Wednesday, June 24, 2009

OUCH. United Steelworkers un-invite Specter, cheer Sestak. Why? Employee Free Choice.

Chris Bowers at Open Left has an interesting post up today. He says Specter was invited in Feb. to speak at the United Steelworkers' legislative conference, but the rank and file said NO when they found out, so he was un-invited. Sestak spoke Sunday and was greeted with a "rousing ovation."

In the comments at DailyKos, Mr. Savage posts a 9-point version of what he has to say about this, including:

8. Specter sent a whiny-ass letter to be read to the delegates, which was greeted with jeers.

(Warning: point 9 uses the F-bomb.)

Beats me why Senator Specter hasn't gotten on board with Employee Free Choice yet. Every day he waits hurts him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Specter Comes Out for Public Option

OK, give the senator credit where credit is due. Via PoliticsPA, June 22:

Specter said he supports Sen. Charles Schumer’s health care reform proposal, which includes a public health plan, the central part of Democratic reform efforts. Specter, who initially wavered on his support of the public option after switching parties, touted Schumer’s plan to make the government-backed insurance subject to the same rules as private insurers.

Now, what about the Employee Free Choice Act?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poll: PA Dems who know both pick Sestak 52-44

Wow. Among PA Dems know who both Sestak & Specter are, Sestak leads 52-44.

As Chris Bowers says at the post linked above, claims "that Sestak has no chance are unmasked as either absurd or desperate. Sestak is already winning among Democrats who know both candidates."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Um Yeah, About That Anti-EFCA Pa. Poll...

I hope all the media that report the results of the new anti-Employee Free Choice Act poll of Pennsylvanians ALSO report who paid for it, and how biased the questions were. It was paid for by "Citizens to Protect PA Jobs, a coalition of pro-business groups and citizens." (Questions from the PDF at

"Q1. The U.S. Congress is currently debating passage of a new law called the Employee Free Choice Act, otherwise known as “card check” which effectively ends the ability of employees to hold private ballot elections by allowing employees to more easily form a union if union organizers can get a majority of workers to simply sign cards saying they want to unionize. By signing these cards employees’ signatures would then be made public. Generally speaking, have you recently seen, read or heard anything about this issue?
Q2. Again, this legislation effectively ends the ability of employees to hold private ballot elections by allowing employees to more easily form a union if union organizers can get a majority of workers to simply sign cards saying they want to unionize. By signing these cards employees’ signatures would then be made public. Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose passage of this Employee Free Choice Act or “card check” legislation?
Q3. As you may or may not know, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter recently stated publicly that he is opposed to this bill because it violates the long-standing tradition of the private ballot and will lead to more job losses in this recession due to the additional burden on employers. Do you agree or disagree with his position?"

And here's the truth about EFCA and secret ballots, from the AFL-CIO's Q&A about the bill:

Does the Employee Free Choice Act take away so-called secret ballot elections?
No. If one-third of workers want to have an NLRB election at their workplace, they can still ask the federal government to hold an election. The Employee Free Choice Act simply gives them another option—majority sign-up.
“Elections” may sound like the most democratic approach, but the NLRB process is nothing like democratic elections in our society—presidential elections, for example—because one side has all the power. The employer controls the voters’ paychecks and livelihood, has unlimited access to speak against the union in the workplace while restricting pro-union speech and has the freedom to intimidate and coerce the voters.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Frank: It Would Be Reasonable For Dems To Challenge Specter

(via TPM) Congressman Barney Frank tells GQ about Specter, "there's an erratic behavior pattern there that's very troubling. I think at this point it's entirely reasonable for some Democrats to think about challenging him."

Other interesting comments in the article too.

NY Times' Al Hunt isn't impressed by what Dems seem to be getting from recently switched Sen. Specter -- says Dems got "snookered" by Specter -- and quotes a prominent Pa. pundit:

“The Democrats could have gotten a 100 percent Obama Democrat,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Instead, they’ll have a 50 percent Obama Democrat, which is the best Specter will be.”

TPM's Josh Marshall cuts through industry spin against public option

Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall: Public option only a 'threat' to private health insurance if it's better

More Marshall on public option: lower premiums, lower administrative costs, no need to produce profits -- "these 'problems' sound remarkably like 'the point' of the whole exercise."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Krugman and doctors' study make case for public option

NY Times' Krugman Thursday on health care reform: "Don’t trust the insurance industry." Says we need public option to keep them honest.

Report from Thursday (Amer. Journal of Medicine via Reuters): Medical bills involved in over 60% of U.S. personal bankruptcies; over 75% of these bankrupt families had health "insurance" but "still were overwhelmed by their medical debts." (The study's authors support single-payer, which pretty much everyone says won't happen this year, but public option can and should.)

Specter won't commit to Sotomayor; Paper: Fire Mary Beth Buchanan already

Politico: Specter won't commit to Sotomayor (Sheesh.)

Pa2010 analysis: Voting now a high-stakes proposition for Specter; Campisi: the primary race is a Dem of necessity vs. a Dem by choice

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial Thursday: Mr. President, time to fire Bush U.S. Attorney Buchanan already. (Amen to that!) (What IS Buchanan still doing there? Plenty of reason to remove her, and the Obama admin. replaced the interim U.S. attorney in Philly district already.)

