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Senators From Nowhere

The six senators pushing for a compromise deal on health care -- and meeting today with President Obama -- apparently aren't going to be spending a lot of time meeting constituents in "town hall" gatherings back home. This is because they come from states without any actual towns.

Max Baucus is the leader of the group (and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee). He's from Montana, where the people are outnumbered by bears.

There's Chuck Grassley from Iowa (where just last year he cut the ribbon on the state's first escalator), and Mike Enzi, from Wyoming, which has a smaller population than the District of Columbia. There's Olympia Snowe from Maine, which, back in my day, was a part of Massachusetts, and really should have stayed that way. There's Jeff Bingaman from New Mexico, almost every square inch of which is covered by uninhabited desert, forests, craggy mountains or salt flats. And finally there's Kent Conrad, from North Dakota, which is so forlorn it makes South Dakota seem like Southern California.

A number of bloggers have noted this rather undemocratic situation, including Matt Yglesias, who reports that the six states represented by the senators have, collectively, one-fifth the population of California:

"The largest metropolitan area contained in whole or in part within any of those six states is the Albuquerque MSA, population 846,000, the 59th largest in the United States--smaller than New Haven or Fresno or Richmond."

Ah, the genius of the Founders.

[Note that the Gang of Six does well when it comes to raising campaign donations from corporate interests that would be affected by the legislation.]

We're guessing that it's easier to be a compromiser in states without cities, towns, voters, editorial writers and bloggers. Certainly it's trickier in places like New York, Texas, Florida and California, where there are large, loud, vocal, organized political factions, labor unions, industry headquarters, big-money contributors, and thickets of news media.

The fierce partisans are furious at these compromisers. The Left feels that they've caved already on the public insurance plan, and the Right feels that this whole thing is a government takeover of health care -- socialized medicine. So polarized is the debate that we now have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claiming that the opponents are reform are wearing swastikas to town hall meetings (red-lining on the implausibilitymeter).

Can the center hold? First it has to find its center of gravity. And it has to be a broad enough center to attract people who spend their political lives closer to one end or the other of the political spectrum. That kind of political geometry may not exist in America these days.

Any reform proposal, the president tells us, has to achieve the basic goal of expanding care and controlling costs (bending the cost curve as they say). Compromise will be necessary, no doubt, for health care reform to pass. But compromise too much and it won't really be reform -- and our leaders will have squandered a once-in-a-generation chance to expand coverage, improve the sanity of the system and stave off a looming fiscal disaster.

--

Good piece by Bob Cesca on seniors who go to town hall meetings and say they don't want the government to get its hands on Medicare.

--

Ruh-roh. You mean I have to work in the office?? [Via Memeorandum.]

--

Sounds like Budd Schulberg had a very full life.

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 6, 2009; 11:40 AM ET
 
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Comments

The Senate is like the English Parliament of many years ago, where cattle were well represented, the cities, not. A recent opinion piece (I'll look for it) noted that filibusters were rare until the civil rights bills of the 1960s were debated, and that the current system that requires a 2/3 vote on anything important is juat a product of the past ten years or so. Jesse Helms is gloating in his grave.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | August 6, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Harold Meyerson wrote that opinion piece on the filibuster, the center, etc. I'm happy to echo his sentiments.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/04/AR2009080402425.html

Weren't those unpopulated English parliamentary constituencies called "rotten boroughs?"

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | August 6, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Repost:

Mudge, slight oversight in today's aviation history...

The P-80 (aka F-80) was the first *American* operational jet fighter. The German Messerschmidt Me 262 was the *first* operational jet fighter, coming into service in April 1944, predating the P-80 by about half a year.

Posted by: tomsing | August 6, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I received campaign literature yesterday from a candidate for the house of delegates. Having never heard of this dude, I read the letter to see if he interested me. When I got to the phrase "government control of health care" I threw it in the recycling bin. Maybe I should have used the envelope provided for my campaign contribution (yeah, right) to send back a note saying how sick I am of the right wingers and the misinformation they provide.

Ezra Klein has a good discussion going on right now about the health care debate, including the town hall protesters. Many of them are older, meaning they're likely on Medicare *a governement-run health care system that they're quite satisfied with*

Posted by: Raysmom | August 6, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

The Meyerson piece is great and alludes to the problem the Democratic Party faces when it tries to use its majority muscle: the coalition of Democrats is so divided that their majority affords them little more than the chairs of congressional committees. Even if the Democratic leadership decided to just push through a real reform bill and ignore Republican objections, their own members would defect.

Posted by: Southwester | August 6, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

States with large populations can increase their number of senators by splitting into smaller states. I don't think there would be any opposition from other states and it would make a lot of sense of some states that have large populations and large area. Example: Northern and Southern California; North and South Florida, North, East and Mexican Texas (jk the last one).

Posted by: sakalava47 | August 6, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

We can be sure that nothing produced by these six will be worth a bucket of warm spit to the citizens of this country. However, it will be guaranteed to swell the coffers of their sponsors, the health insurance and for-profit health care corporations.

Posted by: Chagasman | August 6, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

How is this even possible?! These people are supposed to be representing the people of this country - NOT insurance companies!

