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Weekly Pulse: #DearJohn, Does Banning Abortion Trump Job Growth?

2:25 pm in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

With millions of Americans out of work, House Republicans are focusing in on real priorities: decimating private abortion coverage and crippling public funding for abortion, as Jessica Arons reports in RH Reality Check.

In AlterNet, Amanda Marcotte notes that the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, or H.R. 3, also redefines rape as “forcible rape” in order to determine whether a patient is eligible for a Medicaid-funded abortion. Under the Hyde Amendment, government-funded insurance programs can only cover abortions in cases of rape and incest, or to save the life of the mother. Note that the term “forcible rape” is  legally meaningless. Supporters of the bill just want to go on the record as saying that a poor 13-year-old girl pregnant by a 30-year-old should be forced to give birth.

Feminist blogger Sady Doyle has launched a twitter campaign against the bill under the hashtag #dearjohn, a reference to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Tweet to let him know how you feel about a bill that discriminates against 70% of rape victims because their rapes weren’t violent enough for @johnboehner, append the hashtag #dearjohn.

Everybody chill out

A federal judge in Florida ruled the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional on Monday. However, as political scientist and court watcher Scott Lemieux explains at TAPPED, the ruling is not necessarily a death blow to health care reform:

[T]his ruling is less important than the controversy it will generate might suggest. Many cornerstone programs of the New Deal were held unconstitutional by lower courts before being upheld by the Supreme Court. This ruling tells us nothing we didn’t already know: There is a faction of conservative judges who believe the individual mandate is unconstitutional. Unless this view has the support of five members of the Supreme Court — which I still consider very unlikely — it won’t matter; Vinson’s reasoning would have a much greater impact if adopted by the Court, but for this reason it is even less likely to be adopted by higher courts.

In a follow-up post, Lemieux explains the shaky legal reasoning behind Judge Robert Vinson’s decision. The judge asserts bizarrely that being uninsured has no effect on interstate commerce. That premise is objectively false. Health insurers operate across state lines and the size and composition of their risk pools directly affects their business.

Given the glaring factual inaccuracies, Judge Vinson’s decision may be overturned by a higher court before it gets to the Supreme Court.

Scamming Medicare

Terry J. Allen of In These Times win’s the headline of the week award for an article entitled “Urology’s Golden Revenue Stream.” She reports that increasing numbers of urologists are investing millions on machines to irradiate prostate cancer in the office. The doctors can bill Medicare up to $40,000 per treatment, but they have to use the machines a lot to recoup the initial investment. So what does this mean for patients? Allen explains:

Rather than accessing centralized equipment and sharing costs, physicians are concentrating their own profits by buying expensive in-practice technologies that pay off only if regularly used. One result is overtreatment, which is driving up health care costs, exposing patients to unnecessary radiation and surgeries, and is frequently no better than cheaper approaches.

One third of Medicare patients with prostate cancer undergo the expensive IMRT therapy, as the procedure is known. In 2008, Medicare shelled out over a billion dollars on a treatment that has not shown to be any better for patients than less expensive therapies.

Obstetric fistula in the developing world

Reproductive Health Reality Check is running a special series on the human rights implications of obstetric fistula. Fistula is a devastating complication of unrelieved obstructed labor in which the baby’s head gets stuck in the birth canal and presses against the soft tissues of the pelvis. If labor goes on long enough, the pressure will starve the pelvic tissues of blood, and they will die, creating a hole between the vagina and the bladder, and/or between the vagina and the rectum. Fistula patients face lifelong incontinence, chronic pain, and social ostracism.

The condition is virtually unknown in the developed world, where women with obstructed labor have access to cesarean delivery. However, an estimated 2 million women, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, have untreated fistulas with an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occurring each year. Without reconstructive surgery, these women will be incontinent for life.

Sarah Omega, a fistula survivor from Kenya, tells her story. Omega sustained a fistula when she delivered her first child at the age of 19. She suffered for 12 years before she finally obtained the surgery she needed. As Agnes Odhiambo explains in another installment in the series, fistula is a symptom of a dysfunctional health care system. Women suffer needlessly because they can’t get access to quality health care.

