Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dropping Quicker than the Temperature

.08 Acres has a great breakdown of the newest Statehouse News Poll. More of the same for Governor Romney and LG Healey. Whether their poor performance is attributed to events reflecting negatively on Republicans nationwide or to state issues, it's clear that that residents of the Bay State are ready for real, attentive leadership.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Clear It With the Chamber ...

One of the mantras of Republicans towards the end FDR's Presidency was "clear it with Sidney." Chanted in jeering reference to FDR's order to clear the Democratic ticket, filled by Senator Harry S. Truman, with Sidney Hillman, head of the CIO-PAC, it was meant show how the Democratic party was beholden to big Labor. Well maybe it's time to start chanting, "clear it with the Chamber" when our current Governor proposes a new initiative.

Normally, there is one issue that moderate Republicans won't balk on, and that's the environment. While I'd like to think that this is due to an understanding that the environment is the linchpin for development and progress, it's more likely because environmental issues resonate deeply with soccer moms and other swing voters that are necessary to win election, especially when running statewide. Understanding this, I was disappointed, and confused by Governor Romney's (R-Salt Lake City, Iowa, South Carolina, Michigan, etc.) last second reluctance to agree to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Governor Romney need not sell the business community on his "pro-business" bonafides. He is the self proclaimed CEO of the Commonwealth, even if he is an absentee executive at that. However, balking at environmental initiatives would seem to hurt Romney if he were to run for re-election in Massachusetts (please, keep the laughter to a minimum) or if he were to pitch his appeal to independents either in the Republican presidential primary or in the Vice Presidential nominee search process. More than anything, Romney's foot dragging on RGGI looks like a calculated political move. Something that will reassure his base (the Corporate Conservatives) and reaffirm the belief of many independents and centrists that the Governor is just another politician.

Perhaps the most striking comment in the Globe's reporting of the delay, was the quote from a Romney spokesperson, who stated, ''Governor Romney believes we should reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but we need to make sure that we do not harm the energy-consuming businesses in Massachusetts." I'm pretty sure every business, let alone every individual, consumes a decent amount of energy. It's time the Commonwealth, the region, and the Nation, moved beyond the false dichotomies that have held back progress on important initiatives, like RGGI. Those who argue that market-based solutions to greenhouse gas emissions would do irreparable damage to businesses, anywhere, assume that businesses are stagnant organizations that cannot adapt to changing climates. I would challenge that assumption, and if Governor Romney had any backbone he would too.

279 days.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving

"Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds."—Theodore Roosevelt, 1901

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. "It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union." -- Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Other Side of the Coin ...

Recently, there was a brush up in the mainstream press when Bill Clinton had some harsh words about the Iraq War and President Bush's handling thereof. 42's critique, which was tepid in comparison to the recent attacks launched by Mean Jean Schmidt and VPOTUS, came as Senator Hillary Clinton remained relatively quiet on Iraq. This isn't the first time the Clinton's have played both sides of the coin. When they were residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, it was commonly held that Hillary was the liberal lion of the family and would make sure that deficit reduction didn't cut to deep, after all, she was the former head of the Children's Defense Fund.

Well, the Clinton's weren't the first political family to play both sides of the coin. We here in Massachusetts know what family invented that game, and they continue to play it perfectly today ... the Kennedys. Back in the 1960s, Bobby, Jack and their father assuaged Southern conservatives, while ensuring Northeastern liberals they were truly "one of them." It may not be the most morally pure move, but it got JFK elected and would have gotten RFK elected.

While much was lost when JFK and RFK were taken from us, the Kennedys, despite all the bumps and bruises, never lost the ability to play the game. Their political acumen was on clear display when Citizen's Energy CEO Joe Kennedy came out, somewhat equivocally, in favor of the Cape Wind project, a project his Uncle, the Senator, opposes. Personally, I'm not sure where I fall on Cape Wind, although I'm inclined to support it. That being said, watching the Kennedy's and the Clinton's play politics is watching poetry in motion. Some got it, some don't.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Idealist Without Illusions