Posted by: Kathy5 | August 6, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I guess we know where the Achenbach family will not be vacationing this year- west of the Mississippi.

Posted by: kguy1 | August 6, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

*watching the woo detector's needle start to twich*

Yep, Front Page Alert...

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

*CLAXON SOUNDS*
Front Page Alert

Posted by: Southwester | August 6, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Looks to me like obama is getting really desparate!!
To be forced to assemble this gang that represents so little says tons about his (lack of) support!
Congress has to made to believe that any change in health care - or health care insurance - must include the congress people.
We are tired of supporting our leaders who vote things different for them than for us!!
Their recent authorization of 3 more Luxury Lear Corporate jets for *congressional* travel in this economically trouble time is futher proof that they have lost any connection to the People!!
Vote them all out! Insist on Term Limits!!

Posted by: thornegp1 | August 6, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

Been busy all morning (ahem), and making progress on the day.

I'm wondering if Billy-boy Clinton is Franklinesque in dealing with hostile foreign powers, maybe the WH should consider having him lend his diplomatic Super Powers to negotiate with the Way Scary Far Right and Instransigent Far Left in order to pass the Health Care legislation.

On a related note, I see the new Toles cartoon contains a disturbing factual error - the puppetry in the film 'Team America: World Police' was not stop-motion animation, but in fact live-action marionettes (which made it a more impressive, IMO) (and not just for the scenes you think I mean - and I mean you, Mudge, Scottynuke, and yello).

Finally, I can't help but chuckle at the idea of a political center of gravity on the Health Care legislation, though there may be a LaGrange point somewhere in the complex orbits of all those vaired intrests.

And if I'm still wearing this Elizabethan cone dog collar by the time I get to the BPH, can some one help get it off of me? I've been dying to scratch my ears all day. Plus, it'll be difficult to consume adult beverages with the bloody thing around my head (though folks sitting directly next to me might enjoy the improved view).

bc

Posted by: -bc- | August 6, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, there really is a bit of Oligarchy in the system isn't there? (As a digression, check out the sections of "Charlie Wilson's War" on the immense power of various House appropriation committees. A little unnerving.)

The committee system, of course, was designed to buffer the Wise Senators from being unduly influenced by the rule of the mob. And, to an extent, I understand this. I mean, does anyone really believe that those polls of the general population reflect informed sober reflection? Of course not.

And, in theory, concentrating power also allows certain Senators to become experts in complex subjects. They are trusted to report back based on learned study and unbiased evaluation.

The concern, of course, is that those committee members are neither well buffered nor well educated. They might just be well funded.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | August 6, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"The People" are insufficiently informed on this issue. Some 80%+ Americans live with shifty, probably inadequate health insurance, because it profits the "insurance industry" to have it so. The fact is that in spite of clarions of disease, injury, and germs most of us on most days are functionally in acceptable health. It is the times that we need professional advice or care that pose the problems for us. At those times, more than 50% of healthcare seekers will find the limitations of their coverage policies. Only then will the individual or family become incensed enough to call the government to account for this failing. Otherwise, the advocate voices for a deceitful insurance business cabal would find many fewer bully pulpits from which to spout. And far fewer ears to take their braying seriously.

Posted by: Jazzman7 | August 6, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The time may have arrived for a serious third party. The Republicans have become the party of the South with its poor public education, violent crime, poverty and go it alone culture. The Democrats seem to be unable to come together to get difficult tasks accomplished. I don't really care if legislation is bi-partisan if it is the right thing to do. We need a new common sense party that isn't so locked into ideology but more interested in solving problems.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | August 6, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The idea six senators may decide the shape of a health care bill, that will not be health care reform, is incredibly undemocratic and reflects Obama's poor leadership on this very important issue. Obama may be on the verge of ceding to these six the equivalent power of the old Soviet Politburo. This would not be happening if Obama stopped going around to places in our country, speaking on behalf of a health care "reform" bill, which is incomplete and instead clearly stated what must be in the bill to be acceptable to him, beyond his obsession with the costs being deficit neutral.

Come on, let's show some basic humanity. We are talking about health care, which is vital to human beings. People should be concerned about providing high quality care to everyone in this country legally, not being obsessed about costs. Were this country invaded by a powerful enemy, would Obama insist defense spending be deficit neutral? Being stingy about something as basic as health care we would expect from conservatives, but not supposed moderates and progressives.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | August 6, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

In *your* day Maine was still part of Massachusetts, Joel? Hell, man, in *my* day my people hadn't gotten any further west than getting a longboat as far as L'anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. (I was known to my shipmates as Mudge the Red back in those days. I get kinda nostalgic and teary-eyes whenever I see my posse in all those "Wot's in your wallet?" commercials.)

Good catch about the ME-262, tomsing. I just had in my head that everyone would understand I meant American. But yes, it needed that clarification.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Too bad you had to undercut a good point by taking cheap shots at small-population states. Montana, for one, does have towns; small cities; persistent labor unions, and more people than bears. New Mexico also is more populated than you let on.

More to the point, both states, like others, have serious problems with rural and small-town poverty and health-care shortages. So in addition to not representing large numbers of people, senators such as Baucus are not even representing the voters they have very well.

Posted by: cjohnson1 | August 6, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Too bad we won't get that wonderful wit in person later today, Mudge. Sure you can't make it?

