Friday, February 08, 2008

The Man with No Experience

Okay, I really was planning to be done with posting about politics on the blog for a while, but, since I put up my posts expressing support for Barack Obama, a lot of people have been asking me, "But what experience does he have? What has he done?"

The mainstream media has been pretty gung-ho about sticking to its narrative that Hillary Clinton is the Uninspiring Yet Experienced, Emotionally Off-Putting Yet Politically Shrewd Candidate and Barack Obama is the Inspiring and Charismatic Yet Inexperienced and Politically Naive Candidate. (See my previous post on this subject.)

I don't think this portrayal is fair to either candidate. Obama has political experience. Clinton can connect well with voters. But, considering how ridiculously thin mainstream media coverage has been on ANY of the current presidential primary candidates' positions on policy issues, or their voting records, I can see why people who haven't had the time or inclination to do some serious research in those areas might be a bit flummoxed as to what Obama is really about.

If you are interested in learning about Obama's legislative record and policy plans yourself, you can start by checking out his official Senate website and his presidential campaign website's Issues page.

However, since I already did a fair bit of research myself on his record before deciding to support him as a candidate, I have decided to post some highlights here:

Obama's Career Before Politics:
  • Worked as a grassroots community organizer for the Developing Communities Project in Chicago, where, among other projects, he successfully fought for asbestos abatement measures in public schools and in public housing units
  • Obtained a law degree from Harvard Law School
  • Worked as civil rights lawyer and as a constitutional law professor at University of Chicago

Obama’s Accomplishments in the Illinois State Legislature:

Obama sponsored over 800 bills during his eight years in the Illinois State Legislature.

Ethics Reform:

  • Helped draft and pass important bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation that the New York Times has called “the first significant campaign finance reform law in Illinois in 25 years.” This reform bill banned most gifts by lobbyists and gave the media unprecedented access to campaign finance records for state legislature members

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties:

  • Helped reform the state death penalty system after several death row inmates in Illinois were found by courts to be innocent
  • Helped pass legislation requiring that police homicide interrogations be recorded on video to prevent coerced confessions
  • Negotiated a compromise between the ACLU and local law enforcement to pass a law requiring police officers to record the race of drivers they stopped as a way to track and prevent racial profiling
  • Co-sponsored a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation (sadly, this bill did not pass, but a later version succeeded after he had left the State Senate)

Helping Working Families:

  • Chief sponsor of a five percent earned-income state tax credit for the working poor
  • Worked to increase child care subsidies for low-income families
  • Sponsored a bill to provide job skills training for recipients of federal aid

Obama has publicly stated that cleaning up air pollution in Chicago was a personal priority of his given his oldest daughter’s asthma.
  • Drafted a bill to reduce harmful mercury emissions from coal-fired electricity plants
  • Fought for legislation to tighten energy efficiency standards in commercial and residential buildings
  • Received a 100 Percent Environmental Voting Record Award from the Illinois Environmental Council

Health Care:

  • Successfully co-sponsored a prescription drug discount program for seniors and the disabled
  • Sponsored the Health Care Justice Act, which authorized a study of ways to implement a statewide universal health care system

Obama’s Record in the Senate:

Ethics Reform:

The Washington Post says Obama leads the pack on ethics reform.

  • Successfully co-sponsored and passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act to create a public website where users can search all government contracts, grants, earmarks, and loans, opening up Federal financial transactions to public scrutiny
  • Sponsored the Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act, which would have required all earmarks to be disclosed 72 hours before they could be considered for a vote, and would have prohibited Senators from advocating for an earmark if they had any financial interest in the project or earmark recipient. His original version of the bill did not pass, but some of its provisions were included in the ethics and lobbying reform bill that passed the Senate in January 2007
  • Introduced amendments to the Homeland Security and Defense spending bills to restrict no-bid contracts
  • Voted against the most recent effort to raise the national debt limits

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties:

  • Voted for an amendment to restore the habeas corpus rights for all persons detained by the United States (this amendment did not have the two-thirds majority to override a Bush veto threat)
  • Voted AGAINST a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States


  • Co-sponsored the National Low Carbon Fuel Standard Act to require a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the national transportation fuel pool by 2020
  • Authored the Fuel Economy Reform Act to raise automobile fuel efficiency standards (also known as “CAFE” standards). The bill would establish incremental progress in miles per gallon fuel efficiency by an increase of four percent annually
  • Voted to prevent the EPA from loosening mercury emissions standards for coal-fired electric plants

