# Health Care

Let’s pretend rural Iowa is Mars

Richard Lindgren: A “Mars-on-Earth New City” project is far easier to do, much cheaper, and with much more immediate societal benefit if you pick a spot in America’s struggling heartland. -promoted by Laura Belin

So, I have watched the bizarre unpiloted, billion-dollar carnival ride that took Jeff Bezos into the barest edge of “space.” We are looking at spending more billions of dollars as a collective society to pursue a goal of living on the moon or Mars, for some just for the pursuit of scientific knowledge, but also because some fear that a future Earth may cease to be inhabitable.

Here is a simple brain game: What if we pretended that some place on Earth with challenges to daily habitability is a viable way-station for Mars, and spend our research dollars there instead? I nominate rural southern Iowa, where storm clouds hover over the future. I’m serious.

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Provider practices in Iowa lead to more c-sections, complications

Rachel Bruns continues a series of posts addressing the quality of maternal health care in Iowa. -promoted by Laura Belin

My first post here addressed a number of outdated and non evidence based practices that continue in Iowa. My second post addressed how expanding access to midwives could help improve access to quality care, reduce the incidence of cesareans, and save lives.

This post will continue on those themes addressing additional practices of concern surrounding cesareans and vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).

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Cannabis: A greener way forward for Iowa

Gwen Hope unpacks the economic and social possibilities that accompany legalizing cannabis, demystifying the oft-maligned psychoactive plant. -promoted by Laura Belin

Since the middle of the 20th century, cannabis has been a hot button issue, particularly since the Nixon Administration began the War on Drugs. Often political, the criminalization and demonization of the plant and substances derived from it has a complex, but living history in the United States.

A microcosm of the country incarnate, this issue is attached to almost every other issue and stance imaginable: from political party to patriotism, convention to community, race to religion, humanity to harm, morality to medicine, and everything in-between was and is attached to cannabis – the United States’s most popular illicit substance.

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Iowa tops new scorecard on children's health care

Iowa received the overall top ranking in a new report on the health care system in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation supporting research on health care issues and policies to achieve “better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable.” Researchers who compiled the 2011 state scorecard uncovered huge disparities in terms of access to care, health care quality, and health outcomes:

There is a twofold or greater spread between the best and worst states across important indicators of access and affordability, prevention and treatment, and potential to lead healthy lives (Exhibit 1). The performance gaps are particularly wide on indicators assessing developmental screening rates, provision of mental health care, hospitalizations because of asthma, prevalence of teen smoking, and mortality rates among infants and children. Lagging states would need to improve their performance by 60 percent on average to achieve benchmarks set by leading states.

If all states were to improve their performance to levels achieved by the best states, the cumulative effect would translate to thousands of children’s lives saved because of more accessible and improved delivery of high-quality care. In fact, improving performance to benchmark levels across the nation would mean: 5 million more children would have health insurance coverage, nearly 9 million children would have a medical home to help coordinate care, and some 600,000 more children would receive recommended vaccines by the age of 3 years.

Leading states-those in the top quartile-often do well on multiple indicators across dimensions of performance; public policies and state/local health systems make a difference. The 14 states at the top quartile of the overall performance rankings generally ranked high on multiple indicators and dimensions (Exhibit 2). In fact, the five top-ranked states-Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire-performed in the top quartile on each of the four dimensions of performance. Many have been leaders in improving their health systems by taking steps to cover children or families, promote public health, and improve care delivery systems.

Iowa was the top-performing state in just one category: percentage of young children receiving all recommended doses of the six key vaccines. However, Iowa’s relatively high scores (among the top 5 states on nine indicators and in the top quartile for 14 indicators) made our state number one overall and in the “prevention and treatment” subgroup, number two in “potential to lead healthy lives” subgroup, and number six in the “access and affordability” subgroup. More detail on Iowa’s rankings can be found on this chart. To compare Iowa to other states, use this interactive map or download the full report here.

The new report’s executive summary highlights the benefits of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (generally known as SCHIP):

The Scorecard’s findings on children’s health insurance attest to the pivotal role of federal and state partnerships. Until the start of this decade, the number of uninsured children had been rising rapidly as the levels of employer-sponsored family coverage eroded for low- and middle-income families. This trend was reversed across the nation as a result of state-initiated Medicaid expansions and enactment and renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Currently, Medicaid, CHIP, and other public programs fund health care for more than one-third of all children nationally. Children’s coverage has expanded in 35 states since the start of the last decade and held steady even in the middle of a severe recession. At the same time, coverage for parents-lacking similar protection-deteriorated in 41 states.

SCHIP used to be a favorite punching bag for Representative Steve King, who voted against funding what he called “Socialized Clinton style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents.” Fortunately, the majority in Congress recognized this program’s potential.

After the jump I’ve posted a sidebar from the general summary of the Commonwealth Fund’s report, called “Iowa’s Comprehensive Public Policies Make a Difference for Children’s Health.” I also included some methodological notes and listed the 20 indicators measured by researchers.

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Republicans put government between women and their doctors

Remember last year when Republicans claimed health care reform would put government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors? It was a hypocritical talking point to begin with, given how often insurance companies overrule doctors’ orders, in some cases denying sick people access to life-saving medical care.

The hypocrisy is especially apparent now that Republicans are cheering two new laws passed in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Legislature voted Tuesday to override the governor’s vetoes of two abortion measures, one of which requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

To clarify: Republicans passed a law dictating the way doctors communicate with patients and how they must proceed with every woman seeking an abortion, regardless of her individual circumstances. According to the New York Times, the Center for Reproductive Rights has already filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the ultrasound law, claiming it “violates the doctor’s freedom of speech, the woman’s right to equal protection and the woman’s right to privacy.”

The second law is in some ways more offensive, because the government is shielding doctors who deliberately do not level with their patients. I have close friends who have learned while pregnant that their future child has serious medical problems. To give doctors license to deceive women in that situation is unconscionable. Pregnant women must be able to make informed decisions regarding all medical care. Who’s to say that doctors will stop at “merely” hiding birth defects? Maybe some will decide it’s better not to tell women they have cancer or some other disease that might prompt them to terminate a pregnancy.

The new laws are similar to two anti-abortion laws the Oklahoma Supreme Court already struck down. Clearly Republicans won’t let a little thing like the state constitution get in the way of their desire to intimidate women and interfere with the information they receive from their doctors. I agree with Charles Lemos: this is a sign of how extreme today’s Republican Party has become.

Iowans who don’t take reproductive rights for granted may want to know that Arianna Huffington is coming to Des Moines next Tuesday to help raise money for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (formerly Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa). Click the link for event details.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I recommend this post from the Ms. Magazine blog on the 10 worst myths about abortion in the United States.

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Obama orders end to discrimination by hospitals

President Barack Obama has instructed the Health and Human Services department to develop new rules for hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.

The memorandum from Obama to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, made public late Thursday night, orders new rules that would ensure hospitals “respect the rights of patients to designate visitors.”

Obama says the new rules should require that hospitals not deny visitation privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay,” Obama says in the memo.

Affected, he said, are “gay and lesbian American who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.”

Cue conservatives to start whining about “special rights for homosexuals,” as if there is something extraordinary about visiting a loved one in the hospital or granting your life partner power of medical attorney. I’m glad the president took a stand on this issue.

I’m curious to see how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reacts to this executive order. I don’t know whether Catholic hospitals are more likely to have rules in place preventing visitation by gay or lesbian partners, but I would expect religious conservatives to complain about the government nullifying such rules. I wonder whether there is even grounds to challenge Obama’s order in court, if hospitals could demonstrate that their visitation bans are grounded in religious principles.  

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Massive Iowa Legislature linkfest (post-funnel edition)

The Iowa Legislature has been moving at an unusually fast pace during the shortened 2010 session. It’s time to catch up on what’s happened at the statehouse over the past three weeks. From here on out I will try to post a legislative roundup at the end of every week.

February 12 was the first “funnel” deadline. In order to have a chance of moving forward in 2010, all legislation except for tax and appropriations bills must have cleared at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by the end of last Friday.

After the jump I’ve included links on lots of bills that have passed or are still under consideration, as well as bills I took an interest in that failed to clear the funnel. I have grouped bills by subject area. This post is not an exhaustive list; way too many bills are under consideration for me to discuss them all. I recommend this funnel day roundup by Rod Boshart for the Mason City Globe-Gazette.

Note: the Iowa legislature’s second funnel deadline is coming up on March 5. To remain alive after that point, all bills except tax and appropriations bills must have been approved by either the full House or Senate and by a committee in the opposite chamber. Many bills that cleared the first funnel week will die in the second.  

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Some Health Care Thoughts

I was going to comment on desmoinesdem's snow link story, but I decided to write my first diary instead…here she is:

Many on the left might be feeling depressed right now.  After all, this filibuster proof majority in the Senate is not really helping that much, and health care is seemingly being excessively watered down.

However, Democrats should not be overly depressed.  They have effectively shut down the voices of the Republican Party in Washington, save Olympia Snowe.  Isn't that what the supermajorities were all about?

Furthermore, according to President Obama, the public option is not everything.  I know many folks believe that it is, but there are many reforms in this bill that, if voted on by themselves, would easily receive over 80 votes in the Senate (i.e. they're popular and good policy).  Plus, if a bill does pass before the State of the Union address, even a sub-par one, President Obama can use that platform to boast, and tell us all about the wondrous portions of the health care reform that the Democrats alone passed through Congress.

I'm sure it'll be quite a speech.

As for the public option, moderate Democrats are quite the thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership.  It's kind of a Catch-22, though, as we can see in the following conversation:


Senator Lieberman: “The public option is a huge deal!”

President Obama:  “Look, Joe, the public option is only a small part of reform.  As such, if it's such a small portion of reform, why would you sink all of health care just to stop the public option?”

Lieberman: “Oh…it's only a small part of reform?”

Obama: “Yes…didn't you hear my speeches over the last 3 months?”

Lieberman: “Great…so if we get rid of the public option, it really won't harm reform that much…after all, it's only a small part of reform.”


Moderate Dems are probably thinking one of two things.

1.         If this PO is huge, then I’m justified in opposing it…more govt, more spending, my constituents don’t like it, yada yada yada

2.         If this PO is not huge, then I’m justified in opposing it…why are we fighting over something so small?

Some may disagree with their logic and/or facts, but the situation remains.


I'm willing to declare that the “public option” will be one of the following four options:

1.  The idea that was floated yesterday was of Medicare 55-65.  Although it could be problematic, politically.  thereisnospoon had a diary that speaks to that yesterday.  Interesting points.


2.  The good ole' Snowe trigger.  Many on the left believe that this is actually designed never to trigger.

3.  This OPM buy-in, so people can purchase federal insurance…although, many people are saying that it's not a real public option.

4.  Some sort of Opt-In public option…which probably would not be as robust as an Opt-Out, considering the nature of it.

Another big question is, if the final PO is one of these four options, is an individual mandate a political winner for the Democrats?  I’d have to say no.  desmoinesdem seemed concerned about it today too.  Why alienate younger voters?

The political play-out of this has been fascinating, and rarely do we have a time in American politics where we truly do NOT know the outcome.  We’ll see how it plays out.  Of these four options, or a fifth that I may have overlooked, what would be the best from a policy standpoint?  A political standpoint?

Nancy Pelosi's Genius

Something I just realized, from reading about the tightening results in NY-23 – prior to the two special elections, Pelosi had literally a one vote margin on the health care. From the article:

Before Owens was sworn in Friday, Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat who won a special election in California, was sworn in Thursday. The two gave Pelosi the votes she needed to reach a majority of 218 and pass the historic health care reform legislation in the House.

The bill passed 220-215 late Saturday with the support of only one Republican. The Republican, Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana, said he voted for the legislation only after seeing that Democrats had the 218 votes needed for passage.

This isn’t quite right; with both special election seats vacant, 217 would have provided a majority. If both seats had been claimed by opponents of health care, Pelosi could have held the vote before seating the new representatives. Without their two votes and without counting Cao, this would have left her with exactly 217 votes. Wow.

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The Bottom Line on Health Care

(I've recently spoken with several early Obama supporters who echo iowademocrat's sentiments. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

(crossposted from IowaDemocrat)
From the very beginning of the Obama caucus campaign continuing through the general election, I gave more money, more time, and stuck my neck out further than I ever had before for a Presidential candidate, and I've worked hard for quite a few.
I will not invest my energy in a cause that has no bottom line, no goals which the president will not compromise, nor any clear cut progress toward true reform.
I respect Barack Obama for the great things he HAS done, but I refuse to work for his version of health care reform when he has no clear goal other than to pass something – anything – that may get through Congress, regardless of content.
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Defeating the Health Care Forum Bullies (getting something done)

(Thanks to iowademocrat for bringing this discussion to Bleeding Heartland. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

(crossposted from Daily Kos and iowademocrat)
Last Wednesday, I attended a health care forum in Iowa hosted by Senator Tom Harkin. Following it, I wrote a diary, “Now I understand why war happens (a health care forum story).” In it, I asked the question, how can you defeat the bullies who are overrunning most of these meetings?
The problem in dealing with the teabaggers, deathers, birthers, racists, anarchists and radical libertarians who are overrunning health care forums nationwide is simple to describe.
They. Don't. Listen. Ever.
So, you can't really talk to them. When they have stacked the room, the intimidation is palpable. That's how they win.
I couldn't for the life of me think of how to beat these people, short of overpowering them somehow – hence the title of the diary. But, even as I wrote it, I knew that overpowering them just feeds into their fear and paranoia, and realistically, it's impossible anyway.
Today, after a little sleep and some reflection, I realized that the effect of the teabaggers' aggressive intimidation made me stupid for about eight hours. Anger is an amnesic agent. It makes you forget what you know. I was angry, depressed, agitated, and clueless all at once.
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Now I Understand Why War Happens (a Harkin Health Care Forum Diary)

(Thanks for this first-person account, even though it is frightening. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

 (crossposted from Daily Kos) 

Yesterday, I saw our problem first hand. We are in a world of trouble, people.

Mobs are powerful and wholy beyond reason. Yet, they must be stopped, because they are extremely dangerous. There are a lot of very angry, very frightened people out there, and about 150 of them turned out on a Wednesday afternoon to harass Senator Tom Harkin, shout incoherent political slogans (the same ones that have been diaried to death here in the last week), and to let him know that they are very angry about the idea of government in general and government health care in particular. The total crowd was limited to about 210 by the fire code. 

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Seeking good quotes and footage from town-hall meetings

Yesterday I posted information about some of the town-hall meetings that Iowans in Congress will hold during the next two weeks. You can also find Representative Steve King’s town-hall meeting schedule here and Representative Tom Latham’s schedule here.

If you attend any of these meetings, please take detailed notes and/or record the event if you can. Although local media will cover the story, journalists may not highlight every noteworthy comment. Senator Chuck Grassley’s infamous advice to a constituent seeking affordable health care was a sensation on YouTube and various political blogs before Iowa newspapers reported the story. I noticed that Daily Kos user clammyc used part of that clip in a video about the need for health care reform:

This diary by Daily Kos user ShadowSD contains lots of good links and talking points for you to use at town-hall meetings. Whether or not you get to ask a question, please consider posting a diary here with your impressions of the event. First-person accounts are usually a good read.

In general, I’d like to see more Bleeding Heartland readers writing diaries for this blog. Pieces with news or substantive analysis may be promoted to the front page.

Final note about this month’s town-halls: Rarely do I agree with Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn, but it is lame that Leonard Boswell hasn’t scheduled a health care public meeting in Polk County this month, or in any town that’s part of the Des Moines media market. If any Bleeding Heartland readers do attend Boswell’s scheduled “listening post” in Sigourney on August 13, please ask some specific questions about the kind of public health insurance option he supports. You might also want to note that rural Iowans would particularly benefit from a public option.

LATE UPDATE: I was wrong to criticize Boswell for not scheduling a health care event in the Des Moines area this month. On August 13 his office announced a town-hall on health care to be held on August 23 from 3 pm to 4 pm at the AIB College of Business Activities Center, 2280 Bell Avenue in Des Moines. RSVP by calling Congressman Boswell’s Des Moines office at 515-282-1909, or emailing boswellrsvp@mail.house.gov.  

Events coming up this weekend and next week

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is holding its annual convention this Saturday, July 18, at the Hotel Fort Des Moines:

Iowa CCI’s statewide annual convention will feature workshops and plenary sessions on factory farming, campaign finance reform, immigration reform, and predatory lending. The convention will conclude with an exciting direct action targeting an undisclosed payday lender in a low-income community in  Des Moines.

More details on that and other events coming up soon are after the jump.

As always, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of another event I’ve left out.

To Bleeding Heartland readers who plan to do RAGBRAI next week: consider posting a diary about your experience or any candidates you encounter during the ride. I saw this at Bob Krause’s campaign site:

Eric Rysdam of  Fairfield, Iowa has agreed to ride across the state in  RAGBRAI, The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa with a big Krause banner and shirt. Eric will be the core of an amorphous group participating and getting the word out about for us! Please wish Eric well with his training in anticipation of the July 19-25 event! Eric’s number is 319-293-6306 if you want to wish him well, or if you want to be on the ride with him.

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Will Walmart live up to their PR on Health Care this time?

There has been a lot of talk this week about the surprising move by Walmart to publically support President Obama’s health care reform plan, supposedly positioning themselves as a

leader in the fight to bring health care to all Americans. As we mentioned in a post on our blog

yesterday, this might be easier to swallow if Walmart had any history of leading by example. Instead, they usually do just the opposite.


Walmart’s long record of trying to build a positive

reputation on ineffective work-arounds to health care coverage

for employee, the recent revelations about sacrificing quality for cheap perescription drugs, and their deceptive PR campaign that severely overstated their workers’ health

care coverage, it’s not hard to understand our skepticism. [get the details in the extended entry]

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Happy Windsor Heights zip code day!

July 1, 2009 is a big day: the 4,800 residents of Windsor Heights are no longer divided by three zip codes. It couldn’t have happened without Congressman Leonard Boswell’s legislative efforts last year, and that probably wouldn’t have happened without Ed Fallon’s primary challenge. (Note: WHO’s Dave Price attended last night’s event celebrating our new zip code.)

Don’t feel left out if you’re among the 3 million Iowans who aren’t enjoying the good life in our state’s only inner-ring suburb. You too may be affected by one of the many laws that take effect today.

The Iowa House Democrats posted a partial list of these laws on their site, and Jason Hancock provided additional information at Iowa Independent, such as the margin by which these bills passed during the 2009 session. Many won unanimous approval or overwhelming bipartisan majorities in one or both chambers.

Most of the new laws are steps in the right direction for Iowa: increased foreclosure protections; $30 million in historic tax credits; expanded health care for children, low-income pregnant women and adult children under 25; broader eligibility for wind energy tax credits; more job protection for volunteer emergency providers, electronic logbooks to track pseudoephedrine sales. A few of the highlights on the House Democrats’ list deserve additional comment.

New rules for sex offenders: I’m glad that legislators replaced pointless sex offender residency restrictions that did nothing to protect children from predators, according to prosecutors as well as advocates for exploited children.  Too bad nobody listened to State Representative Ed Fallon, who was the only legislator to vote against the 2002 law and got bashed for that vote during his primary challenge against Boswell (see also here). Speaking of campaigns, Chris Rants was one of only three state representatives to vote against the new sex offender law. Will he make this an issue in the gubernatorial race?

Manure application during winter: On principle I think it’s a bad idea for legislators to interfere with the rulemaking process at the Department of Natural Resources. However, amendments greatly improved this bill from the version that passed the Iowa Senate. In fact, the new law includes tougher restrictions on liquid manure application than the rules that the DNR would have eventually produced. It’s important to note that these restrictions only apply to manure from hogs. Cattle farmers face no new limits on what to do with solid manure during winter.

Consumer fraud protections: Iowans rightly no longer need permission from the Attorney General’s Office to sue some types of businesses for fraud. Unfortunately, this law contains an embarrassingly long list of exemptions.

Nursing home rules: It’s pure chutzpah for House Democrats to write, “Nursing homes will face higher fines for incidents resulting in death or severe injury.” More like, nursing homes will no longer be fined for the violations most likely to result in death or severe injury, but are subject to higher fines for offenses regulators never charge anyone with.

Let’s end this post on a positive note. The septic tank inspection law approved during the 2008 session also takes effect today. Over time these inspections will reduce water pollution produced by unsewered communities in Iowa. Credit goes to the legislators who approved this bill last year and to Governor Chet Culver. He wisely used his line-item veto to block State Senator Joe Seng’s attempt to sneak a one-year delay of the septic tank inspections into an appropriations bill.

This thread is for any thoughts about Iowa’s brand-new laws. Probably none of them will be as controversial as the public smoking ban that took effect on July 1, 2008.

Walmart's $4 Drugs Coming From Indian Company Whose Products Have Been Banned In US and Canada

Walmart, in one of their worst ways of prioritizing prices above qualities to date, turns to a foreign drug supplier, Ranbaxy Laboratories, LTD, who has repeatedly been investigated by the FDA and the DoJ for “inadequate” safeguards against contamination, falsification of records and submitting false information to the FDA.  

On top of that, just eight months before the FDA inspected Ranbaxy's Paonta Sahib plant and found significant violations, Walmart awarded the company a “Supplier Award” for improving shipping times and performance.

In a new report on our website, we detail their multi-year spanning violations, DoJ investigation, Congressional Investigation, and list out all of the drugs made at the facility in questions.  Additionally, we detail their recent violations below.

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New poll shows massive support for real public option (updated)

Following up on yesterday’s post, I see that a brand-new New York Times/CBS nationwide poll shows widespread support for a real public health insurance option. The wording of the question was clear: “Would you favor or oppose the government’s offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private insurance plans?”

Results: 72 percent of respondents favored the public option, including 87 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 50 percent of Republicans.

Senator Chuck Grassley works overtime to snuff out a public option, urging President Obama to support a bipartisan bill in the Senate. But in the real world, a strong public option has bipartisan support. Even half of Republicans favor making a “government administered health insurance plan like Medicare” available to all Americans.

A public option would increase competition and give Americans more choices while driving down costs. A recent report found that one or two companies dominate the health insurance market in most parts of the country.

Obama will speak to ABC News about health care on Wednesday. I’ll be listening carefully to see whether he endorses a strong public option, which the House Democrats’ draft bill contains, or whether he remains open to a fake public option such as regional cooperatives or a “trigger”.

UPDATE: To be clear, the CBS/NYT poll is not an outlier. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found, “Three in four people said a public [health insurance] plan is extremely or quite important.” A poll “bankrolled partly by previous opponents of health care reform” showed that “a majority (53%) strongly back the availability of a public plan, while another 30% ‘somewhat’ support it.”

Grassley: Sotomayor not as "aggressive" and "obnoxious" as he expected

I found some unintentional comedy in this AP story on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s one-on-one meetings with senators:

Sotomayor has managed to disarm even senators who came prepared not to like her. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, went in thinking “she would be aggressive and maybe even a little obnoxious.”

“I would classify her as kind of much friendlier … more reserved, less aggressive,” than he expected, Grassley told reporters later.

I wonder why Grassley thought Sotomayor would be “aggressive and maybe even a little obnoxious.” Would he expect that of any high-achieving Puerto Rican woman from New York, or only one who had been on the receiving end of a hatchet job in The New Republic? Or maybe he was taken in by right-wing commentators’ caricatures of Sotomayor.

Anyway, it’s safe to say that Sotomayor’s personality wasn’t the reason Grassley voted against her confirmation to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. He’ll have to keep trying to remember why he cast that vote in 1998.

By the way, the Democrat who’s running against Grassley next year, Bob Krause, has his campaign website up and is on Twitter @KrauseForIowa. He plans to campaign hard against Grassley’s opposition to universal health care with a public option.

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Grassley's offended by Obama's comments on health care

Senator Chuck Grassley didn’t take kindly to President Barack Obama’s weekly radio address about the need to accomplish health care reform this year. Early this morning, Grassley wrote on his Twitter feed,

Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us”time to deliver” on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND.

A little later, the senator Tweeted,

Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delivr on healthcare’ When you are a “hammer” u think evrything is NAIL I’m no NAIL

First of all, Obama recorded the weekly address before leaving for France. Second, it’s bizarre for Grassley to mock Obama’s “sightseeing in Paris,” as if that were the main purpose of his foreign visit. You can be sure that if Obama had not gone to France to commemorate the D-Day invasion, Republicans would be howling in protest.

Perhaps Grassley is venting because this week the president strongly affirmed his support for a public option in health care reform. Grassley has been working to forge a bipartisan consensus with no public option and published an op-ed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Friday warning against that approach. (Chase Martyn’s take on Grassley’s piece is worth reading.)

Or maybe Grassley’s just a little touchy lately. He wrote a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register correcting a mistake from the Register’s vox-pop feature, “My 2-cents’ worth”:

In the Register’s Your 2 Cents’ Worth feature May 4, “Disgusted 50010 Woman” said I pay $40 a month for health insurance. In fact, I pay $356 a month for Blue Cross insurance coverage, a plan that is available to federal employees. This differs from health plans for state government employees in Iowa, where no portion of the premium is paid by the employee. There’s no basis for the assertion in her comments.

Fair enough, senator. But you have to admit, you’ve got a pretty good deal going. A couple half your age who purchase their own Blue Cross insurance plan could easily pay two or three times as much in premiums for comprehensive coverage. Even a bare-bones policy covering primarily catastrophic care could cost individuals more than $356 a month, and they’d have to pay out of pocket for most routine medical expenses and prescription drugs.

Natasha Chart recently looked into her health insurance options as a single 34-year-old woman. If she can afford it, she’ll pay $200 to $300 a month for less coverage than what members of Congress receive. I encourage Senator Grassley to read her post.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent received clarification from Grassley’s office about what the senator meant to convey in the hammer/NAIL tweet:

Senator Grassley has been urging the President to let the legislative process work so that health care reform legislation restructuring 17 percent of America’s economy will reflect broad consensus and garner bipartisan support from as many as 80 senators.

Still pushing the pipe dream of a large bipartisan majority for health care reform.

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Ten answers to Boehner's question on health care

House Republican leader John Boehner was on CNN Sunday morning:

“We’ve got the greatest health care delivery system in the world,” he added. “Why do we want to jeopardize that with a big government run health care system?”

Because our health care delivery system directs about 31 percent of total health spending to administrative costs.

Because our health care delivery system makes Americans more likely to go without certain medical procedures despite astronomical per capita spending on health care.

Because our health care delivery system leads to overuse of emergency rooms by insured as well as uninsured Americans.

