Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare’

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CLOSE TO THE VEST

December 24, 2009

 

The stakes are high.

You’re compelled to “get in front of the situation,” but caution rules. The wrong call could cause an unwanted outcome. Though your competitive nature is in direct conflict with your pragmatism, you know – much like a good poker player knows – you must keep your “hand” close to the vest. Uninformed people are quick to judge, so you don’t allow their noise to define your strategy. Media claims you’re unwilling to fight for what you believe in. Like all of us, media is on the outside looking in and has very little real knowledge of how the “battle” is being waged. Contrary to what they tells us, and the overflow of “advice” so freely offered to you, they’re clueless.

You’re up against private sector interests that funnel millions of dollars into legislators’ campaigns to keep their profits high, while burdening our citizens with insurmountable costs thus reducing the quality of their lives.

Therefore, quitting is not an option.

You were elevated by millions who believed your words, saw your passion and trusted your wisdom. As a student of history, you anticipated many would become impatient and turn on you. I imagine you’ve said to yourself on more than one occasion, “It’s remarkable how much people expect in such a short period of time.”

Unlike other contests, your work didn’t begin until after the scrimmage was over and everyone went back to their normal routines. Now, far less engaged, watching from the sidelines, people expect things to move as fast as they did when they were in the game.

They believe they’re entitled to all that you promised, right here, right now, ignoring the obvious: major change takes patience and time.

Contrary to the words of your detractors, your accomplishments thus far are significant: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act (Equal Pay for Women), State Children’s Health Insurance Program, 3.4% Raise for Military and Increase in Jobless BenefitsAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention ActCash for Clunkers Program9-11 National Day of Service and RemembranceFranken Anti-Rape Amendment (part of the Defense Appropriations Act of 2010), to name a few.

In addition, there are other achievements that have barely been reported on Electronic Medical Records Infrastructure,  Communications, Transportation, Education, Re-organization of the Auto Industry, Aid Commitment to Pakistan (with help from Japan), Anti-Gang and Anti-Gun Task Forces in Major Cities and Forest Conservation.

What you have in the works is very extensive. 

With all the slicing and dicing on every syllable of the current healthcare legislation, it is easy to ignore the magnitude of this endeavor. The whining from both sides of the aisle – which is good for the process – and the lame-brained, idiotic blather coming from Pundit World – which does nothing for the process – tramples the fact that you are closer to achieving major, sweeping social change, than any President since Franklin Roosevelt – in your first year.

As a Constitutional Scholar and former Harvard Law Review President, you know the amendments removed from this current version of the legislation – the ones causing supporters’ churn – can be introduced in subsequent bills and passed in reconciliation, after this bill is law. This would not only be more expedient, but would give political cover to those in your party who opposed these amendments when they were first introduced. Needing only 50 votes and Vice President Biden’s tie-breaking vote, those opposed could vote against the legislation, it would still pass, and everyone would be appeased. You also know announcing this strategy publically would shut down this historic legislation for at least another decade, thereby defining yours as a failed Presidency.

So why do people think you don’t get it? Why do they think you don’t know how to fight? Why do they think every “battle” has to be waged in front of a camera?

Your “No Drama Obama” calm exterior fools people into believing all of the above – none of which is true.

Why don’t those who said they trust you, trust you?

In last year’s campaign, a Clinton supporter told your wife, “Hillary will win the primary and the election because Barack doesn’t have what it takes to beat the Clintons.”

“You underestimate him at your peril,” replied Michelle.

She would know.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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THE RINGER

October 14, 2009

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Meet Sen. Olympia Snowe.

She voted for the Baucus Bill, going against her fellow Republicans, but made it clear that this “…was her vote today,” “…tomorrow is a different day…” and could be “…a different vote.” The now-famous “Public Option” amendment was not in this bill, which many think is the reason Snowe said “yes.”

I disagree. (I know how surprised you must be.)

Olympia Snowe could very well be President Obama’s “ringer” in this game of healthcare reform.

StethescopeResearching her history, one finds that our President and Sen. Snowe have some things in common. Neither came from privilege. Both were raised, in part, by family members other than their biological parents. Both have fathers who were born in other countries. Both are highly educated, earning multiple degrees from different colleges and universities. Her voting record certainly indicates pragmatism in decision-making – a trait our President has demonstrated often.

And both want real healthcare reform.

