Death Parade

Today, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a repeal and replace of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While this version of the bill had not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, the first version of the bill had been estimated to deprive twenty-four million Americans of health insurance. The current version of the law removes the requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions, and establishes a high-risk pools which are run by states. The $8 billion set aside for these pools is wholly inadequate to cover the same amount of patients with pre-existing conditions that are covered under the current law.

There was no good political reason to do this. While Republicans were swept into power promising to repeal and replace the ACA, the circumstances changed after the election. First, we realized that the Republicans in Congress were materially unable to pass a replacement that guaranteed coverage to the extent that the ACA did. In part thanks to this realization, the Affordable Care Act became more popular than ever. The House is caught in a time warp where 2011 never ended.

Not only it is not 2011, it’s 2018. The Democrats have newfound energy and resolve. Ossoff’s 48% finish in the April primary election in GA-6 should have been a wake-up call, particularly to Republicans who represent purple districts. Moderate Republicans who flipped to support this bill apparently learned nothing from the special election, learned nothing from angry town hall meetings, and learned nothing from what happened to the Democrats who had learned nothing from the same sort of occurrences past 2009.

The bill is not going to go anywhere in the Senate, and this vote will have been for naught. These votes, though, are going to be political death sentences for a number of these Congresspeople. There was no reason to go through with this. They’ve now put the House of Representatives in play for 2018. We have the material now. We have all the material we’ll need to take it back. It’s only a matter of tactics now.

There’s no glory in dying for a lost, unpopular, and villainous cause.


100 Days of Empty Seats

Trump’s boasting about non-existent crowds is a great metaphor for just about everything having to do with this President. The whole affair is a monument to the unreal. The only consistency shown by this administration is in putting forward horrible policies like climate change denial, which are also based on lies. There’s been very little of anything resembling truth in these hundred days. Even by the sad standards of truth-telling in politics, this administration is failing.

Of course, some of this may be due to genuine incompetence. Trump is not enjoying the job very much. It’s not a job known for being pleasant or for enabling a lifestyle of leisure. Well, at least it didn’t until now. God only knows how else Trump will shape this office, but at least there will be plenty of seats available to witness the next hundred days.

The Eternal Emergency

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency for the state’s coast on August 18th. It mentions climate change as one of the factors causing the loss of land. There are a lot of moving parts to the order, and to the plans that exist to protect and restore the coast. This article from Futurism is an excellent read on the subject. I was pleased to see that climate change was even mentioned in the order.

Coastal erosion is an existential threat to southern Louisiana even without the specter of climate change. The original causes were created by our taming the Mississippi River and also from damage done by oil and gas exploration. As our understanding of climate change has gotten better over the past decade or so, it became apparent that the rising sea level would be a serious aggravating factor in contributing to coastal erosion.

These circumstances make it seem like climate change would be a major issue in Louisiana politics. Logically, demanding action to prevent and mitigate climate change would be an almost universal sentiment among voters. One might think that Cajun, Creole, and Native American peoples that settled in these areas threatened by the rising sea levels would act as one and constantly agitate to save their homelands.

On all counts, you’d be wrong. Climate change is barely discussed here in any political context, and rarely mentioned by mainstream media covering the area. Louisiana is a virtual petrostate, and almost all dialogue concerning our ecology is filtered through the interests of the oil and gas industry. Louisianians are not allowed to have large, candid public conversations about climate change. In order to succeed in politics here, oil and gas generally has to come first. People here are in an abusive relationship with the energy industry. They rely on it for jobs, and are protective of their interests even as the state itself disappears under the Gulf of Mexico.

There have been exceptions, of course. Environmental activism has been on the upswing to the point where the oil and gas industry here actually have felt the need to defend themselves with TV ads. The “I am Louisiana Oil and Gas” campaign started in 2015, and it’s by an outfit called the “Grow Louisiana Coalition.” It’s a creation of The Ehrhardt Group, a PR and marketing firm based in New Orleans. Ironically, New Orleans stands to lose quite a bit from further hurricanes with less and less wetland as a buffer against storm surge.

While coverage of climate change is scant in regional media, that’s even begun to change. Lafayette activist and former political candidate Mike Stagg hosts Where The Alligators Roam, a weekly radio series and podcast that regularly tackles climate change.

Slowly, climate change is becoming a slightly less taboo topic here in southern Louisiana. But for now, the easiest way to discuss it is to call it something else, or to make it a secondary issue. As sea levels continue to rise, the taboo will probably break entirely. Hopefully it won’t be too late by then.

UPDATE: This was posted by my Congressman the morning this post went up. He represents Lafayette and southwestern Louisiana. 

We have a lot left to do.