KY-SEN: Jack Conway Comes Out Swinging

What bugs me most about Rand Paul’s comments isn’t even the substance, the opposition to the Civil Rights Act. It’s the way he characterized the issue: “But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up.”

Try telling the folks on the other side of Bull Connor’s dogs that it was an “abstract, obscure conversation.” Try telling that to Emmett Till, or Jonathan Daniels.

If there was ever anyone unfit to hold a US Senate seat, it’s Rand Paul. Fortunately Democratic opponent state AG Jack Conway, who we’ve been pushing here at MyDD for months, has come out swinging. From an e-mail:

Rand Paul's narrow and rigid ideology would have dangerous consequences for Kentucky's working families, veterans, students, disabled citizens, and anyone without a voice in the halls of power.

Students who need federal loans to help pay for college? Sorry. Disabled people facing discrimination on the job? Tough luck. What about a person of color who is refused service at a restaurant? Paul thinks businesses should be free to do that.

Rand Paul says that there's too much government oversight in America today. Really? Does he think that too much government oversight caused the oil spill in the Gulf, the collapse of Wall Street and the housing market crash?

If you think Rand Paul is completely out of touch with the vast majority of Americans, you're right - he is. So it's up to us to stop him. Please make a donation to my campaign today so I can beat Rand Paul in November. I'll stand up for Kentucky. He won't.

Click here to make a donation of $25, $50, or more to my campaign right now. With your help, I can stop Rand Paul's rigid ideology that threatens our fundamental rights and protections.

This is gonna be a fun general election.

Pronoun trouble at Organizing for America

Around 5:30 on Friday afternoon I received a robocall paid for by the Democratic National Committee on behalf of Organizing for America. The voice informed me about a rally for health care reform, scheduled for today at 6 pm just west of the state capitol building in Des Moines. Press 1 if you plan to attend.

I didn't press 1 and stayed on the line to see what would happen. The voice came back, telling me "The president needs you to show support" for reform.

The folks at Organizing for America have some pronoun trouble. It's not President Obama who needs us. We need him to show support for real reform.

Although I have a busy day planned, I would have rearranged my schedule to attend this evening's rally if I saw the president working hard to get the best deal possible on health care reform. Instead, the White House cuts back-room deals with drug companies and encourages industry lobbyists to negotiate with the Senate Finance Committee, the Congressional committee likely to produce the worst bill from the perspective of consumers.

Not only is it ludicrous to let the Finance committee's "gang of six" (three "centrist" Democrats and three Republicans) write a health care bill in a chamber with a strong Democratic majority, the White House isn't even trying to add some irrelevant sweeteners to win Republican votes for more controversial health care policies.

Official administration policy on "health insurance reform" is backing away from some of Obama's campaign promises. The Organizing for America issue page on health care doesn't even mention a public health insurance option as a goal.

In this context, the insurance industry is understandably confident that they will get the bill of their dreams: a mandate for all Americans to buy health insurance, with no public option to compete with private insurers that dominate most markets.

Tinkering with insurance regulations will not solve our problems, as shown by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (also known as Kennedy-Kassebaum). Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 has reminded me that this law was supposed to end abuses such as "rescission," when insurance companies cancel people's policies after they become sick. Ragbrai08 blames poor enforcement by state regulators for the failure of this bill and helpfully sent me this link on the problem. Others such as Mike Lux point to loopholes that insurance industry proxies in Congress wrote into the 1996 bill. Regarding HIPAA and the Massachusetts health care reform adopted a few years ago, Lux writes:

These two bills, both passed with great fanfare in the thoroughly bipartisan fashion, are not working because they provide no check on insurance industry power, no competition and no reason for insurers to control their costs- which, by the way, is exactly why they passed so easily with such big bipartisan support.

Remember, insurance companies are granted exemption from anti-trust laws by the McCarran-Ferguson Act. A very small number of them have overwhelmingly market power in huge parts of the country. Their rates are unregulated by the federal government. And they have enormous political power to go along with their massive market power.

What my friends at Third Way don't mention is that the insurance industry has happily signed off on all the regulatory changes mentioned above, just as they supported Kennedy-Kassebaum and the Massachusetts health bill. They know that with all the market and political power they have, without anti-trust or federal rate regulation to worry about, without competition from a public option, they can raise rates as much as they want and probably write loopholes into the regulations that they agreed to so that they will be easier to slide around.

