Monday, January 18, 2016

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE IRANIAN DEAL

I have heard the term "appeasement" many times in the description of the Iranian Nuclear Deal. Many people really do think we gave in to Iran and received very little in return. They compare President Obama to Prime Minister Chamberlain and the deal made with Germany in the late 1930's. Such a comparison is absurd. The United States joined the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany in negotiating this deal with Iran. UN inspectors will have strong access to Iranian nuclear facilities in making sure that Iran complies. Finally, Iran will now establish trade relationships within the global economy and this could strengthen the moderate political leaders in Iran and encourage more support for them in the future against Iran's "hard-liners." This deal is not a sure bet. But neither was bunker bombing Iran's Nuclear facilities as a way of preventing them from getting the nuclear bomb. Caution and verification are the key wards in this agreement but this is not "appeasement." This is an attempt to use multi-lateral diplomacy to prevent more war. The dividends of this agreement might already be felt as the 12 soldiers were quickly released when they were captured in Iranian waters. Also, 5 civilians who were held for years in Iran were recently released. These gestures by Iran should not be applauded. These 17 people should not have been taken in the first place. But these releases should provide a small layer of optimism as we look at the impact of this agreement. But don't call it "appeasement."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Affordable Health Care Law - Political Update - Making Sense Of It All

The Preamble of the United States Constitution includes the words “promote the general welfare.” Can there be anything more basic to “the general welfare” than making sure all citizens of the United States have a basic health plan. I am a believer of universal health care so I thought the current law didn’t go far enough. If we can provide free public education then I sincerely believe all citizens should be provided with free health care. Should there be limits. Sure. But our government should try to serve our citizens. President Obama saw a broken system and earnestly tried to fix it. It was not exactly what he wanted. But he knew that our system of government is based on compromise. He gave in on many areas to gain support for passage of a law that would address a “broken system” for the majority of Americans. It was a start. Improvements to the system would always be welcomed and would only strengthen a great first step in making health care accessible, and possibly affordable for all Americans. The bill was passed, with a “super majority” in the Senate, a majority of the House and the official signing by the President of the United States of America. I teach high school history and government. I really can’t come up with another event in U.S. History that comes close to what followed, and continues to occur, in the attempt by elected officials to sabotage our system of democracy. Republicans sued to get the Supreme Court of the United States to get the Affordable Health Care Bill declared unconstitutional. The key issue was the “individual mandate.” This would require all Americans to have health insurance or be subject to a fine. In an incredible decision, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, sided with the liberal members of the court to uphold the law. Chief Justice Roberts is a Republican and was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush. Most people, including me, naturally assumed all members of Congress would work together to improve the law and strengthen its implementation in the interest of helping all Americans. Wow! Was I wrong! The Republican controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the law. Ok. I think one symbolic vote to voice their dissatisfaction would be acceptable. But 37 votes to repeal a “law” that would never get by the Democratically controlled Senate was a total waste of time and is an insult to the citizens of the United States who expect elected officials to work together to improve the quality of life for all Americans. Finally, I close with the latest stunt being used to sabotage the Affordable Health Care “Law.” Members of the House are threatening to withhold funding for the implementation of this law. I am familiar with the use of this action as a very appropriate use of our Constitution’s system of checks and balances. For example, if the President of the United States uses the military in an undeclared war, Congress can cut funding and force a cessation of the military action. But the Affordable Health Care Act is meant to help the American people. This is a passed law. This law has been found to be “Constitutional” by the Supreme Court of the United States. I applaud President Obama for his efforts but we are going through a unique period of U.S. History. This will be an extremely tough battle. But it is a noble battle worth fighting and winning.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Foundations of Our Democracy

The fiscal cliff has been averted.  The stock market went crazy with the Dow up over 300 points.  But the look on President Obama's face following the House vote told a different story.  There is a group of Republican House Members who must take a class in United States Government.  These representatives signed pledges to never raise taxes.  Many of those same representatives were elected by voters in their districts because they signed those pledges.  Their constituents should also take a government class.  But we are currently stuck with people in Congress who don't understand that the ability to "compromise" is essential to the success of our system of government.    

Grover Norquist appears on the news networks and keeps these members of Congress in line.  He is most responsible for these pledges.  He has threatened, and succeeded, in defeating any Republican Candidate who defies him.  Many Republicans no longer have the courage to break the "pledge" because they want to keep their jobs and will receive a lot of money to support their candidacy if they play ball with Norquist.  There is huge money behind these "Pledgers" as millionaires save millions by backing this group.  But the efficient operation of our government is the victim as "compromise" becomes impossible.

Courageous Republicans, mostly in the Senate, took on Norquist and the "Pledgers" to get us off the cliff but the biggest challenges remain with the debt ceiling, the sequestration that was delayed and the continuing problem of funding the entitlement programs.  We can handle these challenges if our elected representatives stop signing any pledges and sincerely talk to each other and compromise to get things done and do the will of the people.  What is the "will of the people?"  I think our Founding Fathers framed that answer best when they wrote the Preamble of our Constitution.  But we must fund what our Preamble describes.  If reasonable higher taxes are necessary,  Congress must have the courage to do what is right even if they could lose their job.      

