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Dec 22nd
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Rep. Sam Farr

SamFarrNewThe war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history, and last month was the deadliest month of the war yet. Are we getting any closer to getting out of there?

I have consistently opposed the war in Afghanistan, and my opposition remains unwavering. I never bought the proposal that occupying Afghanistan would improve our national security, and it’s clearly not in our nation’s interest to remain there.

I continue to be skeptical about what our military can accomplish in Afghanistan. I’m convinced that the sooner we withdraw our troops, the sooner we can refocus on cooperating with our allies to break down terrorist networks around the world. Taking down these networks—not occupying countries—is the best way to enhance our national security. And we can do that for a far lower cost, in both lives and dollars, than by occupying Afghanistan.

I’ve voted several times to stop funding for the war, and I’ve also voted in favor of requiring the Department of Defense to provide an exit strategy. While Congress has failed to demand such a strategy, I hope that President Obama will stick to his plan to begin troop withdrawal in July 2011.

President Obama’s approach to Afghanistan has included significant investments in economic development and diplomacy, and they may yet prove successful. But while I hope for the best, on the balance I believe that our continued presence in Afghanistan does more harm than good to our country.

There’s no question that our military is the most powerful in the world. But it has become crystal clear in Afghanistan that military might alone will not sustain peace. Political and military leaders alike agree on this, but we need to turn that agreement into action.

Our diplomatic tools, including the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, remain woefully underfunded for their missions. If we can’t bring about the economic and social stability that is needed to ensure the peace, no force of military strength can fill that void.

History reminds us that the British and the Russians failed to secure Afghanistan. After almost nine years, there’s no reason to think our outcome will be any better.

I will continue to pressure our leaders to put more money into economic development and to come up with a credible plan to leave Afghanistan. It’s the only way that peace has a chance.

The administration recently debuted a new website, healthcare.gov. What can we expect from this site?

After a year of detailed and often heated debate, healthcare.gov is returning the issues

of health insurance reform to a level we all can understand.

The July 1 launch of this first-of-its-kind website makes it easier than ever to find healthcare coverage and understand exactly how new rules like the Patient’s Bill of Rights will benefit individuals, families and businesses.

We’ve seen technology change the way we live, but those advances haven’t come at an equal rate. It’s easier than ever to search and compare plane ticket prices or find a new apartment, but shopping for private health insurance has remained shrouded in mystery.

But no longer. The primary goal of healthcare.gov is to take the mystery out of shopping for health insurance.

Visit the website, answer a few simple questions, and healthcare.gov will provide all your coverage options, both public and private plans, that are tailored to your age, location and health needs.

The site is easy to use, it’s comprehensive, and it’s only going to get better.

In October, the site will begin to host information on prices of health insurance plans, making the process even more transparent. And be on the lookout for even more features, including a database of hospital quality ratings and tools to help you stay healthy.

The website is a great tool, but it’s just one of many steps that have already been taken thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

The new law already prevents insurance companies from denying children coverage because of a preexisting condition. It has eliminated caps on the amount of benefits that will be paid over a lifetime. It has allowed young adults up to age 26 without insurance to remain on their parent’s plan.

The Affordable Care Act has started to bridge the Medicare coverage gap with payments to seniors. And small businesses are now eligible for tax credits to help them afford coverage for employees. And starting in August, eligible residents of California will be able to apply for coverage through the state’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. The plan will include a range of health benefits, even if they’re used to treat a pre-existing condition.

And, guess what? You can learn more about that plan at healthcare.gov.

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