The most likely victims of fistula are the most vulnerable members of their respective communities. Early childbearing increases a woman’s risk of fistula. Pregnant rape victims may face even greater barriers to a safe delivery, thanks to the social stigma that accrues to victims of sexual violence in many societies. (Not to mention any names, House Republicans…)

Preventing and repairing obstetric fistula is a major human rights issue. The U.S. should make this effort a high priority for foreign aid.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: “Racist” Tanning Tax and Other Absurd Objections to Health Care Reform

8:17 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

While President Obama signed the final piece of the health care reform bill into law on Tuesday, opponents are not taking the defeat lying down. This week’s prize for the most bizarre objection to health care reform goes to Glenn Beck’s guest host Doc Thompson who alleged that a tax on tanning salons is racist. Andy Kroll of Mother Jones explains:

Filling in for Glenn Beck on his radio show, conservative radio host Doc Thompson recently made the stunningly outrageous claim that a tax on indoor tanning salons, as included in the health care reform bill, is racist. Such a tax, Thompson claimed, discriminates against "all light-skinned Americans" because only white-skinned Americans use tanning salons. Never mind the deadly effect tanning beds and the like have on your skin and health, nor the fact that the tax would generate $2.7 billion over ten years to help pay for health care. No, that couldn’t have anything to do with why the tax was included in the health care bill.

Governors vs. AGs

Christina Bellantoni of TPM Election Central reports that various Republican state attorneys general are clashing with their Democratic governors over plans to challenge health care reform in court. When Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (R) joined an anti-reform lawsuit, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) reminded everyone that "no one in the executive branch has authorized [Cox] to take this position." The lawsuits are a good way to grab media attention, but Cox and his fellow AGs may end up with egg on their faces if these challenges actually go to court.

Reform and the Constitution

Some anti-reform activists allege that health care reform is unconstitutional because the government doesn’t have the right to force people to carry health insurance (aka the "individual mandate"). On, The Breakdown podcast, Chris Hayes of the Nation interviews Gillian Metzger a professor of constitutional law at Columbia who explains why the constitutionality of health care reform is "pretty much a no-brainer." Another Nation contributor, Aziz Huq, puts it this way: "Among constitutional scholars, the puzzle is not how the federal government can defend the new law, but why anyone thinks a constitutional challenge is even worth making."

SEIU Sues Dissident Local

Speaking of lawsuits, Carl Finamore of Working In These Times is covering a major court battle in California between two large health care unions. The 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union is suing the former elected officers, staff and organizers of its third-largest national affiliate, United Healthcare Workers–West (UHW). The 26 defendants defected from SEIU to form a new union, National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which is also being sued. The conflict started a few years ago when national SEIU decided to remove 65,000 health care workers from a UHW local without the local’s consent. Finamore sees this lawsuit as a test of the principle of local self-governance: can SEIU sue a dissident local into submission?

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: A Return to Reason

9:26 am in Media by TheMediaConsortium

After the shadowy Bush years, the emergence of reasonable policy can be a little surprising. Immigration law has suffered from a lack of planning and is often influenced by fear rooted in the Sept. 11 attacks. But the national dialogue on immigration has begun to grow healthier. Activists, immigration advocacy groups and Latino and Asian American communities dug in and are working toward reform. Right wing and anti-immigration voices have less sway. This week we see two tangible and positive developments on this front: An announcement from the White House regarding detention policy reform and a letter against aggressive enforcement sent to the White House from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The White House’s latest announcement on immigration detention reform is encouraging, as it finally addresses the abysmal conditions of the detained, who include families and children. Though, as Michelle Chen muses for RaceWire, what is the overall purpose of these proposed improvements in detention facilities and policies? Are they simply to make the general public more comfortable? After reviewing the latest reform proposals for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, Chen finds a lot of hype and not many details. She writes that despite any makeover, "the central, defining reality of detention remains the banishment of hundreds of thousands for violating a system of rules that is itself guilty of systematically violating rights." So reason may be returning, but in some cases, it may only be turning the corner, and hardly arrived as of yet.

