Tag Archives: Galbraith

VTDIGGER.ORG: Peter Galbraith: Toward a Health Care Solution

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Peter W. Galbraith, a former Democratic senator from Windham County. He did not seek re-election in November.

Gov. Shumlin’s decision not to proceed with a financing plan is disappointing to the many single payer advocates but should not have been a surprise. And, much more importantly, it should not end the effort to achieve universal coverage in Vermont.

In reality, Vermont could never have a single payer health care system. There were always going to be other payers: Medicare, federal employees, the military, participants in self-insured multistate (ERISA) employer plans, out-of-staters, and people who simply preferred to keep their existing health coverage even as they paid the single payer taxes. Under these circumstances, the per capita savings from a Vermont single payer plan would be less than a national plan, were such a thing ever politically feasible.

Most Vermonters have health care that they like and can afford, in part because someone else — an employer or government — pays most of the cost. Shumlin’s now defunct plan would have taxed the contented majority to address the problem of the uninsured and inadequately insured. By placing so much emphasis on the income tax (or mandatory premiums), the plan would have transferred some of the burden of health care from Vermont’s largest and wealthiest corporations (who provide health care to their employees) to their workers and to small business.

Even if Vermont won’t create single payer health care for everyone, we can still provide quality health care for those who are uninsured or underinsured. Last May, I proposed legislation to create a public option as part of the exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. The public option would establish a benchmark silver plan on the exchange (perhaps using the existing Blue Cross Blue Shield silver plan). Silver plans are the only ones eligible for federal subsidies that help pay premiums, but they only have a 70 percent actuarial value, meaning the plan only picks up 70 percent of the participant’s health care costs. Under my proposal the state would enhance the benchmark plan so that it paid 87 percent of the participant’s costs and would subsidize each participant’s monthly premiums. I proposed a monthly subsidy of $40 a month for an individual and $120 a month for a family.

Under my proposal the state would enhance the benchmark plan so that it paid 87 percent of the participant’s costs and would subsidize each participant’s monthly premiums. I proposed a monthly subsidy of $40 a month for an individual and $120 a month for a family.

Presumably every participant in the exchange would choose the public option since he/she would be getting 87 percent of her/his health care expenses covered for the price of a 70 percent plan and, in addition, would have a subsidy. Since almost everyone would choose the enhanced and subsidized plan, Vermont would end up with many of the same administrative savings that would have occurred under the single payer plan.

Legislative counsel estimated the cost of my proposal at $350 million. I proposed paying for it with a 2.2 percent payroll tax and by eliminating certain income tax deductions that primarily benefit high income Vermonters and which otherwise have no real policy purpose. Since every Vermonter would pay the tax, every Vermonter would receive the subsidy and enhancements, regardless of income. But, no one who is happy with his current health care would be forced into the new system. And, as a practical matter, most well off Vermonters have good insurance paid by their employers and would not be entering the subsidized pool.

Under this proposal, Vermont would not be taking over the state’s health care system but instead building on the existing Affordable Care Act. If the projections on needed revenue are wrong, the state is not locked into tax increases (as it would be under single payer) but can simply adjust the subsidies or benefits. And the public option can be created right now. It does not depend on an uncertain federal waiver.

The cost figures the governor released last week are not substantially different from those contained in a report he submitted to the Legislature in January 2013. In short, the handwriting about the likely fate of the single payer plan has been on the wall for quite some time. Instead of recriminations over what didn’t happen, let’s look to what can still be accomplished.

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VT DIGGER: LEGISLATORS SHOULD OPT FOR AN OPEN BALLOT FOR GOVERNOR

Commentary by Peter W. Galbraith

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Peter W. Galbraith, who is an outgoing Democratic senator from Windham County.

On Thursday, Vermont legislators will choose our next governor. This is, arguably, the most important vote the Legislature will take this biennium. The public is entitled to know how their elected representatives voted. But, if past practice prevails, the vote will be taken in secret. The Legislature can fix this by making a simple rules change when it first meets on Wednesday.

Although Gov. Peter Shumlin edged Scott Milne by a few thousand votes, neither candidate received a majority of the vote and, under the Vermont Constitution, it falls to the Legislature to elect the governor “by joint ballot.” The Legislature has chosen to interpret the phrase “by joint ballot” to mean a secret ballot but there is no historical basis for such an interpretation.

