Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
I would have preferred a single-payer system like Medicare but became convinced earlier this year that a public, Medicare-like optional plan was just about as much as was politically possible. Now the White House is stepping back even from the public option, with the president saying it's "not the entirety of health-care reform," the White House spokesman saying the president could be "satisfied" without it, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that a public insurance plan is "not the essential element."
Citigroup -- the giant Wall Street bank still on life-support courtesy of $45 billion from American taxpayers -- wants to pay its 25 top executives an average of $10 million each this year, and award its best trader $100 million. Whaaat?
Second only to health-care reform as a test of Obama's toughness and resolve is reform of Wall Street. And like the health-care industry, Wall Street has platoons of lobbyists and an almost unlimited war chest to protect its interests and prevent change. So what can we learn by what's going on now, regarding pay for the top brass at big "too big to fail" banks?
Three years ago, my mother died after a long and painful illness. During her last months she was only partially conscious, and in her brief intervals of awareness was often distraught. At several points my father, sister, and I met with doctors to figure out how to ease her obvious suffering with pain medications, and how we could get her into a hospice facility. We could afford the counseling, but millions of other families cannot -- which is why one of the useful heath care reforms now moving through Congress authorizes Medicare to reimburse doctors for such voluntary end-of-life consultations. The American Medical Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization support the provision.
My friend, Keith, from New Orleans, just emailed to say he attended a local "town meeting" on health care and tried to get a word in favor but was almost hounded out of the room.
Why are these meetings brimming with so much anger? Because Republican Astroturfers have joined the same old right-wing broadcast demagogues that have been spewing hate and fear for years, to create a tempest.
But why are they getting away with it? Why aren't progressives -- indeed, why aren't ordinary citizens -- taking the meetings back?
President Barack Obama jogs in to speak at a town hall meeting on health care in Belgrade, Mont. Friday, Aug. 14, 2009.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
My friend Fred voted for Obama and trusts him to do the right thing. "He's the brightest and most decent person who's occupied the Oval Office in my lifetime," Fred says. His trust for the man extends to Obama's agenda. "I don't have time to wade into the details of the economy or health care or climate change legislation or anything else, but I know he's got my interests at heart."