Helping Working Families

  • Voted to increase Federal Pell Grants to give more low-income students access to higher education

Health Care:

  • Co-sponsored the National MEDiC Act to promote patient safety initiatives, provide for early disclosure of medical errors, and provide compensation to patients injured by medical errors
  • Sponsored the Hospital Quality Report Card Act, which will use federal hospital quality reporting requirements to help patients make informed health care decisions
  • Supported expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Introduced the Lead-Free Toys Act in 2005 to require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban any children’s product from containing more than trace amounts of lead (this bill, sadly, got hung up in committee and did not come to a vote)

Okay, this is it for a while on politics, friends. For the next few posts I'm going back to blogging about the cute things my three-year-old says and other such boring Mommyblogger topics.

And for all my fellow St. Louis bloggers, I'm sorry I didn't make it to the shindig tonight-- my husband has been sick for most of this week and since he still isn't feeling very well I didn't feel like sticking him with parenting duty alone tonight. I hope you're all having a blast.


R said...

this is why i love you. people give you questions, and you always provide answers.

Jaelithe said...


Thank you for the opinion. I have written much about the candidates' health plans in a previous post. I understand why you feel that Clinton's history of attempting health care reform makes her seem like the stronger health care candidate.

However, having lived right next to the state of Illinois during all of Barack Obama's time there, I know for a fact that he has supported every initiative in Illinois to expand health care and improve the accountability of the system. He introduced many of those bills, in fact. And he has supported SCHIP at the national level. I don't believe he would be opposed to a truly universal, single-payer plan if he felt it would pass the Congress. I am certain he would sign such a bill into law if the Congress, and the American people, approved of it.

But, as Obama knows, being a Constitutional law professor, it is not the job of the President to legislate. The president may encourage a piece of legislation, but the Congress chooses which laws to enact. Obama or Clinton would have to work with what the Congress is willing to give, and what the American people want.

I think your analysis of medical insurance company donations is a bit presumptuous.

Also, I think you might want to talk with a large group of African Americans before you assert that the Clintons are the "poster family" for how African Americans want white people to treat them. Seriously. There are a lot of people who would find that statement extremely insulting right now, given some of the comments Bill Clinton has made during the primary race, most particularly his assertion that Obama's South Carolina win didn't matter because Jesse Jackson had won S.C. also, which has been widely interpreted an attempt to pigeonhole Obama as "the black candidate" and imply that black voters' votes didn't matter in a general election.

And people are also very angry about this quote from a top Clinton adviser:

"If you want Obama to be your imaginary hip black friend and you're young and you have no social needs, then he's cool."

And by people, I mean me, too. I'm angry about that quote. And I'm a white chick.

Anonymous said...

Hillary Clinton has the worst record on health care.

That is non-debatable.

She was in bed with a plethora of insurance companies. I think Hitchens' "No One Left to Lie to" should be punishment reading for anyone who asserts otherwise. (Or hell, the dossier on her, which I just finished. On sale now at Borders!)

One of the reasons I have such a hard time paying for my own children's insurance is because every damn person in this country assumes that I should have to pay theirs, too. Huck that.

Off the point. If anyone thinks Hillary is good on health care, I have a bridge to sell you. With her plan she'll garnish your wages if you buck her mandatory health insurance. Her previous plan was so atrocious she couldn't even drum up same-party support for it (never mind that to enact it would bring tax cuts more massive than the record-breaking hikes her husband passed). Her mandate will bankrupt many small businesses; force everyone to pay the astronomical premium regardless if an enrollee was practicing a healthier lifestyle as opposed to smoking; her plan will create strict price controls that will result in rationed care (just like Canada's); we'll completely lose the ability to chose our own doctors; I could go on and on.

The quickest way to get sub par care is to eliminate competition and put it solely in the hands of the government. Look at the USPS or the DMV for an example. You reform the system by encouraging competition and increasing choices so that companies compete to bring consumers the best at the most affordable rate.

So if you think the government knows best, if you want to grab your ankles for the next eight years over health care and taxes, by all means, vote for Hillary Clinton. You've that right. But don't expect people to agree with the false assertion that the woman is somehow "skilled" or a "champion of health care." Her ambition is lethal.

(P.S. I don't agree with Obama's healthcare plan, either. But it's a helluva lot better than Hillary's.)

