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July 29, 2005

Pat Jehlen on health care, education, and transportation

A little while back, we sent a brief questionnaire to the four Democratic candidates for the vacant Second Middlesex Senate seat.  Pat Jehlen and Joe Mackey promised they would respond; no word so far from Paul Casey or Michael Callahan. 

Today we received Pat Jehlen's responses, and we are pleased to present them below.

But first, a reminder: the primary for this election is on August 30.  The primary is critically important, as it will determine which of the four Democrats listed above gets to beat take on the lone Republican in the race, Somerville alderman Bill White, in the Sept. 27 general election.  However, many residents of the district will likely be on their summer vacations on August 30.  If you will be out of town, be sure to secure an absentee ballot before you go.  (Not sure if you're in the district?  This site will tell you.)  Turnout is everything in special elections, so make sure you vote for your candidate!

Read on for Rep. Jehlen's answers...

Health care: do you support the Health Access and Affordability Act, which would move toward universal health insurance through a combination of employer mandates and expanding MassHealth, and would be funded by an increase in the tobacco tax along with other sources?  Other options on the table include Governor Romney’s individual mandate – would you support that approach?  Would you go even further than any of these proposals, and if so, how?

Just this week I talked to a woman who works in an insurance company.  She said individuals and small businesses are dropping their policies rapidly.  It’s just not affordable.  But the increase in uninsured people leads to poorer health as people defer treatment, and to higher costs as they use uncompensated care.

The Health Access and Affordability Act is the best of the incremental solutions, and I strongly support it.  It has the kind of organizational support that gives it a chance to pass and expand coverage.

I support expanding MassHealth and restoring benefits such as dental care. I am the lead sponsor of a bill to extend benefits to the elderly and disabled.

I certainly oppose the Governor's proposal to penalize those who cannot afford the exorbitant price of health insurance; his plan creates a lot more bureaucracy without addressing the real problems.

I have been a long time supporter of single payer universal healthcare, as proposed in the Mass. Health Care Trust bill.  Until care is truly universal, and paid for by broadly based, progressive taxes, we will continue to have people denied basic care that they need and deserve and our system will be unfair and inefficient. 

Finally, I support the constitutional amendment which would make access to affordable health care a constitutional, enforceable right.   If passed, this amendment would increase pressure on the legislature to adopt a comprehensive solution.

Education: do you see a way to continue to encourage the innovation that charter schools can bring without hampering the necessary process of improving the public schools?

My first commitment in public office has always been and will always be to adequate and equitable funding for public schools. The current charter school funding formula drains scarce resources away from our public schools. Until we come up with a formula that doesn’t unfairly penalize the children in district public schools, I will support (and have voted for) a cap of the creation of new charter schools.

The current Board of Education is too uncritical of the charter school experiment, and too unwilling to require evidence that there is real innovation and that it is shared with other public schools.

There are, however, ways to encourage innovation within the public schools. When I was a member of the Somerville School Committee, I started an alternative education program, within the school system, that is still going strong 20 years later.  Since then, Somerville has started a two-way bilingual program, UNIDOS.

Transportation: do you support extending the Green Line to Tufts?  To West Medford?  And what can the state do to avoid the kinds of mishaps and cost overruns in the Green Line extension that have plagued the Big Dig?

I am a strong supporter of the Green Line. I got money into the Transportation Bond Bill for the Green Line extension. This improvement in transportation will reduce traffic and reduce air pollution.

Where should the stops be and where should it end?  That’s still up for discussion.  I have been listening to the concerns of the folks in West Medford recently, who have differing views about the Green Line. I think we can have a solution that works for West Medford. This is a determination that needs to be made in collaboration with the community. As a State Senator, I will make sure that the State works closely with the affected communities.

In answer to the second question, I think that we need to stand strong against corruption and cronyism in the bidding process. Citizen involvement is important to safeguarding a fair and efficient process.

Anything else you’d care to add?

