Monday, March 22, 2010

Obama Healthcare Victory

Hooray for President Obama. Finally, he and the congressional leadership marshaled their majority numbers and approved something about which they can brag. I hope Sunday’s healthcare vote will embolden the President and congressional Democrats to begin putting their stamp on other policy changes and then aggressively running on that record this year and in 2012.

As I’ve noted before, in Washington you are either a sheep or wolf and the D’s never should emulate lamb chops, especially with their numerical superiority.

I believe the GOP intransigence and the Republican Party’s blind support of the insurance companies—who always have been major villains in this fight—will cost them in November, as they try and explain their opposition to making changes in a system badly in need of alterations.

When the noise over this weekend’s vote and subsequent Senate action to send the package onto the President subsides, voters and their families will start looking at how they will be affected and what’s in it for them. Once that happens, I think they will be angered that the GOP opposed so many desired reforms.

Come the fall congressional campaigns, you will see more GOP healthcare contrition than you find at a hundred AA meetings or Catholic confessionals.

The legislation that the GOP vilified and from which they walked away held some of their own positions. There were no government “death squads” (someone remind Sarah Palin of that fact) and no federal “public option,” ergo no “federal takeover of healthcare.” Whatever new insurance purchased will be supplied by the existing (very-GOP) private sector insurance companies which opposed the healthcare changes.

Even the American Medical Association (AMA), representing doctors nationwide—and not known to be fans of the Democrats--supported the package.

The final Senate votes will occur this week, but this doesn’t end healthcare as a political issue. “See you in September,” as the “Tempos” first sang in 1959 with absolutely no political inference!

Financial Reform?

Senator Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn) expansive financial reform bill, which has its initial congressional hearing this week, is the legislative matter which President Obama identifies as his next big priority. (Of course, immigration, jobs, Israel, Afghanistan and Iraq could jump to the queue’s front, not to mention “No Child..” and climate legislation.)

After trying but failing to get GOP support in his committee, Dodd has put together his own package, which gives the Fed more power at least at the expense of the regional Fed banks (but never the New York Bank) and is what will go to conference with Barney Frank’s (D-Mass) House-passed regulatory package, if Senate Republicans don’t complete destroy Dodd’s bill or hamstring the Senate legislative process.

I would rather have better regulators than more structural regulation. But, there is no way to insure the former, while the latter just requires a bunch of Senators and Congressmen tilting at windmills.

There still are daggers being stared—if not pointed--at Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for his initial effort to reach some financial reform consensus with Democrat Dodd.

Corker violated the line in the sand which Republicans have drawn to thwart any GOP interest in bipartisanship. Republican friends told me how angry GOP leadership is with Corker because he tried to find some reasonable path through the financial reform partisan minefield.

These sources suggest that the GOP leadership may re-assign Corker’s office to the eighth floor of the Senate Russell Office Building…which only has five floors.

The House R’s on Fannie and Freddie

When Barney Frank begins his hearings aimed at “abolishing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” he’ll have some helpful allies based on a new GOP set of “principles,” a copy of which quotes most senior committee Republicans saying something evil about the GSEs.

There is nothing new or enlightening about their “principles” which just repeats all of the old anti-GSE bromides. But what is amazing is the Republican ignorance about risk and private capital, the latter they suggest would flow into the mortgage market if only the former GSEs were not there propped up by the federal government.

Yes, but who will make home mortgage loans until then?

The big bank GOP-saviors are free to enter the market now, but they all but refuse because they have become risk adverse. Fannie and Freddie’s current activities—as tools of the Obama Administration—provide the few banks willing to make loans a place to unload mortgage risk. The problem is the banks, contrary to what the committee R’s claim, don’t seem willing to lend very much of their TARP inflated assets for mortgages or to small businesses. It’s too convenient for them to arbitrage that money between the Fed and Treasury and build capital that way.

I think Chairman Frank understands what the na├»ve Committee Republicans don’t and that is, before you abolish Fannie and Freddie, you better have a well-designed replacement ready and because of bank behavior any successor institution(s) will look and act a lot like Fannie and Freddie.

Church Redux

Timing is everything. In my last blog, I got into the issue of child abuse, molestation, and the Catholic Church, just as the newsies started reporting big time the predictable comments from Church officials over disturbing reports from Germany and Ireland.

The Church’s recent utterances all seem to be variations of the “Nuremburg defense,” which it should be noted didn’t work for the Nazis after World War II.

The responses generally start with an apology and—in the case of those not accused of abuse but of protecting child molesters by ignoring their crimes and/or shuffling them to other dioceses--are followed by an excuse “I was ordered to do so by ______,” with the blank name usually being a senior church official who is dead or at the Bishop or Arch Bishop level, meaning he won’t be touched. That latter official, if he still is with us, generally has no memory of the incident.

The second variation is, “I am shocked. I had no idea that molestation or abuse was occurring at _____ (fill in the name of the Catholic institution or choir).” That’s called the “head in the sand” response. It can’t be believed either.

The issue of the Pope’s possible involvement in a cover-up to me is secondary. If the Church really was on top of its game, every Priest or Church official accused of child abuse would be temporarily removed from his religious role and the case turned over to civil authorities, since molestation is a crime. No Church official would intervene until civil authorities determined the guilt or innocence of the accused.

By handling cases themselves, Church officials hid the bad news by playing “post office,” sending the offending priest for “counseling” or shuttling him from location to location hoping that he would mend his ways and stop violating children or, at least, to do so quietly without calling attention to his actions.

I watched one of these accused priests on the news. Two of his former parishioners, now adults but once his altar boys described in excruciating detail how he had molested them.

The priest laughed at the charges, claimed they were preposterous, and explained that he wasn’t guilty.

But he couldn’t offer a reasonable explanation to the interviewer why he took the boys to a city health club—where members and guests pranced around naked--or why the boys were paid over a million dollars each by the Church to maintain their silence at the time.

Now that they are adults, the boys are talking and the priest, if guilty, I hope requires kaopectate for the rest of his life, whether he is thrown in jail or not.

One last word. I thought the Pope’s “Letter to the Irish people” was weak, given all that he could have said. While he clearly established his personal discomfort and anger at the degree of molestations and cover-up’s, he didn’t change any Church policy dealing with possible criminal behavior. Sexual predators, whether they are church men and women or not, have violated civil laws and their fate should be determined outside of the church and by civilian authorities.

The Pope might have generated more enthusiasm for his letter had he proclaimed some tougher handling of possible abusers. But he didn’t and just called on the aggrieved Irish Catholics—and others hoping for something dramatic in the letter--to trust in the same Church and principles which abandoned them and their children to predators.

Maloni, 3-22-2010


Anonymous said...

Let's say it like it is. The bee hive has been tourched by it's keeper with a fuse tied to this year's and 2012 elections. The writer of this Blog hit it on the head with humor, but real as to how the swarming bees will fly crazy until they see they have been stung and die like a Honeybee.
Religious issues are a fact and should be dealt with through the justice system.
I say amen, Bill.
Keep up your end of telling like it is. HH

Bill Maloni said...

Thanks, HH.
(I am told that you have very handsome grandchildren. I guess those apples don't fall far from the tree!)

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