That future is bleak. Insurers still control the markets, as they do now, and in fact, the giant insurance companies have grown. Hacker and Rajkumar predict we’ll have a choice “basically between WellPoint and UnitedHealth–gargantuan for-profit insurers each about the size of Medicare.” Sounds great, right?
Hacker and Rajkumar also pointed out a peculiar fact our geography and politics:
Ironically, the problem is worst in the rural areas of the country whose Democratic Senators–such as Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus of Montana–have been among the Democrats most willing to forsake the public health insurance plan. In these rural areas, one or two dominant insurers hold over 90 percent of the market. (In all of Montana, for example, one insurer has 75 percent of private enrollees.) For people in these parts of the nation, a real choice of health plans is as mythical as unicorns.
I just love how all of these opposition groups to President Obama’s health care plan front like they’re real, grassroots organizations. AHIP’s Campaign for an American Solution? Fake! Rick Scott’s Conservatives for Patients’ Rights? Funded with his ill-gotten gains. And now there’s Patients United Now.
Americans for Prosperity is notorious for its fake grassroots efforts, funneling millions of dollars into conservative campaigns designed to undermine Democratic initiatives. As Lee Fang put it, “AFP is a professional AstroTurf machine”:
Started NoStimulus.com, “a grassroots website that we hope will be a focal point for the widespread frustration ordinary Americans feel at the runaway government growth that we see during good economic times and bad.”
Hospitals and insurance companies said Thursday that President Obama had substantially overstated their promise earlier this week to reduce the growth of health spending.
Mr. Obama invited health industry leaders to the White House on Monday to trumpet their cost-control commitments. But three days later, confusion swirled in Washington as the companies’ trade associations raced to tamp down angst among members around the country.
Health care leaders who attended the meeting have a different interpretation. They say they agreed to slow health spending in a more gradual way and did not pledge specific year-by-year cuts.
“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding that has caused a lot of consternation among our members,” said Richard J. Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital Association. “I’ve spent the better part of the last three days trying to deal with it.”
No matter where you stand on escalation in Afghanistan – whether you agree with me that Afghanistan no longer threatens our national security and therefore more troops are not necessary or not – it is hard not to agree that we need an exit strategy for the Afghanistan war.
This is not to say we need a withdrawal timetable, as much as I’d like to see that. Simply, it means that our military leaders should articulate an achievable, measurable blueprint for ending the war in Afghanistan. It’s only common sense. America does not and should not fight never-ending wars. Afghanistan is no exception.
Congress is ramping up for hearings on the war in Afghanistan, and with that in mind, Rethink Afghanistan is leading the call for citizen comments. The question is simple: What would you ask Congress about Afghanistan? Here’s my question for Congress, and for the witnesses Congress calls to these oversight hearings.
Of course, you know my answer. It’s that escalation in Afghanistan isn’t making America safe, and that we don’t need more troops in Afghanistan to keep America safe:
It has never been explained to me why we need thousands of troops on the ground to root out Al Qaeda. America, working with its allies, has been disrupting terrorist networks for decades without large ground forces. Why can’t we do it in Afghanistan?
Rethink Afghanistan is urging people to post their own questions to Congress, both video and text, as well as running some voting on the questions, to get the best ones to rise to the top. So, head over there and ask one. This war has been ignored for so long, I’m sure there are tons of things you can think of to ask.
Maybe, with enough citizen input, we’ll get some real oversight from Congress.
Last week, President Obama concluded his strategy review on the war in Afghanistan. In his speech announcing his conclusions, he explicitly stated the reason this war continues:
As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future. We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States , our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists.
So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan , and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you.
In this, I agree with the President. The goal of any war America prosecutes should be to keep America safe, and the goal of this war is to prevent terrorist attacks from Al Qaeda.
Barack Obama has stepped out farther on Iraq than I thought he would. During the campaign, he pledged a date to get all combat troops out of Iraq, but as many progressives pointed out, the definition of “combat troops” can be a bit fuzzy. There was definitely wiggle room in that talking point. But as President, Obama has not only moved to keep his campaign promise, but gone a step farther – he’s set a date for all U.S. troops to leave the country we invaded six years ago.
Though us progressives will have to hold him to that promise, I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised. There was no need for Obama to go out on that limb, but he did, and that gives me hope in his commitment to peace.
The Iraq war, started six years ago, has an end date. The war in Afghanistan, however, does not.
Obama will announce the new strategy he’s formulated for Afghanistan in a few weeks. I may again be pleasantly surprised. Either way, I’ll be holding up his strategy to the rubric laid out by Alex Thurston a few weeks ago. And I will continue to oppose any new strategies that don’t meet this standard.
One war, started six years ago, has an end date. I intend to see our second war gets the same.
Last week, Richard Kirsch sat down with movement progressive, former Clinton White House aide, historian, and author Mike Lux for a conversation about his new book, The Progressive Revolution.
I’ve read Mike’s book (and reviewed it here), and I agree with his analysis. We have the infrastructure, the money, and the momentum behind real health care reform, more than we’ve had for a generation. The time is ripe for a big change moment, and if we can build this movement for health care, we can make it and many other progressive reforms happen.
Momentum is building again on health care reform after being set back by the Daschle blow-up. But everyone should be really clear about this: this is going to be a major fight. All those health care industry types professing their support of Obama’s agenda did the same thing at this stage of the Clinton fight in 1993-94, and they turned on us viciously. There will be blood in the streets on this issue before we’re through, but hopefully we can still fight our way to the finish line.
Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani journalist, wrote in Canada’s Globe and Mail on Saturday that Mullah Omar’s letter “to the commanders of the Pakistani Taliban,” also said that “If anybody really wants to wage jihad, he must fight the occupation forces inside Afghanistan.” According to Mr. Rashid, Mullah Omar’s letter was part of “a strategic attempt by both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban to unify and concentrate their forces for a spring offensive against the expected arrival of 17,000 more U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan.”
It seems both sides can play the surge game, and nothing is a better recruiting tool for the Taliban than more foreign fighters in Afghanistan. This is just another reason I’m certain our surge in Afghanistan will do little to bring peace, secure the populace, rebuild infrastructure, win hearts and minds, or keep us safe.
Solis would arguably be the most liberal appointee in Obama’s Cabinet. Daughter of immigrant father who became a Teamster organizer at a battery recycling factory and an immigrant mother who worked a factory line, she’s never been one to give mere lip service to labor issues. She was a key player in a hard-won voter-initiative fight over the California minimum wage, an increase of which then-Gov. Pete Wilson had vetoed. She’s been solidly behind environmental protections, particularly in the arena of environmental justice. Having been raised near a landfill east of Los Angeles, she authored 1999 state legislation that called for “the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws,” the first such law in the nation.