Sanford and Soul Mate and Smoking

Governor Sanford.

Back during the whole “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” fiasco, I wrote a lot about my state’s governor, Mark Sanford.  I’ve written about his marriage, I’ve written about his infidelity, I’ve written about his ties to C-Street’sThe Family.” I’ve created an entire tag, Annals of South Carolinian Ridiculousness, largely thanks to his antics, though Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham have certainly contributed to that category.

And now, my fair governor is in the news once again.  His wife having filed for divorce and written a tell-all book after their efforts to save their marriage failed, he is trying to reunite with the Argentinian woman he calls his “soulmate.” And the thing is, I’m fine with that. I can’t say why exactly, but somehow, I’m less bothered by a man who simply fell in love with the wrong woman at the wrong time, than I am with an Elliot Spitzer screwing prostitutes behind his wife’s back after making a career going after prostitution rings, or John Edwards cheating on his dying wife with a bimbo, and then failing to wrap it up, all the while thinking that he could still run for president and no one would know about his love child.  Somehow, I’m sympathetic to love, even if it’s narrated by poorly-written email poetry about tan lines.

This is a slide from a presentation my husband gave on the subject of childhood smoking.

What I’m less sympathetic to are Sanford’s policies, particularly his veto this week of a proposed tobacco tax increase in a state with the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation.  As someone concerned about childrens’ health in particular (and the wife of a pediatrician), I know that higher tobacco taxes are a proven way of keeping tobacco out of kids’ hands and a great way to fund tobacco use prevention programs.  According to the SC Tobacco Collaborative, “Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent.”  Keeping kids from smoking is a key way to prevent adults from smoking and make our nation a healthier place, keeping health care costs down for all of us.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most smokers have their first cigarette between the ages of 11 and 14!  Thankfully the House overrode his veto, and there is hope the Senate will do the same.

It’s just a shame that yet again, the governor’s love life is detracting attention from his more serious missteps, like the ones that put SC children at risk.

Jon Stewart and I are both uncomfortable

You may have been seeing more of Jenny Sanford, Governor Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford’s soon-to-be-ex wife, because she’s doing a lot of publicity in promotion of her new memoir, Staying TrueAs I’ve written before, I like Jenny Sanford.  I respect the way she has handled herself, for the most part, with grace and dignity.  However, with the release of this book and a seeming rush to capitalize on her family’s breakup, she’s beginning to lose me as a fan.  She was on The Daily Show last night, and it wasn’t just Jon Stewart who was uncomfortable (If anyone can tell me how to embed video from TDS on my WordPress blog, let me know. Copying and pasting the embed code doesn’t work).  Stewart is a divorced kid, like me, and his joke about how after his parents’ divorce, his mom “only said bad things about my dad on the radio, not national TV” rang true for me. Continue reading “Jon Stewart and I are both uncomfortable”

Dear Jim DeMint

I just read that one of my senators was the only one to oppose legislation to extend unemployment benefits.  I wrote him a letter immediately.  Here’s what I said:

Sen. DeMint,

I am deeply disappointed to read that you were the only Senator to vote against extending unemployment benefits. I recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of being laid off from my job in the real estate industry. Though I was only out of work for three months, I count myself among the blessed and lucky few who were able to obtain a new job so quickly. Many South Carolinians are not so lucky. In my time in the unemployment office, I saw people from all walks of life who were out of work and desperate. Unemployment is still very high, and if you are really working for South Carolinians, you would support our unemployment benefits, especially when our state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

I can assure you, the benefits are not so cushy as to keep anyone from seeking a job. It was a fraction of what I made when I was employed, and I would not have been able to survive had I not had a spouse who was still employed. My unemployment wouldn’t have even covered COBRA for my health insurance which I lost when I lost my job.

I’m deeply disappointed and can’t help but feel that you took this terrible stand to get attention. Please don’t seek attention at the expense of out-of-work people in our state. Please be an advocate for the people who need you, particularly the unemployed who have been hit so hard by this economic downturn, especially as the holidays approach.

Here’s hoping he actually reads it, but at least I feel better knowing I tried to tell my representative how I feel.

guess his mama didn’t raise him right

The outburst, caught on film.

Here in the South, there’s not much to brag about, but one thing we generally have a lock on: good manners.  Southern hospitality.  That’s not to say we can’t turn a nasty phrase, but we’ll do it with a smile and a Bless Your Heart.

But last night, bless his heart, Congressman Joe Wilson apparently lost his breedin’.  As President Obama was addressing a joint session of Congress, Congressman Wilson shouted out “You lie!” (for video, go here), heckling the President of the United States on the floor of Congress.  It was an outburst which revealed Congressman Wilson’s lack of respect, decorum, or decency.  It’s perfectly within his *rights* to express himself, but it should be beneath his office to express himself in such a way.  The president gave a speech, the GOP had another Howdy Doody fellow rebut it (why do they keep choosing Louisianans?), and surely the next day members of Congress would be free to issue statements, appear on news programs, write op eds and otherwise express any disagreements they had with things the president said in his address.  All are appropriate ways of participating in political dialog about this often contentious issue.  Yelling in the middle of a speech in what should be one of the most respected houses of government in the world is NOT an appropriate means of expression.

This brings me to what Wilson was responding to.  Was it a lie?  According to Politifact.com, a non-partisan fact-checking organization, Wilson was responding to this statement by President Obama:

“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants,” Obama said. “This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

According to Politifact, it is WILSON who is the liar, as Obama’s statement, that health care reforms would not apply to illegal immigrants, was true. Politifact writes:

We read all 1,000-plus pages of the health care bill and were struck by the fact that it is largely silent on health care for illegal immigrants. Keep in mind that experts estimated there were 6.8 million uninsured illegal immigrants in the United States in 2007, out of a total of 11.9 million illegal immigrants. Right now, most states have laws on the books that require hospitals to treat severely ill people who arrive at the hospital, regardless of immigration status, and we didn’t see anything that would change those laws, either.