On the heels of a recent letter to the White House that demanded an end to aggressive enforcement policies, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has weighed in. The lawmakers sent President Barack Obama a letter that underlined the connection between racial profiling, civil rights abuses, and the 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement with border patrol powers. The caucus called on the administration to "immediately terminate" the program. They wrote that in their collective experience, "state and local law enforcement officials actually use their expanded and often unchecked powers under the program to target immigrants and persons of color."

The "tough" angle of U.S. immigration policy can be traced, of course, to the national response to the attacks of September 11. This was when enforcement began to take an aggressive, combative shape. But does it serve us today? Instead of viewing the changing demographics of the nation as a phenomenon deserving a military response, it is more helpful to have a dialogue like The American Forum’s Rev. J. George Reed and Chris Liu-Beers, who discuss the root causes of immigration. Harsher enforcement has little value, according to Reed and Liu-Beers. The conversation must include "American trade policy (including NAFTA)," the economic conditions and lack of opportunity in "sending" countries. They also assert that the idea of somehow deporting 12 million people from our country is but "ugly fantasy."

Sometimes reasonable conversation on the immigration issue arrives as studied fact, taking the form of reports such as the recent Principles for an Immigration Policy to Strengthen and Expand the American Middle Class: 2009 Edition, which Michele Waslin reports on for Alternet. "The myth that immigration is bad for U.S. workers has sulled the immigration debate for far too long," writes Waslin. And the study reinforces one of the more benevolent notions in the U.S. national identity: that our social body so often nourished by immigration, benefits from this cycle. Immigration reform, properly planned (based on reason, and not fear) can "harness the positive contributions of immigrants, thus improving the lives of middle class Americans." However, under the current system, "undocumented workers are vulnerable and exploitable, living at the mercy of their employers," and to the detriment of all of us.

Last month, Lindsay Beyerstein pushed back against a bogeyman used by those of the Joe "You Lie" Wilson ilk for In These Times. She asks "Why Not Cover Undocumented Migrants?" Beyerstein explains why allowing the undocumented to buy into insurance would be better for all of us. "As a group, migrants tend to be young and healthy," and this is a desirable demographic to insure, on the part of the health insurance industry. Migrants often "return home before they get to the inevitable ‘old and expensive’ phase of life." Additionally, inherent to how insurance works, it simply makes economic sense to spread the risk to a larger group of people. All in all, Beyerstein writes, "there’s no good economic reason to make eligibility contingent upon immigration status."

The changing dialogue benefits from independent reporting, like Wiretap’s coverage of FBI informant Ahmad Afzali. The facts are not all in, but according to the FBI, Afzali, who had been working with the U.S. government agency for over a year, is accused of tipping off alleged terrorist Najibullah Zazi. Afzali’s attorney claims this would be a ridiculous action to take on a line he knew was tapped. Meanwhile, the Muslim community where Zazi lived feel that he is not being fairly treated, his own words being "distorted and used against him." Whichever way this goes, we can only hope that Muslim communities in the U.S. are afforded a bit more peace of mind in the years ahead. It certainly is one group that has suffered at the hands of wartime hysteria and aggression.

We can’t exclude reasonable consideration from any one group of humans. We can not withhold humane treatment, nor an identification with any group in our nation. That is how national ID laws get passed—an "othered" group is used first. Then, it comes to the rest. This is also why certain youth are punished, even though laws were passed long ago to protect other youth from such fates. We see where the insistence of anti-immigrant irrationality leads us: To building "national security" walls in the desert that eat up billions of a national budget just to patch the holes, and accomplish just as much death on that lonely trail to opportunity.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Daily Pulse: Finance Committee Rejects Public Options, But the Fight Continues

11:01 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Yesterday, the powerful Senate Finance Committee met to debate two amendments that would have inserted a public option into the committee’s health reform bill. Both amendments were defeated as key Democrats sided with Republicans and the insurance companies. David Corn of Mother Jones diagnoses what ails Senate Democrats. It’s split personality disorder: "They are the best friends of the health insurance industry. They are fiercest foes of the health insurance industry."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) strong public option amendment was defeated 15-8 because senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Tom Carper (D-DE) joined the committee’s ten Republicans. In the next round of voting, Nelson and Carper backed Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) amendment, but Baucus, Conrad and Lincoln stuck with the GOP and voted it down. Ironically, as Corn observes, the Senate Democratic communications team was busy emailing blistering indictments of the insurance industry while key members of the caucus were doing the insurers’ bidding.

