Cake ‘n’ cookies.

I love it when the New York Times introduces me to the rituals and stories of cultures I would otherwise never encounter. White people from Pittsburgh, for example. Today’s food-section piece on the local custom known as the cookie table was a series of delights, starting with finding out about the tradition in the first place. Pittsburgh brides celebrate their wedding not only with cake, but with a long table groaning with cookies, all makes and models, heavy on the ethnic varieties made only on special occasions, like pizzelles and lady locks. How could I have spent my whole life in the Midwest without knowing this? (Answer: Probably by never getting closer to Pittsburgh than the freeway exits.)

Many people have noted many times that the country is becoming increasingly homogenized, and they’re right. It’s nice, then, to read paragraphs like this:

No one knows for sure who started the tradition, or why it hasn’t exactly taken hold outside this region. Many people credit Italian and Eastern European immigrants who wanted to bring a bit of the Old Country to the big day in the New World. Given that many of them were already well practiced at laying out a Christmas spread, baking 8 to 10 times as many treats for a few hundred special friends and relatives may not have seemed like such a stretch.

But even amid the increasing professionalization of the wedding, with florists mimicking slick arrangements ripped from Martha Stewart’s magazines and wedding planners scheduling each event down to the minute, the descendants of those Pittsburgh settlers continue to haul their homemade cookies into the fanciest hotels and wedding venues around the city. For many families today, it would be bordering on sacrilege to do without the table.

Elsewhere in the food section was a piece on the southern “little layer cake,” the towering cakes turned out by little old ladies, constructed of not two or three layers, but a dozen or more, each one relatively thin. Alan grokked it immediately: “You get more frosting that way.” These are the cakes made for Fostoria cake stands like mine, I suspect, and while making one doesn’t really interest me, I’m fascinated to read about the technique involved, which requires a certain do-si-do with the oven and the frosting station — the cakes are iced while warm, and use boiled frosting, which is difficult to make. Kim Severson, the Times’ peerless food writer, finds the sorts of details that would shame the most skilled anthropologists:

…There are Lane cakes, made with an 1898 recipe named after Emma Rylander Lane of nearby Clayton, Ala., who called it her prize cake. The cake was a childhood favorite of President Carter, whose hometown of Plains, Ga., is a few hours’ drive from Clayton. Harper Lee, who grew up in Monroeville, Ala., mentioned Lane cake in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Lane cake is made with lots of egg whites, the yolks reserved for a rich filling of ground pecans, coconut and raisins flavored with bourbon or local wine. That makes it something of an illicit treat here in dry Geneva County, which is thick with non-drinking Baptists, some of whom substitute grape juice.

Like many of these layer cakes, the Lane cake gets better with a little age. Some cooks still store theirs in a tin with cut apples, to keep it moist while the alcohol mellows and flavors meld.

Whenever I watch “Top Chef,” I’m always amazed at how many of these kitchen wizards, who can turn out sous vides and cat-vomit “foams” and other latter-day trends with such ease, confess they are utterly flummoxed when it comes to dessert and make these soggy fruit things atop some sort of wan pastry thing with a fancy Italian name. How hard is baking? Piece of cake. If you’ll permit me the foodie wordplay.

Bloggage? Oh, a little.

David Leonhardt’s column headline says it all: If Health Care Reform Fails, America’s Innovation Gap Will Grow. Really? People choose jobs based on whether they get health insurance? Really? My husband has been saying this for year; maybe he should be invited to a meeting in Washington, but let’s let Leonhardt state the obvious:

Economic research suggests that more than 1.5 million workers who would otherwise have switched jobs fail to do so every year because of fears about health insurance. Some of them would have moved to companies where they could have contributed more, and others would have started their own businesses.

This link between insurance and innovation isn’t relevant merely for the obvious reason that Congress is in the late stages of debating health reform. It is also relevant because the United States is suffering from an innovation deficit.

Nobody lives forever: God kills Oral Roberts for failing to raise more money.

I went looking for Pilot Joe last night on FlightAware, and found that contrary to his stated intention to fly to Chicago, his plane was actually en route to Alabama. Does Mrs. Pilot Joe know? Hey, Joe — pick up a little layer cake next time you’re there.

And with that, I’m away.

Posted at 10:33 am in Current events, Popculch |

65 responses to “Cake ‘n’ cookies.”

  1. jeff borden said on December 16, 2009 at 10:54 am

    If there were credible, reasonably priced health insurance available to all, you’d likely see an explosion of entrepreneurial activity. All those folks with great ideas for new enterprises or technologies would be free to pursue them without worrying about losing their homes if Little Jimmy came down with a serious illness. I’ve truly never understood why businesses large and small have not advocated for such a plan, since it would reduce their operating costs and free up revenue currently being used to insure their workers for product development, expansion, additional hires, etc.

    I know that American exceptionalism dictates we are so far superior to all other nations and cultures, but what does it really say that we are the only wealthy, industrialized Western nation that has not made affordable health care available to our citizens? Is our bargain with capitalism so Faustian that we allow almost 40 million of our fellow citizens to languish without coverage? Is our devotion to marketplace solutions so fervent we can allow upwards of 50,000 people to die every year for want of decent health care?

