Monthly Archives: October 2009

Obama’s ‘Post-Racial” Social Health Care Policy

When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980 it was written somewhere that America’s post-civil rights era had arrived.  Gone were  the civil rights days when minorities and poor people held the government to task for having systematically excluded them in employment, housing,education and so forth

Suddenly, individuals were instructed to assume responsibility for their own exclusion.  The culture of poverty replaced government as the problem’s source which led to a solipsistic and defeatist self referencing to individual helplessness. People in need were stuck.

Almost three decades later, we are experiencing a similar disequilibrium in Obama’s America. As a candidate for president, and during his first year in office, Obama– himself the product and exemplar of  MLK’s I have a dream speech– has ushered in a post-racial discourse, which bears some similarly to Reagan’s post civil rights politics.

Obama downplays the relevance of rights when he discusses the pressing problems of his day. Consider health care.  Obama’s emphasis is on forging more effective and efficient systems. He downplays social justice in health care, for example, by focusing on health care costs for the middle class rather than on the basis needs of the uninsured for health insurance.

Obama’s post racial social policy envisions the assets he associates with consensus building and balancing of competing interests.  Along the way Obama perpetuates the privatization of risk paradigm first popularized under Reagan and institutionalized under W Bush, albeit in a manner that is more inclusive.  Under this paradigm, disenfranchised, poor, minorities continue to lose out.  The alternative human rights paradigm would consider the stark realities of people forced to abide a life without health insurance and in the shadows of law, and would compel the government to assume responsibility for affording all people with basic human dignity.

Obama’s Nobel

It was just announced that President Obama has won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. I offer my congratulations while trying to keep my well earned cynicism in check.  My wife, Steph Flores-Koulish, saw the Dalai Lama yesterday in DC and came home last evening filled with his hope and compassion.  She says he made people in the room feel bigger, more hopeful and other-committed. It’s not about the small stuff; it’s about acting as if this were your last day on earth…  without the anxiety that might deservedly accompany such thoughts.

A facebook friend this morning posted his thoughts (thanks Jeff Levin) about Obama’s Nobel and he reminded why many of us voted for Obama. It was about hope and about having a leader that appeals to our better angels. Yep. Obama does this. My friend also says we haven’t seen the best of Obama yet, and I think I agree. At least I want to.

Just a few minutes ago I heard a member of the Oslo committee tell BBC that  Obama won the prize beause he has shifted the dialogue, replaced cynicism with hope and a commitment to having words replace guns and bombs as the more effective way of resolving international disputes. He referred to Obama’s commitment to nuclear disarmament as well as to some not yet conversations Obama led at the UN last week, which he says should lead the global community in a new direction.

Well I hope so, and for this moment, am willing to put aside my thoughts that there exists tens of thousands of epople who work for peace everyday who are also qualified to win a Nobel peace prize.

I’m willing to imagine that with the moral capital that accompanies a Nobel prize, President Obama will now be more inclined to getting the US out of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and leading (as opposed to compromising) the country towards real universal health care reform.

Congratulations Mr President. Enjoy the day. In the mean time, many of us shall continue to urge your better angels and ours to lead you and us towards a stronger and more peaceful future.

Two sets of Rules on Health Reform

The problem with the Dems in the health reform debate is that they are allowing their opponents to play by a different set of rules. While the president seeks bipartianship, the Repubican leadership says it will reject any democratic health reform plan. period.

While the dems engage in “honest” debate over the public option, the republicans ignore facts and insist on sabotage. period.

Okay, at least we know.

Hardly the ingredients for reform.  But The real problem is not the Republicans who seem pretty open about their intentions. It is the Democrats, who seem unwilling to consider their bretheran are anything other than loyal opponents.

Hey folks. wake up.

It is time, for example, for the democratic leadership to ride herd over the blue dogs to make sure they vote for cloture to prevent a republican filibuster.  Then, the blue dogs can vote their conscience on the merits of the bill, or rather their campaign warchests. This way– blue dogs are prevented from being accomplices in the Republican attempt to sabotage reform, and the Obama presidency.

And health reform could then win (or lose) based on 51 votes.

Tom Carper/ Olympia Snow Race to the Bottom of Health Care Debate

Tom Carper just announced a compromise plan on health care that would make a public option or co-ops a voluntary choice of the individual states. It is increasingly likely that some mix between carper’s plan and Olympia Snowe’s plan for triggers– creating a non-profit corp that would offer low cost insurance at the state level will end up in a final bill on the president’s desk.

I think either option may be better than what currently exists but probably not a whole lot better. Like other national programs left to the states, either of these plans is likely to result in a race to the bottom in terms of access/costs and quality coverage. with states increasingly holding going out of business sales (like in california), giving states an opt out clause on health coverage mitigates any incentive for them to provide coverage to all their residents.

I support the public option as a comprise, but continue to believe that if the country is going to establish some new mechanism for providing health insurance– triggers– why not go back to considering singler payer, which is more cost effective and comprehensive, and far less bureaucracy than offered by these current hybrid plans.