Medicare

Weekly Pulse: #DearJohn, Does Banning Abortion Trump Job Growth?

by: The Media Consortium

Wed Feb 02, 2011 at 17:30

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

With millions of Americans out of work, House Republicans are focusing in on real priorities: decimating private abortion coverage and crippling public funding for abortion, as Jessica Arons reports in RH Reality Check.

In AlterNet, Amanda Marcotte notes that the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,  or H.R. 3, also  redefines rape as "forcible rape" in order to determine whether a patient is eligible for a  Medicaid-funded abortion. Under the Hyde Amendment, government-funded  insurance programs can only cover abortions in cases of rape and incest,  or to save the life of the mother. Note that the term "forcible rape" is  legally meaningless. Supporters of the bill just want to go on the  record as saying that a poor 13-year-old girl pregnant by a 30-year-old  should be forced to give birth.

Feminist blogger Sady Doyle has launched a twitter campaign against the bill under the hashtag #dearjohn, a reference to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Tweet to let him know how you feel about a bill that discriminates against 70% of rape victims because their rapes weren't violent enough for @johnboehner, append the hashtag #dearjohn.

Everybody chill out

A federal judge in Florida ruled the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional on Monday. However, as political scientist and court watcher Scott Lemieux explains at TAPPED, the ruling is not necessarily a death blow to health care reform:

[T]his ruling is less important than the controversy it will generate might suggest.   Many cornerstone programs of  the New Deal were held unconstitutional by lower courts before being  upheld by the Supreme Court.        This ruling tells us nothing we didn't  already know: There is a faction of conservative judges who believe the  individual mandate is unconstitutional.        Unless this view has the  support of five members of the Supreme Court -- which I still consider  very unlikely -- it won't matter; Vinson's reasoning would have a much  greater impact if adopted by the Court, but for this reason it is even  less likely to be adopted by higher courts.

In a follow-up post, Lemieux explains the shaky legal reasoning behind Judge Robert Vinson's decision. The judge asserts bizarrely that being uninsured has no effect on interstate commerce. That premise is objectively false. Health insurers operate across state lines and the size and composition of their risk pools directly affects their business.

Given the glaring factual inaccuracies, Judge Vinson's decision may be overturned by a higher court before it gets to the Supreme Court.

Scamming Medicare

Terry J. Allen of In These Times win's the headline of the week award for an article entitled "Urology's Golden Revenue Stream."  She reports that increasing numbers of urologists are investing  millions on machines to irradiate prostate cancer in the office. The  doctors can bill Medicare up to $40,000 per treatment, but they have to  use the machines a lot to recoup the initial investment. So what does this mean for patients? Allen  explains:

Rather than accessing centralized equipment and  sharing costs,  physicians are concentrating their own profits by buying  expensive  in-practice technologies that pay off only if regularly  used. One result  is overtreatment, which is driving up health care  costs, exposing  patients to unnecessary radiation and surgeries, and is  frequently no  better than cheaper approaches.

One third of Medicare patients with prostate cancer undergo the expensive IMRT therapy, as the procedure is known. In 2008, Medicare shelled out over a billion dollars on a treatment that has not shown to be any better for patients than less expensive therapies.

Obstetric fistula in the developing world

Reproductive Health Reality Check is running a special series on the human rights implications of obstetric fistula. Fistula is a devastating complication of unrelieved obstructed labor in which the baby's head gets stuck in the birth canal and presses against the soft tissues of the pelvis. If labor goes on long enough, the pressure will starve the pelvic tissues of blood, and they will die, creating a hole between the vagina and the bladder, and/or between the vagina and the rectum. Fistula patients face lifelong incontinence, chronic pain, and social ostracism.

The condition is virtually unknown in the developed world, where women with obstructed labor have access to cesarean delivery. However, an estimated 2 million women, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa   and Asia, have untreated fistulas with an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occurring each year. Without reconstructive surgery, these women will be incontinent for life.

Sarah Omega, a fistula survivor from Kenya, tells her story. Omega sustained a fistula when she delivered her first child at the age of 19. She suffered for 12 years before she finally obtained the surgery she needed. As Agnes Odhiambo explains in another installment in the series, fistula is a symptom of a dysfunctional health care system. Women suffer needlessly because they can't get access to quality health care.

The most likely victims of fistula are the most vulnerable members of their respective communities. Early childbearing increases a woman's risk of fistula. Pregnant rape victims may face even greater barriers to a safe delivery, thanks to the social stigma that accrues to victims of sexual violence in many societies. (Not to mention any names, House Republicans...)

Preventing and repairing obstetric fistula is a major human rights issue. The U.S. should make this effort a high priority for foreign aid.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive   reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium.  It  is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for  a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best   progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care  and  immigration issues, check out The Audit,  The Mulch,   and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of  leading independent media outlets.