    I’ve been sickened by the entire health care reform spectacle. Yes, Joe Lieberman is a sanctimonious douchenozzle who is getting his revenge on the mean liberals who supported his primary opponent a few years ago, but he’s only one of many who have concocted this mess. We can thank the spineless Blue Dogs and the ever-dependable fearmongers of the GOP, too. It’s really disheartening.

    1508 chars

  2. moe99 said on December 16, 2009 at 10:55 am

    My daughter came over last night and we made homemade caramels, bourbon balls, and dipped some of the caramels in the Dilettante bittersweet chocolate with a dusting of sea salt on top for variety. I haven’t made bourbon balls for almost 20 years. I hope they taste as good as I remember them.

    And on the health care front, I am essentially at my current job until the end. My co program advisor and I had talked about going into private practice at some point earlier this year. No more dreams for me.

    Things, as always, could be worse.

    547 chars

  3. MichaelG said on December 16, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Been out of touch for a while and it looks like I missed lots of interesting stuff. It’s all what keeps me coming back to nn.c.

    I can’t even think or talk about the Health Care Bill without my blood pressure spiking over that smarmy puke from Conn and the gutless, gormless Dems.

    Re that Lane cake. People would substitute grape juice for bourbon? Shudder.

    365 chars

  4. MichaelG said on December 16, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Moe, how about trying those bourbon balls again with grape juice? Woo Woo Welches!

    83 chars

  5. Bob said on December 16, 2009 at 11:00 am

    1.5M workers a year don’t switch jobs because of health insurance concerns? That actually sounds like a light estimate to me. Insurance costs are rising so high that we could start seeing a new trend — people downshifting to lower-paying jobs in order to drop their income low enough to qualify for state-subsidized insurance (though probably not Medicaid). Just got the word on our health insurance — $8K is our yearly contribution for family plan. Yes, we’ll swing paying more for health insurance than in payroll taxes. But I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t drive 8- to 12-year-old vehicles, live in a house that’s paid off and depend on public libraries for most of our entertainment.

    695 chars

  6. LAMary said on December 16, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Of course people choose jobs for the health insurance. I got married for health insurance. When my brothers sold the family business, they all went to work in jobs that provided health insurance, two out of three of them working for the government. All three of them are against Obamacare, by the way.

    301 chars

  7. judybusy said on December 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I just read in an article about the Uygurs which states they give take-home flatbread to wedding guests. It was only a caption to a picture, and I wish there were more info about the “why” behind it, if anyone knows any longer. It was part of a National Geographic article about the treatment of Uygurs in China.

    312 chars

  8. coozledad said on December 16, 2009 at 11:08 am

    The United States will be classed as a developing nation before long. It’s already there for the most part, largely due to the efforts of fundies, the disproportionate political clout of the treasonous states, and the coalescing of the pimply dreams of deservedly lonely adolescent boys into movement Reagan idolatry/libertarianism. Some people believe the military-industrial complex is the glue that can hold a failed nation-state together, but these are unashamedly stupid people, pig-ignorant of history.
    I think one of our last, best hopes, is to encourage an exodus of the nose-pickers to regions that share similar ideological perspectives. It would be fun to watch the the fresh recipients of Oral Robert’s “Lil’ Bo Peep diplomas” stepping off the plane into the heat of Uganda, or the white meat injection of corpulent khaki-clad Libertarians into the unfettered competition of a Somali street-battle. I’m sure the Uzbeks could use a few more fine human beings who are eager to employ ever more aggressive methods of water torture, and lastly, the Israelis might be willing to overcome their aversion to snuff-dripping face-biters, especially if it meant the gain of a few ordnance absorption technicians to spearhead new illegal settlements.
    Then we can enjoy the benefits of education, heath care, and culture, without having to rub up against a pack of dangerous simps.

    1384 chars

  9. Julie Robinson said on December 16, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Here’s the money quote for me: “My family believes in a little bit of dinner and a lot of dessert. Which is actually an Irish thing. They love sweets.” Does this mean I can blame it all on my genes?

    Our son is contemplating part-time student status next semester, which means he will lose health insurance coverage. It scares the crap out of me. He’s headed to the doctor today before it expires.

    Like Moe, my sister will stay in her job for the rest of her life. With diabetes and serious heart disease, she has no choice. The stress of the job may be killing her, but hey, at least she has health insurance.

    623 chars

    • nancy said on December 16, 2009 at 11:28 am

      Why isn’t this discussed more? The chained-to-your-job syndrome? I rarely hear it coming from Washington, but it’s frequently the first thing a regular old civilian brings up. The easy guess would be that Congress is so far removed from the concerns of average people, they’ve forgotten. But many members of the House and Senate are smart; why don’t you hear it more?

      And Bob, that figure is jaw-dropping. When I left your employer, the categories were single, single-plus-one and family. Eight thousand a year is the your share of the cost for family coverage? And people, be aware: This is in a job that provides health insurance. Jaw-dropping.

