About November 2nd

Actually the election was better than I thought it would be.  Here in Massachusetts the Democrats swept the Constitutional offices and proved that there was no enthusiasm gap – or if there was one it was on the Republican side.  The Democrats proved that old fashioned shoe leather is still the way to get out the vote.  The turnout was very good for a mid-term election in my precinct where Charlie Baker got all of 19 votes out of 433 voters.  Equally significant the two most important propositions got voted down.  We kept affordable housing laws on the books and didn’t reduce the sales tax.  But remember we also voted for George McGovern.

I have mixed emotions about the scene nationally.  On one hand, it probably means nothing will get done legislatively until after the 2012 Presidential election is over.  We can only hope that Congress musters the votes for a continuing resolution on the budget.  On the hand, it will be very entertaining to watch the Republicans try to deal with dissent in their party as the election of Rand Paul and others means the end to the lockstep voting of Republicans in Congress.  And given what is happening in recent European elections, particularly the Conservative take-over in England (and while we are talking, can someone please explain to me why the Liberal Dems there are in a coalition with them?) we shouldn’t be surprised that the Republican-Tea Party coalition won.  But how bad is it really?

There was a 60 vote swing in the House.  But remember that before the election the Democrats held 255 seats.  After the election the Republicans hold 239.  Even if all 8 still undecided races break Republican, they will hold 247 seats.  So yes, there was a huge swing, the biggest since, I believe since the Truman mid-terms, but even so, the new Republican majority is not as large as the Democratic one before the election.  And I was very sorry to see my old friend, Rick Boucher, lose in Virginia as part of the wave.  

The pre-election talk was a 9 seat pick-up in the Senate for the Republicans.  Pundits on both sides were saying that the Republicans would have had the 10 seats to take over if not for Christine O’Donnell getting the Delaware nomination.  But the gain is only 6 with Alaska still undecided.  The Democrats still hold 53 seats in the Senate.  Maybe Harry Reid can figure out a way to change the Senate rules to a majority instead of 60 votes.

Joshua Holland has a great piece posted on AlterNet titled “It’s Not the End of the World — 7 Things Progressives Need to Keep in Mind about Last Night’s GOP ‘Wave”.

Here are a few of those 7 things.

2. The electorate is hopping mad, but they still dislike Republicans. A month before an election that has swept some rather extreme GOPers into Congress, an Associated Press-GfK Poll found that “60 percent disapprove of the job congressional Democrats are doing — yet 68 percent frown on how Republicans are performing.”

A New York Times/CBS News poll last week found that while a majority of Americans voted GOP yesterday, the electorate “continues to have a more favorable opinion of the Democratic Party than of the Republican Party, with 46 percent favoring Democrats and 41 favoring Republicans.”

This will be the third consecutive year in which the party out of power wins. That’s not a measure of the country’s ideological leanings, it’s a sign that people are hurting and are mad as hell about it (in case one needed such a sign).

3. Blue Dogs took the brunt of it. The loss of Wisconsin’s liberal lion, Russ Feingold, is a blow to the progressive movement. Alan Grayson’s defeat in Florida hurts. Other good lawmakers were booted out of office last night as well. But in many cases, what we saw were conservatives with Ds next to their names replaced with conservatives with Rs.

That’s to be expected after two big Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008. They won in a lot of conservative districts, but as many observers noted at the time, many of those Dems winning in marginally “red” districts were the bluest of dogs, who have not exactly helped advance a progressive agenda.

In his new book, Ari Berman argues that a smaller, more ideologically coherent Democratic party would in fact be good for progressives. Whether or not one agrees, it’s hard to see a bunch of the most corporate-friendly Dems losing their seats as a tragedy for American progressivism.

5.  A wave of low-information voters says more about our media and education system than our politics. In late July, a much discussed poll revealed that only 42 percent of Republican primary voters were confident President Obama was born in the United States. Compare that to 77 percent of the electorate at large.

It’s important to remember that many Tea Partiers are voting in an alternative universe where the decidedly centrist Dems are stealthily pushing the nation toward socialism, trying to enact Sharia law, taking over broad swaths of the economy, setting up “death panels” to decide if grandma lives or dies and plotting to join the United States with Canada and Mexico.