Because our health care delivery system leaves uninsured trauma patients 50 percent more likely to die than trauma patients covered by insurance.

Because our health care delivery system causes uninsured people to be denied organ transplants on the grounds that they will lack the capacity to pay for anti-rejection medications.

Because our health care delivery system prompts insured as well as uninsured Americans to delay medical treatment for chronic illnesses.

Because our health care delivery system makes uninsured people much more likely than insured people to be diagnosed with “advanced cancers […] that could have been detected early through proper screening.”

Because our health care delivery system puts paperwork from insurance companies rather than a doctor’s recommendation in charge of the timetable for cancer surgery.

Because our health care delivery system can force cancer patients to forgo radiation or chemotherapy if they lose their insurance.

Because our health care delivery system can leave insured as well as uninsured people with crushing debts after completing cancer treatment or care for a medical emergency.

Feel free to add your own answers in the comments.

UPDATE: MyDD user Trey Rentz adds that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.

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Memo to Chuck Grassley: It's not 1993 anymore

Senator Chuck Grassley laid out his case against a “government-run” health care plan on the Senate floor yesterday. He used some of the same arguments he’s been making in conference calls with reporters and in his guest editorial at Politico.

I don’t know whether Grassley and the insurance lobby will be able to scare Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus away from supporting a public health insurance option.

However, after reading the highlights from recent opinion research that Richard Kirsch summarized at the Health Care for America Now blog, I am confident that the American public will not buy rehashed Republican talking points from 1993. For more on this point, follow me after the jump.

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Watch out for "public health plans" that aren't

Iowa Independent posted a piece by Congressional correspondent Mike Lillis today: “Grassley leaves door open for government health care plan.” Lillis was on Grassley’s conference call with reporters today and heard the senator say this about a public health insurance option:

I think right now there’s a lot of people, including me – I’d prefer it not to be in [the bill]. Then there’s a lot of people that say, well, it’s got to be in or [there’ll be] no bill. And then there’s a dozen ways to look at possible compromises. And I think before I would write [it] off completely, I would want to look at what those possible compromises are.

I do not interpret this comment as a sign that Grassley is open to a government health plan. It sounds to me like he is working with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on a compromise that might be called a “public plan” but would not force private insurers to compete against a government plan like Medicare for All.

As Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 has noted, lots of things that could be characterized as a “public option” fall short of what we need.

Perhaps Americans would be allowed to buy into the health insurance program for federal employees, which is provided by various private insurance companies.

Lillis noted that during today’s conference call, Grassley suggested the federal government is not competent to “run a government-run health insurance plan in competition with the private sector […].” I read this to mean that Grassley is still working overtime to keep a public health insurance option out of the Senate’s health care legislation.

Here’s hoping Senate Democrats who understand the need for a public option are able to prevail with Baucus.

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Two ways of looking at today's health care reform news

The White House is making a huge deal out of a commitment to introduce cost-saving measures from “the presidents of Pharma, Advamed (device manufacturers), the American Medical Association (doctors), the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and SEIU’s Health Care project.”

The White House arranged an urgent Sunday-afternoon conference call with reporters to break the news, and President Obama went on tv on Monday to talk about it. (Click here for the transcript of Obama’s televised remarks.)

Unlike the 1970s, when stakeholders’ promises to hold down costs derailed legislative action on health care, Obama made clear today that the current agreement on savings is “complementary to and is going to be completely compatible with a strong, aggressive effort to move health care reform through here in Washington [….]”

It’s too early to know how significant today’s announcement will be, so I’m laying out the cases for optimism and pessimism after the jump.

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Time for Braley's Populist Caucus to speak up on health care

Congress is getting to work on the details of health care reform, and a major battleground will be whether to include a strong public health insurance option for all Americans.

Republicans like Senator Chuck Grassley are revving up their scare tactics about “government-run” health care. Coalitions of Democrats who back a public option are also taking shape in the House and the Senate.

The new Populist Caucus led by Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) has yet to weigh in on the specifics of health care reform. That needs to change soon if Braley is serious about turning this caucus into a voice for the middle class in the House.

More thoughts on this subject are after the jump.

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Beware of Grassley's bipartisanship on health care

As the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley will influence the shape of health care reform. For that reason, he and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana were invited to lunch at the White House on Wednesday with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Grassley’s message to the president and vice president, as well as to every journalist who’ll listen, is that health care reform should be done through a bipartisan bill that can receive 70 or 80 votes in the Senate. (See also Grassley’s recent guest editorial at Politico.)

Many Democrats want to include a health care bill in the budget reconciliation process, which would prevent a Republican filibuster. Grassley warns that it would be a mistake to reform such a large part of the U.S. economy without broad support from members of Congress in both parties.

After the jump I’ll explain why Grassley is wrong, wrong, wrong about health care reform.

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Harkin and Loebsack support public option in health care reform

Congress will begin making important decisions on health care policy very soon. The Senate Finance Committee began drafting a health care bill a few days ago.

I was glad to see two Iowans among the representatives and senators who urged colleagues this week to include a strong public option in any health care reform plan.

After the jump I have more on where Congressman Dave Loebsack and Senator Tom Harkin stand on health care, as well as the benefits of creating a public health insurance option.

UPDATE: Thanks to Populista for reminding me that all Iowa Democrats in Congress (Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, Leonard Boswell and Tom Harkin) have signed on to support Health Care for America Now’s core principles for health care reform.

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If you were Grassley, what would you do?

Iowa Independent reports that Senator Arlen Specter’s decision to become a Democrat leaves Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley with a difficult choice. He is currently the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, but with Specter’s departure he appears to be first in line to become ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee instead. According to Iowa Independent,

GOP conference rules forbid him from serving as ranking member of both panels at the same time, a Senate aide said Tuesday. Theoretically, he could get a waiver to serve on both, but that’s unlikely, the aide said.

So very shortly, Grassley has a tough choice to make: Either he can remain the senior Republican on Finance – a powerful spot this year with comprehensive health reforms looming, but also a position he’ll have to give up at the end of 2010 because of GOP term-limit rules – or he can accept the top GOP spot on Judiciary.

Judiciary will consider many important matters this year and next, possibly including a Supreme Court nominee. However, if I were Grassley I would stay at Finance for sure.

President Barack Obama wants health care reform to happen this year and is willing to use the budget reconciliation process to make it happen. The health care reform bill may become one of the most important pieces of legislation this decade. By all accounts Grassley has a strong working relationship with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

I don’t think Judiciary will consider anything of comparable importance this year, and I doubt Grassley and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy would quickly develop the same kind of rapport Grassley has with Baucus.

At the end of 2010, Grassley’s term as ranking member of Finance will be up, and he can choose whether to become the ranking member of Judiciary or Budget. He has expressed a preference for Judiciary in the past.

If you were Grassley, would you take the chance to become the ranking member at Judiciary this year? If Grassley did give up his current position, it appears that Orrin Hatch would become the ranking member at Finance.

By the way, David Waldman reported yesterday at Congress Matters that Specter’s switch throws off the Judiciary Committee’s ratio of Democrats and Republicans. A new Senate organizing resolution will have to be adopted, and Democrats may use that opportunity to secure more seats on the Senate committees.

UPDATE: Grassley’s press secretary Beth Pellett Levine told me on Wednesday that the senator has not made any statement about whether he would consider becoming the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

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Help Bleeding Heartland cover Health Care for America Now forums

I receive notices for many upcoming events I’m unable to attend, even though they would provide good material for a post at Bleeding Heartland.

Health Care for America Now has scheduled forums across the country this spring, including three in Iowa during the next month. The forums in Ottumwa and Sioux City will focus on rural health care reform and are co-hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Working Families Win, and Health Care for America Now Iowa.

The organizers are willing to accredit someone to cover each Iowa event for Bleeding Heartland. Please send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) or post a comment in this thread if you are interested in attending one of these forums, taking notes and posting a diary about it later.

Wednesday, April 15 from 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Host: Charlie Wishman

Location: Ottumwa Public Library, 102 W 4th St in Ottumwa. Click here for more event information.

Wednesday, April 22 from 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Host: Charlie Wishman

Location: Western Iowa Tech, 4647 Stone Ave in Sioux City. Click here for more event information.

The Des Moines event is a longer symposium on what needs to be done to get health care reform passed in 2009. Co-sponsors include Health Care for America Now, the 1st Unitarian Church, RESULTS, AFSCME Council 61, and Every Child Matters.

Saturday, May 2 from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Host: Charlie Wishman

Location: 1st Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Ave in Des Moines. Click here for more information.

I’ll post a more detailed calendar of events this week later today or this evening.

This thread is for any comments about health care reform or good organizing work going on around Iowa.

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Jesus would throw them out and marry you

This morning as you read this there are many so called godly Iowans sitting in the pews of their respective churches listening, and participating in, blame and judgment. Compounding fears of the demise of our state, country, and families, because the Iowa Supreme Court upheld rights for all Iowans, not just the ones that meet their criteria.

Hypocrite : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion

Pharisee:a self-righteous or sanctimonious person

According to the Holy Bible they  use to interpret the laws of our country Jesus would have deemed them Pharisees.

There are many Iowans who are religious and their actions convey their deep level of spirtuality.
Sadly, there were many Iowans this week who showed their hypocrisy and fear based drive to discriminate against one group of people.

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Progressive House Democrats won't settle for health care reform without public option

A few days ago Chris Bowers reported welcome news from the progressive wing of the Democratic delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. He posted a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus:

Dear Madam Speaker and Majority Leader,

Regarding the upcoming health care reform debate, we believe it is important for you to know that virtually the entire 77-Member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) prefers a single-payer approach to healthcare reform.  Therefore, it will come as no surprise as you work to craft comprehensive health care reform legislation, that we urge the inclusion of a public plan option, at a minimum, in the final legislation.  We have polled CPC Members and a strong majority will not support legislation that does not include a public plan option that is supported on a level playing field with private health insurance plans.

We look forward to working with you to ensure inclusion of a public plan option and the successful passage of healthcare legislation that will provide a choice of  quality healthcare for all Americans


Lynn Woolsey, Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

Raul Grijalva, Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

Many arguments lie ahead regarding what kind of public option would be acceptable as a compromise. Like most members of the Progressive Caucus, I would prefer an option for Americans to buy into an existing government-run program such as Medicare. Presumably corporate Democrats will be pushing for no public option or at best for allowing Americans to buy into the federal employees’ health insurance plan, which is provided by various private insurers.

I am glad to see progressive leaders warn that they will not support a Massachusetts-style health care reform, with a mandate for individuals to purchase private health insurance. There must be a public option.

Congressman Dave Loebsack is the only Iowan in the House Progressive Caucus and the only Iowan among the co-sponsors of HR 676, the single-payer health care bill. I am seeking comment from his office about whether he would reject any health care reform bill that does not include a public option.

Although Congressman Bruce Braley is not a co-sponsor of HR 676, I would think that fighting for a strong public option on health insurance would be a natural position for his Populist Caucus to take. I will seek comment from his office on this matter and write a follow-up post later this week.

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Obama's budget splits Iowa delegation on party lines

The U.S. House of Representatives approved President Barack Obama’s proposed $3.55 trillion 2010 budget on Thursday by a vote of 233 to 196. As you can see from the roll call, all three Democrats representing Iowa voted for the budget: Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Leonard Boswell (IA-03). Every House Republican voted against Obama’s budget, including Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05).

Twenty House Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the budget (Dennis Kucinich plus a minority of the Blue Dog caucus). But it’s notable that most Blue Dogs, like Boswell, supported this budget. Obama has met twice with the Blue Dog caucus this year, most recently on March 30.

House Republicans offered an alternative budget proposal with all kinds of crazy ideas in it, like privatizing Medicare, giving the wealthy more tax cuts, and freezing most non-defense discretionary federal spending. As you can see from the roll call, Tom Latham was among the 28 Republicans who joined House Democrats in voting down the GOP budget alternative. Steve King was among the 137 Republicans who voted yes.

White House officials were right to mock the GOP’s budget alternative as a “joke.” Freezing federal spending is a good way to turn a severe economic recession into a depression.

Soon after the House budget vote, I received press releases from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee slamming Latham and King for voting against a wide range of tax cuts contained in the budget resolution. I’ve posted those after the jump.

I suspect that the the DCCC is not putting out statements attacking the House Democrats who voted against the budget, and I’m seeking a comment from their communications staff about whether my hunch is correct. DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen warned on Thursday that liberal groups supporting primary challengers against unreliable House Democrats could cost the party seats in 2010. I wonder why we are supposed to look the other way when members of our own party take positions that the DCCC finds atrocious in House Republicans.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved a 2010 budget resolution late on Thursday after a nearly 12-hour marathon of votes on various amendments. David Waldman (formerly known as Kagro X) gives you the play-by-play from yesterday’s Senate action at Congress Matters. The final vote in the Senate was 55-43 (roll call here). Iowa’s Tom Harkin voted yes, along with all Senate Democrats except for Evan Bayh of Indiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who voted with Republicans, and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who did not vote. The 41 Senate Republicans, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, voted no.

CNN went over the key similarities and differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. Most important difference, in my opinion:

[House Democrats] also included language that allows for the controversial procedure called “budget reconciliation” for health care, a tool that would limit debate on major policy legislation.

Senate Democrats did not include reconciliation in their version of the budget. The matter is guaranteed to be a major partisan sticking point when the two chambers meet to hammer out a final version of next year’s spending plan. If it passes, it would allow the Senate to pass Obama’s proposed health care reform without the threat of a Republican-led Senate filibuster.

Notably, both the House and Senate budget bills “do away with Obama’s request for an additional $250 billion, if needed, in financial-sector bailout money.” Thank goodness for that.

Any comments or speculation regarding federal tax or spending policies are welcome in this thread.

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Detailed Republican poll on 2010 governor's race is in the field

The phone rang early Tuesday evening, and the voice on the other end was an interviewer conducting a survey for Hill Research Consultants. I asked who commissioned the survey, but the interviewer said he didn’t know.

Judging from the type of questions and their wording, I assume this poll was commissioned either by a Republican considering a run for governor in 2010, a Republican interest group trying to decide what kind of candidate to support for 2010, or the Republican Party of Iowa itself.

As I always do whenever I am surveyed, I grabbed a something to write with and took as many notes as I could about the questions. However, it was a long poll and there was commotion in the background on my end, so I know I didn’t get all the questions down. If you have been a respondent in the same survey and can fill in some blanks, please post a comment in this thread or e-mail me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com).

My notes on the questions asked during this 15-20 minute survey are after the jump. These are paraphrased, but I tried to remember the wording as closely as I could. I don’t know whether the order of the suggested answers was the same for everyone, but since this sounded like a real poll, I assume the order of multiple-choice answers was rotated.

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A few links on today's White House regional health care forum

I haven’t had a chance to watch today’s White House regional forum on health care yet (the Des Moines Register made the video available here).

According to the Des Moines Register, Senator Tom Harkin promised that health care reform will not fail this time:

“This is not something that we’re going to kick the ball down the field,” he said. “This is going to happen this year.”

The Register noted that some people at the forum favored single-payer health care reform, while others would like to see only small incremental changes. Protesters supporting a single-payer system gathered outside the forum too. I agree that single-payer makes the most sense for all kinds of reasons, but President Barack Obama will not seek that change, and Congress will not pass it. I’m willing to settle for a compromise that includes a strong public-insurance option.

Obama’s representative at today’s forum expressed optimism about finding an acceptable compromise:

Nancy-Ann DeParle, the leader of Obama’s health-reform effort, said past health-reform debates saw too many people who were wedded to specific plans. They wouldn’t compromise if they couldn’t get everything they wanted, she said. “Their fall-back position was always the status quo.”

This time, she said, people seem more willing to listen to other people’s ideas and find compromises.

Prospects for passing universal health care reform will depend on large part on whether the bill is subject to a filibuster in the U.S. Senate (meaning it would need 60 votes to pass). Obama reportedly wants to include health care reform in the budget process, so that it could pass with only 51 votes.

Chris Peterson, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, talked about health insurance for rural Americans at today’s forum:

“Rural Iowans struggle with finding affordable insurance. Even solidly middle class farmers are feeling the pinch. Nearly one in eight Iowa farmers battle outstanding health debt,” Peterson said. “I am one of them.”

Peterson, who is 53, was kicked off his private insurance plan about two years ago for what the company said was a preexisting condition. Peterson and his wife, who has no private insurance either, have accumulated $14,000 in medical debts in the past two years. “The health care system in this country is dysfunctional and burdensome,” Peterson said of the private insurance industry. “…Personally, what I’ve been through, it seems at times it’s a ponzi scheme — they’re taking your money — or (it’s) just the robber barons pulling money out of your pockets.”

On this note, I highly recommend reading this article by Steph Larsen: “For healthy food and soil, we need affordable health care for farmers.”

Getting back to today’s events, @personaltxr was at the forum and tweeted that Senator Chuck Grassley was expected but didn’t turn up. Does anybody know why? Grassley has an important role to play as the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. UPDATE: The Des Moines Register reported that Grassley stayed in Washington because of ongoing Senate business.

If you saw the health care forum, either live or on video, let us know what you thought. Everyone else can use this thread for any comments related to our health care system and prospects for reform.

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Events coming up this week

Happy Spring, Bleeding Heartland readers! There’s a lot happening this week, and I’ve posted the events after the jump.

Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something good happening that I’ve left out.

If you live within striking distance of Iowa City, there’s a benefit for the Iowa Renewable Energy Association tonight at the Mill (details below).

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Grassley news roundup

I haven’t written anything yet about Senator Chuck Grassley’s comments on the AIG bonuses. The whole episode was such an empty populist gesture. First he said the AIG no-goodniks should act like the Japanese and either offer a humble apology or kill themselves. Then he walked back his comments and said they should offer a sincere apology. That’s all? I’d like to see more strings attached to the Wall Street bailout program, which Grassley voted for.

The Twitterer for the Daily Iowan Opinion page had the best response to Grassley I’ve seen so far. After the senator explained that “I do want an attitude in corporate American that’s similar to what they have in corporate Japan,” DIOpinions commented, “Making failed American executives more like their Japanese counterparts would require massive pay cuts.” Don’t hold your breath until Grassley gets behind that.

Anyway, we’ll find out how much Grassley cares about getting taxpayers’ money back from AIG when the Senate votes on the bill the House of Representatives passed yesterday.

Follow me after the jump to read about Grassley’s recent comments on medical marijuana and health care reform.

Also, I can confirm that at least one Democrat is stepping forward to challenge Iowa’s senior senator in 2010. Details are below.

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Obama's health care summit in Iowa will happen on March 23

Earlier this month President Barack Obama hosted a health care summit at the White House and announced plans for regional health care summits in Iowa, California, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont. The governor of each state will host the regional events.

Governor Chet Culver announced yesterday that the Iowa forum will take place at the Polk County Convention Center on Monday, March 23, at 10 am. To enter the random drawing that will assign tickets to members of the public,

go to www.healthreform.gov and click on the “submit your question or idea” icon. Then click on the “Des Moines, Iowa” icon.

People can also call to request tickets from 9 a.m. Monday through noon Wednesday. The number is (800) 645-8864.

Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, will attend this forum and will be an influential voice in shaping Obama’s health care policies. Here’s a good background piece about her.

Some have expressed concerns about DeParle’s ties to companies with a stake in health care reform:

Since leaving the Clinton administration, Ms. DeParle has been managing director of a private equity firm, CCMP Capital, and a board member of companies like Boston Scientific, Cerner and Medco Health Solutions. White House officials said Ms. DeParle was severing ties with those companies and would recuse herself from participating in any matter that was “directly or substantially” related to former clients or employers.

“It is our view, and the view of counsel here, that the incidence of that will be very low,” an administration official said of the need for Ms. DeParle to recuse herself from decisions. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Ms. DeParle would be working mostly with federal agencies and lawmakers, and not directly with companies.

Allies of Ms. DeParle described her work in the private sector as a plus, because her familiarity with the industry would enable her to lean on companies to make tradeoffs essential in expanding access to the uninsured.

“She can call their bluff far more credibly and say, ‘Come on, guys, I’ve seen the books, I know you can do this with lower margins and higher market share, and you’ll do quite well,’ ” said Chris Jennings, who was President Bill Clinton’s top health policy adviser. “To me that’s very, very helpful.”

In general, people who come from industry to a government job don’t use that position to “lean on” companies where they have connections. But I am reserving judgment until I see what DeParle does in the coming months.  

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Coming soon to Iowa: White House forum on health care reform

President Barack Obama held a summit on health care yesterday with about 150 politicians and experts in the field. This morning the White House followed up by announcing plans to hold regional forums on health care in five states, including Iowa. From the press release:

The Regional White House Forums on Health Care Reform will be hosted by the states’ Governors and will include participants ranging from doctors to patients to providers to policy experts.  They will be open conversations with everyday Americans, local, state and federal elected officials – both Democrat and Republican — and senior Obama administration officials.  The events will begin with a video recorded by the President, a summary of the findings from the Health Care Community Discussions that took place in December, and an overview of the discussion that took place at the White House Forum on Health Reform.

The meetings in California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont will take place in March and early April.  Further logistical information about the forums is forthcoming.

Presumably Iowa was chosen because both of our senators will play an important role in drafting health care legislation. Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Tom Harkin will be in charge of drafting the parts of the bill concerning disease prevention and public health.

Ezra Klein posted about an exchange between Obama and Grassley at the White House yesterday:

“Max Baucus and I have a pretty good record of working out bipartisan things,” said Grassley. “I think only two bills in eight years that haven’t been bipartisan.” (One of them, however, was the S-CHIP bill, and another was Medicare payment reform, so their record on health care is more contentious). Grassley then moved onto a more relevant sore spot: The public insurance option. “The only thing,” he pleaded, “that I would throw out for your consideration — and please don’t respond to this now, because I’m asking you just to think about it — there’s a lot of us that feel that the public option that the government is an unfair competitor and that we’re going to get an awful lot of crowd out, and we have to keep what we have now strong, and make it stronger.”

The question was no surprise: In recent Finance hearings, Grassley has clearly signaled his anxiety on this issue. What was a surprise was that Obama rejected Grassley’s plea to think it over and instead replied on the spot with a strong articulation of the case for a public plan. “The thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices, and it helps give — keep the private sector honest, because there’s some competition out there. That’s been the thinking.”

“I recognize, though, the fear that if a public option is run through Washington, and there are incentives to try to tamp down costs and — or at least what shows up on the books, and you’ve got the ability in Washington, apparently, to print money — that private insurance plans might end up feeling overwhelmed. So I recognize that there’s that concern. I think it’s a serious one and a real one. And we’ll make sure that it gets addressed.”

I love it when conservatives like Grassley drop the free-market-warrior act. David Sirota asks the right question: if what we have works so well, why are “Republicans insisting that Americans would overwhelmingly opt to be covered by a government-run health care program, if given the choice?”

Also, why are there 48 million Americans without health insurance, with 14,000 Americans losing their health insurance every day lately? Why do the uninsured have less access to basic care and even organ transplants?

And why do so many people who do have health insurance face financial ruin following a medical crisis?

There must be a public health insurance option for people too young to qualify for Medicare and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Someone close to my family just got laid off this week and was diagnosed with diabetes within the last few months. What are his chances of finding good private health insurance coverage under the current system?

This thread is for any thoughts about the substance or the politics of health care reform. I’ll post more details about the upcoming White House regional forum when they become available.

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Open thread on Obama's 2010 budget and cabinet

President Barack Obama will present his first budget request to Congress today.

Early leaks indicate that he will propose some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans as well as some spending cuts to help pay for health care reform.

Ezra Klein, an excellent blogger on health care, is excited about what’s in the budget regarding health care reform. Although there is no detailed plan, Obama is submitting eight principles that should define health care reform efforts. Klein believes the principle of “universality” is likely to lead Congress to propose an individual mandate to hold health insurance.

I support mandated coverate only if there is a public plan that any American, regardless of age and income, can purchase as an alternative to private health insurance. The public plan would work like Medicare, in that individuals would be able to choose their own providers. Unfortunately, the Massachusetts model of mandatory private insurance without a meaningful public option has left a lot of problems unsolved.

It is not clear how much Obama will do to roll back George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. I am with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others who would prefer to start rolling back tax cuts for the top 1 percent immediately. Last month the president seemed to be leaning toward letting those tax cuts expire over the next two years rather than fighting to repeal them this year.

According to Bloomberg,

President Barack Obama’s first budget request would provide as much as $750 billion in new aid to the financial industry […]

No wonder Obama went out of his way to make the case for helping banks during his address to Congress on Tuesday night. I firmly oppose shelling out another $750 billion toward this end, especially since the bailout money we’ve already spent hasn’t accomplished the stated goals of the program.

According to AFP, today’s budget proposal will include a plan

to raise money through a mandatory cap on greenhouse emissions.

Obama’s budget director Peter Orszag earlier estimated that a cap-and-trade scheme could generate 112 billion dollars by 2012, and up to 300 billion dollars a year by 2020.

Cap-and-trade may be more politically palatable, but a carbon tax may be a better approach for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

In cabinet-related news, have calculated that expanding the food-stamp program

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wasn’t the top choice of environmentalists, but I was pleased to read this post:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled oil shale development leases on Federal lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and announced that the Interior Department would first study the water, power and land-use issues surrounding the development oil shale.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary wants to review US Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and told Congress that employers should be the focus of raids seeking to enforce immigration laws at workplaces. Obviously, swooping in and arresting a bunch of undocumented workers does nothing to address the root of the problem if employers are not forced to change their hiring practice.

Yesterday Obama named former Washington Governor Gary Locke as his latest choice to run the Commerce Department. Locke seems like a business-friendly Democrat, which is a big improvement over conservative Republican Judd Gregg, who thankfully withdrew his nomination for this post.

Republicans have been freaking out because of alleged plans by the Obama administration to “take control of the census.” Of course the GOP wants to continue the practices that have caused millions of white Americans to be double-counted in past censuses while millions more Americans in urban centers (largely non-whites) were not counted at all. Click here for more on the political battle over the census.

This thread is for any thoughts or comments about Obama’s cabinet or budget.

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More details on what's in the stimulus for Iowa

As President Barack Obama signed the stimulus bill in Denver,

The White House today released state-specific details on the local impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a nationwide effort to create jobs, jumpstart growth and transform our economy to compete in the 21st century. The compromise package of $789 billion will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years. Jobs created will be in a range of industries from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector.

Below are links to tables and fact sheets outlining the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The estimates are derived from an analysis of the overall employment impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act conducted by Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist for the Vice President, and detailed estimates of the working age population, employment, and industrial composition of each state.

Note: all of the links below are to pdf files.