John Nichols of The Nation worries that yesterday’s defeat is a sign that Congress is backing away from a public option, which was itself a compromise alternative to a single-payer, Medicare-for-all type system:

Tuesday’s day-long gathering of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, where chairman Max Baucus has spent months lowering expectations, offered a sense of just how dim prospects for meaningful systemic change have become.

Baucus, the insurance-industry representative who doubles as a Democratic senator from Montana, long ago rejected the notion that a robust public option might be a part of any healthcare reform measure that would pass the Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee went on to add tens of millions of dollars for discredited abstinence-only propaganda for teens, as Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent reports. Well, at least pseudoscience has a public option. If kids can learn this nonsense for free at school, maybe they’ll ditch church, where you have to put your money in the collection plate to hear the sermon.

Chris Bowers of AlterNet argues that a public option still has 51 votes in the Senate. Which means that the Democrats could still pass a healthcare bill by majority vote in the upper chamber, if they decided to forgo their quest for a filibuster-proof 60 and pass the bill through budget reconciliation.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, claims to have the votes to pass a plan with a public option, Lynda Waddington reports in the Iowa Independent. Harkin believes that the full Senate should have the opportunity to vote on the public option, considering that it’s part of four out of the five bills that have been approved so far.

The fight for a public option isn’t over yet. To date, all of the other health reform bills that are out of committee include a strong public option. The next step is putting these bills together to create the final legislation for the House and Senate to vote on.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Daily Pulse: It Could Happen to You

9:47 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Opponents of health care reform are trying to pit the insured against everyone else. Conservative Republicans like Rep. Mike Pence warn that if we get a public option, millions of Americans will lose their private coverage because so many employers will stop offering private insurance. What Pence doesn’t say is that right now, employers can stop providing insurance at any time and their workers will have nothing to fall back on. As costs rise, fewer and fewer employers are providing any health insurance at all.

Most insured people have no idea how fragile their coverage is under the status quo.

The Uptake carries President Obama’s address on the uninsured, in which he hammered home the message that anyone under 65 can lose their coverage at any time. Luckily for those over 65, they have a popular public option, Medicare.

There are lots of ways to become uninsured, including job loss, employers cutting off benefits, or insurers kicking customers off the rolls. As Obama said:

Over the last twelve months, nearly six million more Americans lost their health coverage – that’s 17,000 men and women every single day. We’re not just talking about Americans in poverty, either – we’re talking about middle-class Americans. In other words, it can happen to anyone. And based on a brand-new report from the Treasury Department, we can expect that about half of all Americans under 65 will lose their health coverage at some point over the next ten years.

It’s common knowledge that insurance companies drop customers with preexisting conditions and cut paying customers off when they get sick. It might surprise you to learn that domestic violence counts as a preexisting condition in many states.

Amie Newman of RH Reality Check reports that the insurance industry figured out what feminists have been saying for decades: Once a man becomes a batterer, chances are he’ll continue to abuse his wife with increasing brutality. If you’re a human being, that’s an outrage and a tragedy. If you’re a conscience-free health insurance provider, it’s a big red flag to drop victims because their wounds will cost you money. This is the logic of for-profit health insurance in a microcosm: Identify the most vulnerable and purge them because they hurt your bottom line.

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee is set to unveil its long-awaited bill today. The committee will vote on the bill next week. We’ll examine the bill in tomorrow’s Pulse.

After a seemingly endless quest for a bipartisan bill, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont) is signaling that he’s prepared to move ahead without GOP support. Good thing, too. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) swears he’s serious about bipartisanship, according to the Iowa Independent, but he spent the summer telling tall tales of death panels and fundraising as an opponent of "Obamacare." Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one potential Republican swing vote, now says she rejects the very idea of public/private competition, according to Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly.

