Trying to Save Health Care Reform

Posted: September 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Economics, Politics | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The speech exceeded expectations. As I’ve argued in earlier posts, there are only two routes to achieving GUARANTEED universal coverage: an individual mandate and an employer mandate, both with subsidies for the poor. There are also only two routes to finance those subsidies: massive regulatory overhaul or economies of scale in a state-supported public insurance system. Any plan that tries to compromise by having a mandate without a finance mechanism won’t be able to achieve universal coverage goals; any plan that doesn’t have a mandate isn’t even trying.

Since the presidential campaign, Obama has promised to achieve the liberal goal of universal coverage while speaking the conservative language of efficiency, positing universal coverage as a possible byproduct. Then, when challenged from the Left, he would try to hedge it by offering universal mandates without a finance mechanism, afraid to commit to either regulatory overhaul or a public option.

That changed last night. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, What a Night

Posted: November 4th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

I voted for my first presidential winner today and though it wasn’t in a swing state, or even a swing district, I have to admit it felt pretty good. Unfortunately, being worry-prone, I’m already angsting about life after January 20th.

Barack Obama put his hyberbolic optimism on hold for 10 seconds tonight to remind supporters that just electing him isn’t “change,” [even if that’s more or less what his campaign has told us till now]. It’s just the opportunity to achieve change. In typical fashion, he left out the nasty realities of how such changes get made.

It being his victory night, and a rock concert of a rally, I’ll forgive him, and do some explaining myself: Actually passing new taxes or healthcare reform or an alternative energy agenda will depend on Obama’s ability to master all the backroom politicking he claims he doesn’t need.

Given Obama’s open distaste for such gritty negotiation (which he sees as cynical) and Joe Biden’s sloppy gaffe-prone history on the Hill, I’m beginning to think the success of the Obama administration will depend on the dealmaking powers of Congressional leaders: will Democrats and Republicans work with each other?

Paul Krugman had a great piece this week about the consequences for the country if an Obama victory leaves the Republicans clinging on to nothing but their most hardline members: no President would be able to operate effectively with a Congress 40%-composed of such intransigent radicals.

John McCain tonight urged his party, in name of national duty, to reject radical entrenchment, to work with Obama and the Dems to get things done. McCain has it in him to do this–he earned the admiration of many liberals and moderates, myself included, because he was able to bring Republican hardliners along on compromise legislation like the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance bill. If THIS John McCain goes to Washington in January (and not the angry, uncooperative McCain who crashed the bailout party in September), he will have a unique opportunity to bridge gridlock and broker compromises between his own party’s hardliners and the President who defeated him.

Indeed, John McCain–the old political hand and pragmatic public servant–may be more crucial to Obama’s “new politics” agenda than any of the rhetorical flourishes and youthful idealism that brought him to victory.

Thank God for David Letterman

Posted: October 24th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

I am a cliche. I’m a New York liberal who spent years regarding John McCain as a Republican I could swallow. He was a compromise-maker and a man of principle (this was before the word “maverick” came into vogue). He accepted the reality of climate-change, believed in granting paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants and opposed some of the worst Bush administration policies, like the first of the top-bracket tax cuts. Like most New York liberals, then, I have been appalled and disappointed to see that McCain squashed by the robotic knee-jerk conservative the GOP has engineered in the the last three months of this campaign.

Though I support Obama, I have not been able to forget the old McCain, because I still think he was the real thing. The new McCain reminds me of a character in a sci-fi novel who is being controlled by machines but occasionally, when the power goes out, is able to force his true self through. One such moment was his long-overdue interview with David Letterman last week.

This McCain is personable, relaxed, and rational, hardly the angry old man we’ve been seeing in debates. Thank God for David Letterman for bringing him out, because if (as predicted) he loses this election, the country will need McCain-the-Senator back in Washington to produce the kind of compromises I used to love him for.

One Last Debate Post

Posted: October 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Is it bad that I’m bored of this election? I know who I’m voting for, I have my hunches about the outcome and I don’t hear the candidates telling me (or those mythical undecideds) anything new. Gail Collins, who gets PAID to cover this stuff, says she’s a bit bored too.

That said, despite the big argument about Ayers, Lewis and attack politics in the middle of the debate, I thought tonight was overall more interesting to watch than previous ones have been. Bob Scheiffer did a really commendable job of getting candidates to actually talk to one another, plus, I think, the swivel chairs helped.

I think Gail and I just have news overload. My friend Steve who is super well-read but doesn’t spend his time tied to the news tickers with an IV drip like I do was much better able to evaluate this evening in eloquent terms. So instead of offering my own take, I’m offering his:
Obama made some mistakes: “The last remark he made about sex is sacred was kinda bizzare, and could be misinterpreted to promote abstinence rather than comprehensive education, and I thought he stumbled a bit on the ‘100% of McCain’s ads are negative’ line, because he’s done pretty well avoiding that kind of half-truth thus far and meticulously taking apart all of the ones that McCain has used.”

But McCain made more: “When he tossed out ‘class warfare’ in his first answer, it screamed desperation.”

