What Will Happen on Energy Policy and Health Care Over the Next Four Years

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The Big Picture -
By Glynn Wilson -

It’s going to be a beautiful week for camping over the next few days, almost too nice to be indoors on the computer writing. The Google weather forecast is calling for highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s all week. We may end up in the Talladega National Forest again, or we may head for North Carolina. We’ll know more about that on Monday and keep you posted on Facebook.

If you decide to get out in the woods too, however, be careful. It is also hunting season.

But for now, it seems appropriate to comment on a few other items in the news this week. The biggest news of all was the record fine and criminal penalties levied against British oil giant BP for the largest and worst environmental disaster in history in the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 2010.

BP and the other major oil, gas and coal companies tried their damndest to limit President Obama to one term. They pumped millions into the unaccountable third party party political groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads to try to get Republican Mitt Romney elected instead. His administration would have gone soft on regulating the oil companies, so who knows if this strict a judgement against BP would have been possible if the election had gone the other way?

The noise from the Gulf Coast activist community has died down quite a bit in the wake of the decision. For a year and a half the environmental activists in the Gulf region had screamed that the Obama administration was not doing enough for them, including a lot of new activists who had been ignoring politics for years and who tended to be anti-government conservatives themselves. I wonder how they feel about President Obama now?

The silence in our comment section is deafening, even on Facebook.

Fracking

But according to an AP story that hit our new RSS feeds today, there are some tough choices ahead for this administration on energy. At the top of the list is what to do about the further development of natural gas, including fracking on public lands.

There is supposed to be a so-called “public meeting” on what to do about proposed leases on 43,000 acres in Alabama, mostly in the Talladega National Forest, on Nov. 27 in Montgomery. But no one seems to have heard anything else about this since a couple of months before the election.

We may be camping in the Talladega National Forest in the next few days and getting the final footage we need for a video to go with a story on what the plans call for there, and the potential damage. We’ll keep you posted as news develops on that issue.

Alabama’s Defiance on Health Care

Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly clear that people were wrong to trust doctor Robert Bentley to be the next governor of Alabama. While public opinion shows that the American public tends to trust medical doctors more than just about any professional group in society, Bentley continues to show he cares more about tea party politics than the people he was elected to serve.

President Obama’s reelection provided a wonderful opportunity for Bentley to show he cares enough about the peoples’ health by supporting the Affordable Care Act, which is obviously not going away now that Romney failed in his bid to become president and the Democrats picked up seats in the U.S. House and Senate in spite Republicans being in control of redrawing the district lines around the country.

Instead, Bentley pulled a Wallace-style move to shore up his Republican base and announced this past week that he would continue to defy the federal government and not expand Medicaid or set up health care exchanges to help the poor, sick citizens of Alabama.

While the press in Alabama is apparently unanimously in favor of this continued defiance, perhaps we will be the only news organization to point out something to Bentley, his followers and everybody else.

To become a politician, all Bentley had to do was swear an oath to the tea party and take the “no new taxes” pledge of Grover Norquist. To become a doctor, however, Bentley had to take the Hippocratic Oath.

In short, this is an oath doctors take to their patients and to society to be their brother’s keeper and to first “do no harm” to anyone. I guess since Bentley is a retired dermatologist, he doesn’t have to live by that oath anymore.

Let there be no mistake about this. His decision not to allow his state to participate in Obamacare will result in thousands of deaths over the next few years. And this: In spite of his reason that the state “cannot afford it,” his decision will end up costing hospitals and taxpayers more money, not less.

One of the main reasons President Obama took on health care reform in the first place — and this was totally lost in the national debate because of the tea party — was because of the drag 50 million people without health care have on the national economy. If poor, sick patients in defiant states like Alabama continue to flood emergency rooms and stiff the hospitals for the bills, that will continue to drive up health care costs for everyone else, and that includes the price of health insurance premiums.

I suspect a lot of conservative working people in Alabama wanted to trust Bentley to be governor because he sold himself as a doctor, not a politician. But now that they see he is no longer a doctor operating with the ethics of a doctor but instead is simply just another greedy politician, I doubt they will reelect him to another term.

If the Democrats could find a suitable candidate, a smart, modern, urban candidate — someone who is pro-labor and pro-environment — they might find they have a chance here in a couple of years after people see things continue to improve on the national level. Voters in Alabama approved the renewal of the Forever Wild program by a margin of 75-25 percent, after all. That should send a message.

Already, according to public opinion polls, a majority of Americans are upbeat about the next four years. As an expert on public opinion, the news media and public policy, I expect this number to continue going up over the next four years as people see responsible people running government, not yeehaws like Bentley who simply kowtow to the crazy political right.

If anybody wants to make a bet on this, I will put a case of assorted Sierra Nevada brews on the table. That reminds me. There is a little PR guy from some pharmaceutical company who owes me $1,000. He bet me that amount about a year ago at a party at the Good People brewing company that Obama would never win reelection. Now where did I put that business card?

© 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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