Most illegal immigrants are also now excluded from Medicaid, the government-run health care for the poor. We didn’t see anything that would change that.

One place where the bill does mention immigration status is for “affordability credits.” These are tax credits for people of modest means need to buy health insurance. The credits would help them buy insurance on a national health insurance exchange. The bill specifically says that people in the United States illegally are not eligible for tax credits, on page 132, section 242….

The best argument that we find that health reform would help illegal immigrants is that some might be able to purchase the public option — if it passes, and it might not — on the new health insurance exchange. They would purchase that at full cost. Obama’s said “the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally,” which Wilson said was a “lie.” Actually, Obama can make a pretty thorough case that reform doesn’t apply to those here illegally. We don’t find the public option argument enough to make the case that Obama “lied.” We rate Wilson’s statement False.

Perhaps a Member of Congress could be bothered to do some research before getting so fired up about health reform’s effect on illegal immigrants that he completely loses his mind on the floor of Congress with the entire nation watching.

And yet, Wilson has STILL not done his research, because, while he apologized for the outburst, he still says he disagrees with the president over the issue of illegal immigrants and health reform.  So he clearly still misunderstands the bill.  I would also note that Wilson apologized to the president, but I feel he should also apologize to the people of South Carolina for embarrassing us in this way on the national stage.  He should also apologize to the other members of Congress for dishonoring the office.

I have a feeling this outburst is going to hurt Congressman Wilson quite a bit, and in the 12ish hours since his eruption, his 2010 Democratic challenger, a former US Marine named Rob Miller, has raised over $100k from more than 3,000 donors, and of course, suddenly most of the state, not to mention the nation, knows his name.

And as for health reform, Obama’s speech seems to have won over many independents and undecideds, whereas Wilson’s heckling decidedly turned them off.  The only people who liked his shouting are the kind of folks who were already doing the same kind of thing at town hall meetings.  Final verdict: JOEWILSONFAIL.

As for me, I’m hoping someone in say, Mississippi can do something lame and take the focus off South Carolina for a while.  I’ve had enough of the embarrassments for a while.

co-operation makes it happen?

I probably don’t need to tell you that I’m deeply interested in the health reform debate.  And lately I’ve noticed that the new buzz is all about “co-ops.”  Before I jump in, this is what *I* think of every time I hear the word co-op:

Now that you’ve got that stuck in your head for the rest of the day, on to health care co-ops, which somehow seem way less fun than a community garden filled with puppets.  The co-op plan has been presented as some sort of alternative to a public health insurance plan.  The thing is, as Ezra Klein has pointed out, co-ops solve a POLITICAL problem, but not our actual health care problems.  Ezra writes:

To put it bluntly, the co-op does not solve a policy problem so much as it solves a political problem. That political problem was, “How do you finesse a compromise on the public option?”

You could imagine a co-op proposal that actually offered a meaningful alternative to private insurers. Some months ago, Conrad, alongside public plan supporter Chuck Schumer, seemed to be edging in that direction. But I haven’t heard anything similarly encouraging since then. The co-op is now a favored alternative for Republicans who don’t agree that the profit motive is a problem in health insurance and who don’t agree that single-payer or Medicare-for-All represents an appealing alternative to the current situation. Given that constituency, it’s not likely to satisfy people who have the opposite perspective on all of those questions.

I wish I could spend this post enumerating the problems with the co-op proposal, except that, as the New York Times points out,

the co-op idea is so ill defined that no one knows exactly what it would look like or how effectively it would compete with commercial insurers.

As far as I can tell, every one agrees that not enough people are covered by our current health care system, costs are too high for the level of care received, and insurers are ill-inclined to listen to their policy-holders’ concerns or actually cover their care because they care only about profit and face very little to no competition for their market share. Solving this problem means creating an alternative, and it seems the co-op idea is about creating pools of people, much like the workforces of large companies which provide group insurance plans, to purchase group care from private insurers. This sounds like a half-assed, complicated, and expensive way to achieve exactly what a public insurance plan would achieve, but a public plan would achieve it with much lower costs (Kent Conrad, who proposed the co-op, says it is not a plan that would lower costs), with the added benefit of creating COMPETITION for private insurers, rather than just handing them more individuals paying premiums that add to their bottom line.

And would the co-op plan really solve the political problem with the public option, namely that Republicans and “Blue Dogs” say they won’t support it?  Not likely.  Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly‘s Political Animal blog notes that Republicans are already rebuffing the co-op plan as well, not to mention, “Republicans don’t support health care reform. Weakening the bill and scuttling good ideas to garner their support doesn’t make sense, since they fully intend to vote against literally any bill.”

I guess my major thought is, if you agree that insurers are a major part of the problem, if you agree that not enough people are covered, if you agree that we need to create some sort of alternative way to give people health coverage, wouldn’t you want to support the means of doing so that is most efficient, covers the most people, and cuts costs the most?  That method is the public insurance option.

UPDATED TO ADD: This post can now also be tagged “Annals of South Carolinian Ridiculousness” because of good ole Sen. Jim DeMint(ed).  DeMint apparently can’t tell the difference between a co-op and a public insurance plan:

Whatever they call it Neil, this is a government takeover. They may try to call it a co-op. They can call it a public option, but you know they’re all on record saying they want a single payer government system, so any Republican now that helps them pass a bill is helping them pass a government takeover of health care.

All the more reason to scrap this stupid co-op idea and go with REAL reform which includes a public option. I guess this means that DeMint won’t be taking to heart the letter I wrote to him last night expressing my wish for a public option.