December 24, 2009
… paging William Shatner … paging William Shatner …
… paging William Shatner … where is “Captain Kirk” when he’s needed? (Putting hand over eyes and squinting into the distance) Hope he’s not too busy being “Priceline Negotiator” to take on this new role that exactly fits his talents. What new role, you might ask?
Well, I’ll tell you: a reprise of his Letterman appearance featuring bongos, a tall stool and black turtleneck sweater – but with a brand new script. Not that old Palin resignation stuff (that’s so last summer!). But a little rhyme by Gregg Levine over at FireDogLake.com about the health care reform spectacle in Congress. Levine does a masterful job of tying the corrupting power of money to the legislative process in the Capitol.
Since Shatner is not available right here and now, we’ll have to make do with making a mental YouTube (aka using our collective imagination) to make this happen. So visualize a black-turtlenecked Shatner propped against a tall stool on a darkened stage. The bongos start. Then Shatner begins reciting the following rhyme.
How the Joe Stole Health Care
By Gregg Levine
Every Who down in Whoville liked health care a lot…
But the Joe, who lived in northeast Whoville, did NOT!
The Joe hated health care! Reform smells like treason!
Want to know why? Someone must know the reason.
It could be his “head” always broke to the right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
Was that Joe thought his purse was two sizes too small.
Whatever the reason, His purse or his shoes,
He kept blocking health reform, hating the Whos,
Appearing on news shows with a sour, jowly frown,
Joe’s admonitions were a thing of renown.
For he knew every Who down in Whoville beneath,
Whether suffering from gout or infected teeth,
Was “just waiting for free care” Joe’d snarl with a sneer,
“And thanks to that Kenyan, it’s practically here!”
Then he whined, with his fat fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop health care from coming!”
For Tomorrow, he knew, if he let cloture pass,
Joe’d get less attention. He’d be out on his ass!
And then! No more noise! No more Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
When senators debated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the Whos, young and old, would see doctors and nurses.
Instead of waiting in ERs, or paying for hearses!
They would learn that Joe’s friends from AHIP were beasts.
Which was something that Joe couldn’t stand in the least!
And THEN they’d do something he liked least of all!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Would stand all together, every Who that was living.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would stop giving!
They’d stop giving up paychecks to health care inflation,
Which meant Aetna would stop giving Joe a donation!
And the more that Joe thought of this whole lack of bling,
The more that Joe thought, “I must stop this whole thing!”
“Why, near twenty-one years, this has been my cash cow!”
“I MUST stop this health care from coming! But HOW?”
Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
OH JOE GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!
“I know just what to do!” Then Joe laughed in his throat.
And he called his friend Harry to talk of his vote.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “Ol’ Hank, here’s the trick!
“I will vote for reform, and won’t look like a prick.
“All I need is a favor…” (Joe thought himself witty)
“Make health rules go through my senate committee!
“Because I’m the chairman of Whoville affairs,
“All the money from any who possibly cares,
“Be it AHIP, or Hospitals, Unions, or PhRMA,
“If they want Joe to help, they must increase Joe’s ‘karma.’”
“I get where you’re going,” said Harry with glee,
“If they want your approval, there will be a fee.”
“Then we speak the same language,” Joe cawed like a crow
“We do,” said the boxer from Flashlight, “you know,
“When the lobbies help you, you will likely help me,
“With six-figure check to the DSCC!”
And what happened then? Well… in Whoville they say,
That Joe’s bank account grew ten sizes that day!
And the minute his purse didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed through DC in the bright morning light,
And he offered his vote as if clearing a storm!
And each Who down in Whoville got fake health reform.
(Originally published 12/11/2009 at http://firedoglake.com/2009/12/11/late-night-how-the-joe-stole-health-care/)
OK, so Shatner and the bongos stop … the lights brighten … and you come out of your imaginary YouTube wondering what to do about the tsunami of campaign cash and the flood of lobbying dollars that kept health care reform from matching the hopes and dreams of most Americans. The answer, in the short term, not much, except call your senators and rep and let them know how you feel.
In the long term, however, one fix to the system that shows promise is public financing of Congressional campaigns. In fact, this idea of public campaign financing has been around for a while – and actually works in Maine and Arizona for both local and statewide races. If this were done at the Federal level, U.S. Senators and Representatives would not have to spend most of their time in pursuit of campaign cash but instead could focus on the doing the people’s business without undue regard for the opinions of a few fat-cat contributors.
It just so happens that there are “twin” bills in Congress that would create a public financing system to help tip the scales in favor of the average voter instead of large donors. The Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752 and H.R. 1826) was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and in the House of Representatives by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Walter Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.). The bill would allow federal candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists, and would be freed from the constant fundraising in order to focus on what people in their home communities want.
One intriguing aspect of this proposal is the financing mechanism. Instead of tax dollars from the general revenues being used to publicly fund Congressional campaigns, new fees would be levied and set aside for this purpose. http://www.publicampaign.org/node/38166
The cost of Fair Elections for Senate races would be borne by a small fee on large government contractors and for House races would come from ten percent of revenues generated through the auction of unused broadcast spectrum.
- The largest recipients of federal government contracts would pay a small percentage of the contract into the Fair Elections Fund.
- If the system proves popular like similar laws at the state level, the new system could cost between $700 and $850 million per year.
A detailed analysis of the bill(s) can be found on the publicampaign.org website and a downloadable PDF is available at http://www.publicampaign.org/sites/www.publicampaign.org/files/05-20-09_Fair_Elections_Now_Summary.pdf
Take action today and don’t let “The Joe” ‘steal’ any more reform legislation in Congress. Contact your Senators and Congressional Representative and ask them to sponsor and support this legislation, the Fair Elections Now Act. (S. 752 and H.R. 1826).