Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tom Periello at Sunday Forum in Washington National Cathedral

"All it takes for evil to persist is for good people to do nothing." Tom Periello 

The Very Rev. Samuel Lloyd III

 An interesting conversation (linked here) at the Sunday Forum happened at the Washington National Cathedral today. The Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III discussed issues at the intersection of faith and political life with Rep. Tom Periello, a first-term Congressman from Virginia.

The Hon. Tom Periello (D) Virginia

Rep. Periello believes the House of Representatives has been transformed within the last year, since it came into power in a recession; wars in Iraq and Afghanistan loom from afar; healthcare and climate change are controversial topics. He agreed there are frustrations with the limitations in law-making in the context of human potential and flaws.

What's right is not always the easy thing to do, he said. He stressed the need for housing and banking reform and job creation to get the economy moving again. He also looks at the historical aspect, and what best can be done with his time. He wonders at what citizens one hundred years from now will look back on and if they will be aghast not enough was done in terms of justice and society.

Political Strategy  Abroad

Rep. Periello said he is interested in reducing human suffering in general with a "deeds over words" approach. His role in Sierra Leone was to offer a window of hope and try to make a positive impact with his experience. In Liberia, the challenge was to change the power balance from armed groups to the people as a whole, which he described in great detail in this linked webcast. He was involved in a showdown that forced out the dictator, Charles Taylor, out of Liberia, and removed him and the other leaders peacefully.

He thinks the intensity of human suffering, of women and children, in conflict zones tears apart nations. In nations in conflict, while outside forces help with medicine and food, and with the military, few are looking at the political structure that underlies the reality and how it can be improved. He also discussed the Darfur problem, where the issue isn't fully resolved. [Please watch the webcast for more detail.] He is very interested in social justice, and has looked at political and military strategy in Afghanistan.

Political Strategy at Home

Dean Lloyd and Rep. Periello discussed the culture of the common good and how it is the antidote to the culture we have now of immediate gratification. America needs a new strategy for competing. He is hoping the next two years will see an increase in direct lending, and an improved infrastructure in America. He remarked that despite the bipartisan nature of the government,  it is important to put right and wrong ahead of right and left. He also finds it important to look at the long-term horizon. He says that Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi starts Congress each day with a prayer.

Rep. Periello talked about the power of interest and lobby groups to advertise. They are far more powerful than party bosses, he says. The power of these groups makes politicians pull back and become more risk averse. He called the recent Supreme Court decision "shocking" as it overturned a law from six years ago. He says the short-term return on a lobby dollar is far greater than the return on a research and development (r&d) dollar, and deplored the Supreme Court decision as it disincentivizes research. With the new law, companies can finance the status quo in direct threat to capitalism.

On Healthcare Reform

Dean Lloyd and Rep. Periello discussed the moral imperatives of the health care debate and how we should find the most efficient way to deal with differences because we are all in this together. Rep. Periello held over 100 hours of town hall meetings last summer. He found citizens who wanted to be heard and he wanted them to have time to have their say.

One problem with health insurance now is that hospitals have business models with plans to make more on those with private health insurance than on those without, who are on Medicaid and use emergency rooms.

Issues in healthcare to resolve, he says, are:

1) private insurers have anti-competitive monopoly protections
2) cost control incentives are off
3) the issue of medical loss ratios
4) the under-insured shift cost burdens to the insured

We are interdependent because we are all in this together, Rep. Periello says, and we need to find the best way to deal with the reform of healthcare finance.

When Rep. Periello was asked whom he most admired in history he talked about William Wilberforce, a leading abolitionist in the British Parliament, and Bobby Kennedy, like him, a Roman Catholic lawyer interested in social education.

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