Category Archives: Rep. Jim Cooper

>Dear Accountability Now

>[UPDATE] 2:

More from No Chaser and Aunt B. Yeah, I’d say the “Carpetbagger” thing might be apt.

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[UPDATE]:

So apparently the goal is to replace Cooper with a “Libertarian-minded Republican.” [Note: I am hoping I have misunderstood this quote from CNN and they are referring to replacing conservative Republicans with “Libertarian”-minded ones–but I still fail to see how this “gets the corporatists out.”] Somehow this will “get the corporatists out of there”?? Exactly how, I wonder? Libertarians are the very definition of corporatists.

Again: thank you very fucking much for trying to save me from my moderate Democratic Congressman. If I end up with a Republican representing me in the House it’s going to get very ugly.

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As a liberal, a blogger, and a resident of Tennessee’s 5th District, fuck you. This is below the belt.

I’ve already said that while I don’t agree with Cooper 100% of the time, I find it highly unlikely he will be replaced by a more progressive Congressman. We just aren’t that liberal in Nashville. I live here, unlike some people, so I feel like I know the district a little better than some people. People who don’t even live in the state, for example, armed with little more than a few surveys.

But fine, let’s primary Cooper, that’s how our system works. I have no problem with that at all. Let’s find our dream candidate, send him or her out there, and see if their message resonates with the constituents. Especially constituents in Belle Meade, Cheatham County, Wilson County. Places like that. Good luck.

And here’s something else I don’t have a problem with: vigorous debate, pushing Cooper in the right direction, making our voices heard on issues like healthcare. I’ve called Cooper’s office dozens of times to question his votes, and his staff have always had an explanation for every one of them. I’d say 99.9% of the time when he voted a way I didn’t want, it’s a fiscal matter (for example, on last year’s GI Bill, Cooper said it was “a classic example of something we’d love to do if it were paid for.”)

Cooper is a fiscal hawk. This is not news to those of us who live here. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the things people here like about him. To say he isn’t representing his constituents because of his fiscal position is wrong.

But here’s what I do have a problem with. Mud slinging from within. Ugly attacks from within. Internecine attacks this vicious are not productive. Challenge, yes. Line up the firing squad? No.

Mostly I don’t appreciate taking quotes out of context. Or only presenting part of a quote to misrepresent what my Congressman said (for example, the quote on the public option told only one-third of the story. Cooper supports the Healthy Americans Act which doesn’t have a public option, but in the next breath he said one could be added “that would be acceptable to most Tennesseans.”)

Save that shit for the other side of the aisle, please [/snark].

Seriously. If you’re going to sail in here on a liberal cloud to save me from my moderate Democratic Congressman, at least do me the courtesy of not treating me like some rube from the sticks. I think I’m pretty familiar with the guy. So don’t portray him as some right-wing bogeyman when he’s been my Congressman for the past seven years. You do that, and you’re treating me like I haven’t been paying attention.

That’s not just disrespectful to him, it’s disrespectful to me, as a resident of the district. Frankly, it’s pissed me off.

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Filed under liberals, Nashville, Rep. Jim Cooper

>In Which I Defend Jim Cooper While Criticizing Him

>Welcome to my novella about Congressman Jim Cooper. I didn’t mean this post to be so long but I guess I’ve got a lot to say, mostly because I’ve said so little in the past.

I actually feel sorry for the guy right now. I think he honestly felt like he would be this year’s healthcare hero, bringing about the meaningful reform we all want. Instead, he’s been attacked by progressives and now there’s talk of union support for a primary opponent.

Such is the anger my fellow lefties have toward Cooper these days that my post about Karl Rove’s appearance at the “Third Rail” conference got turned into an attack on Cooper, when obviously my intent was to question the motives of the “Third Rail” organizers. (Rove has since been uninvited, by the way.) It’s ironic, because I’ve been accused of “carrying water” for Jim Cooper in the past. Now, after yesterday’s blog post, I’m accused of being an anti-Cooper agitator. Go figure.

On the one hand, it’s damned nice to have a Democratic congressman, even a conservative one. You bloggers in Berkeley and Los Angeles have no clue what it’s like to live in a red state like Tennessee, where I’ve been represented by Republican Senators for the past 15 years. Lobbying Bill Frist about anything was like shouting into the wind. You just knew he didn’t give a shit by the way his interns wouldn’t even condescend to write down your name when you called. Once, one of them even hung up on me.

Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker at least pretend to give a shit but both end up voting with the Republican Party 90% of the time. Really, it’s sad being a blue person in a red state. If I lived in Marsha Blackburn’s district I might just slit my wrists.

So it’s nice to have a Democrat to call about issues. I feel like I at least get a fair hearing. Cooper’s office is good at constituent relations, returning phone calls, setting up meetings, etc. I’ve even had aides call me when I was especially concerned about a vote, and without my nom de blog they don’t know me from Adam. Most importantly, Coop votes the way I want him to 95% of the time.

But every now and then he does something that causes a flood of “time to primary Cooper” e-mails to hit my in-box, and this healthcare thing is one of those times.

A couple months ago I got a call from someone with a national organization asking if I thought Jim Cooper could be unseated in a primary. We talked a long time but in a nutshell I said no. Nashville, I told them, is not nearly as conservative as Republicans like to think, nor is it as liberal as Democrats like to pretend.

Yes, I realize we vote reliably Democratic. I heard that argument when Ginny Welsch ran against Cooper in 2006; even Kos brought it up on Monday.

To which I say: so what? Those are the same people who have voted for Jim Cooper year after year. Cooper would have to screw up pretty royally–I’m talking a “caught with a dead girl or live boy” kind of screw-up–and/or they’d have to find an awfully dynamic and solid opponent before Cooper would be sent packing. It’s just not gonna happen.

Besides, large chunks of Cooper’s district extend into solid wingnut territory: Mt. Juliet in the east, Cheatham County on the west, Goodlettsville up north, as well as conservative blocs in Davidson County itself (places like Belle Meade or anti-gay crusader Robert Duvall’s council district). Nashville is not all Vandy students and East Nashville hipsters. It’s a diverse community. Any Democratic candidate pleasing to progressives is going to be far too liberal for most Dist. 5 voters. That’s just reality.

And here’s another thing: People vote incumbents because it’s familiar. Most people don’t pay close attention to political stuff, so they go with the name they recognize. I have a conservative friend who voted for John McCain because–swear to God–he really liked Sarah Palin. But he also voted for Jim Cooper, the familiar name on the ballot. One day my friend said he was so angry about the bank bailouts he was going to call “Senator Jim Cooper.” When I told him Cooper was in the House not the Senate, he actually argued with me about it. I then had to explain the whole bicameral thing to him.

Oy vey.

So yes, people vote the familiar name on the ballot. But if the choice is between two unfamiliar names, then I think people vote for the party.

So if a primary campaign against Jim Cooper didn’t fail, it’s very likely I’d get stuck with a Republican congressman. And let me say right now, if the delusions of a bunch of out of state progressives saddle me with a Republican congressman on top of two Republican Senators I will find you. And it won’t be pretty.

Now here’s my message to Jim Cooper:

You can’t keep taking the votes of Democrats in your own district for granted. It’s a very odd thing that the Republican Party embraces its base, no matter how loony they may get, while the Democratic Party runs from theirs. Why is that?

You will not have this seat for life. Some day a really dynamic opponent will appear–of either party–and then you will need the support of the activist base, the people you seem to be doing your damnedest to alienate right now when the living is easy.

There are a few things you need to know. Some of us are angry and mistrustful because of your role during the whole “HillaryCare” debacle. You need to keep that in mind when you try to sell us the Healthy Americans Act and waffle on the public option.

Here’s something else: any plan that basically hands the healthcare of 300 million Americans over to the despised insurance companies is going to be controversial. Have you read a liberal blog lately? Have you seen what the insurance companies are doing with their astroturfing and lies about death panels and phony letters to the editor and lies to British citizens so they’ll diss the NHS on camera?

You look like you’re defending this crap. That’s not working very well. We do not like insurance companies. They are not honest brokers. Your bill is basically a taxpayer bailout to a bunch of leeches whose only selling point is that they’ve got their fangs so firmly inserted in the American healthcare system that it would be kinda difficult to remove them now.

The thing that really ticks me off is that you and the other Blue Dogs immediately wrote off single payer as something that didn’t have a prayer of passing. You didn’t even try, because you didn’t want to. Maybe you were being pragmatic, but you were also being politically tone deaf.

The reality is, those of us supporting the public option find we’re actually fighting the battle for single payer anyway! People are showing up at town hall meetings with “No Socialized Medicine!” signs, fer chrissakes. What does that tell you? As I wrote last week, Rick Scott’s group began crafting an anti-single payer message after the election!

So, we’re basically fighting the single-payer battle but if we win, we won’t actually get single payer. We’ll get a “public option.”