In the 18th and early 19th century, voters cast their votes openly. Voters did not get ballots from town clerks but directly from their preferred candidate. And, because candidates often used different colored paper, it was easy to know how one voted. The secret ballot was invented in 19th century Australia to take care of the particular circumstances of a country inhabited by emancipated convicts. Thus, when the deputy clerk of the House tells members that the Vermont Constitution requires an Australian ballot, he cannot be right. When Vermont adopted its constitution, there was no Australia. Europeans had just discovered the land mass, had yet to agree on a name and there were no settlers.

In reality, the secret ballot will protect only liars — those who say they are voting one candidate but actually vote for another.

The Legislature can opt for openness when it convenes on Wednesday.

Immediately after swearing its members, the House and the Senate separately adopt rules for joint sessions. It is in order for any member to propose a rule requiring that the vote for governor be by open ballot. This then can be debated and voted on.

As always, there will be opposition to change. It will be argued, for example, that the Vermont Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a secret ballot. But, the only case on record is a 19th century case that affirmed the right of an individual voter to an Australian ballot and this cannot — and should not — be a precedent for saying that elected legislators are not accountable to their constituents for one of the most important votes of the biennium. Article 6 of the Vermont Constitution gives the Legislature scope to establish its own rules and it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would second-guess a decision in favor of openness. (And, if it did, the remedy would be to rerun the ballot in the Legislature.)

Representatives and senators cannot easily duck questions from constituents about their vote for governor. I suspect that almost every legislator has — or will have to — disclose her or his vote. In reality, the secret ballot will protect only liars — those who say they are voting one candidate but actually vote for another. We can speculate as to whether the liar vote will benefit Gov. Shumlin or Mr. Milne. In my experience, Vermont legislators are people of integrity so I don’t think transparency will have an affect on the outcome of the election. In any event, there should be no right — constitutional or otherwise — for legislators to lie to their constituents.

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Vermont Watchdog.org ~ Galbraith: Shumlin could have given Vermonters gold for the price of silver

January 2, 2015 @ 4:00 am
Posted By Bruce Parker

MONTPELIER, Vt. — An outgoing Vermont senator says the health care plan he formulated is the only one left standing after Gov. Peter Shumlin ditched his single-payer agenda in December.

Peter Galbraith, a two-term state senator and former U.S. ambassador, spent the past legislative session working to provide Vermonters with universal health care.

Click on this link to read the article in its entirety.

 

 

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Huffington Post: Two Leading Iraqi Kurdish Groups Fighting The Islamic State To Be Taken Off U.S. Terror List

Posted: 12/16/2014 11:03 am EST Updated: 12/16/2014 11:59 am EST
Akbar Shahid Ahmed: akbar.ahmed@huffingtonpost.com
Sophia Jones: sophi.jones@huffingtonpost.com

WASHINGTON — Two of the leading political parties representing the Middle East’s stateless Kurdish population will soon be removed from a U.S. list of potential terrorist groups, in a move that U.S. and Kurdish officials say will resolve a long-standing dispute between Washington and a community that has proven to be one of its favored partners in the region, most recently in the fight against the militant group known as the Islamic State . . .

Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat and adviser to the Iraqi Kurds, criticized what he called the Obama administration’s “lack of courage” for not acting to make the fix sooner through executive action.

Click the link to read the article in its entirety.

 

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Vermont Watchdog: Medicare issue hurting Shumlin administration

Vermont senator: Medicare issue hurting Shumlin administration

Posted By Bruce Parker On November 12, 2014 @ 9:52 am

MEDICARE MESS: Outgoing Democratic state Sen. Peter Galbraith (right) says Gov. Peter Shumlin’s handling of Medicare is causing anxiety among seniors.

MEDICARE MESS: Outgoing Democratic state Sen. Peter Galbraith (right) says Gov. Peter Shumlin’s handling of Medicare is causing anxiety among seniors.

 

 “Senior citizens worry about changes to their standard of living. The easiest thing in the world would have been to say don’t worry. But instead we didn’t, and frankly I think that’s the reason the governor nearly lost,” state Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, told Vermont Watchdog.