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Weekly Pulse: White House Takes Offensive Against Health Care Repeal

by: The Media Consortium

Wed Jan 19, 2011 at 18:19

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

This week, House Republicans will hold a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The bill is expected to pass the House, where the GOP holds a majority, but stall in the Democratic-controlled Senate. In the meantime, the symbolic vote is giving both Republicans and Democrats a pretext to publicly rehash their views on the legislation.

At AlterNet, Faiz Shakir and colleagues point out that repealing health care reform would cost the federal government an additional $320 billion over the next decade, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The authors also note that despite Republican campaign promises to "repeal and replace" the law, their bill contains no replacement plan. Health care reform protects Americans with preexisting conditions from some forms discrimination by insurers. At least half of all Americans under the age of 65 could be construed as having a preexisting condition. No wonder only 1 in 4 Americans support repeal, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released on Monday.

Perhaps that explains, as Paul Waldman reports at TAPPED, why the White House is vigorously defending health care reform. The Obama administration is making full use of the aforementioned statistics from The Department Health and Human Services on the percentage of Americans who have preexisting conditions:

As the House prepares to vote on the "Repeal the Puppy-Strangling  Job-Vivisecting O-Commie-Care Act," or whatever they're now calling it,  the White House and its allies actually seem to have their act together  when it comes to fighting this war for public opinion. The latest is an analysis from the Department of Health and Human Services on just how many  people have pre-existing conditions, and thus will be protected from  denials of health insurance when the Affordable Care Act goes fully into  effect in 2014

Republicans are fuming that Democrats are "politicizing" a policy debate by bringing up the uncomfortable fact that, if the GOP's repeal plan became law, millions of people could lose their health insurance. As Waldman points out, the high incidence of preexisting conditions is an argument for a universal mandate. It's impossible to insure people with known health problems at an affordable cost unless they share the risk with healthier policy-holders. Hence the need for a mandate.

Anti-choice at the end of life

In The Nation, Ann Neumann explains how anti-choice leaders fought to re-eliminate free end-of-life counseling for seniors under Medicare. The provision was taken out of the health care reform bill but briefly reinstated by Department of Health and Social Services before being rescinded again by HHS amid false allegations by anti-choice groups, including The Family Research Council, that the government was promulgating euthanasia for the elderly.

As seen on TV

The Kansas-based anti-choice group Operation Rescue is lashing out at the Iowa Board of Medicine for dismissing their complaint against Dr. Linda Haskell, Lynda Waddington reports in The Iowa Independent. Dr. Haskell attracted the ire of anti-choicers for using telemedicine to help doctors provide abortion care. The board investigated Operation Rescue's allegations, which it cannot discuss or even acknowledge, but found no basis for sanctions against Haskell. Iowa medical authorities said they were still deliberating about the rules for telemedicine in general.

Salon retracts RFK vaccine story

Online news magazine Salon.com has retracted a 2005 article by Robert Kennedy, Jr. alleging a link between childhood vaccines and autism, Kristina Chew reports at Care2. The article leaned heavily on now discredited research by Dr. Andrew Wakefield. His research had been discredited for some time, but only recently did an investigative journalist reveal that Wakefield skewed his data as part of an elaborate scam to profit from a lawsuit against vaccine makers.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive   reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium.  It  is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for  a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best   progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care  and  immigration issues, check out The Audit,  The Mulch,   and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of  leading independent media outlets.

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Poll Shows American's Deficit-Cutting Priorities Direct OPPOSITE of Political Elites

by: Paul Rosenberg

Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 12:00

In Quick Hits, The Big Hurt calls attention to a question in a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll.

First, from CBS comes a graph of the topline results:

Then, from vanityfair.com comes the breakdown by income:

To balance the federal budget, which of the

following would be the first step you would take?

			TOTAL 	<$50K*	$50K-$100K >$100K
Increase taxes on
the wealthy 		61% 	67% 	58% 	46%
Cut defense spending 	20 	20 	22 	20
Cut Medicare 		 4	 2	 5	10
Cut Social Security 	 3	 1	 5	 6

* Mislabeled >50K in the original.

The results are hardly surprising, as polls have gotten similar results in the past.  Indeed, the General Social Survey has long showed that very few people want to cut Medicare or Social Security, while a great number want to increase spending--but this is not the case for military spending.  Even after 9/11, most people remained more supportive of Medicare and Social Security spending than they were of military spending.  (See tables & charts & brief discussion on the flip.)

But look a little more closely at the internals. Overall, cutting military spending is five times more popular than cutting Medicare.  Among those making less than 50K, it's ten times more popular.  But among those making over 100K, it's only twice as popular.  Once you get into the stratospheric income levels of K-Street lobbyists and others in the influence biz, it's a good bet that the difference vanishes entirely--and that's even before anyone gets paid to advocate for anything.

