Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, August 27th, 2007.


Why Is the Right Afraid of Universal Health Care?

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Bush Administration, Health Care

Today’s Paul Krugman column connects the S-chip controversy and public school education, and wonders why one is bad but the other acceptable.

The truth is that there’s no difference in principle between saying that every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every American child is entitled to adequate health care. It’s just a matter of historical accident that we think of access to free K-12 education as a basic right, but consider having the government pay children’s medical bills “welfare,” with all the negative connotations that go with that term.

And conservative opposition to giving every child in this country access to health care is, in a fundamental sense, un-American.

Here’s what I mean: The great majority of Americans believe that everyone is entitled to a chance to make the most of his or her life. Even conservatives usually claim to believe that. For example, N. Gregory Mankiw, the former chairman of the Bush Council of Economic Advisers, contrasts the position of liberals, who he says believe in equality of outcomes, with that of conservatives, who he says believe that the goal of policy should be “to give everyone the same shot and not be surprised or concerned when outcomes differ wildly.”

But a child who doesn’t receive adequate health care, like a child who doesn’t receive an adequate education, doesn’t have the same shot – he or she doesn’t have the same chances in life as children who get both these things.

Actually, much of the Right wants to dismantle public education also — for our own good, of course. But let’s stick to health care.

Krugman may have a point about a “historical accident.” People are comfortable with the familiar, “the way we’ve always one things.” It’s like the “reefer madness” phenomenon. Liquor is legal and marijuana is not, even though liquor is the more dangerous of the two substances — people do become physiologically addicted to alcohol, and it is possible to die of an overdose of alcohol, which is not true of marijuana. But we’re used to liquor, so it’s OK. And we’re used to universal public school education, but not universal health care for children (or the rest of us), so the first is acceptable but the second is scary.

This blogger argues for the status quo:

Where in the Constitution does it say that every one has the right to health care?

Where in the Constitution does it say that every one has the right to an education? Or the right to call the fire department if your house catches fire? What’s the big bleeping deal with allowing We, the People, to use the federal government to solve national problems that aren’t being solved any other way? Isn’t that what bleeping government is for?

Besides, I bet you most people think that everyone should have access to affordable health care, but that is not the same as making it the responsibility of the federal government to provide it.

Well, yes, and if the U.S. health care system were providing at least basic health care to everyone who needs it, at an affordable cost, then we wouldn’t have a “health care crisis,” would we?

Certain conservatives may, for instance, think that it is unconstitutional to get the government (too much) involved or they may think that private companies can deal with the problem… or (shocker to people like Krugman who seem to believe that States in the US are not much different that provinces in the Netherlands) that States could and should deal with it.

Certain conservatives think that universal health care is unconstitutional, but that suspending habeas corpus or warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens isn’t. This is why I don’t give a bleep about what certain conservatives think.

And states are not going to come up with anything but band-aid solutions; Ezra Klein explains why.

The blogger continues,

This issue is not between conservatives who do not want children to have a health care insurance on the one hand, and progressives who do want that on the other, it is about what solutions / plans actually work and the power of the federal government. Krugman, then, does not approach this subject from the perspective of someone who tries to bring people together to join forces on an issue, he approaches this subject from the perspective of a partisan liberal.

Krugman has written a ton of columns about possible solutions to the health care crisis. Here’s just one of them. But today’s column was not about solutions. This column is about why we haven’t been able to have a sensible national discussion about these solutions, much less put any of these solutions into practice.

Part of the reason is that politicians — and I’m not just talking about Republicans — are in the pockets of the health insurance industry. But the larger reason is that the American Right is in deep denial about the true dimensions of the crisis and what it will take to correct it. In fact, I have yet to see a substantive discussion about health care in mass media. What I’ve seen by way of “discussion” are right-wingers screeching about waiting lines in Canada. Thus, the United States remains the only industrialized democracy on the planet without universal health care for its citizens, and the only thing most Americans know about health care in other countries is that there are waiting lines in Canada.

Are there any conservatives out there who say that children should, quite simply, never see a doctor? Of course not. This is not what the debate is about.

I’m sorry, but that is what the debate is about. Children are being denied medical care. This is really happening. It is not imaginary. It does those children no good to say that, in principle, we’re fine with all children seeing a doctor. We’re just not going to do anything to make it possible.

I write about health care a lot, and I’ve written several posts that look at various solutions. And I don’t much care which party or which politician comes up with a workable solution. In fact, so far none of the Democratic presidential candidates has come up with a plan that I’m all that excited about.

But the Right is coming up with nothing. Less than nothing. For example, I’m certain that Health Savings Accounts would make the problem worse, for reasons Kevin Drum explains. As he says, “solutions” coming from the Right don’t even rise to the level of band-aids; they’re more of a papering-over.

If by some miracle someone comes up with a workable plan that does not involve a federal program, I’d be thrilled. I am not advocating or a federal solution just for the sake of a federal solution. I’m advocating for a federal solution because I haven’t seen any other plans that would come even close to solving the problem.

The first step in finding a solution is understanding the problem. I see no indication that anyone on the Right has made that step.

We’re back to “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” On health care, the Right won’t lead, they won’t follow, and they won’t get out of the way. They just obstruct and deny.

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Gonzo Gone

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Bush Administration

The New York Times is reporting that “embattled” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will announce his resignation this morning.

That’s definitely worth a dancing banana.

There are rumors that his replacement will be Michael Chertoff. But Gonzo’s are big paw prints to fill. Certainly, Chertoff is incompetent enough to replace Gonzales, but he lacks the puppy-eager obsequiousness that made Gonzo so endearing.

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Supporting the [Enemy] Troops

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Bush Administration, Iraq War

Hannah Allam writes for McClatchy Newspapers:

Iraq’s deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they’ve extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province.

The payments, in return for the insurgents’ allowing supplies to move and construction work to begin, have taken place since the earliest projects in 2003, Iraqi contractors, politicians and interpreters involved with reconstruction efforts said.

Your tax dollars at work.

A fresh round of rebuilding spurred by the U.S. military’s recent alliance with some Anbar tribes — 200 new projects are scheduled — provides another opportunity for militant groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq to siphon off more U.S. money, contractors and politicians warn.

“Now we’re back to the same old story in Anbar. The Americans are handing out contracts and jobs to terrorists, bandits and gangsters,” said Sheik Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, the deputy leader of the Dulaim, the largest and most powerful tribe in Anbar. He was involved in several U.S. rebuilding contracts in the early days of the war, but is now a harsh critic of the U.S. presence.

And we thought all that money was just going to waste.

The biggest source of, um, overruns seems to be security.

A U.S. company with a reconstruction contract hires an Iraqi sub-contractor to haul supplies along insurgent-ridden roads. The Iraqi contractor sets his price at up to four times the going rate because he’ll be forced to give 50 percent or more to gun-toting insurgents who demand cash payments in exchange for the supply convoys’ safe passage.

One Iraqi official said the arrangement makes sense for insurgents. By granting safe passage to a truck loaded with $10,000 in goods, they receive a “protection fee” that can buy more weapons and vehicles. Sometimes the insurgents take the goods, too.

Sounds a bit like the old Mafia.

One senior Iraqi politician with personal knowledge of the contracting system said the insurgents also use their cuts to pay border police in Syria “to look the other way” as they smuggle weapons and foot soldiers into Iraq.

“Every contractor in Anbar who works for the U.S. military and survives for more than a month is paying the insurgency,” the politician said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “The contracts are inflated, all of them. The insurgents get half.”

I’d say that’s an argument for getting the bleep out.

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