Posted by: -ftb- | August 6, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Alas, no, ftb. I am chained to my desk until at least 5 p.m., and I'm 2+ hours away. And I don't wanna get too far away from the bunker entrance.

*nervously eyeing the crowd and slowly edging toward the bunker's storm cellar entrance*

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

All these Congressmen talking bad about government-run healthcare need to shove it, or put their money where their mouth is. Why don't they SHUT UP or GIVE UP *their* own government-run healthcare? While they're at it, since they don't like taxes, why not work on a minimal annual salary like a paltry $30,000/year? Get off the government dole, as it were. Hypocrites.

Posted by: fbutler1 | August 6, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I see folks are ignoring the Editor General's Warning on the Achenblog:

"Warning: This blog what some may regard as Humor. Read at your own risk in the presence of a responsible adult or guardian. It was processed on equipment that also processes nuts. If you experience an election lasting more than four hours consult a doctor immediately. Mau cause symptoms of BPH, etc."

bc

Posted by: -bc- | August 6, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "May".

Or, I forgot the "Pappa Oooh" part.

bc

Posted by: -bc- | August 6, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Don't know where you got your information, but Iowa City, Iowa had an escalator at Younkers department store in the 1950's! Iowans are not backward. They were intelligent enough to start President Obama on his journey to the White House.

Posted by: shalimar1 | August 6, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Liberals are quick to point out apparent inequities in the US political system- but only when the inequities appear to favor their opponents. The current Vice-president of the US comes from a state that has a smaller population than many counties in California. Is that fair? Is it fair that a dwarfish place like Connecticut has two senators- just like California or New York? Does Maine need two? Incidentally voters in those tiny states appear to have stopped thinking- they elect only liberal Democrats. The days of the self-reliant Yankee is over. Today their descendants demand handouts and "free stuff."

Posted by: mhr614 | August 6, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

*thinkin' I'm gonna need a ruggedized woo detector*

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Funny, I don't recall that Iowa City escalator from my childhood. Some things don't leave impressions on second-graders.

But a swimming pool with an underwater window did impress. Very cool, watching people swim, from below.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | August 6, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

bc. you can drink while wearing the Elizabethan collar. Just ask the waitress to put your bowl on the floor.

Posted by: nellie4 | August 6, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Elizabethan? We always call it The Cone of Shame.

Posted by: -TBG- | August 6, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Or ask for a very very long straw...

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I must be slow--why is bc wearing an e-collar? The only application I've witnessed is to prevent a dog from licking his -er- stitches after being fixed, but I doubt that's it.

Posted by: Raysmom | August 6, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Grassley and Baucus represent less than 3 million people and they are torpedoing single payer or public option of some kind for the many millions that say we should have it.

It's time for civil disobedience. Progressives have turned into digital age slactivists. We are not going to "tweet" our way out of this situation; it will take general strikes, walkouts, and put-your-rear-end-on-the-line demonstrations.

The GOP has become expert at manufacturing phony demonstrations. The Progressives have to ask themselves how bad they want it and what they're willing to do for it. Otherwise the status quo will win.

-Wexler

Posted by: WWWexler | August 6, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I feel a great disturbance in the Force...

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2009/08/yes_twitters_down_and_facebook.html

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Scotty, if I go nutz on the boodle, is it WeWoo?

Posted by: russianthistle | August 6, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Drinking with an E-collar on's easy. Duct tape the collar to your neck and pour the liquid of choice down the funnel until it reaches the level of the mouth. VoilĂ .

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | August 6, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom --

Full moon last night. Versteh? :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I'd think it'd be WooWeed, actually...

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

We were willy worried that we would be wooWeed.

Posted by: russianthistle | August 6, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

A compromise for the "K" Street "loverboys" means insuring the 50 million who are uninsured, giving the healthcare industry new red meat to ravage, and doing nothing about the costs.

Almost $9,000 per person being spent on healthcare, or $2.4 Trillion spent in 2008 and soon to be $4 Trillion in healthcare expenditures per year in less than 10 years.

The insurance companies are salivating over that number.

Many thanks to the GOP and the "Blue Dogs!" You've done more than anyone ever expected for the Healthcare Insurance Industry.

I'm sure you'll all see an increase in your campaign contributions.

In the meantime you've set your country's course towards another recession. But that's okay! Let's just pump in another stimulus!

Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | August 6, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Weed, instead of "willy worried," didn't you mean "weewy woowied"?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"with its poor public education, violent crime, poverty and go it alone culture."
===================================

Sorry to tell you, but California is under democratic/ liberal control and isn't in the south!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Kathy5, the six senators are not supposed to be representing the interests of the country... they are supposed to be representing the interests of their respective states, and i must say they are doing so in exemplary fashion.

Liberals like Kathy5, Harold Meyerson, and Joel Achenbach are absolutely furious that their supposed super-majority isn't winning for them all of the things that come out of their socialistic wet dreams.

And what about Achenbach! Montana has a few urban cities, believe it or not. Iowa actually has thousands of escalators.

