Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beyond Obamacare will be fixed. People will sign up and reap the benefits of universal health coverage starting in January. So what’s next?

No doubt, the Republicans will continue their quest to reverse the limited progress made to date. They will try to deny coverage to many, eliminate the cap on “administrative” costs to insurance carriers, and cut preventative care, which saves lives and money.

Democrats are counting on the projected ubiquity and success of Obamacare after January to lock it in and to shut down the GOP’s incessant and futile efforts to repeal. They’re wrong. Just take a look at other successful programs like Food Stamps. The Republicans are not hesitant to take food from children and veterans in the name of fiscal responsibility. They’re not even hesitant to shut down the government in the name of fiscal responsibility either, knowing that their shutdown cost tens of billions of dollars. And some Democrats are complicit, confusing “blackmail” with “compromise.”

But for now, let’s assume Obamacare survives the wounds being inflicted by the mean-spirited GOP. Like Medicare and Social Security, the Affordable Care Act will be meshed within the fabric of society while still being constantly attacked. So what’s next?

Recognizing that Obamacare is not health care reform, but rather insurance reform, the next logical step would be to join other developed nations that have better health outcomes in implementing some type of single-payer health care system – Medicare for all.  But that will be a challenge for the next generation. In today’s environment, when the mantra of one political party is “I’ve got mine. Too bad for you,” transformational change in health care is going to be a long, hard struggle. Add to that the lobbying power of insurance companies, whose profit is based on the maladies of the American people, and you have a recipe for the status quo at best, and regression at worst.

Even though it may take a generation to make the real improvements to American health care through single-payer, that’s no reason not to start the effort now. But there are other things we can do in the short term to make real progress, too.

One of the best parts of Obamacare is that it mandates free preventative care. This not only improves outcomes, but early detection of diseases also results in less expensive treatment, helping the fiscal balance sheet.

Unfortunately though, even with early detection, people will still suffer from chronic ailments like diabetes, cancer, mental illness, and other diseases that will require long-term, expensive treatment. But that doesn’t have to be. With the help of government, scientific research has eliminated similar diseases like polio, smallpox, and malaria. We should strive for the same thing with today’s diseases. For example, cures for cancer would not only save lives, but would dramatically reduce health care costs.

Unfortunately, funding for medical research is one more area that the troglodytic Republicans in Congress feel they must attack. Politics trumps science as evidenced by George W. Bush’s unilateral shut down of embryonic stem cell research early in his first term. (As an aside, I wonder how many lives would have been saved if the Supreme Court had allowed the Florida vote count to proceed in 2000.)

Today’s House of Representatives has a dangerous anti-science bias. Funding for medical research should be increased, not slashed. Sure, it will cost money in the short term. So did the research that led to the polio vaccine. But thanks to the foresight of previous generations, we are not paying billions of dollars to treat people with polio. This generation needs the same foresight. We need to elect representatives who understand that good scientific research pays off with savings in money as well as in lives.

A version of this diary was originally posted on Blue Jersey

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda in Two Words

Well, New Jersey is stuck with Governor Chris Christie (or later, Governor Kim Guadagno) for four more years. People decided to vote for a myth perpetuated by an Orwellian taxpayer-funded propaganda machine instead of a candidate who represents their best interests. And whose fault is that? Democrats.

Buono could have won if she had the support of the party. Buono should have won in a “blue” state. Buono would have won if she had had the requisite financial support to get her message out.

Not all Democrats were Christie enablers. People like Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman were proactive supporters of the challenger. On the national level, Governors Martin O’Malley and Deval Patrick came to New Jersey to stump for Buono. To all of them, I have two words: Thank You.

Some supporters were late to the game, like DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and then-Mayor Cory Booker.  To these late-to-the-game players, I also have two words: “Nice try.”

Some key Democrats opted out of getting involved. Quite an un-patriotic thing to do. Bill and Hillary Clinton supported their friend Terry McAulliffe in Virginia but couldn’t they have made one appearance in the Garden State? Barack Obama had his photo op with Chris Christie but treated Buono as if she were invisible. Joe Biden swore in Jeff Chiesa and Cory Booker but acted as if Amtrak never went past the 30th Street Station. To them, I have two words: “Why not?”

But the big problem is that many Democrats proactively supported His Arrogance. “Democrats” like Brian Stack and Joe DiVincenzo are traitors to their party and should not receive one cent of support from the party coffers. Other Democratic organizations gave lip service to the Buono campaign and went through the motions, but their support was shallow and non-convincing. To all those “Democrats”, I also have two words.

Friday, November 1, 2013

To New Jersey Democrats Who Plan to Vote for Christie on Tuesday

The person you vote for is your prerogative. People who always vote strictly on party lines are probably not really thinking things through. Heck, I’m a Democratic committeeperson but have occasionally opted for a Republican either because I really felt that candidate was better than his or her opponent or I wanted to strengthen the two-party system by voting for a sane Republican. Unfortunately, they are a dying breed.

My guess is that you’re voting for Christie for one of two reasons.

Let’s get the first reason out of the way first, because it’s insidious but probably not that pervasive unless you are a Democratic officeholder. You’ve either negotiated a quid pro quo with the Christie campaign or you’re allowing yourself to be bullied so that your municipality doesn’t suffer from the Wrath of Christie. You’re the anti-Buono – not because you don’t like the Democratic candidate, but unlike Buono, you are sacrificing your principles for political gain. To that I say, “shame on you.”

The more likely reason that you’re voting for Christie is that you have fallen for his propaganda – the mythical persona created by his campaign and his staffers, and abetted by the media. In his 1968 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, George Romney said that he was “brainwashed” by the generals on the status of the Viet Nam war. It doomed his campaign, but in 20/20 hindsight, we know that Romney was right.

Today, many Democrats and Independents are being brainwashed by a taxpayer-funded propaganda machine that would make the KGB drool. YouTube videos show Christie triumphantly standing on a reconstructed boardwalk, while blocks away Sandy-damaged homes are littering the shore landscape and their owners are still displaced. Christie campaign material touts a balanced budget, even though every governor in recent history has met that constitutional mandate. What’s not mentioned is that Christie’s accomplishment was done on the backs of public workers, the middle class, and the poor using one-shot gimmicks. You’re being fooled into believing that Christie is a moderate Republican because he’s not as crazy as Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but you’re ignoring the fact that Christie is in the pocket of the same Koch Brothers who granted Steve Lonegan his 15 minutes of fame. Repeatedly.

So, my fellow Democrats – take the easy path and don’t do your homework. Vote for Christie because you buy into his myths and that’s the easy thing to do. Let New Jersey slip further back into an economic morass while your taxes are used to provide breaks for the wealthy. And a year from now, enjoy your voter’s remorse as you pass my car on the Turnpike with my bumper sticker that reads, “Don’t blame me – I voted for Buono.”