As the P-G says:
Many Pittsburghers pleaded with her to stop wasting any more time and public resources on this case -- among them, this newspaper, its readers and 31 prominent local residents who signed an open, bipartisan letter to her. Among the signatories were fellow Republicans including Elsie Hillman, Melissa Hart and Jim Roddey.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Health care: Obama re-emphasizes he wants public option included

You can read the full text of today's letter from President Obama to Congress at this page on the White House site.

Jonathan Cohn has an interesting take on it at the New Republic's "The Treatment" health care blog.

Karen Tumulty's take at Time's "Swampland" blog is also worth a read.

In related news, the New York Times reported today that (surprise) the health insurance industry is balking at including the small business market in health care reform:

In other words, policy analysts and others say, unless the insurance industry is willing to give some of the same ground to small businesses that they have ceded to individual policy holders, a big part of what is wrong with the nation’s health care system may not get fixed.
More than 40 percent of the private American labor force works for companies with fewer than 100 workers. Leaving small businesses out of the federal effort to overhaul health care would be “a big hole in any reform proposal,” said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care research group that advocates significant changes to the current system.

As the president re-emphasized today, for-profit insurers need real competition from a public plan. Otherwise that kind of nonsense will continue.

'Specter Scorecard' Site Launched to Track Key Post-Switch Votes

Several progressive groups have started up a site to track Specter's key post-switch votes:

Specter Scorecard will do two things:
We'll keep you informed about key upcoming votes where Sen. Specter's vote will be vital to the success of the progressive position. We'll give you accurate information about the issue and we'll provide you with the opportunity to take action to help persuade Arlen to do the right thing.
We'll let you know how Sen. Specter has voted on important progressive issues since he made the switch. We'll display his "progressive batting average" and keep it updated when he takes votes on those issues.

Right now, they're rating his "batting average" at .500 -- bad vote on the Obama budget, good vote on confirming Kathleen Sebelius as HHS secretary.

Roll Call: Labor Has Tough Choice in Pennsylvania

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, has an article today titled Labor Has Tough Choice in Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George, a longtime ally of Specter’s, has seen his organization support the Senator in his last three re-election campaigns. But this time around, George was hesitant to predict whether the AFL-CIO would back Specter in 2010.
“He did give us the vote two years ago, and our rank and file don’t know why he can’t give us the vote now, when it’s exactly the same bill,” George said. “And I can’t explain it to our members.”
The AFL-CIO, with 900,000 members, is the most powerful union in the state, and the vast majority of its ranks are Democrats. Specter earned a 61 percent lifetime voting record from the national AFL-CIO, while Sestak earned a 96 percent rating. ...
Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney said he has Specter’s personal assurance that he is working every day with his colleagues to develop some compromise language for EFCA. After all, Rooney pointed out, Specter isn’t the only Democrat who has said he is inclined to vote against the current version of EFCA.
“I know firsthand from Sen. Specter that he has been working daily over the past few weeks to come to compromise language to be able to get 60 votes to survive a filibuster,” Rooney said. “I can’t think of anybody better to bring about a resolution, especially among other Senators who have concerns.”

ALSO: Tom Ferrick at Pa2010 says Specter should be worried about Sestak and that Sestak has a real shot.

More reasons we need public option in health care

From Saturday's New York Times, here's more evidence why we need a public insurance option in health care reform, to keep the insurance companies honest and provide real competition for them --
IS your medical insurance bad for your health? If you have a high-deductible plan, the answer may be yes.
The investment firm Fidelity recently surveyed employees at various companies who had opted for a high-deductible health plan linked to a health savings account. About half of those workers said they or a family member had chosen not to seek medical care for minor ailments as many as four times in the last year to avoid paying the out-of-pocket expenses.
As any doctor will tell you, small health problems left untreated can become big problems, warns Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy at the health care advocacy group Families USA. “This is just one of the many high-deductible pitfalls consumers need to watch out for,” Ms. Stoll said. ...
low-income families don’t benefit from the tax breaks associated with health savings accounts the way middle- and high-income earners do.
Even if you can afford the costs, the loopholes that insurers often weave into these plans to reduce premiums can mean that even after your deductible is met, you may not have the coverage you need to handle a serious illness or accident.

The article goes on to describe other charming features like caps on lifetime coverage, caps on doctor visits, and this beaut - caps on hospitalization costs -- for example:

Mr. Claxton has seen policies that so severely restrict hospitalization that they will not pay for the first day you are admitted. “That’s the day when you’re most likely to have the most costs,” he said. “Think of it: You’re admitted to the E.R., you have surgery and you spend the night in the I.C.U., and none of it is covered.”

As I've blogged about before, including competition from a public option (think Medicare for people under 65) is one of the biggest things we can do to rein in out-of-control health care cost inflation. And it would actually COVER people. What a concept!

In Senate race punditry, Pa. pundits Madonna and Young give their take on Sestak running for Senate.

Monday, June 1, 2009