Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Affordable Care Act Rollout (Obamacare): Disaster or Distortion?

19 Nov

ACAFactsI know I talk at length about the dominant culture and discourse (the structural and institutional power source) and how targeted populations (folks that are not white, heterosexual, male, wealthy, and Christian) should unite and engage the dominate culture in a way that works towards creating equity across the board. This means a re-distribution of wealth and health insurance for all human beings. Today I want to talk about how tired I am about all this mishigas over the Affordable Care Act.

Sadly, all we hear from 99% of the media is the crash of the Affordable Care Act and has President Obama lost credibility? Really? This the question? Why are we not asking how many people are already enrolled and are still trying desperately to enroll? Why are we not asking how we can create a more equitable way of taking care of all of our citizens regardless of party lines? Why are we not asking where were all the critics when Mitt Romney had trouble rolling out the exact same health plan in Massachusetts? Why are we not asking about the cost of the government shutdown and how much of that money could have gone to health insurance? Why are we still tying employment to health insurance?

Of course, I have to bring up race and class again.  Those that are not part of the dominant culture (as defined above) suffer disproportionately as far as employment, health care, and poverty.  Do we just discard human beings in the United States if they don’t fit in to the boxes we assign them? Let’s look at a simple fact: at least 20 Million people in this country are uninsured and will have the ability to be insured thanks to the ACA. No amount of GOP whining, media distraction, website downtime, or pundit bloviating changes the fact that this is a simply good thing.

The constant barrage of criticism uses words like “debacle” and “disaster.” Are these accurate? Objectively, NO! Let’s explore the three basic criticisms of the ACA: website, signups, and cancellations.

First, the most legitimate criticism: the website doesn’t work very well. That appears to be true. The deliverable product is very complex. It needs to interact with multiple government agencies, multiple private companies, and the fundamental operations of the ACA. At the same time, it needs to protect privacy and pass along a significant amount of information. Yes, the government should have focused on making this rollout a success. On the other hand, nearly 20 MILLION visitors have started come to the site, providing a great deal of stress. GOP governors repeatedly rejected state exchanges, forcing their citizens to the federal site, contributing to overload. Many of the federal employees  responsible for making the website a success were either furloughed during the shutdown or bogged down answering questions from GOP House members. Objectively, the website needs serious improvement, but the loudest complainers (are you listening, Boehner and company?) are the biggest obstacles to its viable completion.

Pundits and so-called journalists are also bemoaning the sign-up levels. The number 27,000 is used a lot lately. Yes, that number is lower than the initial estimates. Given that nearly half of America lives in cities smaller than 25,000 , however, that means the typical U.S. citizen is seeing their entire town given health care. The dire figure also ignores a significant number of other factors. Nearly 100,000 people have signed up through state exchanges, proving that the “states rights” option that should have appealed to the GOP is a big success. Medicaid enrollment, a major element of the ACA, is up by nearly 400,000.  People under 26 can stay on family plans under the ACA, leading to a large (but so far uncalculated) number of younger Americans having coverage they would not have had. So the real number  easily 20 times larger than the pessimistic reports.

How about those cancellations? Anyone on an employer plan should remember that the plans change every year or two. That’s right, those cancellation notices that the media are saying prove the ACA doesn’t work are business as usual for insurance companies. Sadly, the cancellations that make the news ignore two other very important facts. First, many of these plans were at best cheap, ineffectual coverage. Second, many of the people who need to look for new plans qualify for much better insurance for little or no increase in payments through state or federal exchange programs.

Yes, there are legitimate frustrations. Certainly the website should have been better stress tested. At the end of the day, however, what matters is CARE. Thousands, leading to millions, of US citizens will have better coverage — or the first coverage in years (or ever) — as a result of this law. Could it be smoother or simpler? YES. But the GOP refused to pass that kind of law. The ACA is a strong step in the right direction and must be given time to succeed. Millions of Americans need that. The media need to focus on facts and benefits and stop the senseless, sensational reality-show shenanigans–all in the name of profits for the top 20% of the country.   What would it be like if each citizen was guaranteed the same health care package that all 535 congress people receive?  What is getting in the way of accomplishing this?