So much has been said and so much has been written on the incalculable loss of the future that America suffered on this day, 42 years ago, that it is beyond this humble resident of the Commonwealth to add anything new or pertinent. Let me rather say this, before giving way to JFK's own words, each day, I run 1.5 miles down Mass Ave to JFK Park and pause briefly to read the late President's own words, which have been engraved on several posts throughout the green space. It may be a silly ritual, but in a world where our leaders seem bent on dividing the nation instead of uniting it, it's a necessary ritual. Necessary to remember that leaders can inspire and necessary to remember that progress is possible if our leaders provide a clear moral vision for our nation. With that, I give way to some of my favorite JFK quotes

"Our aim should not be 'states dissevered, discordant, or belligerent; but one country, one constitution, one destiny'" - paraphrasing Daniel Webster on the Senate floor

"The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine where we use power, or power uses us" - October 1963, Amherst College

"The most single powerful force in the world today is man's eternal desire to be free and independent." - July 1957

"To sum it all up: we seek peace, but we shall not surrender"

"Let us pray that there will be no veterans of any further war - not because all shall have perished but because all shall have learned to live together in peace" November 11, 1961

"While maintaining our readiness for war, let us exhaust every avenue for peace" - October 1963, Amherst College

"In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself." - Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

A Southern Drawl Says It All ...

Reading E.J. Dionne's Op-Ed today, I was reminded of one of my favorite members of Congress, Representative Gene Taylor (D-Gulfport, Mississippi). Gene Taylor isn't liberal, at all. He's a conservative, southern, populist Democrat. He'd probably disagree with me, just as much as I'd disagree with some Republicans, but when it really matters, he stands up for whats right and is never afraid to speak moral truth to power. And if you have never heard a Southern Democrat speak passionately on the House floor, well, you are missing out. Below is the full text of Representative Taylor's floor statement, read it.

Mr. TAYLOR of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, in south Mississippi tonight, the people who have electricity, who might be at a VFW hall or a parish church hall, who are living in two- and three-man igloo tents waiting for Congress to do something, have absolutely got to think this place has lost their minds. The same Congress that voted to give the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans tax breaks every time. Every time. Without a tax break. Out of the goodness of their hearts, no? To help their big contributors.
Who is kidding who? The same America that are spending 4 to $6 billion a month in Iraq where, by the way, 4,000 Mississippians are fighting tonight, 15 have already come home dead, a dozen more have been to Walter Reed, who never asked the Iraqis for an offset are suddenly saying in the name of the poor folks in Mississippi who lost their houses, poor folks in New Orleans whose houses were flooded, we can't do this unless we have to hurt some other Americans to help some Americans? Suddenly after taking care of those who had the most, we have got to hurt the least. To help the folks in Mississippi?
Folks, this is insane. I have sat here. I remember the vote. May 9, 2001. I remember a President who said he could cut taxes, increase spending and pay down the debt. We are $2.4 trillion deeper in debt than that night. I did not vote for that. Almost all of you did. I did not vote to tell the folks who make hundreds of millions of dollars a year, you deserve a tax break. You did. I voted for offsets for the war in Iraq because, yes, we went to war. My goodness, kids from Mississippi are dying there. I have got a kid who lost both legs volunteering in my office to answer the phone to help folks who were hurt in Katrina. Mississippi has paid their dues. Why should they have to pay their dues twice?
This is an emergency. The one time you borrow money is when you go to war and for an emergency. And so, now you have to have an offset? Don't tell me you are being fiscally responsible. I sat here for 5 years and watched you take a budget surplus and run it into $2.5 trillion of new debt. So let's put these things in perspective. Yes, I was told the Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction and they are getting ready to use them.
Yes, I was told that you could cut taxes, increase spending and balance the budget. But this is the cruelest lie of all, that the only way you can help the people who have lost everything is by hurting somebody else.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Inescapable Dynamic

There is a single reality that any Democratic candidate for the Corner Office must address if he/she is to be considered a legitimate candidate. The reality is that although voters trust their local Democrats, they don't trust the Legislature as a whole, or at least they don't trust the Legislature enough to pass over complete control of the Commonwealth's government to the Democratic Party. My hometown paper, the Berkshire Eagle, tried to make this point in an editorial today, and did so, albeit in a muddled and somewhat confusing manner.

