Keeping the Public Option in Healthcare … And, Did Cash for Clunkers Make Cents?


FireDogLake blog founder Jane Hamsher discusses strategies for keeping the public option in healthcare.  And Gwen Ottinger of the Chemical Heritage Foundation shares her critique of Cash for Clunkers, the federal program intended to replace gas-guzzlers with fuel efficient cars.

Ted Kennedy died on the day we produced this show.  Health care reform was the cause of his life, he said. The pundits are emphasizing his bi-partisanship. But it might be more important for the cause of health reform to remember how strongly he pushed for and articulated the values that were so important to his progressive base. Values like economic justice and strengthening democracy by lessening the influence of special interests in government.

Important, because while the town hall teabaggers dominate the airwaves with their rants against government involvement in health care, and the democratic leadership in the Senate and the White House cave in to special interests by abandoning the public option, there are some members of Congress who are trying to keep Ted Kennedy’s hopes for real health reform alive. And they’re doing that, because the progressive base is pushing them to keep the public option on the table.

Sea Change Radio Co-Host Francesca Rheannon interviews FireDogLake founder Jane Hamsher spearheading the effort to stiffen the spines of the progressive Democrats.  Her campaign is called Public Option Whip Count.

Cash for Clunkers ended early this week — a victim of its popularity.  Consumers flocked to auto dealers to offload their gas guzzlers for new, more fuel-efficient cars. And the average efficiency of the new cars bought actually exceeded the modest requirements of the cash for clunkers program.  But Gwen Ottinger of the Chemical Heritage Foundation says efficiency during use of the car isn’t the best standard to judge a car’s overall impact on carbon emissions. Ottinger works for the Foundation’s Center for Contemporary History in its Environmental History and Policy Program.  Her op-ed, “When the Clunker is Greener,” appeared in the August 4 issue of The Washington Post.

Ottinger discusses how the Cash for Clunkers program is lethally injecting the engines of the clunkers so they can’t run again; the rest of the car is sold for scrap.   Ottinger also says efficiency isn’t always the key to be green, since as efficiency increases, the cost per mile goes down and people tend to drive more.  Francesca asked her if, instead of making more cars, making buses and trains would be a better way to beat this dilemma.

About Bill Baue

Bill Baue is Co-Director of Sea Change Media, a non-profit that makes connections in the shift to social, environmental, and economic sustainability. He co-hosts/produces Sea Change Radio, a nationally syndicated show that podcasts globally.