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Bill Moyers' Journal: Gretchen Morgenson on banking reform; John Nichols, Terry O'Neill on health insurance reform

(Updated with link to transcript and to backstory on executive order)

From Moyers' blog, The Unbearable Lightness of Reform, in which he and Michael Winship point out how little reform there is and how much government protection of private for-profit health insurance companie, hospitals, and PhRMA.

The essay opens with this trademark Moyers' reference:

That wickedly satirical Ambrose Bierce described politics as "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage."

Bierce vanished to Mexico nearly a hundred years ago - to the relief of the American political class of his day, one assumes - but in an eerie way he was forecasting America's political culture today. It seems like most efforts to reform a system that's gone awry - to clean house and make a fresh start - end up benefiting the very people who wrecked it in the first place.

Which is why Bierce, in his classic little book, The DEVIL'S DICTIONARY, defined reform as "a thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation."

Per the intro blurb, John Nichols sees the bill as overall a step forward, one from which the nation cannot go backward. Terry O'Neill is not as optimistic:

"My organization looked at the entire bill at the end of the day when it was passed. And we concluded that on balance, despite the good things that are in the bill, the bill actually is bad for women."

And health insurance is not the only reform gone squishy under Obama and the Dems: there's also "reform" of the financial sector. Uh huh.

The Repubs are working very hard to regain the most donations from the Big Banksters:

So wouldn't it have been fascinating to have been a fly on the wall earlier this year when Boehner sat down for drinks with Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase? Reportedly, he invited Dimon and the rest of the financial community to pony up the cash and see what good things follow.

According to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Republicans already were receiving an increasing share of campaign contributions from the Street. In the game of reform, it's the political version of loading the dice.

Always good stuff on Moyers' Journal.

Where will we find anything like this when he's off the air? Word is John Meacham will be brought on to host...something squishy and middle of the center right....

Anyone know the final broadcast date?

Tonight at 9PM in the NYC area, 7PM Sunday evening. Check local listings, etc.

No votes yet


Submitted by jawbone on

ideology can trump health care needs of an entire class of people, per O'Neill. From the transcript:

TERRY O'NEILL: Well, I-- that's exactly right. It is the first time in this country's history that we have had comprehensive health care legislation. And it is painful to me that women's health has been singled out. The first time that we do this as a country, we single out women to be deprived of ordinary health care that they need. And I'm talking about the sweeping anti-abortion provision there.

Forty percent of women have had or will have an abortion in their lifetime. It is a common medical procedure. It needs to be safe. It needs to be fully and equally accessible to all women. And what has been enshrined in this law is not so much the principle about whether federal dollars go to pay for abortion, what is really enshrined in this law is that ideology can trump health care needs of an entire class of people in this country.

John Nichols said Sanders greatly strengthened community health centers and allowed states to experiment with other approaches such as single payer...just not for 10 years!

He notes that for a president who stated he would follow science not politics on scientific issues, he's just fine with health care legislation which excludes illegal immigrants and thus exposes the whole nation to health risks. (Way to go, BO!)

JOHN NICHOLS: There's things I love in this bill. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, strong supporter of single payer Medicare for All, put in some incredible measures that extend and protect public health clinics, make them stronger, allow for a lot more funding to go there. These are going to be our first line in a whole bunch of public health. They're great.

Senator Sanders also put in a provision that in an incredible fight that will eventually allow states to experiment with something closer to a Medicare for All single payer type model. Unfortunately, you can't do it for the better part of ten years. So, there's a lot of good elements in this bill. That's not the problem. This is a bill that is at odds with itself.

We say this is a bill that promises health care for all. And yet, there are tens of millions of Americans who will not get health care as a result of this bill. They acknowledge leaving the better part of 12 to 16 million Americans out. We say this is a bill that, or it is said, this is a bill that's going to take on the big insurance companies. And yet, it requires middle class Americans to buy insurance from the big insurance companies.

BILL MOYERS: Under penalty.

JOHN NICHOLS: Under penalty. We say this is a bill that recognizes science and reality, public health concerns. And yet, as my colleague here points out, we leave over half the population out in a basic health care requirement, a basic health care need. And we also deny public health. Because this bill discriminates against immigrants who live in this country but have not yet achieved citizenship.

Moyers asks if Obama is progressive, mentions Reich's piece saying bill is based on Repub approaches. Nichols had said that from the start if Obama had said we've got a great single payer system called Medicare, let's build on that, then no Tea Partiers could scream he was ruining Medicare.

JOHN NICHOLS: .... The fact of the matter is polling shows an awful lot of Republicans think that this, a lot of this reform is very, very good. Already there are divisions within the Republican caucus about whether they're for full repeal or just changing some of the things. And that's really whether we're at.