Typical stuttering urban liberal, condescendingly sniffing at those who deign to come from such beautiful and not so populous states like Wyoming and North Dakota. Is it their fault that their people don't propigate like rabbits? That they haven't raped their lands like Floridians and Californians? That they don't pollute their waterways like New York and New Jersey? That they don't sprawl like Chicago, NYC, DC, and LA?

Kudos to the 'Solonic' Six. For their detractors, i can come up with another adjective that rhymes with the one above - just replace the 'sol' with an 'mor'.

Posted by: bryanmcoleman | August 6, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Ahnold is a democrat/liberal now? I wasn't aware.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

This is similar to a pattern that has crippled the US for a number of years. The republicons, when they held the senate majority, still represented less than 40% of the country. With this in mind they rammed through bill after bill that most of the country was against. Now they are using this tiny handful - Wyoming has a population smaller than the suburbs outside Philly where I live.

Posted by: John1263 | August 6, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

How is this even possible?! These people are supposed to be representing the people of this country - NOT insurance companies!

Posted by: Kathy5 | August 6, 2009 12:57 PM
===============================

Another liberal getting it wrong!! These people are suppose to be representing their STATES!!!! Try reading the 10th amendment!!
The federal government has no business creating a nationalized health care system which only empowers them more!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Which suburb, John1263? I'm from the Hatboro-Horsham area, mid-Montgomery County.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I knew I read something about The Tyranny of the Tiny White States recently.

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/07/28/the_tyranny_of_the_tiny_white_states/

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | August 6, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Ahnold is a democrat/liberal now? I wasn't aware.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 2:48 PM
=================================

More and more liberal every day it seems!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I don't care if they're the six senators from the Moon, if they can come up with a health care plan that provides as much additional coverage as possible without drastically raising taxes in the middle of a deep recession and/or drastically increasing the national debt. Either one of those two options would be worse than doing nothing. Or, to paraphrase Joseph Stalin, 43 million Americans without health insurance is a statistic, 4.3 trillion American dollars in debt is a tragedy.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | August 6, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

This is similar to a pattern that has crippled the US for a number of years. The republicons, when they held the senate majority, still represented less than 40% of the country. With this in mind they rammed through bill after bill that most of the country was against. Now they are using this tiny handful - Wyoming has a population smaller than the suburbs outside Philly where I live.

Posted by: John1263 | August 6, 2009 2:49 PM |
================================

And the liberal drones just keep talking BS!!! Scary to think you actually believe this junk!!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm just gonna leave this sitting out here for the visitors. I think you'll find it'll answer a lot of those questions you may be too embarrassed to ask. You just let me know if you need to talk about any of this, ok? Ok.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humor

Posted by: schala1 | August 6, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

bryanmcoleman left out one thing that the folks in Montana and New Mexico and Iowa do- they take more from the federal coffers than they pay in, they are all "recipient" states. New Mexico gets over $2 in federal funds for every dollar in tax paid. New Jersey, OTOH get $0.61.

Posted by: kguy1 | August 6, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The next time a conservative, Republican oldster whines about a "government takeover of health care," invite them to drop Medicare and subject themselves to their beloved private health insurance regime.

Posted by: Ladyrantsalot | August 6, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Bunker's open! I've got some nice Chardonney on ice, various beers in the fridge, cheese and crackers on the table. Oooh, I see a nice fruit salad too. Is that you, CqP?

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, gotta go get the woo detector fixed...

Maybe have 'em use a titanium needle this time?

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

My state of Washington has more population than these six states.

Time to go for 100 states - those of us in Blue large population states should be allowed a free split up, so that we get a reasonable number of Senators.

Then Cali would have 1/6th of the Senate.

Posted by: WillSeattle | August 6, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

The next time a conservative, Republican oldster whines about a "government takeover of health care," invite them to drop Medicare and subject themselves to their beloved private health insurance regime.

Posted by: Ladyrantsalot | August 6, 2009 3:06 PM
====================================

They paid into the pathetic system their entire lives!! Why shouldn't they expect to get what they can out of it?? I'm sure they have much more vested that you do!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Good idea, schala1. Thanks!

And yikes... Paraphrasing Joseph Stalin. How about if I quote Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute, for you Office fans) from a recent tweet of his?

"No, you're right. We should get rid of our government-run SOCIALIST education system too. No education unless you can afford it!"

Kind of sums up my response to those folks against "government-run" healthcare (many of whom are on Medicare or using military healthcare benefits). Let's get rid of the government-run fire and safety programs, too... and the libraries. Bunch of liberal, leftist programs, they are!

Posted by: -TBG- | August 6, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

We might have to break out the bubbly, slyness -- CNN's reporting Sotomayor's confirmed.

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

My state of Washington has more population than these six states.

Time to go for 100 states - those of us in Blue large population states should be allowed a free split up, so that we get a reasonable number of Senators.

Then Cali would have 1/6th of the Senate.

Posted by: WillSeattle | August 6, 2009 3:12 PM |
==============================

Our Founding Fathers look more brilliant by the minute!!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, Montana voters are outweighed not by bears but by corporate contributions, just as in every other state. And folks here are just as unhappy about it.

Posted by: Montana1 | August 6, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

It is true that the rural, conservative side of the party is going to dilute healthcare reform to the point where it is less than it should be or could be. But as many have pointed out, getting real health care reform is not a one step process. Americans will get the health care they deserve as the conservatives fade away, as the Republican party implodes (through the weight of their own ignorance and failure) and as people realize that universal government-run health care is the best option a civilized well-run country can offer.

