Toilet Paper Arguments

(The NE 23rd Street Corridor plan would bring needed improvements to an important part of Oklahoma City. Read DocHoc's take on the issue in this week's Oklahoma Gazette.)

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The Oklahoman continues its relentless opposition to health care reform with inane analogies, GOP talking points and glaring omissions.

Here’s a recent ditty from an August 28 editorial titled “Shot clock: Time running out on reform schemes”:

Another prevailing view is that health care would be cheaper if the profit motive were removed. No doubt, toilet paper might be cheaper if for-profit companies didn’t produce it. But who then would make it?

This obvious false analogy might even be funny in a sort of aw shucks country humor way—comparing health care with toilet paper manufacturing is as ludicrous and inane as it gets—but it’s really quite tragic the state’s largest newspaper will not participate in any real debate about an important issue.

The editorial was an overall snarky criticism of local Democratic Party members, who recently held a press conference to push for health care reform.

The commentary failed to provide any basic facts about the number of uninsured Oklahomans and the rising cost of health insurance and care. According to a Health and Human Services report, 19 percent of Oklahomans do not have health insurance. The same report shows that health insurance premiums have risen a staggering 77 percent since 2000. I have written about the telling facts of Oklahoma’s struggling medical systems here and here.

The newspaper’s editorial writers never mention the alarming statistics about rising health costs and poor medical outcomes in Oklahoma and the nation. They base their arguments on slippery slope rhetoric, the stylistics of GOP attack politics and, well, toilet paper analogies. Meanwhile, the lack of health care reform here and across the nation means more and more people are needlessly suffering.

The Oklahoman continues to act irresponsibly when it comes to the health care debate. It’s way past time it flushes the distortions and engages in real debate.


Ambassador Coburn?

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn continues to serve as a poor ambassador for the state. The above CNN video clip of a moment in one of his recent town halls speaks for itself. Watch as Coburn deflects the women’s concerns and turns it into an opportunity to go into a classic, clichéd government-is-not-the-answer rant. CNN’s Rick Sanchez does a good job dissecting Coburn’s rhetoric.

Thanks to Think Progress for the information.

Coburn, who is against real health care reform, hurts the state image despite the adulation he receives from the state’s corporate media. In the video clip, he comes across as an uncaring ideologue as he leads a crowd in anti-government applause right after a woman pleads for health care help for her husband. He becomes the face of Oklahoma in a negative way. He makes Oklahomans seem oblivious and mean.

You might think since Coburn is a medical doctor he would be more concerned with health care reform and the 46 million uninsured Americans, but the senator is obviously more interested in manipulating conservative Oklahomans with hollow ideology to further his political career than saving lives


Problem Solvers

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The right-wingers on cable television and radio will be howling over today’s White House announcement that the nation’s ten-year budget deficit is now estimated at $9 trillion, but there are simple ways to fix the problem.

Here are two ways to address the deficit: Congress could raise taxes on the country’s most wealthiest citizens and corporations, and the government could immediately end the military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course, that won’t happen because the nation’s wealthiest citizens and defense contractors buy the type of political influence through campaign contributions denied to ordinary Americans. But it’s important to raise these issues even if the right-wing attack machine marginalizes the ideas through its own special theater of the nonsensical.

At least one poll shows Americans do think the wealthy should be taxed more, and Democrats have floated ideas about taxing the wealthy more to help pay for health care reform.

So this question bears repeating: Why in the world are tax hikes on the nation’s wealthiest citizens not a larger part of the national conversation during a time of economic distress?

Some financial experts argue that tax hikes can delay an economic recovery by preventing business expansion, but what about the millions upon millions of dollars in disposable income held by the wealthiest among us? Should these citizens—I’m speaking of multi-millionaires here—be allowed to essentially hoard money while most of us struggle with stagnant wages, high health care costs and unemployment? Wealth disparity is the problem, not the answer, to our economic problems. The country learned this lesson in the 1930s, but somehow forgot it in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan.

Apparently, the country now has the greatest wealth disparity in its history, according to a report that looks at the numbers since 1913. This does not bode well for basic democracy.

A two or even three percent federal tax hike on, say, those earning $350,000 or more a year could help stabilize the budget. Maybe the hikes should be even higher, and the income level should be lowered to $300,000. Tax hikes on massive corporate profits above a certain threshold could be instituted as well without affecting small businesses. My numbers may be off here, but the point is we need an extended conversation about our taxation system that deals with real numbers and facts. What we don’t need is more right-wing, slippery-slope arguments that only serve the interests of the wealthy.

The failed military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan speak for themselves. Every dollar spent and every life lost in these occupations are tragic wastes. Estimates vary, but as of April, 2009, the Iraq occupation had cost approximately $642 billion and the Afghanistan occupation had cost around $189 billion, according to a congressional report. These costs grow by the day and don’t take into account the extended medical treatment needed by wounded veterans.