Tag Archives: healthcare reform

Bachmann-Trump Overdrive


A quick scan of political news seems to turn up the names of two people these days. One is Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) which is not that surprising. Congressman Ryan is the GOP point man on the budget issue and the major political battles going on right now are all about the budget. You would expect him to be out in front arguing the Republican side. The other person is more surprising. It is common to see him on TV and in the news, but not usually political news. He is Donald Trump, he fires people once a week for a hefty paycheck. The question is, just what the hell is Donald Trump doing on news/political TV. Apparently, he is seriously considering running for President, and his major issue seems to be that the President may not be a citizen. That’s right, Trump has put the “birther” movement back on the table and he’s pushing it hard.

If it were just Trump, I wouldn’t be here typing this. Donald Trump can run around playing presidential candidate and I really don’t care, but it’s not just him. Michele Bachmann mentioned that she would make her birth certificate public if she decided to run. She’s from Minnesota. If you are from Minnesota, North Dakota, or Wisconsin you don’t need a birth certificate. Just talk a little. As long as you don’t say, “aye” after everything we believe you’re American. If it were just Rep. Bachmann, I might not worry too much. Then at CPAC this year I saw a clip of Mitt Romney making a joke about his birth certificate. Mitt Romney is the Republican front-runner. This things got some staying power, and Republicans are trying to ride it to the White House. In fact, a recent poll showed Romney in first with Trump tied for second.

I could go on at length about the birther issue. I could talk about “certificates of live birth” vs. “certifications of live birth,” both of which fit under the umbrella term “birth certificate.” I’m not going to because I firmly believe that people are on one side or the other of this issue and nothing is changing people’s minds.

What’s more important is the rhetoric people are using. If you were to ask Mitt Romney if the President was a citizen he would say yes, but in front of a very conservative crowd he’s willing to fan the flame.  What these people say matters, and they seem willing to push their words to the point of insanity if it will help them win.  Sarah Palin is a master of this, and it’s why she has an ardent group of supporters. They may not be a huge block of people but they are very strong in their support. They are a group that truly buys into the things she says even if they don’t really make sense. It those kind of people who destroyed town hall meetings on healthcare. By dropping terms like “death panels” and “healthcare rationing” politicians like Palin were able to enrage the people who believe anything they say. So rather than having an honest open debate about healthcare, we had angry white people screaming at the President, and the HHS Secretary and so forth.  We have to demand more. We cannot sit back and allow the blatant hyperbole.  When Newt Gingrich goes on TV and says America is headed toward, “a secular nation, perhaps one run by Islamist Fundamentalists,” More people need to call him on that. We are a secular nation. We have no national religion, and what crazy muslim terrorist are you going to find who would run one? That statement probably helped him. It uses all the right terms to appeal to a white, conservative, Christian. Those are people he’s going to need if he wants the Republican nomination. Apparently, he doesn’t care if he sounds insane. Listening to NPR during the labor protests in Wisconsin, I heard a woman describe the protesters as, “willful idiots in the Communist agenda.” What Communist agenda!?!? Twenty years after we won the Cold War, and there are still people out there who think the President is a Communist and he’s renaming Dupont Circle after Stalin. Republicans are using the old standard tactic. If you want to win an election take an issue. Make people afraid of it, and tell them whose to blame for it. So they brought out death panels, terrorists and communists, and it’s all Obama’s fault. Oh and he’s not really a citizen by the way.

I bet that the closer we get to the 2012 election we’re going to start hearing about how important it is. I would put money on the table that we will hear that this election is a fight for America’s future. It’s the most important election of our lifetimes. They will play it up to make people think if Obama wins this election on Jan. 20, 2013 he’s going to pull out the launch codes and shoot nuclear missiles at all the red states. This election isn’t the most important in our lives. I would argue that the election in 2000 was the most important one I’ve lived through. It was one of the few times in American history that the succession of the Presidency was unclear. Also every election is a fight for America’s future. We’re picking the people who run the country. This one will be no different.

