Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why the Public is Genuinely Confused About Health Care Reform

The principle foundation of a democracy relies on an informed electorate. But the true bastions of that democracy, a free and impartial press, lately have been consistently sleeping on the job. Consider this: today, Alan Fram of the Associated Press writes the following:

The Democrats seem ready to use "reconciliation," a seldom-used procedure that could let them push legislation through the Senate with a simple majority. Republicans say reconciliation should be used for budget changes, not a dramatic reshaping of national health care policy. With polls showing that some voters consider the process unfair, some moderate Democrats have expressed a reluctance to support it. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., said Friday she will be a "definite no" if it is used.

Seldom used? Health Care reform has traditionally been shaped by reconciliation in this country. COBRA was created by reconciliation, which is what the "R" in the acronym stands for. So was S-CHIP. And to make things worse, this simple sentence suggests that a simple majority vote represents some sort of unsavory legislative tactic, as opposed to the normal way the senate has operated for centuries. Is it little wonder that "polls [show] that some voters consider the process unfair"?

Truth is majority rule is normal. The Reconciliation process is also normal. MSNBCs Rachel Maddow outlines its use over the past 28 years.

Rachel Maddow Feb 24

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Out of 22 times reconciliation has been used in recent years, 16 of those times they were used by Republicans to strong-arm their efforts through Congress. Now they claim the process is seldom used. Seldom used by whom? Democrats? Where is the fact-checking here? Why did such a blatantly false comment so blithely slip past the Associated Press without question?

What is new is how Republican lawmakers have hijacked the filibuster, virtually bringing the legislative process to a standstill. Maybe I missed it, but did Mr. Fram simlarly condemn this process, which truly isn't normal?

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC):

Watch the Rachel Maddow Show for fair, impartial analysis of world news and health care reform.

There was a time when truth took precedence and facts mattered. A time when we didn't justify repeating or reporting blatantly false information by blaming the source. And we didn't go back to a source who consistently provided erroneous information.

More than 200 bills are currently bogged down in the Senate, held hostage by Republican filibusters. Bills that would help families who are facing foreclosure or that would help create jobs. Where are the stories about how the entire legislative process has come to a standstill, making it virtually impossible to pass simple legislation with a clear majority vote. Where are the investigative, in-depth stories about that?

Rachel Maddow (Feb 23):

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When the President announced his plans for a health care summit to bring both Democrats and Republicans to the table for a substantive discussion on health care reform he expressed optimism that Republicans truly cared about this country, as opposed to just scoring political points. It was a genuine opportunity for both sides to "roll up their sleeves" and get to down to real work on real issues and come to a common understanding.

But as you can see from these before and after clips, Republicans used the opportunity for "more of the same."

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Do you really call this patriotism?

Hardball with Chris Matthews (Feb 25)

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Republicans seem quick to claim they care about this country and about what Americans want. They claim the overwhelming majority of the country who voted for the President and who support health care reform aren't "real Americans." Yet, they spread misinformation routinely that seldom gets challenged in any meaningful way by the press. Case in point: All the brouhaha over carrying the health care debate on C-Span.

John McCain made a point blaming the President for not showing the health care debate on C-Span, as if the President has any choice about what C-Span does or does not air. Anyone who follows C-Span knows that the debate over health care has been part of their coverage as a normal part of what they cover every day. Just because there was no one single "show" that exclusively focused on health care doesn't mean it hasn't been on the air, and has been on the air since the bill was introduced last year through passing both House and Senate. What hasn't been on C-Span is the part that C-Span never covers, efforts after a bill has passed both chambers of the house.

What McCain didn't mention was all the amendments to the existing health care bill that were made to adopt his own recommendations.

The White House currently lists all the amendments to the original health care proposal taken from suggestions made by Republicans. So much for trying to force legislation through with no no-bipartisanship.

So what's next? It's time to move forward. The Health Care summit showed clearly that the Republican party has no interest in making legislation or listening to the majority of the American people. Their only goal seemingly is to completely thwart and circumvent the legislative process.

Hardball with Chris Matthews (Feb 26):

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Speaking Truth to Talking Point - Rachel Maddow Fact Checks Right

Rachel Maddow fact checks the right-wing's "blame the Democrats" philosophy on her February 18 show on MSNBC.

Rachel Maddow Show (air date 2/182010)

Watch the Rachel Maddow Show for fair and impartial analysis of world news, and news about health care reform

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Simple Fact-checking Unearths a Host of Right-winged (t)error-mongering

Benjamin Franklin said it best: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Fear is no excuse for dismantling the very constitution on which this nation was founded. Yet, once again the radical right tries to use the public's genuine fear of terrorism for its own political gain ad as an excuse to dismantle the U.S. Constitution.

This time, Repuplican leaders play fast and loose with the facts surrounding the capture of the so-called Christmas Day bomber. And if you listen closely you'll hear the same erroneous charge made by Sarah Palin, during her address to the Tea Party Patriots.