Hero of the Week Award: May 10, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

10 May
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Senate Republicans must be kicking themselves. When they used all their dirty tricks to block Elizabeth Warren from becoming the first chair of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, they thought that was the end of it. She turned the tables, running for Senate herself and dislodging the odious Scott Brown. Since joining the Senate in January, Warren has demonstrated her unwavering dedication to consumer rights and holding business accountable. This week, Sen. Warren introduced her first bill, a straightforward piece of legislation that represents the values and fairness that got her elected.

This July, Federal student loan rates are set to double, moving to 6.8%. This creates a huge burden for people entering the workforce or emerging from a career-changing education. With a still shaky job market (something Congressional Republicans have done NOTHING to address…) these graduates may be hit with a large bill while they have not yet moved into their earning potential. Warren’s solution is simple and elegant: give students the same rates that we give big banks.

Right now, as I speak, the federal government offers far lower interest rates on loans, every single day – they just don’t do it for everyone. Right now, a big bank can get a loan through the Federal Reserve discount window at a rate of about 0.75%. But this summer a student who is trying to get a loan to go to college will pay almost 7%. In other words, the federal government is going to charge students interest rates that are nine times higher than the rates for the biggest banks – the same banks that destroyed millions of jobs and nearly broke this economy. That isn’t right.

[…] In effect, the American taxpayer is investing in those banks. We should make the same kind of investment in people who are trying to get an education.

Well done, Sen. Warren! I am impressed by her systems-based approach to problem solving and moving financial laws toward true equity. As Massachusetts voters get ready to select Secretary of State John Kerry’s replacement in the Senate, the should remember Scott Brown and look at Elizabeth Warren. That comparison makes the selection of Rep. Ed Markey (D) a pretty easy choice.

Hero of the Week Award: October 26: John English and company

26 Oct

Hero of the Week

Once again the lies of a Republican politician have forced an everyday American to come face to face with vicious hypocrisy; once again an everyday American has found the strength to speak truth to power. It started with an ordinary political ad.

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is running a spot featuring three people who lost loved ones to mesothelioma resulting from exposure to asbestos. The three thank Warren for her work representing their families and achieving a settlement from the corporations that refused to take responsibility. They also mention Sen. Scott Brown, Warren’s opponent, and his attempts to lie about her record of defending corporate victims.

When asked about the ad, Scott Brown brushed it aside, claiming, “A lot of them are paid. Listen, you can get surrogates and go out and say your thing.” REALLY? Three decent people relive their personal tragedies to stand up for something they believe in and you call them liars and whores? You are Klassy with a K, Sen. Brown.

John English, who lost his father to the disease, was outraged and refused to let Brown get away with it. Taking time from his workday to set the record straight, he was very clear.

After taking care of my father for so long, it’s a little insulting. I’m not an overpaid actor. I’m an ordinary construction worker just like my father. […] Let Scott Brown tell me to my face that I am nothing but a paid actor, and I’ll set him straight on what it was like to watch my father suffocate to death.

Thank you, Mr. English. Thanks also to Ginny Jackson, who lost her husband and was subjected to the same outrageous abuse. Ms. Jackson replied

Sam and I were childhood sweethearts and we had been together since I was 15 years old. I came forward in this campaign because Massachusetts voters need to know the truth about what Elizabeth Warren did to help families like mine who were affected by asbestos poisoning, rather than Sen. Brown’s misleading attacks.

It’s horrifying that these people should have to defend themselves, but gratifying that they took the time to do so. If more people like Scott Brown were called out on their lies regularly, they might start to think before they speak.

Brown and Scalia: The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

3 Oct

You can judge a man by the character of his heroes

Oops! There goes Sen. Scott Brown (R – MA) again. The tea partier in moderate sheepskin made a rare statewide win for a Republican and grabbed the Senate seat vacated by the death of the legendary Ted Kennedy. He campaigned on a middle-of-the-road, everyday guy image (Joe the Plumber) and continues to try to present himself as an independent and a moderate. (An independent who votes with his party 81% of the time while representing a progressive state, imagine that!)

