Health Care is a Priority for OMB Director Peter Orszag

Here's some very good news about what could be in store from the Obama administration.

Peter Orszag, the director of Obama's Office of Management and Budget, was seen as a key figure in negotiating the bailout compromise. Known as an academic, Washington insiders were surprised by how effective he was. But the most exciting about Peter Orszag is that he is dedicated to health care reform. From Ben Smith's Budget to kick off health care rewrite:

And the bill spends more than $1 billion on Orszag's pet cause, research on the effectiveness of medical practices, which he sees as an opening to reforming American health care through sheer analytical will.

So we're already getting the benefit of his expertise and interest in health care. And apparently there is more to come:

He's signaling that the moves in the stimulus package are just a hint of what's to come in a budget that will begin in earnest the arduous process of health care reform.

"What has already been accomplished is a huge start toward a more efficient [health care] system, and I think you're going to see more in the budget next week," he told Politico.

Even more promising is his view of health care, Social Security, Medicare, and budget priorities:

Orszag's other key agenda item next week will be an effort to change the debate on Medicare and Social Security.

Orszag's long-running project -- something that has made him the left's favorite Cabinet member -- has been replacing talk of an "entitlement crisis" with his argument that Social Security requires only modest tax hikes and benefit cuts, while Medicare and Medicaid have much more dramatic fiscal woes.

"Social Security faces an actuarial deficit over the next 75-100 years. In the past, I've resisted the term `crisis' to describe that kind of situation," he said. "This is not quantitatively as important as getting health care done."

Hooray! Orszag doesn't just understand the number crunching, he understands the importance of framing the debate in the proper terms in order to control the dialog and push forth an agenda. Health care is my number one issue this is exactly what I'm hoping for in the Obama administration. I have very high hopes for what can be accomplished with Orszag running the OMB.

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Vote. Take your kids to Vote. Get out the Vote.

Tomorrow's the big day. There are three things left to do:

1. Vote. Okay, we all know this one. Some of you already have voted. I prefer voting on election day at my polling place because I like the whole activity of going to vote and the community feeling you get voting amongst your neighbors. However you choose to vote, just make sure you do it.

2. Take your kids to vote (if you have kids). It's a great way to teach kids about democracy and get them excited about voting in the future. Kids are always eager to participate in things they aren't allowed to do until they're older. By taking your kids to the polls, they will look forward to turning 18 so they can vote, just like they look forward to turning 16 so they can drive.

3. Get out the vote! There are many ways to do this, both formal and informal. You can help through your local Democratic party with phone banking, knocking on doors, and other activities. Just call your local party or favorite campaign and ask how you can help.

But even if you can't participate in organized GOTV activities, you can still get out the vote on your own. Wear your "I Have Voted" sticker proudly, and ask everyone you talk to, "Have you voted YET?" Call your friends and family members and remind them to get out and vote. When you leave work, remind everyone that they need to get to the polls by 8pm (and even if the Presidential race has already been called, remind them of the state and local races that need their votes).

Help someone else get out to vote. Offer to give someone a ride to the polls. Offer to watch a friend's kids, or pick up their kids from school so they have time to vote. Cook dinner for a busy friend (or bring over a pizza) so they can make it to the polls. If you're an employer or manager, let your employees have as much time as they may need to vote.

When more people vote, Democrats win. So whatever you do, make tomorrow about more than just your own vote. Help get out the vote anyway you can.

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Live in a Safe Democratic District? Adopt-a-Candidate today!

Do you live in a safe Democratic Congressional district? If so, please join me and "Adopt-A-Candidate" for the final two week stretch of campaign season.

How do you "adopt-a-candidate"? It's easy.

* Find a worthy Democratic congressional candidate in your state, or in a region you care about, who has potential to beat their opponent.

* Contribute to the candidate's campaign, as though they were representing you.

* Promote your adopted candidate to anyone you know in that district, and write diaries and posts about them on blogs encouraging others to contribute to the candidate too.

What are the benefits of adopting a candidate?

* You'll help get another Democrat elected to Congress, which will provide your own congressmember with an ally in Washington, and make it easier to get important legislation passed in the Obama administration.

* You'll learn about the demographics and voting habits of another Congressional District. (And knowing the demographics makes watching election returns so much more exciting!)

* You'll feel like you made a difference. (Even if your adoptee doesn't win, you'll have raised their public profile  so they'll have an easier time raising funds and getting support next time they run for office.)

* When your adopted candidate wins, you'll feel like you have two members of Congress representing you.

I adopted Debbie Cook in CA-46 through the encouragement of some fine folks here at MyDD, and she's been the best candidate I could ever ask for. I encourage any of you living in safe districts to go out there and "Adopt-a-Candidate" now!!! It's only a 2-week commitment, but the benefits may last a lifetime.

