Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Healthcare Reform: The Home Stretch

On the eve of the national bipartisan healthcare summit, I am proud that President Obama has not wavered in his efforts to pass real healthcare reform. He has forced both Republicans AND Democrats to come to the table, put aside partisan bickering, and offer real solutions to real problems.

The Democrats have so far shown they are ready to lead and handle the situation at hand. However, it is now up to the GOP to take the healthcare crisis seriously and prove to Americans that they are prepared to come together and support reform.

However, in a new national poll conducted by CNN, almost two-thirds of Americans think that the Republicans are not doing enough to cooperate with Obama. From their past actions and unwillingness to bring anything sufficient to the table, it seems as if they do not care what’s actually in the bill, but rather are fighting to preserve the status quo that benefits them and their corporate interests.

If Republicans really want to work in a bipartisan fashion, they should offer real amendments to the healthcare bill, instead of accusing the Democrats of creating so called “death panels”.

So when Democrats are now considering passing the legislation through reconciliation, Republicans should not be upset. After all, they have used it more than the Democrats, from Contract for America to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

One main criticism of the process is that it will show a “clear lack of consideration for the American people.” However, it would still require a majority to pass (51 votes). If a majority vote is considered unjust, then what do they think about newly elected Republican Senator Scott Brown, who narrowly won his election with 51.9%?

Although it is true that a bill passed through reconciliation will have many flaws, passing a flawed bill is better than passing no bill at all.

Healthcare is not just about medicine, but more importantly about PEOPLE. If we stand on the sidelines and do nothing, PEOPLE will continue suffering. We cannot afford to wait.

Let’s get it done!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Stimulus Package?

So you think that President Obama hasn’t done enough to counter to growing unemployment rate and slow job growth? Well think back exactly 1 year ago today, and you will recall that Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Or as it is more commonly known as, the economic stimulus package(although many people seem to have forgotten about it).

The package distributes over $700 billion into the U.S. economy over the span of 10 years. It includes federal tax cuts, expansion of unemployment benefits, domestic spending on education, infrastructure, and health care.

Many critics claim the package has not done enough. However, only one third of the package has been spent so far and it has already helped many states avoid budget cuts to their education and public safety. It has also added or saved an approximate 3 million jobs and has been passed along to American taxpayers and small businesses in the form of tax reductions.

More importantly, it helped prevent another Great Depression.

For those that worry government spending is out of control and cannot be sacrificed for the stability and security of our nation, President Obama has a plan for that, as well. This Thursday, Obama will sign an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to make recommendations on how to reduce the national debt.

However, GOP leaders have so far declined to endorse the panel, further solidifying their role as the partisan players that will do anything just for political points.

When will they get it? Hopefully they will get their acts together and act on the best interests of the American people next week during Obama televised bipartisan health care summit on Feb. 25?

Or maybe I’m just being too optimistic...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Healthcare Reform Is Still Alive

The battle for health-care reform still rages, as national legislation stalls in Congress and a new debate over a state-by-state approach begins. Some are proposing that each state decides independently over reform and enacts various pieces of legislation accordingly.

Advocates claim that imposing a national health-care reform would ignore state-wide differences in health-care markets. However, what these critics fail to understand is that without a national system set in place, health costs will continue to rise, making it increasingly difficult for those without insurance to attain it. This is what has been happening for the last 50 years. Insurance coverage was left to the states, and today we spend more on healthcare, per capita, than any other industrialized nation in the world, leaving millions uninsured.

Also, states have recently reduced coverage for individuals to balance their budgets. The federal government has greater flexibility in managing deficits, making the case for national legislation more sensible.

Although previous efforts by the Obama administration for universal healthcare have faced many setbacks, especially with the election of Republican Senator Scott Brown, the Democrats still have a majority in both the Senate and the House. There may need to be a greater push for bipartisan efforts, but enacting real reform is STILL POSSIBLE.

We need to lower insurance costs overall by expanding the pool of insured. We must enact national legislation to ensure that anyone and everyone who needs coverage will get it, and those who already have insurance will not see their premiums rise. This is an ever growing problem in the US, and is heavily tied to our suffering economic conditions.

Only until we have real health-care reform will our economy begin to prosper again, and millions of Americans receive the proper quality of life they deserve.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The New Era of Fiscal Responsibility

Today in his radio and Internet address, President Obama announced his signing of the “pay as you go” legislation, calling for fiscal restraint in Washington. The new law places new budget rules that will offset the growing deficit by requiring Congress to balance any increased spending by equal savings elsewhere.

Similar budgeting rules were in place by law from 1990 through 2002, when they expired. Obama argued that the absence of the requirement made it “too easy for President George W. Bush and lawmakers to run up spiraling deficits in recent years.”

By focusing more on passing massive tax cuts for the wealthy and allowing special interests to dominate Washington politics, the Bush Administration showed a clear lack of fiscal responsibility. This disregard for fiscal restraint accounts for much, if not all, of the $1.3 trillion federal deficit inherited by Obama.

“Now, Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else,” the president also says in Saturday’s address.

It seems simple enough to understand that you cannot continue to borrow money without trying to pay in back. This applies to both individuals AND the government. Yet during the Bush administration, it appears the common sense rules of budgeting and managing a set budget did not apply.

If only our leaders and representatives focused more on finding solutions to problems rather than
on partisan tactics and party politics. Thank you President Obama for taking the first step in fixing how Washington politics are run and how our leaders chose to conduct themselves.

I only hope others realize their mistakes before it is too late.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Freedom of Speech?

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a long-standing ban on corporations using their treasury funds to run presidential and congressional election advertisements. As a result, businesses are free to spend without constraint in support of a specific candidate.

Most Republican leaders claim the ruling defends the First Amendment’s free speech clause. However, by allowing special interest groups to influence candidates and their elections, corporate interests will dominate the campaign landscape and overshadow individual concerns, thus corrupting the political process.

Freedom of speech is guaranteed to all American people. It represents our ability to speak up and be heard by others, especially when it comes to our representation. Yet this ruling only silences our voices, and increases the influence of Wall Street lobbyists and foreign governments in our lives. Why should a select group of individuals, some who live outside our boarders, mandate how the country is run for the majority of us?

To counter some of the negative effects of this campaign finance ruling, Democrats have recently unveiled legislation that would limit foreign-controlled corporations from influencing American elections. The bill, introduced by Senator Schumer of New York and Rep. Van Hollen of Maryland, would also increase disclosure requirements for domestic corporations when making political ads.

Will Republicans continue to defend special interests and allow foreign leaders to dictate American politics? Or will they support a bill that truly defends the First Amendment?

I would urge the latter.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Recess Appointments

On Tuesday, President Obama announced he would consider using recess appointments to get several key administration nominees to their posts if Senate Republicans deny them an up-or-down vote.

Unlike pieces of legislation, the president can invoke his constitutional right to appoint nominees during a congressional recess (the next is the Presidents Day recess the week of Feb. 15). Although many conservatives are criticizing Obama’s consideration of such a process, he is the only president in the past three decades who has not used this authority by this point in his term. Within the first year that President George W. Bush was in office, he had recess appointed several nominees. Why shouldn’t President Obama?

In a time of crisis, the partisan politics of Republicans has placed many critical jobs on hold, hindering the political process and the ability of the government to function properly. Blocking executive branch nominees does not benefit anyone. This is not the time to play games and hold key nominations for the sake of short-term political gains. Now is the time to act and get things done.

If recess appointments will achieve this goal, then I see no reason to wait any longer.