This pisses me off. How could the Democrats screw this one up so royally? How can you folks be so bad at politics? Because a bunch of Blue Dogs decided to be pragmatic, and give up on single-payer because, they said, it didn’t have a chance!

And here’s the thing: the pragmatic argument is the same one I used when debating whether we should primary Jim Cooper. It would never work, so why even try?

Look what that got us. A whole lot of nothing.

That leaves me in a very awkward place where I’m questioning a lot of my dearly held notions about Tennessee politics. And, Rep. Cooper, I think you need to be doing the same.

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Filed under healthcare, Rep. Jim Cooper

>Uninvited

>Karl Rove is no longer on the bill for Saturday’s health care conference. Because there were some comments on other blogs questioning where I got the information about Rove’s appearance, here’s a screen shot of the agenda which led me to believe he was on a panel with Jim Cooper:

And here’s the new agenda as of Monday afternoon:

Funnily enough, the only reason I took the screen shot yesterday to begin with is because I’ve only recently discovered my fun “Grab” app and I was playing with it.

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Filed under healthcare, Karl Rove, Nashville, Rep. Jim Cooper

>A Word About Birthers

>Ha! Made you look!

No, this post is not about those birthers. Saturday night I happened to catch Ricki Lake’s fabulous documentary “The Business Of Being Born”. I highly recommend it, whether you are an expectant mother or not, because it addresses a lot of what’s wrong with our healthcare system in this country.

Nothing highlights the problems of a for-profit healthcare system more starkly than when a woman gives birth. Women have been having babies since the dawn of the species; they’ve been giving birth at home, aided by experienced practitioners such as midwives, for thousands of years. Yet in the past 100 years, the trend toward hospital birth has escalated, and not always with good results. For example, the rate of Caesarian sections in America is an astonishing one-in-three births. This is off the charts, especially when studies indicate there is no medical reason for this level of C-sections.

Despite the movement toward natural childbirth in the 60s and 70s, today women choosing to give birth at home assisted by a midwife are not supported by our healthcare system. Many healthcare professionals seem to feel threatened by midwifery, despite the fact that midwifes have been bringing babies in to the world for centuries. Insurance policies don’t cover midwife-assisted home birth, and the medical lobby seems to treat midwifery with outright hostility.

This is despite all of the evidence that shows non-hospital births are both less expensive and have better outcomes. The American Prospect looked at this issue earlier this month:

Midwives like Bartlett are often the only option for pregnant women who are underinsured, as many in her state are. She’s seen a growth in her midwifery practice in recent years, and many of the women who come to her fall between the gap of the privately insured and those who qualify for Medicaid. These women choose to enlist Bartlett’s services (a bargain at around $3,000) rather than pay out of pocket for a hospital birth (around $8,500) or even the high deductible for their insurance plan.

Bartlett and her clients aren’t the only ones who see the cost benefits of midwifery. David Anderson, economics professor at Centre College in Kentucky, has run the numbers and says that midwifery care could save us billions of dollars annually, without affecting quality of care (maybe even improving it). Anderson posits that if we increase the percentage of women giving birth out of hospital by 10 percent (currently at only 1 percent nationally) we could save close to $9 billion per year. He points to the difference in baseline costs for out-of-hospital birth — a difference of more than $6,000 when comparing the average cost of a home birth to an in-hospital one. Another main cost reducer, according to Anderson, is the significantly lower rate of C-sections for out-of-hospital births.

It’s not just the costs that are lower, according to these advocates. The outcomes are better too, which in turn, further lowers cost by reducing additional care needed by sick babies and mothers. Anderson adds that if CPMs are allowed to practice in all 50 states, competition will drive down prices for maternity care, since more women will have access to a low-cost alternative to hospital births.

This is just one of the many things that frustrates me about our whole healthcare reform conversation. Today I saw Congressman Jim Cooper on CBS’ Face The Nation, and all I heard from him was how much he supported covering all Americans, the need to make health insurance more affordable and make health insurance more available and to offer Americans a variety of different insurance plans. This is his idea of reform. It’s all about insurance and it’s not about healthcare.

That’s not my idea of reform. Health insurance companies are part of the powerful medical industry lobby that is basically dictating to women what kind of care they can have and where and how they can deliver their babies, despite the fact that it’s cheaper and safer to do it another way!

That makes me wonder: what other medical procedures are cheaper, safer, more effective, less traumatic for patients, etc. which we are denied access to by our medical gatekeepers? (Acupuncture?)

