What’s Happening Now

I’ve been bogged down in Japan (don’t ask) and am just now catching up on today’s news.

There is buzz that Senator Clinton might be named secretary of state. Whatever.

More evidence is emerging that Alabama governor Don E. Siegelman’s corruption conviction was bogus, and that Siegelman in fact is the victim of a political purge. Unlike the first item, above, this is actually significant.

In today’s column, David Brooks writes, in effect, that industry bailouts by Republicans are sensible and necessary, but bailouts by Democrats will put us on the road to “progressive corporatism, a merger of corporate and federal power that will inevitably stifle competition, empower corporate and federal bureaucrats and protect entrenched interests.” Whatever.

Regarding the auto-industry bailout, Brooks actually makes a good point that throwing money at the auto industry is just rewarding incompetence. Absolutely true. I want to go into more detail on this when I have time. For now, I just want to point out that it was mostly the Right that fought to protect the auto industry from having to adopt more fuel-efficient standards. It’s been the Right standing between the nation and universal health care. “Single payer” may or may not be the best way to go with health care, but it would be great for the auto industry.

For another POV, see Naomi Klein.

18 thoughts on “What’s Happening Now

  1. re the auto industry… they have had no incentive to go green from our government. I seem to remember Bush saying go out and spend after 9/11.. people did in this area… there was an suv explosion.. you can’t pull up to a stop sign and see past the suv to see if cars are coming if you have an economy car.
    This administration also gave high tax deductions to businesses buying gas guzzlers. It seems to me it ended up being half of the price of the truck!

    Hopefully, things will change next year.

  2. After revealing that Obama and Hillary Clinton have met to discuss the Secretary of State position, the change team let out this release today:

    “On Monday, President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain will meet in Chicago at transition headquarters. It’s well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality. They will be joined in the meeting by Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Rahm Emanuel.”

    Is there a cabinet position in play here? Is there some other kind of involvement that Obama will offer McCain in the Administration?

    The fact that Lindsay Graham will be in on the meeting (offset, of course, by Rahm Emanuel) leads me to think that a “proof of offer” situation is in place. Certainly, nothing relating to the Iraq or Iran situations is n the offing… McCain’s position on a warring America just does not tally with Obama’s position.

    The economy, however, has a more complementary aspect to it. I hope energy is not what they are talking about… McCain is too oil oriented – remember “drill, baby, drill.”

    It remains to be seen where Obama is going with this. His expressed reverence for “Team of Rivals”, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln and his cabinet appointees, many of whom felt they deserved the Presidency more than Lincoln, but made his administration successful, has been widely discussed in the press.

    In fact, McCain seems, at least in potential relationship to the President if not in this particular area of expertise, to be a lot like Licoln’s Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase:

    Chase never ceased to underestimate Lincoln, nor to resent the fact that he had lost the presidency to a man he considered his inferior. His frustration with his position as secretary of the treasury was alleviated only by his his dogged hope that he, rather than Lincoln, would be the Republican nominee in 1864, and he steadfastly worked to that end. The president put up with Chase’s machinations and haughty yet fundamentally insecure nature because he recognized his superlative accomplishments at treasury.

    I don’t think McCain is planning to run again, but it was clear during the campaign that he considered Obama his inferior and my guess is that there is a good deal of resent here.

    Monday will be something to watch with real interest. My guess? McCain will probably feel he can accomplish more as a Senator than as an underling of Obama.
    Under The LobsterScope

  3. Because health care reform is going to be so important, I have been reading every thing I can about single payer/single risk pool insurance. Health Care for All Texas, RESULTS.org and PNHP along with many unions and other organizations have endorsed HR 676 which supports new and improved medicare for all. There are many wanting to get to single payer in steps, gradually including everyone in a hybridization of insurance companies, self pay, and government sponsored plans. The thing to remember is this-corporations are required by law to make money. Insurance companies do this well. But do they improve health care delivery? The bottom line is we want to improve health care delivery for all. So many other countries have learned this, why can’t we. Are we so attached to profit for corporations that we can’t let go.

  4. ‘Experts’ suggest that directly & indirectly there are a million jobs at stake if the Big Three fail. There is no final number how much subsidizing them would cost. The ‘experts’ say this recession will last a year. So if money is very tight for a year, how much will it cost to keep them afloat? 100 Billion? more?

    Now I have to try to pare the problem down to a manageble size. If we are talking about a million employees, then every billion dollars is $1000 for each employee. So 25 B is $25,000 for each employee. If the total bailout for a year was 100 B, the cost expressed as a ratio to employees is $100,000 per employee.

  5. Carol H — Pure single payer systems actually are rare. I think Canada is the only country that tried it. Most of the other industrialized democracies have a mixed public and private system.

    That said, I’ve been making speeches about eliminating health insurance companies for years.

  6. Carol & Maha – Those who have read “The Hobbit” may remeber how Gandalf got 12 dwaves & a hungry hobbit in the halls of Beorn. (For those who have not read J.R.R. Tolkein, the wizzard had the dwarves show up by 2s at 5 minute intervals while Gandalf had the attention of their host- who would not have admitted the gang had they all showed up at once!!

    That’s how you have to reform medical care. The insurance companies could sucessfully resist sweeping change, but incrimental change where the quality improves with each step – will be hard to refuse.

  7. I was listening to Pat Robertson on the 700 club, and he’s saying that General Motors should file for chapter 11 bankruptcy and shed their burdensome contractual obligations. I guess he means pensions and benefits, but he might be hinting about union busting. In any event, if GM was to file for bankruptcy they could virutally hold America hostage with fear and panic being their principal weapon.