Posted by: gposner | August 6, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Good idea, schala1. Thanks!

And yikes... Paraphrasing Joseph Stalin. How about if I quote Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute, for you Office fans) from a recent tweet of his?

"No, you're right. We should get rid of our government-run SOCIALIST education system too. No education unless you can afford it!"

Kind of sums up my response to those folks against "government-run" healthcare (many of whom are on Medicare or using military healthcare benefits). Let's get rid of the government-run fire and safety programs, too... and the libraries. Bunch of liberal, leftist programs, they are!

Posted by: -TBG- | August 6, 2009 3:15 PM
================================

Curious how many federally run fire departments and libraries you know of?? Don't know what you mean by "safety" programs!! But they do sound....safe!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

The rural, older(I'm 68), whiter(I'm white) less educated, narrow-minded, short-sighted, 'America was great in 1808' crowd is ruining it for the rest of us.
We need innovative thinking, bold action,aggressive reforms, new technology.
What we're getting is giant silos filled with bull****.
Somehow, majority control must be reasserted. These guys are killin' us.

Posted by: art-mahoney | August 6, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

It is true that the rural, conservative side of the party is going to dilute healthcare reform to the point where it is less than it should be or could be. But as many have pointed out, getting real health care reform is not a one step process. Americans will get the health care they deserve as the conservatives fade away, as the Republican party implodes (through the weight of their own ignorance and failure) and as people realize that universal government-run health care is the best option a civilized well-run country can offer.

Posted by: gposner | August 6, 2009 3:20 PM |
==================================

ROFL!!!!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Sotomayor confirmed!

Posted by: -TBG- | August 6, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

TBG, you're so right! And don't forget those liberal socialist communist Marxist highways! Why, I can't remember the last time anyone benefitted from--

Oh, wait. You mean that street I drove on to get to work this morning was a highway? You mean tourists drive on highways to get to where I live, and my job depends on serving these tourists? You mean those fresh strawberries I'm eating at supper came to me by highway? Well, uh. Carry on! Obviously if it benefits me, it's okay.

The saddest part is that programs derided as socialist *would* help every single person in society in so many indirect ways. If only we could get the people who don't care a zilch about anyone else to see that. Sigh...

Posted by: schala1 | August 6, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I'll be back from the bunker wine cellar shortly. Scotty, do you think a case of Moet will be enough?

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I'll be back from the bunker wine cellar shortly. Scotty, do you think a case of Moet will be enough?

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 3:27 PM |
=================================

Senator Kennedy!!! Didn't recognize you!! What will everyone else drink??

Posted by: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

That should do fine, slyness. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

It's older data but basically, 24% of the population has spoken when a supermajority (60 senators) is reached in the Senate. Airtime is cheap in those states so the candidates can make good with solid corporate funding. Hence Baucus and cie.

http://robertdfeinman.com/society/senate_vs_population.html

Yes kguy, and Palin never mentions that her oil-rich state of Alaska also gets 2 bucks on the federal dollar of tax. This is real America after all.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | August 6, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Hey Mudge... will miss the evening event at K St. Please say hello for me. Have to host a group of friends from one of those socialist countries this evening after they invited us for lunch.

You may laugh at this... I mentioned that I much prefer having to listen to the MD state rescue choppers over than Marine One(s) after Marine One flew by while we sat on the patio with coffee. Turns out those darn socialists build our rescue aircraft.

For those scoring at home, lunch was nice, but the canard tasted a lot like duck.

Posted by: russianthistle | August 6, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Hello from a lovely part of "Nowhere" (Idaho). I agree with the Post that the structure of the Senate gives way too much power to small states and their senators with equally small minds. But, "what is, is" and unless there is a constitutional earthquake how can this state of affirs ever change?

Posted by: acboatman | August 6, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the general sentiment of this blog posting, but I take issue with the tone. As a Montana resident, I can assure Mr. Achenbach that there are in fact "cities, towns, voters, editorial writers and bloggers" in rural states and the political process still takes place. If you want to challenge the Senate's democratic credentials, I wouldn't be opposed, but please refrain from maligning the rural constituencies. While it may seem that rural areas are better represented in the Senate than urban areas because of the disparity in population, I'm not sure that is the case. As you look at the campaign contributions for these six senators, and you see the inordinate amounts of money coming from out-of-state donors and PACs, understand that the constituents from these states aren't being represented, corporations and special interest lobbies and large states are.

See FiveThirtyEight's posting on this issue for more perspective on this insidious problem.
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/08/real-problem-with-senates-small-state.html

Posted by: FletcherKasmer | August 6, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

kidwell, ya gotta forgive shriek when he writes "Baucus and cie." The "cie" is the Frenchified abbreviation for "company." Ya see, shriek is one o' them furriners, and he'll lapse into his native patois onst in a while. That said, we still like to keep him around. (I won't spoil it by telling you *which* commie-pinko socialized medicinal furrin country he's from, although the French thing mebbe is a sizable hint, eh?)

Oh, and he ain't the only one. Yup, the Achenblog is infested with 'em. Got better'n half a dozen of 'em, at last count.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

For those who want to leave health care at the status quo, a few questions:

Do you have some kind of health insurance? Is it costing you more and/or giving you less each year? Have you looked closely at the statements you get from the doctors, labs, hospitals, etc. as to what your care would have cost you without insurance? Do you want to take your parents or grandparents off Medicare (which is the biggest public health care system in the country) when they have used up what they contributed? Have you looked at what it would cost a family of four for private, non-employer supported health insurance? Then ask if some kind of public-supported health care option shouldn't be on the table.

Posted by: ebtnut | August 6, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Oh, BTW, I can't make BPH either. The old Volvo died and had to go to the shop, so I'll be driving friend wife to the store when I get done here.

Posted by: ebtnut | August 6, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Every major decision I've had to make as an adult has had to include a consideration of the availability of healthcare. Which job? What geographic location? Have kids? Am I covered? That's just not right.

Posted by: -TBG- | August 6, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I've said it before, but the only reason I was able to retire was that my former employer allows retirees to keep their health insurance. The amount I have to pay continues to increase, however; by January, when it increases again, it will be twice as expensive as it was when I retired on January 1, 2007.

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I'll throw in my two cents worth today on the polls and the independents. Righties should not chortle too loudly about the Obama approval ratings: he is losing independents because he is not crushing these right wing saboteurs fast enough. Get it?

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Have a great BPH, those of you attending.

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey frosti, guess who got to announce the Sotomayor vote count??

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2009/08/06/VI2009080602412.html

:-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 6, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Um, as a point of historical accuracy, the Medicare program was enacted in 1965, 44 years ago. Eligibility begins at age 65. No current recipients have been paying into this system "their entire lives."

Posted by: kguy1 | August 6, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Disgruntled today, internet off again from 12 to 4. Just like every dang day.

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Jumper,
I concur with you on your poll comment. Many of us are very frustrated with Obama's progress and may not support him in the polling, but it isn't because we just got hit with the "stupid stick" and became right-wingers.

Sorry, bad joke. But, yes, I have similarly pointed out to folks that very significant number of Americans from the left are upset with Obama. We may disagree with the White House efforts, but it isn't like we will be voting for Newt next time around.

Bad news for the believers, btw, Tejas is turning blue and this Sotomayor hubub didn't help. I don't know how many battles the Koch family can fight at one time?!

Posted by: russianthistle | August 6, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, you are welcome to come and use mine! I have wireless and two computers, so we wouldn't be in each other's way.

That first glass of bubbly was good, but I know better than to consume the second one quickly. You all in the bunker keep the noise down. Supper is being catered in, it's due around 6:30. Under the joyful circumstances, I figured the shop steward wouldn't mind paying for steak and lobster for everyone. With trimmings too, of course.

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"...cattle were well represented, the cities, not."

That is as it should be. American cities are the incubators of decadence and their inmates in general appreciably less dignified than cattle.

Posted by: LeePefley1 | August 6, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Only 9 Repubs voted for Sotomayor. I'm grumbling because the Post story fails to list who voted how, and there isn't even a link yet. I was 11 votes shy of my prediction.

And yes, Scotty, it was a little strange seeing Franker presiding over the Senate and announcing the vote tally...and soooooooooooooo straight-faced. (There's a vid clip in the story.) Weird seeing Franken, of all people, cautioning the audience (the gallery, I suppose) from any outbursts or displays. Al Franken, hall monitor. Jeez.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

As a former resident of the great state of Iowa (or was it Idaho? Ohio?) I must protest. I have clear memories of the occupancy of an escalator before 1990.

It was a great public occasion. We'd get on the up escalator and ride to the top, then return on the down side. The waiting line was two hours long. To celebrate the occasion, the choirs of the Girl Scouts and the Future Farmers of America sang, and the state-champion high school girl's basketball team from Pella put on a exhibition.

But as grand as it was, it was far from the most significant event in recent Iowadaho history. No, that would have to be 1973 when the telephone system was installed and everyone was given a free phone book, with paper that functioned so much better in the outhouses than the slick pages of the Sears and Roebuck catalog! Half the hogs in the state were slaughtered in celebration, and we diverted enough ears of corn from cattle-feed and high-fructose corn syrup production that everyone ate a half-dozens ears, ensuring that we had adequate opportunities to assess the qualities of our new @$$-wipe. (I don't know anything about the respective population sizes of bears and people in Montana, but I can tell you that in Iowa it is the hogs who hold the upper hand.) (Some traditionalists were not persuaded by the qualities of the new toilet paper and cling to the old ways - a red corn cob to clean and a white one to check.)
So Joel you just go and have your fun poking away at Ohiawaystan and the potato crop. But remember the Field of Dreams? Stephen King's Children of the Corn? Iowa may not be the biggest or the most modern of states, but there is a bit of magic and mystery there which will always elude your urban eyes until it it too late.

Posted by: j2hess | August 6, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

the bunker has champagne, steak, and lobster? And all we get at the BPH is Yuengling and burgers? Sheesh!

