Tag Archive for 'Senate'


America and health care

In the light of the recent passage by the U.S. House of Represenatives of the Senate’s version of healthcare reform and the ensuing wailing, gnashing of teeth and smearing of soot in the hair by opponents of said reform, let me give my view – as an outsider – on the matter:

It’s a question of morality.

It astounds me — and, frankly, every other non-American USA-watcher in the developed world — that the richest nation on earth, whose very constitution proclaims the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness to be it’s highest ideals, whose citizenry so loudly profess to live by Christian virtues, would not guarantee that some form of basic, minimum healthcare be available to all of its citizens independently of their ability to pay.  It utterly astounds me.  If I were American, it would disgust me that this had not happened 50 years ago.

If my income and my wealth is above average for my society, I have an ethical duty to subsidise the health care of those who are, for whatever reason, at the lower end of the spectrum.  Yes, there are issues of free riders and of personal responsibility, but they simply do not matter when answering the basic question.  The government of a country, acting on behalf of that country’s people, has a moral imperative to provide a minimum level of care to all of its citizens.

I am not saying this as a screaming socialist.  I freaking hate socialism.  I love the market (when it’s allowed to function properly with full transparancy).  I support (at least partially, and possibly fully) privitised social security.  I like the idea of small government.  I rage against the nanny-state in Australia and in the UK.  I worry about encouraging dependency and a sence of entitlement in those people assisted by the government.  But those concerns take a back seat on this issue.

So, yes, the second question (a two-for) is to ask what the minimum level should be and how to pay for it.  But first question should have been a no-brainer.

If all the country can afford is a polio shot and a packet of aspirin, then that’s what they should provide (hopefully a charity or two might help out, too).  But if the country is the richest in the history of the planet, they should be able to stump up for a bit more.

And, yes, for the next criticism, this particular reform by the U.S. Congress is nominally promising more than it will reallly provide when it comes to the fiscal deficit.  Yes, again, given America’s political structure, U.S. government spending won’t be truely corrected until there is a real crisis approaching (as opposed to the make-believe crises being proclaimed by people opposed to the bailouts and stimulus package(s)).

I don’t care.  The child of an unemployed, drug-taking high-school dropout should not be deprived of basic access to a doctor just because we’re angry at their parents.  Nor should their parents, come to that.


History of US Legislative and Executive power (again)

Ages ago, I wrote briefly about the history of US legislative and executive power.  I thought I’d update it now that the latest election has (pretty much) settled.  Between 1901 and 2010, the Democratic Party will have been in power in the House of Representatives 65.5% of the time, in the Senate 58.2% of the time and had the presidency 50% of the time.

Much more interestingly, Americans seem to prefer having the same party control all three branches of US government at the same time.  While pure chance would put such an occurrence at 25% (i.e. two out of eight possible configurations), it actually occurred over 61% of the time (33 congresses out of 54).  Of those 33, 21 were all-Democrat and 12 were all-Republican.

Click on the image below to go through to an excel spreadsheet with the details:

History of US legislative and executive power (1901-2010)


Georgia Senate race – it looks like a runoff

In the U.S. state of Georgia, senate races have a crude form of preferential voting:  if no candidate secures 50% of the vote, the top two candidates go into a runoff election.  It looks like that may be about to happen:

With 99 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday afternoon, Chambliss [incumbent, Republican] had 1,841,449 votes, or 49.9 percent of the total, while Martin [Democrat] had 1,727,625 votes, or 47 percent. Libertarian Allen Buckley had 126,328 votes, or 3 percent.

It’s by no means certain – there are some 200,000 more votes to count and the whole thing needs to be certified – but if Chambliss stays below the 50% line, we could be about to have some (more) fun.

Given the visual scale of the Obama victory, it seems safe to assume that Martin would do better in the runoff.  A Martin victory would not give the Democrats the supermajority of 60 seats in the US Senate, even with the two independents, but it is nothing to be sneezed at and it’s safe to assume that if the runoff goes ahead the president-elect will be visiting Georgia in the next few weeks.


History of US Legislative and Executive power

Following the recent (midterm) US elections and looking at this article over at the Economist, I was fascinated by the graphic they provided at the bottom detailing periods of Democrat and Republican control over the House of Representatives and the Senate. The obvious missing information was on presidential control, so I did one up myself. You can grab it (as an Excel spreadsheet) here.

It’s interesting to note that since 1901, the Democrats have generally been dominant in the House of Representatives (64.8% of overall control) and the Senate (57.4%), but the Republicans have maintained a slight upper hand in the Presidency (48.1% Democrat).

Americans do seem to prefer having just one party in control at a time (59.3% of the time all three are under the control of the same party rather than the 25% that would have been expected by pure chance).

Update: I have redone this following the 2008 election here.