What needs to be different is the tone. With all the money going into advertising by special interests the tone is unlikely to change. Politicians have to start really talking about the serious issues. That is the biggest threat to the US in the long term. We cannot continue to allow politicians to push rhetoric to the fringe of reality. We have to expect more. Politicians will always focus on what gets them elected. It is our job to be more engaged in the public debate. We have to hold them accountable for what they say. If we do that they will start saying different things. Hopefully, we could have a more honest and open election. Unfortunately, I, and I’m guessing you also, will believe it when I see it.

Republican’s Cut Spending By Funding NASCAR?


The spending battle continues and today it got just a little more ridiculous.  The House is nearing passage of its spending cut bill. they want to eliminate $61 billion from the budget for the rest of this year. Not surprisingly the money will come from a bunch of programs they don’t care about. You know the ones that don’t make corporations any money. The bill would prevent funding for Planned Parenthood and the Obama Healthcare law. So we’re going to make it harder for women to get medical care in case of an unplanned pregnancy. Especially since her insurance company may just drop her coverage because they can.

The National Endowment for the Arts would see a huge cut in funding. This makes sense because we don’t really need museums, theaters and symphonies.  It’s not really necessary to appreciate history and music. I’m sure they would appropriate that money if they could guarantee it was going to the Creation Museum in Tennessee.

In an action of real arrogance they are trying to prevent funding for so-called “policy czars” in the Obama Administration. These include the guy who makes sure that the financial institutions that received help from TARP obey certain rules about executive compensation. I wonder why Republican’s wouldn’t want that guy around. My guess is that their friends on Wall Street are complaining about not making millions of dollars while they destroy the economy. The Republicans say the reason is that these posts should have been confirmed by the Senate. Not long ago Senate Republicans and Democrats came to an agreement to cut the list of jobs needing Senate approval. Now the House wants them to add some. I think the House should stay out of the Senate’s business.

In case you don’t buy the Wall Street argument, the bill will also cut the budget of the SEC. With the money the SEC had the past couple of years they couldn’t manage to regulate the financial industry. This year they’re supposed to do it with less money, and implement the new financial reform. The House also passed an amendment to eliminate Nancy Pelosi’s initiative to make the Capitol more environmentally friendly. It would have cost $1.5 million. That was deemed to expensive. They did it by voice vote, so we don’t know who supported it.

Don’t worry though. As the AP’s Andrew Taylor reports in a 281-148 vote the House approved letting the Pentagon spend over $7 million to sponsor NASCAR teams. That seems like money well spent.

The Tea Party: Fed Up Fiscal Conservatives Or Anti-Obama Crusaders?


2009 saw the birth of America’s latest political outsider movement. In the 90’s it had been Ross Perot and the Reform Party. After that we had Ralph Nader and the Green Party. Today, in the age of Obama, we met the Tea Party. What was unique about the Tea Party was that they had no singular leader. There was no face of the movement. They were touted as everyday Americans fed up with Washington. An upstart grassroots movement meant to overthrow the establishment and put the power back in the hands of the people. That may be how it started. It didn’t last that long.

Since its inception the Tea Party has seemed to be a conservative movement. They claimed to have members from all walks of life; all political ideologies. They had only one core message. Control the deficit. Get government spending under control. Keep government limited. The banner at teapartypatriots.org reads: “Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, Free Market.”  Fiscal conservatism is supposed to be a Republican cornerstone. In the past 20 years that has changed. People who desire a balanced budget do come from both sides of the political spectrum. In fact, the only time recently that we have had a balanced budget was with divided government. When government has been completely in the hands of one party or the other the budget has not been balanced.  For a group of people to rise up and demand accountability from the government about its finances, and its intrusion on personal freedom, should be no surprise. That’s what the Tea Party’s message was. That’s what the Tea Party said they had been speaking out against for a long time. That wasn’t what happened. That version of history didn’t exist.

