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Posts Tagged ‘Max Baucus’

Over the weekend, I took a rainy walk down Wall Street and through the financial district in lower Manhattan. As I navigated my way across the busy intersections and between the arrays of decorative sidewalk bollards, I noticed something really strange.

No protesters.

None, despite the fact that within that very space, the near destruction of the world economy was detonated, igniting one of the deepest recessions in American history and accompanied by 500,000 job losses every month.

Not only was the district free of protesters, but I spotted a gaggle of grinning tourists merrily gathered on and around the famous “Charging Bull” statue. One woman was having her picture taken while crouched down and cupping the bull’s gigantic watermelon-sized brass testicles. Actually, you could say that there was at least one tea bagger downtown. But, you know, the wrong kind.

As I marveled at the incongruous serenity of the financial district, I couldn’t help but to wonder if all of this talk about massive job losses and a near-meltdown was an elaborate hoax, or whether Americans by-in-large simply don’t give a rip, choosing instead to continue on their merry way, acquiescing to a failed system rather than lashing out against the horrors of deregulatory Reaganomics, and, consequently, taking action against the real killers. In other words, while political participation appears to be cresting a wave, there’s still a considerable level of apathy about demanding accountability from the crooks who nearly screwed us all.

This apathy is especially evident in the health care crisis.

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There’s one positive political aspect to this epic fight for health care reform. We now know for sure which congressional Democrats have to be vigorously challenged and defeated the next time they come up for re-election.

The health care reform debate has forced the toxic slag to gurgle to the surface and consequently revealed a few Democratic senators who, at every turn in this process, have proved to be far more interested in protecting their own asses by way of protecting the asses of their bosses in the health care mafia.

Suffice to say, Joe Lieberman has to be sending lots of “thank you” gift baskets and ponies and backrubs to the offices of Max Baucus and Kent Conrad. In fact, Baucus and Conrad — the matchstick men of health care reform — have been so insufferable, I almost forgot about Lieberman. Almost.

In fact, apart from the Republicans from whom we expected outlandish lies and cartoonish behavior, Baucus and Conrad have been much more obstructionist and damaging to real health care reform, chiefly because they possess a disproportionate level of power in relation to the nine people in the upper Midwest they represent, and because their ideas would be laughable if they weren’t so ineffectual and dangerous.

To wit: Baucus Plan is just as craptastical as we all suspected it might be.

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Yesterday, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) finally released a proposal for his committee’s health care reform bill — the framework for the eventual Senate Finance Committee legislation.

Predictably, the Baucus Plan is totally nightmarish. Naked on the subway while being accosted by prostitutes that resemble Chuck Grassley nightmarish. I’ve been writing about the terrible possibility of such a bill for several weeks, but now it’s actually beginning to take shape.

But first, because he’s not the most famous or likely political villain, here’s some background.

Baucus controls the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over any legislation that revolves around Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and health care in general. So the senator, as chairman, enjoys a remarkable degree of power considering that he only represents 960,000 people in Montana, one of the most sparsely populated states in the Union. And I’m fairly certain that if polled most Americans would say that Max Baucus is the guy who played Thurston Howell on Gilligan’s Island.

While the Baucus Plan would impose the usual syllabus of regulations on the health insurance industry, it also includes an individual mandate, making it compulsory for everyone to buy a health insurance plan. I get the idea: mandates are an important step to controlling costs and achieving a universal health care, but mandates should be accompanied by a public health insurance option in order to serve as an “option of good conscience” — an escape hatch for those of us who have moral objections to being forced under penalty of law to finance the corrupt insurance cartels.

And the Baucus Plan doesn’t offer a public insurance option.

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If they’re going to name the final healthcare reform bill after Senator Kennedy, we ought to be demanding with voices as powerful and booming as the late senator’s…

The bill must not suck.

But if it does, perhaps they should name it after Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley. The Blame Baucus and Grassley for This Sucky Act. Or maybe borrow the name of the House bill, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, which, by the way, reminds me more of a frozen diet meal than a robust healthcare reform bill (the final House bill is actually pretty robust — it’s just a ridiculous name).

On this day of national mourning, we’re reminded that Senator Kennedy’s political legacy has been inextricably bound to the cause of universal healthcare. Affordable, portable, reliable healthcare.

It’s difficult to know for sure, but I can’t imagine, had he not been stricken with cancer, that the senator would be lending his unmistakable baritone to the awfulness, equivocation and bipartisan hackery that’s on display within the ranks of the Max Baucus ‘Gang of Six’. It goes without saying that left to their own spineless and corrupt devices, these six senators will absolutely deliver a terrible healthcare reform bill, one that would only serve to besmirch the Kennedy legacy.

So what exactly does a sucky healthcare bill look like?