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Importance of Compromise in Our System of Government

We are in the age "no compromise." Candidates for political office are almost forced to sign pledges before they are able to get support to even think of running for political office. This has become a pathway or road map for winning in the primaries. This also maintains momentum within a party to win in the general election. However, this system is also now crippling our form of democracy.
The greatness of our government over the years has been in our ability to find the middle ground. We have sought to build consensus to get the job done in the interest of the people. Candidates who sign pledges sabotage that process. We don't need robot candidates who simply follow pledges they signed when they ran for office. We need intelligent and reasonable people who will listen to opposing views and find the common elements of both positions and to legislate and implement laws that will benefit the people they represent.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Care Reform: Where Have We Seen This Before?

Health care reform is needed in the United Sates. All Americans can agree that we have too many of our citizens uninsured. For those who do buy insurance, premiums are going through the roof and taking food off the table for many families. Employers who provide health care benefits are asking their emplyees to pay a greater percentage of the premiums, higher co-pays and accept watered down coverage. The situation is getting worse and it is a real shame to see the efforts of so many good people sabbotaged by groups of other people who will disrupt attempts to have sincere dialogue and discussion on this very important issue.

I remember another version of "Health Care Reform" taking place in the mid-1990's and seeing the same mean spirited efforts rise up to derail a courageous attempt to improve health coverage in the United States. Notice that I am talking about coverage and not care. We have the best doctors and hospitals in the world. But so many of our citizens can't access that care because they have poor coverage or none at all. I have also heard some people argue that emergency wards have to care for all people when they are brought in. This is true. But those patients will be perpetually bankrupt when they get the bill for certain types of care. Many won't go just because of this concern. I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. But she did try to improve our system of health care coverage in the nineties. Her ideas were specific and deserved serious discussion. But too many people never discussed the issues and simply ridiculed her efforts and all attempts to reform were destroyed. Shame on all of us. Most of us agreed reform was needed but too many of us, me included, had good coverage and didn't get involved even though we believed in reform. Well guess what? I'm paying now. How?

I am now paying co-pays. I paid none in the nineties. I now need referrals for specialists and co-pays are higher for them than the primary care physician. I now pay for emergency ward visits. Salary increases are now lower because more money goes into health benefits. Finally, when my children had to come off my plan after college, premiums were astronomical for good plans and the only plans they could afford provided terrible coverage if they did get sick or were in an accident. Also, you have to be a rocket scientist to understand the types of coverages offered. They are all designed, in my opinion, to "maximize" profit and to decrease or eliminate risk. We are a free market economy and that is what companies are supposed to do. But that is not a good system for health care. Doctors, not insurance companies, have to make the decisions. We all know that this is not the case today. My mother was told by her Primary Care Physician that she had to stay in the hospital or nursing home after treatment she had for cancer. His request was rejected by Blue Cross. She was sent home to our family when none of us had any medical training.

Yes. We have been here before. We missed an opportunity. Things did get worse because we were apathetic and failed to act. We owe it to ourselves and our children to implement the necessary changes to make our system, which includes coverage as well as the quality of care, the best in the world. This can only be done through the respectful exchange of ideas, concerns and possible solutions.

Finally, I have heard people claim that these initiatives to reform health care are unconstitutional. The Preamble of the United States Constitution includes the words "promote the general Welfare." What could be more basic in promoting the general "Welfare" than to provide good, affordable and accessible health coverage for our citizens?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How Stupid Can We Get?

No disrespect is intended by asking the question "How stupid can we get?"  It simply serves as a starting point in trying to avoid mistakes that we, as a country, have made in the past.  The times might be different but the lessons we learn from the past can often assist us in making better decisions in the present and future. 

I will be using this blog as an opportunity to express opinions on a variety of topics that I hope some people will find somewhat interesting.   I'll also use this first blog as an opportunity to post my opinions on a topic that I think illustrates how we can get so stupid by not learning from history.  

President George H. W. Bush doesn't get enough credit for the outstanding job his administration did in dealing with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.  He warned, built a coalition,  and then, and only then, the U.S. and coalition allies invaded and liberated Kuwait.  The coalition, which included an overwhelming majority of U.S. soldiers, kicked butt and could have easily gone all the way and taken over and occupied the entire country.  But President George W. Bush did not have the U.N's or the coalition's approval and the troops pulled out.  Critics will say he made a mistake but look at what happened during the next decade.  The economy soared, the U.S. military learned much and became stronger and the opinion of the U.S. throughout the world was greatly enhanced.  

It might not be fair to compare the way George H. W. Bush handled the situation in Iraq with the way his son George W. Bush handled  his challenges in that country.  But I wish his dad was in the cabinet.  I'm not going to pile on during this blog but I sure do think this situation serves as a pretty good start to illustrate the importance of knowing, at least recent history, when decisions are made.  My next blog will elaborate on a few other points that probably should have been considered before jumping into the most costly war and occupation in our history.