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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Health Reform Debate: Excluding Voices of Those Who Need Reform Most

I know SHS will tell us it's "ridiculous" to suggest that campaign donations have anything to do with who's got Congress's ear on health care.

Hogwash. Money has everything to do with whose voices are heard in Washington...

...health care corporations and professional organizations have actively engaged the Blue Dogs. So far this year, the Blue Dogs' political action committee has received $301,500 from health care and health insurance PACs. [Congressional Blue Dog leader Mike] Ross, the coalition's lead negotiator, has received $100,600 for his campaign committee and a PAC that he operates.

Ross got together with health care industry donors in June, around the same time the Blue Dogs were challenging the House bill. The event brought his campaign at least $20,000 from health care PACs.

...and whose voices aren't:

[A town hall meeting last month] was a chance for Ross' constituents to be heard. It ran well over the two-hour time limit, but mostly, there was only the familiar bickering about illegal immigrants and the role of government. Just three people without insurance asked questions.

"Many of those individuals who would need a public health care option are those who are not likely to be able to take two hours out of their day to go to a public event like that town hall," says Kevin Motl, a history professor at Ouachita Baptist University who attended the meeting. "They were too busy earning hourly wages and trying to keep roofs above their children's heads. Those voices are not going to be present in that discourse."

It's a basic truth of political analysis that low-income residents — that is, those most likely to be uninsured — are less likely than middle-class people to attend town meetings and less likely to vote. To state the obvious, the poor are also less likely to make campaign contributions [Peter Overby, "Who's Representing the Uninsured on Capitol Hill?" NPR Morning Edition, 2009.09.22].

The folks who need the public option most, the folks Uncle Sam needs to insure, are the folks who are working so hard to pay the bills they don't have time to stop and ask the scoialism criers just what dope they are smoking.

Let's help the working class. Skip the mandate: create competition and save lives by insuring everyone with the public option.


  1. It has to be almost impossible to make the right choices (no matter what party you follow or convictions you have) when someone is waving a big stack of cash under your nose...

    the question is how do we get the money waving to stop for good?


    I certainly haven't figure that out yet, but I gotta think it would help in making better choices if you dont have the little stack of cash with googly-eyes staring at you all the time... :)

  2. One thing I haven't decided how I feel about yet is public financing for political campaigns. Ben Franklin pleaded that we keep high salaries out of political office as it would attract the exact opposite kind of citizen needed. Unfortunately that has been completely subverted both in the election campaigning before the office and the benefits received once political life ends.

    I just don't know how to fix it without making it worse.

  3. I don't know any easy way to make it easier for regular working folks to participate in town halls and make their voices heard when they need to work all day to make a living.

    As for public financing of political campaigns, well, Roger, I share your uncertainty there as well. I hesitate to limit how much one can spend to campaign or spread a message or argue one's point. I did have an epiphany a few summers ago (I can still see right where I was, crossing the highway on my bike by the Moonlite, turning left on my way home):

    --The social contract is all about limiting the power of any one individual or group to exert undue control over others.
    --Wealth is power.
    --It is therefore just under the social contract to limit the use (and maybe the accumulation) of wealth.

    I still haven't fully explored that reasoning and what it might lead to. But it does tell me that limiting what candidates and PACs can spend on elections may be justified.


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