Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More views from Costa Rica: Michael Cook

Richard Astukewicz, Hoping for Presidential Failure, and Patriotism

In the wake of the February, 18 release of a Dept. of Health and Human Services report documenting the coming unprecedented growth in the cost of health care premiums over the next year, and after reading Richard Auskewitcz's nonsensical column in the Daily News the day before, I could not not write this essay.

In his column, Mr. Astukewicz threw out all his usual right wing boiler plate nonsense about socialism, dictatorship, and his hopes that President Obama fails at everything he attempts.

I can only wonder what Mr. Astukewicz and others of his ilk think, if they bother to think at all beyond regurgitating right wing talking points, of the news about the 24 million dollars a year some of the CEO's of America's biggest health insurance companies received in compensation last year.

I wonder what Mr. Astukewicz thinks of health insurance industry profits soaring more than 250% between 2000 and 2009, even while more and more Americans go without coverage or have their claims denied.

But the news gets even more disturbing no, disgusting in fact.

When it appeared Dick Armey and the health insurance industry lobbyists had all but defeated health care reform, especially in relation to a genuine public option, the value of industry stocks soared into the stratosphere.

Apparently, that windfall was not enough.

Anthem Blue Cross of Calfornia recently announced premiums will increase by 39% this year.

The Dept. of HHS, in its report, predicted premiums in other states could increase by as much as 30%, or more, this coming year.

Here are some specific examples of what lies ahead.

BC/BS of Connecticut last year requested a 24% premium rate increase. The state denied the request, but a similar request is on the table again and it is expected to be granted. Ah, the power of the industry lobbyists!

Anthem of Maine requested an 18.5% premium increase last year, which the state denied. But it is now asking for a 23% increase this year and, as in Connecticut, it seems likely the request will be granted. Again, you gotta love those corporate lobbyists.

Blue Cross of Michigan is seeking a whopping 56% premium increase on its individual private plans this year.

United Health, Tufts, and BC/BS of Rhode Island are requesting premium increases this year of between 13 and 16%.

In Washington state, insurers hoped to increase premiums on private individual plans by as much as 40% this year, but it appears the state legislature has intervened and put the kibosh on that chicanery.

Finally, Wellpoint. United Health Care Group, Cigna, Aetna, and Humana took in combined profits of over twelve billion dollars in 2009, up 56% over 2008 - all the while the number of America's uninsured and under-insured continues to grow.

Now, one of the rallying cries of those like Mr. Astukewicz who oppose health care reform, aside from the right wing lunacy that it is "socialistic" and will bring on another "Holocaust", was that it, especially if it included a public option, would send costs through the roof. Ah, excuse me folks, but costs are going through the roof, not because we are actually providing millions of Americans access to health care, but because the insurance execs, much like their counterparts in the banking industry, are greedy "mother you know whatters", and they've come to believe they can get away with it.

But that may be changing. Recent polls show strong support still exists for genuine reform with the public option included.

Congressional Democrats, at long last, seem to be realizing they are the majority and, as a result, it looks like they are getting their mojo back and may invoke reconciliation, exercise their legitimate democratically bestowed authority, and pass meaningful health care reform - perhaps even with the much needed public option contained in that reform.

Now, current conventional wisdom says the Dems would be shooting themselves in the foot by doing that.

But I don't think so.

Approximately 37% of the national electorate is adamant they will not vote for any Democrat in November. Roughly the same number is equally adamant they will vote only for a Dem come November.

The rest of the electorate is up for grabs.

Current conventional wisdom says the Right is ascendant in American politics, with the faux grassroots Tea Party movement being cited as the clearest evidence but, again, I don't think so.

I personally, for example, know numerous intelligent independents, and even some frustrated Democrats, who voted for Scott Brown over Martha Coakley mainly because he was, simply put, a much more appealing and likable candidate than Coakley.

They were willing to give him a chance.

Many of those same people, after learning about his ties to the "Birther Movement", his putting six foot tall cardboard cut outs of then candidate Obama dressed as Osama bin Laden in his front yard, and his publicly stated position that issues pertaining to people's civil rights should be put to a popular vote, have told me there is not a snowball's chance in Hades they will vote for Bill Hudak against John Tierney.

They view Hudak as a fringe candidate, more aligned with the increasingly paranoid, extremist, Palin, Tea Party wing of the GOP than they are comfortable with.

They have, however, made very clear to me that if the state GOP could get either Bruce Tarr or Brad Hill to enter the race, John Tierney would be in for the race of his life and, frankly, would probably lose.

Those same independents, after watching the so called Tea Party Convention in Nashville, are distancing themselves from a movement that once held some appeal but quickly is revealing itself to be increasingly racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and not at all representative of the points of view of many, many independents hold, especially on important social issues.

It's for all these reasons that I do not accept the wisdom du jour that some new "American, right wing, revolution" is underway.

If the Democrats maintain their mojo, if they pass truly meaningful health care reform, if the Obama administration can continue to report progress against the Taliban in Afghanistan, if the Dow stays above 10,000, if the stimulus continues to create jobs, as we know it's been doing thanks to a recent impartial assessment by a bipartisan group of economic research firms, and, perhaps most importantly, President Obama takes off the white gloves and comes out swinging the way he did on the campaign trail, and if the Democrats can campaign this summer and fall on genuine accomplishments, with health care reform at the top of the list, the current obits being written about both the Democratic party and President Obama himself, I predict, will be proven to be very premature, very premature indeed,

But that's why Mr. Astukewicz and others of his ilk are so desperate for Barack Obama to fail.

After the mess the previous administration, in concert with its GOP majority in both the House and Senate for six years created, they know that if the Democrats and President Obama are viewed as even moderately successful by the American people, they and theirs will be banished to the political wilderness for a decade, perhaps even a generation or two.

Michael Cook
PV de Limon & Nbpt


Anonymous said...

why????? please return to posting gillian, this isn't worth the keystrokes it takes to visit your page.

Anonymous said...


macsurf said...

Why? Because you don't agree?

I thought that was the whole purpose of blogs and the like, for differing ideas and opinions to aired and shared.

Anonymous said...

then he should start his own blog. i'd rather read about newburyport on the port reporter unlimited. thats why i visit this blog, because gillian has a knack for finding interesting tid-bits about Newburyport and sharing them with us.

SJS said...

well, i enjoy reading Cook's POV as well as Gillian's.