Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A key reason why 50 Democratic senators and the V.P. should permanently eliminate the filibuster

One of the strongest arguments why eliminating the filibuster would do far more good than bad, and why 50 Democratic senators (that's all that's needed, plus the V.P.) should eliminate the filibuster through rulings from the chair, and then strike down from the chair all Republican tactics to shut down the senate (all do-able, see Kevin Drum's Mother Jones post, "Filibuster Wanking", Thomas Geoghegan's current article in the Nation, "The Case for Busting the Filibuster", and the 2006 book "Filibuster" by Columbia political science professor Gregory Wawro and Harvard government professor Eric Schlickler, page 272 for example) is this:

The great good the Democrats would do with the filibuster eliminated – things like universal healthcare, or perhaps someday Medicare for all, free four years of college (we've been stuck at free education only up to high school for over 100 years, while the amount of education necessary to be a highly productive nation has skyrocketed in that time), and much more – once enacted, and people saw the truth of how good they were, as opposed to the Republican propaganda, would be permanent. The Republicans would never dare get rid of them, and if they did, it would be very temporary; next election, the Republicans would be decimated, and the programs would be restored easily.

A good example is Medicare (universal single-payer health insurance, like in Canada and France, for our seniors). The Republicans, led by Ronald Reagan, fought it tooth and nail in 1965, claiming it would lead to socialism, or worse. Today they would not dare even mention repealing it, because once it was actually passed, people saw how much better it really made their lives, and loved it.

By contrast, the things the Republicans would push through with 51 votes would usually be bad, or horrible, to the vast majority, and so once people actually experienced them, and saw firsthand how the lies about them were really false, like how they, in fact, only helped the rich, they would not last. The public would vote for change, and they would be repealed, AND the Republicans would be revealed. People would see firsthand that lies like trickle down were false, a devastating fairy tale, eventually. For some things they would see very quickly, for others over more time. And, the repeal of harmful Republican policies would be much easier without the filibuster because it would only take 51 votes (or 50 plus the Vice President to break the tie).

So, this is an extremely strong reason why Democrats should support elimination of the filibuster. Basically, or largely, what they would do would be permanent, like Medicare, unemployment insurance, free public schooling, etc., but the harm the Republicans would do would only be temporary, often quite temporary.

People would relatively quickly see the great harm to everyone except perhaps the rich (and even for them, the extra few thousand square feet of mansion would help them and their families far less than they would be hurt by the decreased public health, safety, medical and scientific investment, and thus advancement, having to walk over homeless people, or live behind walls, etc., etc.)

Thus, the argument that some Democrats make that we should keep the filibuster because it prevents the Republicans from doing great harm, like say eliminating Social Security or Medicare, is more than countered. Republicans would not dare eliminate such popular programs, and even if they did, the very next election they would be decimated at the ballet box (and tremendously weakened and revealed for generations), and the elimination would be quickly reversed. By contrast, the good Democrats would do, like universal healthcare, or perhaps eventually even Medicare for all, would essentially be permanent.

Why do you think the United States has suffered as the only advanced country in the world without universal health care for so long? One answer is the filibuster. Without it we probably would have had universal health care long ago. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post wrote today, "There's a lesson in that, and it's not that we need to oppose 'government-run health-care experiments.'". In the comments I replied:
One of the biggest problems with the filibuster is that it makes it far harder to learn by experimenting, to see first hand if the claims against a program or idea were false (or grossly, ridiculously false). It really hurts the U.S. when other advanced countries are far freer than us to experiment and learn, with their completely Democratic legislatures as opposed to our Senate, where Wyoming gets the same votes as California with about 70 times the citizens, and where with the filibuster on top of that, senators representing only about 10% of the citizens can stop a bill favored by senators representing about 90%.
There are, of course, other important reasons to eliminate the filibuster, a key one being the undemocraticness I mentioned above. The Senate's undemocraticness may be in the original constitution, but so was slavery, so was women not having the right to vote, and senators being appointed by state legislatures rather than being elected. Should we have not changed those things because they were in the original constitution? The founding fathers were extremely intelligent. They knew that the constitution and the original government were not perfect; that's why they designed them so that they could be improved, so they were living, not ossified. The founding fathers also had the character to admit flaws in their country, and to realize that it was patriotic to do so, so those flaws could be fixed. Not being willing to admit flaws and problems with your country, and trying to intimidate those who do, is the opposite of patriotism. It hurts your country and holds it back.