Overview on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Working Families

Employment Numbers by State

Employment Numbers by Congressional district

Education Fact Sheet

Energy Fact Sheet

Health Care Fact Sheet

Infrastructure Fact Sheet

I have not had time to read these documents yet. Please use this comment thread to write about what you like and don’t like about the stimulus.

Note: while House Republican leaders proudly proclaim that no one in their caucus voted for the stimulus, I heard on the news this morning that 22 of the 24 Republican governors support the bill.

That’s the difference between someone whose main task is to build an electoral comeback on Democratic failure and someone who has to govern in this difficult economy.

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New level of scrutiny reveals more problems with Daschle

Update: On February 3 Daschle withdrew his nomination for secretary of Health and Human Services. It looks like he won’t be the “health care czar” in the White House either.

When Barack Obama announced plans to nominate Tom Daschle to run the Department of Health and Human Services, I agreed with Ezra Klein that the choice signaled Obama’s commitment to get comprehensive health care reform through Congress. I knew that Daschle’s wife was a longtime lobbyist, and that Daschle was not nearly as liberal as the right-wingers made him out to be. But we all know that the Senate will be the biggest obstacle to any good health care plan. Daschle knows that body’s procedures and the majority of its members extremely well.

The choice isn’t looking so good today.

Not paying taxes on the use of someone else’s limousine looks bad, but as we saw last week with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, failure to fully meet one’s tax obligations no longer seems to be a barrier to serving in the cabinet. (By the way, Daschle knew about this problem last summer but didn’t tell Obama’s vetting team.)

Many people might honestly not realize that if they use someone else’s car, they need to report the value of that service as taxable income. But what is Daschle’s excuse for overstating his tax-deductible charitable gifts and not reporting more than $83,000 in consulting income? If Bill Richardson was asked to step aside because of an investigation that hasn’t even proven wrongdoing, then Daschle should not get a pass for not paying his taxes.

As is so often the case in politics, though, what’s legal can be even more disturbing. From Politico:

Daschle made nearly $5.3 million in the last two years, records released Friday show, including $220,000 he received for giving speeches, many of them to outfits that stand to gain or lose millions of dollars from the work he would do once confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services.

For instance, the Health Industry Distributors Association plunked down $14,000 to land the former Senate Democratic leader in March 2008. The association, which represents medical products distributors, boasts on its website that Daschle met with it after he was nominated to discuss “the impact an Obama administration will have on the industry.”

This week, the group began openly lobbying him, sending him a letter urging him to rescind a rule requiring competitive bidding of Medicare contracts.

Another organization, America’s Health Insurance Plans, paid $20,000 for a Daschle speaking appearance in February 2007. It represents health insurance companies, which under Obama’s plan would be barred from denying coverage on the basis of health or age.

There was a $12,000 talk to GE Healthcare in August, a $20,000 lecture in January to Premier, Inc., a health care consulting firm, and a pair of $18,000 speeches this year to different hospital systems, among other paid appearances before health care groups.

The speaking fees were detailed in a financial disclosure statement released Friday, which showed that Daschle pulled down a total of more than $500,000 from the speaking circuit in the last two years, and $5.3 million in overall income.

These speaking engagements are legal, but it is an unacceptable conflict of interest for Daschle to have taken that much money from groups with a major financial stake in health care reform.

At Daily Kos nyceve examines one of those paid speeches and tells you why you should care: As UnitedHealth subsidiary Ingenix defrauded Americans, Daschle was its 2008 keynote speaker.

A lot of liberal bloggers are now calling for Obama to withdraw Daschle’s nomination and appoint Howard Dean to run HHS instead. As much as I like Dean, I do not think he’s the person to shepherd health care reform through Congress. But I agree that Obama needs to find a replacement for Daschle–the sooner, the better.

If Obama stands by Daschle, I suspect the Senate insiders’ club would confirm him, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Speaking of stalled confirmations, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming appears to be the Republican who is holding up Hilda Solis’s nomination for Secretary of Labor. This is purely ideological, based on Solis’ support for the Employee Free Choice Act. Solis has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Will Obama stand behind his choice for this cabinet position? The president expressed support for organized labor on Friday while signing executive orders to boost labor unions.  

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Grassley votes against expanding children's health care

The U.S. Senate voted 66-32 yesterday to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). All of the no votes were Republicans, including Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley. He was ready to sign every blank check for George W. Bush, but when it comes to expanding the safety net for families lacking health insurance, he’s Mr. Deficit Hawk.

Senator Tom Harkin issued this statement about the bill:

Renewal of the program will allow Iowa’s HAWK-I program to enroll 11,000 more Iowa kids

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement after the Senate passed legislation that will allow states to continue to provide basic health insurance to kids whose parents cannot afford private insurance, but who do not qualify for Medicaid. The State’s Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) Act, known as HAWK-I in Iowa, passed the Senate by a vote of 66-32.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs each month, which means more working-family kids are at risk of losing health care coverage. The passage of this bill means more of those parents won’t have to worry about whether they will be able to afford their son or daughter’s next doctor’s appointment,” said Harkin. “Extending health insurance to 11 million children from working families is not about ideology, and it is not about left or right. In a humane society, no child should go uninsured. I am proud that this is one of the first bills that we will pass in the new Congress because it is a great example of what we can do when we work together.”

Talk to anyone who works in the office of a pediatrician or family doctor. During a recession, families cut back even on checkups and other doctors’ visits for their kids.

Thousands of people are losing jobs (and in many cases health insurance) every month. Unemployed people rarely can afford to pay into COBRA plans:

The cost of buying health insurance for unemployed Americans who try to purchase coverage through a former employer consumes 30 percent to 84 percent of standard unemployment benefits, according to a report released yesterday.

Because few people can afford that, the authors say, the result is a growing number of people being hit with the double whammy of no job and no health coverage.

In 1985, Congress passed legislation enabling newly unemployed Americans to extend their employer-based health insurance for up to 18 months. But under the program, known as COBRA, the individual must pay 102 percent of the policy’s full cost.

“COBRA health coverage is great in theory and lousy in reality,” said Ron Pollack, whose liberal advocacy group, Families USA, published the analysis. “For the vast majority of workers who are laid off, they and their families are likely to join the ranks of the uninsured.”

The good news is that despite the misguided ideology of Republicans like Chuck Grassley (and Tom Latham and Steve King), thousands more Iowa families will be able to gain coverage for their kids through HAWK-I. We’re a long way from the universal health care reform we need, but this is a step in the right direction.

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King and Latham vote against health care for children (again)

Great news, everyone! Today the House of Representatives approved an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). In Iowa, this program is known as HAWK-I, and it provides coverage for thousands of children whose families are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but not wealthy enough to purchase health insurance:

The child health bill would provide $32.3 billion over four and a half years to continue coverage for seven million children who now rely on the program and to extend coverage to more than four million who are uninsured.

“This is a day of triumph for America’s children,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said. “We put women and children first.”

After years of frustration, Democrats were exultant.

“Today is a new day,” Representative Dave Loebsack of Iowa. Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, said, “Passing this bill sends a very important signal that change has come to Washington as a result of the last election.”

Representatives Bruce Braley and Leonard Boswell joined Loebsack in voting for the bill, which passed by a comfortable margin of 289-139. But as you can see from the roll call, Representatives Steve King and Tom Latham voted no.

King has been a proud opponent of the SCHIP program for years. In the bizarro world he inhabits, this program is Socialized Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents.

Gee, I thought it was for people like my friend, who owns her own business but couldn’t afford health insurance for her kids after her husband got laid off. With the enormous job losses of the last few months, more and more families will need this program.

Anyway, we’ve all come to expect this kind of vote from King.

I hope some Democrats who crossed over in the fourth district to support Latham will open their eyes now. Today’s vote should not surprise anyone, because Latham has voted against expanding the SCHIP program on several occasions.

Still, I doubt this is what most voters had in mind when they saw television ads touting Latham’s “trusted leadership” on health care.

The Senate will take up this bill within the next two weeks, and I doubt Republicans will be able to filibuster it. So, Barack Obama will have a major achievement on health care very early in his presidency. Let’s hope it will be the first of many.

UPDATE: In typically dishonest fashion, Steve King (who never met a tax cut for the rich he didn’t like) claims the SCHIP bill “provides new benefits to illegal immigrants and wealthy families at the expense of low-income children.”

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Should Iowa ban Junk Food from Schools?

The Iowa Board of Education is thinking about banning junk food from schools in an attempt to teach healthier eating habits. However, opponents say that snack bars are big money makers in cafeterias.

Now, I thought banning junk food was a pretty drastic step. Then I read this…

''I don't think anybody should tell you what you can and can't eat,'' said Megan Brady, 15, a student at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in West Des Moines. ''That's horrible.''

Brady skips the lunch line nearly every day to buy vanilla ice cream and shortbread cookies from the snack bar.

Sorry, but if you are eating ice cream and cookies for lunch everyday then someone needs to tell you what you can and can't eat.

Ideally, a system could be put into place where a student can buy ice cream sundaes or nachos only after they buy a more healthy main dish.

Students need to learn about a balance diet and it seems schools could get creative and come up with point systems, punch cards, or tickets that could be used for students to earn a trip to the snack bar.

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: They are discussing this proposal over at La Vida Locavore.

Also, the the Des Moines Register has more information about how the public can weigh in on this proposal:

Iowans can comment on the Iowa Healthy Kids Act at a public hearing on Feb. 3. Comments about the nutrition recommendations will be taken from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Comments about physical activity recommendations will be taken from 2:30 to 4 p.m.
WHERE: Iowa Communications Network room on the second floor of the Grimes State Office Building, East 14th Street and Grand Avenue, Des Moines, or at remote ICN sites in Council Bluffs, Creston, Elkader, Johnston, Mason City, Ottumwa, Sioux Center and Sioux City. For more details, call the Iowa Department of Education at (515) 281-5295.
COMMENT IN WRITING: Deadline for written comments is 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 3. E-mail comments about the nutrition recommendations to Julia.Thorius@iowa.gov or by mail: Julia Thorius, Iowa Department of Education, Second Floor, Grimes State Office Building, Des Moines, Ia. 50319-0146. By fax: 515-281-7700. E-mail comments about the physical activity recommendations to Kevin.Fangman@iowa.gov or by mail: Kevin Fangman, Iowa Department of Education, Third Floor, Grimes State Office Building, Des Moines, Ia. 50319-0146. By fax: 515-281-7700.


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Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

Last year at this time I was scrambling to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as I could before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

This week I had a little more time to reflect on the year that just ended.

After the jump I’ve linked to Bleeding Heartland highlights in 2008. Most of the links relate to Iowa politics, but some also covered issues or strategy of national importance.

I only linked to a few posts about the presidential race. I’ll do a review of Bleeding Heartland’s 2008 presidential election coverage later this month.

You can use the search engine on the left side of the screen to look for past Bleeding Heartland diaries about any person or issue.

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Now that is a great idea

From Daily Kos user rok for dean:

In 1950, the average pay of an S&P 500 CEO was less than 30 times that of an average U.S. worker; by 1980, prior to the “Reagan Revolution,” the average pay of the S&P 500 CEO was approximately 50 times higher than that of an average U.S worker.  But by 2007, the average pay of an S&P 500 CEO had soared to more than 350 times as much as that of an average U.S. worker.

This is both immoral and unsustainable in a democracy.  By way of comparison, in Europe, an average CEO only makes 22 times as much as an average worker, and in Japan, only 17 times as much.

If America wants to be competitive again, we need to reduce CEO pay to a level comparable to CEO pay in Europe and Japan.  I know exactly how to accomplish this feat.  The [United Auto Workers] should agree to immediately lower U.S. union worker pay to a level equal to the level paid by their non-union, non-American competitors.  In return, auto CEO’s must agree to permanently lower their compensation to only 20 times that of an average union worker.

Sounds fair to me. How many Republicans who’ve been beating the war drums about excessively generous pay to union workers would agree to those terms?

It’s true that union workers get paid more than non-union workers (though strong unions are associated with higher average wages even for non-union workers in the same area). But in a country where two-thirds of our gross domestic product depends on consumer spending, higher wages are not a bad thing.

In any event, unions are not primarily to blame for the auto industry’s current problems. Toyota is about to post its first operating loss in 70 years despite having an entirely non-union workforce. The tough economy has diminished demand for new cars.

American automakers also have to bear the burden of our broken employer-based health insurance system, but that’s a topic for another diary.

The same Republicans who claim they’d never raise taxes on Americans are only too happy to slash the wages of middle-class auto workers. As rok for dean says, let’s call their bluff and see if they would be willing to tie executive pay to a reasonable multiple of the average worker’s salary in the company.

Side note: my dad was a Republican, but it really bothered him when corporate executives would receive exorbitant salaries and bonuses even as they were driving their companies into the ground. Rewarding good performance is one thing, but paying incompetent managers obscenely high salaries is another.  

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Open thread on the auto bailout (updated)

I opposed the massive Wall Street bailout rushed through Congress this fall, but if the government can provide hundreds of billions of dollars to financial firms with no oversight, it’s only fair that $13.4 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program be used to prevent General Motors and Chrysler from collapsing:

“These are not ordinary circumstances,” Bush said at the White House today. “In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action.”

The cost of letting automakers fail would lead to a 1 percent reduction in the growth of the U.S. economy and mean about 1.1 million workers would lose their jobs, including those in the auto supply business and among dealers, the White House said in a fact sheet.

‘Necessary Step’

President-elect Barack Obama endorsed the plan, calling it in a statement a “necessary step” to avoid a major blow to the economy.

“I do want to emphasize to the Big Three automakers and their executives that the American people’s patience is running out,” Obama said later at a news conference. “They’re going to have to make some hard choices.”

The United Auto Workers are “disappointed” that Bush added “unfair conditions singling out workers,” the union’s president, Ronald Gettelfinger, said in a statement.

“We will work with the Obama administration and the new Congress to ensure that these unfair conditions are removed,” Gettelfinger said.

This diary by TomP has a lot more detail and reaction to the bailout deal.

It would be grossly unfair for only the workers to be asked to sacrifice to make these companies profitable. Some Republicans, notably Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee are explicitly trying to drive wages in union shops down to the level paid to non-union employees of Japanese automakers in the southern states.

But it’s no coincidence that the standard of living in states with more union workers is higher than the standard of living in the deep south.

I don’t know enough about the details to know whether this bailout can save GM and Chrysler, but failing to act was not an option with so many jobs on the line.

By the way, all three U.S. automakers have made a lot of mistakes over the years, but kudos to management of Ford Motors for locking in a large credit line while credit was easy to obtain. In case you were wondering, that’s why Ford is not currently on the brink of collapse, begging for a government bailout. Nevertheless, I’m sure Ford will have to do a lot of restructuring to adapt to this tough economy, just like GM and Chrysler. I can’t imagine 2009 will be much better for new car sales than 2008 was.

Chrysler has already idled all of its plants for a month. Ford is extending the holiday break at most of its plants until January 12, and GM plans massive production cuts next year.

Those actions may be necessary to save the automakers, but they will have disastrous ripple effects in all the communities where the idled factories are located.

Some of these problems could have been avoided if Congress had fixed our broken health-care system years ago. This report is more than two years old:

The competitive disadvantage of U.S. automakers resulting from the absence of a national strategy on health care financing is becoming increasingly clear. GM faces legacy costs (health care plus pensions for retired workers) of $1,500 per car. Together, the Big Three automakers support roughly 800,000 retirees, compared to less than 1,000 for foreign-owned competitors in the United States.

Clearly the failure to address America’s health care finance problems has become a major competitive disadvantage for our economy as a whole and has placed U.S. workers in a diminished bargaining position for wages and job security in relation to the rest of the industrialized world. Targeting retiree health costs offers an opportunity to provide strong incentives for industry action on fuel savings investment and reduces the competitive disadvantage.

Share any relevant thoughts in the comments.

UPDATE: Why I am not surprised to learn that banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are giving out large bonuses to some executives after receiving billions in bailout money from the federal government?

Note also that George Bush attached all kinds of conditions to the loans for automakers, while major financial institutions just got free money with no oversight.

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Open thread on playing it safe or being bold

Over Thanksgiving my family (all Barack Obama voters in the general) were talking about what we’d like to see him do as president. One of my biggest concerns about Obama has always been that he would compromise too much in the name of bipartisanship and not seize the opportunity to get groundbreaking legislation through Congress. I’ve also worried that he would water down good policies that threaten to significantly bring down his approval rating.

From my perspective, Bill Clinton’s presidency was not very successful for a lot of reasons. Some of them were his fault: he put the wrong people in charge of certain jobs, and he picked the wrong battles and listened too much to Wall Street advisers when it came to policy.

Some things were not Clinton’s fault: the Democrats who ran Congress in 1993 and 1994 were not always interested in working with him, and the leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress were more interested in destroying his presidency than anything else.

After getting burned in the 1994 elections, Clinton hired Dick Morris as a political adviser and moved to the right in order to get re-elected. He served a full two terms, but he didn’t leave a mark on this country. His greatest achievement, balancing the budget, was undone quickly by his successor. Many smaller successes on environmental and social policies were also reversed by George Bush’s administration.

Clinton approved a bunch of good presidential directives, especially on the environment, during his last 60 days in office. Doing them years earlier would not only have been good policy, it also would have prevented Ralph Nader from gaining so much traction in 2000.

Clinton left some very big problems unaddressed, like global warming and our reliance on foreign oil, because the obvious solutions to these problems would have been unpopular.

Compare Clinton’s legacy to that of Lyndon Johnson. Although Johnson made terrible mistakes in Vietnam (continuing and compounding mistakes made by John F. Kennedy), he enacted a domestic agenda that changed this country forever. Some of Johnson’s achievements were popular (Medicare), while others cost the Democrats politically in many states (the Civil Rights Act). But Johnson did not shy away from big change on civil rights because of the political cost.

I understand that no president will ever do everything I’d like to see done. I’d be satisfied if Obama enacted a groundbreaking, lasting improvement in one or two big areas, like health care or global warming. The right policies often have powerful enemies. I would rather see Obama get good laws passed to address a couple of big problems, even if doing so costs him the 2012 election.

My fear is that in Obama will end up like Bill Clinton–a two-term president who didn’t achieve anything that will continue to affect Americans’ lives four or five decades down the road.

If Obama only goes to the mat to accomplish one or two big things, what should they be? Keeping his promise to end the war in Iraq? Getting universal health care through Congress? Taking real steps to address climate change? Enacting a huge public-works program to deal with unemployment? Building high-speed rail connecting major American cities?

Would you be satisfied with progress in one or two areas, even if it meant that Obama was not re-elected in 2012?

After the jump I’ve posted a “meme” on being bold in your personal life, which is going around some of the “mommy blogs.” Some of the questions have more to do with luck or having money than with taking risks or being bold, though.

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Obama: We can't fix the economy without fixing health care

Strong words from President-elect Barack Obama at yesterday’s press conference introducing Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services:

Some may ask how, at this moment of economic challenge, we can afford to invest in reforming our health care system. Well, I ask a different question — I ask how we can afford not to….If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge.

Obama also promised to address health care “this year,” implying that he will spend political capital to get a plan through Congress in 2009.

Daschle linked health care reform to economic recovery:

Addressing our health care challenges will not only mean healthier and longer lives for millions it will also make American companies more competitive, address the cause of half of all of our personal bankruptcies and foreclosures and help pull our economy out of its current tailspin.

Obama also named Jeanne Lambrew as Daschle’s deputy. Ezra Klein is very pleased with that pick:

Lambrew is an incredibly talented and knowledgeable health wonk, and her involvement should cheer liberals. Unlike during the campaign, when Obama’s health care team seemed heavy on relatively cautious academics, Lambrew has long White House and executive branch experience, and comes to health care as a crusade as much as a topic of study. As Jon Cohn says, the importance of her presence “goes beyond the fact that she happens to know a heck of a lot about health care. She, too, has a strong commitment to what you might call the ‘social justice’ side of the debate.”

For more from Lambrew, check out her congressional testimony from late October, where she argued that “the short-run economic crisis has health policy causes and effects-and arguably the most serious long-run economic challenge is our broken health care system.” That was almost exactly the message Obama delivered today. And it’s the message that will be heard in the White House, and translated into a political strategy by Tom Daschle.

In this article for The American Prospect, Klein compares Obama’s team of “health care heavyweights” to Bill Clinton’s disastrous strategy for pushing health care reform in 1993 and 1994.

The major battle will be making sure there is some public insurance plan Americans can opt into, so that private insurers will need to cover health care in order to compete for customers.

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Layoffs will leave more Americans without health insurance

The Principal Financial Group lowered the boom on 300 workers in central Iowa yesterday:

Principal Financial Group laid off 550 employees Tuesday, including 300 in its Des Moines headquarters, the company said.

Principal, one of the area’s largest employers, has approximately 16,400 employees worldwide and 8,000 in the Des Moines area. […]

The Des Moines-based insurance and financial services company said the cuts are due to continued deterioration of U.S. and global markets.

Principal reported a net income of $90.1 million for the third quarter, a 61 percent decrease from $232.3 million in the same period a year ago. Principal also told a state development agency last month that it is no longer interested in receiving tax incentives in exchange for creating 900 jobs in Iowa.

The last day for most affected employees will be Dec. 31, and all affected employees will receive severance and career assistance, the company said.

It’s great that people will receive severance pay and career assistance, but they will be entering a very tough job market. Other local employers, including Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, have already laid off workers this fall. Finding a job with pay and benefits comparable to what Principal offered won’t be easy.

This isn’t just an issue for central Iowa. As nyceve writes in her latest diary, rising unemployment is expected to greatly increase the number of Americans lacking coverage for basic health care. Add that to the list of problems with our costly and inefficient employer-based health insurance system.

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Stop letting insurance companies practice medicine

Doctors go through a lengthy period of education and training before they are certified to practice medicine.

So why are insurance company bureaucrats routinely able to second-guess or overrule doctors’ orders?

Rekha Basu’s column from the Sunday Des Moines Register provides another shameful example of this common practice. Last December, Angela Ira’s 18-year-old son Nicholas, who had a history of depression, severe anxiety and borderline agoraphobia, was suicidal.

Scared and desperate, she said she persuaded him to go with her to the hospital emergency room, though he fears leaving the house. The doctor threatened to have him involuntarily committed if he didn’t agree, said Ira. She finally talked him into it. But half an hour later, the doctor returned to say the insurance company refused to pay. […]

Magellan’s clinical director, Steve Johnson, said he couldn’t discuss individual cases. But in the letter to Nicholas mailed last Dec. 10, Magellan cited as reasons for the non-authorization:

– “You do not appear to be a danger to yourself or others, and you are capable of activities of daily living.”

– “The information provided supports that other services will meet your treatment needs.”

– “You no longer have the symptoms and/or behaviors you had on admission, and you have shown progress in meeting your treatment goals.”

How could the company determine, when Nicholas’ doctor was saying he was suicidal, that he was making progress toward goals? The letter said, “If we disagreed with your provider’s clinical decision, we consulted with a licensed psychiatrist or other qualified professional and recommended an alternate service.”

As if someone who hadn’t met or spoken to the patient could better understand his needs than the doctor treating him.

Conservatives love to demagogue about “government-run health care,” but I notice that they don’t seem bothered when insurance company employees deny access to treatment recommended by the patient’s own doctor.

Basu’s column is a reminder that even Americans who have private health insurance are often forced to go without medical care they need.

Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress need to stop insurance companies from substituting their judgment for that of doctors. This needs to be part of a broader universal health care package.

The Des Moines Register’s editorial board again called for single-payer health care reform in an unsigned editorial today:

Our view: What’s needed is a government-administered health-insurance program – similar to Medicare, which covers seniors and disabled people – available to all Americans.

A single system could reduce administrative expenses associated with facilitating thousands of different private health-insurance plans in this country. It could increase leverage for negotiating lower prices. It could facilitate the expansion of electronic medical records, which would streamline paperwork and help prevent costly medical errors. It would boost the country’s economy in the long run.

Every health care delivery system has its flaws, but on balance I agree that a Canadian-style single-payer system would serve this country well. A few days ago DCblogger chided me for my “defeatism” about the prospects for enacting single-payer. I stand by my assessment, though. Even if President Obama were fully committed to “Medicare for all,” getting HR 676 through Congress would be extremely difficult. But Obama has not endorsed single-payer and is not going to put his political weight behind it, even if 93 members of Congress have co-sponsored the bill.

This is an open thread for any comments related to health care or health care reform proposals.

UPDATE: The latest from nyceve continues to make the case for single-payer, with lots of statistics on the high cost of our for-profit health insurance industry. Naughty Max Baucus: “The only thing that’s not on the table is a single-payer system.”

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Obama must deliver on health care

I don’t expect to get everything I want from Democratic politicians in power. Probably liberals like me will have plenty of disappointments in the coming years. But if Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress only follow through on one big campaign promise, I hope it’s health care.

The many injustices of our current health care system have been thoroughly documented by nyceve, among others, but I want to add my two cents.

The 46 million Americans lacking health insurance represent one very large part of problem. Some can’t afford insurance, and others can’t find a private insurer who will sell them a policy for any price. You could spend all day listing the ways uninsured Americans get a raw deal on health care. They can’t afford preventive care and routine diagnostics, so they are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage, incurable cancer. They are less likely to receive care for any number of chronic illnesses. They live with terrible, crippling pain. Few Americans without health insurance coverage are able to receive organ transplants, though many become organ donors after dying prematurely.

We need to get these people covered and get away from our broken employer-based health care system. Every day Americans who thought they had good benefits are joining the ranks of the uninsured–like my friend whose husband got laid off in October, right before his employer (a small manufacturer) went under. It turned out the boss had secretly stopped paying the health insurance premiums some time before. Or the retirees who worked at Maytag or at John Deere for many years and are now losing some of the health benefits they were promised.

Employer-based health care is also a huge drag on large corporations and our national economy, as clammyc pointed out in this recent diary.

In an ideal world, I’m for a Canadian-style single-payer system (also known as HR 676 or “Medicare for all”), but as a political compromise I would settle for something like what John Edwards and Hillary Clinton proposed during the primaries: mandatory health insurance, which would be portable with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and the option for any American to buy into a public insurance plan. Momentum is building in Congress for this kind of reform.

But getting Americans health insurance will solve only part of the problem. It’s shocking how many Americans with “good” insurance go without needed medical care. Only occasionally does a case makes national news, as when the teenager Nataline Sarkisyan was unable to get a liver transplant last year. A recent study found many Americans with chronic illnesses forgo medical care for cost reasons, even if they have insurance.

Then there are the “lucky” people who get the care they need for a medical emergency, but later face financieal ruin when their insurance company denies coverage. Medical bills are implicated in about half of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S.