To claim that you are a group fed up with fiscal irresponsibility in 2011 means you need to account for some things. First off has to be why did you show up just now . The earliest references I can find to the Tea Party movement are in 2009. Our fiscal house was certainly out-of-order by then. It had been for some time however. Pres. Bush’s budget proposals led to the highest budget deficits in U.S. history. They were not only record-setting in number of dollars, but even if those dollars are adjusted for inflation. The first time the deficit has gone down since FY2002 (Pres. Bush’s first budget proposal) was FY2010 (Pres. Obama’s first budget proposal.) Yes Pres. Obama passed nearly a trillion-dollar stimulus package and the Tea Party was upset. Pres. Bush pushed a nearly trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street. Tea Party members today will tell you they were against it. They weren’t upset enough to protest. There were no raucous town hall meetings. Where was the anger over fiscal irresponsibility spanning a decade of deficit spending that ended with a collapse of the economy not seen since the Great Depression? Where was the anger over TARP? Where was the anti-establishment feeling against Washington run amok? It didn’t exist.

It doesn’t get any easier to explain the Tea Party’s desires for limited government. The Tea Party really gained traction during the debate over healthcare. The original healthcare reform proposals included a provision known as the “public option,” or the “government option,” depending on which party or media outlet you listened to. The idea was that the government would provide an option for citizens to buy health insurance from a government program if they could not obtain it through an employer. Republican’s denounced it as a “government takeover of healthcare.” Town hall meetings about the reform descended into chaos across the country. Finally the “public option” was removed from the final bill. The Tea Party movement generally seemed to be against the bill even after the “public option” was taken out. As the Tea Party Patriots website says, they are for limited government. Are they? The healthcare bill does put government into the healthcare field, but only slightly. It doesn’t even give the people the freedom of government help. It only helps people deal with private companies. That’s something the “free market” Tea Party should be happy about. The real problem is that this is small government intrusion compared to what has happened over the past decade. After Sept. 11th, the Bush Administration used the fear of the American people to start a war and engage in the largest expansion of the federal government in 50 years. They created a new cabinet level post. They established a new level of bureaucracy over the intelligence community with the NID(National Intelligence Director.)  It later came out that they authorized the NSA to conduct a warrantless wiretap program that circumvented all laws set by Congress for surveillance.  Was that limited government? Was that the freedom ensured in the Constitution? Where was the Tea Party outrage? Where were the calls to end the invasion of our rights? They didn’t exist.

The real story of the Tea Party lies beneath the rhetoric and anger of everyday people. Everyday people may have had the passion for the movement but they didn’t make it happen. The major Tea Party groups all have strong affiliations with some more familiar organizations like American’s For Prosperity. So what’s wrong with that? American’s For Prosperity is a front group funded by the Koch brothers. The heads of Koch Industries. Charles and David Koch are far-right Libertarians with a lot of money. Combined they have more wealth than anyone but Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet. It doesn’t end there. Tea Party rallies were organized by all kinds of conservative groups. Tea Party leaders have often been linked to conservative groups. A quick survey of the Tea Party Express website shows that they endorse only Republican candidates, and sometimes far-right candidates over more moderate Republicans. All this points to a movement funded by ultra-conservatives to achieve an ultra-conservative agenda. The Tea Party may have started out with a message of fiscal responsibility, but that has been lost. They are only the pawns of the conservative money movement. They are the far-right’s “Anti-Obama Army.”  When Obama comes out and endorses something they will be right there to refute him. That is why Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann have become Tea Party darlings. They oppose Obama no matter what. They will attack him and his supporters no matter how ridiculous it sounds. Evidence doesn’t need to exist.

Third party movements have made huge changes in American politics. The Whig Party shook us in the mid-19th century. Teddy Roosevelt’s third-party bid nearly won the presidency in 1912. The Reform Party can be credited with electing and keeping Bill Clinton in office. Without the Green Party Al Gore would have almost certainly been president. The Tea Party does not seem to be destined for that outcome. A movement based on opposition to a man instead of issues has no future. Until Obama, they were not against a decade of fiscal irresponsibility. Until Obama, they allowed government to expand unchecked and intrude into our lives. Until Obama, they didn’t exist. After Obama, they won’t exist.

