Here we go. That’s a pretty big fuck-up by an Austin politician.

You want talking-points on “what has Obama done in the legislature”? Alright, I’ll make you a summary.

  1. Avian Flu
  2. CAFE Standards
  3. Database of all federal spending and contracts, available to the public
  4. Energy Security
  5. Ethics Oversight
  6. Health Care for Hybrids bill
  7. Hurricane Katrina Relief
  8. Lobbying Reform
  9. Non-proliferation (nuclear and non-nuclear)
  10. Protecting personal information during tax-time
  11. Reducing Medical Malpractice Suits
  12. Regulating Genetic Testing
  13. Veterans’ Health Care
  14. Voter Intimidation

Everything here stolen from Hilzoy, linked earlier:

Nonproliferation: Here Obama has teamed up with Richard Lugar (R-IN). Here’s the Washington Monthly:

“By most accounts, Obama and Lugar’s working relationship began with nukes. On the campaign trail in 2004, Obama spoke passionately about the dangers of loose nukes and the legacy of the Nunn-Lugar nonproliferation program, a framework created by a 1991 law to provide the former Soviet republics assistance in securing and deactivating nuclear weapons. Lugar took note, as “nonproliferation” is about as common a campaign sound-bite for aspiring senators as “exchange-rate policy” or “export-import bank oversight.””

In addition to working on nuclear non-proliferation, Obama and Lugar co-sponsored legislation expanding the Nunn-Lugar framework to deal with conventional arms. Here’s an op-ed Obama and Lugar wrote on their legislation.

Avian flu: Obama was one of the first Senators to speak out on avian flu, back in the spring of 2005, when it was a quintessentially wonky issue, not the subject of breathless news reports. There’s a list of Democratic efforts on avian flu here.

Regulating Genetic Testing: You might be surprised to learn that there is very little quality control over genetic testing. I was. If I offer some genetic test, I can basically say what I like about what it will reveal, so long as I avoid violating the laws against fraud. And if you think about how easy it would be to avoid those laws just by talking about, say, a test for some gene that has been found to be slightly associated with increased IQ, you can see how many deceptive (but not legally fraudulent) claims this allows.

Not nearly as horrible as the results of some false negatives, though. Consider this case (from a very good report on the topic):

“A Florida couple both tested negative for the genetic mutation that causes Tay-Sachs, a fatal childhood disease. Two copies of the mutation are required to cause the disease. The couple learned that the test results were incorrect for both parents when their son began exhibiting symptoms of Tay-Sachs shortly after birth. He died eight years later”

Tay-Sachs is an unbelievably horrible disease:

“Infants with Tay-Sachs disease appear to develop normally for the first few months of life. Then, as nerve cells become distended with fatty material, a relentless deterioration of mental and physical abilities occurs. The child becomes blind, deaf, and unable to swallow. Muscles begin to atrophy and paralysis sets in. Other neurological symptoms include dementia, seizures, and an increased startle reflex to noise. (…)Even with the best of care, children with Tay-Sachs disease usually die by age 4, from recurring infection.”

You can probably guess who has introduced legislation that addresses this problem. The people who wrote the initial report (note: I know them; they’re very good) think it’s good.

Reducing medical malpractice suits the right way:

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton teamed up to introduce legislation aimed at helping hospitals to develop programs for disclosure of medical errors. (They describe it in this NEJM article.)

Again, I think it’s good policy: this really is what the evidence suggests is the best way to reduce malpractice claims, and it does it without curtailing the rights of people who have already been injured through no fault of their own. Moreover, when people feel free to discuss their errors, they are much more likely to figure out ways to avoid repeating them. (The legislation provides support for this.) And that’s the best way of all to deal with malpractice claims: by addressing the causes of medical malpractice itself.

Contrary to popular belief, medical malpractice claims do not do much to drive up health care costs.

Protecting personal information during tax-time: Introducing legislation to make it illegal for tax preparers to sell personal information, for instance, and legislation on chemical plant security and lead paint.) He has done other things that are more high-profile, including:
And the rest:

The “health care for hybrids” bill.

Energy Security

Various bills on relief for Hurricane Katrina, including aid for kids and a ban on no-bid contracts by FEMA

Create a public database of all federal spending and contracts

Another attempt to raise CAFE standards

Veterans’ health care

Voter intimidation: which should be illegal

Lobbying reform (with Tom Coburn): which would do all sorts of good things, notably requiring that bills be made available to members of Congress at least 72 hours before they have to vote on them.

Ethics oversight: a proposal to revamp ethics oversight, replacing the present ethics Committee with a bipartisan commission of retired judges and members of Congress, and allowing any citizen to report ethics violations. This would have fixed one of the huge problems with the present system, namely: that the members have to police themselves.

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