Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bad Voter ID Bill

The Republicans are at it again. Pretending to cure a problem that doesn't exist they are removing citizens from voting rolls sure that the great majority of those removed vote Democratic.

The Republican State Attorney General has spent millions trying to find instances of voter fraud that this bill will fix and found none. In fact, the only problems he caught were friends helping elderly and disabled to vote and forgetting to sign the mail in ballots on the proper lines. (That still counted as a success because the elderly and handicapped and the type of people assisting people to vote are also largely Democratic voters.)

The main problems with this bill include:

1) The legislation does not provide any alternatives to photo identification examples of identification that will no longer be acceptable to voter include student id cards, Medicaid/Medicare cards, expired driver’s licenses, expired passports, expired military id cards, birth certificates, official government letters, and employer id cards even if issued by a governmental entity.

2) Texas has a long history of voter discrimination and this law if enacted will be used primarily against minorities.

3) Voters, especially the working poor, will not return to the county elections department to provide the required identification within 6 days and cure his or her provisional ballot.

4) The bill contains no provisions to accommodate or address eligible voters whose last name on their driver’s license does not match their voter registration, such as recently married women.

5) The bill contains no provisions or guidelines to address a driver’s license that does not match the address of the voter registration certificate. This provision impacts students.

6) Offering a free personal identification certificate from DPS will not address the problem. Voters that lack the identification necessary to satisfy SB 14 will likely lack the means to obtain a personal identification card.

7) To implement this legislation, the state must put in substantial money for training and extensive public education. Money that would be better spent to address budget shortfalls in education, higher education, nursing homes, and healthcare costs.

8) The budget should be the first and only priority emergency item for the 82nd Legislature.

9) Implementing redistricting plans and extremely strict photo id laws right before a Presidential election is a recipe for disaster in voter confusion.

The people most impacted by this bill include students, the recently married, the recently moved, those with very low income, the elderly, legal immigrants, the handicapped, and the mainly urban dwellers who don't drive a car. These groups all lean Democratic so the Republicans count this bill as a success, getting any edge possible for elections.

See the bill here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance - In 1798

How ignorant are most conservatives and how much do they lack a knowledge of history?

Rick Unger points out that they are over 200 years too late to stop insurance mandates for private citizens and socialized medicine. Forbes, by far not a liberal web site, has this.

Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance - In 1798

In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed - “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance.

Keep in mind that the 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution.

And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it’s safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind.

Realizing that a healthy maritime workforce was essential to the ability of our private merchant ships to engage in foreign trade, Congress and the President resolved to do something about it.

Enter “An Act for The Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen”.

I encourage you to read the law as, in those days, legislation was short, to the point and fairly easy to understand.

First, it created the Marine Hospital Service, a series of hospitals built and operated by the federal government to treat injured and ailing privately employed sailors. This government provided healthcare service was to be paid for by a mandatory tax on the maritime sailors (a little more than 1% of a sailor’s wages), the same to be withheld from a sailor’s pay and turned over to the government by the ship’s owner. The payment of this tax for health care was not optional. If a sailor wanted to work, he had to pay up.

The law was not only the first time the United States created a socialized medical program (The Marine Hospital Service) but was also the first to mandate that privately employed citizens be legally required to make payments to pay for health care services. Upon passage of the law, ships were no longer permitted to sail in and out of our ports if the health care tax had not been collected by the ship owners and paid over to the government – thus the creation of the first payroll tax in our nation’s history.

When a sick or injured sailor needed medical assistance, the government would confirm that his payments had been collected and turned over by his employer and would then give the sailor a voucher entitling him to admission to the hospital where he would be treated for whatever ailed him.

While a few of the healthcare facilities accepting the government voucher were privately operated, the majority of the treatment was given out at the federal maritime hospitals that were built and operated by the government in the nation’s largest ports.

It not only covered sailors working in international waters but the U.S. lakes and rivers.
Clearly, the nation’s founders serving in the 5th Congress, and there were many of them, believed that mandated health insurance coverage was permitted within the limits established by our Constitution.

The moral to the story is that the political right-wing has to stop pretending they have the blessings of the Founding Fathers as their excuse to oppose whatever this president has to offer.

History makes it abundantly clear that they do not.