A War On Health Care Reform

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What if you were injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault and you couldn’t get decent medical treatment because you weren’t insured?

What if your child was born with a chronic medical problem that went untreated because you lacked health insurance?

What if you took care of your body with exercise and a good diet but were struck with cancer or some other serious condition and you couldn’t afford the medical bills even though you have insurance?

These are the types of real-life questions the editorial writers at The Oklahoman fail to address when they attack state groups and people seeking to change the medical care system by reforming the health insurance industry, reducing costs and creating better access to care.

In its continuing war on health care reform, The Oklahoman published an editorial (“Government programs can’t trump bad behavior,” May 10, 2009) Sunday praising a recently passed bill that will expand the governor's Insure Oklahoma program by giving eligible participants more choices and by offering catastrophic plans to people under 40. But the newspaper also criticized those who want more extensive reform.

Here’s how the editorial begins:

All on the same day last week, Oklahoma got a failing health report card, the governor signed a comprehensive health care reform bill and zealots for an insurance coverage mandate concluded that the Legislature is doing little or nothing to improve the state’s health status.

Note the word “zealots.” Is the newspaper actually trying to demonize those parents who have been working recently to require insurance companies provide coverage to treat their autistic children? It’s difficult to not see this as extremely mean-spirited. The newspaper editorial writers are arguing, "You and your autistic children need to leave Oklahoma." These are children who need medical help. Their parents are trying to help them.

The editorial goes on in this tone:

Nevertheless, the significance of House Bill 2026 shouldn’t be overlooked and certainly shouldn’t be dismissed — as it was by mandate extremists incapable of making rational arguments.

So now we have “extremists incapable of making rational arguments,” yet the editorial doesn't once mention the common issues raised by the three questions at the beginning of this post. This is a real distortion of the issue. Instead, it falls back on the failed “personal responsibility” ideology of the right-wing when it comes to health care.

The editorial argues:

We’ve long believed that Oklahomans must do more to improve their own health care, that no amount of reform or mandates will bring up the state’s grades until the people make healthier choices.

Right-wing ideology about health care goes like this: If you’re sick and can’t afford health care, then it’s your fault. The insurance companies need to make profits in order for the system to work. That’s just the way it is.

Obviously there are many people who should make healthier decisions in their lives, but often people get sick or need affordable health care through no fault of their own. What if you or your child, for example, got the swine flu and you couldn’t even afford to see a doctor? Should you be blamed for not having personal responsibility because you got a virus at work or school that apparently originated in Mexico?

I don’t believe there is anything inherently wrong with the bill The Oklahoman praises, but it doesn’t do enough. The health care system in Oklahoma and throughout the country is broken, and it needs massive reform. The Oklahoman will do everything it can to obstruct real reform because it represents the interests of big business, which includes insurance companies.

Yet the cheap name calling by editorial writers at The Oklahoman is probably a last gasp. President Barack Obama has promised a major overhaul of the country’s health care system and that reform will make it to Oklahoma. It will improve the state and make it a better place for families and businesses whether the editorial writers at The Oklahoman like it or not.


Oklahoma Sovereignty?

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The embarrassing and misguided sovereignty resolution circulating in the legislature has made national news as part of the faux GOP secession movement.

State Rep. Charles Key, pictured right, a Republican from Oklahoma City, appeared recently on the Montel Williams radio show to discuss House Concurrent Resolution 1028, a bill that asks the federal government to not go beyond its constitutional powers and claims state sovereignty. The resolution, if passed, will be sent to President Barack Obama and Congress.

A similar bill was passed earlier by the House and Senate, but then vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry, who worried the bill could result in the loss of federal money for the state. Key then brought the resolution back under a different form of resolution, which doesn’t need the governor’s approval. The Senate is expected to approve the bill.

Key’s interview with Williams shows again how the GOP continues to isolate the state. Williams, for example, tied the bill to recent comments made by Texas Gov. Rick Perry about the possibility of Texas seceding from the nation.

In the interview, Key said the resolution was not necessarily about secession, but he had a difficult time explaining its intention. He couldn’t provide an adequate answer to how the bill, in principle at least, might mean Oklahoma could lose federal dollars if the state declared sovereignty.