Finally, you can use the Washington Independent’s new Public Option Scoreboard to keep track of every senator’s position, based on their public statements.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit  Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Daily Pulse: Obama’s Health Care Speech

11:16 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Last night, President Obama laid out his vision for health care reform before a special joint session of Congress. The pillars of his plan are: i) Curbing the worst abuses of private insurance, ii) Requiring everyone to have insurance, iii) Insurance exchanges, which are basically government websites where customers can order insurance off a "menu" of plans, the idea being that if tens of millions of people order the #2 Combo, everyone’s lunch will be cheaper.

The president made it clear that the country can’t afford to wait for reform. Last night, he took on the self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives who claim that they oppose reform because it would increase the deficit. "Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close," Obama said. The president reminded the audience that each of us pays a "hidden tax" of $1000 dollars a year to subsidize charity and emergency care for the uninsured.

It was an impressive performance, but as John Nichols of the Nation observes, it was hardly a rousing, "to-the-barricades" oration:

Obama still talked about "options" and "choices." But he suggested that they would be offered mainly by insurance companies that would be enjoy "incentives"—i.e., new streams of taxpayer dollars—if they agree to abide by consumer-friendly regulations and come up with strategies for covering more of the uninsured.

The president expressed support for a very limited public option, a kind of welfare program that only about 5% of Americans would choose to join. This is not the public option his liberal supporters had in mind. It’s non-threatening to the insurance companies, though. Private insurers love the idea of the government low-grading the insurance pool and taking on the sickest people who can’t get coverage anywhere else. That means private insurers can make even more money off the remaining healthy, paying customers.

James Ridgeway of Mother Jones is even less optimistic, "As for the public option, that’s pretty clearly gone down the drain."

One GOP legislator decided that a joint session of Congress was basically a town hall with the president. Rep. Joe Wilson (SC) screamed "You lie!" when the president explained, for the umpteenth time that undocumented immigrants will not be covered. As with the town halls, Wilson’s performance had a whiff astroturf about it. Sure enough, Sue Sturgis of Raw Story found that Wilson pocketed over $2 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry.

The president also reminded America that health care reform will not pay for abortions. (For more on myth-making around women’s health, see Laurie Rubiner’s excellent post at RH Reality.)

Instead of presenting a vision and asking Congress to line up behind him, the president stressed that he was synthesizing a compromise position incorporating ideas from the left and the right. Instead of a coherent vision, the president’s scheme sounds more like a last-ditch compromise plan to enable him to declare victory. Like many Democrats, the president seems to be confusing the strategic with the expedient. If "reform" means saddling ordinary Americans with expensive mandatory insurance without a meaningful public option to keep costs in check he could doom the electoral fortunes of the Democrats for years to come.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit  Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Daily Pulse: Obama to Outline Vision for Health Care Reform

9:36 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

Today, President Obama will spell out his vision for health care reform before a special joint session of Congress. The president’s speech marks the final phase of health care reform. This is Obama’s last chance to recapture the momentum that Democrats lost to corporate-backed town hall hooligans and misinformation during the August recess.

The Uptake asks movers and shakers in Minnesota what they want to see from the president today (video above). Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) says he wants to see the president explain why the public option is necessary to hold down costs, and reassure them that the public option will not threaten private insurance or lead to cuts in Medicare. "It’s going to be the biggest moment of his presidency," Ellison tells the Uptake, "I hope he makes it a Roosevelt moment, a Kennedy moment, a Lincoln moment, because I think he has the ability to do that."

Devona Walker of New America Media on what Obama needs to do today: Explain the plan clearly, enforce party discipline, and convince the public that reforming health care is the only way to reduce deficits in the long run.

Brooke Jarvis of Yes! Magazine offers a history lesson on why so many presidents have tried and failed to achieve universal health care:

In each case, says historian Beatrix Hoffman, “the relentless opposition of medical, business, and insurance interests pushed reformers to design health care proposals around placating their opponents more than winning popular support. In turn, ordinary people had trouble rallying around complex proposals [that didn’t recognize] a universal right to health care.”

