On domestic policy, progressively speaking, last week wasn’t so terrible for Obama, looking at the latest Senate health care bill and the new House financial industry reform bill. But the pwoggie bloggie coverage of him was pretty damn negative. (Perhaps understandable in the backwash of his War is Peace Prize and rapid escalation in Afghanistan, but I’m focusing on domestic policy.)

Medicare 55-64:

I’m a bit behind the pwoggie politicos, who all seem very upset (Jason Rosenbaum, Jane Hamsher, the AFL-CIO) about the Senate ditching the pathetically feeble public option but offering in its place Medicare for uninsured people ages 55 and 64. Sucks if you’re 54 and under, but we’ll all be 55 someday, right?? So, good on all of us? And it being for uninsured folks only: hey, without cost controls on insurance plans in Obama’s insurance deform, employers will be foisting crap insurance on us or ditching it altogether over over the next lost decade. And employees will start demanding their companies NOT provide health care as a benefit if Medicare at decent rates becomes available.

(Okay, yeah, right, this morning the White House is telling Harry Reid that Medicare 55-64 is a bad idea. Alright, now _that_, if true, is worth getting upset at Obama over.)

Of course, the 55-64ers will have to pay for their Medicare (but why can’t we force their employers, if they have them, to kick in their fair share?), it won’t be a welfare program for them like it mostly still is for 65 and uppers. But there’s a real need here that the legislation would fill:

Currently, there are about four million people in that age group who are uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They often have a hard time finding or affording coverage.

And just look who’s opposed to the idea: Joe Liberman, the hospitals, the doctors, and the Wall Street Journal. What a fine bunch of assholes to piss off.

Q: Why don’t doctors and hospitals like this new proposal?

A: They already dislike Medicare because the government reimburses them at a lower rate than private insurers . . .

Uh, yeah, that’s right, Medicare means less money for the already radically overpaid doctor class and private hospital industry shareholders and execs. What’s not to like? And would a public option have assured that?

While private contracting has benefited executives and shareholders, it has increased costs and worsened quality because health care cannot meet the fundamental requirements for a functioning market. It is fashionable to view patients as consumers, but seriously ill people (who consume most care) cannot shop around, reduce demand when suppliers raise prices, or accurately appraise quality. They necessarily rely on their doctor’s advice on which tests and treatments to “purchase.”

Even for sophisticated buyers like government, the “product” of health care is notoriously difficult to evaluate, particularly since doctors and hospitals create the data used to evaluate and reward them. When Tenet hospitals did heart surgery on healthy patients, the surgical outcomes appeared first rate. Even for honest firms, careful selection of lucrative patients and services is the key to success. Conversely, meeting community needs often threatens profitability and hence institutional survival. In the past decade 425 emergency departments—magnets for both very sick and uninsured patients unable to pay—have closed. Overcrowded US emergency departments turn away an ambulance once a minute, on average.

So, let’s urge our heroes NOT to compromise with Joe Liberman any longer, and just get the current bill through during ‘reconciliation’. Or, attach the latest version of reform to the Defense Appropriations bill. Or wtf.

Okay, obviously the annual limit on benefit payments bullshit that Reid dropped into the current bill needs to be axed. My God what an asshole. But, okay, get that crap out and is the final bill anti-progressive?

House Financial Reform Bill:

Briefly about the House financial reform bill, which at least prominent pwog Jerome Armstrong likes. It could’ve been much better, but the following doesn’t sound terrible:

The legislation included a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, an innovation fiercely opposed by banks and some Democrats. In the final vote, 27 Democrats – and every Republican present – voted against the bill, which also gives the government powers to seize and wind down a failing financial institution, push more derivatives through clearing houses and give investors a non-binding vote on directors’ pay.

Of course such agencies are consistently captured by the industries they’re supposed to regulate, but just having such an agency is still a progressive step imho. Yeah the legislation also has some gigantic loopholes that guarantee 40% of derivatives trading will remain unregulated and unmonitored (I avoid the word ‘regulated’ for good reason I think, but monitored is better than nothing), but doesn’t that mean that 60% of such transactions will now be monitored in some form? C’mon, seriously, that’s progress. Okay, again, ya gotta take out the provision that pre-empts state regulation of banks, Mr. Frank, that guts much of what the bill is ostensibly attempting to do. But, otherwise, the bill seems to represent progress.

Did anyone expect _any_ progressive financial reform of Wall Street during a Barack Obama administration? On balance, the country may get that from Barney Frank’s bill. As Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says:

There’s nothing here in terms of preventing [another financial] meltdown, but it goes a little bit of the way towards protecting consumers.

Let’s make sure legislators know a lot of us are watching closely and want a better bill.

BTW I: Matt Taibbi has an excellent and much more negative take on the emerging financial legislation, in case you haven’t noticed it yet.


Despite the House action, final legislation is not imminent. The Senate is still developing its own measure for debate early next year and any Senate bill is likely to have substantial differences from the House measure, necessitating further negotiations.

Anyway, yes, it’s a weak bill as HuffPost details, but it likely — taking out pre-emption of state authority — will be better than what was in place beforehand.