Read the article in its entirety by clicking this link.

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Rudaw: Window on Westminster

by Gary Kent
July 20, 2014

Peter Galbraith was part of the debate on Kurdish options which aired twice last week in the Commons . . .

Peter Galbraith, a long-term Kurdophile and former US Ambassador to Croatia, was uninhibited in advocating Kurdish independence. He has seen for himself the consequences of trying to hold countries together when nations inside want to leave. He said that the big mistake in Yugoslavia was trying to keep it intact when the Croatians and Slovenians wanted out. The west should have concentrated on preventing war rather than a false or forced territorial integrity.

Click on this link to read the article in its entirety.

 

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Politico Magazine — WASHINGTON AND THE WORLD

House of Kurds

Only an independent Kurdistan can save what’s left of Iraq from becoming a terror state.

By PETER GALBRAITH
June 17, 2014

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The Iraqi Army is not a plausible partner. Providing more weapons to a disintegrating army that turned over U.S. military equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars to radical Islamist terrorists does not make sense. The Obama administration has indicated that it would like to talk to Iran about a possible joint response to the threat from ISIS. Since the United States spent north of $1.5 trillion on a war that installed Iran’s closest allies as Iraq’s leaders, there is poetic justice in having Iranian troops fight to save them. But expanding Iran’s influence in Iraq clearly is not a preferred course of action for any American administration.

Obama does, however, have one potential ally with boots on the ground in Iraq. It is one of the most pro-American places on the planet and its soldiers are well-disciplined, highly motivated and prepared to die for their country. That place is Kurdistan, nominally part of Iraq but with no love for that country. Kurdistan is not yet independent but may soon be.

Kurdistan’s military, called the peshmerga, is ideally situated to combat ISIS. The Iraqi Army—or what is left of it—is hundreds of miles from Mosul; the peshmerga hold the Kurdish eastern half of the city. Although ISIS readily routed the Iraqi Army from the west bank, it chose not to tangle with far more formidable Kurds. President Obama can only order air strikes if he has good intelligence, controllers who can identify targets and troops who can follow-up on the ground. Only the Kurds can do this.

Over the past two decades, I have talked to Iraq’s Kurdish leaders about ways to maximize their autonomy, including offering advice in connection with the negotiation of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution. But, however much autonomy the Kurds enjoy, their real dream is to have an independent Kurdish state.

Three factors have kept Kurdistan in Iraq to date: a lack of sufficient financial resources, an unresolved dispute with Baghdad over territory and international opposition to the break up of Iraq. Since 2004, Kurdistan has been developing its own oil resources (I also had a role in bringing in the first oil companies) and has now built a pipeline to Turkey through which it exports Kurdish oil, over Baghdad’s opposition. Until last week, Kurdistan’s production was not adequate to finance the operations of an independent state. But then the Iraqi Army fled the disputed city of Kirkuk and the adjacent super-giant Kirkuk oil field. The peshmerga, who had co-existed uneasily with the Iraqi Army in Kirkuk for a decade, now fully control the city and the Kurdish parts of the province. As a result, there is no longer a territorial dispute with Baghdad. For the first time, a Kurdish government controls all Kurdish territory in Iraq. And with the Kirkuk oil field, Kurdistan now has the financial resources for independence.

Ten years ago, the United States and Turkey opposed Kurdistan exercising even a fraction of the autonomy it has today. Bush administration plans for postwar Iraq (to the extent that there was any planning at all) envisioned Iraq as a centralized federal state of 18 governorates—where there would be Kurdish majority provinces but no Kurdistan government. Turkey had long opposed Kurdistan’s autonomy for fear of the example it might set for Turkey’s 15 million Kurds.

Today, Kurdistan and Turkey are the closest of allies. Turkey is Kurdistan’s most important trading partner and Turkish companies are the largest investors in Kurdistan. Turkish intelligence and military officials consult regularly with their Kurdish counterparts. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a close personal relationship with KRG President Massoud Barzani and a poisonous one with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In advance of Turkish elections, Erdogan and Barzani jointly addressed a large public rally in Diyabakir, the largest city in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast and Kurdistan is playing a constructive role in support of Erdogan’s effort to make peace with Turkish Kurdish rebels.