Given those beliefs, it’s really no surprise they’re so animated to “take their country back.” But all of that is a testament to the power of the Right’s mighty Wurlitzer, and says little about the state of our political beliefs.

So right now, I’m going to sit back and watch the Republican Party try to reign in Michele Bachmann and Rand Paul and the expectations of the people who voted for them that the world will now run their way while I hope that the President and the Democrats stick to their principles and don’t compromise them away.  We don’t need them to become the equivalent of the English Liberal Dems.

Health Care: A couple of things to think about

I’m like most Americans:  I have employer paid health care with pretty decent coverage and better than average care.  I belong to a doctor run HMO.  I like my primary care doctor who shares my philosophy that less can be more when it comes to drugs, but she makes sure that I get all the necessary tests amd tracks the results which I can see online.  But the cost of my coverage keeps going up and what I contribute to the cost will be a big part of our next union negotiations.

So this whole debate about reform boils down to two things for me.  First, can care be provided more efficiently and at less cost for everyone.  Two, we need to solve the question of the uninsured because we all pay when they use the emergency room for care. 

I live in Massachusetts and we have made a stab at universal coverage which is now under a great deal of pressure given the fiscal situation for the state.  But one thing I have observed is that without national reform on things like Medicare and Medicaid, states will have trouble balancing coverage with cost.  Somehow we have to control costs and improve quality.  I posted about this in my piece on Health Care as a Subprime Mortgage.

So here are a couple of other things to consider.  Nate Silver  did an analysis of where the largest concentrations of uninsured are living. 

Throughout last year, Gallup included a module on health and well being in their standard tracking surveys. This meant they had tens of thousands of interviews between all 435 Congressional Districts. One of the questions on the well-being module was about whether or not people had health insurance. Eric Nielsen at Gallup was kind enough, a while back, to send me these results broken down by Congressional District.

The median Congressional District has an uninsured population of 14.6 percent, according to Gallup’s data (the average is slightly higher at 15.5 percent). Of the 48 McCainocrat districts, 31 (roughly two-thirds) have an above-median number of uninsured. A complete list follows below (actual Blue Dogs are denoted in … you guessed it … blue):


So why are the blue dog Democrats so unwilling to vote for reform? 

 The second thing to consider is the Dennis Kucinich amendment.  Joshua Holland writes on Alternet

No time today for a lengthy analysis of the Tri-Committee health bill. My quick-and-dirty take is this. Those who think the bill is a wonderful progressive victory with a robust public option are wrong, and, on the flip side, the charge that it’s a “bailout for the insurance industry” is totally divorced from what the bill would actually do if passed.

 It is the most progressive, comprehensive and significant health care legislation to come down the pike since Medicare was passed in 1965. If it were enacted as written, it’d go a long way to solving a lot of our problems (but by no means all) and wouldn’t break the bank in the process.

 But it also fails some of the basic criteria that most progressives have long said is a red-line that can’t be crossed. First and foremost, it doesn’t have a public option that can compete with private insurers and result in significant cost savings. 

Enter the Kucinich Amendment,

Obviously, a public insurance plan for which 10 million are eligible to enroll isn’t going to serve as an example of the efficiency that comes with a single-payer type system. And the fact that they designed a pretty good public option for which most of the public will be ineligible to enroll (and that wouldn’t have as much potential for cost savings as one would hope) was enough to make me consider opposing it. Howard Dean told me recently that he thought a bill without a robust public option wasn’t worth passing, and I agree.

 And that’s where Kucinich, a supporter of single-payer, comes in. He’s trying to save the whole promise of this project.

 On Friday, an amendment he authored was added to the House bill that allows states to create their own single-payer systems instead of adopting the federally-run exchange system. The original bill allowed states only to enact their own exchange system — it was a nod to federalism — with the proviso that if a state (think a deep red one in the South) refused to adopt the plan, the feds could step in and set it up.

 The Kucinich amendment is really key. If it were to survive the legislative sausage-making and be enacted into law, the we might expect a progressive state to take advantage of the opportunity and enact a single-payer system in the coming years. And, if those of us who have been pushing such an arrangement are correct, the result will be greater access and better outcomes at a lower price tag for that state’s residents. 

Health care reform is going to cost us, but I think doing nothing will cost more in the long run.  I am looking forward to President Obama’s Wednesday press conference where this will probably be topic A.  Stay ‘tooned.