I Emerge From Hibernation


It’s been a couple of days since I posted anything. Providing one post everyday has proven more difficult than I imagined. As we here in the Midwest recover from a blizzard like none I have ever seen, it is important for bloggers, journalists, and citizens to get back in the game. Politics has not stood idly by. Republicans are proposing budget cuts and in the past week tried to redefine rape. North Africa is exploding in anti-government protests, healthcare is being debated again. The budget fight is brewing and eventually we’re going to have to talk about education. The point is this. It is time to speak up. It is time to make our voices heard. Whatever your viewpoint, ideology, or political slant, it is time to make our arguments, persuade our peers, and with a little luck we may just raise the level of public debate in this country. Wouldn’t that be something?

A Quick Thought about Tomorrow Night


Here’s a short version of what I would like to hear from Pres. Obama when he gives the State of the Union address tomorrow.

I want him to challenge Congress. He needs to stand up and say this is what we accomplished over the past two years. After partisan bickering we had the a hugely productive lame-duck session. In between fighting to win elections, legislators came together. They repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” They ratified an extremely important nuclear arms treaty. They even came together and compromised on a bill that extended both tax cuts and unemployment benefits. That all comes after a Congress that enacted sweeping healthcare and financial reform measures. A Congress that streamlined the student loan process and saved the government money while doing it.

Pres. Obama should praise these achievements, but he should tell Congress that they can work together to do better.  Education reform is still on the table. The Dream Act has yet to be passed. Much is left to be done.  The State of the Union is a chance for the President to outline an agenda for the whole year, but he must emphasize one thing. Divided government requires divided responsibility. Republicans must step up and provided ideas not just criticism and then both sides must work together to find solutions.

This is a huge goal. It is difficult to reach, but one man should start the conversation. He is the President of the United States. Tomorrow night is his chance.

Today’s Breakfast: Healthcare Rehash


So the House decided to repeal the healthcare law. Great use of the people’s time and money, but it happened so let’s talk about it for a minute. My humorous side is real unhappy about this. Mostly because they called it “The Repealing the Job-Killing Healthcare Law Act.” That’s just a ridiculous name. First of all, it’s a little early to call it “Job-Killing.” Second, the Law Act part seems redundant. Third, what do Republican’s hope to possibly gain from this stunt.

As soon as John Boehner said this was going to happen, Democrats got real excited.  The get a second chance to record all the sound bites about wildly popular parts of the bill. Democrats came down with healthcare Tourette’s. Everybody was talking about “no more preexisting conditions, no more dropped coverage.” They even brought out people who are excited because they can keep their kids covered to age 26.

All Republicans did was say it was a government takeover. Obamacare is socialism. Americans like a lot of this bill though. The only thing people really seem to have a problem with in the bill is the mandate to buy insurance. Republicans are challenging that across the U.S. The real problem is that they aren’t opposed to individual mandates. They came up with them. It had broad support from Republicans in the 1993 healthcare law that President Clinton failed to pass, and in the Wyden-Bennet bill in 2008. As Ezra Klein at the Washington Post argues, the problem is purely partisan.

I think that’s where Republicans lose. Sure, they will fire up the base. Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachman will go on a rampage. Sean Hannity’s head might just explode. The real issue is that House Republicans are saying we have to repeal everything. So they want insurance companies to drop people’s coverage when they get sick. They want insurance companies to discriminate against those who already have medical conditions. If Republicans were saying they wanted to repeal the mandate, it would still be hypocritical, but it wouldn’t be such blatant politics. They want the grand showmanship of total repeal, because they don’t care about healthcare. They care about winning, and they think this is the easiest way to do that. They are banking on the idea that Americans won’t do their homework. Rank and file Republicans and Democrats won’t. They will vote with their party because they always do. Those of us who choose to be independent of the parties must do ours. It’s important that people realize that these issues are much more complex than either side wants you to think about.