      658 chars

  10. Jolene said on December 16, 2009 at 11:33 am

    If the current proposals pass, Moe and Julie’s sister would be able to buy insurance as individuals through the exchange, despite their pre-existing conditions. How much it will cost is another question, but, since we are paying for employer-based healthcare in lower wages, it’s possible that private practice (in Moe’s case) would yield more income than a salaried job. Probably not something to think about, though, in the midst of a health crisis.

    453 chars

  11. Joe Kobiela said on December 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I went to Palwakee first, to pick up my freight, then went to Alabama.
    Pilot Joe

    88 chars

  12. brian stouder said on December 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

    That’s Joe’s story and he’s stickin’ to it!

    And if the day comes that we read that Mrs Pilot Joe ‘rescues’ PJ from his car by busting out the windows with a copy of Glen Beck’s book (or some such), I (for one) will say “what goes on in Palwaukee, stays in Palwaukee” 😉

    273 chars

  13. Jeff Borden said on December 16, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I personally would like to slap Lieberman for destroying the possibility of extending Medicare to younger people. I am 58 and covered by my wife’s most excellent health coverage –she works for a Swiss-based company so her treatment is far better than most Americans receive– but my moment of insurance reckoning will arrive very soon. She would like to retire in 2011 and she has most definitely earned it, but I will still be too young to qualify for Medicare benefits as they stand today. It would’ve been a nice option, but I’ll undoubtedly be stuck with huge insurance payments.

    Cooz, those yahoos you reference would never leave the country. Most probably don’t have a passport, but I see your point. Every time I hear some right-wing politician or fundamentalist minister arguing civil laws should be guided by God’s law, I want to buy them a one-way ticket to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, where that kind of government has worked out so very well. Just as I would love to see our esteemed chicken hawk brigade –those bastards in expensive suits who are always advocating military action but never spent a moment in combat– led into a field of fire by Five Deferment Dick Cheney.

    1190 chars

  14. Jen said on December 16, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Ha ha, personally I never know where Pilot Joe is. I’ll call my mom up to tell her something, and she’ll say, “Oh, your dad is in Texas” or something. I should start following him on Flight Aware, too.

    I wish I had heard about the Cookie Table before my wedding. I would have had one at my reception, because cookies are tasty! As it is, we had cupcakes, which were delicious!

    Speaking of weddings, that was our second wedding, because my husband and I eloped 6 months before our planned wedding so that he could get on my health insurance because he lost his job and couldn’t find something else with insurance. (He finally did after about 6 months.) He could leave his job and get on my insurance again if needed, but if I lost my job, we’d be in trouble because his health insurance only covers him and we’d have to pay the full amount for me to get on his insurance. Most people I know are at least somewhat chained to their jobs for the insurance – it just seems to be a fact of life.

    995 chars

  15. nancy said on December 16, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Late gossip update: Tiger, Elin relocated to Splitsville. No chess with Death in Sweden this Christmas; he’ll be playing with divorce lawyers instead.

    I should write for a tabloid. I’m that good.

    308 chars

  16. LAMary said on December 16, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I’m very lucky at this employer. My employer provided HMO costs me 120 per month, approximately. It covers me and my kids, and son Pete’s spectacular bike crash was covered right up to the last follow up visits two weeks ago. Over ten grand in medical bills, no questions asked. The union employees here get the same coverage free.

    331 chars

  17. LAMary said on December 16, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Damn, I was really enjoying the whole Tiger among the icy Swedes Christmas scene I was imagining. Lots of women speaking Swedish and giving him the Swedish version of stink eye. Lutefisk eye maybe. Now he’s probably going to stay in Florida and practice his putting or something while the family in Sweden has a jolly scene making St. Lucia crowns and wearing lots of Hanna Andersson kids sweaters and mittens and clogs.

    420 chars

  18. MichaelG said on December 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    “Ord­nance absorp­tion tech­ni­cians” I love it.

    One of the things about working for the State of CA has always been that the employee trades a lower salary than paid in the private sector for stability and good health and retirement benefits. There are a lot of talented and dedicated folks working for the State of CA despite what the right wing noise machine would have one believe. They’ve cut our already marginal pay by 15% and now there are moves afoot to cut retirement and health bennies. And it looks like our pay may be cut again next year. As Cooze notes, we’re well on our way to the third world.

    618 chars

  19. beb said on December 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Ezra Klein last night started talking about the number of death per year due to a lack of health care. I think the number was 15,000, with a ten year death toll of 150,000 people. With the EPA placing $2 million per death when it evaluates safety issues, that comes to a cost of $300 TRILLION dollars over ten years. That makes Single Payer sound dirt cheap. That millions of Americans are stuck in their current job because they can’t afford to lose the health coverage should have been brought up a long time ago. And should remain to this day as the driving force for health care reform. But to do so would be ‘populism’ and nothing riles the media as much as piopulism. As if being for the little man was some kind of communist conspiracy?

    For years te car makers complained about how much their health care plans cost them but never once did they ever suggest a national health care system, which would save them billions in costs. I guess they were determined to fail.