Posted by: Raysmom | August 6, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Who are the greater "hicks;" the yahoos from "nowhere" who line their pockets with bribes("campaign contributions") from corrupt corporations looking for state-guaranteed "profit" - or the masses of the D.C. area and NYC who let Bush and Cheney commit 9/11 in their midst yet didn't rise up even after the inarguable proof of treason was made available (Viz. "The New Pearl Harbor," Griffin, PhD, a free download on Google Scholar)?

Posted by: iamerican | August 6, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm not positive about this, but, I pay taxes supporting universal medicare. People without money have the same access to health care that I do.

You pay insurance companies a premium for health care, and people who can't afford health care get diddly. that just seems worng.

I'd wonder if the cost wasn't the same once you took out the profit part out.

Can I stop by the bunker? Seems a little loud out here.

Posted by: --dr-- | August 6, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

By coincidence my two trips to the US this year will be to Nowhere States. On prior trips I have been Somewhere, but we're mostly staying Elsewhere this year.

Your senatorial wrangling is a cautionary tale for us, though, that we'll have to keep in mind if we ever decide to do something with ours other than as a rest home for party faithful. Here we'd end up with Anne of Green Gables riders on every bill.

Posted by: engelmann | August 6, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Come on in, dr, there's plenty of champagne for everybody!

Raysmom, you just have to take your pick: bunker or BPH. It's a tough world.

;-)

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Interesting...the same people who brought you the economic meltdown (looking at you coasties), the housing crisis (looking at you again, coasties), budget deficits and and so on, have the gall to lecture people (those from the six states, and many, if not most of the states around them) who insist on something being done right the first time. Go climb back under your rocks, and read the Constitution while you're at it.

Posted by: cayman2 | August 6, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

As one of the furriners I am trying to stay out of this debate but this made me laugh out loud.

"American cities are the incubators of decadence and their inmates in general appreciably less dignified than cattle."

Because we all know nothing bad happens in small towns - shaking my head.

Posted by: dmd3 | August 6, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

*clapping*

Well played, j2hess!

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

*incoming rant alert*

kidwell is a prime example of the misinformation campaign orchestrated by the right. Instead of calmly and logically arguing their point of view, they scream and shout insults, the most stinging (they feel) is "liberal."

And before you paint me with the "L" brush, dude, let me tell you I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats, quite possibly in equal number. I tend to go with the one that makes the most coherent case for their point of view. Which, in this case, is most definitely not the conservatives. Just what do you propose the unemployed do if they can't afford the exhorbitant cost of insurance and become ill? Get care and not pay for it (risking bankruptcy and/or burdening everyone else with the cost of their care)? Die? I just don't see y'all putting any viable alternatives on the table.

*rant over. thank you*

Posted by: Raysmom | August 6, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Ignoring the failed attempts at coastal elitist humor at the expense of the flyover states, there's two problems with the logic here:
1. It's not like 94 senators are in favor of this plan and these 6 are blocking it. There is NO MAJORITY in favor of the plan being proposed. These six are trying to change it into a plan that a majority can support. That's much better than the 38 dinosaurs who will oppose everything no matter what.
2. We're talking about a national health care system, which requires national consensus. If any of the big states want to implement a plan like this (just as Massachusetts and Vermont already have), they should. But since they're such fiscal failures (especially California), they have to beg Uncle Sam to mortgage the future and do it. There are good reasons to consider it, but it shouldn't be rushed through.

Posted by: pparrydc | August 6, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

This column is a highly offensive attack on rural America that is no better than publishing a column of racist slurs. Achenbach dissolves in the birther/truther blogs, not on the Washington Post. He ought to be fired today for this bigoted attack on his fellow Americans.

Posted by: jwfossel1 | August 6, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

jwfossel1, it's a joke. The column is a JOKE. Get it?

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Joel's from a place even HE calls Hogtown.

Posted by: -TBG- | August 6, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Huzzah for Sotomayor! Mojitos all around.

Roll call:
http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/111/senate/1/votes/262/?hpid=topnews

Posted by: seasea1 | August 6, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

To: dkidwell61 | August 6, 2009 3:14 PM.
From: Ladyrantsalot:

Angry darling, the point is that the private insurance system hates anyone who stands between it and profit maximization, and that includes all old people. That is why Medicare was created, to solve the enormous social problem of tens of millions of oldsters who could not get medical insurance. So oldsters who defend the for-profit medical insurance regime sound insane: it's the very same system that was perfectly happy to tell them to drop dead before 1965. Why would you defend a system that told you to drop dead?

Posted by: Ladyrantsalot | August 6, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Cities are incubators of decadence. Wow.

We's the Aristocrats.

------

Steak? Lobster? Bubbly? Trimmings?

*quickly checking wallet to see if I can cover it. I think I'm gonna have to put this on on the Boodle Labor Union Amex card. And there goes my August expense account--and it's only the 6th. How am I ever gonna get through the end-of-August Boodle Birthday Crunch? Scotty, we're gonna be on bread-and-water and beans-and-franks for the rest of the month, methinks*

-------

Hey, Yoki. Whatcha been up to?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

You have your finger on this pulse. Let's all hope the patient screws the insurance company and survives.

Yes, you gotta love those seniors who go to town hall meetings and say they don't want the government to get its hands on Medicare. Gives you an idea of what the rest of us are dealing with here. Somebody should take them up on their offer, take away their subsidy and then see how they like being dumped into the pool of the uninsured.