The root of the problem, Hoffman says, was that the proposals came from elites who sought to compromise with interest groups, where they believed real power lay, rather than to ally with grassroots movements

In the Progressive, Cristina Lopez argues that, while everyone needs affordable high quality health insurance, Latinos and women are most in need of a public option because they are at greater risk of being uninsured and unable to afford private insurance.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo wonders if the Democrats are courting disaster by forcing people to buy heavily subsidized private insurance with no public option to reign in costs:

Am I the only one who thinks that if the Dems pass a bill with mandates and subsidies for poor and moderate income people to purchase it but no public option or competition with the insurers, that it will be pretty much a catastrophe for the Democrats in political terms?

You ‘solve’ the problem of the uninsured by passing a law forcing them to buy health insurance which, by definition, most a) cannot afford or b) are gambling they won’t need because they’re young and healthy. Either you end up with low subsidies which still leave it onerous to buy, thus creating a lot of disgruntled people, or you get generous subsidies, which cost a lot of money.

The health care reform battled has created deep divisions within the Democratic Party. Tonight, the president will pick his side. Will he stand with the progressives for a public option, or will he back the Blue Dogs and their watered-down, politically risky compromise proposal? Keep your eyes on tomorrow’s Pulse for the post-game breakdown.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit  Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

The Daily Pulse: Deep Six the Gang of Six

9:36 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger

Ed. note: The Weekly Pulse is becoming the Daily Pulse for September. Every weekday, we’ll bring you highlights from the health care reform debate, including exclusive video interviews with leading experts and independent journalists each Friday. Even better, you can be a part of the conversation. Stay tuned to find out more!

A power shift is underway in Washington. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick announced on Monday that a special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy would not take place until January 19, 2010. With Kennedy’s seat empty, the Democrats no longer have the 60 votes they need to break a filibuster in the Senate. Up until this point, the White House was hoping for a compromise bill that the entire Democratic caucus, and maybe even a few Republicans, could agree on.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that the Gang of Six has made itself irrelevant. These powerful members of the Senate Finance Committee were in charge of hammering out a bipartisan health care bill.  They forgot that they were only powerful if people believed a bipartisan compromise was attainable.

Talking Points Memo reports that the White House has given up on Republican gangster Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY). They finally got the hint when Enzi told a radio listeners that Democrats wanted to kill the elderly with comparative efficacy research. The White House should have cut its losses two weeks ago when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) repeated the "death panel" meme at a town hall meeting.  Grassley has also been raising money campaigning against "Obama-care."

It’s looking more and more like the Democrats will have to look to budget reconciliation, a special parliamentary procedure that could sidestep a filibuster and pass a healthcare bill by a simple majority vote.

In Salon, Robert Reich pleads with the congressional Democrats to instill some party discipline in their caucus.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s top lobby group, dispatched 50,000 employees to town halls to fight the public option. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones took a cue from Michael Moore in Sicko. She asks AHIP what kind of insurance their top lobbyist has. Mencimer says AHIP was so standoffish you’d think she had a preexisting condition.

In Mother Jones, Ben Buchwalter and Nikki Gloudeman take a closer look at the corporate megabucks behind the town hall brawls. Corporate enemies of healthcare reform are using front groups like FreedomWorks to organize angry mobs at town hall meetings. Zach Roth of TPM Muckraker reports that "legendary GOP bamboozler" Howard Kaloogian has launched a tea party bus tour to protest healthcare reform.

Speaking of frauds, you’ve probably heard about so-called crisis pregnancy centers that pose as abortion clinics in order to cajole women into having babies. Ever wonder what happens to those babies? In the Nation, Kathryn Joyce goes inside the world of high-pressure Christian adoption agencies that support desperate women, as long as they promise to give up their babies.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care and is free to reprint. Visit  Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on health care affordability, health care laws, and health care controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Pulse: Healthcare Reform After Kennedy

10:03 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, TPM MediaWire Blogger

One of healthcare reform’s greatest champions died last night. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 77. During his 46-year career in the senate, Kennedy’s name appeared on virtually every major piece of progressive legislation from civil rights to economic justice, to healthcare. Kennedy called healthcare reform "the cause of my life."