I am running for State Senate because I believe we need a voice for funding for our schools and health care for all. We need a Senator we can trust to always stand up for a woman’s right to choose and the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry.  I have 15 years of experience in the State House as a progressive legislator with an excellent record. I would love to have your support in bringing my principled leadership style to the State Senate.

Posted by David at 10:29 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Building capital

Rick Perlstein lays it down for the Democrats: Be what you are and what you were, proudly, gloriously:

The most glorious thing about congressional Democrats is that they have drawn the line and said: No further. Don't. Touch. Social. Security. It is a heroic stand. What's more, it's been enormously politically effective.

Now think about this: They are drawing on the capital of an entitlement passed 70 years ago.

They'll be drawing on the capital from Medicare 35 years from now. Congressional Democrats won't let them kill it. Because they understand: These programs make life in America fundamentally better. And because these gooses, Social Security, Medicare, lay golden eggs. They manufacture Democrats.

Now ... has George Bush ever done anything with capital -- political or otherwise -- except for taking it out back and lighting it on fire?

Building capital takes smarts, hard work and courage. Big promises, and big delivery.

Any takers?

(Thanks to Atrios.)

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 12:26 AM in National | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Health care: Finger to the wind

... Wherein health care is the weathervane of the governor's race ... or vice versa?

An interesting juxtaposition, from Left In Lowell's terrific Deval Patrick interview and Health Care for All's shiny new blog (now with comments! Be nice...):

Here's Patrick talking to Lynne @ LIL:

Of the [health care] proposals that are out there, there are three, you probably know. The governor has a proposal, the Senate president has a proposal, and then there’s a proposal from Health Care for All. Those are, I’d say, the most developed, the most concrete ideas that are on the table. I do think that the destination of health care for everyone is important. Even if we can’t get there in one step. The most ambitious of the proposals is the one that appeals to me the most, which is the Health Care for All proposal. I’m studying them all but I’m focusing on that one. [my emphasis]

Here's HCFA's John McDonough:

These days anyone who believes there's a chance the Gov. might run for re-election has a thing for the tooth fairy. The Gov's lame duck status is already a given and well factored into anyone's political equation, a fact of life ...

... No disrespect to the Gov. For health reform to happen, it must be bigger and more important than the Governor's personal, political agenda. Bottom line: it's up to all of us, not to him.

The more the governor removes himself from the mainstream of MA politics (and places himself into South Carolina's), the stronger the hand of those supporting a more ambitious, real-world solution.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 12:04 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2005

Bubble bubble toil and trouble: And you may find yourself ...

Here's an article from the NYTimes -- front page of the Home and Garden section, no less -- which discusses families (pretty darned affluent ones at that) having made lots of paper equity on their homes in the last few years, and no place to spend it when they outgrow or out-desire their current places. So maybe they make 100% profit on their investment, but find they still can't afford an upgrade within their geographical areas.

I've been posting about the need to create more housing to soak up the high demand, but bubbles are immune to ordinary supply/demand patterns. The extra demand that creates the bubble is partly from speculation, which makes it tough on folks who actually want someplace to live for an extended period of time.

Really, one solution to the bubble is for other, less expensive places (Cleveland, Buffalo) to make themselves attractive somehow to people in the expensive areas, as with the couple in the article that moved to Montreal (a terrific place, by the way). Otherwise we may see the "Manhattanization" of entire markets like here and San Francisco, where folks pay higher and higher prices and hold lower and lower expectations because, well, they just have to live there. (After all, that's me.)

As David Byrne once said, "This is not my beautiful house... My God, how did I get here?"

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 03:10 PM in Massachusetts, National | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Disgraced ex-aide to Hatch and Frist defends the Federalist Society, makes nice with former boss

Today's "Opinion Journal," the Wall Street Journal's on-line collection of far-right opinion pieces, contains a hilarious piece by Manuel Miranda.  It's about the Federalist Society, which as you may recall is the conservative legal group of which Supreme Court nominee John Roberts may or may not be a member, he can't seem to recall.  Miranda says that the White House should have defended the Federalist Society instead of trying to distance themselves from it, that the Society isn't really so bad, blah blah blah nobody cares.