Naturally, without a beefy public health insurance plan, healthcare reform would be an utter disaster — or worse. To refer to the public option as just a “sliver” of the bill, or to push for eliminating it altogether is almost as bad as having no reform at all. Journalists, writers and bloggers who I otherwise respect have been damning the public option with faint praise lately. Let’s not sabotage healthcare reform with partisan ultimatums, they say. We can have a great bill without it, they say.

No, sirs. No we can’t.

They’re not seeing the big picture here. I get it, though. There are many other meaningful aspects to healthcare reform. Banning exclusions for pre-existing conditions, setting caps on out of pocket expenses, bans on rescission. These are all excellent and historic.

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There appears to be a simple two-pronged strategy for killing health care reform.

One of those prongs involves, of course, delaying reform until it’s too late. If it’s not passed by the end of the year, there won’t be the political balls to do so because of the fast approaching 2010 midterms when members of Congress will be much more focused on raising money (health care industry money) and pandering to voters.

Another reason for delaying health care reform is it gives the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats plenty of extra time to inject their special cocktail of mind-bending crazy into the discourse and make it stick, furthering both the current delay while also eroding any voter impetus to pick up the issue again after the midterms. That’d be prong number two.

Not a single dose of the aforementioned “mind-bending crazy” actually holds up when run through even the most cursory fact-checking scrutiny, and, in every statement, the obstructionists trafficking in these lies further underscore their already obvious contradictions and ideological hypocrisy.

Regarding the latter, I can’t recall, for example, this degree of nipple-twisting from Republicans and Blue Dogs about spending and fiscal responsibility when the Bush administration was pitching a blank check invasion and occupation of Iraq on the heels of invading Afghanistan — all during a recession — while also passing a $1 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest one percent the year before.

Yet affordable, accessible health care for everyone is a bridge too far, right? (My blood pressure kicks up into the red zone whenever I hear Republicans today suggesting that they were against the Bush administration’s spending habits when, in fact, they supported each program individually. After all, opposing the commander-in-chief in wartime emboldened the enemy, no? Not any more apparently since we’re still at war and the heretofore “patriotic” far-right won’t even admit the president is an American citizen. Consistent of them.)

Back to the mind-bending crazy. I detailed some of these attacks last week, and my friend Michael J. Elston (Washington, DC radio’s “Buzz Burbank”) hit some of the arguments in his new Huffington Post blog as well. But who knew they would top themselves this week with an attack so simultaneously absurd and shameless that it easily fits comfortably in the Birther/Truther wackaloon syllabus.

This is of course the notion that the president’s health care reform plan includes a mandate to kill old people.

First, here’s Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Cuckoo’s Nest) on the House floor:

It’ll make sure we bring down the cost of healthcare for all Americans, and that ensures affordable access for all Americans, and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.

And the de facto leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh:

According to Politico:

Sean Hannity believes it. So does House Minority Leader John Boehner. Talk show host Fred Thompson calls it “the dirty little secret” of the health care reform debate.

Yes, if you believe what these cranks are selling, the Obama administration is engaged in an elaborate plot to rid the nation of its burdensome population of old people. All this fluff about a public option, all the debate about reducing costs and making health insurance more affordable is merely subterfuge in the White House’s scheme to impose a final solution to the nation’s obvious elderly problem.

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If President Obama is truly serious about changing the way Washington operates, he’d begin to aggressively hector the entourage of lawmakers that I’ve not-so-affectionately nicknamed the “Coalition of the Corrupt and Spineless” (COCS) — the Democratic Senators who have very obviously been bought off by the healthcare lobby, along with other almost-as-awful Democrats whose cowardice is only matched by their weakness of will.

Throw down, Mr. President.

Maybe even do one of those big Hollywood movie style presidential speeches, like the one at the end of The Contender in which President Jeff Bridges calls out that slippery douche Congressman Gary Oldman in front of a joint session:

“I am not free of blame. Right from the start, I should have come down here, pointed a finger your way — pointed a finger your way and asked you, “Have you no decency, sir?” Yesterday, I met — Mr. Runyon, you may walk out on me, you may walk out on this body, but you cannot walk out on the will of the American people.”

There can be no denying that the COCS are flagrantly and unapologetically legislating against — what’s the word? — overwhelming super-majority popular support for the public health insurance option. And why is that? I can’t recall another example in recent memory when the collusion of lobbyists, corporate PACs and members of the United States Senate has been this obvious. We can only conclude that the COCS are entirely ignoring the will of the American people because they’re hiking the Appalachian Trail with the healthcare industrial complex.

What other excuse might they have? To date, not a single senator in the COCS has explained this disparity, chiefly because it’s such an awkward and transparent illustration of the very worst side of Washington — the side that President Obama pledged to help mitigate.

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