The individual mandate may seem wrong, but insurance is a tricky business. If they are going to cover everyone who walks through the door, someone has to pay. It takes the monthly premiums of a whole bunch of people to pay the monthly cost of cancer treatment for one person.  If we want insurance coverage when we need it. We have to be willing to pay for it when we don’t.  In other countries it is considered a civic duty to be insured. If Americans felt that way we would all be better off.

As Americans we tend to cling to our freedoms in the most peculiar way.  Opponents of the mandate have said it suppresses their freedom. They should be able to choose to be uninsured.  For virtually everyone that’s just crazy. No one who has any common sense would choose to be uninsured unless they were filthy rich. I must admit that I was uninsured for a long period of time once in my life. I was in my early twenties, and I will readily admit that I had no common sense. As a nation we have to act with some common sense. If we believe that people should be able to afford health insurance then it will take the work of the government and the insurance industry. The American people must also be willing to pitch in.

The biggest hurdle is thwarting the business lobby. The law requires companies to provide insurance or face penalties. Business doesn’t like that.  You would have to be crazy to think that this week’s repeal measure doesn’t have something to do with Republicans shoring up support among Big business. There is a ton of cash in business and they want it when the next election rolls around. With all the money corporations put into our campaigns, it’s fairly amazing that any elected official was willing to vote for the healthcare bill. This is why the right has taken to opposing Obama so passionately.  I’m not even sure how many people who yell about fiscal responsibility realize that Obama’s first budget brought the budget deficit down for the first time in nearly a decade. The healthcare bill is projected to reduce the deficit by another one hundred billion and change over the next ten years. The right-wing business community doesn’t want people to realize. So they have funded Tea Party rallies across the nation pointing the finger at Obama, and stirring the fear. People say the Tea Party is about fiscal responsibility, and the rank and file may be. The people running the show don’t give a damn about fiscal responsibility. They are playing on the fear of white America. They are people from Citizens for a Sound Economy, and Americans for Prosperity. Both groups with ultra right-wing agendas formed by billionaires to protect their own money. If a business friendly president gets elected the Tea Party will disappear, because those who organize them will have gotten their way. That’s why the Tea Party didn’t exist for the 8 years of record-setting deficits under Pres. Bush. That’s why they fought the stimulus but not TARP. The people may feel that they are pushing for fiscal responsibility but the ones with power are using them for their own agenda. We should be scared. They know how to win elections. Pick an issue, this time healthcare, make people afraid of it, and tell them whose to blame for it. That way the healthcare law will be repealed and they aren’t on the hook to give health insurance to their employees.

I know there are people out there who genuinely have paid attention to the issues and oppose healthcare reform. I know there are those at Tea Party rallies who are seriously concerned with the national debt. Those could be valid viewpoints, but it is a stretch to believe that the repeal this week was a genuine attempt to do what’s right. Total repeal doesn’t make sense. There are good parts to the bill. We need to keep those and tweak other things to make them better. As an example, every President takes up education reform. Since Johnson passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the 60’s it has been regularly modified and reauthorized. In 2001 it was passed as No Child Left Behind.  A lot of people didn’t like a large part of NCLB, but no one is talking about repealing it. It wasn’t all bad and a total repeal would be of great detriment to our nations schools. We will once again try to fix the problems and enhance the strengths of the bill with the ultimate goal of providing the best possible education to our children.  We need to approach healthcare reform in the same manner. We need genuine discussion and modification to make healthcare in this country better.

We need less political grandstanding

Dinner, an Adventure Pt. 2


Two days ago, I prepared myself some chicken-fried chicken. I said I would post more about that meal the next day. Unfortunately I couldn’t manage. I think I am finally able to accurately explain the experience that brought me to what might have been the greatest home-cooked meal of my life.

I knew I had leftovers. They seemed unrelated however. Mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. They don’t seem to go together. It took the realization of chicken to make this all happen, Chicken was the only meat in my house.  If you put those three things together: chicken, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes, you are most of the way to my fall back meal at Cracker Barrel. All I needed was a vegetable and I had green beans, but what to do about gravy. It turns out gravy is easy. This is the story of what happened next.

