A Call for Critical Thought, Not Violence

Argument is an intellectual exchange of ideas.  It doesn’t mean coming to blows and it’s a shame today’s political climate has resulted in violent threats.   If you are passionate about health care reform or any political issue, write letters, make phone calls, conduct research and then vote. Don’t make threats, insult or act violently.

The recent passage of health care reform has caused many to resort to violence.  Both the Republicans and Democrats are receiving threats. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) said someone fired a shot at a building that broke a window at his campaign office.  “Security threats against Members of Congress is not a partisan issue and they should never be treated that way.”

A March 25 Washington Post article states that there were, “at least 10 House Democrats reporting death threats or incidents of harassment or vandalism at their district offices over the past week.”

Many trace these threats to an Alabama blogger who tried to insight violence on March 19.  He posted on his website Sipsey Street Irregulars “So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows.  Break them NOW.”  The Washington Post reported, “These were the words of Mike Vanderboegh, a 57-year-old former militiaman from Alabama, who took to his blog urging people who opposed the historic health-care reform legislation — he calls it “Nancy Pelosi’s Intolerable Act” — to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic offices nationwide.” Vanderboegh refuses to apologize because he really believes that throwing bricks is an effective way to get a message across. 

The FBI and Capitol Police are aggressively investigating the threats that have come in the form of hate-filled voice mail messages and emails, broken windows and even shots fired.  Hazmat crews in New York City responded to the Queens office of Rep. Weiner (D-NY) on March 25 when an envelope arrived containing a suspicious white powder as well as a threatening letter. 

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called the incidents unacceptable.  In Fox News Channel interview, he said, “I know many Americans are angry over this health-care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren’t listening, but, as I’ve said, violence and threats are unacceptable. That’s not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard — but let’s do it the right way.”

No one who makes threats, hurls racial slurs or resorts to name calling is a critical thinker.

Read more at http://www.theamericano.com

Gaps in Health Care Protection for Children

When will children with pre-existing conditions be covered with the new health care reform legislation?

The Associated Press reported March 23, “The Obama administration is scrambling to fix a potential problem with a much-touted benefit of its new health care law, a gap in coverage improvements for children in poor health, officials said Tuesday.” 

This is a big concern for many Americans including myself because I have a four year old son who was first hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus (commonly known as RSV) and Bronchiolitis at five months old.  Since then he has had pneumonia and several other respiratory problems a few times a year.  This history of respiratory problems could be considered a pre-existing condition and if we choose to switch insurances, I worried a new insurance company could refuse him coverage. 

President Obama has talked about how the new protections for children in this bill at nearly every speech advocating its passage.  This was one of the things in the health care bill I supported whole-heartedly. 

When as spokesperson for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said full protection for children would not come until 2014, I felt misled and angry.  Why is the legislation so complex that even the President can’t understand it fully? Or did Obama knowingly mislead the American public? 

On Friday March 19, Obama spoke to an audience at George Mason University in a campaign-like speech and said, “This is a patient’s bill of rights on steroids.  Starting this year, thousands of uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions will be able to purchase health insurance, some for the first time.  Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage–this year.” The crowd cheered and I was also pleased. 

Obama didn’t sound a bit confused then.  How could he have been wrong about something so important?

The administration assured reporters on March 22 that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would resolve the situation by issuing yet more regulations.  HHS spokesman Nick Papas said, “To ensure that there is no ambiguity on this point, the secretary of HHS is preparing to issue regulations next month making it clear that the term ‘pre-existing’ exclusion applies to both a child’s access to a plan and his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan for all plans newly sold in this country six months from today.” 

I don’t feel assured and I’m left with more questions.  Why isn’t legislation more transparent?  Is it written to intentionally mislead and confuse Americans?  Critical thinkers must demand more of our elected officials.

Now Can We Focus on Jobs, Immigration Reform and National Security?

For the past several months, talk of health care has dominated political conversations. Now that health care reform has passed, we can turn our attention to other important issues that have been ignored or at least not been given the attention needed–jobs, immigration reform and national security.  

The March 29 issue of Time magazine focuses on jobs.  The article, How to Create a Job, reports that the economy lost a net of 36,000 jobs in February.  It states, “ Were the economy to magically start generating jobs at a healthy clip—say 200,000 a month—it would still take 3 ½ years to return to where we were, never mind the jobs we need for new entrants to the workforce.”    In his State of the Union address, President Obama said jobs would be his number one focus.  Congress did pass a jobs creation bill on March 17 which included $13 billion of tax incentives to encourage companies to hire unemployed Americans.  This is far from a quick or permanent fix, however.  Private enterprise, not government, is the big job creator.  In order for companies, big and small, to overcome their fear of taking risks in today’s troubled economy, confidence must be restored.  It’s difficult to take a risk on new ideas, technologies, and production when companies are still feeling effects from the longest recession since the Great Depression and consumers have cut back on spending.  How can that confidence be restored when companies are so uncertain about how new health care reform regulations will impact their bottom lines?

Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on the National Mall on Sunday March 21 out of frustration with the lack of action in Congress to overhaul the country’s immigration system.  Obama promised to make fixing a broken immigration system a priority in his first year of the presidency, but it’s been more than a year and little has been accomplished.  Sunday’s  demonstrators came from all over the nation by busses, cars and planes.  Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) voiced his own disappointment in an article published March 19 on The Americano website, “Now, in his first year alone, the President has deported a record 387,790 immigrants, ordering ICE to remove 13 percent more undocumented immigrants than George Bush did during his last year in office.” What has happened to Obama’s commitment to helping families torn apart, bringing “12 million people out of the shadows” and stopping employers from exploiting those without proper documentation?

Obama’s national security policies have faced major scrutiny in light of a security breach when Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashed a state dinner at the White House in November, an attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airplane at Christmas, and now a possible reversal on the 9/11 trials.  White House officials are reportedly recommending that Obama reconsider trying the self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other accused terrorists in New York City.  Opting for military tribunals is far better for Americans.  Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama had wanted to prosecute the terrorists in civilian court in New York City.  During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay prison and was a vocal opponent of military tribunals. A civil trial in New York City would be bad for all Americans because of the estimated $1 billion cost and significant national security risks.  According a March 5 Fox News report, “The president has already disappointed his supporters by maintaining military tribunals after temporarily suspending them, by continuing the option of indefinite detention and by faltering in his vow to close Guantanamo Bay one year after his inauguration.”  What are the missing pieces to this national security puzzle? 

Now that health care reform has passed, it is time for critical thinking Americans to start asking questions about other very important national concerns.  We must now focus on jobs, immigration reform and national security.

Can the Ends Really Justify the Means?

If the cause is just, shouldn’t the means to pass health care reform be free of legal trickery? Most of the 37 representatives that voted no on the bill last time around are up for reelection and are therefore very concerned about how their constituents will react to this most important vote that will impact all Americans.

The fate of health care reform is at stake and on March 17 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama helped to persuade many including Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) despite the fact that the bill does not contain the public option he fought for. He said, “This is not the bill I wanted to support.” But after a trip to his district and much discussion, Obama got Kucinich’s vote.

Some representatives refuse to vote in favor of the Senate bill because they don’t like some of what is in it and they don’t want it held against them in November. But it must pass before any of the changes House members want can be made. How then can this be accomplished? A little known rule called “Deem and Pass” may be the solution. The House would not vote on the Senate bill directly, but would vote on a separate bill that does contain the changes and then the Senate bill would be “deemed to have passed.”

In a very contentious interview on March 17 with Bret Baier of Fox News, Obama was challenged to explain why, after weeks of saying “the United States Congress owes the American people a final up of down vote on health care” he could support use of the deem and pass rule. Obama responded, “But here’s the thing, Bret, I mean, the reason that I think this conversation ends up being a little frustrating is because the focus entirely is on Washington process. And yes, I have said that is an ugly process. It was ugly when Republicans were in charge, it was ugly were in Democrats were in charge.”

The process is ugly. But when the bill represents one-sixth of the U.S. economy, it seems a traditional vote is necessary even if it takes longer to pass.

What are the changes respresentatives are so concerned about? One is the impact this bill may have on the deficit and on March 18, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its estimated cost of the updated package. CBO said it would cost $940 billion over the next decade. This would not add to the deficit which remains a key concern for many representatives. House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said, “We are absolutely giddy over the great news that we’ve gotten from the CBO.”

Obama promised to expand coverage while slashing the deficit. This strategy is intended to win over fiscal conservatives. He delivered on this promise. But there are other concerns.

Rep. John Boccier (D-OH) voiced another concern on CNN’s “American Morning” March 18. He said, “I’m encouraged by that. But there needs to be changes. The Senate version — there’s no way Ohio should have to pay for Nebraska. I want those deals out.” Boccier was referring to “deal” in the Senate’s bill which exempted Nebraska from the costs of expanded Medicaid coverage in order to win the vote of Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE).

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has argued that he could not support the Senate bill because it would, “ban illegal immigrants from using their own money to buy insurance on the exchange.” Some reports indicate Gutierrez may be willing to change his vote if there are trade-offs which could help immigrants with housing issues.

 The vote will not occur before Sunday because House Democrats are upholding their promise to post the bill 72 hours before a vote. It will take time to read this bill and even longer to comprehend it all.

These convoluted deals and trade-offs leave a bad taste in the mouths of most American voters. Critical thinkers must ask, why do they have to be there?