While the Eagle theorizes that the inability of AG Reilly or Mr. Patrick to pull away from the Governor is the result of their inability to stand up to "special interests," I'd have to disagree. They specifically cite the "influential insurance companies" as a special interest that Democrats have not stood up against. I guess the Globe didn't make deliveries out to Pittsfield last week, because if it did, the editors would have known that AG Reilly has been standing up to just those interests. That omission aside, I believe the lack of a larger gap (no matter how the Eagle paints it, a 4 point lead is a 4 lead for the AG) in the polling numbers reflects a lack of focus by Commonwealth voters on the 2006 Race, and for good reason. Working families are more concerned with how they are going to keep warm, keep food on the table, and afford healthcare. They're more concerned with providing for their kids come Christmas, than they are with politics. And for good reason.

While the Eagle is right to point out that voters are looking for a Governor who will stand up to special interests, they should be careful in their analysis. The current polling numbers aren't a reflection on either of the two Democratic candidates, so much as they are a reflection on the lack of attention being paid to the race right now. Come late winter and early spring, I think we'll see those undecideds (about 22%) start breaking ... and I think I know who they'll break towards.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Little Help for LiHEAP

Although I might disagree with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, especially in how he chooses to critique the Bush Administration, I have to give him his due when he's right. One of those occassions is now, as the eccentric Venezuelan has brokered a deal to ship 12 million gallons of home heating oil to Massachusetts next month. The deal, arranged by Representative William Delahunt and Citizen Energy CEO Joe Kennedy, will ensure that 45,000 low-income families can afford to keep their homes warm in the coming New England winter.

It doesn't take a degree in economics to realize that home heating prices, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, put a cramp on working families' budgets. Although LiHEAP (Low Income Heat Energy Assistance Program) has bipartisan, regional support, deals such as this show how states truly can serve as progressive laboratories. Unfortunately, due to chronic underfunding, this deal won't expand coverage to more families in the Commonwealth, but it will ensure that more families aren't left out in the cold come the holidays.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Moving Forward Together: A Rejoinder

Before I address a few of the thoughtful points that Andy brought up in response to my post about the direction of the Democratic party I have to admit, I love debates and I love ideas. Quite possibly the best book I've read since undergrad follows the development of the major ideas that shaped modern American thought. In The Metaphysical Club, Oliver Wendell Holmes states, "the best test of truth is the power of that thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market" (the quote is excerpted from Holmes historic dissent in Abrams vs. United States). Aside from being an incredibly powerful sentiment, Holmes words are relevant to the debate going on in the Democratic party, in our country today, and on a much smaller scale between Andy and I.

First, Andy rightly corrects me that fiscal responsibility and budgetary discipline isn't a matter of one's political leanings. To clarify my position, I would argue that the priority given to fiscal responsibility and discipline, and the steps one would be willing to take to achieve budget surpluses (again) are generally indicative of where one may lie on the simplistic political spectrum. As much as I would like to think we could restore all of the progressivity that has been stripped from tax code over the past 25 years over night, realistically its impossible.

Second, on the issue of abortion ... I in no way meant that the left should cede the right to privacy. Rather, I believe that the Democratic party needs to more carefully and thoughtfully address the concerns of individuals who are opposed to abortion, especially for religious reasons. President Clinton did this by starting the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and more recently, Senator Clinton addressed the issue in her remarks on the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade decision. Neither the President, nor the Senator felt the Democratic party should renounce its stand on choice, but they did believe that we should and could speak directly to the concerns that many have with the issue. Constructive dialogue never hurt anyone, and it does far more to build a governing progressive majority, than attack ads and heated rhetoric.

Finally, on elections and the nature of any party, but especially the Democratic party, Andy and I, by my estimation, are going to have to agree to disagree. I'll admit, I'm more pragmatic than I am idealistic on this issue. We are the minority party, we are out of power, and we have lost every election since 1996's presidential and 1998's midterm congressional (and those gains were minimal at best). The Republican party was in much the same position after 1964 trouncing of Senator Barry Goldwater by LBJ. Looking at how the Republicans won elections, it was by capturing the vote of those who felt the Democratic party had abandoned them. The current Republican party has ignored and abandoned not only their traditional supporters, but also Independents, and the country as a whole. The Democratic party has an incredible opportunity to capture the support of these voters and build a progressive, responsible governing majority in the 21st century. Now we just need to make sure it doesn't pass us bye. The first step in doing just that is conversations like this, about moving forward together.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Open Question ...