    I have a friend who is 75, and he’s a retired GM worker. He just received notice that his health coverage through his pension will be canceled come January.

  8. “Progressive corporatism” doesn’t sound too hot – agree with Brooksie here – but it’s loads better than the fascism – another merger of corporate and federal power – we’ve been marching toward these last eight years. Where was he when this was going on?

  9. I was listening to Pat Robertson on the 700 club, and he’s saying that General Motors should file for chapter 11 bankruptcy and shed their burdensome contractual obligations.

    WWJD? Weep.

  10. He just received notice that his health coverage through his pension will be canceled come January.

    That’s frightening. My parents had good health insurance coverage because my dad had belonged to a union, so between that and Medicare they had good medical care in their last years and didn’t go broke paying for it. I hope we get the health care mess straightened out before I hit the same phase; I don’t want to leave my kids with big hospital bills.

  11. #9 I am shocked! Is that what Pat Robertson thinks a christian should do? Just walk away from their obligations?

    I believe in separation of church and state and I hope the government will insist on it.

  12. I run hot and cold on bailing out Detroit. I’m from the area, all my family is affected by an auto industry crash, my retired parents may lose their health coverage. This would push the country into depression for sure. Etc. All bad.

    Then again, I understand that the EPA invested $1B in the 90’s to build an advanced hybrid drive train. (This from a former EPA official that was on Tweety or Rachel last week, I forget which.) Soon as Bush was elected, Detroit dropped it cold and started lobbying hard against higher mileage standards, etc. Gas was relatively cheap and they were pushing big iron like always.

    The shame of it is the EPA investment spurred Japan to do the same, and they are now selling advanced hybrids while Detroit has nothing to show.

    If we bail them out in the Paulson model, no string attached, we’re just putting off the inevitable. How do you legislate and end to stunning short sightedness and stupidity as part of a bail-out package? What strings do we have to put on the money to make sure they get on the correct track?

    Every option sucks.

  13. Concerning pure single payer health care here in Canada, although we don’t “pay” up front when we go to the doctor or the hospital (for which I am eternally thankful), private health care sneaks in through the back door. Here are some examples:

    -People over 18 and under 65 pay for their visit to the opthalmologist unless they have a specific eye condition (don’t ask me the details).
    -We pay for our prescription medication, unless we have benefits from our employer.
    -Physiotherapy must also be paid for out of pocket, unless you are receiving it as a patient in rehab (again, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details). Many employers offer some physio benefits (sometimes unlimited, sometimes up to x per year).
    -I’m sure there’s lots more, I just can’t think of examples right now.

    This being said, and despite the doomsdayers and naysayers, our system still works, it works pretty well and there would be a civil war if the government tried to go totally American on us.

    What I find absolutely maddening is the US’s need to invent a “made in the USA” solution, when there are so many examples to learn from–France, Germany, even Canada.

    When was the last time anyone refused to use a miracle drug just because it was developed outside the US? And when it comes to cars, the Japanese are doing just fine in the US as the American car-makers are gasping for air and on the brink of bankruptcy.

    Just a few thoughts. I wish you well.

  14. I run hot and cold on bailing out Detroit.

    Dave, I’m in complete agreement. You do a great job of listing the basic pros and cons.

    If it is possible to legislate an end to stupidity and short-sightedness, some capitalist nation, somewhere, must have done so by now… but I can’t think of any. Examples, anyone?

    In anticipating the Obama administration’s use of the bailout money (if any is left after Paulson’s “squandery”), I keep thinking, To whom is Obama beholden for being elected? The Dems’ urging of a Detroit bailout seems, so far, meant to benefit the members and retirees of the UAW. I’m for that, but I could be wrong; a bailout could end up benefiting only the successors of the late Roger Smith.

  15. What I find absolutely maddening is the US’s need to invent a “made in the USA” solution, when there are so many examples to learn from–France, Germany, even Canada.

    Canadian Reader, that seems to be part of our national character. It drives me crazy, too.

  16. Siegelman was at Netroots this year and although one can rarely discern integrity of a presenter onstage, his information and presentation was amazingly clear and calm. If what he says is true Rove deserves tar and feathering. To Siegelman’s credit he resisted outrage and was more convincing in my mind.

    On Book-TV this morning Naomi Klein, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” and
    Jeremy Scahill, “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” presented at the Miami Book Festival.

    The 700 billion (really several trillion when you add up all the doo-doo) bailout and the proposal for the Big 3 douche out falls right into Kleins schematic. These two said that it appears that Obama is loading the lineup with many Clinton Hawks from the 90’s and that the roots of this economic disaster can be traced to Slick Willie–in other words, same bleep different day. It looks like if Obama is going to doing anything progressive it will only be because grassroots and netroots make him.

    When it comes to Klein (and Wolf, speaking of Naomis) its hard for me to tell what’s shrill over-functioning (sell more books) vs. heads’ up oooga-oooga. Frustrating, that.

    What Scahill said about Blackwater, et al, wasn’t new, but in lots more chilling detail. Did you all know there were Israeli ex-commandos (along with 6 or 7 other private little armies) in New Orleans hired by a private business man and that Blackwater went on its own without contract?

    Other than that it’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood.

  17. Maha, Yes, single payer systems are rare. But when public and private are working together there is great restraint put on the private such as making them non profit and highly regulated. (read bureaucratic nightmare.

    Doug Hughes- the only problem with incremental is that real savings happen only with radical reform. Currently a family of 4 making $25,000/year with company provided health insurance spends 37% of income on health care. (dollars and sense Aug 2008) A National health care program like Canada but funded adequately, can be thought of as a tax reduction. No one has suggested that single payer would cost near even 10%. 99%or us pay more now for less!!!!

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