When I had a medical emergency last winter, I got to the doctor relatively early, I received good care in the hospital, no lasting damage was done to my body, and my insurance company covered almost all of the costs (once we had exhausted our deductible). I remember our relief when the biggest bill arrived in the mail, for about $18,000, and our required payment was only $600. (I recognize that $600 would be a hardship for many families, but we are fortunate to be able to pay that without cutting back on any essentials.)

Yesterday I was reminded again of how things could have turned out very differently for my family. If you are a regular at Daily Kos, you may recognize the handle AdmiralNaismith. Among other things, he wrote a series of diaries about the political scene in all 50 states between April and October. The links to all of those pieces are here, and he wrote an interesting post-election wrap-up diary here.

AdmiralNaismith doesn’t write many personal diaries, but he recently discussed his own family’s “medical horror story”: Drowning in medical bills, despite insurance (another link is here).

He describes the sequence of events, including his wife’s life-threatening embolism, which left his family owing thousands of dollars for medical care–more unpaid bills than AdmiralNaismith earns in three months. He asked fellow bloggers to help pay down the three largest bills, which will otherwise be sent to collection agencies within 30 days. (He’s not asking anyone to send him money directly but provides contact details for the insurer, with name and account number.) A few hundred people paying $10 or $20 each would help enormously.

I will be calling to make a payment on Monday, and I encourage anyone who’s ever benefited from reading AdmiralNaismith’s informative diaries to do the same.

But equally important, I ask the community of Democratic activists, who did so much to elect Obama, to hold his feet to the fire next year on delivering the comprehensive health care reform he promised.

I haven’t been thrilled with Obama’s cabinet appointments so far. My number one hope for the new government is that Ezra Klein is right about what Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services means:

This is huge news, and the clearest evidence yet that Obama means to pursue comprehensive health reform. You don’t tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That’s not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress. You tap him because he understands the parliamentary tricks and has a deep knowledge of the ideologies and incentives of the relevant players. You tap him because you understand that health care reform runs through the Senate. And he accepts because he has been assured that you mean to attempt health care reform.

Please share your thoughts or health care horror stories in the comments.

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High Cost of Benefits Show the Need for Universal Health Care

Republicans are saying the Big Three are going under because they have to add nearly $2,000 per car to pay for union negotiated health care benefits. They are saying this extra cost puts US automakers at a disadvantage compared to foreign automakers who don't have to pay for health care benefits.

Republicans are once again pointing out the problem, but fail to have any ideas on how to solve it. They are basically arguing that America workers don't need health care benefits while ignoring the reason foreign automakers don't have to pay health care benefits.

Foreign automakers don't have to pay for health care benefits because their countries have universal health care. Our employee based health care system puts our companies at a disadvantage on the global market. US automakers should be able to focus on making the best cars, just like automakers in Japan, China, Korea, and Germany do.

Our companies will be at a competitive disadvantage until we have universal health care.

CATO reveals the GOP's dirty little secret on health care

Jed L brought something remarkable to my attention over the weekend.

Michael Cannon of the conservative CATO Institute wrote a piece called Blocking Obama’s Health Plan Is Key to the GOP’s Survival. The idea is that if Obama gets universal health care passed, he will bring “reluctant voters” into the Democratic coalition. The Republicans must at all costs provent that from happening.

David Sirota and TomP both pointed out that conservative pundit William Kristol made the same case to Congressional Republicans during Bill Clinton’s first term. At first, some were afraid to be seen as obstructing the president’s health care reform efforts. But in December 1993,

Leading conservative operative William Kristol privately circulates a strategy document to Republicans in Congress. Kristol writes that congressional Republicans should work to “kill” — not amend — the Clinton plan because it presents a real danger to the Republican future: Its passage will give the Democrats a lock on the crucial middle-class vote and revive the reputation of the party. Nearly a full year before Republicans will unite behind the “Contract With America,” Kristol has provided the rationale and the steel for them to achieve their aims of winning control of Congress and becoming America’s majority party. Killing health care will serve both ends. The timing of the memo dovetails with a growing private consensus among Republicans that all-out opposition to the Clinton plan is in their best political interest. Until the memo surfaces, most opponents prefer behind-the-scenes warfare largely shielded from public view. The boldness of Kristol’s strategy signals a new turn in the battle. Not only is it politically acceptable to criticize the Clinton plan on policy grounds, it is also politically advantageous. By the end of 1993, blocking reform poses little risk as the public becomes increasingly fearful of what it has heard about the Clinton plan.

Getting back to Cannon’s recent piece for CATO, I am struck by how conservatives don’t even believe their own propaganda about the horrors of “socialized medicine.” Yes, I know that Obama isn’t proposing socialized medicine (which would work like the Veterans Administration, where the government employs the doctors and runs the hospitals), or even single-payer health care (as in Medicare, where patients choose the doctor but the government pays the bill). But for the moment, let’s accept CATO’s frame on this issue, which is that Obama’s health plan would turn into socialized medicine.

Obama’s plan would presumably allow Americans to buy into a state-run health insurance plan as an alternative to private health insurance, and would prohibit insurers from excluding people with pre-existing conditions. These measures would force the insurance companies to compete for customers by offering better coverage, as opposed to the current system, in which they try to maximize profits by denying care whenever possible, and sometimes refusing to insure people for any price.

I have a friend with a thyroid condition. At one point her husband was between jobs and they looked into buying their own health insurance. They could not find any company that would take their family. It wasn’t a matter of excluding coverage for anything related to my friend’s thyroid condition. They simply declined to sell insurance to this family at any cost. Fortunately, my friend’s husband got a job with good benefits. Otherwise, they would be uninsured to this day.

The benefit of giving families like my friend’s the option of buying into state-run insurance program is obvious. But let’s assume that conservatives are right, and that any state-run insurance scheme is bound to be expensive and inefficient. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it fail in the marketplace?

Obama’s health care plan could evolve in the direction of single-payer health care only if the government insurance plan provided superior coverage to consumers at a lower cost. CATO shouldn’t be worried about this, right?

Let’s go a step further. Conservative pundits are trying to tell us that Democratic health care proposals would be disastrous for the country and wreck the economy. If that’s true, then why is a CATO analyst worried that enacting Obama’s health care plan would cause a political realignment in the Democrats’ favor?

Cannon’s argument is also shocking on a moral level. He appears to believe that Obama’s health care plan would improve so many Americans’ lives that the GOP’s survival would be threatened. So, he urges Republicans to put their own political interests ahead of the interests of Americans currently lacking adequate health care.

Jed L thinks

Cannon has everything backwards: the GOP’s survival depends on Republicans being part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.

I have to admit that here I agree more with Cannon. Republicans would not get much credit for helping to pass Obama’s universal health care plan. Everyone would know it was a Democratic president with a Democratic Congress who delivered on that promise.

Obstruction with the goal of making Obama look like an ineffective leader in tough economic times is probably the Republicans’ best hope of making political gains.

I am cautiously optimistic that Congress will be more open to adopting Obama’s agenda than the Democratic-controlled Congress was for Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1994. We’ve got at least two things going for us: Obama’s Health and Human Services secretary will be Tom Daschle, who knows the inner workings of Congress, and Henry Waxman (not John Dingell) will be running the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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The odds in favor of a good climate change bill just improved

An earthquake hit Capitol Hill today, as the House Democratic caucus voted 137 to 122 to make Representative Henry Waxman of California chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He will replace Representative John Dingell of Michigan, who has served in the House for more than 50 years (after his father represented the same district for more than two decades).

Dingell has been the top Democrat on the panel for 28 years and is an old-school supporter of the auto industry. Waxman has complained that the committee has been too slow to address environmental issues like global warming.

“The argument we made was that we needed a change for the committee to have the leadership that will work with this administration and members in both the House and the Senate in order to get important issues passed in health care, environmental protection, in energy policy,” Waxman said after the vote.

“The next two years are critical,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who spoke on Waxman’s behalf in the closed-door caucus. “It’s not personal. It’s about the American people demanding that we embrace change and work with the president on critical issues of climate change and energy and health care.”

This is more important than the Senate Democrats caving to Joe Lieberman on Tuesday.

It’s an excellent sign that the new Congress will be serious about progressive change. I had read yesterday that freshman Democrats were overwhelmingly for Waxman, while the Blue Dogs and Congressional Black Caucus were mostly for Dingell.

It’s unfortunate that Dingell has spent several decades trying to shield the big three American automakers from government regulation on fuel efficiency and other matters. If he had not “protected” them for so long, maybe U.S.-made cars would be more desirable for more consumers, and the automakers would not be on the brink of bankruptcy.

Of course, our employer-based health care system is another major drag on American manufacturers. With any luck we will be able to help uninsured Americans and major industry at the same time by passing universal health care reform.

Congratulations to Waxman for taking the first step in what will no doubt be a long slog.

UPDATE: A Siegel is encouraged by Obama’s speech to the recent bipartisan governors’ summit on climate change. Click the link for more details and the text of the speech.

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Why do we tolerate our immoral and ineffective health care system?

Via nyceve at Daily Kos I learned about a new study called “Class and Race Inequalities in Health and Health Care.” The three authors found that very few Americans lacking health insurance receive organ transplants, although the uninsured often become organ donors.

Eve’s diary includes a link to the full report in pdf format and summarizes one of its findings:

Strikingly, lack of insurance was a stronger predictor of organ donation than was any hospital characteristic or demographic factor other than age (older people’s organs are more often diseased and unsuitable for transplantation).

Why are the uninsured more likely to become organ donors? Could it be that more of them are dying prematurely?

The authors explain in the introduction why they embarked on this research project:

   “In September of 2005, one of us (Herring), then a third-year medical student, cared for a previously healthy 25-year-old uninsured day laborer who arrived at the emergency department with rapidly advancing idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.

   The patient was ultimately deemed unsuitable for cardiac transplantation. The decision on transplantation was driven, in part, by realistic concern about the patient’s inability to pay for long-term immunosuppressive therapy and to support himself during recovery. Absent such resources, the likelihood of a successful outcome is compromised. The clinicians caring for him faced a wrenching dilemma: deny the patient a transplant, or use a scarce organ for a patient with a reduced chance of success. He died of heart failure two weeks after his initial presentation. This tragedy inspired us to examine data on the participation of the uninsured in organ transplantation, both as recipients and as donors.”

Yes, you read that correctly. The patient was rejected for a heart transplant in part because, lacking health insurance, he was deemed unlikely to be able to buy the immunosuppressing drugs he would need to survive with a new heart.

Republicans scream about “socialism” and “rationing,” as if health care is not rationed every single day in this country. Maybe one of my Christian conservative readers can explain why it was ok to deny this young man a heart transplant. If his job had provided health insurance, he might have gotten that heart and be alive today.

Speaking of health care rationing, I learned from this MyDD diary that the academic journal Health Affairs recently published a study comparing care for chronically ill patients in eight countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

Click here to read the study, which found that “Chronically ill U.S. patients have the most negative access, coordination, and safety experiences.” I’ve excerpted some passages:

Asked about experiences, U.S. and German patients were significantly more likely than patients in the other countries to report wasted time because of poorly organized care. […]

The United States stands out in patient costs, with 41 percent reporting that they spent more than $1,000 out of pocket in the past year. […]

U.S. chronically ill adults were by far the most likely to report forgoing needed care because of costs. More than half (54 percent) reported at least one cost-related access problem, including not filling a prescription or skipping doses, not visiting a doctor when sick, or not getting recommended care (Exhibit 2). […]

U.S. patients were significantly more likely than those in other countries to report that medical records or test results were not available during a scheduled visit or that tests were duplicated unnecessarily. One-third of U.S. patients reported at least one of these experiences–a rate 30 percent higher than in any other country. […]

U.S. uninsured adults were significantly more likely than those insured all year to go without care because of costs and to wait when sick. Remembering that all in this study have chronic (often multiple) conditions, a disturbingly high 82 percent of the uninsured did not fill a prescription, get recommended care, or see a doctor when sick because of costs. Uninsured chronically ill adults were also more likely than those with insurance to report errors as a result of higher rates of delays in hearing about abnormal lab tests and wrong-dose/ wrong-medication errors. Not surprisingly, given these experiences, the uninsured were also more negative about the U.S. health system than insured adults were.

Still, the experience of fragmented and inefficient care in the United States cuts across insurance status. Insured and uninsured chronically ill U.S. adults reported similarly high rates of coordination concerns (duplication and records/tests not available) and perceptions of excess care or time wasted because of poorly organized care.

Although insured U.S. adults fared better than the uninsured, they were still more likely than their counterparts in other countries to forgo care because of cost and to encounter poor coordination. Their perceptions of waste, patient-reported errors, and negative system views also remained at the high end of the country range. […]

Repeating patterns observed in earlier surveys, the United States continues to stand out for more negative patient experiences, ranking last or low for access, care coordination/efficiency, and patient-reported safety concerns. The percentage of chronically ill U.S. adults who reported access problems, errors, delays, duplication, and other symptoms of poorly organized care was two to three times the level reported in the lowest-rate countries in the survey (a 20-30 percentage point spread). Along with Canadians, U.S. patients were also the most likely to indicate a primary care system under stress–lack of rapid access, difficulty getting care after hours, and high ER use.

Americans spend a higher percent of our gross domestic product on health care than any other industrial democracy, yet we don’t get good value for money. It’s worst for the uninsured, but as the above study found, even chronically ill patients with health insurance reported more problems with health care access than comparably ill patients in other countries.

I hope Congressional Democrats are serious about making big changes to our health care system, because the status quo is immoral and unacceptable.

UPDATE: More evidence that our current rationing of health care is immoral can be found in this diary by nyceve: “Many uninsured Americans endure terrible physical pain.”

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Big change is coming on health care

I’ve been consistently worried that Barack Obama would not set an ambitious domestic policy agenda if elected president. His post-partisan rhetoric has given me the impression that he would move toward compromising with the Republican position on various issues before negotiations with Congress have begun. Specifically on health care, I agreed with Paul Krugman of the New York Times that Obama’s proposal was not as good as the plans John Edwards and Hillary Clinton advocated during the primaries.

Obama hasn’t been sworn in yet, and the new Congress won’t meet for more than a month, but already there are signs of growing momentum for truly universal health care reform (and not just incremental progress toward that goal).

On Wednesday Senator Max Baucus of Montana, who chairs the Finance Committee, released a “white paper” on health reform. You can get the gist by reading this diary by TomP or this one by DemFromCT. Ezra “Momma said wonk you out” Klein dived into the details in a series of posts this week.

The key point is that Baucus embraced the concept of mandatory health insurance, but with a public plan any American could choose to join. So, if private insurers kept jacking up premiums while covering less and less medical care, people could “vote with their feet” by paying into a public plan that would work like Medicare (the patient chooses the doctor).

This story explains Baucus’ line of thinking:

Baucus, of Montana, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a health-care blueprint released today that only a mandate could ensure people didn’t wait until they were ill to buy health insurance, forcing up the price for everyone.

The 89-page proposal revives a debate from the Democratic presidential primaries about how to overhaul the U.S. health- care system. Obama supported requiring coverage only for children, saying adults would buy coverage voluntarily if it were affordable. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York said insurance must be mandated for everyone.

“Requiring all Americans to have health coverage will help end the shifting of costs of the uninsured to the insured,” Baucus said today in his plan. The requirement “would be enforced possibly through the U.S. tax system or some other point of contact between individuals and the government,” he said, without spelling out possible penalties. […]

Because of the urgency of health-care reform, Congress should move on legislation in the first half of next year, Baucus said at a press conference today in Washington.

“There is no way to solve America’s economic problems without solving health care,” he said. The $2.2 trillion health-care system “sucks up 16 percent of our economy and is still growing,” Baucus said.

It’s hard to exaggerate the significance of this development. First, as many others have noted, if Baucus runs health care reform through the Finance Committee there is a good chance it will be the kind of bill not subject to a filibuster. That means the Democrats would need only 50 votes (not 60) to pass it in the Senate.

Second, Baucus is among the more conservative members of the Senate Democratic caucus (check out his Progressive Punch ratings here). If he is ready for big, bold health care reform, the ground has shifted.

Third, this development could be very discouraging for Iowa’s own Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee. Traditionally, Grassley and Baucus have had a close working relationship. But this past summer Grassley was annoyed when Democrats rejected a deal he thought he had cut with Baucus on a Medicare bill, and Baucus denied having reached any prior agreement with Grassley.

This report from Wednesday quotes Grassley expressing skepticism about finding the money to pay for a big health care initiative.

If Baucus moves away from the habit of compromising with Grassley now that the Democrats will have a solid Senate majority, could Iowa’s senior senator decide to step down in 2010? We all know that Grassley’s seat is safe for Republicans unless he retires. He seems to like his job, but perhaps facing defeat after defeat in a Democratic-controlled Congress would diminish his desire to hang around for another six years.  

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Help Rob Hubler get his message out

Steve King keeps adding to the multitude of reasons to elect Rob Hubler to represent Iowa’s fifth district in Congress. He is running a misleading television ad in the Sioux City market:

Friday, October 17, 2008                  

         COUNCIL BLUFFS – Rob Hubler, Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 5th district, today called on Rep. Steve King to pull his new television ad in which he falsely claims credit for “working with others” to widen Highway 20 from two lanes to four lanes.

         Following an announcement by the Iowa Department of Transportation on Tuesday that $48 million had been allocated for 11.7 miles of four-laning Highway 20, King began running a television commercial claiming credit for the funding.  All of the funding is from a special fund recently approved by the Iowa legislature and none of the funding is from federal sources.

         “Steve King taking credit for funding Highway 20 improvements would be like me taking credit for the sun coming up this morning,” said Hubler.  “Our state legislators and the Iowa Department of Transportation deserve credit for allocating the funding for Highway 20, which is long overdue,” he said.  “King had nothing to do with approving money for highway improvements but, three weeks before an election, he is desperate to show some accomplishments in Congress, by taking credit where it is not due.”

         State Sen. Steve Warnstadt of Sioux City, who has fought for funding in the Iowa legislature, said today that the legislature, “rather than wait for the promises of federal politicians to be fulfilled, worked in a bipartisan manner to not only create the funding for TIME-21, but ensured that projects like four-laning Highway 20 would be top priority for new funding.”

         “I’m pleased that the Iowa Transportation Commission did not wait for federal funds, and is using the resources provided to them by the legislature for critical projects like Highway 20,” said Sen. Warnstadt.

         In his television ad, that began running this week, King says:  “Six years ago I made a commitment to you that I would pull out all the stops to build four-lane Highway 20.  Today with the commission’s announcement, I can tell you that 46 more miles will be built within five years.  My number one transportation priority was a promise, now it’s a plan, soon it will be a reality.  We work together and we get things done.”

         In a press release issued the same day, King again took credit for the Highway 20 improvement project.  “Steve King had absolutely nothing to do with any of that funding and is shamelessly trying to take credit for it,” said Hubler.  “I suppose this is what you do when you’ve spent six years in Congress and have only a resolution encouraging people to celebrate Christmas to show for it,” he added.

         Hubler pointed out that King is unable to get anything done to help his district because he is not respected by other members of Congress, even those in his own party.  “By contrast, Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa has a program for Highway 34 in which he gets 20 miles paved every year,” he said.

         Hubler said that he will work with the rest of the Iowa delegation to make sure Iowa gets help with maintaining our highways and bridges.  “I will sponsor and fight for legislation to fund at least ten miles of Highway 20 widening each year until it is completed,” he said.  “If Steve King had done this, we would have 60 miles completed during his three terms in Congress.”

This press release from the Iowa Department of Transportation confirms the above comments by Hubler and State Senator Steve Warnstadt. This project is funded by the state, not by any federal appropriation.

Iowa Guy calls out the television ad as one of King’s “lies.” Here is a rough transcript that someone in the fifth district sent to me (if anyone has an official script, please send me a copy). Judge for yourself:

King: I’m Steve King. I approve this message. Six years ago I made a commitment to you that I would pull out all of the stops to build 4 lane Highway 20. Today with the commission’s announcement, I can tell you that 46 more miles will be built within five years. My number one transportation priority was a promise, now it’s a plan, soon it will be a reality. We work together and we get things done.

Voice Over: “Steve King for Congress”

King’s ad creates a false impression. Note how he refers to “the commission” without making clear that he’s talking about the Iowa Transportation Commission’s announcement regarding Highway 20. He talks about how his “promise” is now a “plan” that will soon be a “reality,” without specifying what he did to make that plan a reality (because he played no role).

I read in one of my parenting books that lying can be a form of wish fulfillment. If I had achieved as little for constituents as King has, I’d probably wish I could take credit for a popular highway project too.

Speaking of King’s record, you may recall this article the Sioux City Journal published over the summer, asking “How effective is Steve King?” (Answer: not very.) In the article, King described a “key moment” for him:

King said the extended 2007 funding debate for reauthorization of the federal State Children’s Health Insurance Program was a key moment. The measure was initially written for an increase of $35 billion, but was scaled back before being signed by President Bush in December.

King took to the House floor last fall with a sign that said the SCHIP acronym should instead stand for “Socialized Clinton-style Hillarycare for Illegals and their Parents.”

“I do believe if you took me out of the equation, there would have been a different (funding) result,” King said.

I have a close friend (self-employed) whose family was getting health coverage through her husband’s job. He was just laid off this month. Fortunately, their kids are eligible to be added to HAWK-I (that’s the Iowa version of SCHIP) as of November 1.

Plenty of children would be going without health insurance if not for HAWK-I, and in this economy, demand for the program will probably rise significantly.

Isn’t it great that King fought to scale back the funding?

Another recent “achievement” for King was his proposal to create a commission to study the current financial crisis. Hubler had some choice words about that idea, and I’ve put his full statement after the jump. Some excerpts:

       “For six years, Steve King has supported an administration that has refused to accept responsibility or to hold anyone accountable for policies that have devastated the middle class, provided tax breaks to big oil companies, mismanaged an unnecessary war, and now caused the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression,” said Hubler.  “We don’t need to spend millions of dollars on a commission that will take months to find out what we already know; when there are no rules, and no regulators, markets do not regulate themselves.”

       “King opposed common-sense regulations designed to protect investors and consumers as his Republican-led Congress gave the Bush administration the authority to dismantle rules, allowing greedy Wall Street speculators and unscrupulous lenders free rein to engage in subprime lending with no oversight from Congress,” Hubler continued.  “Yet, instead of accepting responsibility for his part in creating this mess, King has tried to blame middle class borrowers for the collapse of the housing market,” said Hubler, referring to comments King made Saturday at a town hall meeting in Onawa.

Hubler is a strong Democrat as well as a strong candidate, which is why Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold’s Progressive Patriots Fund is supporting him.

Hubler can win this race if he is able to get his message to voters. He’s already been up on the radio with at least one ad, featuring former Congressman Berkley Bedell. The Hubler campaign has also produced this voter guide (pdf file) to mail district-wide. To reach more voters through direct mail and broadcast media, the campaign needs your help. Please donate today.

We have a great opportunity to take advantage of the coming Democratic wave. This post at Swing State Project notes that seats once thought safe for Republicans are becoming competitive across the country. The author names IA-05 (as well as IA-04) among the “Republican seats at severe risk of being lost or swept away in the ensuing tide.”

The Republican Party is now spending money on behalf of incumbents in some districts comparable to western Iowa in terms of partisan makeup. This recent story from Politico notes:

GOP Reps. John B. Shadegg of Arizona, Lee Terry of Nebraska, Henry Brown Jr. of South Carolina and Dan Lungren of California are all fighting for their political lives, a reversal of fortunes that has caught even the most astute campaign observers by surprise.

Markos commented on the Politico piece,

Shadegg’s AZ-03 is R+5.9.

Terry’s NE-02 is R+9.0.

Brown’s SC-01 is R+9.6

Lungren’s CA-03 is R+6.7.

Iowa’s fifth district has a partisan voting index of R+8. As I’ve written before, ten House Democrats already represent districts at least as Republican. This election will increase that number. Let’s make IA-05 one of them.

King’s third-quarter FEC filing showed a financial advantage over Hubler, but hardly an intimidating war chest. His cash on hand may not even be sufficient to run television ads across the district for the remainder of the campaign. He certainly won’t have a turnout operation to rival what Barack Obama’s campaign and the Iowa Democratic Party have going in western Iowa.

It only takes a minute to donate to Hubler’s campaign, giving him the resources to spread his message in the final weeks. Please take the time to help send a good man to Congress.

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Another Look at Health Care, Armed with Facts

(Thanks for this diary. Our current health care system is broken, and fixing it will have to be at the top of the next president's agenda. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Health reform is moving back to the top of the political agenda. Over the last fifteen years, the biggest problems in U.S. health care—the dwindling reach and generosity of private coverage, the rapid escalation of costs, the uneven quality of care—have all grown substantially worse. Now, we may well finally have a true opportunity to address these problems. What are the big issues at stake? What are the options for reform? And what are the prospects for real change after decades of political defeat?

These are the questions taken up in Health At Risk: America’s Ailing Health System–And How to Heal It, a book I recently put together that features the commentary of some of the nation’s leading experts on health care (plus yours truly).

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Final Obama-McCain debate open thread

Barack Obama has a big psychological edge going into his final debate with John McCain. He leads McCain in all of the recent nationwide polls and in most of the key swing state polls, giving him a big lead in the projected electoral vote. McCain desperately needs to have the debate of his life and hope that Obama makes a big mistake.

Deep pessimism appears to have set in among the Republican political and pundit class, as you will learn if you read this Daily Kos diary: GOP Rats Deserting the USS McCain in Titanic Proportions. It’s chock full of quotes from angry or dejected Republicans.

Another piece that’s gotten a lot of traction today is this e-mail Ben Smith received from a demoralized Republican operative. This guy convened a focus group to test a hard-hitting ad linking Obama to terrorists among other things. The group believed his ad but are planning to vote for Obama anyway. Even though they think he’ll be a bad president. Even a woman who thinks Obama himself was in the Weathermen is planning to vote for him because of the health care issue. You really should click over to read this post.

McCain does have one thing going for him: he’s got a long relationship with Bob Schieffer of CBS, who is moderating tonight’s debate.

I probably won’t watch the debate live, but please share your comments in this thread. I will weigh in later when I’ve had a chance to listen.

I leave you with Obama’s latest tv ad, a good positive spot about education:

UPDATE: I caught the beginning of the debate, but then fell asleep while putting my kids to bed. Maybe I can catch the rerun on C-SPAN at some point. McCain seemed to be doing ok while I was watching, but apparently it didn’t go over well when he brought up William Ayers later in the debate. All the focus groups and snap polls gave the debate to Obama.