Having just taken a look at the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization's analysis of the House and Senate passed Healthcare Reform plans, and clearly preferring the House version, I came back to a thought I had before ... what does this mean for the 2006 Governor's campaign? Specifically, what does it mean for the general election? Does this success on the part of DiMasi and Traviligni defuse an important issue for the Dem nominee? (Note: I am in no way saying health care should be shelved until after 2006, that would be a moral abomination) Or even in the best case scenario (passage of the a mainly unchanged House bill) is there enough room for improvement that health care reform can continue to be an issue?

As before, I continue to profess an ignorance on health care, aside from the general politics and my personal view that it should be universal, so this is less a post and more an open thread. Any thoughts on the political implications of the health care reform debate in the Commonwealth would be highly appreciated

P.S. Congrats to Governor Rod Blagojevich. Nothing is more important to us than our kids.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Move to the Center? No. Move to the Left? No. Move Forward Together? Yes.

Until Democrats win back at least one body of the Congress, or the White House, and probably after that, we will continue what I believe is a self-defeating debate. The debate, which began in earnest after the failed 1988 candidacy of Governor Dukakis, but has its roots in the turmoil of the late 1960's, has done more to divide Democrats and ensure Republican control of the government, than it has to find solutions to what ails the Donkey.

The debate has always struck an odd chord with me, as I felt myself pulled in both directions. On the "Move to the center"side, I see the strategic argument for repositioning of the party in order to win elections. After all, a party exists to win elections, and if it doesn't do that, it is useless. Further, the argument for fiscal responsibility, deficit, and debt elimination, are personally appealing to me, and good politics. Finally, as a graduate of Catholic schools on a variety of levels, I believe that Democrats need to be more open to pro-life members in the party, speak more clearly about how faith informs their values, and address the concerns of socially moderate voters.

However, I do not believe that in addressing these issues the Democratic Party should, or can, abandon its commitment to the least fortunate in our society. We must, as Robert Kennedy so eloquently said after the assassination of MLK, "dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world." While we will have differences over how to do so, we must work continuously to ensure that the American Dream is an achievable reality and not a pie-in-the sky myth. This means increasing the minimum wage, improving our schools, expanding health care, and improving public transportation and housing. To often to "move to the center" crowd has ignored the implications of their policy proposals and sought to castigate the Left to earn credibility with the perceived center-Right. Cutting of your nose to spite your face never did anyone any good.

So what is the solution? Move forward together. Three simple words, but I think they were they are the heart and soul of what Senator Barack Obama was talking about when he wrote "Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party." Americans are wary of labels, wary of false choices, and wary of loaded rhetoric. However, they are also wary of crumbling schools, deteriorating roads, and an environment that is repeatedly abused and rarely defended. It has often been said, in cases of division in any form of society, that "there is far more than unites us than there is that divides us." Democrats must take this message to heart. The overriding goal for the Party should be crafting a message of progress for America and a vision for the future. This message and vision should be a unifying one. A message that appeals to a broad swath of voters, but does not abandon our core values. It can be done, it should be done, and it must be done.

Faith With Deeds?

The post election debate about "values" and the need for the Democratic party to more frequently, clearly, and thoughtfully speak of the important role that faith plays in their lives, in their communities, and in their societies, has been equal parts interesting, confusing, and overwhelming.

The most recent chapter of this story has focused on the role that faith played in the election of Lt. Governor Tim Kaine, a Catholic, to succeed Governor Mark Warner, in the bright red state of Virginia. While I believe that the election is more a sign of Warner's popularity than it was of anything Kaine did, it was impressive how comfortable and genuine Kaine was, in the face of Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore's incessant attacks.

The Governor-elect's comfort with public expressions of his personal faith comes in direct contrast to a recent Presidential candidate, who sounded like he was giving a Theology 101 lecture in the few times he addressed faith on the campaign trail. While the junior Senator from the Commonwealth has trouble stating anything succinctly, in the case of his personal faith, values, and belief, I have always thought it was less a lack of conviction and more a belief that promoting or professing his convictions was taboo. Well, this article from the Ideas section of the Sunday Boston Globe would seem to support my hypothesis.