Based on another Republican who won statewide office in Massachusetts >cough< Romney >cough< I am forced to conclude that there is something special in the tea there. Those words, Sen. Brown, don’t mean what you think they do. As his opponent, the marvelous Elizabeth Warren, begins to poll stronger and stronger against Brown, his smug veneer cracks and the odious reality emerges.

Sometimes it’s the little things, even a short answer to a simple question. In Monday’s debate, moderator David Gregory asked each candidate, “Who is your model Supreme Court Justice?” Brown’s first instinct? Justice Antonin Scalia. He quickly pulled a Palin, randomly naming other justices (including Scalia’s polar opposite, Justice Sonia Sotomayor) and claiming that an independent doesn’t have to have a favorite. But you do, Scott, you do, and you picked the nastiest creature to lurk on that bench in at least a century.

Regular TSM readers are familiar with his ethical challenges and inappropriate behavior, but here are a few greatest hits.

  • He provided a scathing rebuttal to the Court’s rejection of Arizona’s blatantly racist immigration law (one of five Bigot of the Week Awards he has won or shared!).
  • He supported the majority in the Lily Ledbetter case, effectively blaming the victim and demonstrating his persistent misogyny.
  • On which note, he consistently champions the war on women, including this lovely statement in a dissent in a Planned Parenthood case: “The issue is whether the right to choose is a liberty protected by the Constitution of the United States. I am sure it is not.”
  • Scalia’s bitter dissents in a handful of gay rights show the depth of his homophobia. As another famous Massachusetts lawmaker, Rep. Barney Frank, observed, “I wouldn’t want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has too many votes on this current court.”
  • He was the architect of the Bush v. Gore decision that violated his supposedly sacred Constitution. In the years since, when questioned about the decision, he has said “So there!” and “Get over it.” My he is charm free!

I find myself channeling Doralee Rhodes from 9 to 5… “I never thought I’d say this about another human being but you are evil, Justice Scalia, downright evil!”  And yet this is who Scott Brown admires — this is the kind of Justice he would support if returned to the Senate. Scott Brown has proved that he’s a racist, sexist, opportunistic pig. Now we know he venerates them too.  As the true Brown emerges from the rank and mire (I am picturing Goldman’s Fire Swamp from The Princess Bride, with Brown starring as one of the ROUS), it is clear that Massachusetts must rely on the integrity and authenticity of Elizabeth Warren for the benefit of the entire country.

Republicans Snowed Out…

29 Feb

This Party is Crazy--I Have to Get Out!

Not that I have ever been a particular fan of Olympia Snowe  (of course she looks reasonable compared to the rest of her party), but I do admire her honesty and integrity for naming the problem within her party that is causing her not to seek re-election.  Senator Snowe cited “excessive partisanship in the Senate” as the primary driver of her decision.  I guess she has not been paying attention to the misogynistic foolishness in the House of Reps.  It is no small secret that the latest attacks on women’s health by Republicans  has incurred the wrath of both Snowe and Collins (both female Republicans from Maine).

How sad that the lunacy of the right wing Republicans can chase out moderate voices of reason like Snowe–what kind of Carnival has the GOP turned into?  This does not bode well for history.  At present, 21st century Republicans wear the banner of: “We Hate Women; We Hate Gays; We Hate People of Color; We Hate the Poor; We Love Being the 1%.”  One need go no further than to listen to Multi-Millionaire Mitt Romney and the homophobic, woman-hating clown Rick (the P is silent) Santorum to see just how out of touch these people are with Americans.

Snowe dropping out is a much bigger deal than people realize–this may very well be the harbinger of good fortune reasonable Republicans and Democrats have been waiting for.  While Maine did elect the Mad Hatter LePage as their governor, it is doubtful they will elect another toxic Tea Bag, which may create a far more attractive Senate with a new Maine Democrat and a new Massachusetts Democrat.  Perhaps there is some hope for the 99%.

