Our American Discourse, Ep. 21: How the Senate Can Beat Gridlock—and Why That’s Not Always a Good Thing

Americans are fed up with gridlock. Congress is one of the least popular institutions in the country. So you might think the solution is for legislators to pass major legislation. But what if the solution is even more controversial than the problem? If you’ve heard of “budget reconciliation,” you probably didn’t hear unanimously good things. That’s because it’s a risky game…a fascinating, strategic game deep in the trenches of our democratic tug-of-war.

In this episode, Molly E. Reynolds teaches us how budget reconciliation works, where it came from, how it’s being wielded, and why you should care.

Continue reading “Our American Discourse, Ep. 21: How the Senate Can Beat Gridlock—and Why That’s Not Always a Good Thing”

Our American Discourse, Ep. 20: When Politicians Get Rich and Voters Pay the Price

Voters have long suspected that politicians are corrupt, so much so that they’ve demanded a long list of ethics rules and anti-bribery regulations over the years. But it turns out there are still plenty of tricks left up their sleeves. The question is, do they use those tricks? Do they really have the power to enrich themselves at our expense? Today, we have a wealth of new evidence that finally answers those questions…

In this episode, Jordan Carr Peterson unveils the concerning conclusions of a series of research papers that pull back the veil on the financial interests of our policymakers—and the power they wield in their own favor.

Continue reading “Our American Discourse, Ep. 20: When Politicians Get Rich and Voters Pay the Price”

Our Editorial in the New York Times: “We Stand For Access”

As a member of the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, I’m proud to add my name to this letter to the editor in the New York Times:

To the Editor:

We, many of the nation’s health law and health policy professors from law, medical, public health and graduate schools across the United States, write to address one of the most fundamental issues impacting our country: the potential repeal and replacement of the “Affordable Care Act” (“Obamacare”). It is clear that the House-passed “American Health Care Act,” as well as the legislation likely to be considered by the Senate, will cause severe, lasting harm to all of us, especially our society’s most vulnerable and middle class.

Today we raise our voices to oppose these proposals. While the Affordable Care Act has its shortcomings that should be fixed, the current proposals are merely “repeal,” with no effective “replace.” These proposals are wrong, and must be rejected. At a time when we are seeing significant declines in the number of uninsured and inadequately insured in our country, the House and Senate proposals represent a giant step backward. By cutting Medicaid funding, eliminating federal assistance for families securing private coverage, and encouraging individuals to either not purchase insurance or to buy barebones coverage, these proposals will result in a less equitable, less accessible system of health care. Ultimately, the public’s health will decline as needed care is forestalled or not sought, and costs will rise as a shrinking pool of Americans with “good” insurance pay more to subsidize those without.

Given the many health care challenges that we face— an aging population needing an increasing amount of health care services; a young and middle age population facing growing rates of obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions; a rapidly expanding “gig” economy of independent contractors needing to secure insurance without employer subsidies; and a rising number of individuals addicted to new and more prevalent illegal drugs— reducing access to health care services simply cannot be an acceptable policy option.

We also are deeply concerned about what this new legislation portends for women and children. Currently, the United States leads the developed world in maternal mortality. More women die during childbirth in the United States than in any other Western nation. Despite the urgency to protect women’s health and strive for better outcomes, lawmakers have specifically targeted maternal health coverage for cuts.

The same is true for infants in the U.S, whose health care is also at risk with these proposals. Our nation ranks 50th in the world on infant mortality. By shifting more families off of Medicaid, and creating a larger uninsured and under-insured population, children’s access to health care services will decline.

The Affordable Care Act protects all Americans from discrimination based on preexisting conditions, expands coverage for mental health treatment and drug addiction, and fosters preventive care. Millions of Americans have health insurance for the first time, and we are at an all-time low in the percentage of citizens who lack coverage. The reform legislation under development proposes to wipe away these essential gains, returning Americans to the pre-Affordable Care Act era of coverage limitations and exclusions thwarting the provision of essential health care services.

In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King explained to a group of health providers, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.” We agree.

Our American Discourse, Ep. 6: Federalism and the Battle for Partisan Power

We think we know how federalism works. Republicans believe in states’ rights, and Democrats want a strong federal government, right? Not so fast. New research reveals a whole different tug of war playing out on Capitol Hill. Our legislators don’t always do what they say, but they do have a strategy to design and implement our laws. It turns out that federalism is ground zero in their battle for partisan power — and now we finally know how the game is being played.

In this episode, we go behind-the-scenes with the researcher who uncovered these terms of engagement, Pamela Clouser McCann.

Prof. McCann is an assistant professor in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. Her new book, The Federal Design Dilemma: Congress and Intergovernmental Delegation, was published by Cambridge University Press in September.

To listen to this episode of Our American Discourse, click the orange arrow in the Soundcloud player at the top of this post. Or you can download it and subscribe through iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play.

==========

“Our American Discourse” is produced by Aubrey HicksJonathan Schwartz, and myself, and mixed by Corey Hedden.

Watch Me Discuss the Future of the Economy on The Sam Lesante Show!

Let’s start 2016 by getting up-to-speed on the American economy! Here’s an interview with me, just in time for the holidays, on The Sam Lesante Show, where we cover everything from the federal budget deal to the Federal Reserve rate hike to the lingering problem of inequality:

YouTube Preview Image

You haven’t heard from me for a few months because I’ve been busy doing research on these economic issues. In 2016, I’ll be writing about my findings. I hope you’re as excited as I am for the new year and all the debate it brings!