    Oh, and the Tiger Woods story has officially jumped the shark with the allegations of performance enhancing drugs. What possible help can performance enhancing drugs do in a sport like golf. The key to a great golfer is fine motor skills, not bulk muscle. Steroids will help a baseball or football player, but a golfer, not so much.

    1314 chars

  20. ROgirl said on December 16, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Politicians who actually care about average peoples’ lives are in very short supply.

    And now the doctor who treated Tiger after his knee surgery is under investigation for doping. Here’s a related article.,0,2923714.column

    286 chars

  21. Bruce Fields said on December 16, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    “$300 TRILLION dol­lars over ten years”

    Careful: 150,000 times 2 million is $300 billion.

    93 chars

  22. nancy said on December 16, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I read that doping story when it was fresh meat — health care and drugs are my beat, yo — and thought from the beginning that linking Tiger to PEDs was wrong and guilt by association.

    The doc in question is known for a technique he performs that’s sometimes called blood doping when used in performance situations, but is accepted (not universally) in his application. He basically injects your own red-cell enriched plasma when you’re recovering from an injury, and that’s what Tiger used him for. It is said to speed healing, and at the time, Tiger’s people were concerned that his repaired knee wasn’t mending fast enough.

    Competitive cyclists did this for a time before it was banned. If I recall correctly, they stored units of their own red blood cells for weeks ahead of, say, the Tour de France, and then re-infused them just before and during the race. The extra cells increased their blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, giving them an edge.

    The doctor also was said to carry a few extra vials of this and that in his bag, and that’s how his whole client list got linked to PED. I agree with Beb that drugs would likely not do a golfer much good. Tiger’s game did improve markedly when, early in his career, he started weight training and added a muscle to his frame, but I think it was well within the range of what you’d expect for a professional athlete.

    That didn’t stop the breathless top-of-the-hour promos: “How can it get worse for Tiger? Now he’s linked to performance-enhancing drugs!” But a close reading of the story doesn’t support much of a link. Sometimes I hate the media as much as anyone.

    1638 chars

  23. Colleen said on December 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    When I lost my job, the very first thing we did was freak out about health insurance and getting me on my husband’s policy. And even WITH insurance, we have thousands of dollars a year in medical bills that we’re responsible for. Something has got to change.

    260 chars

  24. MichaelG said on December 16, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    By the way, one of the reasons my wife and I did a legal separation rather than a divorce was so I could keep her on my health insurance. It costs me every month, but what the hell, we’re still friends.

    203 chars

  25. Peter said on December 16, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    My close friend married a lass from Pittsburgh – oh, I miss those cookies!

    My mom used to make Dobosz Torte for my birthday – it’s the East European version of the little layer cake – ten layers minimum and the filling was SO good.

    Now she won’t make it because a key ingredient of the filling is raw eggs, and she’s worried about salmonella – just ANOTHER thing to be mad at Bush about.

    Seriously, I am mad about this one, because the Dobosz tortes I’ve had in Chicago bakeries just don’t cut it – too dry or the filling’s too fluffy.

    And speaking of being mad, I’m sad because a Chicago Institution has closed its doors – Healthy Foods on South Halsted. It really had nothing to do with healthy food – it was a Lithuanian diner, but boy they had great breakfasts, and the pot roast was supreme. More than that was the decor – ’20’s diner down pat, with curling vinyl tile floors and warped tables. Sigh.

    920 chars

  26. ROgirl said on December 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    MichaelG, I have no doubt that your situation is perfectly legit, but I met a man last year on a dating website who told me that he was separated rather than divorced so that he could keep his wife on the health insurance. That’s the last time I fall for that one.

    264 chars

  27. mark said on December 16, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    We need government provided health care so guys like MichaelG can make the last step back to bachleorhood. The system’s broken.

    128 chars

  28. mark said on December 16, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    It’s being reported that Senator Sanders has offered a single-payor plan amendment to the current bill, which, of course, is the one the democrats had but not the one they say they almost have. Republicans have required the amendment be read. Since it runs over 700 pages in length, estimates are 7 to 8 hours to read it, contingent upon a steady supply of fresh, full-throated clerks.

    Democrats are uncertain as to whether to be more angry with the republicans for the procedural delay tactic or Sanders for offering an amendment that moves in the opposite direction of the breakthrough agreement (maybe, sorta) announced last night and has no chance of passage.

    668 chars

  29. coozledad said on December 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Nah. We need Government Health Care to keep creepy little shits like this away from people’s private information, and to get the purse snatchers of the Republican party back out on the streets snatching purses. It’s just to restore the balance of things. It’ll be the Brietbarts and Goldbergs of the world in the van down by the river, instead of receiving million dollar advances for publicly soiling themselves.