Why is this so hilarious?  It's all about the context.  Let's recall who this Miranda guy is.  A couple of years ago, it became known that due to a "glitch" in Capitol Hill's computer systems, the Senate Democrats' strategy memos were readily available to Senate Republicans.  An aide to then-Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) of the Senate Judiciary Committee leaked some of those memos to the press as part of a strategy to counter the Senate Democrats' tactics with respect to some of Bush's judicial nominees.  The aide, who later joined Majority Leader Bill Frist's staff, was Manuel Miranda.  After the Senate's Sergeant-at-Arms investigated, Miranda was exposed and finally was forced to resign - by none other than his former boss Orrin Hatch.  Miranda was mightily pissed that he was forced out over this business, and published this piece in which he actually "challenge[d] Senator Hatch to debate me publicly on this issue."  Oh, right Manuel - like a sitting Senator is going to "debate" a former staffer over the screw-up that cost the staffer his job.  What a prick.

Anyway, fast-forward to today, when Miranda feels the need to defend his beloved Federalist Society in the WSJ's opinion pages.  No surprise there.  What's funny, though, is that Miranda goes out of his way to paint Senator Hatch (who, let's note, Miranda actually called a "hypocrite" when it comes to "ethics" in the piece linked above) as a profile in courage for standing up for the Federalist Society in a three-year-old speech.  The WSJ piece begins:

Three years ago Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) stood on the floor of the Senate and said: "Mr. President, I take the opportunity today to right a wrong.... [blah blah blah]."

* * *

[H]ere is a user-friendly defense of the Federalist Society: Again, the words are Orrin Hatch's. The Federalist Society stands for three propositions, he said: "[blah blah blah]."

As Orrin Hatch concluded in his speech three years ago: The Federalist Society is "not quite the vast right-wing conspiracy hobgoblin some [Democrats] would have the American people believe." And it's nothing that a Republican White House should appear to repudiate.


Oooooh, kiss kiss kiss!  Please, Senator, don't be mad at me any more!  I'm sorry I screwed up with the memos and made you fire me and called you bad names, and you were right all along!  I was a bad, naughty, unethical Republican, but I'm making up for it now, huh?  Huh?

Like I said, hilarious.  For what it's worth, I actually think Miranda is right to say that it is the White House that has really screwed up this Federalist Society business - like I said before, no one would have been surprised to learn that Roberts was a member; the surprise was that he supposedly wasn't, and that the White House was so intent on demonstrating that that they called a bunch of reporters about it before they had all the facts, some of which have now bitten them firmly on the ass.  But only those who are much more in-the-know than I about who's mad at whom in Washington GOP circles would be able to say whether Miranda's piece is really about the Federalist Society, or whether it's more about trying to make up with his former boss.

Posted by David at 01:56 PM in Law and Lawyers, National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pleasing none of the people all of the time

You've just got to love Mitt Romney.  This is the guy who, just last year, undertook a concerted (if ultimately failed) effort to "rebuild" the state Republican party by recruiting and throwing his weight behind a bunch of Republican challengers to incumbent state reps and senators.  Mass. Republicans must have thought, hey, this is great, finally a Governor who is committed to turning the Republican party in Massachusetts into a real presence instead of a joke!

Well, the joke was on them.  No less a Mass. Republican party stalwart than Ginny Buckingham, who worked for years for Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci, is begging Romney not to let the door hit him on the ass on the way out:

Hey Mitt, good luck. Really. Have a ball at all those Holiday Inns and Best Westerns. Just do us this one favor before you go? Don't take the Massachusetts Republican Party down the garden path with you.