Note to aspiring politicians: No matter what your position is on when abortion should be legal (if ever), it’s a bad idea to use your fingers to make air quotes while saying “the health of the mother.”

Also, it’s best to avoid letting yourself be photographed or videotaped looking like this or like this. Not presidential.

Here’s a good summary of the post-debate focus group and polling data.

What's At Stake: Life, Liberty, Happiness

(Thanks to Jason for this important diary. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The longer we delay fixing the health care system – reigning in costs, covering everyone, and fairly sharing risk – the harder it will be to reform the system at all. And it's not just because America is currently facing, in the words of just about everyone, “the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression.” As David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall point out today in McClatchy Newspapers, the simple demographics will be against us if we wait:

Beginning in 2011, the first wave of baby boomers – Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – will reach official retirement age. From that point forward, the federal government's finances will be strained, as more and more Americans retire expecting a shrinking number of active workers to pay their promised health and pension benefits.

To put it more starkly: Medicare's trustees project the hospital insurance fund will become insolvent in about 10 years, as its expenditures grow at a 7.4 percent annual rate. The government, the trustees said, will need $342 billion to cover insurance costs during that period.

“The longer action on reforming health care and Social Security is delayed, the more painful and difficult the choices will become,” said a Government Accountability Office study in June. “The federal government faces increasing pressures, yet a shrinking window of opportunity for phasing in adjustments.”

Medicare, the report said, “represents a much larger, faster-growing and more immediate problem than Social Security.”

A series of factors are driving up Medicare costs. According to the GAO and the trustees, medical technology is often overused; the health care market doesn't operate on a supply-and-demand basis as people often don't shop for the lowest price; and chronic health problems – such as obesity or substance abuse – require expensive, lengthy treatment.

Medicare (and similarly, Medicaid) face such staggering budget shortfalls to a large extent as a consequence of America's private, patchwork health care system. Preventative care is less costly in the long run, yet, because the health insurance industry has been so deregulated as to allow them to deny care at every opportunity and price care out of the reach of millions, America has 47 million uninsured and millions more under-insured. This means millions of Americans don't see their doctor as regularly as they should to catch medical problems early before they become costly emergencies. And, as the economy sinks, people are cutting back on care, making the problem worse.

Medicare (and to some extent, Medicaid) functions essentially as a high risk pool, a group of people (in this case, the elderly) who are less profitable to insurance companies because they use so much health care. High risk pools, basically by definition, don't work. If the theory of insurance is to spread out risk (everyone in a system all pay into a pot so when one person needs to use their coverage, that cost can be absorbed by everyone), then high risk pools make no sense. Putting everyone who you know are going to use a lot of health insurance into the same pot and asking them to share costs is silly – there are no “low risk” people in the system to absorb some of the cost. And because everyone at some time in their life is “high risk” for large health insurance costs (everyone eventually gets sick or old), Medicare functions as a dumping ground for the private insurance industry. Private insurance takes monthly premiums from the young and healthy all their life, and when they get old and sick (and unprofitable), they are dumped on the government.

This is why Medicare is projected to be the largest driver of the national debt in the near future, and, because baby boomers are about to enter the system in huge numbers, this is why health reform needs to happen in this country immediately.

Simply getting everybody covered adequately would be a huge step forward. A guarantee of a certain level of care, no matter if you're on private or public insurance plans, would make sure people receive the care they need throughout their life, lowering overall costs. A subsidized public insurance plan that would take everybody would go a long way towards eliminating the number of people in America without insurance. And regulating all insurance plans – public and private – to make sure they cover pre-existing conditions and can't dump “unprofitable” customers would ensure risk is shared fairly, as it is meant to be.

This, of course, is Health Care for America Now's vision, shared by 83 Members of Congress, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Contrast that with the conservative vision, championed by John McCain:

  • Less regulation on insurance companies to do away with state based insurance, allowing companies to set up shop in the states with the least regulation and forcing Americans to shop on their own for health insurance.
  • Taxing your employee health benefits, doing away with the employer-based system
  • Funding a paltry tax credit (which goes straight to the insurance industry) with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid

No guarantee of care, no incentive to promote prevention, no fair risk sharing, and a plan that is estimated to grow the ranks of the uninsured in America by 5 million in just five years.

There is a clear difference here, and that's why it's so important to make health care a priority in this election and immediately after the next president is inaugurated. It seems the nation is waking up to that difference, too. In the past few weeks, health care has been a focus of some excellent debate questions, it has been targeted in campaign advertisements, and the subject of numerous news stories. And of course, Health Care for America Now has thrown our hat into the ring, spending $4.3 million to put advertisements about John McCain's health care plan (as well as 7 congressional candidates) on the air across the country:

America is finally having the health care debate it needs to be having. What's at stake is our economy, our national debt, our health, and our happiness. Let's just hope the urgency is still there in January.

(also posted at MyDD and the NOW! blog)

I'm proud to work for Health Care for America Now.

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Quick hit on the second Latham-Greenwald radio debate

The second radio debate between Becky Greenwald and  Tom Latham just ended. Kudos to KGLO-AM in Mason City for running a much better debate than WHO 1040 in Des Moines did on Monday. The questions by both journalists in the studio and callers were clear, substantive and balanced. I listened to the livestream, but I hope the station will make the audio available on their website (http://www.kgloam.com).

My overall impression was that Greenwald did just what she needed to do in the two radio debates. As I see it, her most important tasks were:

1. Demonstrate that she understands the issues and is able to speak comfortably on a range of topics.

2. Hold Latham accountable for his lockstep Republican voting record and failure to get key problems solved during his 14 years in Congress.

3. Remind voters that the country is on the wrong track, and she will be there to support Barack Obama’s efforts to put it on the right track.

Greenwald succeeded on all of those fronts.

As for Latham, I see his most important objectives for the debates this way:

1. Avoid acting like a jerk or making a big gaffe.

2. Distance himself from the Republican Party and George Bush’s failed policies.

3. Remind voters of his accomplishments as a member of Congress.

Only the first point can be considered a complete success for Latham, in my opinion. He was respectful toward his opponent and did not make any howlers. His answers did plenty to accomplish the second and third tasks, but Greenwald was able to rebut many of his claims during her own responses.

All challengers have to prove that they are “ready for prime time,” and there is no question that Greenwald did so. I share Chase Martyn’s perspective on the first debate; Latham and Greenwald debated as equals.

Greenwald answered the questions fluidly and precisely. In particular, she was very strong on health care, Social Security, Iraq, energy, taxes, and deregulation. She called Latham on his past support for Republican efforts to privatize Social Security. He repeatedly denied supporting “privatization,” but Greenwald pointed out that there is creating personal accounts (which could get decimated in bear market) is tantamount to privatizing a system that currently provides guaranteed benefits. After the jump, you can read a statement the Greenwald campaign issued on Social Security shortly after the debate.

Greenwald did not stumble or become flustered when faced with a hostile question. (This was also apparent during the first debate.) When callers brought up immigration, she talked about the need to enforce the laws for employers and asked why Latham hadn’t done anything to solve this problem before it got to the point of raids in Marshalltown and Postville. In both debates she also mentioned that many people are surprised to learn Postville is in the fourth district, because Congressman Bruce Braley has been so much more active in seeking enforcement of safety, labor and immigration laws with respect to Agriprocessors. Despite Latham’s claim that Greenwald supports “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, she made clear that she is talking about a path to some kind of legal status for employment (not necessarily citizenship), which could involve fines or in some cases returning to the home country to wait in line.

Greenwald’s closing statement hit on her campaign’s most important themes: the country has been going in the wrong direction for eight years, she firmly believes Obama will be elected president, and she wants to be there to help him change our direction.

As in Monday’s debate, Latham used every opportunity to bring up the bailout bill he voted against twice. In fact, I feel he should send House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a thank-you note, because he was clinging to his votes against the bailout like a life raft. Again and again, Latham cited the bailout as proof that he doesn’t always vote with Bush and stands with the little guy against Wall Street corruption.

He also used the bailout answers to claim that he supports better regulation of Wall Street. He blamed Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd for Congress’s failure to better regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That is only a small part of the overall picture, though. For the last 15 years, Republicans in Washington have been pushing for less regulation of corporations and more corporate subsidies, and Latham has been right there with them.

Here’s Latham’s voting record on corporate subsidies.

Here’s Latham’s voting record that relates to government checks on corporate power.

Here’s Latham’s voting record on corporate tax breaks in general (including sub-categories on tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and for the wealthiest individuals).

Latham must be very grateful to be able to talk about the bailout instead of his long record of standing with corporations rather than middle-class taxpayers. Greenwald mentioned Latham’s longstanding support for deregulation, but those matters have received less media attention than this week’s stock market declines, which Latham pointed to as evidence that the bailout failed.

Greenwald brought up provisions in the revised bailout bill that benefit Iowans (those were the additions that brought Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Bruce Braley on board). Latham avoided talking about the details of those “sweeteners” but spoke generally about opposing the Washington-style mentality that if you take a bad bill and add $150 billion in spending to it, it becomes a good bill. That’s probably the best argument he can make for why he voted against a bill containing the wind energy tax credit and tax breaks for flood-damaged businesses.

From where I’m sitting, the bailout was the best card Latham had to play, and he made full use of it. If not for that issue, today’s debate would have been a blowout for Greenwald.

Regarding health care, Latham stated clearly today that he would not support John McCain’s proposal as currently drafted, because it doesn’t address issues such as Medicare reimbursements. Earlier in the week, Greenwald’s campaign, the Iowa Democratic Party, and Americans United for Change had been hammering him on his apparent support for McCain’s plan during Monday’s debate.

In today’s debate, Latham did not mention the problem of insurance companies excluding coverage for pre-existing conditions, which Greenwald mentioned prominently in her answer on health care.

Latham expressed pride in many of the bills he has co-sponsored relating to health care, but Greenwald brought up the big picture, which is that the problems in our health care sector have gotten worse, not better, during Latham’s 14 years in Congress. For 12 of those years, he was in the majority party. Why hasn’t he accomplished more?

As for partisanship, Latham mentioned several times today that the Democratic mayor of Boone is supporting him. Here he tapped into the goodwill that often comes to members who serve on the House Appropriations Committee. I don’t think I heard him embrace any of Obama’s proposals, though.

Latham didn’t return to an argument he made several times in Monday’s debate, which is that Iowa’s Democratic members of Congress have more partisan voting records than he does.

He doesn’t seem to understand that the problem with his lockstep Republican voting record is not that it’s “partisan.” The problem is, the Republican policies he has supported down the line (from the war in Iraq to almost any domestic issue you name) have failed. They have put our country on the wrong track. We need to move in a different direction, and Latham isn’t going to support the change we need.

It’s always hard for me to put myself in the mindset of an undecided voter as I listen to a debate. My impression was that Greenwald helped herself a lot, especially since the voters of the fourth district are very likely to support Obama by a significant margin over McCain.

I don’t think Latham did much today to hurt himself, but I wonder whether his bailout votes will be enough to convince fourth district residents that he has been more than a loyal supporter of the most unpopular president in history.

UPDATE: Greenwald’s statement on Social Security is after the jump.

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Why does Latham support McCain's health care plan?

During Monday’s radio debate between Representative Tom Latham and Becky Greenwald (podcast available here), Latham did his best to run away from the Republican label and the failed policies of George Bush’s administration. In fact, he was eager to remind listeners of the only time in recent memory that he didn’t vote for something Bush wanted (the bailout).

Latham didn’t go out of his way to link himself with John McCain either, which makes sense, since McCain is going to lose Iowa. When one caller asked him about McCain’s health care plan, Latham hedged before acknowledging that he supports the concept of that plan.

Greenwald wants him to explain his position:

 October 8, 2008                                                                                          

Greenwald Calls on Latham Says to Explain His Support of John McCain’s Radical Healthcare Plan

Over 217,000 Iowans Would Lose Coverage Under McCain’s Radical Plan

Waukee, IA – This week, on the WHO 1040 AM radio debate, Tom Latham was asked if he would support John McCain’s radical health care plan. After skirting the question, Tom Latham said “…the general concept of it I would be supportive of.” In a conference call today, Becky Greenwald called on Latham to explain his support for a plan that would cost over 217,000 Iowans their healthcare.

“Tom, how can you support a radical healthcare proposal that would cost over 217,000 Iowans to lose their health insurance?” asked Becky Greenwald. “This is a classic Washington bait and switch. Tom Latham and John McCain would give you a tax credit with one hand, but raises your taxes with the other to pay for it. With Iowans being squeezed from all sides, we literally can’t afford two more years of Tom Latham.”

John McCain’s plan will tax health care benefits and lead 20 million workers, 217,346 in Iowa alone, to lose the coverage they get from their employers. He only offers a $5,000 tax credit to families to buy health insurance, but according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average family health insurance premium is over $12,000. McCain also said that he supports deregulating healthcare, just as he and Tom Latham did with the financial markets that have led to our economic crisis.

McCain’s Plan to Give American’s More Cost and Less Coverage

Over 215,000 Iowans Would Lose Their Coverage Under McCain’s Health Plan. In September 2008, the Economic Policy Institute, in their analysis of John McCain’s health care plan reported that up to 217,346 Iowans could lose their health coverage under McCain’s health care plan. [Economic Policy Institute: McCain Plan Accelerates Loss In Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance A State-By-State Analysis, 9/26/08]

McCain’s Health Plan Could Result In Tax Increase For Some Americans. McCain’s campaign “acknowledged. . .that the health plan he outlined. . .would have the effect of increasing tax payments for some workers, primarily those with high incomes and expensive health plans.” According to the New York Times, “the campaign cannot yet project how many taxpayers might see their taxes go up.” [New York Times, 5/1/2008]

McCain Wanted to Deregulate the Health Insurance Market.  In Contingencies, a publication by the American Academy of Actuaries, McCain said, “Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”  [Contigencies, Sept./Oct. issue via New York Times, 9/19/08]

The Cost For Employer Based Family Health Coverage Is $12,680. The Kaiser Family Foundation stated, “Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $12,680 annually for family coverage this year.” [Kaiser Family Foundation release, 9/24/08]

McCain’s Plan May Increase Health Costs. “Critics of McCain’s plan say it would not make insurance cheaper or more available and might prevent people with pre-existing conditions from getting coverage.” Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger “feels the plan does little to address the high cost of health care.” In addition, “McCain and his advisers say that giving health-care consumers more options will lead to substantial cost reductions, though they have yet to provide any figures.” [Reuters, 4/29/2008; Business Week, 4/29/2008; Bloomberg, 4/29/2008]

McCain Plan Would Cause 20 Million People to Lose Employer-Based Health Insurance.  Health Affairs reported in September 2008 that, “Eliminating the tax exclusion would greatly reduce the number of people who obtain health insurance through their employers.  This decline would be driven by three factors: the effective price of employer-sponsored coverage would increase, the nondiscrimination rules would no longer apply, and low-risk employees would have less incentive to remain in employer-sponsored groups…the elimination of the income tax preference for employer-sponsored insurance would cause twenty million Americans to lose such coverage. [Health Affairs, 9/16/08]

I challenge any family to shop for a private health insurance plan that costs $5,000 a year. That is a joke. Even young, healthy individuals often can’t get insurance for that price. I know this firsthand, because my family pays for our own health insurance.

The point about McCain wanting to tax health benefits is also important. I’m glad to hear Greenwald echoing the message that Barack Obama’s campaign is conveying through television ads, door-to-door contacts and direct-mail pieces.

If this issue comes up in Friday’s radio debate, I would encourage Greenwald to mention one more problem with McCain’s plan.

If you have a pre-existing condition, you may not be able to purchase health insurance for any price. Elizabeth Edwards pointed out six months ago that McCain’s plan does nothing to solve this problem.

Speaking of which, in a conference call last week, Elizabeth Edwards made the connection between our inadequate health care system and our economic problems:

she said that problems with payments of medical bills often lead to home foreclosures, a major factor in the current economic downturn. Elizabeth Edwards also said that residents without health insurance often are less productive because they miss work as a result of a lack of access to preventive care or early treatment for illnesses. She said, “Reform of our health care system is a very important part of the answers we’re going to need to solve our economic woes.”

Democratic candidates for office at all levels need to keep connecting those dots. Obama answered the health care question well in last night’s debate with McCain.

I will have more thoughts on the Latham/Greenwald debate once I’ve had a chance to listen to the 80-minute tape again.

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Call Chuck Grassley today on universal health care

I want to pass along this e-mail alert from the Iowa Citizen Action Network:


The Iowa Citizen Action Network is leading the Health Care for America Now Coalition in Iowa that is urging comprehensive reform of our health care system so that it truly provides affordable accessible health care for all. We are working with partners to sign every member of congress onto a statement of health care principals that define quality, affordable, health care we can all count on. We have issued invitations to meet with this coalition and sent letters, faxes and emails containing the health care principals and asking Iowa ‘s entire congressional delegation to tell us “Which Side Are You On?”

ICAN and our coalition partners met with Senator Harkin in August where he expressed his support for the health care reform principals and signed on the “Which Side Are You On?” statement in support of our principals. Last month Representatives Loebsack and Braley faxed back signed statements of their support. Thank you!

Now we are turning our attention to Senator Grassley.




We have been talking to Iowa’s Congressional Delegation to get them to explain to us what their views on health care reform are – one that says we all have a stake in covering the 47 million uninsured, or one that says we need less regulation and more “on your own” solutions.

So far, through your hard work, Senator Harkin, Representative Braley, and Representative Loebsack have all signed their support to Health Care for America Now, and a vision that says there is a role for individuals, employers, the community, and the government to fix this health care mess we find ourselves in now.

But we still need your help.  Senator Grassley still has yet to tell us where he stands on this critical issue, and your calls can make a difference.




We’ve put together an easy-to-use webpage for you to call your members of Congress. Just click on the link below, enter in your information – including your phone number – and click the “Call” button. In a few moments, you’ll receive a call to that phone number that will automatically put you in touch with your member of Congress.   http://tools.advomatic.com/8/hcn

Or, if you’d prefer, you can be automatically connected to Congress by calling, toll free, 1-888-436-8427.

Here’s an example of what to say:

Hello, my name is ____________________________.  I’m calling today because I think fixing the health care system should be the top priority for Congress and the New President in 2009 and I want to know now whether Senator Grassley agrees.

I want to encourage Grassley to support guaranteed quality, affordable health care for all and to reject health care proposals that reduce regulations for insurance companies, that tax my current coverage and that drive more people into the individual market to fend for themselves.

I’d like Senator Grassley to respond in writing with his position.  Thanks!

And don’t forget to let us know what you found out by calling organizer Charlie Wishman at 515-277-5077 x15, or by emailing him at cwishman@iowcan.org

When I call the office of a member of Congress, I always like to use my own words rather than a prepared script, but it’s nice to have an example of appropriate things to say.

If you or someone you care about has had a problem related to lack of health insurance, or an insurance company’s failure to cover needed medical treatment, you’ll want to bring that up in your conversation with Grassley’s staff.

I am passionate about making health care accessible for all. I developed a serious infection last winter that could have become life-threatening if I had delayed going to the doctor. Many people without insurance or with limited coverage don’t see a doctor until the health problem is so severe that they need to go to the emergency room.

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Obama on offense going into second debate with McCain

Tonight Barack Obama and John McCain will debate for the second time. If you were frustrated over the summer that Obama always seemed to be in reaction mode against Republican smears, you’ve got to be happy about the way the campaign is going now.

McCain isn’t leading Obama in a single state that went for John Kerry in 2004, and he has trailed in multiple polls in Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. Obama is making it close in Missouri and Indiana as well. McCain and the Republican National Committee are working frantically to build up field operations in states where Obama’s staff and volunteers have worked for months. For instance, as McCain moves staff into Virginia, Obama has approximately 40 field offices open there.

Also in the swing states, the Obama campaign is sending out direct-mail pieces that attack McCain’s health care plan. That dovetails with television commercials and volunteer canvasses that focus voters’ attention on the health care issue.

On Monday, Obama’s campaign opened a new front of a attack by releasing a short documentary about “Keating Economics,” which recounts McCain’s role in the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s. You can watch it here or at www.keatingeconomics.com:

I am old enough to remember the Keating Five scandal. It was a big deal.

The mainstream media have been strangely quiet about that part of McCain’s biography, given the banking sector’s current problems.

Will the Keating Five come up in tonight’s debate? I have no idea. McCain and Sarah Palin have been trying to change the subject, taking Obama’s words out of context and falsely accusing him of “palling around with terrorists.”

Trivia question: without using google or wikipedia, can anyone tell me who the judge was in the Keating Five trial? (CORRECTION: I meant to write “the trial of Charles Keating.” The Keating Five senators were never tried.)

I will give the answer tomorrow.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall posted an amusing note from a reader regarding the mainstream media’s handling of the Keating Five:

I saw this on CNN early this morning. John Roberts was talking about the smear campaign, trying to do the equivalency dance, and actually said (I’m paraphrasing) “Obama is trying to tie McCain to the Keating Five”. Now, maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t that like saying John Lennon was “tied” to the Beatles? He was a Beatle! John McCain WAS one of the Keating Five.

I’m seeing other reporters do this too.

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Obama campaign holding "Health Care Canvasses" today

Barack Obama’s campaign is already running television ads that make the case against John McCain on health care.

Today they will send volunteers out knocking on doors in ten Iowa cities to “talk about the differences between the Obama plan to make health care affordable and the McCain plan to tax employees’ health benefits.”

SUNDAY: Obama Iowa Campaign for Change to Hold “Health Care Canvasses” Across Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa – On Sunday, October 5th, 2008, the Obama Iowa Campaign for Change will hold “health care canvasses” across the state to talk directly to Iowans about the choice they face this election when it comes to health care.  Senator Obama has outlined a detailed plan to stand up to the big drug and insurance companies and make quality, affordable health care available to every American. His plan lowers premiums by up to $2,500 per family per year and reduces costs for business and their workers.

In contrast, Senator McCain’s plan will tax the health benefits that workers receive from their employers for the first time in history.  His plan will make it more likely that your employer drops your health care plan because of rising costs. Independent analyses show that employers will drop at least 20 million people from coverage and force them to seek insurance in the individual market, where costs are higher, quality is lower, and coverage more uncertain.

“Affordable health care is one of the most important issues facing Iowa working families,” said Jackie Norris, Iowa State Director for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.  “There is an enormous difference between the two candidates when it comes to health care.  Senator Obama has a detailed plan to cover every American and lower costs for families by $2,500.  This is in stark contrast to Senator McCain’s radical plan, which will do nothing to reduce the number of uninsured and will tax health care benefits for the first time in history. Iowans can’t afford four more years of health care policies that leave families at the mercy of insurance companies.”

The details of the canvasses are after the jump.

I think it’s smart for the Obama campaign to be pushing this point about McCain wanting to tax health care benefits, but don’t imagine that this is the only thing wrong with McCain’s health care plan.

Elizabeth Edwards made a strong case against other aspects of McCain’s plan this spring (see also this article about her speech to the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists). One of the biggest problems with McCain’s plan is that insurers could continue to exclude people with pre-existing conditions, including cancer survivors like McCain and Elizabeth Edwards.

Whether or not you canvass today, you may want to bring up these points as well as the tax issue if you talk with undecided voters about the difference between Obama and McCain on health care reform.

UPDATE: We were out today, but the Obama volunteers in Windsor Heights left a “vote early for change” door-hanger at our house. Thanks, I will!

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New ad on health care features clip from Biden-Palin debate

The snap polls suggested Joe Biden won last night’s debate with Sarah Palin (which hasn’t stopped conservative swooning over the winking governor).

In less than 24 hours, the Obama campaign had a television commercial ready that featured one of my favorite moments from the debate:

A simple explanation and great one-liner from Biden on an important issue.

Meanwhile, John McCain’s campaign today contradicted Palin’s statement on bankruptcy law changes–among very few comments she made about bankruptcy before changing the subject to her record on energy policy.

Your Palin comedy of the day is adennak’s Sarah Palin debate flow chart.

UPDATE: The Obama campaign released a second ad on the same theme today.

Events coming up this week

Lots happening this week, culminating in the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner featuring Al Gore in Des Moines on Saturday

Tuesday, September 30:

Today is the last day of the current FEC reporting period. Give money to good Democrats before midnight!

From the Obama campaign in Iowa:

Des Moines, Iowa – Today, at 2:45 PM CDT, Governor Chet Culver will respond to Senator John McCain’s attack on ethanol during his event in Des Moines and discuss why Senator McCain is wrong for Iowa’s economy. During Friday’s debate, and again today during a roundtable in Des Moines, Senator McCain expressed his strong opposition to ethanol subsidies. The details are:


2:45 PM CDT

Governor Chet Culver to Respond to Senator John McCain’s Attack on Ethanol and Discuss Why Senator McCain is Wrong for Iowa’s Economy

Obama Iowa Campaign for Change office

1408 Locust St.

Des Moines, Iowa  

Des Moines, Iowa – On Tuesday, September 30th, 2008, Iowa First Lady Mari Culver will hold roundtable discussions in Fort Dodge and Carroll to discuss John McCain’s radical health care plan and Barack Obama’s plan to fix America’s broken health care system.

“Affordable health care is one of the most important issues facing Iowa working families, and we are thrilled to have First Lady Culver talk about Barack Obama’s plan to fix our broken health care system,” said Jackie Norris, Iowa State Director for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.  “There is an enormous difference between the two candidates when it comes to health care.  Senator Obama has a detailed plan to cover every American and lower costs for every family by $2,500.  This is in stark contrast to Senator McCain, who will do nothing to reduce the number of uninsured.”

First Lady Culver will be talking about health care and other issues important in this election, as well as encouraging Obama supporters to vote early so they can volunteer on Election Day.

Early voting in Iowa has begun and the Obama campaign has set up a voter information hotline, 877 – IA08VOTE, for Iowans to call to get information on how they can vote. Iowans can also visit iowa.barackobama.com for more information.

The details of the events are:


10:30 AM

Roundtable Discussion with First Lady Mari Culver


900 Central Ave #10

(in the Trolley Station)

Fort Dodge, Iowa

1:30 PM

Roundtable Discussion with First Lady Mari Culver

Coffee World/Crossroads Bar and Grill

1012 N US Highway 71 (corner of Highways 30 and 71)

Carroll, Iowa

The Iowa Citizen Action Network is organizing another “listening post” event on health care:

Iowa Citizen Action Network (ICAN) is proud to take a lead role in the “Health

Care for America Now” campaign and we hope you will join us and all the coalition partners in Iowa to make our voices heard!