Williams, whose program appears on Air America Radio, also pointed out to Key that Oklahoma paid $19 billion in federal taxes last year, but received $28 billion in federal funding. Key didn’t directly address this issue and instead focused his comments on the U.S. Constitution.

The bill and Key’s interview hurt the state’s image on a national level. This is important in terms of economic growth and opportunities. The bill also could result in some backlash, financial or otherwise, from the Democratic-controlled Congress. This is obviously not good for the state.

In the end, the idea of Oklahoma seceding from the union is simply laughable. The state simply couldn’t function on any reasonable level without the financial assistance of the federal government. Secession, if we’re going to have a real discussion about it, would almost certainly lead to military conflict between seceding states and the federal government. It would create massive poverty in Oklahoma and lead to a huge exodus of people from the state.


Inhofe Logic

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So more than 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, leave the GOP and become Democrats, and what this signifies is a big, continuing rejection of the far left and liberalism.

That’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s illogical take on the current condition of his Republican Party. As the last person on board, he’s going down with the GOP ship, spouting inanities and looking to a past he must surely romanticize in these difficult times for Republicans. It’s a spectacle.

Here’s what Inhofe contributed to The New York Times recently in a discussion about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gay military members.

There is no evidence more visible that the American people are already rebelling against the far-left agenda than Senator Arlen Specter switching parties to become a Democrat. He did this for one reason, and that is his advisers told him he couldn’t retain his Senate seat as a Republican. In other words, the same people who supported Senator Specter six years ago have soundly rejected him today.

That, my friends, sounds like 1994. The extreme liberal agenda is not sellable to the American people. Just wait and see.

So, in other words, the Republican Party, by all measurable indications, is going through an extremely tough, losing time, but Inhofe thinks it all means an overall rejection of the “extreme liberal agenda.” (Note also the McCain-like “my friends” in the piece as well.)

Let’s deal with some reality here. This is not 1994. This is 2009, and the country has just gone through a dark, miserable time under the worst president in the nation’s history. This president, George Bush, was a Republican, and he was enthusiastically supported by his Republican Party and, until the very end, by the right-wing cable cabal, including the GOP’s own propaganda ministry, Fox News, which supports Republicans.

The county is bogged down with two military occupations and faces its deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression because of Republicans and Republican ideology. The Republican Party is the party of torture and illegal wiretapping. It has no new ideas, and only clings to a “small-government” past it soundly repudiated during the Bush years.

So, in response, rational people started to leave the GOP in droves both officially and in spirit, and politicians, such as Specter, saw there was no way to win general elections by capturing only the dwindling number of angry, ultra-conservative Republicans who will determine the outcome of certain primary elections. Right now, for example, only about 20 percent of people identify as Republicans. As I mentioned before, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania switched their party affiliation to Democrat last year.

This is what Specter had to say about the GOP:

As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party.

The Republican Party, movement conservatism and neoconservatism may be thriving here in Oklahoma, but the GOP has made itself almost a nonentity on the national level, and all the demographics point to its dismal future. The GOP stands against social and cultural progress. It has proven itself, under Bush, to be fiscally irresponsible and reckless in foreign policy. It has diminished itself and its past principles with an intrusive and religious social agenda.

This is a shame. The country always needs vigorous political debates between parties. Inhofe’s weird take on the issue is just another example of how the GOP continues to be stifled and, perhaps, even destroyed by its most conservative members. Until the GOP on the national level disavows Inhofe’s philosophies, positions and logic, it will continue to lose voters. When the national GOP does come back from oblivion, and the Republican Party will come back, it will be a more centrist party, and we will have, once again, redefined terms such as “liberal” and “conservative” and “moderate.”

Meanwhile, Oklahoma will remain frozen in time—a dusty museum of dead, right-wing ideologies—until the diminishing state corporate media, locked in its own case of weird unlogic, finally decides it needs to save itself from a complete financial collapse by truly and consistently promoting rational and forward-thinking leadership in the state and by embracing a big-tent policy in its news coverage and opinions.