Until last week, Turkey clearly preferred that Kurdistan remain part of Iraq, although in recent years the Turkish Foreign Ministry has changed its language on the subject. Ten years ago, Iraq’s unity was “a red line” for Turkey; in recent years it has been “preferable.” Today, Turkey may well see an independent, secular and pro-western Kurdistan as a far better neighbor than an Iraq comprising an ISIS-dominated Arab north at war with a sectarian Shiite regime in the south.

Similarly, U.S. views on Iraq’s unity have evolved. While the State Department takes the official line that it wants reconciliation among Iraq’s leaders, senior officials are, more and more, acknowledging privately that the independence of Kurdistan is inevitable. In fine bureaucratic manner, they simply prefer it not happen on their watch.

Nonetheless, Kurdistan’s independence is probable in the near future. Should ISIS take Baghdad, Kurdistan will declare itself independent the next day. The mostly secular Kurds would have no truck with a fanatical Islamist regime.

Even before ISIS emerged as a major threat, the Kurds doubted they had partners in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki has for years refused to implement constitutional provisions giving Kurdistan control over its own oil and requiring a referendum on the status of Kirkuk and other territories disputed between the Kurds and the central government. Maliki’s decision earlier this year to withhold Kurdistan’s constitutionally guaranteed share of the Iraqi budget enraged the Kurds, who started discussing holding a referendum on Kurdistan’s future. Even if ISIS advances no further than the Sunni parts of Iraq, the Kurds do not see a future for Iraq or for themselves as Iraqis.

Until last week, the Obama administration’s Kurdistan diplomacy focused mostly on trying to patch up—or at least paper over—the quarrel between Erbil and Baghdad over oil and the budget. But if the United States is to roll back ISIS, it needs Kurdish help. Kurdistan has an obvious interest in staying out of a war between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites and, so far, ISIS has mostly refrained from attacking the Kurdish areas.

If the United States wants the peshmerga to join the fray, it will have to pay a price. Operationally, the Kurds need humanitarian assistance for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who fled to Kurdistan the last week as well as for the quarter-million Syrian refugees already on Kurdish territory. The peshmerga will need sophisticated U.S. weaponry of the type provided to the Iraqi Army (and now in the hands of ISIS).

Kurdistan will also want something to fight for, and that is independence. To convert their current de facto independence into full independence, the Kurds need diplomatic recognition. And this the United States can provide.

So, here is the basis of a bargain: U.S. recognition of an independent Kurdistan in exchange for peshmerga troops joining a U.S. air campaign against ISIS and helping to stabilize what used to be Iraq. While there will be hand-wringing within our foreign policy establishment (a group professionally committed to the perpetual existence of every country on the map), the United States would in fact be giving only a little to get a lot. Iraq has broken apart and is no more capable of being put back together than Yugoslavia was in 1991. President Obama gamely talks about reconciliation among Iraqis, but this will not happen. There are no changes that Maliki—or any successor Shiite leader—can make that will satisfy the Sunnis. The Sunnis don’t want a more friendly Shiite leader; they want the Shiites out of power altogether. ISIS wants to exterminate the Shiites.

The United States should stop asking the Kurds to help save Iraq because Iraq is not saveable, and, if it were, the Kurds would not want to save it. Instead, the critical U.S. interest has now become stopping ISIS. If ISIS is not defeated, there will be in western Iraq and eastern Syria a transnational terrorist state controlling large cities and with vast recruiting potential. Seen in this context, U.S. diplomatic recognition of an independent Kurdistan has become a very small price to pay.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former US Ambassador to Croatia and Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, is the author of The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End, first published in 2006. He has been an advisor to the Kurdistan Regional Government and has previously had business and financial interests in Kurdistan.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/iraq-independent-kurdistan-107958.html#ixzz351luw6XN

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Peter Galbraith, Ex-Diplomat and Vermont State Senator, Says Syrian Strikes Are a Mistake

Off Message – Vermont’s Politics & News Blog

http://7d.blogs.com/offmessage/2013/09/galbraith-ex-diplomat-and-vermont-state-senator-says-syrian-strikes-are-a-mistake.html

Peter Galbraith, Ex-Diplomat and Vermont State Senator, Says Syrian Strikes Are a Mistake

POSTED BY PAUL HEINTZ ON SEPTEMBER 09, 2013 AT 10:18 AM IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS, NEWS, U.S. CONGRESS, U.S. POLITICS, VERMONT | PERMALINK

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The Vermont politician with arguably the most diplomatic experience in the Middle East won’t have a chance to vote this week on whether the U.S. should strike Syria.