Health Care for America Now is all about raising this very important question in the minds of the public and in decision makers: Do we want a health care system where everyone has responsibility to ensure access for all Americans – individuals, employers, our communities, and our government?  Or do we want to continue with a system that says – “You’re all on your own to deal with insurance companies.”

We’ve been doing just that this summer, and we’re excited to bring this campaign to cities all around Iowa.  Take a look and see where you can join us.




Have you been struggling with your health insurance coverage?  Do you find yourself paying more for less coverage every year?  Have you been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions?  Have you been dropped from your coverage and aren’t sure how to fight back?  Do you have a family member or neighbor who is struggling?

Here’s your chance to let your elected representatives know what you’re going through, and what you think they should do about it.

September 30th, 6:30-7:30

Cedar Rapids, IA



From the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation:

Please attend forums on

Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund

The Sustainable Funding Coalition, a diverse group of Iowa organizations (including INHF) that works for sustainable conservation funding, is sponsoring a series of candidate forums on the proposed Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

So you can make your voice heard on this important issue, this e-mail provides background information on the forums, a list of forum dates & locations, and pre-registration instructions.

About the Fund: The proposed Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund would provide a permanent funding source to support efforts to improve and preserve Iowa’s water quality, soils, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation opportunities.

To create the fund, proposed legislation mandates that 3/8ths of a cent from state sales tax revenue will be appropriated for the Trust Fund the next time the Iowa legislature approves a sales tax increase. The Sustainable Funding Coalition hopes to pass Trust Fund legislation during Iowa’s 2009 legislative session.  NOTE: This bill does not raise taxes, nor does it give voters the ability to raise the sales tax-only the legislature can do that.

About the forums

Ten candidate forums scattered throughout the state provide a chance for citizens and legislators/candidates to discuss this legislation together. Please consider attending the forum nearest you to learn more about this proposal, show your legislators/candidates that Iowans care about conservation funding, and promote passing the needed legislation for this fund during Iowa’s 2009 legislative session.

How to pre-register & attend: Find the forum nearest you in the list below and then pre-register at http://conservation-candidate-… NOTE: Pre-registration is critical because individual events may be canceled if pre-registration numbers are low.

Schedule of Forums

Ames, 9/30/2008 @ 6:30 PM

Ames Public Library (515 Douglas Ave)

Fort Dodge, 10/1/2008 @ 7 PM

Iowa Central Community College (One Triton Circle)

Muscatine, 10/4/2008 @ 9AM

the Student Center at Muscatine Community College, (152 Colorado St)

Mason City, 10/6/2008 @ 6:30 PM

Mason City Library (225 Second St. SE)

Wednesday, October 1:

There’s a candidate forum on the sustainable funding initiative at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge at 7 pm (see above for details)

Thursday, October 2:

Gwen Ifill moderates the vice-presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, which will start at 8 pm central time. Pop some popcorn and enjoy the show!

Friday, October 3:

From One Iowa:

  Pappajohn Center

1200 Locust

Des Moines, IA 50309


Date:   10/3/2008 from 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm (Central Time)

Hosted By:   One Iowa

RSVP by:   October 3, 2008 at 5:30 pm (Central Time)

Join Us For The First Annual Sweet Equality

Join us for the First Annual Sweet Equality! Professional chefs, local celebrities, and businesses will come together to show off their skills in the name of Equality! To celebrate Iowa’s rich history of equality, you are invited to a fun-filled evening of dessert competition, wine tasting, friends and music!

Amateur Sweet Equality competitors include local celebrities such as First Lady Christie Vilsack, Tracy Levine, Christine Hensley, and a special treat from Meredith test kitchen.

Wine tasting from local Iowa Wineries and live entertainment, from local artists will round out the festivities.

The event costs $35. RSVP to Scott@oneiowa.org or call 515-288-4019 extension 207

Saturday, October 4:

The Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner will be held in Des Moines. Al Gore will be the featured speaker. Tickets are available at www.iowademocrats.org or by calling (515) 974-1691. You can also get tickets that do not include dinner.

There’s a candidate forum on the sustainable funding initiative in Muscatine at 9 am at the Student Center at Muscatine Community College, (152 Colorado St). See above for details.

Capital City Pride events will be held on October 4 and 5 in Des Moines. For details about the schedule and volunteer opportunities, go to www.oneiowa.org.

There will be a Prairie Seed Harvest at Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve, near Albion in Marshall County, Oct 4, beginning at 1 p.m. All ages are welcome to help hand-harvest native prairie seeds on the preserve, to be planted on a recently-acquired addition.  Learn about prairie from your fellow volunteers, many of whom will be prairie experts. This is a casual day: drop in and stay as long as you like. For more details, contact the Marshall County Conservation Board at 641-752-5490.

Sunday, October 5:

Capital City Pride events continue in Des Moines.

From the Iowa Environmental Council’s calendar or events:

 Farm Crawl 2008

October 5, Central Iowa

Enjoy a leisurely autumn day, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., “crawling” between six unique small-family farms in south-central Iowa – one hour south of DM Tour the farms, visit the animals, meet the farmers, sample the goodies, purchase locally grown products and have fun in the beautiful Iowa countryside. While at the farms, enter to win a basket of goodies assembled with wonderful items from each farm. Visit the Farm Crawl 2008 website at http://www.farmcrawl.com to learn more about the farms.  A map can be found at http://www.farmcrawl.com/maps….

Submitted by Matt Russell

* * * * * * * * * *

Bike Ride and Trail Celebration

Celebrate a new trail segment: Join us on Sunday, Oct. 5 for a bike ride and celebration of progress being made on the Ankeny-Woodward Trail. Riders should gather at the Ankeny trailhead at 11:30 a.m. The free, 12-mile ride (one way) begins in Ankeny at noon and ends at the Heart of Iowa trailhead in Slater.  There, at 2 p.m., riders and others can enjoy a program, entertainment, refreshments and door prizes. Riders should gather in at the Ankeny trailhead at 11:30 a.m. This ride covers part of 18 miles of newly paved trail between Ankeny and Madrid. If another $1 million can be raised in time, partners can complete the final four miles to Woodward (including a spectacular ½-mile bridge) by 2010. For details or directions, visit www.inhf.org.

Submitted by Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Tuesday, October 7:

From Becky Greenwald’s campaign:

Please join First Lady Mari Culver & Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (SD-at large) for a Women’s Reception to benefit Becky Greenwald, Democratic Candidate for Congress (IA-04)

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

5:30 PM Pre-Reception

6:00 PM General Reception

at the home of Toni Urban, 214 Foster Drive, Des Moines, IA

Contribution Levels:

Host:  $1,000  Sponsor:  $500    Friend:  $250    Supporter:  $100

(Host, Sponsor and Friend levels include admission to pre-reception and photo opportunity with Rep. Herseth-Sandlin)

General Admission: $30

To RSVP or for further information, please contact Eric Dillon at (515) 987-2800 or dillon@beckygreenwald.com.  

Join Whiterock Conservancy’s land stewardship crew in collecting prairie and savanna seeds for use in restoration projects. Learn to identify grassland plant species, learn their habitats, and assist in collecting the seeds for the future. Join the collection crew just east of Coon Rapids on: October 7 and October 12. Help collect today so that we may plant tomorrow. Contact WRC’s ecologist, Elizabeth Hill to sign up for prairie seed collection forays: elizabeth@whiterockconservancy.org.

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Greenwald exposes Latham's real record on health care

Following up on my post about Congressman Tom Latham’s first television ad, Becky Greenwald’s campaign has publicized the gory details about what the fourth district’s loyal Republican foot-soldier has done on health care in Congress.


Tom Latham’s campaign released their first advertisement called “Trusted Leadership” on healthcare touting one piece of bipartisan legislation. However one bill can’t hide Latham’s years of voting with the George Bush and the Republican Party 94% of the time. These bills benefit the insurance industry and pharmaceutical companies and hurt the American people.

“Latham’s ad is nothing more than a distraction from his real record of partisan votes with Bush and the Republicans against healthcare and hundreds of thousands of dollars from special interests,” said Erin Seidler, Greenwald Campaign spokesperson. “Becky Greenwald will fight for comprehensive healthcare for all Americans and fix the disastrous Medicare Part D program.”

The full text of the press release is after the jump. Good stuff.

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Latham knows this will be a big Democratic year

If you were a loyal Republican foot-soldier seeking re-election in a state that’s trending Democratic, where the Democratic presidential candidate has a commanding lead over your party’s nominee as well as a much bigger ground game in your own Congressional district, you might want to reinvent yourself.

Late last week, Tom Latham did just that in his first television commercial of this election cycle. You can view the ad at Latham’s campaign website. It focuses on a bill Latham introduced to address the nursing shortage in Iowa.

Judging from the content of this ad, Latham recognizes that 2008 will be a big Democratic year in Iowa.

Neither the commercial nor the campaign’s accompanying press release (which I’ve posted after the jump) mention that Latham is a Republican. Instead, they note that he authored “bipartisan legislation” in a specific area.

Polls typically give Democrats an edge on handling health care and education. Even someone watching this ad with the sound turned down can see that Latham is portraying himself as sensitive to these issues. Here are the words that flash on the screen during the commercial:

Nursing Shortage (footage of ambulance with siren, nurse alongside patient on stretcher)

Iowa Faces Severe Nursing Shortage (hospital scenes)

Bipartisan Legislation (Latham sitting and writing)

Help Nurses Repay Education Loans (nurse with patients)

Tom Latham (as he talks with one of the nurses quoted in the ad)

In addition, Latham’s ad features three testimonials from nurses. One of them is “nurse practitioner Linda Upmeyer,” wearing a white nurse’s coat with a stethoscope around her neck, who says, “Tom has done a wonderful job of hearing the need and translating that into legislation.” Conveniently, the ad fails to identify Upmeyer as the Republican state representative from Iowa House district 12.  

The press release announcing Latham’s television ad is even more blatant about running away from the Republican label. It describes Latham as “bipartisan” twice and notes that he “teamed up with Wisconsin Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin to introduce this bill in the United States Congress.”

I never thought I’d see the day when the conservative Republican Latham would brag about working with Baldwin, who is openly gay and has one of the most progressive voting records in Congress. Latham’s voting record as a whole could hardly be more different from Baldwin’s.

Not only does Latham’s ad avoid mentioning his party affiliation, it seems designed to address the gender gap by having a female voice-over and three women nurses do almost all of the talking. The only male voice you hear is Latham’s at the very end, saying “I’m Tom Latham, and I approved this message.”

Democratic candidates tend to do better among women, and the disparity may be even greater this year in IA-04. Becky Greenwald is giving Iowans the chance to send a woman to Congress for the first time.

One clever feature of this ad is that it implies Latham has delivered for Iowa’s nurses, without mentioning whether the bill he authored has any chance of becoming law. The wording of the press release suggests that the bill has not advanced:

Latham teamed up with Iowa nursing and health care professionals through numerous roundtables around the state to listen to their unique perspective and input on what was needed. He then wrote legislation and teamed up with Wisconsin Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin to introduce the bill in the United States Congress.

You would think that someone who spent 14 years in Congress (12 of them as part of a Republican majority) would be able to point to some concrete achievement on behalf of nurses or in the area of health care.

Instead, the Latham campaign talks about his “trusted leadership” on the nursing shortage, when he has nothing to show for this “leadership” other than writing one bill that went nowhere.

By the way, Latham signaled last week that he is not willing to defend the totality of his record in a public forum. He declined an invitation from KCCI-TV and the Des Moines Register to debate Greenwald during prime-time television. Latham also refused invitations to debate in August.

In a debate, Latham might have to explain why he talks about helping nurses repay their student loans in his commercial, when he voted for enormous cuts to federal student loan programs in 2005 and 2006.

As a challenger, Greenwald has lower name recognition than Latham, and understandably used her first television ad to introduce herself to voters. With Latham avoiding debates and using skillful image construction to conceal his ineffectiveness, I believe Greenwald will need to run some television ads that spell out why she is seeking to replace “Iowa’s low-yield Congressman.”

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Events coming up this week

As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail if I’ve left out anything important.

Note: the first presidential debate is coming up next Friday, September 26. Democracy for America is organizing debate watch parties across the country.

Monday, September 15:

It’s the last day to get the early-bird discount when registering for the Iowa Environmental Council’s annual conference on October 17. For more details on that event, click here or call 515-244-1194, ext 202.

Tuesday, September 16:

It’s the deadline to register for the Interfaith Allliance of Iowa’s Crossroads luncheon on Friday (see below). For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Wednesday, September 17:

The Iowa Citizen Action Network is organizing a public forum to discuss what is needed for economic recovery at The Talk Shop Café, 1015 E. 4th Street in Waterloo at 6:30 pm. We are inviting our Congressional representatives and State and Local Officials to hear from US what we need during this week of Economic Recovery talks.

From the Sierra Club:

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining:  How Iowans Can Help Bring an End to Destructive Mining!

Learn about Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining, and What Iowans Can Do to Stop This Practice and Move our Nation Towards a Clean Energy Future!

WHO:  Concerned citizens, the Sierra Club National Coal Campaign

WHAT:  Come join your friends and neighbors for an educational presentation about how our reliance on coal-fired electricity is destroying the mountains and communities of Appalachia, and what you can do to stop it!  Hear accounts from Appalachian coalfield residents, watch a portion of a soon to-be-released documentary highlighting the effects of coal on communities and the environment, and join us for refreshments as we discuss the ways that Iowans can put a stop to Mountaintop Removal Mining!

WHEN:  September 17th, 2008 from 7:30 to 9 pm

WHERE:  Grace United Methodist Church, 37th and Cottage Grove, Des Moines

RSVP:  If you plan on attending this event, please contact Lauren Trevisan at lauren.trevisan@sierraclub.org

If you would like any additional information about this event, and if you are planning on attending, please contact Lauren Trevisan at lauren.trevisan@sierraclub.org or 202-675-6278.  Thank you!  I look forward to meeting all of you on Wednesday!

From the Des Moines area chapter of the Holistic Moms Network:

Next Wednesday is our next Holisitic Moms Network meeting.

The meeting will start at 6pm and is located at the FOREST AVE. LIBRARY [in Des Moines] (franklin ave had another meeting the same day)

This months meeting is: Decreasing Your Carbon Footprint at Home- I am very excited to announce that we are going to have Jennifer Oredson a lobbyist from Greenpeace come and lead our discussion!  I met her a few weeks ago at a demonstration Greenpeace had at the Drake farmers market.

I hope to see you all there!  Please feel free to bring a snack to share.

Peace- Rebecca


From the DNR:


DES MOINES – Iowans interested in learning about the water quality improvement plan scheduled to be completed for the lower Des Moines River can attend a meeting to be held in three locations the week of Sept. 15.

A segment of the Des Moines River, known as the lower Des Moines River, is on the state’s impaired waters list because of excess E. coli bacteria in the water. This type of bacteria may indicate the presence of disease-causing human pathogens.  

The lower Des Moines segment runs from downtown Des Moines where the Raccoon River enters to the uppermost part of Red Rock Reservoir.  This segment collects water from many important Iowa rivers and streams including Raccoon River, Saylorville Lake, Beaver Creek, Four Mile Creek, North River, Middle River and South River.

The study, or DNR water quality improvement plan, will look at the problems and potential solutions for the river. The document can be used as a guide to improve recreation, wildlife and fishing on the river for local resource agencies, partners, stakeholders and residents interested in making a difference.

“We would like to work with people interested in learning more about water quality and how they can affect positive change in their watershed,” said Jeff Berckes with the DNR’s Watershed Improvement program. “These meetings are the first chance for the public to express their ideas on what can be done to improve the lower Des Moines River.”

Indianola:  Sept. 17, 7-9 p.m., Carver Hall Room 215 at Simpson College, West Clinton Ave.

Staff from the DNR’s Watershed Improvement Program will be on hand to answer questions.

Those not able to attend the public meeting can receive more information at www.iowadnr.gov/water/watershed/tmdl/publicnotice.html Or, they can contact Jeff Berckes, water quality improvement program coordinator,  by emailing jeff.berckes@dnr.iowa.gov, calling (515) 281-4791 or mailing him care of the DNR, Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. Ninth St., Des Moines, IA 50319

After gathering Iowans’ comments, the DNR will complete a draft plan.  When the document is completed, it will be presented to the public for comments and then submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval. Local groups interested in improving water quality in the lower Des Moines River can then use the plan to assist their improvement efforts.

Parents, caregivers and children of all ages are welcome to attend Holistic Moms meetings.

Thursday, September 18:

The Polk County Democrats 9th Annual Women’s Event will take place from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.

at the home of Dr. Andy McGuire, 100 37th St. in Des Moines (South of Grand Ave on 37th). With Guest of Honor Governor Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware. Please call to RSVP at 515-285-1800 or email polkdems@polkcountydemocrats.org

The Iowa Citizen Action Network is organizing another “listening post” event on health care:

Have you been struggling with your health insurance coverage?  Do you find yourself paying more for less coverage every year?  Have you been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions?  Have you been dropped from your coverage and aren’t sure how to fight back?  Do you have a family member or neighbor who is struggling?

Here’s your chance to let your elected representatives know what you’re going through, and what you think they should do about it. September 18, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm at the Bob Mickle Community Center at 1620 Pleasant St in Des Moines.

Friday, September 19:

From the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa:

Crossroads is a program of The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and is an opportunity to learn, to participate in civil dialogue, and to discuss issues at the intersection of religion & politics.

Friday, September 19

Brad Clark, Campaign Director, One Iowa

Fairness for All Families: Why Marriage Equality Matters

Today in Iowa , thousands of committed gay and lesbian couples are doing the hard work of building strong families yet lack the basic legal protections they need to take care of each other and their families.  These Iowa families need and deserve the security, dignity, and legal safety net of protections and responsibilities that marriage provides.  Join us to hear more about marriage equality in Iowa !

The Crossroads luncheon is Friday, September 19 from 11:45 am – 1 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 42nd & Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines.

Reservations are required to attend Crossroads and must be received by noon on Tuesday, September 16.  Cost is $8 and is payable at the door.

For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Saturday, September 20:

The Iowa Citizen Action Network is participating in a nationwide canvassing effort to knock on a million doors for peace. MoveOn.org is also involved with this effort. If you’ve got two hours to spare on Saturday, you can sign up to get a list of 40 new or infrequent voters in your neighborhood. You can do this individually wherever you live, or sign up to join groups that will be meeting in Des Moines, Ames and Waterloo. More details are after the jump.  Contact ICAN Organizer Sue Dinsdale at sdinsdale@iowacan.org or 515-277-5077 ext. 14 or go to milliondoorsforpeace.org

From the Sierra Club:

Why our Modern Food System is Not Sustainable

September 20, Ames area

Join us on Saturday, September 20, as we celebrate together the efforts and achievements of fellow Iowa Sierrans and conservation activists at the Story County Conservation Center in McFarland Park north of Ames. Frederick L. Kirschenmann, a Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture will be the featured speaker. His presentation, “Why our Modern Food System is not Sustainable,” will offer Fred’s unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities we face in balancing an agricultural economy with the protection of our natural heritage. The banquet begins with a social time and silent auction at 11:00 a.m. followed at noon by lunch, Dr. Kirschenmann and an awards ceremony. There are also opportunities to hike the many trails in the park. The event will be catered by renowned Lucallan’s Restaurant, featuring local foods. The cost is $35 per person.

Please RSVP to Neila Seaman, 3839 Merle Hay Road, Suite 280, Des Moines, Iowa, 50310 or Iowa.chapter@sierraclub.org or 515-277-8868.

The Latino Heritage Festival runs Saturday and Sunday in Blank Park on SW 9th by the Zoo in Des Moines. The Polk County Democrats need volunteers to help with the booth, especially anyone who speaks Spanish.  Ideally, we would like to have at least one Spanish speaking person on every shift. The hours are 11am to 7pm Saturday, September 20th and 11am to 7pm Sunday, September 21st.  Any time you are available to help during those hours would be appreciated.  To volunteer, please call Tamyra at 515-285-1800.

Johnson County Heritage Trust Autumn Celebration

The 2nd annual “Under a Cider Moon . . . a Celebration of Autumn with the Johnson County Heritage Trust” fundraising event will be held Saturday, September 20, at 6 p.m at Dick Schwab’s round barn located at 2501 Sugar Bottom Road near Solon, Iowa.  There will be a live and silent auction, live music and local food and beverages. Proceeds will assist JCHT identify, preserve and manage land with significant environmental value in Johnson County.  For additional information visit www.jcht.org or call 1-319-857-4741.  RSVP today by mailing your check or donation to Johnson County Heritage Trust, P. O. Box 2523, Iowa City, Iowa 522440-2523 or by calling credit card information to 1-319-857-4741.

Climate Bicycle Ride

Begins September 20, New York to DC

We need Iowans to join us for a bike ride, to promote renewable energy, and getting the word out to people passionate about this issue. It is a fun event – a five day bike tour from New York City to Washington D.C. in September. Along the route, expert speakers will address the riders on the challenges of and solutions to global warming, and the ride will end with a rally and a lobbying session in the nation’s capital. The website is http://www.climateride.org/abo… We currently don’t have any Iowa riders. Our message would be stronger if we had representation from your state. For questions, call David Kroodsma, 413.658.4086.  

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Yet another failure of employer-based health insurance

If you’ve been on the job market in the last decade or two, you may know how hard it is to find a job with good benefits.

A lesser-known fact of life in this country is that even if you think your employer provides great health care coverage, you could get shafted later. nyceve has written a book’s worth of diaries about “Murder by Spreadsheet,” when for-profit insurance companies find excuses to refuse to cover needed medical care.

Insurance companies are not always to blame, however. Corporations looking to cut costs sometimes yank promised health benefits from retirees who put in many years of work and in some cases gave up pay raises in exchange for better benefits packages.

The makers of John Deere machinery have provided the latest example of this travesty. In response, some 5,000 former employees of Deere & Co. filed a class action lawsuit this week

demanding that company officials reset the clock to 2007 and restore health benefits that court papers say were drastically cut back this year.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Des Moines, alleges Moline, Ill.-based Deere broke longtime promises to its employees when the company on Jan. 1 “eliminated, reduced and dramatically altered” benefits pledged under retiree health plans.


Court papers say the company for more than 15 years promised lifetime health benefits to employees who vested in Deere & Co. pension plans, and Deere can’t now back out of that deal.

In July about 3,000 retired former Maytag employees learned that Whirlpool, which bought Maytag in 2005, is trying to reduce their health benefits as well.

The Des Moines Register reported today that officials from Iowa’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program have scheduled meetings in Newton on September 17 “to warn Maytag retirees about upcoming choices and deadlines in the wake of a decision by Whirlpool to reduce their health benefits.” Maytag retirees have filed a class-action suit in Michigan claiming that Whirlpool must honor Maytag’s contracts that promised “vested lifetime retiree health care benefits.” That lawsuit is pending, as is a separate case filed by Whirlpool, seeking to impose the benefit changes on Maytag retirees.

Speaking of our screwed-up health care system, today nyceve posted a wonderful diary contrasting a video of John McCain saying, “Like Most Americans, I go see my doctor fairly frequently” with footage of Joe Biden talking about health care on the stump. Click through, these videos are worth your time.

It’s no surprise that McCain is out of touch with the realities of health care in this country. After all, one of the authors of McCain’s health “reform” proposal thinks there are no uninsured Americans as long as sick people can go to the emergency room.  

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Events coming up this week

There is so much happening this week that I hereby forbid you from complaining that there’s nothing to do in Iowa.

If you can make it to the I-RENEW Energy and Sustainability Expo in Cedar Falls this weekend, I encourage you to go. I have attended the I-Renew expo several times in the past and never been disappointed. There are also great books and progressive advocacy materials (shirts, posters, bumper stickers) available in the exhibitor tent.

I won’t be at the Harkin Steak Fry featuring Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, so I hope someone out there will post a diary with a first-person account of the event.

Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if I’ve left out anything important.

Tuesday, September 9:

School board elections are being held across the state. Get out and vote, even if you don’t have kids in school. We don’t want the religious right taking control of these boards.

From the Iowa Citizen Action Network:

Iowa Citizen Action Network (ICAN) is proud to take a lead role in the “Health Care for America Now” campaign and we hope you will join us and all the coalition partners in Iowa to make our voices heard!

Health Care for America Now is all about raising this very important question in the minds of the public and in decision makers: Do we want a health care system where everyone has responsibility to ensure access for all Americans – individuals, employers, our communities, and our government?  Or do we want to continue with a system that says – “You’re all on your own to deal with insurance companies.”

We’ve been doing just that this summer, and we’re excited to bring this campaign to cities all around Iowa.  




Have you been struggling with your health insurance coverage?  Do you find yourself paying more for less coverage every year?  Have you been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions?  Have you been dropped from your coverage and aren’t sure how to fight back?  Do you have a family member or neighbor who is struggling?

Here’s your chance to let your elected representatives know what you’re going through, and what you think they should do about it.

September 9,

6:30-7:30 PM


515 Douglas Avenue

Ames, IA 50010

One Iowa Campaign Training RSVP

Today – Tuesday, September 9 – 6:30 PM-8:30 PM

AFSCME Council 61, 4230 NW 2nd Avenue, Des Moines

We’re weeks away from what may prove to be the most critical election of our time. Success this November depends on individuals like you making a commitment to get involved. Join us to learn more about what’s at stake and how you fit into the big picture!

One Iowa Coffee House

Today – Tuesday, September 9 – 5:00-6:45pm

Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust Street, Des Moines

Sandy Vopalka will talk about PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) the importance of this organization and the work being done across the state. PFLAG is a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and over 500 affiliates in the United States. Sandy’s presentation will start at 5:30pm.

Wednesday, September 10:

Democracy for America is holding another session of its famous “Night School,” with a focus on recruiting volunteers. The session begins at 7:30 pm, and you can register by clicking here:


The Iowa Citizen Action Network has scheduled an event to give Iowans a chance to talk about what real economic recovery looks like. September 10, 6:30 pm at the Local 6 UFCW, 15 N 12th Street in Fort Dodge. “We are inviting our Congressional representatives and State and Local Officials to hear from US what we need during this week of Economic Recovery talks.”

Iowa’s Office of Energy Independence invites you to attend the public forum on energy issues in Mount Vernon at Cornell College on Wednesday, September 10, at 6:30 p.m., following a Power Fund Board meeting. The forum will take place in the Hedges Conference Room, 600 First Street SW in Mount Vernon.

