obama’s policies during his term. For sure, all of his policies could be made better. And maybe some ought to be changed or replaced with another approach.

Hearing the charge “Obama’s failed policies”, instead ought to evoke an outcry “AND WHAT EXACTLY WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY”.

The nature of political discussions these days does not seem to lead to that type of question. Unfortunately, political discussion does not encompass how the country can break the poverty cycle, or find a path to health care costs like Europe’s, or carry out foreign policy in the 21st Century.

Picking on the underdogs and spreading fear, which have worked through out American political history still seem the best tactics.

Kaci Hickox Public Enemy?

October 30, 2014

Kaci Hickox’s restricted travel has now grabbed the front pages and the 7/24 news outlets. The story is perfect for the news media. It requires no intelligence or thought. It simply requires someone to hold an opinion. Is this nurse a public enemy?

Ms Hickox presents a great face for women, and for informed public health. There is no PC with Ms Hickox. She seeks no favors from the public trough and is prepared to stand her ground. Her defense, modern science and recent experience.

Medical experts have said that Ebola is not contagious until the onset of symptoms. Even then, there is a view that during the initial onset, like not feeling well or the first recognition of fever, someone is still not contagious.   It is only when the full presentation of symptoms where bodily fluids (vomit, spit, and diarrhea) come in contact with another unprotected person is there a chance to spread Ebola.

Ms Hickox apparently is confident she will recognize the onset and until then she feels she should be free to move around. Hmmm.

Maine public health officials have asked Ms Hickox to voluntarily isolate herself for 21 days. Ms Hickox has said no thanks. So what might be next?

Most likely the Maine Public Health officials will appeal to a court that Ms Hickox must be forcibly restrained. The Court will decide not on the merits but rather that the Maine Public Health organization has the regulatory power to order restraint. Hmmm.

Next, Ms Hickox side will sue the State of Maine claiming they had instituted controls not justified by the science involved (over stepped their authority). Before long one of two things will occur. Ms Hickox will come down with full blown Ebola, or the 21 days will pass with no occurrence. Maine will in that case offer to drop their charges if Ms Hickox does the same. Hmmm.

The US Ebola scare is a dry run for what might happen if we experience a real influenza outbreak.

There is a clear difference at the extremes between individual civil rights and protection of the population at large. This difference becomes harder to recognize the closer to the center one gets. Common sense and thankfully modern science can resolve this conundrum.

Unfortunately it will require leaders and not run of the mill politicians to sort this out. Even sadder, the country seems to have an excess of politicians and few leaders.

Thanks to Ms Hickox for again making this clear.

21 and Counting

October 22, 2014

Just as quickly as it arrived, Ebola has left the front page. The bulk of the Dallas Hospital healthcare workers as well as those who had community contact with Thomas Eric Duncan have cleared the 21 day isolation period and are free to move around. It seems clearer now that the two infected nurses got Ebola through lapses in the protocol used to protect them. Success, a triumph for medical knowledge and common sense.

Of course there could be more healthcare workers infected from new cases just as it is possible for Ebola could be transmitted from exposed or infected overseas travelers. But other than a complete and total quarantine of the US (no boats, planes or vehicular traffic) there can be no 100% precaution that Ebola could not again enter the US.

The anti diminishing returns argument that the US needs to screen and detain all African travelers entering the US will still be made. These advocates are in fact in search of different objectives than healthcare.  We need to drown out these “sky is falling” voices.

There is a far larger issue hidden in plain sight with this Ebola outbreak. What about a real pandemic, like SARS or bird flu or any other contagion? What if Iran or al Qaeda or whomever decided to use health as the means to attain their goals?
We have been there once with germ warfare. Fortunately, the world did not employ these agents but these are different times. Beheading someone and showing it proudly on the internet does not seem to me far away from turning a biological agent loose in London or New York.

The limited experience in Dallas ought to inform everyone that hospitals that are set up to make money treating common illnesses and injuries will most likely not have prioritized how to handle contagions very high in their sights.  Protocols will be suspect as will be the necessary protective equipment.

The spin doctors, however, can create the necessary PR to keep an outbreak appear under control. The actual health care safety net has too many holes if we judge Dallas’ response.

There is certainly a limit to what medical science can do. There are no cures for some diseases. The question is what should the healthcare industry and government health officials do to contain any outbreak until the disease runs its course with minimum impact on the general population?