The Senior Senator’s voting record (approximately 58% with Republicans) is not only good for our President, but is also good for Maine and the rest of our country. This 62 year old legislator keeps her thoughts very close to the vest, rarely gives interviews, and even walks up the back stairs when entering the capitol building, to avoid the media.

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I believe the reason Sen. Snowe voted for the Baucus Bill was to get it out of committee and move the process forward. She knows, as does everyone involved, the real “battle” will take place “in conference,” which is still three steps away, as I illustrate in From Bill to Law.

Her “yes” vote also has one other very important attribute: it will probably open the door for other moderate Republicans to vote against party lines in subsequent votes. This will give real healthcare reform – which will include a robust “Public Option” – the momentum it needs to become law before the end of the year.

Our President is not only aware of these probabilities, he’s counting on them becoming realities. As I said in Strategy Over Blather, congress will fight the “battles” and he will win the “war.” If he needs to step into the battles, he will do so, privately.

We’re already further along in the process than we’ve been since 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt – a two-term Republican – first introduced healthcare reform running for a third term as, believe it or not, a Progressive candidate in the Progressive Party of 1912. This was their position on “Health,” November 5, 1912:

TRoosevelt“We favor the union of all the existing agencies of the Federal Government dealing with the public health into a single national health service without discrimination against or for any one set of therapeutic methods, school of medicine, or school of healing with such additional powers as may be necessary to enable it to perform efficiently such duties in the protection of the public from preventable diseases as may be properly undertaken by the Federal authorities, including the executing of existing laws regarding pure food, quarantine and cognate subjects, the promotion of vital statistics and the extension of the registration area of such statistics, and co-operation with the health activities of the various States and cities of the Nation.”

Further reading of the platform reveals how long the Republican Party has been in the grip of big corporations. This “grip” on our country’s politics came to a head during Republican President Herbert Hoover’s term (1929-1933) and resulted in the Great Depression. Sound familiar?

As a well-read student of history, President Obama knows all-too-well what to do to avoid the errors of the past when making sweeping social change.

So does Olympia Snowe.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – Sen. Snowe and I also have some commonality: both of us have Greek parents and we were both baptized in the Greek Orthodox faith.

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FROM BILL TO LAW

October 1, 2009

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I’m starting to understand the frustration that our President must feel when he hears some of the uneducated, and even stupid comments coming from congressional members on healthcare. And if you believe some of the punditry, you would think the healthcare bill will be law next week. It’s understandable how lay-persons can be swayed to believe some of this gibberish.

As I watch all of the back and forth, it occurs to me that very few understand how a bill becomes law. Before anyone can discuss the very complicated issue of healthcare and the needed changes, one must first know the process. It’s exhaustive, especially when there is so much political opposition to changing the way we currently distribute healthcare in this country.

As of today, October 1st, we are far away from a healthcare bill. When you hear people say the bill includes this and doesn’t include that, they’re wrong. There is no single bill – only drafts of committee bills.

Here’s how a final healthcare bill (or any bill) moves through congress, step by step. First: all the steps.

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There are five committees looking at healthcare reform. Three in the House and two in the Senate. This is where we are right now. (Please note: I found these charts early in September. The deadline set by Sen. Baucus came and went, and the current draft did not include the co-ops seen on the chart.)

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The 23-member Baucus Committee ran a couple of what I’ll call “trial” votes earlier this week to “take a pulse” on the public option within his committee. The first vote resulted in an 8-15 vote against the draft. Five Democrats voted against it. An amendment was added, “softening” the public option, and another vote was taken. This time, it was 10-13 against. The draft gained two more Democrats. No Republicans voted for either draft.

None of these preliminary votes mean anything. We are still four big steps away from a bill reaching the President’s desk.

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So take a deep breath, fans of the public option. As I said in Strategy Over Blather, we will prevail.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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JUST GET IT OVER WITH

September 12, 2009

 

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Is the Republican Party trying to commit suicide?

There is no other way to explain what most of us watched during and after the President’s speech on healthcare to a joint session of congress and the American people.

The “You Lie” outburst of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) was, of course, deplorable.

Re. Joe Wilson - YOU LIE

Any publically elected official who can’t show respect for the office of the President of the United States does not deserve to be sitting in that chamber.

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Yes, he apologized. But let’s face it, there’s no real way to apologize for being classless. His apology only came after party leaders told him to man-up. I realize a political party can’t be held responsible for every member’s actions, but they can make sure he doesn’t receive any support in the next election. They also could have denounced his actions in the rebuttal. Whoops. Never mind. That was pre-taped. (Another stupid move.)