On Ayers, Lewis and the personal attacks: “The Lewis thing overstepped a line, sure, because McCain is not a racist. And is not telling these people to think that Obama is a terrorist, and I know that he was quick to grab the mic back and correct that retarded woman who said she can’t trust Obama because he’s an ‘a-rab,’ but he is tacitly permitting them to think like that by saying ‘Obama associates with terrorists,’ and the air of fanaticism with people shouting ‘terrorist!’ at McCain’s rallies is troubling in the way that Lewis indicated.”

On why McCain’s long history as a maverick/moderate/negotiator doesn’t count anymore: “At this point, that guy is not running for this office. The Republican Party is running for President in the figure of John McCain.”

“This is not a debate”

Posted: September 27th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Politics, Video | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

So said my mother, 9:56 pm ET last night, or 2/3 of the way through the first Presidential back-and-forth. Despite Jim Lehrer’s best efforts to force the candidates to talk to one another and really duke it out on the issues, they stuck to their canned stump speeches. McCain recycled his favorite gems (like that “Miss Congeniality” line) twice in the same evening.

To the candidates’ credit, the exchange last night was wonkish, policy-centered, which is how I like my politics. But McCain failed to make connections between details (pork spending) and his broader vision (anyone?) while Obama failed to bring any of the passion that marks his broad vision speeches to policy positions. Even the NYTimes called him a technocrat. It’s almost as though he CARES more about telling us what America should look like than grappling with how to get there. A president who CAN’T get excited about detail is just as bad as one who can’t see the forest for the trees. The best policy wonk leaders of the C20th–FDR, LBJ, Reagan and Clinton–could do both: they had vision, they had policies and they could explain in accessible detail how the two connected. Read the rest of this entry »

You Can’t Beat the System

Posted: September 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

My dad collects coffee mugs. Everywhere we go on a vacation, while the rest of us hunt eagerly for T-shirts and keychains, he shops the international Crate and Barrels for dishes. From London, we have a mug with the Underground map and the tagline “You Can’t Beat the System.” I like to drink from it while I read the financial section of the New York Times…

Thought about the “system” today when I read this story about a McCain aide who thought to juice up Sarah Palin’s Wiki entry before she was unveiled as a Veep choice on Friday. The article takes up the question of whether tampering with Wikipedia is immoral or just smart politics.

That reminds me of the controversy that errupted last year, when viral marketer Dan Greenberg unveiled some of the tactics he uses, or recommends others use, to sell brands online in a tell-all post on TechCrunch. Some of the conversation was about the ethics of individual tactics (paying bloggers to write favorable posts, for example), but much of the dialogue was about the ethics of using the Web to sell things at all.

There’s a lot of hippie culture among techheads, so much so that some of them talk as if making money from online activities is itself sacriligious. As someone who sees free culture as akin to free markets (not free lunch), I’m inclined to respond, “You can’t beat the system.” And you can’t blame Ackerman or the McCain campaign for working it.

Old Dude 1, Techheads 0

Posted: August 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Journalism, Politics, Technology | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Last week, I was all amused to watch CNN steal Barack’s thunder by breaking his veep choice before his so-so-cool text message went out. I took it as a sign that old media might be more agile and relevant in this high tech age than some bloggers like to argue.

This week, I’m all amused to learn that McCain has picked Sarah Palin as his veep. Of the choices he had, I think he made the best one. His other finalists–social conservative Romney, ‘Sam’s Club’ conservative Pawlenty and hawk Lieberman–were all fatally flawed: reviled as a person, an unknown and gasp! a Democrat.

But the benefits of picking Palin–proven maverick, social conservative–are undercut by the baseness of assuming that Hillary voters will swing to her just because she’s a woman:

1. most Hillary voters weren’t for her JUST because of her gender
2. the ones that were, the ones for whom “women’s issues” are the only issues that matter are not the kind of people who would vote for a pro-lifer.

Plus, as a man with serious health/age concerns, McCain is picking a VP with a decent shot of being No. 1 one day. Palin’s foreign policy resume just isn’t big enough for that. That said, on domestic policy, I think Palin fits right where McCain wants to position himself, so overall, I think it’s the right choice.

Given that neither McCain or Obama totally bungled their choices, then, I think the veep choices come out even, meaning the race is still neck and neck and still focused on the same few states as before.

What McCain does win, however, is the media battle. Mr. Old Dude, supposedly out of touch and mocked by Paris Hilton for his mashup video of Obama managed to keep his choice a total secret in the age of 24-hour news and bloggers dying to scoop him. Meanwhile, Mr. 21st century, Obama, got scooped. Score one for being old, I guess.

The “New” Political Culture

Posted: August 7th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Politics, Uncategorized, Video | Tags: , , | No Comments »

I’m skeptical of Barack Obama’s “new” politics. This week, the NYTimes revealed that it’s really just a YouTube-genic version of the old politics: despite all his claims to the contrary, Obama gets his funding from big bundlers just like everyone else. I have no beef with bundlers–campaigns are expensive. But since Obama told everybody he was a $50 check kind of guy, the bundlers are a problem for him.

Meanwhile, McCain was learning a different lesson about the “new” political culture: how impossible it is to have a controlled message in this viral age. His attack ad about Obama as the greatest celebrity got big press, but not in the way he wanted: Read the rest of this entry »