Posted by: SarahBB | August 6, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Actual Iowa farmers and those from elsewhere have been on the internet since 1999 at least. I doubt they are funding intentionally Big Insurance and Big Pharma. No, it's the senators from those states who are the prostitutes, not the people of those states. At least, not the farmers.

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I lived in Hogtown. Horrible place, except for its Eden-like qualities.

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

...uh, slyness, I think you better get down from the table before you hurt yourse..No! Please don't shake up that champagne bottle...uh, slyness? I think the lampshade should go back on the lamp...

Mmmm. I think maybe slyness has been a bit free with the bubbly...

...yes, dear, I know it makes your nose tickle. Can I get you a cup of coffee? A Tylenol PM?

...no, please don't put that lobster claw under the cushion on Scotty's chair...

...uh, can somebody give me a little help here?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm afraid the bunker may have become an incubator of decadence.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | August 6, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

City Folk!

Posted by: dmd3 | August 6, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Is it a good or a bad thing? I'm getting confused.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | August 6, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

New Kit!
(I have a feeling this one may keep attracting comments - carry on.)

Posted by: seasea1 | August 6, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, Mudge, I'm fine. I'm completely fine!

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Nick took my rilly long cat5 cable. Im sad.

Posted by: russianthistle | August 6, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Jhess1 made my day. I am now extremely proud to be a non-Iowan, although that mass barbecue does sound major heartland good.

I might sneak south for a taste next time something big happens. Do I have to forge any identification?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | August 6, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Dear Wilbrod,

Thanks for the compliment. I'm working on making a night of it soon, if you'd like to take a look. (I also work on spec.)

The primary form of identification in rural Iowa (which includes the whole state except the golden dome of the state capitol building in Des Moines, the northern third of Mays Island in the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids, and the residence of the president of the U. of Iowa) is the seed cap. For those of you unfamiliar with exotic apparel, it looks much like a baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of an agricultural enterprise, often a seed company (e.g., Pioneer) but also including Mel's Highway 60 Tractor Sales and Used Cars. It is also known is some dialects as a feed cap, as celebrated in song by Iowa's official state minstrel Greg Brown:

Let's go down to the cafe and count feedcaps,
and count feedcaps, in a row.
Red and blue and green over the coffee cups,
Stirrin' easy, fadin' slow

Greg has his own website:

http://www.gregbrown.org

Learn his songs and you'll be able to pass for an Iowan.

By the way, Wilbrod, you mention coming south - are you by any chance a denizen of Minnesota? Be careful who you share that with. First, we think anyone who complains about not having snow on the ground in October is plain nuts. Second, we still remember when you ceded the bottom row of counties to Iowa and it lowered the average intelligence of both states. (Don't get all upset by the comment - we all know that "Gnome, Gnome on a Rage" refers to Kansas, not Minnesota.)

Posted by: j2hess | August 6, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Because of the relatively small populations and, therefore, media expenses, bribes to senators from states where no one lives go a lot farther. Check out Baucus's filings at the Federal Election Commission, www.fec.gov, to see how contributions from Beltway Bandits outnumber those from people who actually live in Montana.

Posted by: edallan | August 6, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

John Hughes (59) died today, in New York, of a heart attack.


Posted by: rickoshea0 | August 6, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

I think that the North Koreans have captured the Boodle.

Posted by: rickoshea0 | August 7, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Out here in New Mexico, where "almost every square inch of which is covered by uninhabited desert, forests, craggy mountains or salt flats", we tend to judge people by their apparent grasp of reality, something which is generally undermined by a use of hyperbole or the appearance of being hysterical. In any case, as Harry Truman once said, "Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day."

Posted by: Pobracito | August 9, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

is the bunker stocked and ready to go? fresh doilies and those things that cover the head of easy chairs?

my experience with gov run health care was aprox 15 years ago in england. i worked there so i paid for public healthcare. i wrenched my knee out and went to the public healthcare hospital... it was AWFUL - hours of waiting, dirty floors, surly nurses - only to be told they couldn't do anything for me b/c i'd have to do 6 months of "rehab" for my knee before they'd really look at it. (i was coming back to the states the next month)

BUT on the other hand, having recently had a paintball injury and not being able to see a doctor b/c my insurance was messed up due to a change in contracting companies... well, i can see how frustrating not being able to get even basic affordable healthcare w/out insurance can be...

Posted by: mortii | August 12, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

i have insane trouble boodling from work - i can't seem to get anything to refresh and good forbid i post a comment - then it seems like i'm banned from refreshing for days! but here goes nuttin...

my experience with gov run health care was aprox 15 years ago in england. i worked there so i paid for public healthcare. i wrenched my knee out and went to the public healthcare hospital... it was AWFUL - hours of waiting, dirty floors, surly nurses - only to be told they couldn't do anything for me b/c i'd have to do 6 months of "rehab" for my knee before they'd really look at it. (i was coming back to the states the next month)

BUT on the other hand, having recently had a paintball injury and not being able to see a doctor b/c my insurance was messed up due to a change in contracting companies... well, i can see how frustrating not being able to get even basic affordable healthcare w/out insurance can be...

mo

Posted by: mortii | August 12, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

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