Speaking of the rebuttal: why on earth would you pick Rep. Charles – call me “Lord” – Boustany (R-LA)?

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Obviously, the party didn’t research him any better than McCain researched Palin.

A simple Google search would have yielded enough negative information to give most leaders pause.

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Boustany actually tried to buy the title “Lord” from a couple of conmen in EnglandWhen he realized he got scammed, instead of just letting it go so it wouldn’t become public, he sued them! He has hauled in $1.25M from Health and Insurance Industry. He was a “Birther.” He’s been sued 8 times for malpractice. He co-sponsored the end-of-life consultation portion of the current bill in the house (HR 3200), saying that it was a good idea – then backed-off when things got heated. Surely, the Republicans could have found someone with less baggage.

Let’s don’t leave Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) out. He could be seen texting nearly every time the camera went to him.

Rep. Eric Cantor - Twittering

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, wrote an article highlighting the events that took place on the floor while the President was speaking.

Add the “Tea Parties,” the “Birther” Movement, the “Deather” Movement, the “Socialist Indoctrination” of our children, the ministers that believe (“according to the Bible” no less) that President Obama should die, and the staged town hall meetings on healthcare, to the above events, and you have a party that is not only shrinking, but is on a path to self-destruction.

Why prolong the agony?

Take the pills, lie down, and get it over with.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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UNCLE TEDDY

September 4, 2009

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My mother’s second oldest brother was the Patriarch of our family. Successful in business, politically savvy and a true philanthropist, he spoke with the authority of a mob boss and the business intellect of a high-powered real estate mogul. (The only thing missing was a Cuban cigar.) Only he knew what he didn’t know. To us, he knew everything you needed to know on any subject. I once asked him how he came to know so many people in public office on both sides of the political aisle. He said, “I contribute to both parties equally.” This gave him access no matter who was in office. Hmm.

He was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and yet, I remember him being irritated when Reagan reduced taxes for the top 2% income earners in the country – a category that most certainly  included him. “It’s a mistake,” he said. “Wealth does not trickle down.” Pulling out the bank roll in his pocket, he continued, “It stays right here.”

That’s right, my rich Republican Uncle was willing to pay more taxes to help those less fortunate. That single statement taught me quite a bit about how to “size up” those seeking public office.

I now closely follow the words of those who use their good fortune to help “…the least among us…” When a person of wealth is willing to give back through a higher percentage of their income going towards taxes to help our country provide opportunity for those with little or no means, I’m all ears. This was Ted Kennedy. Born into extreme privilege, he most certainly could have maintained a low profile, away from public scrutiny. But that was not his choice, and I for one, am very grateful.

Up until the mid-90s, I knew very little about the senator. Oh sure, I knew what everyone else knew: younger brother to John and Bobby; son of Joe and Rose; Massachusetts Senator since 1962; a womanizer and heavy drinker in his early years; the car accident on Chappaquiddick Island and the plane crash that nearly killed him.

Kennedy’s legislative achievements are easy enough to research. He was the co-sponsor of over 2500 bills and penned 300 personally. Here’s a list. As you read – or skim – through it, imagine where the country would be without this legislation. There is not one American alive whose life has not been improved by at least some of these laws. 

But the Ted Kennedy that I didn’t know until very recently was the man, the husband, the brother, the uncle, the grandfather and great grandfather. As I listened, these past few days, to the different stories by those who knew him, it is very obvious that he was the Patriarch of his family. I recognized the hug of a grandchild, the laugh with a sister, the handshake with a nephew, the pat-on-the-back of a brother-in-law and the acknowledgment of a job well done by a niece. He was whatever the family needed him to be, whenever they needed him. I also learned he became a prayerful man in his last 15+ years.

It is highly believed that his second wife, Vickie, helped Ted deal with the “demons” of his early years: the death of his oldest brother in WWII, the car accident on Chappaquiddick Island that took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne, while married to his first wife, Joanne, who was pregnant at the time; the mental disabilities that led to a lobotomy of a sister who was later institutionalized, the assassinations of two brothers and the death of another sister just recently.

As I watched him work his way onto the Senate floor a few months ago, to a cheering crowd of Senators and well-wishers from both sides of the aisle, I wondered then if he would see his largest legislative dream come to pass before he passed.

I certainly hope he sees it pass from wherever he is now.