    518 chars

  30. Dorothy said on December 16, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    That cookie table story has been brought to my attention several times today. First my daughter forwarded me the link to my gmail address when she was working the copy desk last night. Then at work today a co-worker sent it to me, knowing I’m from Pittsburgh. And now here at nn.c. It’s a delightful tradition, yeah, but one I’m not anxious to have when/if our two children get married. Mike acts like I’m blaspheming when I say that, but I’m personally aghast that people would load up cookies and take them home in boxes or bags, as if it were a bakery store left unattended and the cash register locked. If I wanted to have cookies out as a dessert for people to enjoy while they are at the wedding, that would be fine with me. But when it comes to this habit of taking so many dozens home, well it just pisses me off. I guess that makes me a crank. I have NEVER been someone who does something just because everyone else does. If anything I go out of my way to do the exact opposite. Just to be contrary.

    1015 chars

  31. adrianne said on December 16, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I think the Italians are mainly responsible for the cookies at weddings phenom. When my Italian sister-in-law got married to her nice Irish lad of a husband, the wedding reception left us awestruck. First there was a multi-tiered wedding cake to be cut (with stairs connecting the different layers). Then the baskets of Italian cookies were distributed to the masses. And finally, the piece de resistance: a mountain of fruit was wheeled in. I just about fell over in hysterics (of course, I had consumed too many whiskey sours from the whiskey sour fountain.)

    560 chars

  32. Dave K. said on December 16, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Brian S., I love my brother Joe and would never suspect any wrongdoing on his flights to Alabama, Texas or points unknown, but I have to say that your reference to my Sister-in-Law, “Mrs. Pilot Joe”, “rescuing” him by breaking out the windows with a Glenn Beck book was one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time! (Are Rush’s books bigger and better for bustin’ than Beck’s?) Rush/Beck, 9-iron/driver, as long as it does the job.

    The Pittsburgh wedding cookie story reminded me of the wedding of my Godparents’ son on Staten Island, NY. Their family, the Puccio’s, is from Sicily, and my wife, mother and I were included in the wedding party/family group which meant a “coffee and cookies” reception, prior to the regular dinner, drinking and dancing reception. The pictures of the Pittsburgh event are very similar to what I remember, and we stopped at Italian bakery before returning to Indiana to stock up on cookies “to go”, in white boxes tied up with red and white string. I’ve seen the same boxes on episodes of “The Sopranos”, and remember thinking that I knew exactly what was inside.

    I hate to return from such pleasant memories so I’ll just say this on health care reform. Reading the comments above, how is it possible that so many people just don’t get it?

    1289 chars

  33. paddyo' said on December 16, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I probably wouldn’t have signed up for my buyout from Gannett (back in those soft-focus days of 2007 when they weren’t laying people off left and right) had it not included continuation of health insurance. COBRA would’ve killed me, and just as I was preparing to have a couple of knee-replacement surgeries . . .

    Fortunately, I landed new employment during my buyout-pay transition months and segued into that health care plan smoothly . . . but I still did the new knees on Gannett’s health-care dime.

    Why in this so-very-NOT-exceptionalismic country do I have to consider myself Lotto-winner lucky to have held onto basic, share-the-expense health care while changing jobs? Well, because the ranks of us who haven’t lost our health care yet or seen premiums, co-pays and deductibles skyrocket are shrinking . . . melting . . .

    835 chars

  34. alex said on December 16, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Yay, dobosz torte! As Peter says, you can’t find a good one in Chicago. I can’t remember the last time I had a good one as it has been decades, but the best of them are moist and saturated with brandy and have the most delicious, crunchy layer of caramel on the very top.

    271 chars

  35. MichaelG said on December 16, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Well, ROgirl, I’m not running any kind of scam on young women. Not at my age (65). There is one other thing about being separated rather than divorced and that is that our tax situation is better. Single people pay more than married. Also I have no desire to remarry. Anything short, OK. We have lunch every couple of months. She lives in a lovely redwood post and beam house in Auburn, I live in a high water bungalow in the ghetto in Sacramento. The bad part is that at this point I can’t retire. Maybe one day.

    522 chars

  36. Rana said on December 16, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Is our bar­gain with cap­i­tal­ism so Faus­t­ian that we allow almost 40 mil­lion of our fel­low cit­i­zens to lan­guish with­out cov­er­age? Is our devo­tion to mar­ket­place solu­tions so fer­vent we can allow upwards of 50,000 peo­ple to die every year for want of decent health care?

    The problem, I believe, is that there’s no “our” here – the people who are making the decisions are indeed so devoted, but they’re not the ones who are paying for it.

    Not only does the need for insurance keep people from leaving their jobs, it also pins them in place geographically. Speaking as someone who’s moved around a lot in the last ten years, it is a real pain in the butt to be self-insured – each time you move across state lines, your existing insurance lapses at the end of the renewal period, and you have to sign with the next state’s insurance companies. Nevermind that companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield or Anthem have a national presence; for the purposes of individual policies, each state variant is a separate entity. Which means, that if you are diagnosed with something expensive while in one state, when you move, it becomes a pre-existing condition, and your insurance options compress while becoming even more expensive.