John Kerry author of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, or WRFA. Who knew? Not me, and I would assume none of the voters who claimed that "values" were decisive in casting their ballots (I would like to know what else would inform how one votes). The point isn't that I believe Kerry authoring this legislation should have been enough to win the election. The point is HE NEVER MENTIONED IT. Why not? There's a chance he didn't want to tick off many liberals who fear the legislation, arguing it would allow doctors, nurses, et. al to refuse to provide reproductive care of various types (even though Senator Kerry specifically made sure it would not, see the article). But that couldn't be it. Not to be curt, but who else would have NARAL, etc. supported? Exactly. So it could only be one thing, Kerry either wasn't comfortable discussing his personal faith, or his advisors felt it would only do more harm than good.

Sure its easy to pickapart the KE '04 after the fact, but it's infuriating to think that either a candidate or a campaign, felt that faith was untouchable, irrelevant, or at worst, a negative. Progressives must become more comfortable speaking about how their faith/values informs their decisions and positions. No matter the role it played, Lt. Governor Kaine defended his positions and beliefs, while defusing the cultural/social wedge issues that extreme conservatives have used for years to win campaigns. It's time to stand up for what we believe, not hide from who we are.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Cut Too Deep

While there was some good news today, with reports out of the Capital that Republican leaders in the House pulled the budget reconciliation bill that would mean $55 billion in cuts from a variety of poverty reduction and social investments, the odds are that the bill will still go through. For Progressives, in the current environment (no matter how sweet the VA and NJ wins were), it can be tough to ramp uo for every fight with the extreme Right, considering political realities and their track record. However, I can't stand silent on what I believe to be the most egregious cut proposed.

The House Agriculture Committee, in looking for ways to save cash, decided to look past the gigantic subsidies they pay argibusiness each year and target Food Stamps, to the tune of $844 billion. A cut of this proportion would mean between 350,000 and 450,000 households, mostly working poor, would no longer receive benefits. It would most likely mean an increase in hunger in the United States, would definitely mean an increase in households experiencing food insecurity, and would further increase the load of social welfare that states, muncipalities, and community/faith-based organizations would be expected to carry.

Although the absurd nature of this cut, considering the options available, needs little highlighting, the logic behind it was further discredited by a recent Department of Agriculture (USDA) report. According to "Household Food Security in the United States, 2004," the percentage of households experiencing food insecurity in the United States increased last year, fro, 11.2 to 11.9 percent. Now forget about the percentage points, and remember, this is working families we are talking about. And that .7 percent, actually means about 400,000 MORE are going to experience food insecurity in the next year (this does not account for the effect of the proposal currently being debated in the House). I'm not sure if there's ever been a time where politics was rational, or policymaking made sense, but if there was, the leaders from that time would be cringing if they saw what had become of their trade.

I don't pretend to assume that the Food Stamp program will be spared in the coming months and weeks. Like most parts of the social safety net, it's been unfairly stigmatized, unrelentlessly attacked, and severely diminished since the days of Sen. McGovern's Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. But I do believe, that in the coming years, leaders who tackle supposedly "intractable" issues (like hunger, persistent poverty, climate change, nuclear proliferation, corruption in government, etc.) in an earnest and open way, will be rewarded. That's the reason I voted for former Senator John Edwards in the primaries and it's the reason he'll have my vote in 2008. I only hope that more of our leaders will look to speak not merely about the issues their pollsters deem signficant. It's time of the real leaders to stand up, stand out, and help move us forward.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How Sweep It Is?

Washington Post political blogger Chris Cilliza and the AP are both reporting that Democrats have swept the two off year Gubenatorials.

The sound you hear is the steam being gather by the "Draft Mark Warner" Movement.

Health Care Reform ... What Will it Mean in Practice?

Now that midterms at Tufts have passed, I've got a little bit of free time. Unfortunately for the blog, I've spent most of time trying to stay updated on the big gubenatorials in Virginia and New Jersey. As most know, Virginia's election could have serious implications for the 2008 Presidential, as soon to be former Democratic Governor Mark Warner is expected to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination. And lest we forget, the last two democrats win Presidentials were red state Governors.

Anyways, since I've been less than prolific lately, I decided to bring in some fresh blood. Below is an analysis of how the current healthcare proposals would effect the Commonwealth's community hospitals. It's the work of a friend who is currently a Project Manager at Cape Cod Healthcare. As much as I agree with Michael on the importance of clarity of message, I think it's also important to see how reform will play out day-to-day. While Jay's work isn't cummulative, it does add an important piece to the debate.

