American Morning

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October 2nd, 2009
06:56 AM ET

Are Americans ready to elect a third party?

Rick Nagin. Candidate for Cleveland City Council. Registered Democrat. And member of the Communist Party.  “I believe in socialism,” Nagin says.  “I believe that corporate greed is the source of the problems in this country and we'd all be a lot better off if working people and their organizations were running things instead of big business.”  Nagin, long considered a "fringe candidate" in Ohio, is hot this year. He survived the primary, and may win the November election.  And while much of the country may be aghast - voters are seriously considering someone who espouses Communist beliefs.

Some say it's a sign of the times.  “Voters are getting more and more frustrated with politics as usual,” according to independent political analyst John Avlon.  “They want some alternatives.”  Former presidential candidate Bob Barr thinks so.  “I think the time is really ripe for that.”  Barr ran on the Libertarian ticket in 2008. He lost. But, says today interest in the Libertarian party is at an all-time high. “There's a sense of unease among people in this country that the two major parties simply are no longer listening to them and responding to the people of the country.”

According to Politico.com, independent candidates are poised to "run serious campaigns for governor " in half a dozen states.Among them: New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.   Avlon says they have strong support.  “The vast majority of Americans are independent and centrist. So that's where the sweet spot is for an independent candidate.”  Back in Cleveland’s Ward 14, council hopeful, Nagin says he's offering voters who are suffering economically something different. And yet, something very much the same.  “I consider myself to be a very patriotic American. I love this country.”

Just sayin’ – Are Americans ready to elect a third party?


Filed under: Just Sayin'
September 25th, 2009
06:25 AM ET

Will our kids pay through the nose?

By Carol Costello and Ronnie Berke

It’s a concern we’ve been hearing everywhere – in town hall meetings, interviews, newspaper editorials and blogs. Are we mortgaging our kids’ future to pay for health care reform?

Many are worried that the younger generation, already burdened with student loans, other debt and a terrible job market, would bear the brunt of responsibility for paying for health care reform. Right now, our national debt is more than $11 trillion and rising.

Although President Obama has promised he won’t sign any reform that adds to the deficit, it is still unclear how much the “young invincibles” – relatively healthy young adults – will have to pay to get themselves insured.

“Certainly those young people who don't have insurance today are going to be required to go out and buy insurance,” says Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute. “Some of them of course will receive subsidies, but those who don't are going to have pay something that they're not paying today.”

Currently, about 10 million Americans aged nineteen to twenty-six don’t have health insurance, according to the Urban Institute. Janos Marton, a 27-year-old law school grad, is one of them.

“I'm looking for private insurance right now and I can, I can afford some insurance, um you know, I'm not broke or anything, I have income. But right now costs are just out of control,” he says.

A recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll shows 58-percent of young adults favor health care reform. This doesn’t surprise Heather Smith, executive director of Rock The Vote. “More than any other age group, they believe that this is a right. That it's embarrassing that we in the United States are the only democracy that doesn’t have universal health care coverage for its citizens.”

Experts say that under the proposed Senate plan, a bare bones “catastrophic” policy for young people may end up costing them less than $200 a month, with an annual deductible of close to $6000. Critics say paying for reform will mean higher taxes – on something.

Janos Marton says he is willing to listen, though – despite concerns that such ideas will bankrupt his future. "I'm just happy to for any chance to participate in a more serious discourse than what we hear from these town halls.”

What do you think? Will our kids pay through the nose?


Filed under: Just Sayin'
September 11th, 2009
06:25 AM ET

What happened to national unity?

By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

Remember how 9/11 drew us together as a country? We were unified – we would do anything for one another.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/11/wtc.flag.art.jpg caption="An American flag flies in front of the construction site of the former World Trade Center site on September 8, 2009."]

Now there's shouting, name-calling and even a congressman calling the president a liar. It's not that we've forgotten what happened on that day. The lingering pain makes that impossible for many of us.

But some visiting the 9/11 Tribute Center memorial in New York this week wondered if we remember enough. “This was a terrible time in our lives and we need to step back and remember and teach everyone what we saw,” says visitor Charlotte Harris.

Not just the pain, but what we shared. “From 9/11 it was everybody together and this health care thing has got everybody tore apart,” said Connie Shrock.

It leads us to wonder: Is unity still possible?

Watch: Where's the national unity? » Video

“The vast majority of Americans want good for all,” says Republican Strategist Ed Rollins. “But I think at the end of the day, they now have a lot in their faces and there’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot about their own lives they don’t control.”

It has had a chilling effect on compromise and civility: if you don't agree with me – you're unpatriotic. Drew Westen, a psychology professor and Obama supporter, says the president, as the nation's moral authority, needs to step up.

“The problem with his approach has been when someone’s (un)civil, he’s been quiet. And that’s not leadership. That’s actually a failure of leadership.”

Westen says Mr. Obama lost an opportunity to lead during his speech to Congress by not addressing Representative Joe Wilson's heckling on the spot. He should have said, according to Westen: “This is an exact example of what I’m talking about. This isn’t how we solve our nation’s problems.”

For those committed to seeking common ground, the two dominant political parties are the source of much divisiveness. “The way the political process is structured relies on the society being fragmented and disunified,” says independent political activist Jackie Salit, president of independentvoting.org.

