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Much of last week’s mainstream news was focused on the plight of the “Big 3” US automakers and the possibility of a bailout from the US government.  I had mentioned GM in a previous post on healthcare, and I came across a couple of blog posts that further flesh out the constraints placed on US business by the lack of a national healthcare system.

Via emptywheel at firedoglake, China Hand at China Matters has a post about the US healthcare system’s role in GM’s crisis.  The Washington Post had a piece about this as well with some numbers.

The fact that our current healthcare system can be harmful to business is not a convincing argument for a national healthcare plan in itself, but it is another factor that should be taken into account.

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A quick, macro look at the US conundrum in the Middle East vis a vis al Qaeda:

Obama’s presidency is the most problematic quandary for al Qaeda since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.  Al Qaeda’s strategy has been to draw the US into a debilitating, costly struggle, which was easy to do during the Bush years.  Obama is likely to bring a more coherent vision of the world and act more competently than his predecessor.   And he will be more difficult to demonize.  Simply put, the US/al Qaeda standoff, as it is,  is won by strategy, not tactics.  And the US has an interest in recognizing that its moral position is a strategic asset.

In this piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cynthia Tucker makes the point that almost every serious analyst has been making for at least the last 5 years–that George W. Bush and the Global War on Terror is the best recruiting tool al Qaeda has ever possessed.  (I probably could’ve/should’ve found a better article by a more serious analyst in a more serious venue, but that’s besides the point, really.)  Even the CIA said as much in an NIE released a few years back.  It was widely accepted that the OBL video that came out just before the 2004 election was an “October Surprise”, directed by al Qaeda with the intent to help re-elect George W. Bush.  And Peter Berger and Paul Cruikshank did a serious study of the Iraq war’s effect on Jihadist terrorism worldwide, showing the symbiotic relationship al Qaeda-inspired terrorism had found with Bush’s global war on terrorism.

Zawahiri’s new video seems to be an attempt to redirect the propaganda war between al Qaeda and the US, an attempt to make sure Sunni extremists see that, yes, the US is still the great satan.  I’m thinking Obama in a yarmulke is less effective an image for al Qaeda as Dubya doing anything.

It’s looking as if a Status of Forces Agreement can be achieved in Iraq, and it looks like the Iraqi Parliament will be able to force a US withdrawal by 2011 at the absolute latest.

Add to this the inevitable closure of the US prison complex at Guantanamo Bay and you have what appears to be a series of strategic victories in the US struggle with al Qaeda, which it has been lacking since 2001.

This should be the beginning of the…beginning in the push by Democrats for “universal” healthcare.  It looks like the Baucus plan will push for mandates, which would make his plan a bit more like Hillary’s than Obama’s, though their plans were very similar, overall.  I can already hear the vast conspiracy forming talking points riddled with the words socialism and commie. 

Paul Krugman argued that mandates were necessary after the history of struggles the Clintons had with universal coverage.  I think mandates would work as long as the mechanisms used worked broadly.  Small businesses need to be able to cover their employees, so their tax breaks need to be large enough to cover the extra expense. The plan focuses on employer coverage, and would seem to do little in the way of capitalizing on the power to lobby of large corporations like GM, which spends more on healthcare than it does on steel. The devil is always in the details.

The Medicare-like public program, if successful, could morph into the single payer national healthcare system like most advanced nations enjoy. Then the administration costs of US healthcare would probably fall to a normal 3-5%, down from the usual 25-30%, a scandal of epic proportions. That money mostly goes to paying the salaries of 23 year olds who tell you that your procedure is not covered because you had a bladder infection 10 years ago.

And there’s this:  “In addition, insurance companies would be barred from charging higher premiums or denying coverage outright to people with pre-existing conditions, as is now routine for people shopping on their own.”  If the barrage of insurance company lobbyists can be averted, this would, in itself, be a huge win for Americans. 

The Healthcare Blog has a writeup of the Baucus plan:  http://www.thehealthcareblog.com/the_health_care_blog/2008/11/baucus-proposal.html

And Baucus has his plan online:  http://finance.senate.gov/healthreform2009/home.html

And I just got an email this morning from MoveOn.org asking me to host a “Fired Up and Ready to Go” gathering.  We shall see how things play out.

…what I’m doing, but this seems dumbed down enough that I should be able to function.  So, I suppose someday I’ll look back on this and think, “so, this is how it all started”.  Ah, the narcissism begins…

This will be a blog about politics, foreign affairs, and some economics.  I try to read alot, and I think this blog will help me remember things and organize my thoughts by writing about them.  I’ll try to post as much as possible when i’m not working, running my small business and going to school.  Feel free to comment or recommend any further reading.  Thanks!

The title of this blog is a reference to a statement made by Cold War policy architect, Dean Acheson, in his memoir, “Present at the Creation”:  “If we did make our points clearer than truth, we did not differ from most other educators and could hardly do otherwise.  Qualification must give way to simplicity of statement, nicety and nuance to bluntness, almost brutality, in carrying home a point.”

@ntyork on twitter

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