I proceeded to make my meal. Only to realize that my kitchen looked like this!

AHHHHHH!!!!!!

Step #1) Clean

So I strapped on my mp3 player, dialed up some Jimmy Smith(renowned jazz organist) and set to work. Thirty minutes and a number of songs later my kitchen had regained its original glow.

Step #2) Preparation

Pan-frying is an interesting method. It can be easy, clean, and enjoyable. It can also be messy, frustrating, and difficult. The difference is preparation. The problem with frying is that it includes a great number of steps. If you are prepared for those steps; however, it’s as easy as can be. You start with the assembly line

 

The Assembly Line

 

Henry Ford was a smart man. What you see here is 1 1/2 cups of seasoned flour, one egg(lightly beaten) whisked with 1/2 cup of milk, and a resting plate. A few things to note the seasoning in the flour is as follows:

2 tsp. seasoning salt, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 3/4 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 paprika (I used smoked paprika. Use whatever you prefer.) Finally, there is a plate for the meat to rest on before frying.

Step #3) The Gravy

When the assembly line is complete, you can turn to the gravy. Gravy needs a little time to make, and a little more to thicken. During that second phase is where all the other cooking takes place. To make the gravy I melted 3 Tbs. of butter in a saucepan. Once the butter is melted, whisk in 3 Tbs. of flour. This creates a roux. You want to keep this over medium low heat. We don’t want the roux to cook too much. You do however want to give it a couple of minutes to meld. This will avoid a floury taste in your gravy. After a couple of minutes drizzle in 1-1 1/2 cups of milk, whisking continuously. As the milk combines with the roux it will thicken into your gravy. This would be a good time to mix in a couple healthy pinches of salt, and pepper to your personal preference.  I like a peppercorn blend for gravy, but do what you feel. Place this at a simmer to thicken. You could bring this mixture to a boil, but I don’t. I use the simmering time to do my frying.

Step #4) Fry Time

Now it’s time to turn to the chicken. For chicken-fried chicken, you need a cut of chicken flattened out. I used a boneless chicken breast pummeled with, of all things, a can of fruit cocktail. The idea is to lessen the thickness of the chicken to ensure that it cooks thoroughly.

Chicken Tossin'

 

Toss the flattened chicken into the first step of the assembly line. As the chicken is coated with the seasoned flour, it is prepped for further breading. Then, dip it in the egg/milk mixture and back in the flour. Now, we are creating a batter around the chicken. Once the chicken has been coated a couple of times place it on an empty plate to rest. In the meantime, heat your frying oil to a high temperature, preferably in a cast iron skillet.

When the oil has reached temperature (you’ll know if a drop of water spits oil back at you) you’re ready to put your chicken in. Place your chicken in the fat and frying begins.

Step #4) The Microwavables (optional)

In my meal I had some leftovers. The mac&cheese, biscuit, and mashed potatoes came straight from the fridge. The green beans were canned so they needed heated up too. My method was to heat up the things that took the longest first. So the order was: 1)green beans, 2)potatoes,               3) mac&cheese, and 4)biscuit,

Obviously, you should adjust to accommodate whatever side dishes you prefer.

While mastering the microwave timing, we should talk about frying time. If you’ve flattened your chicken out to a 1/4 – 1/2 inch, you’ll want to fry about four minutes per side. You will notice a nice browning that resembles what you see in restaurants. What you won’t expect is the wonderful flavor. After 4-5 minutes per side you should let it rest 2-3 minutes before plating. After that put it on a plate with your potatoes, cover in that glorious gravy and indulge.

 

Independent Kansan felt the need to relax this week and get away from the hard-hitting world of social and political commentary.  Don’t worry though, the GOP is trying to repeal the healthcare law, and Sam Brownback proposed his new budget. There is still plenty to talk about. Until then, try the chicken-fried chicken. You won’t be disappointed. You could have this: