It was a nice mix of the usual suspects–S-Town Mike, Mack, me, Braisted, Southern Beale, and Laura Creekmore (and Laura’s son, who was so cute I about had to put on blinders to force myself to pay attention to anything but him).
As predicted, we did spend a lot of time talking about his healthcare bill, which would basically provide everyone in the country with “healthcare just like a congressman.” Southern Beale asked him some good hard Lefty questions about whether now was the time to go to single-payer and he said that he and the other sponsors were trying to get together a bipartisan plan that would be easy to explain to people (hence the “healthcare just like a congressman” pitch) and that would get people top-quality healthcare as quickly as possible.
I skimmed the bill last night (because I am just that kind of giant nerd) and I was concerned because a lot of the bill seems focused on ensuring that everyone participates and I mentioned that the healthcare problems in this country weren’t just that people can’t get or afford insurance, but that even insured people find that, once they have a real problem, the insurance they have doesn’t cover the conditions they have or that they get kicked off. And I wondered how this bill would help that situation. And he said that it would create a new way for insurance companies to think about consumers. Since they couldn’t get rid of you, their motivation wouldn’t be to fill their rolls with the least unhealthy people and figure out how to deny the claims they have, but to compete for customers through providing more services.
I hope this is so.
He emphasized, both in speaking and in the bill, a lot on “being healthy” and “quickly returning people to health.” And as I think back now, I wish I had pointed out that “healthy” and “whole” are not the default for many Americans. Because that kind of “we’ll just get everybody healthy and then work on sustaining that health” kind of thinking overlooks the kinds of chronic problems people are dealing with, that they need medical help for, and that aren’t ever going to resolve; they will always cost money.
Braisted asked about legalizing industrial hemp and he kind of laughed about it because everyone hears “hemp” and thinks “pot” and you know the drill. I won’t bore you with it. I’ll just say that a.) Cooper said that no one has ever approached him about wanting to grow industrial hemp and asking him to help them find a way and b.) if we’re really serious about “going green” AND revitalizing our economy, it seems like some smart person could go to tobacco farmers and say, “Hey, have you thought about hemp?” And, you know, we could behave like grown-ups and legalize marijuana, too, but it ain’t happening yet.
Mack had some good hard questions about 287(g), which hopefully someone else will write up in more detal because I don’t seem to have taken any notes on. Suffice to say that Cooper acknowledged that the program is not working as intended here in Nashville. As for what he’s prepared to do about it, I’m not sure. He admitted that what happened to Juana Villegas was a national embarrassment. I pointed out that, in a sane world, Hall’s speaking to the CCC would have been a national embarrassment, too, but I guess most of the nation can’t keep track of all the white supremacist groups still around, so if it doesn’t say “Klan” or “Nazi,” they don’t know there’s a problem.
I did get to ask my questions about the TVA. He said some interesting things I think y’all are already aware of–that the TVA has set aside $800 million dollars to clean up that mess east of here, a mess that could have been prevented for $25 million. He also said that there’s a $1.8 billion judgment against the TVA for polluting North Carolina. And, of course, that money comes directly from TVA customers, to, in many cases, fix problems the TVA has caused TVA customers. I remarked that, since they have a monopoly on providing power to the area, I can’t even vote with my feet when I disagree with what they’re doing. Then S-Town Mike rightly pointed out that we don’t want a situation like Texas where it’s basically a clusterfuck of privatization (“clusterfuck” being my word, not Mike’s).
Then Laura and Southern Beale talked a little bit about alternative energy and Cooper talked about how much electricity we use, more than just about anywhere else, and I can’t remember if it was Beale or Creekmore who asked him about why that was, but he said that it’s because Nashville has more uninsulated (and under-insulated, I would presume) all-electric homes than anywhere else, because we have so many homes that were built in the 50s and 60s back when the TVA was saying that they’d be able to give Nashville so much electricity so cheaply that we wouldn’t even need meters. So builders just spared the expense of adequately insulating.
The one thing I wrote down and marked as a direct quote was that he said, “Basically we’ve had amateur hour at the TVA for a long time.”