Monday, July 02, 2007

Vote for Illinois to host the Simpsons premiere

The Simpson's movie premiere will be held in Springfield. There are 14 Springfields competing for the honor, including our very own.

You can vote for Illinois here on a USA Today site.

The movies are fun to watch as well. Vote by July 9.

The premiere will be held before the nationwide opening on July 27, so if we win, the General Assembly will be in session.

First, the Barack Obama's presidential campaign kicks off in Springfield. Now a first-rate movie premiere. Good things happening to Springfield.....

Vote right now!

States renamed based on the gross domestic products

Thanks to Eric Zorn's Land of Linkin' comes this post from a site called Strange Maps that renames each U.S. state based on the nation with the same sized economy (gross domestic product).

So Illinois, with 12 million people, is named Mexico (which has 100 million people).

Iowa = Venezuela

California = France

Texas = Canada

That'll make you think. We are one wealthy nation.

Overtime budget decision: Senate Dems v. House GOP

The question will likely be resolved in late July: will the Senate Democratic plan for solving some problems (like a state structural deficit, poor schools in property-poor areas, a transit system shutting down in September and too many medical bankruptcies) with new revenues and new investments be implemented or will the House Republican plan for letting the problems wait for another day in return for not significantly raising taxes, fees or gambling prevail?

In legislative leader parlance, I think the real overtime battle is between Emil Jones and Tom Cross.

I'm not a fan of the leader shorthand that is often employed in state government discussions, as I think each caucus is much more diverse than the particular personality and policy preference of the leader. So, it isn't enough to say "what Madigan wants" as a substitute for what the members of the House Democratic Caucus want, because each of the leaders represents the views of their members, not just their own views.

So, it's clear that many (perhaps most) Republican members would accept not solving some problems in exchange for not increasing the state's 3% income tax, the sales tax, creating a new business tax, raising state fees or expanding gambling (aside from putting slots in existing casinos and, perhaps, race tracks).

It's also clear that many (certainly most, perhaps all) Senate Democratic members would accept raising taxes, fees or gambling opportunities in exchange for solving problems and making investments in education, transportation and health care.

Now that at least 4 House Republicans are required to pass a budget for the rest of the calendar year, the ultimate consensus over the FY08 budget must include some of the views of House Republicans.

Thus, a stalemate.

Either the Senate Democrats will have to trim their sails and allow many problems to go unsolved for another year or the House Republicans will have to grudgingly accept higher taxes, fees or gambling to invest the revenues in solving problems.

Perhaps they will "meet in the middle" but ultimately, the budget must fall between those two poles.

There are a few interesting observations.

One is that there are certainly 4 lower-income districts currently represented by House Republicans that would benefit from higher taxes, fees and/or gambling and the corresponding higher state spending that such taxes, fees or gambling can finances. Generally speaking, lower-income districts benefit from higher spending, and many lower-income rural districts are represented by Rs. Will these rural Republicans be able to "vote their districts" and support a Senate budget or will their ideological affiliation trump the economics of their districts? Ideally, these rural Republicans would get a seat at the table to help find a budget that can earn the votes of 71 Representatives and 36 Senators.

Another observation is that in the face of a stalemate, there is no natural default position. In other words, if Emil Jones and Tom Cross both dig in their heels (and forgive the leader shorthand again, as it over-emphasizes the personalities of the leaders) and stick to their respective positions, even as the 31-day budget expires and the state government starts to shutdown, accepting a no-growth budget in the face of disagreement isn't any more natural than accepting a high-growth budget in the face of disagreement.

Some might suggest that if there isn't a consensus for solving problems, then the coalition to increase spending has not grown strong enough so the legislature should default back to the status quo. However, when enough members have decided they will not support the status quo, then the argument is flipped: the coalition to maintain the status quo has not grown strong enough, so the legislature should default to new spending.

All that is to say that this is really the time when advocates and citizens should weigh in on their vision for state government and help forge a consensus over the smartest investments we can make. Legislative positions will change over the next four weeks or the state government will shut down.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

"Socialized health insurance" not "socialized medicine"

I haven't seen Sicko yet, but the discussion that it has generated on getting rid of the for-profit, parasitic, middlemen health insurance companies has helped me to come up with a tighter phrase.

We're not advocating for "socialized medicine." We're advocating for "socialized health insurance."

Private, for-profit or non-profit medicine -- meaning doctors and nurses and hospitals -- continues. It's just the health insurance side of things we want to socialize.

Now, some can argue that we should avoid the adjective "socialized" under any circumstances, but I'm not sure about that. We do want government health insurance, just like Medicare. And the other side wants corporate health insurance, just like we have now.

We don't want doctors and nurses working for the government. We want them private (if they want to be -- if they'd rather work for government hospitals, that's fine too). But we want all private providers to be paid by the government, instead of paid by corporate, for-profit insurance companies.

When our opponents attack with a dishonest, designed-to-confuse phrase like "socialized medicine" I like an honest, designed-to-clarify response like "socialized health insurance" to make them defend the corporate health insurance companies.

Thanks to Michael Moore for advancing the discussion.

Cross-posted at my dailykos page