Requiring Americans to purchase private health insurance would amount to a regressive tax going directly to corporations. And since private insurers have very high administrative expenses, their preferred method of controlling health care costs is limiting people's access to medical services.

Until the president honors promises he made to those who got him elected and rejects the stupid and politically suicidal path favored by insurance companies, Organizing for America can count me out of their photo-ops.

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DNC Going to Bat for Arlen Specter

Ben Smith passes on an email sent to the Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America email list under the pen of Vice President Joe Biden.

For more than 25 years, [Arlen Specter and I have] ridden the train together back to Wilmington and Philadelphia. We've had some great debates and discussions on the train -- and gotten to know each other so well -- that it gives me great pleasure to be able to work even more closely with Arlen now.

His independence, integrity, and piercing intellect will continue to be a tremendous asset to the people of Pennsylvania, and now, to the Democratic caucus in the Senate.

I know that he'll keep up his great work on issues ranging from cancer research funding to global warming, deficit control to immigration reform -- and in our coming debate to reform America's health care system.

As Smith notes, not only has the DNC sent out this supportive email on Specter's behalf, the committee has also set up a page on BarackObama.com describing Specter's record in the Senate. Interestingly, the page highlights Specters "important role in nine different Supreme Court nominations since 1981" -- interesting because not only was Specter instrumental in keeping Robert Bork off of the Supreme Court, which most Democrats would approve of, but also because he was instrumental in getting Clarence Thomas seated on the Court, which most Democrats certainly do not approve of.

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The Community Organizer President

Josh has written this week about the fact that OFA has now added a tool for us to call our representatives to push for his agenda in congress. The fight the administration is calling on us to wage right now is to garner support for the President's budget and it's not only congress they're asking us to sway. In an e-mail blast, David Plouffe urges us to go door to door:

The budget President Obama has proposed isn't the same old document Washington has come to expect year after year.

Right now, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to finally confront the systemic problems that have held America back for far too long in energy, health care, and education.

But it's up to you to get involved and make it happen. Join a canvass this weekend and talk with everyone you know about the President's plan to secure long-term prosperity for our families.

The e-mail included a video appeal directly from President Obama. Watch it:

Considering the AIG debacle, fighting for the budget almost seems quaint but it is crucial as its passage will ensure steps toward the advancement of the progressive agenda Obama ran on last year. The administration gets that we have a role in this. As I've written before, this is the fight we've been waiting to have, it's time to step up.

You can sign up to host or attend a canvass on Saturday HERE.

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OFA's Next Step

Yesterday we heard the great news that Organizing for America, the DNC-based outgrowth of Obama's campaign, had reversed tactics and now seems willing to ask supporters to contact their elected representatives in support of Obama's agenda.

To add a little more good news, it looks like they'll introduce a new online tool for just that kind of organizing (from Sargent):

"It's the first ever tool for the Organizing for America community and others on the OFA and DNC sites to find their members and call in support of the President's legislative agenda," the Dem official says. "It's an address enter tool to find your member and call in support of the budget."

This is positive on three levels.

First, OFA organizers seemed to have lost their previous political gun-shyness. Pressuring moderate Dems on legislation is back on the table.

Second, asking Obama supporters to take direct action could be beneficial for reasons broader than just swaying individual legislators. Washington is stale and gets stuck in its own conventional wisdom - and the political media, pundits, and elected officials could use some feedback from the public beyond just poll numbers on paper. Calls and emails to offices, combined with media coverage and chatter about the volume of response, etc. could help inject a little reality into the political process. Progressive organizations have admirably tried this for years - but none with the potential volume, leverage, and political clout of OFA.

Third, there's civic benefit to bringing Obama supporters a step closer to the legislative process. Many folks who organized for Obama this past election cycle are new to the political process. What better next-step than challenging these activists to become more involved in government? For crusty blog readers, staying abreast of legislative issues and contacting one's Congressional delegation may seem routine. But to certain freshly-activated Obama supporters, it could be a new and significant civic step. And thanks to OFA's diligent work creating meaningful relationships with supporters, this ask isn't a big stretch.

Update [2009-3-17 15:38:9 by Josh Orton]: And here's the new tool. Let's do it.

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