    After a decade of this, 40% of my take-home pay goes to insurance – and that’s with a deductible equal to 2-3 months’ salary, and no coverage for pregnancy or pre-natal care, and a very stingy reimbursement scale. It’s an enormous waste of money, but I’ve had a few scares over the years (mine and friends’) and know that I absolutely cannot afford unexpected treatments for anything serious without assistance.

    I am very much hoping that my fiancé’s job here will be made permanent, so that I can get on his plan and stop that enormous drain on our finances.

    1843 chars

  37. Jolene said on December 16, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    “Read­ing the com­ments above, how is it pos­si­ble that so many peo­ple just don’t get it?”

    Have we all called or sent email to our senators? It only takes a minute. You can also write to Sen. Coburn to register your views on his attempt to derail healthcare reform by slowing the legislative process.

    321 chars

  38. Deborah said on December 16, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I am definitely employed for the sake of health coverage for both me and my husband. He is 61 and I’m 59 so we are eagerly awaiting the time when we can be on Medicare. He will never retire from practicing architecture, but I can’t wait to get out of the corporate world that I’m in right now. I tried freelancing for a year or so before I got this job but the healthcare costs were ridiculous. My daughter has a pre-existing condition and can’t get health insurance. It is just not fair.

    When we were in Finland this past summer we heard all about their healthcare system, it’s amazing.

    591 chars

  39. Rana said on December 16, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Have we all called or sent email to our sen­a­tors?

    Repeatedly, and to no avail – Representatives too. Sometimes they blather about the importance of the economy (tell me about it) and sometimes they indulge in a bit of preening (I support programs that teach nutrition!) and sometimes they simply say, flat out, this isn’t something I’m interested in supporting.

    I would vote for someone else, if someone else would run – but they don’t.

    454 chars

  40. Sue said on December 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I’m so disgusted I can’t even follow health care reform anymore, not even on the Daily Show or Colbert. Just too many things dangled in front of us then yanked away. Someone mentions a public option or the medicare buy in, then Lieberman raises an eyebrow or Olympia Snowe coughs politely, and out it goes.
    In the end, we will get a little something, but not nearly as much as the massive gift about to be given to Senator Lieberman’s true constituency.

    458 chars

  41. moe99 said on December 16, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I think we need to regard health care in the same way we regard education in this country: that it is a fundamental right of each and every citizen.

    149 chars

  42. crinoidgirl said on December 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Yes, moe! I think that’s what it boils down to. For the good of every citizen.

    78 chars

  43. moe99 said on December 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    And, for the good of our country.

    33 chars

  44. LAMary said on December 16, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I worry that we will get such a half assed version that it doesn’t work and all the jackasses who have been out there protesting the guvmint taking away their right to pay a lot for health insurance will be all I told you so-ish.

    229 chars

  45. mark said on December 16, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    The harsh reality, reflected in the opinion polls showing opposition to any major reform, is that we are out of money. We have about 12 trillion in debt right now. The Administration’s predictions (very optimistic, I think) are that the debt will grow by nine trillion over the next decade.

    Not a penny of the current debt load will have been paid down by the time Nancy’s daughter is through with school, embarking on her lucrative and rewarding career and starting to pay taxes. The things that her generation may want for themselves will be a little less (maybe a lot less) attainable because they will be paying the bills for the things we just had to have. And yes, that includes wars and tax cuts and all the things republicans did and still do to drive up the debt.

    Whether it is cash for clunkers and caulkers, bank bailouts, salary increases for federal employees, cap and trade or major health care reform, each new program or benefit that we just have to have right now is adding an anchor of debt that will burden the next generation or two. We are severely limiting their futures with the gigantic unpaid bills for our rights, desires, wants and conveniences.

    Until we figure out how to pay for what we already have/get, it is unconscionable to incur more debt that we can’t repay. If you had the legal right to obligate your children and grandchildren to pay your bills, how many of you would use that opportunity to get a bigger house, a new car or a plasma tv, or even a better job or better health insurance? Nobody, I’m pretty sure. But that is what we are doing as a country.

    1610 chars

  46. LAMary said on December 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    The polls I’ve seen support health care reform but not this bill as it is now.

    78 chars

  47. mark said on December 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    You need to look a little further, Mary. Here’s one today fron ABC/Washington Post.

    Yes, if you ask something like “Do you favor health care reform that improves access and quality, lowers cost and reduces the federal deficit?”, people say yes. But none of the proposals do that and people know it.

    People aren’t dumb. When you start with “deficit neutral over ten years” only if you collect fees and taxes for ten years but give just five or six years of benefits, that’s a pretty big tip-off that the reform costs more than will be collected. When you move lots of the new people to Medicaid but tell the CBO to not include the increased cost to the states (who pick up 50% of the Medicaid tab) that’s bogus accounting. When the plans assume 250 billion cut in doctor Medicare fees and Congress uses separate,unfunded legislation to put the money back in without paying for it, that’s smoke and mirrors.

    And there is no “bill as it is now.” Each permutation has been less popular than the one before it, because the more people know about what Congress is considering the less they want it. They want the spending to stop until we pay down our debt.