Just a little FYI before the article. Cape Cod Health restricts Jay's internet access, so any comments might take a while to get back to, as they will go through me to him and back. Anyways, here we go

Legislative effort should help community hospitals across the state

If any one of the healthcare overhaul plans under consideration on Beacon Hill passes in tact, it will help our community hospitals financially under the simple premise “something is better than nothing.”

With a half million people in Massachusetts without health insurance, the community hospital emergency room has become a safety net. Emergency rooms treat the very sick who have nowhere else to turn, get expensive care and as a result, drive up hospital costs. The proposed coverage of 500,000 state residents with high deductibles will certainly help community hospitals in Massachusetts who face slim operating margins while balancing quality measures and heavy government regulation.

The proposed legislation is clearly a shift of the burden of responsibility on to the people of Massachusetts instead of the employers and community hospitals as in year’s past. Before community hospital’s can rejoice in what appears to be a “win,” it is worth noting the impact of high deductible plans. Currently, about 60,000 people have such insurance in Massachusetts, fewer than 1 percent. Nationwide, 1 million to 2 million are enrolled in high deductible plans according to industry estimates. Under Romney’s plan, the uninsured would have a high deductible plan that would require them to pay the first $250 to $1,000 of their annual healthcare bills. The benefit to people would be lower monthly premiums.

What does this mean for a community hospital and the people they serve? One benefit would be the emergency room serving its original purpose of treating true “emergencies.” The uninsured would certainly think twice about showing up at the doors of the emergency room with a sporadic cough with the cost now coming from their very own pocket. Emergency rooms across the state would see a decrease in patient waiting times and greater care would be given to those who actually need it. However, critics of the proposed legislation of higher out-of-pocket expenses say it will encourage people to forgo routine doctor visits and preventive care, like pap smears and mammograms. They claim that patients will head to their community hospital only when they are extremely sick and it will result in higher costs for all stakeholders involved.

The decision to come to one of our community hospitals in a care setting is a personal choice. Preventative care saves lives and money. A high deductible plan that provides coverage for preventative care would not only benefit the patient, but the community hospital as well. The proposed legislation would give 500,000 people health insurance in Massachusetts that currently show up at our doors with nothing at all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Common sense in the Commonwealth

The American immigration system needs complete and total reform. What it does not need is partisan "solutions" to illegal immigration. For years, arch conservatives have been offering up simple, sweeping, and illogical plans to reform the system. Generally, these plans ignore the human lives that have become entangled in the bureaucratic mess of INS, BCIS, DHS, or whatever alphabet soup is charged with enforcing immigration law this week, all under the auspices of "cracking down." Thankfully, the Commonwealth has been managed to keep it's own debate about immigration policy on a higher plane ... until recently.

It seems, Lt. Governor Kerry Healey (R - Palatial estates of Beverly) has decided that it's time to step out from the shadow of Governor Romney. Yesterday, Healey came out against legislation being debated in the State House that would allow children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at Massachusetts' public institutes of higher education. Healey's position on the legislation was not the real surprise. What was truly surprising was her lack of compassion for the plight of such immigrants and her insistence that "they should go to private schools" (Quick aside: in state tuition and fees at UMass is $9,300. Cost of a private, four year college is $23,00/year). Attorney General Tom Reilly was right to say that even President Bush has a "more compassionate, more understanding, and, frankly, a more realistic view" of immigration reform.

No matter your views on immigration policy, it is clear that the children of undocumented immigrants, for too long, have been pawns in a political chess game. They have been born in a nation that they cannot truly call home, yet they know no other land. Further, the political climate surrounding immigration politics rarely permits itself to common sense deliberations, solutions, and progress. Attorney General Tom Reilly, and the supporters of the bill in the House and Senate, realize this and by putting their political capital behind this common sense, compassionate reform, they help Massachusetts take an important step forward in ensuring that all born in the Commonwealth truly have a shot at the American Dream.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Leaderless Nation

Yesterday, depending on the outcome of the Alito nomination, may be a day that political junkies remember for years. It will be for me, but for all the wrong reasons. The only other nation to which I bare an allegiance, the Red Sox Nation, has lost it's leader. We had wandered in the desert for 86 years and he delivered us to the Promised Land. The Red Sox Nation should be grateful to Theo for his service, and we should be mindful that his loss leaves us without a real leader. It's a beautiful late fall day in Boston, but there's something missing.