What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 27, 2008

Meet The Candidates - Steve O'Donnell

Had a phone interview a few days ago with Steve O'Donnell.

He's among those running for the Democratic Party's nomination for the chance to run against Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18).

I started with some general questions and then we moved on to some issues.

O'Donnell explained his decision to enter the race as not a sudden one but part of a developmental process where he came to the conclusion that "clearly there's a time for change in this country."

He sited a few numbers. He started with the numbers of American troops killed in Iraq (in the thousands) and wounded in Iraq (in the tens of thousands), the numbers of Iraqis dead and wounded (in the hundreds of thousands) and the money wasted in a war we were at best manipulated into and at worst lied into (between $8 and 12 billion - with a "b"). Then there's the trampling of the Constituion, the lost of respect overseas. You get the idea.

It was a cumulative effect, he said.

On the war, he said that the Bush Administration is not done well in meeting the needs of the troops returning home. That the modest gains in Iraq have only come to pass because the Iraqis' political will that underpins the war is evaporating - they're realizing, he said, that the resources coming from the American military won't be available for very much longer. In spending so much time settling old scores, they've wasted an opportunity.

The troops should be removed safely - though he's not confident it'll happen soon. The plan for the troops' removal has to be directed by the military - the Congress' job is to set the policy. It's for the military to implement it. He expects to see this with a new Democratic President and a growing majority in Congress.

We had a long talk about Health Care. He's in favor of (and he said this more than once) "a single payer, not-for-profit, universal health care system." The current system, he said, doesn't need to be repaired, it needs to be completely replaced. It's a system, he said, that's "horribly upside-down."

He's looking at a system where the Doctors and hospitals stay private, but the government (with a 3 or 3.1 percent raise in income tax) pays the medical bills. Once the profit motive is taken out of the system, he said, it would save a substantial amount of money.

We got into a shorter discussion of some hot button issues.

He's a big fan of the Equal protection guarantees in the Constitution and as such feels that in order for the Constitution to truly offer equal protection, the same rights must be extended to all citizens. It follows that if a straight couple can get married, then a gay couple should also be able to get married. Anything else is discriminatory and contrary to the Constitution's equal protection provisions.

He's also pro-choice. He said that Roe v Wade has less to do with abortion than it has about privacy. Once the right to privacy has been established, a woman's right to choose follows closely after. He said that right is fairly absolute in the first trimester - but once the fetus is viable (and this is from the text of Roe v Wade) the government does have some say.

We ended the interview with him casually pointing out how Congressman Murphy voted with George W. Bush "100% if the time on key issues."

Well now, who would've guessed that??


Anonymous said...

John K. says: Is this guy stupid? Hospitals remain private but the Govt pays the bill?. LOL LOL Yah he is stupid. That is the left wing definition of private enterprises. Man, you lefties endorse some loons. Govt pays the bills and follow with Govt regualtion but private citizens take all the risk of ownership. LMAO Oh man.

Schultz said...

I heard the 5 Democratic candidates for the 18th speak once and I have had to occasion to speak to them individually. O'Donnell was most knowledgeable about the issues as well as the best speaker of the 5 Democrats. He also made a good point in that he has a lot of his own money to put in the race and that the other candidates would not be able to compete with Murphy's war chest, which is supposedly around $1 million.

It pays to be in bed with the coal, utilities, and health care companies, who will fight hard via Murphy to keep guys like O'Donnell out of Congress.

Bram Reichbaum said...

I'm very much with Schultz on this.

I'm also pretty impressed with Wayne Dudding, who has hosted a couple of blogger meet n' greets which you covered and I was disappointed to have to miss. Still I think Steve was pretty close to the total package.

EdHeath said...

I am in favor of a single payer system too, but I think John K was close to making a point. I don't know if O'Donnell mentioned any possible problems getting to a single payer system or not, but we are talking about dismantling the health insurance industry here and creating a government one. "Once the profit motive is taken out of the system, he said, it would save a substantial amount of money." Yeah, and who would want to be a doctor? Maybe we will get a single payer system at some point, but the Democratic presidential candidates system proposals seem more likely to work right now.

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Who would want to become a doctor? Under the Hillary Clinton health care plan, she could force you to become a doctor. Also, her plan would choose the level of medicine each individual practices as well as where. And we all have to buy the insurance whether we want it or need it. But of course the hospitals are privately owned. Oh man the left.

Schmuck Shitrock said...

Ed, you are nowhere near the target. The profit problem is not in the delivery end of the healthcare business. The problem is in healthcare insurance.

For example, we already have a single-payer paradigm in our Medicare system, and it's the most efficient part of the healthcare sector.

So don't insult John by accusing him of making a point. He's here to amuse, not inform.

xranger said...

But, the insurance end of the equation is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, insurance companies must be prepared for the inevitable malpractice suits which flourish here in the states, as opposed to other countries. One main reason is that we do not adhere to English Common Law, which forces the loser to pay all expenses. Therefore, the ambulance chasing lawyers would not take on so many questionable lawsuits.

The other part of insurance is how the individual must pay for it. Prior to WWII, it was by the individual. After the war, companies started to offer it as a benefit package. Thus the upward spiral commenced, because there were no market pressures to keep the premiums down.

Finally, while Medicare is an honorable benefit for the retired population, it was allowed to increase on a yearly basis at a much higher rate than inflation. This allowed the entire health care industry to follow suit.

Whenever I hear a politcician say that taking the profit incentive out of something, in an effort to keep prices down, I know they have no clue as to what indeed keeps prices down: it is the invisible hand of the free market.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Ed said:

"Yeah, and who would want to be a doctor?"

I can't believe this is much of a concern. They will still be pretty well paid, and their status in life will continue to be through the roof. In addition, medicine will continue to be a fascinating field and of enormous interest to a large segment of intelligent humanity.

The question is, who would want to administrate a hospital? Possibly, a different set of people, possibly better ones for the job.

EdHeath said...

Well, John S, you might notice I also mentioned dismantling the health *insurance* industry, the payment end. I know Paul Krugman (for one) has talked about expanding Medicare for the very reason you cite. I wonder how feasible that is in the real (political) world, given that the NYTimes is talking about how Clinton and Obama, still in the primary season, have stopped talking about gun control, to avoid losing votes (in Texas, for example). Which I know is apples and Rugars, but I am making a point about the ephemeral nature
of political courage,which couldbe extened to all politicians.

Bram, the reason I questioned who would want to be a doctor is sort of addressed by xranger aways down in his post. If we are talking about containing costs by "removing the profit motive", we are talking about freezing or even reducing fees for services, including doctors fees. For that matter, we are talking about making the pharmacy industry a regulated industry, which sounds nice until you think about research and development. Now I know pharmaceutical spend lots more on advertising than on R & D, but I also strongly suspect they will punish us all by shutting down their R & D departments the minute they are regulated.

As for hospital administrators, they have not had a fun time in the era of managed care, I gather. They have tried to stretch nurses and others to be able to reduce their use of expensive doctors, but that can only go so far. Under a single payer system, the cost of hospital care might go up considerably, until a republican administration came in and dismantled the system. Or at least forced the hospitals to behave just like they do now.

Remember, I said, and I say, I like the idea of a single payer system. I just don't think it can realistically be introduce in the US, not for some years. Not until political discourse changes from the level of HARD COPY to the level of PBS (the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, my favorite, but hte boringest show around.

Schmuck Shitrock said...

Whenever I hear a politcician say that taking the profit incentive out of something, in an effort to keep prices down, I know they have no clue as to what indeed keeps prices down: it is the invisible hand of the free market.

I must admit that the free market is certainly doing a wonderful job of regulating healthcare in this country. According to the World Health Organization, healthcare in this country ranks 37th in the world, while we spend 50% more per capita than the second most-expensive country, more than twice the average.

Anonymous said...

John K. says: The free market does not regulate health care in this country. The Govt does. Sen. Kennedy set up the HMO system and regulates it.

Schmuck Shitrock said...

Sen. Kennedy set up the HMO system and regulates it.

Yes, but not by himself. He is the chairman of a Board of Regulators that includes Barbra Streisand, Hugo Chávez, Osama Bin Laden, Raoul Castro, and France.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to insurance company and provider lobbyists, there is a rule in place that prevents insurance companies from telling you what is "normal and customary" in your area. You can, with a few weeks work, get a price quote from a hospital. (That's what it took me to get a mammogram price quote from UPMC, and it involved digging up the e-mail for the titular head of the specialty clinic involved, and cc-ing him.) The hardest part was getting the correct code numbers. I then took those numbers to my insurance company, who could only tell me that they were "over" the normal and customary rates...but not how MUCH over. Why not? "It might lead to making choices based not on the quality of the care, but the cost." Well...yes. I would make a decision based on cost and quality, JUST LIKE I DO FOR EVERYTHING ELSE IN LIFE.

I must say, things seem to work better in England and France, and not so well in Switzerland (where people are required to buy health insurance, and are MASSIVELY fined if they don't...even if that means they lose their houses and end up in public housing).

My feeling? Much as the idea of socialized medicine underwhelms me, I could handle 10 years of it, if that would make the medical lobby behemoth shrivel up and die. If we want to go back to a for-profit system in the future, we can vote to do so.

The US has a long history of trying a fix and reversing it (Prohibition) or modifying it repeatedly, until we get it right (the various voting rights acts).

Back on topic, Hafer is a good candiate; O'Donnell also has considerable support, if not quite as much cash or name recognition or smoothness. (I'm not thrilled that O'Donnel send a post card adressed to me and my ex-lodger, assuming that I was the wife...and giving me my ex-lodgers last name.) All depends what issue(s) you most want to work on, first.

Paul said...

It's too bad O'Donnell is pro-choice. A pro-life Democrat would have a better chance of winning the seat. PA-18 is majority Democrats but many of those Ds are litmus test pro-life church-goers and pro-gun sportsmen.

Of course, being a presidential year, the large turnout will take away some of that impact.

Anonymous said...

odonnell is a crook... see where he breached his fiduciary duty as head of the board of directors at life service systems. Check the 7-21-97 statement accompanying the disclosure statement. He sold a building from his for profit Professional Life Services to LSS, FOR 70,000 more than the building was appraised. He is in my opinion, a white-collar criminal and has been shielding this from voters. Just the facts... objective facts in a court of law... which the members of the unsecured creditors committee (ie STEVE) had to approve.

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anonymous said...

A few years back, Steve O'Donnell ran for State Legislature against Joe Markosek (D).  He sent out some really nasty smear tactic campaign literature in that race calling Markosek a thief, etc.  Now, two years later, he runs for a different office, and is in need of Markosek's faithful followers, so he sends out a flyer in Joe's district depicting him and Markosek as best of friends.  It is amazing how political candidates can call someone a crook one day, and accept an endorsement from them the next as if the voters have no memory whatsoever.  Did anyone see Steve O'Donnell on "night talk" with Mike P.?  Steve looked like a real idiot.  Further, if even half of Murphy's ads about Steve's non-profit dealings are true, Steve should be in jail...   I would think Murphy has this one nailed down...