That’s because former ambassador and veteran diplomat Peter Galbraith now serves in Vermont’s state senate, whose foreign policy jurisdiction ends at the New Hampshire border.

But if he could vote, Galbraith says, he’d oppose President Obama’s proposed strikes.

“We should not, because the airstrikes won’t accomplish anything,” Galbraith says. “They are not going to degrade the Syrian government’s ability to use the weapons. They are not going to change the military balance. So they’re really about making a statement, and that’s not, in my view, an appropriate use of military force.”

Galbraith knows a thing or two about chemical weapons. Twenty-five years ago this month, while serving on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Galbraith traveled to the Iraqi-Turkish border, where he uncovered evidence of Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds. That discovery led to Senate passage of the “Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988,” which Galbraith credits with prompting Hussein to halt his use of chemical weapons.

He subsequently served as the U.S. ambassador to Croatia and in United Nations posts in East Timor and Afghanistan. During the Iraq war, Galbraith worked closely with that country’s Kurdish minority as it sought greater autonomy in a post-Hussein Iraq.

It’s the plight of the Kurds, who make up roughly 11 percent of Syria’s population, and that of the country’s other minority populations — Alawites and Christians each make up another 11 percent of Syria’s population — that most concerns Galbraith. For the past year, he says, he’s been working with a non-governmental organization to prepare those three minority groups for negotiations leading to a post-Bashar al-Assad Syria. Galbraith won’t disclose the name of the NGA with whom he’s working.

As he wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed published Sunday, Galbraith worries that the majority Sunni rebels who have thus far led the anti-Assad insurgency have been “unable to win significant support from the country’s ethnic and religious minorities.” Were the Assad regime to fall, Galbraith wrote, the president’s fellow Alawites “know they face a likely genocide.”

With that in mind, Galbraith argues:

[T]he United States should be cautious about a strategy involving military support, including airstrikes and arms supplies, to a Syrian opposition that has neither the ability nor the inclination to reach out to Syria’s minorities. Such a strategy is not likely to succeed and, more important, we may not want it to succeed.

And that’s not the only problem with Obama’s plan, Galbraith says. Striking Syria would likely enrage its greatest ally in the region, Iran, which “could torpedo our ability to negotiate a nuclear compromise” with the latter country. Those negotiations have taken a promising turn since the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani assumed Iran’s presidency last month.

“A U.S. attack on Iran’s ally, Syria, could make it difficult for these negotiations to proceed,” Galbraith says.

Lastly, Galbraith argues, it would be a mistake for the U.S. to act without the support of the international community — most especially that of the United Nations.

“President Obama campaigned on the notion that we would respect international law,” Galbraith says. “He’s frankly sounding an awful lot like President Bush in 2003.”

Galbraith hastens to add that Obama’s proposed airstrikes fall far short of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, but as he told National Public Radio’s Jacki Lyden over the weekend, a more appropriate course of action would be to seek a stern warning from the U.N:

I would guess that if the Obama administration went to the U.N. with a resolution that said there’d be serious consequences for any further use of chemical weapons that the Russians and the Chinese would go along, precisely because they would prefer that resolution and a warning to U.S. military strikes.

Galbraith says he’s advised several members of Congress in advance of this week’s vote, including one of Vermont’s three delegates, though he declined to say which one.

And though he disagrees with many in the administration with whom he’s worked closely over the years — including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power — Galbraith says the dilemma is not the end of the world.

“It’s possible to overstate the significance of this. It’s not like they’re going out and invading Syria. It’s not like they’re invading Iraq,” he says. “So regardless of how the vote turns out and what action takes place, a few weeks later it will be a past event and the United States will move on and Obama will move on. So I don’t think in any way think it’s make or break.”

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