You served us well, Uncle Teddy.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES

August 13, 2009

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Many people prefer staying in their “comfort zones.” They know what they know and live their lives accordingly – even if what they know is false. Challenging their knowledge with new ideas or asking them to re-think existing ones is usually a recipe for disaster. In other words, truth be damned.

Elected officials, both currently serving and retired know exactly how to use this “false knowledge” to fuel fear, hate and anger. They also know how to make a small “public outcry” seem far bigger and more significant than it really is thus assuring attention from the media, which is always looking for the next “hot” story – as opposed to just reporting news.

And so it is with the most recent “public outcry” about healthcare reform. The two previous “outcries” were not about taxes (the Tea Parties) or the validity of our President’s birth certificate (the Birther Movement) and this current wave of discontent is not about healthcare. These people know nothing about any of the drafted legislation. They did no research to see what is being proposed. They are simply resisting change, yelling the “coded rhetoric” that has been fed to them by the fear-mongerers in media who compare President Obama to Adolph Hitler and any proposed healthcare reform to genocide, euthanasia and death panels for citizens who might not be “worth the cost” of keeping alive. The people at these events don’t want the government “invading” their comfort zone – especially if that “invasion” is being lead by their worst nightmare – a black man.

Our country was heading in what most of us described as the wrong direction. So last year, we used one of our rights under the constitution and voted for change, which included electing an extremely intelligent, well-educated, very reasoned and pragmatic President, who happens to be black AND white. Now that change is here, those who did not vote for it or him are frightened, and extremists within the Republican Party are exploiting that fear with hate-filled rhetoric aimed straight at our President, not his policies.

We have voted for change many times in the last 90 years. (Remember, WE are the government.)

We added an amendment to our constitution giving women the right to vote in 1920.

We passed the Social Security Act which was signed into law by FDR in 1935.

We passed the GI Bill – signed into law in 1944.

We signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We passed Medicare in 1965.

We again voted for change last year, and won. The “crazies” within the Republican Party now want to deny us what we earned when we not only elected Barack Obama as our 44th President but also elected many new faces to the House and Senate. Mark my words, we will not be denied.

In 1964, Nelson Rockefeller stood up at the Republican Convention and asked Republicans to repudiate extremism.

After he spoke, Barry Goldwater, the soon-to-become Republican nominee stood up and said, “…extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”

That single line gave Lyndon Johnson all he needed to defeat Goldwater. The famous “Daisy” ad only aired once – but once was enough.

The leaderless Republicans appear to be once again embracing these tactics. Sen. Jim DeMint believes that if Republicans can “break” the President, it will be his Waterloo.

Radio talk show hosts like Michael Savage are perpetuating the idea that our democratically-elected President is a dictator.

Keeping all of this in context, one must understand that media’s extensive coverage of these events is disproportionate. Pundits and their employers are hoping for good tabloid TV and  radio. Most of the gatherings are much smaller than they appear on TV. Here’s some samples of what’s been happening around the country.

In this first video, the additional captions tell you as much as the video does. Pay close attention to what is NOT being said, but can be clearly seen.

Notice the use of words like “trampling,” “shoving” and “molesting” (a car?). The point trying to be made is that these people aren’t being “heard.” What? That’s ALL you hear!

Imagine if the people not “shoving,” not “trampling” and not “molesting” are people of color. Would this not be a very different story?

This young man is wearing what others are saying. He’s clueless. He knows nothing about Hitler, fascism or the Holocaust. To him, it’s just a T-shirt that someone asked him to wear. When confronted with questions, he turns away.

The man below keeps saying that President Obama is lying, but forgets what he was supposed to say after that. His agenda is to get on TV.

These “healthcare events” are being called “Astroturfing Events” because they are NOT real grassroots efforts. They are being sponsored and promoted by some of the same people that brought us the “Tea Parties” – Dick Army’s Freedom Works and of course, FOX News with its list of Democratic Town Hall Meetings. (I downloaded the list to my personal site because I know after August, the list will be gone from their site.)

Here’s some video from Kelly Denver at The Seminal, a pretty good video blogger. 

This was in Tampa, Florida

The President is to blame for the town hall uprisings. Now THAT is some real spinning of these events.

Did you know that when healthcare reform passes, the government will tell us how to die? Neither did I. 🙂 

And then there’s this clown, who was wearing a sidearm standing outside one of our President’s town hall meetings in New Hampshire, where it’s legal to carry. He knows nothing about healthcare reform. He’s just there in defiance of our President.