Jaelithe said...

Well, the theoretical point of health insurance, or any insurance, is to distribute risk across a population; the idea is supposed to be that we all agree to chip in a little so that when one of us is faced with a crisis, we won't go bankrupt. It's the same idea, really, whether we're paying for private insurance or paying for government insurance through taxes.

If we want to have the option of insurance at all, we all have to do a little paying for other people's health care. I think most people want some form of health insurance, which de facto means that most people are willing to pay for other people's health care. The real issue at hand IMO is whom we want to put in charge of our insurance. Do we want it to be private for-profit industry? The state government? The federal government? Non-profit organizations? Citizen committees? Some combination of any of those options?

Competition does often drive better business practice. But we don't really have a very competitive field now. Many people have no real choice at all in their insurance, because it is chosen by their employer (and to opt out of the employer program and get their own insurance would be prohibitively expensive). Plus, "what the market will bear" doesn't really work when someone's life is on the line. If a man were drowning in an icy lake, and the only person on shore said, "I'll throw you this lifeline, but ONLY if you agree to give me your bank account number and let me charge you $10,000," the drowning man might curse his rescuer, but he would almost certainly agree.

And this is why a pharmaceutical company can get away with charging $35,000 for a package of cancer drug pills it only cost them $100 to make (even including the cost of research). And this is how a hospital can get away with charging a patient $20 for a box of Kleenex tissues the patient never even used. Because people will pay almost anything to save their own lives.

If we saw a person charging a drowning man $10,000 before agreeing to toss him a $5 rope, we'd all condemn that person. But somehow we manage to ignore the appalling immorality of drug companies and hospitals doing the same thing.

I honestly don't know how to solve this problem. I don't have much trust in our government. But I currently have even less trust in Blue Cross and UHC.

KBO said...

Thought you would appreciate this article from the Times.

Kady said...

I'm here via iObsess. I've really enjoyed your analysis of why you support Obama i/o Clinton (I am an Obama supporter myself).

In terms of experience, have you noticed that noone blinks when Ms. Clinton mentions her 35 years of experience, when those 35 years includes over a decade in a biglaw firm (the argument being that she worked on many pro bono cases during that time)and 8 years as first lady. But then, with the same breath, she trivializes all the years Obama spent as a community organizer and an Illinois legislator.

In terms of positive impact on America, I would take Obama's record over Clinton's any day.

no_slappz said...

jaelithe, you wrote:

"Well, the theoretical point of health insurance, or any insurance, is to distribute risk across a population; the idea is supposed to be that we all agree to chip in a little so that when one of us is faced with a crisis, we won't go bankrupt."

Your rationale does not work with healthcare.

With life insurance, the insurance company studies the population, learning how long people will live. Knowing with reasonable accuracy how long people will live AND knowing they will die only once, means the insurance company can set premiums easily.

Healthcare is a moving target. But the target moves in only one direction and it moves fast.

Healthcare costs spiral upward because we are brilliant at improving and expanding our success at treating more and more illnesses and health problems.

Meanwhile, you made an outrageous statement claiming that:

"And this is why a pharmaceutical company can get away with charging $35,000 for a package of cancer drug pills it only cost them $100 to make (even including the cost of research)."

Pfizer, for example, has had annual revenues of about $50 billion for the last few years. Its Research & Development expenditures over the same years were almost $8 billion a year.

I don't know what would allow you to think those Ph.Ds and other highly educated people at drug companies are working for peanuts.

Big drug companies are profitable. But the profits are a result of bringing effective drugs to those who need them.

Jaelithe said...

No Slappz: Your previous comment was deleted as offensive. The Democratic candidates are not, in fact, terrorists, nor do they plan to surrender the country to terrorists.

And I warn you that you are walking a very fine when it comes to the Blogger rules of conduct regarding hate speech against religious groups. Perhaps you have not read the rules of conduct?

If you keep hatefully insulting religious and ethnic groups on my blog, I will delete ALL of your comments.

As for your printable comment, I suggest you look up the definition of the word "insurance" in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines it as "coverage by contract whereby one party undertakes to indemnify or guarantee another against loss by a specified contingency or peril."

In my drug company pricing example, I was talking about the research and materials cost PER UNIT SOLD, as in, the cost of research and materials divided over the number of units sold. Not the total research price per invention. This is the same way people factor in, say, employee health care plan cost per GM vehicle sold.