Buckingham goes on to note that Romney was elected based on his "false assertion that he was just another moderate Republican, sour on taxes, sweet on social issues," and castigates Romney's hijacking of the state party apparatus to defend his veto of the morning-after pill bill, pointing out that "setting up the state party as an attack dog against the 'professional abortion lobby' may play well in South Carolina, but it's the kiss of death here."  It's hard to imagine the state GOP sinking further into irrelevance than it already is, but Buckingham is clearly scared that Romney will find a way.

In related news, State House News Service's weekly round-up starts out by announcing that "now, no one expects" Romney to run for re-election.  There's also a new poll out (I will leave the number-crunching to others), and the non-partisan pollster who conducted it (Gerry Chervinsky) had this to say about Romney's veto and his accompanying anti-Roe op-ed: "This is a major, major statement as Romney remakes himself into a right-wing conservative with appeal to Republican primary voters nationwide."  (The poll predated the veto and op-ed, so expect Romney's reported favorability numbers to decline since, as State House News notes, Romney's position is "out of synch with Massachusetts voters.")

So.  Massachusetts Democrats and Independents hate Romney because he snookered some of them into voting for him on false pretenses.  Massachusetts Republicans hate him because he's sacrificing what's left of their party on the altar of his presidential ambitions.  And who, exactly, is supposed to be the "base" upon which Romney launches his presidential campaign?  See, the trouble with only being out for yourself for all these years is that when it comes time to call upon your legions of long-time devotees to launch a major bid for national office, all you hear in response is crickets chirping.

Posted by David at 12:09 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

Race you to the bottom!

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Association reports that health care costs are eating up municipal budgets like beetles through bark. Apparently, it's partly because contracts are negotiated somewhat differently for those unions than those with state employees. Still, it's not good news that cities and towns are in the same position as, say, GM, in paying ever-exploding health care costs.

On one hand, there's a place for groups like the Group Insurance Commission, which as the Globe suggests, acts as an honest broker for reasonable benefits for state employees. It's good that there's something like that for those state workers -- and us taxpayers.

But for companies like GM who are facing similar problems, I don't necessarily share some folks' optimism that they have to choose between 1. skyrocketing health costs, or 2. higher taxes and an increased government role in health coverage. There's a third choice: neither. If business interests completely reject the idea that they have any responsibility for health care at all, either in the form of benefits or tax support, that's bad news for all of us. Sure, we all want low low prices, but we may only get that at the expense of our own health.

Luckily, the labor marketplace doesn't seem to necessarily want to race to the bottom quite so fast: Toyota just opened a plant in Canada, famously choosing it over the states because of our rising health care costs.

Massachusetts seems to be having competitiveness problems of its own: New England just recently dropped to a spot to number three on the list of areas getting the most venture capital. Now, there are reasons to think this was just a blip. But it's foolish to think that job growth and economic expansion are just a matter of having Wal-Mart wages and benefits: we need to think about what kind of jobs we want, and have the government take an active role in attracting them.

For instance, decent public education, investing in a smart and capable workforce: Toyota cited the, er, difficulties in training workers in Alabama as a reason to move to Canada. We do reasonably well at that in Massachusetts compared to the rest of the country. Creating -- and just as importantly, allowing the creation of -- more affordable housing is one thing government could do. What if we were able to bring down the cost of health care in MA, through re-insurance, increased pooling, or using the buying power of the government to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals?

As Paul Krugman pointed out recently, providing decent, affordable health care could be our competitive advantage, if we decide to take up the challenge.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 03:14 PM in Massachusetts, National | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The LA Times gets it

You should read today's outstanding editorial in the LA Times on Novak-Plame-Rove-Libby-gate.  It's called "Operation Coverup" - a promising beginning.  And remember, we're not talking lefty wackos over at Daily Kos here - this is as mainstream as the mainstream media gets.  Some choice quotes:

[P]eople in the Bush administration misused an intelligence secret to discredit a critic of its Iraq policy. And outing Plame, whether illegal or not, did harm to our national security. Plame may work in Langley, Va., but she worked with others who work in more dangerous locales. You only need to imagine how Republicans would have treated such a leak in the Clinton administration to dismiss their protestations that it's all no big deal.