Jack Newfield of The Nation remembers Kennedy as the senate’s fighting liberal, the "best and most effective senator of the past hundred years."

James Ridgeway of Mother Jones laments:

We are left with weak, squabbling, visionless Democratic puppets and a President whose domestic reform policies are adrift—sliding towards the horizon with each passing day.

The loss is a blow to healthcare reform. Alex Koppelman of Salon notes that with Kennedy’s passing, the Democrats have lost one of their most effective bipartisan deal-makers. Democrats will also be down a vote in the senate for the foreseeable future because Massachusetts state law doesn’t allow for the appointment of an immediate replacement.

Naturally, with congress on vacation, wackos are rushing in to fill the media vacuum. Eric Boehlert asks in AlterNet why Republicans the only ones allowed to get angry about healthcare reform, or anything else. He notes that in 2003, the media decided that Howard Dean was too angry for prime time. During the Republican National Convention in 2008, SWAT teams were sent to raid the homes of suspected anarchist protesters. And yet, conservative demonstrators in Arizona are allowed to tote rifles just outside the security perimeter of a presidential event.

RNC Chair Michael Steele raised eyebrows by championing single-payer healthcare in an op/ed in the Washington Post framing the GOP as defenders of Medicare.

Odd that Steele has so much love for Medicare, but none for the nation’s other leading source of government-run healthcare, the Veterans Administration (VA). This week, Steele accused America’s other leading public insurance provider of encouraging veterans to commit suicide, based on a booklet published by the VA which explains living wills, advanced directives and other key concepts in end-of-life care, Rachel Slajda reports for TPM DC.

Progressives have been doing a great job debunking the death panel and death book myths, like this creative photo essay from TPM. But we’re scarcely addressing the misconception that underlies them: The idea government-administered health insurance is inherently more prone to rationing than private health insurance.

Newt Gingrich and other prominent opponents of reform claim that a public option will restrict choices and deny care. What they don’t say is that for-profit insurance is rationing. When your insurance company covers an old drug for your condition, but not a new one with fewer side effects, that’s rationing. The company is restricting your treatment choices to improve its bottom line. When an employer or an insurer decides not to cover mental health care, that’s rationing. The entire business model is predicated on charging people more and giving them less care so there’s more money left over for the stockholders.

No health insurance can cover every treatment, no matter who runs it. But public insurance has two major advantages: 1) Public insurance tends to be cheaper to administer; 2) The tough choices about what to cover are ultimately in the hands of the voters, not health insurance bureaucrats with an eye on the bottom line.

The whole town hall concept is turning out to be a strategic blunder for the White House. The format makes legislators and the media sitting ducks for extremists and astroturfers who want to paint themselves as typical citizens. As Sandy Heierbacher of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation writes in YES Magazine:

[T]he town hall design sets the stage for activist groups and special interest groups to try to ‘game’ the system and sideline other concerned citizens in the process. As Martin Carcasson, director of Colorado State University’s Center for Public Deliberation, recently pointed out, “the loudest voices are the ones that get heard, and typically the majority voices in the middle don’t even show up because it becomes a shouting match.”

How much more clear can the Republicans be? They are not interested in bipartisanship. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), supposedly the Senate’s leading reasonable Republican on healthcare, couldn’t even be bothered to rebuke a town hall participant who hinted about assassinating the president, as Raw Story reports.

If the Democrats want healthcare reform, they are going to have to go it alone. Let’s hope they pass a bill that would make Sen. Kennedy proud.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about healthcare and is free to reprint. Visit Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Silence Strengthens Opposition

9:16 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Nezua, TMC Mediawire Blogger

President Obama is citing the Healthcare debate as a reason for postponing immigration reform until 2010. But in the interim, the White House is laying the groundwork foran enforcement agenda by expanding programs such as 287(g), Secure Communities and e-Verify, amidst a growing matrix of detention centers. Anti-immigration factions are taking advantage of the lull in legislative action to push their own agenda.