NYT on Inflated Cancer Drug Prices
Drug Rebranding
How Much is a Life Worth?

no_slappz said...

jaelithe, you wrote:

"...I suggest you look up the definition of the word "insurance" in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines it as "coverage by contract whereby one party undertakes to indemnify or guarantee another against loss by a specified contingency or peril.""

Like I said, health costs are a moving target. If the cost of healthcare rises, then insurance premiums must rise too. But, of course, that devolves into a cycle of increasing healthcare costs tracked by increasing health insurance costs.

Since you undoubtedly think EVERY health contingency should be covered by the insurance premium, please tell me how it is possible to keep premiums from soaring when our healthcare expertise keeps increasing and the population keeps rising? The cost of one drug may decline when it goes off-patent. Or the cost of one surgical procedure may drop when formerly invasive procedures become laparoscopic procedures.

Meanwhile, billions are spent to cure AIDS and vaccinate against it. Over 20 years of R&D must be recouped to keep the research effort moving. Those researchers are not volunteers.

There is no "economy of scale" in healthcare. You can't distribute healthcare costs over a large population as though those costs are no different than life insurance costs. More people means more bills, and the bills will grow as time passes.

By the way, with auto insurance, if you prove to be a menace on the road, your premiums rise. Eventually, no insurer will cover you. Then you go to the "assigned-risk pool" where you pay the highest rates of all.

There's no equivalent in healthcare. But there should be.

You wrote:

In my drug company pricing example, I was talking about the research and materials cost PER UNIT SOLD, as in, the cost of research and materials divided over the number of units sold. Not the total research price per invention. This is the same way people factor in, say, employee health care plan cost per GM vehicle sold."

Bottom line, you need to learn something about healthcare expenses and accounting. Keep in mind that GM just reported a whopping big loss driven by healthcare costs.

To pay its bills, the government can tax citizens and there's little that citizens can do.

But when corporations can't pay their bills, they can -- and do -- file for bankruptcy protection. Corporations can run out of money, as GM is doing.

Either GM will become a smaller company with fewer workers whose healthcare benefits are less generous than current union rules stipulate, or there will be no GM at all. It happens.

Then those workers who killed their golden goose will see their pension and healthcare benefits managed by the government, which always leads to less generous offerings.

Jaelithe said...

Why are you putting words in my mouth?

I never said I thought every possible contingency should be covered.

I never expressed ANY opinion about GM's health insurance issues.

As for your assertion that people who contract illnesses or are accidentally injured through no fault of their own should be forced into high risk pools where they have to pay higher premiums, I simply disagree. People who are severely injured or chronically ill often cannot work. That means they cannot afford to pay more than the rest of us for health care. The system you propose would, therefore, be untenable. Many severely or chronically ill people would have NO access to health care under that system. Many of them would simply die. I know that is what some people would prefer we allow. But it's not what I believe to be morally right.

I invite polite discussion of controversial issues here. I have no problem conversing with people who disagree with me, as long as both sides keep the conversation civil.

But you refuse to be civil. You attack me personally not even just for views I've actually expressed, but for views you erroneously ASSUME I hold. You go off on wild tangents that have little or nothing to do with the actual substance of comments or posts, arguing with the empty air just to argue.

I can't imagine how much time you must waste each day spewing bile at strangers on the internet. What a depressing use of valuable human energy. Surely your mind would be put to better use elsewhere.

You have your own blog. I suggest you use it if you want to talk about how you would run GM if someone died and made you CEO. My blog is not the place for you to ramble on irrelevantly on subjects you're interested in. Leastwise, not if you're going to be rude to me in the process.

Bottom line: YOU, NoSlappz need lessons in:

-Reading comprehension
-Logical argument
-Persuasive discourse
-Common sense

However, it's not my place to teach you those things. So instead I am just going to ban you from my blog. Skedaddle. Immediately. I mean it.

KBO said...


Fran said...

I am only here because of my anger at the way that no-slappz has treated yet another one of my blog friends.

Please don't feel like you have to post my comment.

When this happens I may stop by the idiot's blog from time to time and the only comments are from people like you. (or me)

So I simply offer my support. I have repeatedly asked the loser to not come to my blog but every few months he can't resist.

I just delete his comments. Today he called a good friend of mine a coward, so that is what got me going.

While feeling angry today I am really committed to better things and would like to end on a nicer note.

You have a lovely blog and I wish you and your family peace.