It's a good bet that there has already been some lying under oath....Perjury is your classic coverup method, and still is used when other methods have failed....

The coverup, in short, is going well.

Tough stuff.  All of it true.  The line about the howling that would be coming from Republicans and their shills on Fox News and in right blogistan if this had happened under Clinton rings particularly true.  The hypocrisy is truly staggering.

On the same topic, today's WaPo has an interesting rundown of the wider-than-previously-known range of people that the special prosecutor has interviewed.

Posted by David at 10:42 AM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005

Romney calls for Roe v. Wade to be overruled

Mitt Romney, in a Boston Globe op-ed explaining his decision to veto a bill that would increase availability of the "morning-after pill," has called for nothing less than the overruling of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional certain restrictions on abortion.

Neither the word "overrule" nor the word "Roe" ever appears in the op-ed, but the message is crystal clear.  First, Romney unequivocally equates "life" with "conception."  But he goes well beyond that.  Here is what he says:

  • I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.
  • The federal system left to us by the Constitution allows people of different states to make their own choices on matters of controversy, thus avoiding the bitter battles engendered by ''one size fits all" judicial pronouncements. A federalist approach would allow such disputes to be settled by the citizens and elected representatives of each state, and appropriately defer to democratic governance.
  • We will never have peace on the abortion issue, much less a consensus of conscience, until democracy is allowed to work its way.

The only way in which the states can "determine their own abortion laws" is if Roe is overruled, because the right at the heart of Roe is what creates some limitations on the extent to which states can regulate abortion.  Ergo, Romney wants Roe v. Wade off the books, which would pave the way for the "federalist approach" (i.e., every state having different laws, some probably not changing much from today, others maybe outlawing it all together) that he seems to think would bring "peace on the abortion issue."

If there was any doubt before today that Romney is not running for reelection in 2006, it is gone now.  You simply cannot be elected Governor of this state on a "Roe must go" platform.  Moreover, if Romney was publishing this op-ed just to explain his veto of the "morning after pill" bill, there was no need to go into an explanation of why states rather than courts should decide the limits on abortion restrictions - that is simply a non-issue with respect to this bill, since no one is claiming that requiring a prescription to dispense the morning after pill is unconstitutional.  Once again, Romney has hijacked Massachusetts politics and media to play to the Republican primary voters of South Carolina and elsewhere who will determine whether he gets to run for President in 2008.

Posted by David at 11:07 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 25, 2005

Mr. Romney: your pants are on fire

After stating publicly that he would not do so, Mitt Romney has vetoed the bill that would increase the availability of the "morning after pill."  This pill, which is NOT RU-486, can prevent a pregnancy from occurring for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. 

Romney, in his 2002 campaign, supported increased availability of this pill.  But that was before he decided he needed to bow and scrape before the altar of the loons that control the Republican primary process.  So now he's claiming that he was honor-bound to veto this law because it changes the state's abortion laws, and he promised not to do that.




Luckily for Romney, the legislature will override this veto, allowing Romney to pander to the right wing of his party without actually accomplishing anything. 

Oh, and one more thing.  House Speaker Sal DiMasi gets it exactly wrong when he says: "The governor misunderstands the effects of this medication and regrettably misinterprets how this bill's provisions would apply to existing state abortion laws." 

Wrong, Sal.  The Governor fully understands what this medication does, just like he did in 2002, and he fully understands the impact this bill has on the state's abortion laws.  It's just that his priorities are different now than they were then.  He no longer cares what he told the people of this state in 2002, or, really, ever - he's not running for reelection, and this state isn't going to vote for him in the 2008 presidential election anyway.

Posted by David at 10:49 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack