Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

February 15, 2009


Most members of Congress didn't read it before they voted for it and then - along with Obama - left on a three day holiday prior to its ceremonial signing.

Never in American history has so much money been appropriated in such a careless fashion.

The huge and largely useless portion devoted to tax cuts had its origins in Obama's obsession with palling around with Republicans. If he had approached the issues as a good negotiator, the original - and hence the final - sum would have been far smaller. As Barney Frank said, "He set himself a high bar - and an irrelevant bar and he didn't achieve it. . . He should not have legitimized [the notion of bipartisanship], that prompted their partisan reaction."

The medical records section of the bill means that your personal health records will no longer be private, despite the vague and ineffective assurances of the measure. One need only consider the ease with which the NSA has ignored the 4th Amendment to appreciate this. Your records may be sold to a private company or university for research and law enforcement will have access to these records as well. Going to the doctor or the hospital for drug or alcohol treatment will no longer be a private act. Says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom: "This bill is very misleading because while it promises to outlaw the selling of data, the exceptions to the rule are huge and allow Americans' personal health data to be exchanged and sold for research and public-health purposes without patients' consent. . . Most Americans have no idea that the so-called HIPAA privacy rule doesn't give patients the freedom to give or withhold consent before their personal health information can be shared with others for many purposes."

The measure is grossly over-weighted towards ineffective tax cuts and shortchanges measures that would actually produce jobs.

Instead of extensive revenue sharing with states and localities - which often can act quicker and with more visible results - Congress saved the bulk of the pork for itself.

The measure offers only minuscule assistance - about one percent of the total - to railroads, the major expansion of which could have been the most important job, economic development and ecological improvement program of modern times.

The measure offers virtually no assistance to troubled homeowners.

A filibuster was not an inevitable problem. The Democrats could have stricken the filibuster from Senate rules at the beginning of the session as there is no constitutional basis for arguing that the Senate must follow the rules of an earlier session. And, if they didn't have the courage to do that, they could have made the Republicans stage a real - rather than a virtual - filibuster and let them pay the price for being seen on CSPAN hour after hour arguing against the best interests of the country.

Reader Jake in Alabama writes us: "Not one Washington politico has come forward to advocate for the repeal of the Gramm Act and to re-enact the Glass-Stegall Act." Reason: Washington - both Democratic and Republican - is in the pocket of Wall Street.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only have one comment. The Patient Privacy Rights organization has been significant in the reason why our medical records can not be sold outright. What contribution did you make to help us?

February 15, 2009 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Walter F. Wouk said...

Re: "I only have one comment."

Who's asking?

February 16, 2009 10:03 AM  

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