Progress for Transgender Brothers and Sisters

23 Jan

Nice Job Massachusetts

Thank you to my dear friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey, for inspiring this story.  Last week we witnessed a move forward in the civil rights movement.  Governor Deval Patrick, of Massachusetts signed bill H.3810 into law.  Massachusetts is now the 16th state to offer protection from discrimination to transgender men and women.

Governor Patrick was quoted:

No individual should face discrimination because of who they are. This legislation gives Massachusetts the necessary tools to stop hate crimes against transgender people and to treat others fairly. I am proud to sign it.

Very nice, Governor Patrick.  Now let us hope that the next senator for Massachusetts will be Elizabeth Warren.

Hero of the Week Award: December 16, Elizabeth Warren

16 Dec

Hero of the Week

For regular TSM readers you will know this is not the first time our Elizabeth Warren has earned HWA.  Warren consistently proves her mettle and the courage of her convictions as a civil servant.  Warren’s speech yesterday on civil rights, equality, and preventing bullying not only made me weep a tear of joy and hope, but earns her another HWA.

Here are bits of Warren’s speech from yesterday:

I’ve had the chance to say it in living rooms and school auditoriums, but I’m glad to have the chance to say it here: No one – no one – should be discriminated against because of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or religion…As other states grapple with whether to support marriage equality, I’m ready to move to the next step: End the two-tiered system created by the Defense of Marriage Act. Our federal government should not be in the business of selecting which married couples it supports and which it treats with contempt. States define marriage among couples, and, once married, all those couples and their families should have the same protections, the same benefits, and the same tax treatments. Fairness and equality are foundational values in our country, and nowhere is that more important than in our families.

While I do hope she wins the Senate seat in Massachusetts, I really hope she will eventually become our first woman President. Click here to read her entire speech.

*TSM is taking nominations for Hero of Year Awards

Wednesday Word of the Week, November 16: Acceptance

16 Nov

Young Mayor Accepted as Hometown Hero

This week’s word is ACCEPTANCE

general agreement that something is true, reasonable, or cannot be changed; the fact of allowing someone to become part of a group or community and making them feel welcome — Macmillan Dictionary Online

As we noted on TSM last week, a large number of LGBT candidates were elected to public office on November 8. One Massachusetts winner has received national press. What is interesting is what has and has not been integral to much of that attention.

Alex Morse, 22, will be the youngest mayor in America when he takes office. CBS News devoted a two-and-a-half minute segment to his election. They naturally focused on his youth and the fact that he ousted an incumbent despite his lack of experience. What didn’t come up at all in the interview was the fact that Morse is openly gay.

That may be due in part to it never being an issue during the campaign. Morse is comfortably out and certainly did nothing to hide from the electorate. His public accomplishments include founding a GSA at his high school and working for a number of LGBT causes. Somehow, these accomplishments were simply accepted as part of his qualifications. Delightfully, his opponent did nothing to demonize him because of his sexual orientation.

As the New Civil Rights points out, however, Massachusetts is not Mississippi. One successful candidate whose sexual orientation is a non-issue is not a national trend. Still, it is promising to see that this is possible. Let us hope that unlike CBS, the mayor-elect will not be reticent about acknowledging his orientation. Hooray for Holyoke, but LGBT Americans everywhere need to see what’s possible.

Broader acceptance is only possible when accomplishments like Morse’s are made widely known. Visibility leads to acceptance; let’s not allow one moment of acceptance to lead to invisibility.

Wednesday Word of the Week, August 31

31 Aug

Hurricanes in Vermont, what will they think of next?

This week’s Word is: STABILITY

a situation in which things happen as they should and there are no harmful changes – Macmillan Dictionary Online

For those of us in New England, recent climatic events have led us to question many assumptions about this concept. Storm winds and rain from HURRICANE

a severe tropical cyclone usually with heavy rains and winds moving a 73-136 knots – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Irene have wrought substantial havoc in my home state of Vermont and jarred my adopted state of Massachusetts. Dear Irene, please refer to the definition above. Vermont is not TROPICAL!

relating to or situated in or characteristic of the tropics (the region on either side of the equator) – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Flooding and power outages exceed anything most Vermonters have seen, certainly ranging beyond my nearly 30 years of experience. Fortunately, my family was 100 miles away, visiting my aunt in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the storm was felt but hardly damaging. Mom’s return to Vermont may be delayed a bit until the power is back on, but the neighbors say the family home is safe. That, at least seems to be stable.