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C4O Spotlight: Let's get Debbie Cook (CA-46) on the air!

(Proudly cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama.)  

Today, the C4O All Stars spotlight shines on Debbie Cook, mayor of Huntington Beach, California and candidate for California's 46th Congressional District.

As we've told you previously in CA-46: Better Leadership for Our People & Our Planet, Debbie Cook is from the deep red Orange County and she's attempting to unseat GOP rubberstamp, and global warming denier, Dana Rohrabacher. Debbie Cook has also been named a "Healthcare Hero" by the California Nurses Association for running on a platform of supporting HR 676, John Conyers' bill for an expanded and improved Medicare for All. Debbie Cook is well-known in the region, popular, and has a realistic shot at turning this red district blue.

Now, Debbie has a new TV ad, "Results", that she's airing across her district (see it here). This ad makes it clear how different Debbie's policies are from Dana Rohrabacher. As Debbie says:

I'm just not comfortable playing the Washington politics that have kept Dana in office for so long; I am depending on hardworking Americans like you for support, not Washington lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. A campaign built on the power of our community working together is the way we are going to win in November.
Now Debbie is asking for help to get this ad on the air. Each ad costs about $38 (which sounds like a great price to me) and she's asking for donations so her ad can air as many times as possible between now and November 4.

This is the chance to help unseat a really awful, entrenched Republican and get some real respresentation for the people of Orange County. Please use our C4O ActBlue page to donate to Debbie Cook's campaign (and maybe contribute to a few other good Dems while you're there.) And if you contribute $38 to Debbie Cook's campaign, you can be assured that people in Orange County, California will be hearing Debbie Cook's message all thanks to you.

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The Business and Politics of Wildfires

The LA Times is running a 5 part series titled the "Big Burn" about the growth and cost of wildfires.

Today's installment, Air tanker drops in wildfires are often just for show details much of the politics behind firefighting and the use of aircraft in what fire officials call "CNN drops". This article is a must-read if you care about waste, federal contractors, and slimy politicians. It's a really well written and researched piece with many quotes from former firefighting officials.

In particular, the article singles out Rep. Duncan Hunter from San Diego who personally called the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to request aircraft when Forest Service air tankers had already been grounded due to weather. While Hunter insisted that he was doing the job he was elected to:

To professional firefighters, though, it was a prime example of a "political air show," the high-profile use of expensive aircraft to appease elected officials.

(The one bit of happy ending to this story is that Duncan Hunter's house burned to the ground.)

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Does Patty Solis Doyle know something we don't?

It's starting to sound a bit like an Obama/Clinton ticket may be in the works. From the AP:

Hillary Rodham Clinton's former campaign manager, now on Barack Obama's team, says she could easily work for her old boss again if Clinton were on the Democratic ticket.

Gotta wonder if Patty knows something we don't. When she first went to work for Obama, many claimed it was a sign that Clinton would NEVER be the VP nominee. But if that's the case, it seems that Patty wouldn't give this interview, or answer these questions this way.

Solis Doyle told The Associated Press on Wednesday she didn't think their longtime friendship was permanently damaged. She joined the Obama campaign last month as chief of staff to Obama's eventual running mate...

...She says the move to Obama came with "very complicated emotions" because of that past. So she checked with her old boss before joining Obama's team.

"She's a friend of mine and I just wanted to, both on a personal and professional level, let her know what I was doing and make sure that she was, you know, good with it. And she was," Solis Doyle said.

The two exchanged phones calls -- but kept missing each other -- so Solis Doyle sent Clinton an e-mail. She said Clinton congratulated her and told her she was sure she would do a great job.

Perhaps this is pure speculation (and wishful thinking) on my part. But it seems there's been a steady stream of articles linking Obama and Clinton. Considering how disciplined the Obama campaign tends to be about staying on message, I can't help but believe there is something behind all of this.

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Obama: Social Security "donut hole" to $250K

One of the best solutions for increasing funding for Social Security without impacting the middle class is what's known as the "Donut Hole" approach (which I first heard proposed by Al Franken). This approach leaves Social Security as-is for the vast majority of Americans who pay the 6.2% payroll tax on all income up to $102,000. Currently, no one pays Social Security on income about $102k. Today, Senator Obama proposed a "donut hole" where income between $102k - $250k will not be subjected to Social Security, however all income above $250k will again be subject to the 6.2% payroll tax.

In prepared remarks the campaign distributed to reporters, Obama plans to say that such an increase "can extend the promise of Social Security without shifting the burden on to seniors" while leaving "absolutely no change" in taxes for 97 percent of Americans."The best way forward is to adjust the cap on the payroll tax so that people like me pay a little bit more and people in need are protected," Obama plans to say.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail /2008/06/13/obama_clarifies_social_secur it.html?hpid=topnews

I think a donut hole from $102k-$250k is appropriate and $250k is a good point at which payroll taxes should kick in again. Earlier in the year, Obama's proposed extending payroll taxes to all income above $102k, and I disagreed with that approach (as did Hillary Clinton). Living in California, $102k doesn't go very far (especially if you're supporting a family) and I felt that subjecting middle-class wage earners to even higher payroll taxes was completely unfair. I do think that $250k is fair and that people at that income level can afford a bit more payroll taxes.

I am very pleased that Senator Obama has embraced the $250k donut hole. The time has come to increase funding for Social Security, and stop raiding the trust fund. Next on the agenda: Universal Health Coverage!

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Shame on U.S.: 47 million lack health insurance

Number of uninsured U.S. young adults grows

Among the findings in a truly depressing new study, over 15% of Americans lack health insurance, and 30% of 19-29 year olds lack health insurance. It is shameful that a nation as wealthy as the U.S. leaves so many people without health care coverage. Think about these numbers. This is not some abstract issue. This is a real problem that affects people you know.

Some of the "highlights" from the report:

13.7 million people aged 19 to 29 had no health insurance, either public or private, in 2006.

The government estimates that 47 million people have no health coverage in a country of about 300 million.

The U.S. uninsured rate rises dramatically at age 19 -- from 12 percent of children up to age 18 up to 30 percent among men and women aged 19 to 29, according to the report.

Hispanic and black young adults were at greater risk of being uninsured than whites, the report showed. While 23 percent of whites ages 19 to 29 lacked insurance, the figure was 36 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanics.

We need universal health coverage now. Your fellow Americans are literally dying because they lack access to health care. Our health care system has become a huge strain on the finances of individuals, businesses, and the U.S. economy. We cannot afford to wait another decade or presidential term while our nation's health care crisis worsens every day.

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Randi Rhodes Suspended (with UPDATE #2)

Air America has suspended Randi Rhodes for her "comedy" routine. Press release below (http://www.airamerica.com/):


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2008

New York - Air America has suspended on-air host Randi Rhodes for making inappropriate statements about prominent figures, including Senator Hillary Clinton, at a recent public appearance on behalf of Air America in San Francisco which was sponsored by an Air America affiliate station.

"Air America encourages strong opinions about public affairs but does not condone such abusive, ad hominem language by our Hosts," said chair Charlie Kireker.

Sorry to just post a press release without commentary, but I'm waiting to hear more details.

[Update]

Here's some additional info I found on the NYT blog (http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/air-america-host-suspended-for-clinton-remarks)

The network called Ms. Rhodes’ suspension “indefinite” and did not elaborate on the fate of her daily three-hour radio show. “The Randi Rhodes Show” is normally broadcast from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Sam Seder, another Air America host, was scheduled to fill in for Ms. Rhodes on Thursday.

Did anyone hear the beginning of the show today? Did Sam Seder say anything about this?

(I've never updated a diary before, so hopefully I did this correctly.)

[Update #2]

I've been listening to Sam fill in for Randi and he's encouraging listeners to go to their site and write to Air America in support of Randi. So some of you who aren't listening might want to write to them and let them know how you feel too.

Jesse Jackson Jr. plays the race card (again)

Jesse Jackson Jr. is already one of the most egregious players of the race card with his "she didn't cry for Katrina" comments. But today I found this a quote by him that really shows the kind of racial politics he's playing -- and this time he's targeting black politicians.

From AP article about the pressure some black lawmakers feel to support Obama (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080215/ap_o n_el_pr/clinton_superdelegates_6;_ylt=Ap eAuR7qy3M.kGJ6rUOZk50E1vAI):

One black supporter of Clinton, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, said he remains committed to her. "There's nothing going on right now that would cause me to" change, he said...

...In an interview, Cleaver offered a glimpse of private conversations.

He said Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois had recently asked him "if it comes down to the last day and you're the only superdelegate? ... Do you want to go down in history as the one to prevent a black from winning the White House?

"I told him I'd think about it," Cleaver concluded.

Jackson, an Obama supporter, confirmed the conversation, and said the dilemma may pose a career risk for some black politicians. "Many of these guys have offered their support to Mrs. Clinton, but Obama has won their districts. So you wake up without the carpet under your feet. You might find some young primary challenger placing you in a difficult position" in the future, he added.

So now Jackson Jr. is threatening black politicians that unless they fall in line and support Obama they may find themselves in a "difficult position". It would be one thing if he made this statement about all politicians who represent black districts, but the fact that he's specifically threatening black politicians makes his statement truly disturbing.

Unfortunately, this apple has fallen far from the tree.

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