Archive for October, 2012

You Can Prevent A Disaster
October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy has renewed the debate over eliminating FEMA and privatizing disaster relief.  The argument generally goes that a private company will do a much better job reducing costs and therefore make the system more efficient.

There’s nothing hugely wrong with this argument in principal, until you start to think of ways a business in charge of disaster relief might cut costs.  But that’s a fairly obvious stumbling block, and honestly, if people haven’t figured that one out after privatizing hospitals, emergency response, and prisons, they never will. But there’s a much more insidious and horrifying problem that has only become clear in recent years.

The privatizing of America’s prison system has led to major profits for company’s running prisons.  And that profit has gained them one of the most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill. The prison lobby works to stop decrimilization, increase penalties, make harsher sentencing, etc.  In other words, they try to rewrite laws so that more Americas go to prison, and stay in prison.  It is one of the worst decisions we’ve ever made, and we seem to be in no hurry to change it.  More of us are in prison every day because of this, and there’s no end in sight.

To be honest, that could be the subject of an all-day, every day blog in and of itself, but lets stick to the subject of disaster relief.  Imagine such a lobby for a company who profits from disaster relief.  What might it work to change, so that the companies make more money?

They might lobby to weaken building codes.  Weaker construction means more damage, longer disaster recovery times, greater need for assistance, more people in jeopardy.  Big bucks for a company paid for the time they are there providing aid and assistance.

How about weather / geological science?  Such a lobby knows the better informed and prepared we are for disasters, the less we will need aid.  They’d want to gut those programs, and the Disaster Lobby would work hard to eliminate funding for anything that might reduce their profits.

Infrastructure spending is already too low, but the Disaster Lobby would want to kill it as much as they can.  Sound bridges, roads, water systems, all these mean less work when a disaster hits. In addition, the weaker and less prepared the levy system, the better the Disaster Profits.

A company that profits from disaster would work as hard as they can to make America weaker, less prepared, and put its citizens more at risk.  We can’t keep making this same mistake over and over again.  At some point we have to wake up to the real danger of privatizing services that belong in the hands of government.  Government has a role to play, a vitally important one, and one that cannot and should not be handed off to for-profit companies.  This dam must hold against the tide of conservatism before it’s too late, and so many cracks form that we can’t hold out the flood waters.

Privatizing FEMA would be the real disaster.

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Dear Mr. President, 5 Things I’d Like To See You Do Tonight
October 16, 2012

Dear Mr. President,]

Tonight’s debate starts in less than hour.  Here are 5 things I’d like to see you do tonight:

1. Don’t let your loss in the last debate make you act less Presidential in tonight’s contest.

We heard it from pundit after pundit last time: the President was too meek.  He didn’t call Mitt Romney out on all his lies.  He didn’t go on the attack.  He didn’t use enough “zingers”.  The pundits are right that Romney won.  But that doesn’t mean you go out tonight and all of a sudden become some obnoxious clown.  Mr. President, you have VP Biden to be your attack dog (and Joe did a stellar job of it last week), you don’t need to take that road.  Study after study has shown that Middle America still sees the same behavior from whites and blacks differently.  A black man can react to things in the exact same way and be seen as too aggressive because of the remaining racial bias in America.  Don’t play into that.  Remain calm and Presidential, and stay focused on presenting yourself in a positive light.

 2. Don’t let Romney get away with misrepresenting you.

 Even while being Presidential, you can’t let Romney repeat falsehoods over and over without any challenge at all, as you did last time out.  Over and over, Romney talked about the $716 billion you took from Medicare to pay for “Obamacare”.  Oh, those poor seniors who lost all that coverage.  You never said a word.  Of course, no one lost any benefits, and that money came out of reimbursements, so Romney should not have been able to get away with misrepresenting it to score points off of you.  You let him do it, looking down and nodding as if you were ashamed of it.  You shouldn’t have let him get away with that, and it cannot happen this time.

 3. Engage.

 Look up.  Look at your opponent. Look at the audience. Engage everyone, and stand up for yourself and what you believe.  Defy them to make their case that their plan is better than yours.  Do not look down and nod sadly and wait for it all to end this time. 

 4. Prepare for the chameleon.

 I don’t like it any more than you do, Mr. President, but your opponent is a shifty guy.  He’s likely to change his colors coming into the debate tonight, and maybe even change them during the debate if he thinks he can get away with it.  Don’t let him do it.  Prepare for a range of answers you might get and how you will respond.  Point out specific examples of where and when he has said differently if need be, but prepare to make your case against him no matter which version of him you end up with.  Punching a man made of sand doesn’t get you anywhere, you have to bottle him up.  (My geek side is happy that I got to reference two Spidey villains in this one point).

 5. Make your case.

 You have a huge laundry list of accomplishments, and the country is obviously better off than it was the last time Republicans ran it.  Make your case, stand by your record, and let the country know exactly what you will do to move forward.  You have the intelligence and charisma to pull it off.  Don’t let them make you run away from all the good you have done.  Make a clear, concise argument for everything you’ve done and why you should be the one to keep on doing it.

 Good luck, Mr. President!  We’ll be watching, and as always, hoping.