Monday, October 14, 2013


Boehner is no Patriot

It is becoming increasingly apparent that one man, and only one man, has the power to end this nonsense about shutting down the federal government.  That man is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.  All he has to do is to call for a vote on a continuing resolution passed by the Senate and waiting for action by the House.  He can put an end to the uncertainty, the worry, the growing anger in the country, by submitting this one piece of legislation for a vote by the whole House.  It would be a deed to restore confidence in the government, relieve the suffering of federal employees laid off with no pay, alleviate the worry of investors all over the world, and one that would be cheered by a great majority of the American people.

He would be vilified by a majority of Republican members of the House and cheered by everyone else.  He would show that he is willing to risk his political career in the interest of the nation.  He has the power under the Constitution.  Why doesn't he do it?

He's a coward.  He's afraid of the majority of Republicans, who have drunk the Tea Party Kool-Aid.  He hopes that somehow someone else will do something to save our Nation from his folly.  He will be recorded in history books as the worst Speaker in our history.

Sunday, October 13, 2013



It's not often that I find fault with present and past Presidents of my political party, but it seems to me that both President Clinton and President Obama blundered in their attempts to achieve universal health care for all Americans.  Without their blunders, we would have a universal health care system in place and running.

As I noted in a previous blog entry, Clinton ignored Senator John Chafee's attempt to achieve a universal system.  Chafee's plan was simple: simply use the existing system that relies on private insurance and large employers providing a large pool of insured clients to enable the insurers to offer low premiums, coupled with a requirement that every person buy health insurance.  That's essentially the system Obama persuaded Congress to adopt three or four years ago.  Chafee had a lot of support for his plan.  Both Republican and Democratic Senators signed on as co-sponsors.  However, Clinton ha a better idea.  He ignored Chafee's work and pressed ahead with his own plan.  The result was that we go nothing in 1993 and the Republicans took over control of the House in 1994.

Obama's blunder was to ignore Chafee's work but to proceed to get Congress to enact Chafee's plan and then to claim credit for it.  If he had acknowledged up front that the plan was the work of Republican Senator John Chafee and named the plan the "John Chafee Memorial Health Care Act of 2009" it seems to me that the majority of Republicans would have supported it.  They couldn't have opposed it on the ground that Obama was getting the credit for universal health care.  Obama was giving the credit to Senator Chafee.

Now we'll have to wait and see how it works.  Maybe it won't.  In that case, we'll have to try for the "Single Payer" plan, like the one in Canada.

Saturday, October 05, 2013



The universal health care plan that was enacted in Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was Governor and that served as a model for the federal Affordable Care Act is almost identical to a proposed health care bill in Congress in 1993 when President Clinton tried to persuade Congress to adopt his plan.  The 1993 bill was introduced by Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island.  It had bipartisan support in the Senate.  It contained all the essentials of the Massachusetts plan and of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), including the requirement that everyone buy or obtain health insurance and that insurers could not deny coverage for preexisting conditions.  In those days Republicans here in California proposed a similar plan.

Essentially, the two existing universal health care plans, the Massachusetts Plan and Obamacare, are copies of or modifications of Senator Chafee's plan.  Senator Chafee was a REPUBLICAN!  Adopting his plan rather than a more liberal or socialistic plan of their own amounted to a great compromise by Democrats.  Obama gave up supporting either a single-payor plan (like the plan in Canada) or the "public option" out of deference to Republicans.  The Republicans got their own plan enacted.

The Republicans then churlishly labeled the resulting plan "Obamacare" and set about trying to trash it.  Why?  One explanation is that they deliberately labeled it as a creation of Obama and feared that public support of an Obama initiative would cost them public support and electoral success for a generation or more, just as Social Security had given the Democrats electoral success for twenty or thirty years.  Why not, then, name the plan after Senator Chafee?  Call it Chafeecare and claim credit for it.

Why not indeed?  To me it's proof that Republicans are remarkably stupid.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013



There is no doubt that John Boehner could have prevented the government shut-down today and at the same time created for himself a legacy in our nation's history.  Instead, he stuck to the Hastert rule, under which nothing can be voted on by the entire membership of the House of Representatives unless it is approved by the majority caucus.  Today the majority caucus comprises all House members who have been elected as Republicans.  The majority of Republicans are loyal to the conservative "tea party" group.  The House is closely divided between Republicans and Democrats.  A minority of Republicans oppose the shut-down that Mr. Boehner has allowed to happen.

A shut-down would have been avoided if Speaker Boehner had simply allowed two competing budgets to be brought to a vote: one that would have defunded the Affordable Care Act and one that would not.  All of the Democrats and enough of the Republicans among the House Members would have voted for the second budget to have passed it.

I don't know how old the Hastert Rule is.  It was given a name during the Speakership of Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who was the Speaker during the late part of the Clinton Administration.  I can not find any justification for it in the federal constitution.  The constitution allows the House to elect its own Speaker and puts him in charge of the meetings of the House.  The constitution makes no mention of political parties.  I presume that in the early days of the republic, the entire house membership voted to elect the Speaker.

Anyway, there is no doubt that we no longer have a representative form of government.  The majority in the House is not allowed to vote on a sensible budget or continuing resolution.  A minority (tea party conservatives) decides what can be voted on.  In addition, members of the House are elected from districts that, in many cases, were given boundaries that favor the election of Republicans.  We have a House with a Republican majority elected by voters in which Democratic voters outnumbered Republican voters by at least two million votes.  Districts that deliberately favor one party are called Gerrymanders.  The process of creating such districts is called gerrymandering.

There was a time in our history when there was not an ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans.  When my Father was a young man in Michigan, the farmers there were mostly Democrats.  The Republicans were mostly business people who lived in cities and villages.  Gradually these allegiances changed so that by the time I was a young man most farmers were Republicans.  At the same time, great industries grew, largely in support of the public demand for automobiles.  Miners dug iron ore and coal to supply the great steel mills.  The steel mill owners hired immigrants from Eastern Europe to work in the mills.  (The work was dirty, dangerous, and hard and the immigrants would accept the low wages offered.)

Eventually the workers in the mines, the mills, and the auto factories formed labor unions that were powerful enough to demand and get improvements in working conditions and higher salaries.  These union workers became mostly Democrats.  We now had the basis for an ideological split between the two major parties.  The Democrats favored policies that helped their constituents, the workers.  The Republicans favored policies that helped their constituents, the business owners and managers of large companies.

That's enough history for one day.  The ideological split between Democrats and Republicans is going to stay for the foreseeable future.  It is important that our political system should not have features that favor either of the two major parties.  Gerrymandered legislative representative districts have got to go.

How do we get rid of them?  There may be lawsuits that challenge the boundaries of certain districts.  So far, a lawsuit has challenged a district in a Southern State on the basis of race discrimination.  A district was drawn to include as many black voters as possible so that other districts could be formed near-by with only black minorities.  We will have to see whether the federal courts will consider gerrymandering to achieve a favorable outcome for one political party violates the principle of equal rights for all voters.

Another remedy is to give the power to choose district boundaries to an impartial citizens' commission rather than the state legislature.  We have already done this in California and a few other states.  We can see a result in the make-up of our state legislature.

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