The Progressive takes the unequivocal stand that "President Obama is wrong to postpone immigration reform."Author Ed Morales makes it clear that while healthcare and economic issues are "understandably urgent," the choice to delay reform "de-prioritizes" people who have paid their taxes but have not been given a path to citizenship.

The problem is, immigration reform and healthcare reform are inextricably connected. WireTap cites a central tenant of healthcare reform’s "artificially amplified ‘public’ opposition" to immigration, as reported by the Los Angeles Times: It’s "the notion that ‘Congress would give illegal immigrants health insurance at taxpayer expense.’"

Is the racially charged core of this "chameleon colored outrage" being purposefully left out of the general dialogue? The ugly facts are that a "third of all ‘Hispanics’ in the U.S., almost half of the undocumented, and a fifth of African Americans" lack health insurance today. And yet, only "one in eight whites" lack health care.

After all, "Not all immigrants are alike." New America Media’s David Hayes-Bautista compares the experiences of two immigrants named Jean-Claude and Juan Carlos. Hayes-Bautista effectively illustrates the Good Immigrant/Bad Immigrant paradigm and asks "Why do some immigrants move quickly and swiftly up the educational and professional ladder, while others appear to remain stymied at the bottom?" Ultimately, "both segments of immigrants deserve to be included in the future healthcare system that their presence will help to fund."

But some clearly don’t think with such a progressive bent, as the New Mexico Independent reports.Instead of trying to bring greater truth to the entire discussion, anti-immigrant factions are "using [healthcare reform] to whip up fear and anger toward immigrants," unsurprisingly claiming that they are "a costly and burdensome drain on any taxpayer-supported U.S. health care system."

At a Portsmouth, New Hampshire town hall where the crowd awaited the President’s arrival, one "white-bearded protestor" suggested murder as a solution for "illegals." (Video via the Young Turks).

Judging from the agitated protestor’s words, he, like others, views immigration through a fearful zero sum scarcity model in which one person’s well-being equals another person’s loss.There are better ways to approach this issue. New America Media reports on a more enlightened approach being employed in New Mexico. The Las Cruces-based Colonias Development Council (CDC), along with other community groups, recently held a series of meetings that discussed "living and working conditions in underdeveloped border-area communities,"but filtered the conversation "through the lens of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations back in 1948." Such a lens introduces not just political concerns,but concerns related to the "guarantees of healthcare, education, employment, and housing" as human rights.

Migrants, like those of the CDC, are exploring the truly progressive ideas that proclaim all humans deserving of certain rights. And when the White House takes immigration reform off the radar with one hand and clamps down punitively with the other, it sends a signal to companies like Yum! brands, which are implementing illegal policies. In These Times‘ Robin Peterson tells the story of a very unhappy KFC workforce where "No Match" letters have resulted in many lost jobs. No Match letters were introduced by the Bush administration. The idea is that your employer sends your Social Security number to a database, which returns a "match" that indicates valid citizenship."No match" equals no citizenship, and usually, no job. However, a judge ruled shortly after the legislation’s introduction, that it was illegal to fire a person over an "unmatched" return.

"Time’s up," writes Michelle Chen of RaceWire. While the President has made some "overtures" toward immigration reform, the White House has "generally adhered to the status quo set by the Bush administration." Not all involved are feeling so patient: "Faced with the news that immigration reform may have to wait until 2010, some organizations say their patience has run out." The Mexican American Political Association, for one, has called for direct action to make clear the urgent necessity for leadership on this issue:

We are taking the brunt of the attacks and suffering the immediate consequences of this misguided policy, therefore, our call is urgent to take to the streets on September 5th, the Labor Day weekend, and October 12th, not to ask but demand that President Obama stop the attacks on immigrants and that he fulfill his promise of immigration reform, that which we heard during the presidential campaign, but has recently been forgotten.

Increasingly, the White House appears to be backing away from its promises to important constituencies. The administration’s inaction plays out with very real results on the ground, including increased tension, anxiety, and violence against immigrant communities. As we are a nation of immigrants, the effects of ignoring this pressing issue are widespread and will only grow worse in time.


This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration and is free to reprint. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.