Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Reading

How It Happened — Michael Barbaro of the New York Times has a behind-the-scenes look at how Gov. Andrew Cuomo persuaded rich Republicans to back the passage of marriage equality.

The story of how same-sex marriage became legal in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from gay couples who wish to be wed.

But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition.

And it was about a Democratic governor, himself a Catholic, who used the force of his personality and relentlessly strategic mind to persuade conflicted lawmakers to take a historic leap.

“I can help you,” Mr. Cuomo assured them in dozens of telephone calls and meetings, at times pledging to deploy his record-high popularity across the state to protect them in their districts. “I am more of an asset than the vote will be a liability.”

Over the last several weeks, dozens of lawmakers, strategists and advocates described the closed-door meetings and tactical decisions that led to approval of same-sex marriage in New York, about two years after it was rejected by the Legislature. This account is based on those interviews, most of which were granted on the condition of anonymity to describe conversations that were intended to be confidential.

More below the fold.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. — Want healthcare? Knock over a bank.

I pay my taxes.

I will not offend your intelligence by pretending to enjoy it; writing that check is about as enjoyable as a chainsaw root canal. But I don’t resent it, either.

I pay my taxes because this is how we the people pay for things we deem to be in our communal interest. This is how our military is sustained. This is how our children are educated. This is how our potholes are filled. This is how our libraries are stocked. This is how our police officers are supplied. This is how we take care of us. So I pay my taxes.

It is because I do, that I was appalled by the story of James Verone. He is a 59-year-old man from Gastonia, N.C. Drove a Coca-Cola delivery truck for 17 years until he lost his job three years ago. He got another job driving a truck, but that job went away, too. So Verone took part-time work at a convenience store, only to find himself physically unable to do it. Verone has a bad back, a problem with his left foot that causes him to limp, arthritis that swells his knuckles and carpal tunnel syndrome. He could not stand behind the register, bend to reach the low shelves, lift things to the high ones

And he had no medical insurance. Then, to make matters worse, he found a lump on his chest. Desperate, Verone considered his options. He filed for disability and early Social Security, but did not qualify. Meanwhile, his savings were running out like sand through an hour glass. He considered a homeless shelter. He considered asking for charity. “The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept,” he told a reporter from the Gaston Gazette, upon whose story this account is based. “I kind of hit a brick wall with everything.”

That’s when Verone turned to crime. On the 9th of this month, he walked into a randomly-chosen bank and passed a teller a note demanding one dollar and medical attention. He never showed a weapon, stood there while she called police, waited on a couch in the lobby for them to arrive, surrendered quietly. He went to jail, where he now has shelter, food and, yes, medical care.

I am not here to lionize Verone. His stunt could have gotten someone hurt. Indeed, the teller was taken to the hospital because her blood pressure spiked.

No, I don’t lionize him. But I do empathize.

I pay my taxes. I consider it a patriotic obligation — a sacrifice for the greater we.

But that is not how it is seen by the anti-government forces who have dominated political debate in recent years. To hear them tell it, to pay taxes is to be robbed. And every federal program our taxes support is wasteful and unnecessary, except, of course, those that directly benefit the complainer himself.

During the healthcare debate, we kept hearing that a government-run system amounted to “socialized medicine,” as if Marx would be your triage nurse and Lenin your doctor. As if, by that definition, our government-run libraries, police forces, schools and garbage pickup were not also “socialized.” As if it’s Aetna that really has your interests at heart.

If healthcare were “socialized,” a law-abiding working man would not have felt driven to this extreme. A great nation has a moral obligation to provide a safety net, to care for the most broken and vulnerable of its people.

I pay my taxes. That’s one reason I do.

Of Course It’s Sabotage — Michael Tomasky argues that the GOP is clearly out to tank the economy for political gain.

It’s about time the Democrats started saying openly what has been clear for months or even years now—that as long as economic recovery would work to the political benefit of Barack Obama, the Republicans have been, are, and will be in favor of sabotaging the economy. Senators Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin made the point in a press conference in the Capitol Thursday. Noting that his GOP colleagues are coming out against business tax cuts (read that again: Republicans against tax cuts for businesses) that Democrats happen to support, Schumer said, “It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.” Well, not almost. Certainly. And I don’t “wonder.” I think it’s obvious. But this is a start.

Washington is a city of conspiracies, but far and away the most pernicious one is the fiction, in which one must participate if one wants to be regarded as a “serious” person, that both parties are more or less equally to blame for the present malfunctioning of our democracy. One hears this all the time at the sort of panels, dinners, and seminars I attend. The topic is our energy future, our fiscal prospects, whatever. Discussion turns to obvious remedies, which inevitably involve the government taking some minimal amount of action, or the investment of a few modest public shekels. The symposiast will then note, sighing forlornly, that we appear to be light years away from consummating even these modest actions. He will then bemoan a vague “lack of political will” or “absence of leadership” as the reason for the inertia.

Nonsense. There’s nothing vague about it. It’s crystal clear. We can’t do these things because of the extreme nature of the Republican Party and the right-wing noise machine that enforces such rigid ideological purity. Period and end of story. I think most people at these panels and dinners know this deep down. But it’s thought impolite to say it. Often it’s a technical violation of law to say it, since most of these events are sponsored by nonprofit organizations that must be scrupulous about their nonpartisanship to keep the taxman at bay. Whatever the reason, the conspiracy has produced a culture that refuses to acknowledge one of its fundamental truths.

Doonesbury — Search engine.