Monday, December 21, 2009

60-40...The Rope-A-Dope Vote

I stayed up with C-Span last night to watch the closing arguments and the Senate vote on cloture for the Healthcare Reform Bill. I was not surprised, but once again disappointed with the 60-40 vote. I listened to both sides say why the vote had to be 58 Democrats - 2 Independents For and 40 Republicans Against. As best I can tell from my citizen caring and citizen involved vantage point, the Republicans wanted to stall the vote because they believe that most Americans don't want this bill. What is disappointing is that they don't refute or fight on the point that in the entire time the bill has been moving they have offered only four amendments. I am sure there is some good reason for this, but from this vantage point it feels like they are so afraid that if they make contact with the bill that they are going to catch something that makes them sick. I can understand that, I just don't respect it. When in any other part of life you believe in something that strongly, then you are willing to do anything to take care of something you care about. When your child is sick and you can't get a straight answer from the doctor you don't just stop asking, you go get a second opinion and you keep going until you have the answer, even if that means you may get sick yourself. I feel like the Republicans, were afraid of what they were going to catch and gave up on this one and are now wanting to sit in the corner and say, "I told you so.". If that is the case, then what Senator McConnell said last night about this bill changing the course of our nation forever, is correct. If the 40 votes of no last night were being passive aggressive and wanting to sit back and arm-chair quarterback, then this vote may have been the end of the Republican party as we know it. What it seems has failed to dawn on the R's is that the party that I grew up with were Republicans who came with smart, well-thought out, responsible solutions. But even when they didn't have the best solutions, they always brought their ideas to the table, no matter the obstacles, the public ridicule. They were not known for sitting back and letting someone else tell them what to do. Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater didn't know the meaning of sitting back. Something has gone terribly wrong with American politics when the men and women who go to Washington choose to sit back versus fight for what they believe is right. Mr. McConnell, a man I have admired since I was growing up across the river from Louisville, Kentucky took a trick from his and my fellow Kentuckian, Muhammad Ali, and fought this fight with the rope-a-dope, hoping that he and his party have enough stomach strength to take all the punches and wear the other guy out. The problem with this tactic on healthcare is that no matter the cost of the bill, no matter the problems with the pork that resides in the 2000+ pages, no matter the issues that will come up down the road, in the short term it is going to feel like to working people, regular people, that they are feeling the effect of change in Washington and getting much needed healthcare coverage reform. And while, I do agree with the Republicans that there is too much spending, too many side-deals, federal spending on abortion, etc. that are hard to live with, let's also not forget that the bill does not have a public option plan in it and many other concessions that if they had been at the table, instead of under it, they could be talking about what they influenced and what they could still influence going forward. I am afraid, Mr. McConnell, that the 40 Rope-A-Dope Vote this time just won't work for the whole fight.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grounded By Perception

I was talking to a friend the other day who knows a venture capitalist who did well for himself and is now investing in the clean-technology/renewable energy/green space. He has a problem though in that with where he now focuses and the companies and people he works with, he has to be very careful with how he manages his own carbon footprint. That means that the private jet that he and his family used has been grounded. I always felt weird about flying on a corporate or private jet from the money side, but I can certainly see now how the use of a private jet just doesn't fit with being environmentally friendly. I suspect that Al Gore had to rethink his flying choices a long time ago. Most of us don't have to worry about this problem, but the idea that we will have to change our lifestyles due to the perception and the reality of our carbon footprints, I believe will become a real issue in the future. Already we read about the neighbors who look down their noses and nearly shun those in the 'hood who over do it with the holiday lights. When I was investigating going solar for our house one of the selling features was that if we went into negative power usage for the year that we could share our "extras" with the neighbors for community holiday lighting. I actually thought that defeated the purpose, but none the less, I guess it could be a way to be a good neighbor. Sometime in the near future someone is going to challenge each one of us about the car we drive, the light bulbs we use, the windows that need to be replaced, the amount of times we have the grass cut, etc. Of course if you already have kids, you have likely already heard the lecture. Don't fret on that one though, as you now have a much better reason to make sure they turn off the lights when they leave the room and if they don't then you can just ground them. See, we all might get grounded by how we use our energy sometime soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two "Practical" Healthcare Fixes

Here are two "Practical" ways to fix healthcare.

There is nothing wrong with a public option as long we as taxpayers are not burdened with the cost running the public healthcare. We have a good analogy on how to set up a government agency that is run by the government; everyone uses it, and no taxpayer dollars are used to fund it. It has competition from the private sector and it has been around longer than any of us have been alive. It is called the United States Postal Service. No taxpayer dollars go to fund or run the Postal Service. They make it work on a $0.41 minimum unit price. It is a large infrastructure, that while it may not be the most sophisticated, runs, works, is dependable and is a good alternative choice to FedEx, UPS, etc. It employs lots of people and we all have come to depend on them. So, create a public healthcare program where it pays for itself, is provided and used by government employees, and give me the choice to participate. Create the United Stated Healthcare Insurance Service.

Secondly, make healthcare mandatory for all people. In every state in the U.S. if you are going to drive a car you have to carry car insurance. Of course, there are some people who drive without car insurance, but these are the same people who drive without licenses. When they have an accident, they are penalized, fined and sometimes jailed. It is a law to have car insurance and the same can happen with healthcare insurance. The reason that there is affordable car insurance options is because the insurers have a market where everyone has to have it so it invites competition of service, coverage and price. The same would happen with healthcare insurance. If everyone had to have it then good business people would stratify the market and come up with the minimum coverage required at a price point where those who could afford more would get more and those who can only afford the minimum would be able to buy the minimum coverage affordably. Up and down the supply and service chain, costs would come in line and we would get past all of this arguing.

These are two "practical" ways to think about the problems. We need more "practical" thinking and more "practical" solutions. This plea is directed to all us, including President Obama, Mr. Reid, Mrs. Pelosi, and Mr.McConnell.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Where does The TARP Money Go?

I am amazed and pleased to see that the financial institutions who took the TARP money are paying it back, with interest. The moment I saw the executive pay restrictions added to the loans, I knew that they would somehow magically find a way to pay back the money real soon. Lo and behold, here comes Bank of America ready to wire the money back. But, my question is, where does that money go when it gets repaid? I was listening carefully to the President yesterday as he spoke in Allentown, PA and was answering questions from the town hall audience. When talking about the TARP money he said that we might be surprised that it didn't take all of the money approved to have the program work and that the money being repaid would, after an ahem, "go back to pay off deficits". He said this at 12:25PM EST on 12/4. So, I expect that is what happens, or does it? When Bank of America wires over their $45B next week, we should expect that all of that money will go back and be sent out to some creditor to buy down the debt? Well, not really, he said that it would go back to pay off the deficit, not debt. The deficit is the amount that we keep racking up every year beyond our budget, so the TARP monies will go back into some general account fund to be spent on something else that is over spent. I find it depressing to think that the monies that come from each of us with our hard-earned tax dollars, just continue to fall back into a bucket filled with holes. Just once it would be nice to see someone take the accountability for the use of our money and when something does go right, that it can turn into something better, versus just funding more of the same...