The fact is, this bill is never going to be repealed. It's not going to be thrown out. We've opened up a great debate in this country. There will be conservatives, even reactionaries who say that the bill must be weakened-- must be changed. They will offer their solutions. The only mistake that progressives would make would be to think that it is the job of progressives to defend this bill as is.

If there are pulls from the left and the right, then the compromises, if you will, will be in a good direction. If there are not pulls from the left, if the left simply becomes an 'Amen corner' for the bill that was passed, it will get steadily worse, because all the noise will come from the right.

BILL MOYERS: So, what do you want progressives to do tomorrow morning?

JOHN NICHOLS: I've seen a rise in energy. I think people do believe that we might actually be in a reform moment.

And it may not be anything we want, but that's good. If we're there, then we can start to define things. I'm excited about a lot of stuff that's happening. I'm in no ways tired. I look at Congressman Alan Grayson from Florida, who has proposed a Buy Into Medicare Act. And he just says, "You know, let's just say that if instead of forcing people to buy health care from a private insurance company, you can also buy in, at cost, no matter what your age, to Medicare."

BILL MOYERS: Let's hear a little of that.

REP. ALAN GRAYSON: This simple bill would allow anybody, any American, any permanent resident, to buy into Medicare at cost. And what it does is it takes this enormously valuable public resource called the Medicare Provider Network and makes it available to all Americans. We've spent billions putting together a Medicare Provider Network that stretches from Nome, Alaska, all the way to Key West, Florida. We've spent billions doing that, and yet only one-eighth of the population can use it [...] I say to those people on the other side of the aisle, if you don't want to buy into the public option, that's fine. But don't prevent me and my family and the ones who I love from doing the same.

BILL MOYERS: Does that proposal have any chance?

JOHN NICHOLS: You know, this is the interesting thing. Alan Grayson proposed it, and it's four pages long. And I know Congressman Grayson. He put it together pretty quickly.

BILL MOYERS: Democrat from Florida.

JOHN NICHOLS: Democrat from Florida. Real rabble rouser. To his surprise, he's already got 80 cosponsors. He put a petition up saying, "You know, let's petition Congress on this." They were getting people to sign on at a rate of one every six seconds across the country.

The fact of the matter is Barack Obama is a cautious President. It is time to go out and make him do the things that need to be done. And that's an organizing task.

My bolding throughout.

Submitted by jawbone on

caucus thought they could get the abortion issue off the bargaining list by saying let's simply state that the Hyde Amendment is not changed by anything in this legislation. Stupak almost immediately said that meant Hyde was the pro-choice position and he demanded...this will sound familiar...a compromise!

Terry O'Neilll says that they've learned you don't offer anything less a the beginning than you absolutely want to end up with. You don't start out with a compromise and thing it won't be pulled futher from where you actually want to end up.

Gee, maybe they can teach our Dem legislators that hard lesson.

Now, Obama? He's just where he wanted to be, which is why he was compromising with his own self over and over and over.

Nichols is saying if the prog left just keeps being an amen corner for this bill, then the only voices demanding change will be from the right. Nichols says it's time (how about waaaaay past time, dude) to make Obama do what needs to be done.

But, of course, he is not mentioning that Obama is quite satisfied with this RomneyCare/BHIP-PPP. Obama thinks corporate protection is what he was put in office to do.

O'Neill says they're going to take Medicare Buy-In to the grass roots.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

Thanks much Terry, too bad the Medicare Buy-In is cost prohibitive. Could these activists groups ever like, you know, talk to the experts? Like the people at PNHP or the California Nurses Association. C'mon. I'm actually ok with a buy-in, but then we first need to improve Medicare and then need to make sure it gets in on the subsidies.

Why isn't NOW for Medicar for All, let the politicans make the deals.

Submitted by jawbone on

pro-choice caucus getting rolled (March 26th transcript):

BILL MOYERS: Do you feel betrayed?

TERRY O'NEILL: I, you know, of course, the women's movement has clearly been betrayed by this by this process. The executive order. It was a wrong thing for him to do. I understand the politics of it.

BILL MOYERS: The pro-caucus--

TERRY O'NEILL: The pro-choice caucus--

BILL MOYERS: The pro-choice caucus in the House supported the executive order.

TERRY O'NEILL: I know. I know. And the reason they did was that they compromised. What the alternative at the time, in that weekend, the alternative was going full boor for the Stupak/Pitts language going into the bill. That was the tradeoff. I got a call on Friday evening at 7:30 because what's happening is Bart Stupak is leading the charge to, at midnight, slip in this extremely, even worse anti-abortion language than what we ended up with. And, so, we worked for the next 48 hours, furiously trying to stop that from happening. And we did. And the pro-choice caucus in Congress said, "Okay, that's as much as we can do. And now, you know, we're going to go forward." That's their job. You know, you legislators have to make compromises. The National Organization for Women, we're not elected officials. And we don't. And we won't.


TERRY O'NEILL: Well, one thing that I think that we learned, the women's movement learned through this process is that compromise in the current political, I guess, environment in Washington looks a lot different from what it might have many years ago. So, for example, when Lois Capps put her amendment into the, I think it was the House Commerce Committee's version of health care. She put in an amendment that was intended to take abortion off the table. So, she said, "Let's codify Hyde. We'll just codify Hyde. Get it off the table."

BILL MOYERS: Meaning we'll just--

TERRY O'NEILL: "And move on."

BILL MOYERS: We'll just accept it.

TERRY O'NEILL: Yes, yes. Pro-choice. A wonderful pro-choice legislator from California.

JOHN NICHOLS: And she was looking. She was looking for what might classically be described as a compromise.

TERRY O'NEILL: As an actual compromise. And immediately the anti-choice forces on the Republicans party, and Bart Stupak, began saying, so the Hyde Amendment is the pro-choice position. Alright. So, what we've learned from that is that in fact we never ever let that happen again. And the certainly my organization is prepared to go to the mat on these issues and not say-- look, these are our friends, you know?

Submitted by jawbone on

problem will happen again. Especiall the FI part of FIRE.

We are nowhere closer to strategies or regulatiions to keep such behemoths doing the same old things again. The lobbying money is completely overwhelming reform. (She has not thus far mentioned Obama's reluctance to reform banksters.)

Not that much news to us here, but good for PBS viewers to see and hear.

Where will they get any info like this in the future, after Moyers is off the air??? Damn, can't we clone him?

If I win a big lottery I will set up schools, professorships, foundations to train the next generation of liberal broadcasters, reporters, pundits. (Yeah, if....)

JG's picture
Submitted by JG on

It's not on PBS, and it's not a direct replacement for Bill Moyers Journal, but everyone should try to watch Democracy Now! at least a couple times per week.

"You can learn more of the truth about Washington and the world from one week of Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! than from a month of Sunday morning talk shows. Make that a year of Sunday talk shows." -- Bill Moyers

Submitted by gmanedit on

I don't listen to it—but Third Estate Sunday Review (http://thirdestatesundayreview.blogspot....), a group blog that focuses on Iraq (because somebody's got to do it) and "left" media, have only bad things to say about it and Amy Goodman. They're not fond of Bill Moyers, either. Among other things, both disgraced themselves in the primaries, presenting Obama supporters as neutral observers without declaring conflicts of interest.

Spend a few hours reading their archives and you might have a different opinion on who's really on your side.

JG's picture
Submitted by JG on

Thanks for pointing out those criticisms. I read some of them, and they seem reasonable to me, although the authors seem overly willing to accuse Amy Goodman (and others) of lying. One thing that I have noticed is that she tends not to challenge her guests.

On the other hand, I don't know of a better daily podcast. Without Democracy Now!, I wouldn't have heard about Obama's plans to increase military aid to Indonesia, including forces that have been implicated in recent assassinations. Or about environmental groups compromising their position by taking money from large polluters.

Submitted by jawbone on

it's on WBAI, 99.5 FM, a Pacifica station --with a strong signal. 8AM M-F. Archives for later listening and podcasts.

It used to on at 9 AM and I haven't been able to figure out why the hour was changed. It originates in NYC, so why go a hour earlier? I keep forgetting to tune from Morning Edition to WBAI at 8.

However, Dem Now is only on cable TV, so it doesn't reach as far or as easily. But...they have video on their web site, which is fine for those with decent bandwidth and...of course...computers and internet access.

What I really want is an inexpensive way to get podcasts or computer streaming radio broadcasts onto my radios -- so I can move around the house and still listen and not miss important info and nuance when leaving a room.

Internet radios are way too pricey for me.

Any solutions?

Submitted by jawbone on

I'm going to try the Sirius 2000 USB FM Transmitter -- will see how the signal works indoors and out in the garden.

Oh, I do so hope it works! (May be awhile as it's on backorder.)

Next thing would be sensors which turn the radios off when I'm not in that radio's location, but has them come on as I approach the room or go from front to back yard....

If wishes were horses, etc.

Mother Goose rhyme.


If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
If turnips were watches, I would wear one by my side.
And if "ifs" and "ands"
Were pots and pans,
There'd be no work for tinkers!