Here's the clip from the Rachel Maddow show:

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How is it that the Constitutional right to "lawyer up" gets mocked as a bad idea by the radical right? Wouldn't "true patriots" want to uphold the Constitution?

Yet despite the scare tactics and misinformation, the fact remains using legal, U.S. Constitution mandated tactics, the FBI obtained credible leads from the apprehended terror suspect -- without resorting to torture or any other illegal means. Our principles of justice, once again, withstands the test.

This is just one in a string of examples of how the radical right is trying to destroy the principles on which U.S. was founded, while blaming its demise on the those trying to uphold it.

Blame it on Bush? Here's why

February 7, on a segment of Meet the Press, a well-meaning reporter asks when the statue of limitations on blaming the previous administration for the budget deficit ends. My answer to this is simple. Bush ran up a multi-billion dollar deficit that will tax future generations. He shoulders the blame for as many generations as his budget policies impact.

Eight years of budget mismanagement can't be erased in one year.

Earlier this week, on February 1, Chris Matthews spoke with Republican senator Jeb Hensarling about the budget deficit. Hensarling's argument: basically blame the deficit on a Democratic congress -- which for the past 3 years has been in the majority.

The fault with this senator's line of reasoning is this: Democrats voted right along with Republicans on President Bush's billion dollar budget supplemental for the military. In a nutshell, it's military spending that has blown the budget out of proportions, and that's largely because the Republican party has made a vote against military spending look like weakness on national security.

Yet this senator continues to use Republican code words -- like blaming the budget deficit on "entitlement" spending. Here's where we see how the Republican party shows they are masters at communications.

Research shows that the general public has a negative view of so-called "entitlement" programs. Most think of programs like "welfare" or public assistance when they visualize what this word means. Hensarling cleverly uses this proven unfavorable word to describe what caused the deficit, achieving a predictable response from the public. Yet fact of the matter is the programs commonly recognized as "entitlements" are not what drives the current budget deficit.

When the Republicans, specifically this senator, speaks of entitlements, he's speaking of social security. Essentially he wants to eliminate -- i.e. cut -- social security benefits for people under 55 years of age.

Here's the segment:

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The reality is "entitlement" spending is not the reason why we have saddled our children and our children's children with debt. The illegal war in Iraq is.

Unfortunately this is how the Republican party routinely manipulates members of its so-called base into supporting its programs. They use buzz words to describe issues -- buzz words that often have little to do with the actual programs they describe or the real issues at hand.

And sadly this is why people who take time to educate themselves about what the real issues are often become impatient and even condescending to those who widely get their faux news and "mis"-information from Conservative sources like Fox news, which more often than not distorts the facts to suit its own agenda.

People who take the time to truly understand the issues and discover the real meaning of the buzz words put in play by the radical right, ultimately tend not to support the radical politics they put forth. Case in point: Most people actually support social security and do not want to see it end. Most don't support entitlement programs. People who mistakenly believe the deficit is really caused by entitlement spending largely don't support the President's proposals -- because they don't understand what they really are. They really think the budget deficit is caused because the President is a socialist who wants the raid budget coffers to spend more on welfare programs for the poor, which isn't true.

Calling social security an entitlement program is at its heart, disingenuous. This type of distortion is why many are disillusioned with politics and politicians in general. It also highlights my concern about how misinformation in general hurts our democratic process. More on that later.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Finish the Job on Health Care Reform

A new appeal from Organizing for America:

An alarming new study shows that health care costs increased last year at the fastest rate in more than a half century.

Health care spending rose to an estimated $2.5 trillion in 2009, or $8,047 per person -- and is now projected to nearly double by 2019. If we don't act, this growing burden will mean more lost jobs, more families pushed into bankruptcy, and more crushing debt for our nation.

The conclusion is clear: This isn't a problem we can kick down the road for another decade -- or even another year. We need to pass health reform now.

We're incredibly close. But too many in Washington are now saying that we should delay or give up on reform entirely. So we need to make it crystal clear that Americans understand the stakes for our economy and our lives, and that we want action.

Can you write a letter to the editor of your local paper right now?

In just five minutes of your time, you can tell thousands of readers about this new report on spiraling costs, and why abandoning reform is just not an option.

You can also help by posting this note on Facebook, letting your friends know about the new costs study and asking them to join you in writing a letter to a local paper.

President Obama and many allies in Congress are working hard to finish the job -- but we can't rest until it's done. Your note will help break through the Washington spin and show members of Congress and the media what local voters really believe. Click here to get started:

It's clear that we're in the fight of our lives to pass real reform. But after a century of trying, the finish line is finally in sight. As President Obama reminded us all in his State of the Union address, we're fighting for our families and our country -- and we don't quit.

Thanks for making it possible,


Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America