I have had a number of reasons to think about stability recently. As I noted in May, I recently uprooted my HOME. This has been a very positive experience and has helped me move forward with my life and nascent career, but it is a tumultuous thing nonetheless.

Far more jarring was having one of the central pillars of my life shaken hard. In mid-July, my grandfather suffered a massive stroke. While he is recovering well, having this great oak of a man enfeebled by a tiny clot was a humbling experience. Granddad has been the one steady constant in my life, and I am not ready to lose that element of stability. Ironically, his need for better access to medical care is what brought him, Mom, and me to my aunt’s home in Amherst and spared us Irene’s peripatetic thundering.

As I get my career on track, I am working three different jobs (not uncommon for my generation). My sudden need to be in Braintree, Amherst, and Reading alternately for unpredictable stretches of time caused one new employer to unceremoniously jettison me as “unreliable” despite my best efforts to communicate at least daily and carry as much work with me as possible. I understand the need to run a business soundly, but a lack of compassion is a hallmark of bad business to me. Once again, stability was undermined.

As I make the most of my other two wonderfully supportive and engaging jobs, as Granddad recovers faster than he was supposed to, as we breathe a sigh of relief that our home and our neighbors weathered the storm reasonably well, I feel very lucky. I also recognize that an element of stability about which I have previously written bolsters me throughout this turmoil. I have a support system a FAMILY, upon which I can draw. Let the weather turn bizarre, let the employer have no heart, I have a stability which is steadfast and reliable.

Regular readers will not be surprised that such a turn of thought led me to ponder the great buffoons of Teabaggistan and their CANDIDATES. Ron Paul just finished assuring the nation that we didn’t need a Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Kudos to President Obama for his visit to FEMA and his vocal support of their work, now under effective management.) Rick Perry tells us that Medicaid is unconstitutional. Michele Bachmann wants to cut the minimum wage and reduce unemployment benefits, all while assuring us that earthquakes and hurricanes are God’s way of asking for a smaller Federal budget.

How dare they! The role of government is to make things better for the citizens. Huge military budgets and ghastly corporate tax loopholes don’t do that. Logjams over ideology when Americans need jobs programs don’t do that. Wasting precious revenue persecuting the LGBT community doesn’t do that. Plotting ways to remove women’s control over their own health care doesn’t do that. The programs these men and women are targeting very clearly do provide care and support.

Given my life events of the past four months, each one of those absurd claims and cuts is deeply personal, and the personal is political. Any American who believes that these Republican candidates would be a President who would look out for their best interests is seriously lacking in

a condition in which someone’s mind or emotional state is healthy – Macmillan Dictionary Online

STABILITY.

Bigot of the Week Award: July 28, Senator Scott Brown

29 Jul

Bigot of the Week

How incredibly wonderful that ALL of the Senators and Representatives from the state of Massachusetts released a It Gets Better video.  Well, all except one bigoted Republican known as Scott Brown.  Brown’s refusal to participate in the It Gets Better campaign and his mindless adherence to party lines, as a typical sheep, earn him this week’s BWA.

Brown was invited to participate but declined. In fact, when asked about the message he thought his lack of participation sent to LGBTQ youth, Brown responded with a bizarre ad hominem attack on It Gets Better founder Dan Savage:

It’s truly reached a new level of desperation in their efforts to tear down Scott Brown, but we look forward to hearing whether state and national Democrat leaders agree with Dan Savage’s long history of lewd, violent and anti-Christian rhetoric. Given their press conference call today, one has to presume at this point that they do.

One can only hope the good people of Massachusetts will vote for a person with stronger leadership skills and a stronger character in 2012. As a tonic to Brown’s bigotry, I encourage you to watch the video that the elected officials of Massachusetts made.

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