Thursday, December 04, 2014

Harkin: Democrats Were "Forced" By Conservatives To Make Obamacare Less Functional Than It Should Have Been


Tom Harkin decided to retire at age 75. Chuck Grassley, painfully senile will be 83 when he runs in 2016 and wants another 6 year term

Tom Harkin must feel horrible. The 75 year, 5 term old Iowa populist, first elected to Congress in 1975, is retiring from the U.S. Senate and a polar opposite, crazed teabagger Joni Ernst, is taking his seat. Like Wall Street's Chuck Schumer, who is anything but a populist and who isn't retiring, Harkin was critical of the Affordable Care Act on his way out. But not the way Schumer was. This week, Harkin told Alexander Bolton at The Hill that the bill he coauthored as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was fatally compromised to satisfy the political concerns of a few Democratic centrists who have since left Congress. Harkin: "We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly and we didn’t do it. So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all. What we did is we muddle through and we got a system that is complex, convoluted, needs probably some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively."
[H]e believes the nation might have been better off if Democrats didn’t bow to political pressure and settle for a policy solution he views as inferior to government-provided health insurance.

“All that’s good. All the prevention stuff is good but it’s just really complicated. It doesn’t have to be that complicated,” he said of the Affordable Care Act.

Harkin, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, says in retrospect the Democratic-controlled Senate and House should have enacted a single-payer healthcare system or a public option to give the uninsured access to government-run health plans that compete with private insurance companies.

“We had the votes in ’09. We had a huge majority in the House, we had 60 votes in the Senate,” he said.

He believes Congress should have enacted “single-payer right from the get go or at least put a public option would have simplified a lot.”

“We had the votes to do that and we blew it,” he said.

Many liberals at the time expressed deep disappointment that the huge Democratic majorities in the Senate and House failed to pass a public option. It was the first time since 1978 that Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

...Harkin, however, believes Obama and Democratic leaders could have enacted better policy had they stood up to three centrists who balked at the public option: Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), a Democrat turned independent, Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

He argues they could have been persuaded to vote for the legislation if Obama had put more effort into lobbying them.

“The House passed public option. We had the votes in the Senate for cloture,” he said.

“There were only three Democrats that held out and we could have had those three,” he added. “[Sen.] Mark Pryor [D-Ark.] so we could have had Lincoln. We could have had all three of them if the president would have been just willing to do some political things but he wouldn’t do it.

Harkin and other liberals are now faced with the bitter irony that the centrists tried to placate five years ago by crafting a labyrinthine market-based reform are now all out of the Senate.
Standard operating procedure for Democrats-- which is why they have been losing so much support from working families across the country. The congressional leadership is, first and foremost, careerist and views the world from their own careerism rather than through the lens of ordinary working people they're supposed to be representing as Democrats. The fact that the Democratic leadership is geriatric and brittle-- much older than the Republican leadership-- compounds the problem. More of them should follow Harkin's example and voluntarily retire as they start losing focus in their 70s.

John Dingell, 88, is finally retiring in January-- although he placed his wife in his seat. Henry Waxman, 75, gracefully bit the bullet. And last year Ed Pastor hit 70 and announced he was retiring, though he represents the safest blue seat in Arizona (D+16-- Obama beat Romney there 72-27% and Pastor was reelected with 82%). Below is a list, by age, of two-dozen Members who should start getting ready for a graceful departure and not go out the way Ralph Hall just did (in an ugly, demeaning primary in which his senility was the only issue). Note: some of these people are worthless buffoons, like Don Young (R-AK) and some, like Louise Slaugher (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI), the two oldest in the House, are still making valuable contributions to the country through their congressional service.
John Conyers (D-MI), 85
Louise Slaughter (D-NY), 85
Charlie Rangel (D-NY), 84
Sam Johnson (R-TX), 84
Sandy Levin (R-MI), 83
Don Young (R-AK), 81
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), 79
Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), 78
Alcee Hastings (R-FL), 78
Grace Napolitano (D-CA), 78
Jim McDermott (D-WA), 78
Lois Capps (D-CA), 77
Hal Rogers (R-KY), 77
Nita Lowey (D-NY), 77
Maxine Waters (D-CA), 76
Steny Hoyer (D-MD), 75
Joe Pitts (R-PA), 75
John Lewis (D-GA), 75
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), 74
David Price (D-NC), 74
Jim Clyburn (D-SC), 74
Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), 74
Hank Johnson (D-GA), 74
John Carter (R-TX), 73
Danny Davis (D-IL), 73
Of the 24, 18 (75%) are Democrats-- including the entire upper echelon of the House Democratic leadership-- Hoyer, Pelosi, Clyburn. You wonder about flaccid Democratic leadership? Boehner is 65. McCarthy and Scalise are both 49. There are worse things than old age-- and the House Democratic leadership includes two of Congress' most corrupt Members, Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Steve Israel (D-NY). Is the party doomed? Following the anti-populist wing-- the Republican wing-- of the Democratic Party, is the worst thing the Democratic Party could possibly do. 

Bernie Sanders laid out a program that the Democrats should embrace. Here are 12 easy steps-- easy to understand anyway-- that he is advocating and that the Democrats must get behind to help distinguish them from Republicans:
1. Rebuilding Our Roads

We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.

2. Reversing Climate Change

The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.

3. Creating Jobs

We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.

4. Protecting Unions

Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.

5. Raising the Wage

The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.

6. Pay Equity

Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country -- equal pay for equal work.

7. Making Trade Work for Workers

Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.

8. Cutting College Costs

In today's highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can't locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.

9. Breaking Up Big Banks

The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product-- over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.

10. Bringing Health Care to All

The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.

11. Ending Poverty

Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.

12. Stopping Tax Dodging Corporations

At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.
If you'd like to see Bernie Sanders run for president-- rather than just seeing the voters offered another "choice" between another Clinton and another Bush-- please consider giving his campaign a contribution.

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At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"[Harkin] argues they could have been persuaded to vote for the legislation if Obama had put more effort into lobbying them."

IF Obama had gotten up from his "It's cool to be the president" footstool and actually DID the job of being president, it could have proven to make the difference to keep the 2010 Midterms from reversing the House. He could have pressured the hesitant Democrats. He could have pumped Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe if he couldn't get all three Dems in line. He could have used Joe Biden and his Senatorial connections to twist some arms and get a real healthcare bill passed. AND he could have gotten a real stimulus bill and ended Main Street's depression that much sooner.

But no. He was too cool for school, and he waited for the Congress to send him a bill he could sign. He's still that way. The GOP tugs his choker and he does as he's bidden. He's the lamest of ducks, one with no feet to stand on.

I don't like any of the prospects for 2016, but I'm tired of that loser in the Oval Office.


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