    1253 chars

  48. LAMary said on December 16, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    “And there is no “bill as it is now.” Each per­mu­ta­tion has been less pop­u­lar than the one before it, because the more peo­ple know about what Con­gress is con­sid­er­ing the less they want it. They want the spend­ing to stop until we pay down our debt.”

    The bill as it is not has been gutted of the public option, which had public support. The bill as it is now is the junk left after Lieberman and his like held their breaths until they turned bwoo and stamped their feet and said no no no. The senator from Aetna has had his way with it.
    There has been so much misinformation and intentional distortion about what health care reform is, I’m amazed anyone supports it at all, but still people do because they know it’s critical we do something soon.

    774 chars

  49. mark said on December 16, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Here’s the ABC/Washington Post poll from back when the plans included a public option. Still more opposed than in favor.

    If the health care reform efforts had not been preceeded by a recession, TARP, Auto company bailouts, cash for clunkers and $787 billion in questionable stimulus spending, all in short order, the reform would have passed by now. People are reacting to their sense that we are out of money and their anxiety over further spending.

    542 chars

  50. Rana said on December 16, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Plasma televisions are luxury items for wealthy people, while health care can literally be a matter of life or death.

    I’m profoundly uncomfortable at any analogies that suggest that they are comparable.

    The assumption that the people who will foot the bill won’t benefit from it is also problematic, as is the idea that refusing to make the purchases now on credit means that the bill won’t come due later.

    So the grandchildren may have to pay higher taxes – but does that mean that they get nothing for them, and only the people who put the program into place benefit? No. One, those future taxpayers themselves will benefit directly, as recipients of this aid as children, and later as citizens in a country that’s stopped the bleeding caused by the current situation. Two, they will also benefit indirectly, in that the burdens of care will not rest on their shoulders alone, as is the current situation.

    The costs of caring for elderly or sick relatives, for example, will need to be covered by someone, eventually, so whether it comes in the form of taxes or individual funds is ultimately irrelevant – unless you’re looking for ways to avoid spreading the burden among a large pool of people, preferring it to rest on the shoulders of individuals, who might not be able to carry such a burden.

    So, even if one can overlook the distasteful depiction of essential medical care as a frivolous luxury item, the logic doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint.

    1486 chars

  51. Rana said on December 16, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Also, if we were truly serious about cutting spending, we should pull out of the Middle East and scale back our military spending, before declaring that looking after the health and well-being of our own citizens is “too expensive.”


    Ian Welsh of Crooks and Liars makes the same point:

    It is also noteworthy that spending billions on turning brown people into a fine red mist (a.k.a. the Afghan war) is acceptable, but health care (a.k.a. saving actual American lives) is something which can’t cost money. What an interesting–and clearly evil–set of priorities that reveals. I guarantee that real healthcare reform would save more American lives than the entire war on terror—assuming said “war” hasn’t cost more American lives than it’s saved, which is almost certainly the case.

    884 chars

  52. coozledad said on December 16, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    But Rana, the Black panthers kept people in black neighborhoods from voting for the fiscally responsible policies espoused by Bush-Cheney that would have ushered in a new era of corporate responsibility and kept people who are currently working shite jobs in the service sector from having to worry about the mounting deficits caused by Obama’s invasion of Iraq. And if we’d only had the profound human decency to trust McCain’s ability to roll the dice, we’d all be shitting ice cream by now. Don’t you see?
    Obviously you’ve failed to internalize the mountain of bullshit that enables Republicans to face yet another day without swallowing a bottle of muscle relaxers and slitting their wrists in a cold slick sweat of shame.

    727 chars

  53. coozledad said on December 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    I’ve got animals to tend to, but I’ll sponsor a bus trip for five youngsters to go piss on Lieberman’s office door. Or on Lieberman. Or to retrieve the X-rays of the bucket of golf balls he has shoved up his ass. You know that stuff is out there.

    246 chars

  54. Deborah said on December 16, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    “The Senator of Aetna”, so true. Was that you who said that, LA Mary?

    69 chars

  55. alex said on December 16, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I think we need to regard health care in the same way we regard education in this country: that it is a fundamental right of each and every citizen.

    After talking to a soon-to-be teacher tonight, I’m not so sure. She’s hoping to land in the local urban system where a teacher’s talents are truly called upon. The system doesn’t measure up to “No Child Left Behind” because of the impossible demands made upon it. I think I recall reading that it serves children who speak seventy-some different languages and are only just learning English as their first. That’s Fort Wayne, for ya—”city of churches.” The missionary zeal of our local fundies means we’re a huge haven for the world’s refugees. We have the biggest population of Burmese in the world outside of Burma (or Myanmar or whatever it’s called now). And yet these charitable folks are in the same camp politically as the xenophobes who scream bloody murder about all the “kellered” movin’ in and makin’ eyes at their cauliflower-eared daughters and stealin’ “Amerkin” jobs. But I digress.