All of this is going to backfire on the opposition if they don’t get control of the situation. If people continue to see and hear nothing but these lies as the Republican Party’s message, reasonable Republicans and conservatives will go further into hiding, not wanting to be publically associated with this element. Privately, they obviously think they need these people in order for the party to stay releveant. I coudn’t disagree more. A rational Republican needs to step into a leadership role, quickly.

The irony in all of this is the very people that healthcare reform would help the most, the low and middle income aging population, are some of the same people at these events screaming “Hitler” and “Fascist.” Many are receiving Medicare, a single-payer healthcare system, or VA healthcare, a governement-run healthcare system, or Social Security, a governement-run benefits program. As hard as it is to believe, these mule-headed fear-followers don’t realize any of this. They foolishly stand in a crowd, screaming statements they did not create and when questioned, don’t know what they’re screaming about. God forgive them, for they know not what they say.

BTW: Barry Goldwater, the “pro-extremist,” lost BIG in the 1964 Presidential Election.

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These tactics didn’t work in 1964 or in last year’s Presidential Election and they won’t work now. The fringe elements of media are speaking to a diminishing audience. These are the waning years of hard bigotry and racism. By the time my 19 year old son reaches my age, these elements of our society will be even less relevant than they are now.

Until then, sadly, there is no reasoning with these people. Facts will not penetrate their thinking. They refuse to listen to anyone, regardless of intelligence, education and expertise. Trying to debate an issue with them is an exercise in futility. So sit back, watch and be amused. The circus is on a television near you.

On a lighter note, allow me to close with some great lines from two well-known “Michaels.”

And from this Michael: “What a fool believes… no wise man has the power to reason away.”

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – Here’s Mr. “Blue-Eyed Soul” in 1992, singing “What A Fool Believes.”

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STRATEGY OVER BLATHER

July 11, 2009

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When the current battle over healthcare is over, there will be choices – which will include a robust Public Option.

How do I know?

The same way our President knows.

Numbers.

This is why you don’t see him out there everyday going head-to-head with media, pundits, and his political opposition. As I’ve written before in Checkers and Chess, No Beef and Faith Trumps Fear, they keep underestimating his ability to size up the debate, learn all he can about the issue and develop the winning strategy that serves the needs of the country, not the politicans’.  

There are enough congressional members who support the President’s healthcare reform plan to get it passed. These are the same people that already passed the Cap and Trade Bill and the Stimulus Bill. The members who opposed those bills are almost exactly the same people who are now opposing the current proposal for healthcare reform. They couldn’t block passage of the others, and the same will be true this time.

You’d never know this watching 24/7 cable news channels or listening to the talking heads on the radio.

They want you to believe this “battle” could go either way.

Listening to some, you’d think that the opposition has enough power to stop the legislation – they don’t. The House will pass the bill without too much resistance. There are now fifty-eight Democratic and two Independent Senators who vote with the Dems 99% of the time. Even if you discount some of the “hesitant” conservative Democrats, the numbers are still there. Contrary to what you may hear, there are Republicans who also want this bill to pass – with a Public Option.

Yet, the debate goes on.

You’d think the country was equally divided on the Public Option issue – not true. Over 70% want a Public Option. Others argue the Public Option is no different than “Single Payer,” (a totally government run healthcare system with no private plans). Again, not true. It is ONE of the choices, not the ONLY choice. There are and will continue to be many choices, including private healthcare company plans. Those who try to equate the two are concerned that the Public Option may eventually become “Single Payer.” This is a possibility, and maybe a probability, but it would be the will of the people, not Washington, that makes it happen.

By now, we’ve all heard the false argument that people in other countries with government run healthcare systems do not receive quality care, and are coming here for care. Again, not true. In fact, the opposite is true. American healthcare companies are pricing themselves out of the market and businesses are exploring overseas options  for healthcare for their employees – senior management included. For example, a comparison of our healthcare system vs. Canada’s  reveals that the quality is at least as good, and in some cases, better. As is true with any healthcare system, both have challenges. I understand commentators need to fill time, but all that blather makes me want to take a nap.

Media and pundits are playing right into Obama’s strategy by presenting all the arguments for and against his plan. Perfect. Let them fight the battles, and when they’re done, the President will address the country in the final stages of the debate, and convince more than enough legislators to vote his way.

They fight the battles – he wins the war.

Strategy over blather.

What a novel concept.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com