Catching up on my Colorado and national news this Sunday, I caught this week's Good, Bad, Ugly and Hilarious-If-It-Wasn't-So-Sad. Without further ado, here's a roundup.
Don't miss the op-ed in the Rocky Mountain News by Fran Ricker of the Colorado Nurses Association and Kristen Hannum of Health Care for All Colorado. Also check out Michele Swenson's piece on the same topic over at the Bell Policy Institute's new blog. They make a compelling case for a single-payer universal health care system here in Colorado. That proposal is starting to get some legs around the country. Just this year, the Wisconsin Senate passed a plan like this. But as with any health care push, it faced major opposition by Republican legislators and the health insurance and drug industry lobbyists that underwrite the GOP. We are already seeing the same kind of right-wing pushback here in Colorado (more on that below). The Republican Party has launched a preemptive attack on Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform - before the commission has even released its recommendations. Nonetheless, it looks like the movement to achieve universal health care is getting organized, and Colorado should be ground zero in the fight.
The Denver Post reports that Ritter's administration backed off its plans to let state employee organizations hold meetings, obtain e-mail addresses of fellow public employees and use state mailrooms to engage in civic and nonpartisan activities - you know, stuff like bake sales, union organizing, blood drives, charity fundraisers and distributing after-work kickball team schedules. Republicans like wild-eyed conservative Sen. Josh Penry are trying to make this Anti-Kickball Team Campaign a centerpiece of their message this year at a time when Colorado faces major energy, health care and economic challenges (and then the GOP here wonders why voters tossed them out of office). They claim that the proposed rules would have made Colorado a "union paradise."
Not surprisingly, the editorial board of the conservative Rocky Mountain News today backs the Republicans - even though the same editorial (which isn't online yet) notes that any state employee organization that would have used the new rules would have been compelled "to pay all associated costs involved in any mailings, refrain from criticizing management in e-mails, and permit employees to opt out of correspondence." In other words, the Rocky acknowledges that the rules would have meant no cost to taxpayers at all, yet nonetheless thinks the Republican War on Kickball and Bake Sales and Blood Drives is admirable.
The pieces are a reminder that we should never underestimate just how crazed and paranoid the anti-union movement in this country really is. They are so obsessed and so deluded with a hatred for workers that they are now willing to claim that a rule to allow the distribution of after-work kickball team schedules and promotion of employee blood drives is actually a secret scheme to turn a state into a "union paradise" merely because the rule applies to all employee organizations and doesn't specifically exclude unions.
The Colorado Springs Gazette, perhaps the most extremist right-wing editorial board in America (and I know, that's saying a lot), pens a fulminating screed today essentially saying Colorado has no health care problems at all, likening the 785,000 Coloradoans without health insurance to a grotesque horror-film monster ("a blob"), and saying that no major changes need to occur to deal with the situation. The Gazette employs all the traditional right-wing "welfare queen"-style stereotypes and half truths, the most odious of these is the one that claims 11 percent of uninsured Coloradoans "can get coverage through their employers, but choose not to." As I show in my book Hostile Takeover, this "choose to" phraseology is a poll-tested fantasy manufactured by health and drug lobbyists in Washington. The hard data shows that most of the people who supposedly "choose to" not get health insurance from employers who offer it (which is a decreasing number) make that "choice" because they can't afford the premiums.
The Gazette also disgustingly parrots President Bush's recent claim that America already has terrific universal health care because "After all, you [can] just go to an emergency room." The Gazette takes a page right out of that line, and tries to sprinkle a barely-masked bit of anti-immigrant nastiness to it, claiming "the roughly 20 percent of uninsured who are non-citizens aren't really without medical care, because Medicaid covers them in case of emergencies." Yes, because emergency room care is really a wonderful and effective way to get health care. Luckily, public opinion data shows that the America is no longer falling for this propaganda anymore, with most Americans now strongly supporting the concept of a universal, government-sponsored health care system in the Medicare for Everybody mold. So, in a way, I'm glad Republican organs like the Gazette keep spewing their nonsense - it just helps marginalize them even more.
THE HILARIOUS IF IT WASN'T SO SAD
In a national column that is running today on the Rocky Mountain News' editorial page, famed D.C. chickenhawk and 101st Fighting Keyboard Commander Clifford May tells America that the so-called "surge" in Iraq is going wonderfully and that everything is going according to plan in the Iraq War - the war he pushed as the most important endeavor in American history, yet the war that he refuses to enlist to go fight in. This is the same Cliff May who last year said that his blogging in support of having other people's kids go off to die in Iraq is "equally consequential" to national security as serving in the military. So, it's no surprise that May's latest column ignores McClatchy Newspapers' report this week that "no pattern of improvement is discernible for violence during the five months of the surge."
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Denver Post, the new head of the oil and gas industry's lobbying arm in Colorado tells the growing number of families and communities frustrated by her industry's encroachment on their property should just "call the company" they are upset with and "have a relationship with them" - as if just ringing up your friendly neighborhood multinational oil company and nicely begging them to move their drill off your front lawn will result in them saying "sure." The line sounds like part of the oil industry's broader campaign to portray itself as a friendly but mistreated victim - a campaign to try to claim that it shouldn't be better regulated by any new landowner-rights laws.
Cross-posted from Working Assets