    My friend is faced with taking a teaching job wherever she finds it, and she’s heard—as I have—from people now teaching at my old alma mater in a hoity suburban school district, that no genuinely gifted, inspired teacher wants to work there. Teachers get no input whatsoever into the curriculum because it all has to be uniform for the sake of test scores. So you teach the same lame-ass class five times a day and feel demoralized while the kids miss out on the kinds of things a truly talented teacher can bring to education. What’s more, even the most innocent questioning of this status quo is regarded as intolerable dissent. I’ve heard from those in the know that one English teacher at Carroll High School was called on the carpet a few years ago on trumped up charges because she dared to question, quite innocently but within earshot of the superintendent, why teachers shouldn’t be allowed to have input into curricula. It took an outraged crowd of students and parents and news media showing up at her termination hearing in order to prevent her firing, but just barely.

    I’d be hesitant to say I’d want a health care system like our education system because the latter is just as fucked up, if not more—and by the federal interference of the GOP. But I agree, in principle, that everyone should be afforded health care just as they are education, quality be damned.

    2447 chars

  56. coozledad said on December 16, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Alex: My dad became a fixture of our local educational system because he was batshit. He’d manfully slap a child up against a wall, and local politicians applauded him. The educational system in those days was an exercise in rightist sovietism, pitched to counter our enemies, who were gaining on, or exceeding us in the clinical essentials of brutality.
    I have since spoken to purveyors of education who assure me that it’s all the same, and we have since lapped the Russians’ asses in student control.

    504 chars

  57. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 16, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    I wish i thought that if we could halve the defense budget we could do all sorts of things, but it isn’t as big a chunk of the budget as is often assumed. And i ruefully doubt that more than a ten percent portion of the defense budget is even “cut-able” over the next decade, even as Medicare/Medicaid obligations rocket up.

    I’d love to see a reasonable plan for a single payer, private supplier process for a US HealthBasic/Medicare Part E plan that was tied to a VAT proposal which eliminated the income tax & FICA, and binding legislation for any industry that gets any governmental support (stadium construction, limited licenses, price controls, direct subsidies of any sort) requiring that the top execs can’t get more than (picking a number out of my . . . pants) 32 times what the night janitor makes. Pass that along with an end to any campaign funding restrictions of any sort, directly connected to immediate publication of sources online within 24 hours, or jail time for campaign managers, consultants, and candidates.

    But this persistent insistence on the GOP as the only or primary source of noxious ignorance is getting quite aged, and i don’t mean like Wensleydale. As for making health care a right, i hope to offer a few thoughts after my deeper engagement with the medical facilities in my area tomorrow morning, but i can safely say that making “free and adequate public education” a right has solved little. Union gaming and PC doctrinaire-ism on the left, starve-the-beast-ism anti-tax droningness on the right, and the “right” to education has lost much of its glow in the public eye. Many of my cohorts in homelessness work say with great passion that housing should be made a legal, civil right, and i think they don’t know what they’re asking for.

    Tomorrow night on TCM: “Christmas in Connecticut.” Barbara Stanwyck predicting Martha Stewart. If you’ve missed this minor seasonal classic, it’s worth an hour and a half.

    2170 chars

  58. alex said on December 16, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    But this per sis tent insis tence on the GOP as the only or pri mary source of nox ious igno rance is get ting quite aged, and i don’t mean like Wens ley dale.

    As an ex-Chicagoan, I can say that leftist ward politics are as noxious as anything emanating from the right these days, but at least the ignoramuses whose prejudices are being exploited cheaply are doing it for the better cause.

    Actually, I think insurance ought to be re-regulated not across state lines but instead along the boundaries of precincts just like public school taxes. Hey, that’s like so actuarial man. You pay according to your risk.

    627 chars

  59. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 16, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    How would anyone in Hegewisch get insurance that way? 😉

    58 chars

  60. coozledad said on December 16, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Jeff done publicly lost his shit. What a feature twat.

    54 chars

  61. brian stouder said on December 17, 2009 at 7:48 am

    but i can safely say that mak­ing “free and ade­quate pub­lic edu­ca­tion” a right has solved lit­tle.

    Short version: I disagree with this, completely.

    Much of the rest of Jeff’s post, though, I completely agree with

    239 chars

  62. LAMary said on December 17, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I said the Senator from Aetna but I didn’t originate it. I was either Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow. I had to explain to the in house Brit that Connecticut is the the home of several big insurance companies and Joe knows his constituency.

    254 chars

  63. Sharon R. said on December 18, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Ah, Western PA wedding cookies! They’re not just a feature of Pittsburgh weddings. I grew up in Indiana County, PA and I’ve eaten many a wedding cookie! Speaking of Indiana, I also lived in the “city of churches”, Ft. Wayne, for 12 loooong years. Nancy, I always enjoyed reading your columns in the local newspaper, and I was very happy to stumble on your blog! The various references to the oddities of Ft. Wayne and its citizens make me feel better about my own ambivalent attitude toward the city. I now live in southern WV, a region with its own oddities! However, I like living here much better….maybe it’s the lack of pretension. Back to Western PA wedding food, cabbage rolls are also a staple!

    712 chars

  64. LAMary said on December 18, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Cabbage rolls and coffee…We’re back to discussing the Schmenge brothers.

    74 chars