Thursday, September 11:

The Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa Book Sale opens at 4 pm at the 4-H building of the State Fairgrounds. The sale runs through Monday, September 15. More details here:


The Organization for Competitive Markets will hold an event the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa to learn how to “Take Back” a fair and open seed marketplace. We’ll gather at the 4H building on the fairgrounds from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to hear speakers talk about the problem of concentration in the seed industry and what we can do about it. Enjoy engaging discussions with farmers and local politicians, as well as a complimentary dinner from Oak Tree Bar-B-Que. The event is co-chaired by State Representatives Marcie Frevert and Mark Kuhn, and speakers include Iowa State University’s Fred Kirschenmann and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition, George Naylor. Tell your friends! For more information, click here:


One Iowa is organizing a PFLAG Des Moines Re-Launch at 7:00 PM, First Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Avenue in Des Moines. The Des Moines Metro Area PFLAG will meet to discuss relaunching the chapter. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Coffee and refreshments served before the meeting, beginning at 6:30 PM. All are welcome, but confidentiality is required.

Friday, September 12:

From the Iowa City-based Local Foods Connection (http://www.localfoodsconnection.org):

Fundraising event for ZJ Farm



French Dinner at Simone’s Plain & Simple

ZJ Farms Education Programs Fundraiser

Friday, Sept 12, 6:30 p.m.

Susan Jutz of ZJ Farm helped create the idea of Local Foods Connection along with Simone Delaty and Laura Dowd. Local Foods Connection buys vegetables CSA shares from Susan and bread & egg CSA shares from Simone for our clients.

Come enjoy an authentic French dinner in lovely country setting and support the Education Programs at ZJ Farms.  The ZJ Farms Education Programs offer hands-on experience and events that teach young people of all ages that value of land stewardship, nontraditional leadership and nutrition.  Education explorations include milking and petting the farm animals, hunts for vegetable in gardens, work projects to participate in farming experience, lessons on growing food from planting to harvest, leadership and community building training.

Tickets on sale now!

$45 for Slow Food Members/ $50 for non-Slow Food.

Call 621-2484 to reserve a seat.

Saturday, September 13:

From the Polk County Democrats:



On September 13, 2008 at 12:00 PM TO 3:00 PM , there will a community celebration picnic at MLK Park, E. 17th and Garfield (1 block north of University), Des Moines , Iowa.

This will be a time for diverse groups of Asian/Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Persons with Disabilities, GaysLesbians, Latinos, Native Americans, Armed Forces Veterans and Young Democrats  to come together with the whole community, celebrating the diversity in our neighborhoods.  Over good food, communication and networking will be done.

The picnic is hosted by the Polk County Democratic Affirmative Action / Diversity Committee.

For more information, call 515-285-1800.


17th Annual I-Renew Energy & Sustainability EXPO

September 13 & 14, 2008

9 to 5 Saturday

10:30 to 4:30 Sunday

At the UNI Center for Energy & Environmental Education, Cedar Falls, IA

Admission: $10 per day, I-Renew members pay no admission. Memberships available at the door.

Featuring renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, renewable fuels and sustainable living workshops, exhibits and demonstrations

Cedar Falls, IA – The Iowa Power Fund Board approved a grant to support this year’s I-Renew Energy & Sustainability Expo. The grant will go towards promoting the event statewide as well as to produce DVDs of 12 of the 70 workshops offered at the event. “The Iowa Renewable Energy Association has proven its annual Expo is the place to be to learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency”, said Michelle Kenyon Brown, I-Renew Executive Director. “The support from the Iowa Power Fund and the Office of Energy Independence will enable us to bring in a larger audience, an audience that is growing everyday as energy costs are hitting everyone’s pocketbook.”

The 17th I-Renew Energy & Sustainability EXPO will be held Sept. 13-14, 2008, at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education (CEEE) in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  The EXPO feature 70 workshops, 80 exhibitors, and demonstrations providing information on renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, renewable fuels, and sustainable living.

“The I-Renew Expo is the largest event of this type in Iowa,” says Kara Beauchamp, I-Renew Board President. “This years’ expo will be the biggest and the best we have ever had. Increasing energy prices have generated more interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The I-Renew Expo is the perfect place for people to get their questions answered while having a great time.”

The EXPO gives the general public, building contractors, installers and others the opportunity to talk directly with Iowa’s energy experts to learn new ways to build greener and live greener using renewable energy.

Demonstrations of solar power, wind power, a hydrogen fuel cell, electric cars, cars that run on alternative fuels, and much more will be at the site in and around the CEEE building. The EXPO runs 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13; and 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14. Admission is $10 per day; however, I-Renew members pay no admission. Memberships are available at the door.

For more information or to register, visit www.irenew.org and click on I-Renew EXPO.

The I-Renew Energy & Sustainability Expo is provided with support from our partners: Iowa Office of Energy Independence, Iowa Energy Center, Alliant Energy’s Second Nature Program, Cedar Falls Utilities, Waverly Light & Power, Frontier Natural Products Coop, Center for Energy & Environmental Education and many more.

Contact: Michelle Kenyon Brown, Director Iowa Renewable Energy Association

(319) 325-2701          michellekbrown@irenew.org

Citizens are organizing a rally against a huge proposed hog lot in Poweshiek County:

Does Poweshiek County want more Factory Hog Farms ? NO!!

Prestage Farms of North Carolina, the nations 5th largest factory hog corporation, has plans to put nearly 5,000 hogs in two buildings near Deep River.

If built, this facility will negatively impact our community by creating odor and air quality problems, harming our areas already poor water quality, creating health risks for neighbors, and reducing property values in our county.

Prestage Farms will take the profits out of our state and leave us with the manure.

Please take the time to join with other concerned citizens from our area at a rally on Saturday, September 13th at 9:45 AM on Highway 21, 5 miles South of Interstate 80, between 470th and 480th Streets.

We want as many people to come out as possible to let the owners of the property know that they need to put the health and well-being of their neighbors before greed, and that residents of this county are against selling our future to out-of-state corporations.

Please call 641-990-2470 for more information.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

Dear Friends,

In case you didn’t get a chance to attend the public input meetings on the proposed Northwest 26th Street project/MLK extension and Northeast Polk County Beltway studies, you still have a chance to make your voices heard.

If you did attend the meetings, but didn’t submit written comments, your views still need to be documented for public record. The public meetings and collection of written comments are building the case for approval or disapproval of this project. All are part of the Environmental Impact Statement, a federally required evaluation for projects that have extensive environmental impacts.

The deadline for comments on the proposed alternatives for both projects is on Saturday, September 13. After that date, comments will be compiled and sent to Polk County, the Federal Highway Administration, and other decision-makers. Your comments are like a vote which needs to be counted on the stack of documented opinions that is carried forward in the near future.

To be effective in opposition to projects like these, citizens need to be there each major step of the way. This is one of those steps, and your presence is critical to keeping this current of opposition strong.

Gas prices are soaring along with the costs of road building. Public funds for roads are limited, meaning that not every road project gets funded. If constructed, these two costly projects would take money from much-needed transportation improvements.

You can find more information on these projects, maps, and how to send comments at



Stephanie Weisenbach

1000 Friends of Iowa

From Whiterock Conservancy:

Central Iowa Trail Association invites public to celebrate decade of trail stewardship

Sept. 13 ‘Ales and Trails’ event honors dirt trails at Whiterock Conservancy

Des Moines — Central Iowa Trail Association is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a non-profit trail stewardship and advocacy organization by hosting ‘Ales and Trails’ — a public event at the Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 13.

‘Ales and Trails’ begins at 9 a.m. at Whiterock’s River House with activities including guided trail rides, a hike with Whiterock’s ecologist Elizabeth Hill, canoeing on the Middle Raccoon River and much more. The evening features a party in the storied Heeter Barn with music by Brother Trucker and a beer contest judged by event participants.

“This had been a very rough year for trail-loving Iowans,” said CITA president Ryan Hanser. “CITA has worked hard to repair damage to trails from this summer’s rains. It’s a perfect time to recognize and celebrate our decade of volunteer work that has brought so much enjoyment for cyclists, hikers, birdwatchers and others who appreciate natural trail experiences.”

Registration is required. There is a $20 fee to cover cost of meals and entertainment. Lodging is not included, but options ranging from B&B pampering to primitive campsites can be reserved through the Whiterock Resort. Visit http://www.centraliowatrails.org for details including a schedule of events and online registration.

As an affiliate of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Central Iowa Trail Association (CITA) works with public and private land owners to design, build and maintain sustainable dirt trail for shared recreational use. The all-volunteer organization was incorporated as an Iowa non-profit organization in 1998 and does more than 500 hours of trailwork on public land in central Iowa each year.

“CITA was proud to bring the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s trailbuilding school to Whiterock in 2006,” said Hanser, who is also Iowa’s state representative for the International Mountain Bicycling Association. “Returning to celebrate their progress as an organization is important, too. Whiterock’s commitment to sustainable, natural recreation makes it a perfect venue to celebrate our shared values.”

Whiterock Conservancy is a new land trust created to manage a 5,000 acre conservation land donation from the Garst Family of Coon Rapids. Its nonprofit mission is to research and promote sustainable land management practices; provide low impact public recreation and environmental education; and protect and restore the area’s natural resources, including a 30-mile network of dirt trails. In October 2005, the Coon Rapids-Whiterock area was designated by Governor Vilsack as one of the first three “Iowa Great Places.” The Iowa Legislature recently appropriated $1 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs for supporting Coon Rapids Great Place projects.

Directions to Whiterock: Coon Rapids is located 75 miles NW of Des Moines and 100 miles east of Omaha on Highway 141. The Conservancy land is east of Coon Rapids and south of Highway 141. Visit http://www.whiterockconservanc…  for more information about Whiterock Conservancy.


Ryan Hanser, President

Central Iowa Trail Association


Jeana Feazel, Resort Manager

Whiterock Conservancy

712-684-2697 x112

Sunday, September 14:

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer will headline the 31st Annual Harkin Steak Fry, to be held at the Indianola balloon field. For more details, click here:


Monday, September 15:

Conference Coordinator – Contract Job: Deadline for Application September 15

Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) is seeking a coordinator for its annual Local Foods Conference to be held in Mason City on February 6 – 7, 2009.  If you are interested, or know of someone who is, then please review the request for proposal on INCA’s website (http://www.growinca.org) and respond by early next week.

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Free mammograms and pap tests for uninsured women in Linn County

Several health care providers in Cedar Rapids are making free mammograms and pap tests available this week to women age 40 and older with no medical insurance. Call 319-369-8111 for an appointment, which is required. The appointments are available on a first come, first serve basis.

Wednesday, August 20: Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Cedar Rapids will offer pap tests to women of all ages.

Thursday, August 21: St. Luke’s Breast & Bone Health in Cedar Rapids will provide mammograms and pap tests.

Friday, August 22: Mercy Women’s Center in Cedar Rapids will provide mammograms and pap tests.

Saturday, August 23: RCI Imaging Center will provide mammograms only.

Women, if you are overdue for your pap test or mammogram, call your health care provider today to make an appointment.

Make the call for health care!

(Thanks to Jason for this cross-post. Not only is our employer-based health insurance system unreliable, it's not even cost-effective. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Click to call your member of Congress and demand quality, affordable health care!82% of Americans think our health care system needs a “major overhaul.” On top of that, over 90% of Americans [pdf] think the next President and Congress should improve the quality and affordability of health care.

With the worsening economy continuing to be the top issue for most Americans, this hope for change isn't hard to understand. American health care spending is projected to reach a full 1/5th of our GDP by 2015, which means by then, we'll be spending twenty cents of every dollar we make on health care. Health care premiums have risen 86% between 2000 and 2006 while wages only rose 20%, putting the strain on working families. Health care costs continue to be the #1 cause of bankruptcy in America.

Americans are paying $217 million for health care per hour. Meanwhile, insurance industry profits have risen 1,000% in the past five years.

According the to Government Accountability Office, health care reform is necessary to keep our country on the right track:

“Rapidly rising health care costs are not simply a federal budget problem,” the GAO report says. “Growth in health-related spending is the primary driver of the fiscal challenges facing state and local governments as well. Unsustainable growth in health care spending also threatens to erode the ability of employers to provide coverage to their workers and undercuts their ability to compete in a global marketplace.”

Quite simply, with rising health care costs (including $50 billion per year to pay for insurance industry advertising) being born out by working families and American businesses, health care is a top economic concern. To keep American workers at their best, and to keep American business competitive in the world, something has to change.

Nancy Pelosi has recently declared health care expansion to be #2 on her list of legislative priorities, right after ending the Iraq war. In the past month, tens of thousands of Americans have told us they want quality, affordable health care for all. Now it's time to ask Congress.

So, Congress, which side are you on? Are you with us for quality, affordable health care for all? Or are you with the insurance companies, working to preserve our broken system?

We've set up a quick and easy way for you to contact your Members of Congress and ask them if they support our vision for health care reform. Just click here and enter in your phone number and address. Choose the elected official you want to talk to and in a few moments, we'll call your phone and connect you automatically.

Over the next few weeks, we want to make 100,000 calls to Congress, asking every Member which side they are on. We need your help to do it, so please click here to call!

Once your done with your call, tell us what happened so we can keep track of where Congress stands. As of today, we're proud to announce Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), are with us. The rest, so far, are unknown. You can see the full list here.

Health care is a priority for the American people. It's a priority for Nancy Pelosi. It's up to us to make sure it's a priority for Congress as well. Please take a moment, call your Members of Congress, and ask them which side they are on.

Oh, and if you have a blog or website, you can help spread the word about this campaign by embedding the widget you see above on your site. Just copy and paste the code here.

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One precinct captain's reflections on the John Edwards story

Like many people who volunteered for John Edwards last year, I’ve been working through conflicting feelings this weekend.

Natasha Chart voiced some of my frustration in this piece about our ridiculous standards of public morality. Ethical lapses that affect the lives of thousands or millions of people are not career-enders for politicians, but marital infidelity is supposed to be–if you’re a Democrat. Once again, it’s ok if you’re a Republican.

Many Edwards supporters are angry about the publicity surrounding this story. It’s infuriating to see journalists more interested in Edwards now that he has admitted to an affair than they were when he was a presidential candidate talking about substantive issues.

David Mizner loathes the “American sickness” of needing to know about the sex lives of politicians, adding:

I supported Edwards not because I loved him and not because I thought he had sex with only his wife. I supported him because I believe in progressive populism.

Many bloggers I respect, from TomP to MontanaMaven and RDemocrat made similar comments on Friday. After all, we were backing Edwards for president, not husband of the year.

Ellinorianne put it well:

What John did in 2006 has no bearing on Universal Health Care.  What happened in 2006 does not make poverty in this County any less of an urgent issue.  The corporate media would love to believe that what John did in 2006 would mean one less powerful voice talking about the strangle hold that corporations have on every facet of our lives in this Country.

Nothing can take away from these issues unless we let it happen.

On one level, I relate to what Ellinorianne wrote, because Edwards undoubtedly put topics on the agenda that would barely have been discussed had he not run for president. While he was in the race, at least one candidate was talking about the excesses of corporate power. After he dropped out, that issue disappeared from political discourse.

For that reason, I never regretted the time I spent volunteering for Edwards. Of course, I was sorry that Iowans did not give him the boost he needed in the caucuses. I was disappointed that I failed to deliver a third delegate for him from my own precinct. But watching the campaign devolve into identity politics in February and March, I was more convinced than ever that helping this longshot candidate was worth the effort.

These past few weeks have caused me to question for the first time whether I would back Edwards if I had it to do over again. Edwards’ policies and rhetoric were a necessary condition for my support, but they would not have been sufficient had I not also believed that he was the strongest general election candidate. Otherwise I could have backed Dennis Kucinich, who was even closer to me ideologically than Edwards.

Here and at other blogs, I advocated for Edwards as the most electable candidate because of his communication skills, his appeal to small-town and rural voters, his way of evoking broad themes in his answers to specific questions, and so on.

Speaking to potential caucus-goers, I often noted that Edwards had faced intense national scrutiny for years, making it unlikely that the Republicans could spring any “October surprise” on us.

Now I realize that the whole time, Edwards was hiding a story that would have reinforced the most devastating narrative about him: he’s a phony who talks about one set of values but lives a different set of values.

How damaging was this narrative? Last year I used to joke that if I ever came into possession of a time machine, I would go back and persuade John Edwards to hire Sarah Susanka (the Not So Big House woman) to design his Chapel Hill home.

It appears that Edwards had no game plan other than to hope that Rielle Hunter wouldn’t tell anyone and/or that journalists wouldn’t pick up on the rumors as long as he lied.

I empathize with Elizabeth Edwards, who wrote on Friday:

This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well.

I agree with BruceMcF, who observed that our country would have lost a great leader if sexual immorality had ended Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s career.

But presidential candidates have to run in the world that is, not the world that used to be or the world that should be. I simply can’t imagine how this affair could have remained under wraps throughout a long campaign.

To my mind, Edwards owed it to all Democrats to either step aside or find some way to make this story old news. I understand the desire to avoid a media circus, but it wasn’t realistic to hope that journalists would cover for him or that Hunter would keep a secret.

Responding to a commenter at Daily Kos, Elizabeth Edwards wrote on Friday:

Each of us has a day we wish we could take back. We are all imperfect beings, Denny. Here’s what I know, looking back: poverty, a truly aggressive and progressive environmental platform, universal health care would not have been part of the discussion if someone of force and vision had not been there to make them part of the conversation.

An imperfect man with a truly progressive vision who spoke to and for those whom others ignored? Yes, that is who I supported.

An imperfect man who had come to face his own imperfections and was seeking to redeem himself to those closest to him? Yes, that is who I supported.

With the Supreme Court and so much more riding on the outcome of this election, helping someone redeem himself to his family is not high on my priority list. Ultimately, I have to agree with Ezra Klein:

No one forces you to devote your life to national advocacy of important issues. But if you decide to do follow that path, with all the plaudits and moments of roaring applause it entails, you have to make certain sacrifices, and shoulder certain realities. Among them is that if you falter, you can harm all that you’re advocating and deny help to all whom you claim to represent.

If Edwards wanted to face his imperfections, he should have found some vague way to disclose marital problems that he and Elizabeth had worked through. Let voters decide whether that should be a deal-breaker or whether his potential contribution to American life outweighs the mistake.

If he could not bear to get ahead of the story, the least he could have done was to tell the truth when first asked about rumors of his affair. DrFrankLives (who has devoted far more volunteer hours to Edwards than I have) hit the nail on the head in this diary:

I want to know two things.  How the hell could you, a man who ran everything through a careful filter, allow that to happen during a political campaign in which so many people had so much riding on you?  And what the hell were you thinking when you denied it when asked about it?  You’re a lawyer.  You know that questions keep coming.  And nothing delights a cross-examiner like a false answer.

Which candidate would I have supported knowing what I know now? Probably I would have held out for Al Gore for a few more months. Maybe I would have settled on Chris Dodd or Joe Biden. Neither of them were as strong on my key issues as Edwards, though. I suspect that I would have come around to Edwards eventually if the affair had been revealed early in the campaign. It wouldn’t be the first time I voted for someone who was unfaithful to his wife.

Had I known that Edwards was recklessly hiding a story with the potential to destroy his campaign, I would have found a different candidate for sure.

What makes me more angry than anything else is that this scandal appears to have derailed Elizabeth Edwards’ plans to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. We need her voice on health care reform.

Feel free to share your own reflections in the comments.

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Elizabeth Edwards to lead ad campaign on health care reform

I expected great things when I heard that Elizabeth Edwards would be working on health care issues as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

But I am even more excited to learn that she will headline a $40 million ad campaign promoting universal healthcare, which will be unveiled next Tuesday.

Healthcare for America Now coalition includes a who’s who list of liberal organizations such as MoveOn.org, the housing group ACORN, Americans United for Change, the Campaign for America’s Future, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the National Education Association, Planned Parenthood, the Service Employees International Union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers, and National Women’s Law Center.  Many state organizations are also participants.

Many of these are also participating in John Edwards’ Half in Ten Poverty Initiative.

By the way, today is Elizabeth Edwards’ birthday. Many happy returns to her and her family!

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Memo to Clinton supporters considering McCain

Over at Iowa Independent, Jason Hancock published this story about a handful of college activists for Hillary Clinton who have either endorsed John McCain or are considering voting for him.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am the last person to sing Barack Obama’s praises. I have deep concerns about him as a candidate and as a potential president.

I am also very familiar with the feeling that the Democrats nominated the “wrong” person. I have been politically aware for eight presidential cycles, and the candidate of my choice has won the nomination exactly once.

I would encourage any Democrat who strongly opposes Obama not to box yourself in by declaring now that you’ll never vote for him.

I also hope that Obama supporters will back off and give their fellow Democrats some space. This passage in Hancock’s article seemed particularly important to me:

Jordan Levine, who served as co-president of the Grinnell College Students for Hillary, said he, too, may support McCain in the fall, but has not made up his mind. In addition to not liking where Obama stands on the issues, he also said the actions of his fellow Democrats are turning him off to their nominee.

“They are being belligerent and trying to push me into supporting Obama,” he said. “That should be a serious concern. I have every right to vote how I want.”

Many of us have heard alienating and counterproductive comments from Obama supporters, but don’t give them more power over your decisions than they deserve.

Levine said his indecision on Obama has nothing to do with emotion and everything to do with issues.

“I just don’t like where he stands,” he said. “One of my main issues is health care, and Obama’s plan has some very big differences with Clinton’s.”

Take it from Elizabeth Edwards, who also preferred Clinton’s health care plan to Obama’s: McCain’s health care proposal would be an expensive disaster. Spend a few minutes browsing the writings of nyceve at Daily Kos for more specifics on why McCain is very wrong on health care.

If nothing else, I hope you will keep the Supreme Court in mind when you vote for president. Making the case for John McCain earlier this year, former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer noted that six of the nine Supreme Court justices will be at least 70 years old on Inauguration Day 2009. If that’s not a reason to be a yellow dog Democrat this year, I don’t know what is.

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Send healing thoughts to Ted Kennedy

Senator Ted Kennedy is in a Boston hospital after suffering a stroke in Hyannisport. UPDATE: News reports now say he had seizures, not a stroke.

He spent two hours in the Cape Cod hospital emergency room before being airlifted to Boston.

I hope he is receiving the care he needs for a full and speedy recovery.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and this information comes from the National Stroke Association’s website:

In 1989 National Stroke Association received the Presidential Proclamation recognizing May as National Stroke Awareness Month (view a copy of the proclamation). The goal of this annual campaign is to ensure that all Americans understand they can “Save a Life” by knowing about stroke risk factors, prevention, symptom recognition and Acting F.A.S.T. to treat stroke. In addition, this is a time for remembering those who have survived a stroke and to let them know that National Stroke Association supports them throughout their lifelong recovery journey.

This year National Stroke Association will focus its efforts on educating the public to recognize stroke symptoms, and to Act F.A.S.T.

F = FACE     Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A = ARM     Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = SPEECH     Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T = TIME     If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1.

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Will the smoking ban change where you eat or drink?

Marc Hansen’s latest column for the Des Moines Register is about non-smokers who plan to start going back to various restaurants and bars after the public smoking ban goes into effect on July 1.

I know that was true for me after the Waveland Cafe went smoke-free last fall.

Although Hansen’s column is mainly anecdotal, studies in other parts of the country have shown that smoking bans are not bad for businesses.

Consider this an open thread on how the smoking ban will affect where you go out to eat or drink (whether or not you smoke).

Congratulations are in order

To everyone who worked hard toward the passage of a law expanding health insurance coverage for Iowa children, which Chet Culver signed yesterday.

To the Iowa Council for International Understanding, which has posted translations of Iowa voter registration documents on its website in light of a court ruling that bars the Secretary of State’s office from providing information in any language other than English.

To Senator Chuck Grassley for looking into the spending practices of six tax-exempt “media-based ministries,” despite a large-scale public relations campaign accusing him of “religious McCarthyism.”

To Iowa Independent blogger Dien Judge, who was just appointed to the Monroe County board of supervisors, a position he will hold for the next six months.

And to Iowa City Council member Ross Wilburn, the bicyclist who won Johnson County’s annual Bike-to-Work Week Bike-Bus-Car race.

Put up a comment if you know of someone else who deserves congratulations this week.

Proposal to create "oral health therapists" deserves consideration

I was intrigued by an article in today's Des Moines Register about Dr. David Nash, who advocates training “oral health therapists” to handle simple procedures for children's teeth.

My cousins who are dentists probably wouldn't like this idea, but Nash made a compelling case:

Nash, who spoke at a conference in Johnston, framed the problem as an issue of justice and fairness. He criticized fellow dentists for concentrating on profitable treatments, including cosmetic procedures. He said they should spend more time on public-health needs, including care for poor children insured under Medicaid.

Dentists often say they limit their Medicaid work because the program pays them too little. But Nash said states that have dramatically raised reimbursements have not seen corresponding increases in dentists willing to accept more Medicaid patients. “Many dentists just do not want to see these people in their offices,” he said.


The professor has made waves nationally with a proposal to create a new class of “oral health therapists,” who would receive two years of training in the treatment of children. They could perform typical dental-hygienist duties, plus simple fillings, crowns and extraction of baby teeth. They could be posted in schools, pediatricians' clinics or mobile clinics, he said. Such therapists provide safe, economical treatment in 53 countries, including New Zealand, Britain and Canada, he said.

I have a friend whose family is on Medicaid, and I know she has struggled to find a dentist to fill her daughters' cavities. The family dentists or pediatric dentists recommended by me and other friends do not take Medicaid patients. She wants to avoid getting mercury amalgam fillings, and the only dentists in the Des Moines area she can find who take Medicaid patients use mercury in the fillings.

I'm sure there are arguments to be made against Nash's idea, but it seems to merit serious consideration. 

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10 ways to combat asthma (in honor of Asthma Awareness Month and World Asthma Day)

Asthma has been on my mind lately, because a child in my extended family was recently diagnosed with it after going to the hospital for respiratory problems. The chronic disease is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in children.

In addition, at least 20 million American adults are estimated to have asthma.

Today is World Asthma Day, in connection with Asthma Awareness Month.

Join me after the jump to read about five policies our society should implement, as well as five steps individuals can take, to reduce the incidence and severity of asthma in our households and across the country.

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Events coming up this week

Please put up a comment if you know of an important event I’ve left out.

Keep me posted about upcoming events by e-mailing desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

Monday, May 5:

Free screening of the documentary film “For the Bible Tells Me So,” which explores questions such as, “Does God really condemn loving homosexual relationships?  Is the Bible an excuse to hate?” The film will be shown at 6:30 pm at Drake University in the Parents Hall in the Olmstead Center. The documentary’s director, Daniel Karslake, will be there for a discussion after the screening. More on the movie:

Through the experiences of five very normal, Christian, American families, including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child or family member.  Includes the respected voices of Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Reverend Peter Gomes, & Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg.

