Friday, October 2, 2009

Catching Up

Wow, I've been away a while, haven't I? That tends to happen when you work in collegiate athletics and football season rears its incredibly large and bumpy head. My apologies for not posting on a semi-regluar basis these past few weeks, concentrating more on making sure I earn my measly paycheck (and trying to find a bigger one).

At any rate, I'm back now. Let's take a look at a couple things that have happened while I was away.

-The Senate Finance Committee is nearing completion on a health care reform bill, one that has been the subject of attacks from both sides of the aisle. The Republicans -- including the three (Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Olympia Snowe of Maine) who helped craft the bill -- are against it simply because they oppose the entire process -- while the Democrats are upset because the bill isn't liberal enough ... and it doesn't contain a public option.

If both parties hate it, is the bill still bipartisan?

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) each proposed the public option in amendment form -- both were shot down, with committee chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) voting against both. Baucus' logic? He likes the public option, but wants to see a bill go through, and he doesn't think there are 60 votes in the Senate for a public option.

Senator, if you like the public option, vote for the public option. Otherwise, all you're doing is thanking the insurance industry for the nearly $3 million it's given you in campaign contributions.

The public option is by no means dead; the Finance Committee bill is the only one out of five total health care reform bills in the House and Senate not to contain one, so it's possible the public option would find its way into the bill that winds up on President Obama's desk. What form it ultimately takes remains to be seen, but the public option is not dead, even if Republicans and centrist Democrats in the Finance Committee are doing everything they can to make sure it is.

The Finance Committee bill also contains an individual mandate, which would require everyone to purchase health insurance or pay a fine to the IRS. While I'm not necessarily opposed to the philosophy behind the mandate -- I happen to be a big proponent of personal responsibility -- I can't get behind forcing people to buy a poorly-managed product they can't afford. If the Finance Committee bill had some way to lower prices and improve service -- like, say, a public option -- then an individual mandate would be more acceptable.

As it stands, though, there is no public option, and while the Finance Committee bill offers subsidies to help low-income families afford insurance, they're insufficient and the bill does not adequately address issues such as price control and quality of service. Sure, it makes pre-exisiting conditions illegal as a basis of denial of coverage, but who's to say insurance companies won't just jack up the rates as much as they can, knowing people have to buy it?

Give Sen. Baucus one thing -- at least he's honest about the fact that he's in bed with the insurance companies.

-Stunning news out of Denmark, as the International Olympic Committee selected Rio de Janiero, Brazil as the site of the 2016 Olympic Games. Well, the fact that Rio was selected wasn't shocking; the fact that Chicago was the first city to see its bid eliminated was. The star power provided by Oprah, as well as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama apparently weren't enough to sway IOC voters.

It's a shame, because having the 2016 Games in America would've been a financial boon, not just for the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, but for the country. Preparing for the Olympics requires the creation of thousands of jobs, including construction, security, logistics and the like. The biggest criticism of Obama's administration thus far is that job creation has been nonexistant (which is simply not true); giving the 2016 Olympics to Chicago would've created an untold number of jobs, which would boost the economy leading up to and including the Games themselves.

That's why I had to laugh when the right-wing echo chamber criticized the President for flying to Denmark to help make the city's pitch. "Doesn't the President have better things to do?" they said. "He should focus on our problems here," they said. Well, that's what he was doing. He knew the economic impact the Olympics in Chicago would have, and he wanted to bring that to America. Having the Olympics in Chicago would've not only been a really cool thing; it would've helped this country's economy at the same time.

Besides, don't these people know the President can -- and has to -- multi-task?

-Florida Rep. Alan Grayson (D) came under fire earlier this week when, on the House floor, he declared that the Republicans' health care plan was, "Don't Get Sick. And if you do get sick, Die Quickly!"

Republicans jumped all over Grayson for his remark, completely ignoring the fact that several of their own members had taken to the podium in the House and told C-SPAN that health care reform would lead to killing old people (I'm looking at you, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina and Paul Broun of Georgia). Republicans demanded an apology, likening Grayson's comment to Rep. Joe Wilson's screaming at President Obama during a joint session of Congress.

Apples and oranges, nimrods ...

While Grayson's tone might've been a bit over-the-top (and I denounce his reference to the Holocaust the following night when he apologized to those who had already died because they lacked health insurance), his basic point is indisputable; while the Republicans are quick to attack President Obama and the Democrats for their health care proposals, they've not yet offered a proposal of their own.

Republicans promised back in June that they would offer their own set of ideas ... yet here we are, in the first week of October, and the GOP has nothing. No ideas, nothing substantive to add to the debate. All they're doing is screaming their objections, sticking their fingers in their collective ears and fanning the fires of the lunatic fringe of their party.

Congratulations, Republicans. You're officially the 6-year-olds of Congress.

I've long said that I don't mind healthy disagreement; if the two parties could remain civil and have honest discussions about these deeply important policy issues, this country would be better for it. But Republicans have no interest in having a substantive debate; they want to scream at the top of their lungs and change the subject, because they know they will lose on the merits of the issue.

The Republicans are adding nothing positive to this country, and I'm tired of President Obama and some Democrats who keep trying to curry their favor. We gave you hefty majorities in Congress for a reason, and it wasn't to play nice with the right-wingers. The Republicans are not going to play nice with you, so stop trying to play nice with them.

I want Rep. Grayson to tone down the rhetoric a little (though I admit, I laughed out loud when he called Republicans "knuckle-dragging Neanderthals" on The Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday night), but his point is no less valid.

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