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if this means we need to include some kind of health savings account component to cover things like home births and treatments not currently blessed by insurance companies or what. I just think if we’re talking about giving people choice, then choosing among a bunch of different insurance options isn’t really “choice” to me. I think our problems are bigger than just “choice.” Our entire system needs to be overhauled.


If you’d like to learn more about the birth issue, a good place to start is the documentary’s trailer:

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Filed under health insurance, healthcare, Rep. Jim Cooper, women's rights

>Is Jim Cooper Breaking From The Blue Dogs?

>Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but when Rep. Jim Cooper sat down with progressive bloggers a couple of months back, I clearly remember him supporting the Healthy Americans Act that didn’t have a public option and in fact eliminated existing public plans like SCHIP and Medicaid.

Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but I thought Rep. Cooper said at that time that he didn’t support a public option because he didn’t feel it had a chance of passing, it lacked bipartisan support, etc.

But as I said, maybe I’m remembering it wrong. I’m not being flippant either: maybe I really am remembering it wrong.

Of course, President Obama has come out strongly in favor of a public option and it seems some of the Blue Dogs have come around, including Rep. Cooper.

But it gets better. Now, in this video from Saturday’s Organizing For America’s healthcare meeting, Rep. Cooper says he not only supports a public option but one without a trigger (the “trigger” meaning the public option would only be available as a fallback in case private insurance companies don’t prove adequate).

Watch it:

Cooper is the Vice Chairman of the Blue Dog Health Care Task Force. Last week they released this statement about the public option, listing conditions including:

• Available Only as a Fallback: The availability of a public option would occur only as a fallback and in the absence of adequate competition and cost containment. Fundamental insurance market reforms and increased choice through the Exchange should improve access and contribute to lower costs. However, should the private plans fail to meet specific availability and cost targets, a public option would be triggered and be allowed to compete on a level playing field subject to the conditions outlined above.

So it seems Rep. Cooper is breaking from the Blue Dogs on this key point, which would be fabulous news. So, good on’ya, Coop.

Seems like those folks against the public option are arguing that the government shouldn’t be competing against private enterprise. That’s a long, complicated issue, and it’s one I’ve heard before applied to a different industry. But the bottom line is, if competition is supposed to be so great, then what does it matter if it’s the government competing or another private insurance company?

Personally, I don’t see why private insurance companies are supposed to be so great. They take your money every month and then use your premiums to hire people to pour over your claims to figure out why they shouldn’t have to pay them. But whatever. Maybe a little pressure from a government plan would force them to operate a little more legitimately.

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Filed under healthcare, Rep. Jim Cooper

>China Syndrome

>My Congress Critter, Jim Cooper, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas have concocted a new carbon cap-and-trade scheme called The Safe Markets Development Act:

 The Safe Markets Development Act provides an innovative auction mechanism for cap-and-trade legislation that guarantees science-based reductions of carbon pollution while ensuring market stability.  The bill would rely upon an independent Board to determine the annual allowance prices necessary to meet emissions targets from 2012 to 2020. The U.S. Treasury Department would conduct quarterly allowance auctions designed to maintain prices determined by the Board. The Board must conduct an annual review of its success in meeting the emissions goals and adjust the forecasted prices to ensure we stay on track to meet the 2020 emissions goal.

Let me be the first to say: huh?

Here’s a thought: how about instead of all of this cap-and-trade crap, we just resolve to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the board? I know, that would be far too easy. I just don’t understand all of this cap-and-trade sleight of hand. It seems like the more complicated we make it, the easier it will be for corporations to avoid cutting their carbon emissions.

A couple of weeks ago, China’s Department of Climate Change said countries that import goods made in polluting Chinese factories are responsible for China’s pollution:

Beijing argues that rich nations buying Chinese goods bear responsibility for the estimated 15-25% of China’s carbon emissions that are created by its production of exports.

He argued that it was unfair to put the highest burden on China.

“We are at the low end of the production line for the global economy,” he said.

“We produce products and these products are consumed by other countries, especially the developed countries. This share of emissions should be taken by the consumers but not the producers,” he said.

So, it’s all our fault that China pollutes its corner of the globe? I don’t think so.

Here’s an idea. If the Chinese don’t want to manufacture goods without poisoning their air, water and soil, there are a lot of shuttered American factories that would love to show those folks how it’s done.

Folks like these companies.

Is this protectionism? Maybe. I never understood why a little protectionism is supposed to be such a bad thing. What’s wrong with protecting jobs in America? Maybe if we’d been more worried about protecting American jobs these past 10 years, and less worried about protecting the profit margin of multinational corporations, we wouldn’t be in this huge mess right now.

This Geography of Recession map is startling. Perry County, TN, has 27.3% unemployment; there’s 18.6% in Lauderdale County. Multinational corporations paid no price for shuttering their American factories in communities like these, shipping production to China, and taking advantage of China’s lax environmental, workplace, and human rights standards.

Free marketers say this is why environmental laws and unions are a bad thing for American manufacturing. I say, hell no. The solution is not for America to become more like China, where workers are treated like slaves and factories pollute with impunity. We’ve already been down that road and learned those lessons.

China needs to get a clue. I have no problem with the idea of a “pollution tax” on imported goods. If China doesn’t like it, they can stop polluting at their factories. If they can’t do it, or are unwilling to do it, then we can manufacture those goods right here and show them how. As the price of oil rises, we’ll be doing more of it closer to home anyway.

Does this mean prices will go up? Sure it does. But you’re going to pay anyway, one way or the other. You’ll pay with unpredictable weather, flooding, drought, pollution-related health issues, etc. Or you can pay a little more for piece of furniture or a T-shirt.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

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Filed under China, environment, Rep. Jim Cooper

I Just Don’t Get Rep. Cooper

S-Town Mike calls Rep. Jim Cooper to task for not funding some very necessary infrastructure projects:

He already voted against last week’s House appropriation to make $51 million in repairs to the seeping and sink-holed Center Hill Dam. If that dam is not repaired it could cause flooding across the Cumberland River Valley, including low-lying parts of Nashville. Almost two years ago I showed how a dam failure could be a major problem for almost all of East Germantown, as well as sections of Germantown and Salemtown neighborhoods.

Why is Mr. Cooper so opposed to domestic spending that could protect the welfare of our neighborhoods?

That’s a good question, and it reminded me that a couple of years ago, Rep. Cooper (with help from then-Sen. Bill Frist) secured a $3.17 million earmark for a parking garage at David Lipscomb University, a private, Church of Christ-affiliated school in Green Hills. Granted, $3.17 million isn’t a huge amount of money in the grand scheme of things, but also a parking garage at a private religious school doesn’t seem nearly as important as, say, repairing a leaky dam.

Bob Krumm decried the parking garage earmark as pork at the time, but Rep. Cooper saw it–and the rest of the $286 million billion transportation bill–differently:

“Funding for these projects in and around Nashville will significantly help us address the critical transportation issues our growing region faces,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) said. “Support for these projects means jobs in our community today and significantly greater economic opportunities for the future.”

So let’s get this straight: pork-laden infrastructure bills from 2005 provide economic development and create jobs; those in 2009 do not.

What am I missing here?

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Filed under economic stimulus, Nashville, Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee

>Comfort Guy

>Oh, good grief. Apparently President Bush’s “compassionativity” turns on and off like a spigot.

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper (yes, that is my Congressman) shares the horrifying details of his Air Force One trip with President Bush back in February. The purpose was to tour Tennessee tornado damage; the entire Tennessee delegation was along for the trip to view the devastation.

“The only issue he cared about was asking us whether we could touch our toes” — something Cooper cannot do, for the record — he told Shenanigans last week. “[Tennessee Rep.] Bart Gordon can run a 5-minute mile and he can’t [touch his toes] either,” the congressman, who is indeed quite cordial, added with a hint of pride.

“The senators,” Cooper shared, “had too much dignity to try.” This ain’t their first rodeo.

Then Bush walked the gang to the nose of the plane and showed off two little beds. “These are astronaut mattresses,” Bush declared with glee, according to Cooper. “It conforms to your body. It has done wonders for my shoulder,” Bush told the gang.

Cooper wasn’t too impressed. “They’re Tempur-Pedic mattresses,” he shrugged. “My wife bought us some a while ago. Big deal.”

Bush then went on to divulge that he had been biking more than usual “in order to get in shape for my Africa trip.”

Cooper seemed a bit miffed. “Nothing about world problems? Does Vladimir Putin talk like this? We’re only the Tennessee delegation, but even Reagan could have been more clued in than this.”

President Bush never ceases to embarrass me. You’d think he could have mustered a little more interest in Tennessee after the devastating tornados. Apparently his interest stopped at physical fitness of our Congressional delegation.

How did this guy ever become President? Oh, never mind. I was there.

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Filed under President Bush, Rep. Jim Cooper