Tuesday, May 6:

It’s World Asthma Day in connection with Asthma Awareness Month. I mention this because thousands of Iowans will become more aware of asthma if the coal-fired power plant approved last week by the Iowa Utilities Board ever gets built in Marshalltown.

The Iowa Global Warming Campaign, Sierra Club and I-Renew are hosting a special “green” event on Tuesday, May 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Fairfield Public Library, 140 West Adams in Fairfield. The event offers free admission and refreshments and will feature a film screening of “Global Warming: the Signs and the Science,” a film that uses expert dialogues on global warming to talk about how we can reverse its course. After the film, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and participate in a discussion about the film and related issues.

Wallace House Foundation dialogue dinner, “The Greening of Des Moines” beginning at 6 pm. Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, Lynnae Hentzen of the Center for Sustainable Communities, Marian Gelb from the Iowa Environmental Council, and Bob Riley from the Waterworks Board are confirmed for the event. Former Des Moines Mayor Preston Daniels will be one of the facilitators. Dialogue dinners invite community experts and residents to gather around the dinner table for a shared meal and facilitated conversation about a current issue. Reservations are required and can be made by emailing anntaylor@wallace.org or calling 515-243-7063. Cost is $20 per person for the program and catered meal. Dialogue dinners are recorded so participants must sign an authorization and release. The Wallace House Foundation is located at 756 Sixteenth Street in Des Moines.

Wednesday, May 7:

Come meet Nate Willems, candidate for Iowa House District 29, at a house party hosted by David Adelman, 2841 Gilmore Avenue in Des Moines, 5 pm to 7 pm. Suggested guest donation: $25. To RSVP, call (515) 491-1015 or e-mail willemsforhouse@hotmail.com. Willems is running for the seat being vacated by Democrat Ro Foege, who is retiring. This is an important hold. You can donate to the campaign through this page at Act Blue.

Join Ed Fallon at the Young Professionals Club gathering, starting at 5:30 pm at the Raccoon River Brew Pub, 200 10th St. Des Moines.

Thursday, May 8:

Celebrate Nurses Week with Womankind Author Nancy Harless, who will be at the Des Moines Public Library’s Central Library in downtown Des Moines at 6:30 pm. “Womankind: Connection and Wisdom Around the World” is a collection of women’s stories gained from Harless’s international nursing experiences and travels.  The Iowa nurse and author invites readers along on her real-life journey through inspiring, sometimes heart-wrenching stories. Harless will visit the library to discuss the writing of Womankind and to answer questions from the audience. Her books will be for sale by The Book Store and she will be signing them following the program.

House party for Ed Fallon at the home of Cory Ernst in Altoona. Space is limited so RSVP to Jamie at (515) 822-4284.

Reservations due for The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Annual Award Dinner, which costs $50 and will be held on Tuesday, May 13 at the Hotel Fort Des Moines, 1000 Walnut Street in Des Moines (Reception at 6 pm, Dinner at 7 pm). The Keynote Speaker will be The Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon, retired Episcopal Bishop of Washington, second woman in the United States to be elevated to the office of Bishop. The Interfaith Award will be presented to Rekha Basu. The Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus will perform. For more information or to RSVP, email tiaiowa@dwx.com or call (515) 279-8715.

Women volunteers are needed to create “wellness bags” for women cancer patients, which will be distributed through John Stoddard Cancer Center and Mercy Medical Center. To volunteer for this event, which will be at Southridge Mall on May 8 from 7 pm to 9 pm, contact Kelly Thevenot at 287-3881 or Kelly.thevenot AT macerich.com.

Friday, May 9:

The Iowa Renewable Energy Association will be sponsoring a free screening of the film “Revolution Green” at the Solon Public Library (event starts at 6:30 pm, film starts at 7 pm). “Revolution Green” shows how truly sustainable biofuels are not only possible but are being made in America at this time. After the film, we will discuss the real-world experience in our own, local community of making and using sustainable biofuel. This is biofuel that consumes no food crops and cuts carbon emissions hugely. Please come and join the discussion of sustainable transportation options for our area. Popcorn and tasty tap water provided! (please bring your own bowl & cup, containers available if you forget) Save gas! Please car pool and share rides by checking www.carpoolworld.com or calling I-Renew at (319) 643-3160.

Saturday, May 10:

It’s the beginning of the sixth annual Bike to Work Week, which runs from May 10-16. Lots of information about the week’s special events, plus discounts for commuters who participate, can be found at BikeIowa’s Bike to Work website.

It’s the first day of the farmers’ market in downtown Des Moines, which runs from 7 am to 12 pm on Court Avenue and a couple of side streets. I think there will be a Bike to Work week event at the market too.

Greater Des Moines Hike To Help Refugees, starting at 11 am at Gray’s Lake in Des Moines. The event will raise money for the UN Refugee Agency and for Lutheran Services of Iowa Refugee Resettlement Program. You can participate even if you are unable to do the 4.5 mile hike. For more information, go to www.hiketohelrefugees.org.

May 10 is also World Fair Trade Day. I am not aware of any local events marking this, but click the link if you want more information or ideas about how to get involved with the fair trade movement.

On Saturday and Sunday, Greenpeace is organizing “Mommy Meetups” related to global warming all over the country. More information on that is after the jump.

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10 ways for smokers to stop whining about the smoking ban

Over at Iowa Independent, Douglas Burns has put up another post complaining about the tough bill on public smoking that the legislature adopted earlier this month.

Burns offers 10 ways to deal with the smoking ban which, in his words, will introduce “a radical cultural change in many shot-and-a-beer, small-town taverns that dot the Iowa landscape.”

One of his suggestions is:

2. Take your anger out on Gov. Chet Culver, Big Brother Democrats and Turncoat Republicans

To be a one-issue voter for the rest of your life is crazy. But the smoking ban is an example of effete urban Iowans monkeying around with the small businesses of rural Iowans. If it’s smoking today, what’s next for government intrusion into small businesses? Will we go the way of New York City and ban certain fatty foods to the point where chicken-fried steaks must be served without gravy?

With statehouse races in the fall, smokers and those who don’t like the creep of big government into Iowa life should send a message by voting against smoke ban supporters. Better yet, contribute to their opponents. The ban was generally a Democratic brainchild and product, but some Republicans jumped off the Bridge Over the River Common Sense on this one, too.

I’ve got 10 suggestions for the smokers like Burns who feel oppressed by “effete urban Iowans” (which isn’t even accurate, if you look at the list of legislators who voted for this bill):

1. Quit using that “what will they ban next, fast food?” analogy. The smoking ban is nothing like the government trying to control people’s consumption of fatty food, because eating unhealthy food doesn’t affect other people’s health the way second-hand smoke does.

2. Acknowledge that your choice to smoke in a bar or restaurant prevents employees of those establishments from choosing not to inhale smoke. It’s easy for you to say that people who don’t like smoking should get another job. Maybe that “shot-and-a-beer, small-town tavern” is the only game in town for that employee. Maybe family obligations require someone to work evenings and weekends, when a large portion of the jobs available are in restaurants or bars.

3. Recognize that what seems inconvenient to you may allow pregnant women to avoid second-hand smoke and the increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth that accompanies it.

4. Remember that pregnant women exposed to second-hand smoke have a higher risk of delivering a low-birth-weight baby, which is associated with a greater chance of various health problems.

5. Instead of complaining about having to step outside for a cigarette, think about the future babies who will not have an elevated risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome because you did not expose their pregnant mothers to second-hand smoke.

6. Think of all the men and women who work in that place you like to smoke who will no longer have to work in an environment that raises their chance of getting cancer, heart disease or chronic lung problems.

7. Recognize that this smoking ban will probably save you money if it pushes you to smoke less or even quit.

8. Take up Burns’ suggestion to pursue the free smoking-cessation counseling offered by the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Control Division. Then you can treat yourself to something nice with the money you save on cigarettes.

9. If you own a restaurant or bar where smoking has been allowed up to now, take heart; research in other parts of the country suggests that you will not lose business because of the smoking ban. I know that I eat more often at the Waveland Cafe in Des Moines since the owner made it smoke-free last November.

10. If you own a different kind of business where smoking has previously been permitted, remember that smoking bans bring hidden economic benefits to many businesses, including “reduced absenteeism, reduced insurance costs, and reduced cleaning and maintenance costs.”

Feel free to add to my list in the comments section.

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Delusions of the people-powered movement

A while back I stopped reading the “Edwards should endorse Obama” diaries at Daily Kos, because I was tired of getting drawn into arguments with Hillary-haters in the comment threads. Moreover, I really don’t care whether John Edwards endorses a candidate–it wouldn’t change my feelings about either of the contenders.

When Elizabeth Edwards recently confirmed that she prefers Hillary’s health-care plan and will appear alongside Clinton when she campaigns in North Carolina, some of the Obama fans at Daily Kos went ballistic. Again, I avoided those diaries, because I am tired of trying to explain to people that yes, many health-care experts agree that some form of individual mandates are needed in order to provide truly universal health care.

Today longtime Edwards supporter Benny put up a rant at the EENRblog about somebody’s open letter pleading with Elizabeth Edwards to endorse Obama. I wasn’t planning to read the diary Benny was complaining about, but edgery highlighted an amazing assertion that prompted me to click over.

This statement in Bcgntn’s diary is what grabbed my attention:

Senator Clinton may believe without Lyndon Johnson the Civil Rights Act 1964 would not have come into being.  I recall those years.  People were out on the streets in protest.  The community concluded it was time for a change.  The President merely signed the papers.  

I’ve written before about how annoyed I was in January when the Obama campaign took Hillary’s comments about LBJ and twisted them into some allegedly racist remark denigrating Martin Luther King Jr.

But that’s not my main point today. What that Obama supporter wrote reflects a fantasy shared by too many Obama supporters, in my opinion: namely, that if he is elected, Obama is going to do what his people-powered movement demands.

One of my biggest concerns about Obama has always been that he seems likely to make far too many concessions to the Republican agenda or to DC pundits’ conventional wisdom. He has chosen not to lead on some of the key battles in the U.S. Senate. He talks a lot about finding consensus and bringing people together. His strategy for winning the open-primary states has been to maximize his support among Republicans and independents who cross over.

When you look at his very cautious voting record and avoidance of leading on any controversial issue, it seems highly unlikely to me that he will govern like a progressive. There will be many days when Obama has to choose between doing what Tim Russert and David Broder would like, and doing what the Obama fans at Daily Kos would like, and I think the Kossacks will be the disappointed ones on those days.

I’ve raised this point with several thoughtful Obama supporters, such as Populista, the 14-year-old who will probably be a great progressive leader someday. The consensus seems to be that if he gets elected, Obama will have to listen to the activists who have done so much to support his presidential campaign. He has empowered people who are the change we’ve been waiting for.

This to me seems as deluded as saying that the civil rights legislation of 1964 happened because the “community concluded it was time for a change.  The President merely signed the papers.”

I am not old enough to remember 1964, but I challenge any Obama supporter to find me one historian of that period who will agree with that contention. The fact is, LBJ dragged Congress kicking and screaming to do much more on civil rights than probably any other president could have gotten passed.

Don’t discount the importance of presidential leadership. People were out in the streets protesting the Vietnam War for years before we finally got out of there.

If Obama gets elected, he will not have the clout with Congress that LBJ had. But even if he did, I simply don’t see Obama as the kind of leader who would go to the mat to push a strong progressive agenda through a resistant Congress. He seems more likely to move halfway toward the Republican position, then declare victory.

Like I always say, I would love to be proven wrong if Obama does manage to get by John McCain. But don’t imagine that the people-powered movement will be calling the shots, and President Obama will just be signing the papers.

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Read these pieces on McCain's temper and health care plan

I’ve mentioned before that it’s scandalous for the Washington press corps to cover for John McCain’s legendary anger management problem after the way they collaborated in making Howard Dean and Al Gore look angry and unstable.

Washington Post reporter Michael Leahy wrote this long article on McCain’s temperament for the paper’s Sunday edition. Read the whole thing. It begins with an anecdote about McCain blowing up at Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley in 1992, and Republicans who know McCain share many other stories as well.

One of the most appalling discusses McCain’s behavior after an election-night victory party for Arizona Republicans in 1986:

After McCain finished his speech, he returned to a suite in the hotel, sat down in front of a TV and viewed a replay of his remarks, angry to discover that the speaking platform had not been erected high enough for television cameras to capture all of his face — he seemed to have been cut off somewhere between his nose and mouth.

A platform that had been adequate for taller candidates had not taken into account the needs of the 5-foot-9 McCain, who left the suite and went looking for a man in his early 20s named Robert Wexler, the head of Arizona’s Young Republicans, which had helped make arrangements for the evening’s celebration. Confronting Wexler in a hotel ballroom, McCain exploded, according to witnesses who included Jon Hinz, then executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. McCain jabbed an index finger in Wexler’s chest.

“I told you we needed a stage,” he screamed, according to Hinz. “You incompetent little [expletive]. When I tell you to do something, you do it.”

Hinz recalls intervening, placing his 6-foot-6 frame between the senator-elect and the young volunteer. “John, this is not the time or place for this,” Hinz remembers saying to McCain, who fumed that he hadn’t been seen clearly by television viewers. Hinz recollects finally telling McCain: “John, look, I’ll follow you out on stage myself next time. I’ll make sure everywhere you go there is a milk crate for you to stand on. But this is enough.”

McCain spun around on his heels and left. He did not talk to Hinz again for several years. In 2000, as Hinz recalls, he appeared briefly on the Christian Broadcasting Network to voice his worries about McCain’s temperament on televangelist Pat Robertson’s show, “The 700 Club.” Hinz’s concerns have since grown with reports of incidents in and out of Arizona.

We need to educate Americans who think McCain is a reasonable moderate about this side of his personality.

Also worth reading is Elizabeth Edwards’ latest blog post on McCain’s inadequate health care plan.

After she criticized his plan this month, McCain went on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos to call her criticism a “cheap shot.” Elizabeth Edwards had noted that McCain benefited from government health care coverage his whole life, but McCain pointed out that he didn’t have access to good health care while he was a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam.

If McCain was hoping she would feel too bad to respond, he’s out of luck. She points out some important facts:

Sen. McCain noted that he was not receiving government health care for the six years he was in captivity. That is true. But it has nothing to do with my point – which is that the problem with Sen. McCain’s health care plan is not how it affects us — but how it affects the tens of millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who, unlike Sen. McCain and myself, do not have the resources to pay for quality health care.

That is not a cheap shot, it is a potentially life and death question for tens of million of Americans. And it is a question Sen. McCain must address.

McCain’s health care plan is centered around the idea that we’d be better off if more Americans bought health coverage on their own, rather than receiving it through a job or government program. But maybe since he has never purchased insurance in the individual market, he does not know the challenge it presents for Americans with preexisting conditions.

A recent study showed that nearly nine out of every ten people seeking individual coverage on the private insurance market never got it. Insurers will disqualify you for just taking certain medicines because of the possibility of future costs, including common drugs as Lipitor, Zocor, Nexium, and Advair. People who have had cancer are denied coverage and those who get cancer run the risk of simply being dropped by their insurer for any excuse that can be found. And insurers make it a practice to deny coverage to individuals in high risk occupations, such as firefighting, lumber work, telecom installation, and pretty much anything more risky than working in an office.

Read her whole post. She also has a go at McCain’s strange suggestion that he might create a “special Medicaid trust fund” to help cover people with preexisting conditions.

We should go after McCain now–not wait for the Democratic nomination to be settled.

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Latest mailer from Boswell focuses on health care

On Friday my husband and I received the latest direct-mail piece from Congressman Leonard Boswell’s campaign. Like his recent mailings about the economy and the Iraq War, this piece portrays Boswell as a fighter.

It’s not very subtle, with five references to Boswell “taking on” the opposition and three references to him fighting or not being afraid of a fight.

I’ve described the layout of the four-page mailer and transcribed its text after the jump.

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April is Autism Awareness Month

I’ve just read this wonderful feature in the Sunday Register about Ronald Autry and his parents, Jim Autry and former Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson.

The article discusses Ronald Autry’s education and the steps he and his parents took to help him learn to live independently as an adult. It also talks about his parents’ role in creating a new program at the University of Iowa:

The REACH program – Realizing Educational and Career Hopes – is interviewing people who hope to be among the inaugural class of 25 students. It’s only the second program at a major public university in the United States; the other started last fall at UCLA.

“This is the new frontier for special education,” director Dennis C. Harper says.

Students with multiple disabilities will be integrated into the student body, live in residence halls, take classes, do laundry, manage their money.

And learn to fall and get up, just like any young adult.

This sounds like a great program, and I congratulate everyone who helped get it going. It required private fundraising as well as a commitment from the university.

The article reminded me that I haven’t blogged yet about April being Autism Awareness Month. Since becoming a mother I’ve gotten to know several moms of children with autism. It’s a spectrum disorder that manifests in many ways, and most likely has many different causes.

One thing I’ve learned from my friends and acquaintances is that early intervention is extremely important for children with autism. Parents are understandably reluctant to have their children labeled, but if tuned-in parents are genuinely concerned about their child’s development, it’s better to seek out a diagnosis as soon as possible.

Some children with autism respond very well to a special gluten-free/casein-free diet, or extra doses of vitamin B-6 with magnesium, or extensive speech and occupational therapy. I know of some families who have seen so much improvement that their children were able to eventually lose their autism diagnosis.

Not only are the treatment options more likely to work better at a younger age, but a diagnosis may be needed before parents can access some of the state and local services for children with autism.

Lots of resources for families affected by autism can be found on the websites of Autism Speaks and the Autism Research Institute.

However, it’s worth noting that some autistics are offended by the idea that autism is a “disease” that should be “cured”; they want services to support autistics without trying to make their brains function “normally.” The Autism Speaks organization has been particularly criticized by these advocates of “neurodiversity”.

Daily Kos diarist plf515 (who is writing a fantastic series on the Congressional races, by the way) has a learning disability “in the same ballpark as Asperger’s,” which is on the autism spectrum. Last year he wrote a good diary: A little bit special: Things not to say to LD people (or their parents).

I can’t resist ending this diary with plf515’s favorite joke about Asperger’s:

A guy is flying in a hot air balloon, and he’s lost.  He lowers himself over a field and calls to a guy “Can you tell me where I am and where I’m headed?”

“Sure.  You’re at 41 degrees 2 minutes and 14 seconds North, 144 degrees 4 minute and 19 seconds East; you’re at an altitude of 762 meters above sea level, and right now you’re hovering, but you were on a vector of 234 degrees at 12 meters per second”

“Amazing! Thanks!  By the way, do you have Asperger’s Syndrome?”

“I do! How did you know that?”

“Because everything you said is true, it’s much more detail than I need, and you told me in a way that’s no use to me at all.”

“Huh.  Are you a clinical psychologist?”

“I am, but how the heck did you know that??”

“You don’t know where you are.  You don’t know where you’re going.  You got where you are by blowing hot air.  You put labels on people after asking a few questions, and you’re in exactly the same spot you were 5 minutes ago, but now, somehow, it’s my fault!

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McCain: "Like most Americans, I go see my doctor fairly frequently."

The wonderful nyceve caught this unintentional comedy from John McCain as he answered a question about his health:

“Everything’s fine,” McCain told reporters during a news conference. “Like most Americans, I go see my doctor fairly frequently.”

As nyceve points out in her latest diary, “most Americans” do not go see the doctor frequently, especially not if they are only covered through a Health Savings Account. That’s the centerpiece of McCain’s health care plan, but nyceve gives us a reality check:

If all you’re able to afford is High Deductible Junk Insurance which McBush is pushing as a solution to our healthcare catastrophe, then you don’t to go to a doctor “fairly frequently” as McCain does. You don’t attend to routine health problems because you can’t afford to. High deductible health insurance offers bare bones coverage and is insurance in name only.

So what do you do if you have junk insurance?  You wait and hope and pray that you recover. Some Americans even procure medicine from pet stores which often sell a variety of antibotics at low prices.

Her diary also included a link to this report:

More than a quarter of Americans have skipped or postponed an essential visit to a doctor because it was too expensive, a new MSN-Zogby poll says.

Nearly half (48%) say they pay more in health-insurance premiums than a year ago, and 37% say they pay more out of pocket for medical services or prescriptions.

The results of the poll of 9,765 adults suggest that medical expenses are becoming a heavier burden on household finances, even for middle-income Americans.

Go read the whole diary, which includes a video of a 33-year-old man who was uninsured when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He describes the choices he had to make while undergoing cancer treatment without health insurance. Of course, no private insurer will sell him a policy now that he has had cancer, a problem McCain’s health care plan would do nothing to correct.

By the way, DemFromCT points out the inconvenient fact that McCain supported George Bush’s veto of Congress’s attempt to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. When will the media stop calling him a maverick?

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Smoking ban passes, expanded health insurance for children advances

Mary Mascher put up a post at Blog for Iowa a few days ago detailing action on several bills last week at the legislature. I recommend keeping an eye on that blog for legislative news as we get closer to the end of the session.

I read in the Des Moines Register that yesterday both chambers passed a compromise smoking ban bill, which covers almost all public places:

Iowans will still be able to smoke in the gambling areas of casinos, although smoke would be prohibited in casino restaurants, gift shops, bars and employee areas.

They can smoke in the outdoor areas of bars, the outdoors areas of county fairs and the State Fair except the grandstands, in limousines and in retail tobacco stores.

Other exemptions are designated areas of correctional facilities, the state veterans home in Marshalltown and Iowa National Guard facilities.

I’m pleased that restaurants and bars will be smoke-free. That will protect a lot of employees from second-hand smoke, and I doubt it will hurt business. The Waveland Cafe in Des Moines has no seen business drop off since it went smoke free last fall, because people like me, who had avoided bringing their families, are now eating there more often.

I was interested to read that the smoking ban did not have enough Democratic votes to pass either the House or the Senate. In both chambers, a majority of Democrats were joined by a small number of Republicans. The Register has the roll-call vote on this bill, in case you want to see how your representatives voted.

Governor Culver’s office indicated that he “looks forward” to signing the bill.

The Senate on Monday passed a bill expanding health insurance coverage for children, including some young adult children. According to the Des Moines Register,

The bill now returns to the House, which passed a less specific version last month.

A children’s welfare advocate who expressed doubts about the original House bill praised the version that passed in the Senate Monday.

“I think we’re getting there. We’re getting there,” said Carrie Fitzgerald, senior health policy associate for the Child and Family Policy Center. She said the new bill includes more specifics, such as measures to prevent eligible children from being taken off public programs.

As my husband and I have learned during the past five years, the cost of health insurance for young, healthy adults increases once you have a child, and with every additional child. If a parent’s employer does not provide your health insurance, the cost of a private plan can easily be out of reach for middle-income families.

It’s short of the universal access to health care we need in this country, but making more children eligible for low-cost state insurance plans is a step in the right direction.

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You'll be hearing more from Elizabeth Edwards on health care

Last week Elizabeth Edwards wrote a fantastic guest post for the Think Progress blog asking why people like her (who have had cancer in the past) are left out of John McCain’s health care reform plan. A great video clip of her slamming McCain’s health plan can be found in this diary by NCDem Amy

McCain has ignored her comments, while one of his fund-raisers tried to pretend her concern about cancer patients being excluded from coverage was not a legitimate issue for political discussion.

But at some point, I think McCain will have to address the issues raised by Edwards. This week it emerged that she has joined the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow.

Already on Tuesday she appeared on NPR to explain how McCain’s plan “falls short in every conceivable way.” NCDem Amy’s diary includes a link to the podcast of that NPR interview, if you’d like to listen.

Elizabeth Edwards has been active intermittently on political blogs since the last presidential campaign, and she will be blogging more regularly in her new position.

Health care will be her main focus at the Center for American Progress:

“As many can attest, I have an opinion on everything,” Edwards said tonight about her new role. “But I am particularly concerned about the state of health care in America and I am grateful to CAP for giving me the chance to continue to advocate for universal and quality health care coverage for all.”

I can’t wait.

Oh, by the way, Edwards confirmed in an interview for Wednesday’s edition of Good Morning America that she prefers Clinton’s health-care plan to Obama’s. I am not at all surprised, since the Clinton plan was closer to that proposed by John Edwards during the presidential campaign.

In fact, while I have no inside information, my hunch is that if not for Obama’s inferior health care reform proposal and his use of Republican talking points to attack Hillary’s proposal, John and Elizabeth Edwards would have endorsed Obama for president by now.  

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McCain's finance co-chair wants cancer to be "off-limits" for political discussion

A few posts down I mentioned that Elizabeth Edwards has been going after John McCain for his totally inadequate health care reform proposal. As she has noted, both she and McCain could be excluded from his program because their cancer would be considered pre-existing conditions.

Instead of addressing her substantive arguments, McCain’s national finance co-chair, Fred Malek, whines that she should not be talking about cancer in a political context:


Finding a cure for cancer is a vitally important mission for this country. Supporting that mission should unite everyone – and should be off-limits from the political and partisan battlefield.

…I just hope that it doesn’t become a common occurrence on the campaign trail. The cancer conversation is best left to the experts, researchers, and doctors.

Yes, let’s all join together and find a cure for cancer, while not mentioning that cancer patients could be denied coverage under McCain’s health care plan.

Click the link to read diarist Dean Barker’s discussion of the highlights of Malek’s career. They include his work compiling a list of high-ranking Jews in the  Bureau of Labor Statistics for President Richard Nixon in 1971.

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McCain wouldn't be covered by his own health care plan

What do you know? Under John McCain’s health care reform plan, insurance companies could exclude pre-existing conditions such as his own recurrent melanoma. Of course, McCain doesn’t need to worry about this, because he has the Cadillac care provided to all members of Congress.

Elizabeth Edwards, who could likewise be excluded under McCain’s plan because of her history of breast cancer, has called McCain on his hypocrisy. Click the link above to read nyceve’s important diary on the subject.

On a related note, Dr.SteveB, who like nyceve advocates a single-payer health care system (that is, like Medicare, but covering every American), reports on a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Internal Medicine. A nationwide survey of 2,193 physicians

showed 59% “support government legislation to establish national health insurance,” while 32% oppose and 9% are neutral. That’s a solid majority of American doctors, and up 10% from 49% in 2002 when a similar study was last done.

This is an excerpt from the article in Annals of Internal Medicine:

Support among doctors for NHI has increased across almost all medical specialties, said Dr. Ronald T. Ackermann, associate director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research at Indiana University’s School of Medicine and co-author of the study.

“Across the board, more physicians feel that our fragmented and for-profit insurance system is obstructing good patient care, and a majority now support national insurance as the remedy,” he said.

Dr.SteveB has more on the story if you click the link.

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