Finally, of course, let us not forget global warming. Do we really want to take the monumental risk of planetary devastation from waiting 30, 50, 100 years until luck, skill, and circumstances are just right that we can get strong anti- global warming legislation past a Republican filibuster?

Update: With regard to the power of learning by doing, the power of actually trying things to see first hand if the claims are true, and if the counter claims, or scare tactics, are false (and the Republicans come up with some outrageous whoppers that unfortunately often work), please see this important post at the Charter Cities blog of acclaimed economist, and likely future Nobel Prize winner, Paul Romer.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Speaking of media abdication...

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman writes today:
From the Times, January 2008:

First, those who don’t want to nominate Hillary Clinton because they don’t want to return to the nastiness of the 1990s — a sizable group, at least in the punditocracy — are deluding themselves. Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1).
For prime evidence see my last post.

Update: Wow! I'm stunned that the New York Times had a front webpage headline, no less, calling a Republican lie false, "False ‘Death Panel’ Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots". I get so disappointed with the press, that when they stand up and explain important information in an accurate non-misleading way – by stating clearly verifiable Republican lies as false – it stuns me. I like to think my blog post had something to do with it (Ha), but anyway this is great to see.

The article even assigns blame to top mainstream Republicans, like "the party’s last vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and Charles E. Grassley, the veteran Iowa senator", as well as "many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating President Bill Clinton’s health care proposals 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, New York’s lieutenant governor)." The blame is truthfully due, but it's great to see this after the press so often not being willing to tell the public when Republican politicians and organizations are responsible for spreading lies, due to caring more about what they think looks "even-handed" than conveying important information to the public in an accurate non-misleading way.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New York Times misleads: outrageous lie "forced euthanasia" refered to as "questionable" charge

A front webpage August 11th New York Times article, begins, "The White House on Monday started a new Web site to fight questionable but potentially damaging charges that President Obama’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health care system would inevitably lead to “socialized medicine,” “rationed care” and even forced euthanasia for the elderly."

How is, "forced euthanasia for the elderly" a questionable charge, and not a flat-out outrageous lie?

If the Republicans claimed the Earth was flat, I'm not sure how many mainstream journalists would call this false, thinking it wouldn't be "even handed".

The writer does use the words, "inevitably lead to", but that's still just an impossibility for "forced euthanasia for the elderly" that should be obvious to a writer for one of the leading newspapers in the country. There is, of course, nothing in the bill about forced euthanasia, and it is no more possible that this bill could lead to forced euthanasia, than that passing Medicare for seniors in 1965 could lead to "forced euthanasia for the elderly". It should be obvious to a writer for a premier newspaper that for reasons of grave morality as well as political self-destruction this would never happen, unless you want to consider possibilities like a weird space virus coming to Earth and driving everyone insane, in which case the writer should make clear that he means possibilities like this, instead of grossly misleading.

There is also nothing in the bill for socialized medicine; there is no government ownership of the health care system. With regard to "Rationed care", this is fairly subjective. Typical free market health insurance has a lifetime limit of $1 million or less, and often $250,000 or less. This could certainly lead to rationed care for many illnesses, or no care, especially if you have no health insurance, like so many Americans. And HMOs deny many treatments. But there is nothing that explicitly rations health care in Obama's bill. The bill provides for minimums, subsidies, and protections, but no restrictions on what additional insurance and treatments people may buy. All of this should be made clear so as not to grossly mislead the public on a very important issue.

Mainstream journalists, in general, clearly don't consider conveying important information in an accurate, non-misleading way their top priority, or even a very high one relative to its great importance, and the country has paid a momentous price for this.