Although the intense patriotism felt by many after 9/11 may have receded, Salit says the key is for people to recognize their shared goals. “When people create together, one's ideological differences don't matter as much."

What do you think? Is national unity still possible?


Filed under: Just Sayin'
August 14th, 2009
06:20 AM ET

Are we too wired?

Terra Carmichael, a California mother of three, is part of growing trend: new moms “tweeting” their way through labor, sending out word of every painful contraction.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/14/costello.wired.art.jpg caption="Terra Carmichael says tweeting helped her morale during childbirth."]

“My husband was laughing at me because I was saying, ‘Gimme my iPhone, I gotta check my Facebook status,” she says. “He actually thought it was very funny I was doing this and was actually giving me ideas of things to tweet.”

Carmichael, who sells baby products on “FlyingPeas.com,” wasn't just tweeting to loved ones, but to hundreds of people who paid rapt attention to tweets like: "On my way to the hospital. If they even try to send me back home I just may punch them in the throat,” and “6 cm but with complications. C section-bound.”

She isn't the only woman who's sharing the birth process. But have we crossed the line? Are we too wired?

“Well, there was a very famous Supreme Court decision that says, ‘I know it when I see it,’ about pornography,” says John Abell, New York Bureau Chief for “Wired.com.” “I think we will, collectively, rise up and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Abell says that hasn't happened yet, at least not online. But some mental health professionals see it differently – saying some things, like childbirth, ought to be sacred. Clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere, who uses Facebook and Twitter, argues we share way too much online.

Facebook, he says, can become a "marriage buster,” because couples share personal information with "virtual friends,” instead of each other. “The Internet, if you will, becomes an escape hatch where they don't have to be intimate with one another, it's easier to be in some ways intimate with the world, but it's not a real intimacy, it's very superficial.”

But, Carmichael disagrees, saying she didn't share the most intimate details of childbirth via tweet – only the superficial. Tweeting helped her morale during labor. “People are writing and saying keep going, you're doing a great job. It's kind of like I had a personal cheerleading squad – a virtual cheerleading squad of my followers.

What do you think? Are we too wired? Tell us your thoughts.


Filed under: Just Sayin'
August 5th, 2009
06:30 AM ET

Health care hecklers: Can we talk – civilly?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/05/dogget.art.jpg caption="Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett says he was a victim of a health care heckler."]

This August, lawmakers on summer break are holding town hall meetings so voters can ask questions and get answers about health care reform. Except, as some describe it, in some districts those town hall meeting have turned into a kind of town-hell – with lawmakers being met by groups of angry hecklers.

In Texas over the weekend, Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett tried to talk to a constituent about health care reform. He says it was nearly impossible.

"The crowd certainly was angry, I suppose some might have been concerned to see a beautiful full color photo of a marble tombstone with my name on it, or might have had a negative reaction to the poster that said 'Lloyd Doggett, traitor to Texas, devil to all people,'" he says.

"But I found it more amusing than I did something to be fearful of." Doggett adds: "This is not a grass roots, pitchfork operation. If anything, it’s pure Astro turf." He claims local Republicans organized the protests; a Texas GOP spokesman denies that. Max Pappas, of the conservative group Freedomworks, says they encourage members to attend the town halls, "to sit down and talk with the congressmen."

But, some Democrats say Freedomworks doesn't want that at all. Some claim it urges its thousands of members to participate, not in a discussion about health care reform, but a shout down. "You get some instances where people get so passionate," Pappas says. "When they get into discussion they start yelling or chanting. But it's not fake outrage."

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, was shouted down himself in a town hall meeting Sunday. But he appeared to take it in stride. "My preference would be to have it more sedate, but listen, a democracy is robust, it can be rough and tumble. Nothing really surprises me anymore."

What do you think? Is it possible to talk about health care reform and come to some sort of compromise? Or are passions too inflamed for a reasoned debate? Can we talk – civilly?


Filed under: Health • Just Sayin'
July 31st, 2009
06:08 AM ET

Where's our state sovereignty?

By CNN'S Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

The concept of states' rights is as old as America, but lately it's become a red-hot issue.

As Governor Sarah Palin left office this month, she signed a resolution asserting Alaska's sovereignty, referring to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The amendment states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Alaska is one of seven states passing Tenth Amendment resolutions this year, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, which tracks such legislation.  More than 20 others are considering similar bills and have either passed one chamber of the legislature, or are being worked on in committees.  But why now?

For lawmakers like Republican Charles Key of Oklahoma, the federal government has overstepped its authority.  Case in point: Former President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" mandate. "There's nothing in the Constitution that says the federal government has the legal right and authority to tell the people in the various states how to educate the children," he says.

Many proponents of Tenth Amendment resolutions bristle at Washington's involvement in what they consider states' affairs – like gun laws, education, health care, and even personal privacy, with the Patriot Act.  It may seem like a new phenomenon, says Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford University Law School, but in fact the states' rights movement is deeply rooted in American history. "Federalism functions as a political competition between the states and the Federal government,” says Kramer. "[It's] how the system is supposed to work." 

Although proponents of the resolutions acknowledge they have no legal bearing, they say it is important to put the federal government on notice. "I'm not telling the federal government to butt out," says Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton. "The Tenth Amendment exists and there is a gray line and that doesn't mean there is no line at all." In January, Fulton plans to introduce his own Tenth Amendment resolution in Nebraska's State Senate.


Filed under: Just Sayin'
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