Some have suggested that Medicare should be means-tested in order to save money.  But these polls show that there's already a sharp income-based difference in levels of support as things stand today.  Add in means-testing, so that those making over 100K get nothing out of Medicare themselves--or even just substantially less--and the levels of support would certainly erode even further, thus making it even easier for Congress to act against the wishes of the broad majority of the American people.

On the flip:  A set of tables & charts, showing just how upside-down the Versailles consensus is from what the American people want.

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Weekly Pulse: End-of-Life Counseling Returns, But Death Panels Still Nonsense

by: The Media Consortium

Wed Dec 29, 2010 at 12:43

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

A proposed program to cover counseling sessions for seniors on end-of-life care has risen from the ashes of health care reform and found a new life in Medicare regulations, Jason Hancock of the American Independent reports.

In August, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin started a rumor via her Facebook page that the the Obama administration was backing "death panels" that would vote on whether the elderly and infirm had a right to live. In reality, the goal was to have Medicare reimburse doctors for teaching patients how to set up their own advance directives that reflect their wishes on end-of-life care.

Patients can use their advance directives to stipulate their wishes for treatment in the event that they are too sick to make decisions for themselves. They can also use those directives to demand the most aggressive lifesaving interventions.

Waste not, want not

Though end-of-life counseling was ultimately gutted from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the legislation will eventually ensure health coverage for 32 million more Americans. However, Joanne Kenen in The American Prospect argues it will do comparatively less to curb the high costs of health care. The architects of the ACA had an opportunity to include serious cost-containment measures like a robust public health insurance option to compete with private insurers, but they declined to do so.

Kenen argues that the government should more aggressively target waste within the health care delivery system, especially Medicare and Medicaid. Unchecked and rising health care costs through Medicare and Medicaid are a significantly greater driver of the deficit than Social Security or discretionary spending:

"The waste is enormous," says Harvard health care economist David  Cutler. "You can easily convince yourself that there is 40 to 50 percent  to be saved." Squeezing out every single bit of that inefficient or  unnecessary care may not be realistic. But it also isn't necessary;  eliminating even a small fraction of the current waste each year over  the next decade would make a huge difference, he added. Health care  would finally start acting like "a normal industry." Productivity would  grow, in the one area of the economy where it has not, and  with  productivity gains, prices could be expected to fall.

The new end-of-life counseling program will help reduce waste in the system, not by pressuring people to forgo treatments they want, but by giving them the tools to refuse treatments they don't want.

Teen births down, but why?

The teen birth rate has dropped again, according to the latest CDC statistics. Births to women under the age of 20 declined by 6% in 2009 compared to 2008. One hypothesis is that the reduction is an unexpected consequence of the recession, an argument we pointed to in last week's edition of the Pulse. John Tomasic of the Colorado Independent is skeptical of the recession hypothesis. He writes:

Emily Bridges, director of public information services at Advocates for Youth,  agrees with other observers in pointing out that teens aren't likely to  include national economics as a significant factor in pondering whether  or not to have unprotected sex. Peer pressure, badly mixed booze,  general awkwardness, for example, are much more likely than the jobless  recovery to play on the minds of horny high schoolers.

Some states with weak economies actually saw a rise in teen birth rates, Tomasic notes. However, this year's sharp downturn in teen births parallels a drop in fertility for U.S. women of all ages, which seems best explained by economic uncertainty.

It's true that prospective teen moms are less likely to have jobs in the first place, and so a bad job market might be less likely to sway their decisions. However, young women who aren't working are unlikely to have significant resources of their own to draw on, which means that they are heavily dependent upon others for support. If their families and partners are already struggling to make ends meet, then the prospect of another mouth to feed may seem even less appealing than usual.

Abortion is the elephant in the room in this discussion. The CDC numbers  only count live births. Logically, fewer live births must be the result of fewer conceptions and/or more terminations. Some skeptics doubt that economic factors have much to do with teens' decisions about contraception. However, it seems plausible that decisions about abortion would be heavily influenced by the economic health of the whole extended family.

Last year's decrease was notably sharp, but teen birth rates have been declining steadily for the last 20 years. The Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based non-profit that specializes in research on reproductive choice and health, suggests that successive generations of teens are simply getting savvier about contraception. Births to mothers between the ages of 15 and 17 are down 48% from 1991 levels, and births to mothers ages 18 to 19 are down 30%.

Stupid drug dealer tricks

Martha Rosenberg of AlterNet describes 15 classic dirty tricks deployed by Big Pharma to push drugs. These include phony grassroots patient groups organized by the drug companies to lobby for approval of dubious remedies. Another favorite money-making strategy is to overcharge Medicare and Medicaid. Pharmaceutical companies have paid nearly $15 billion in wrongdoing settlements related to Medicare and Medicaid chicanery over the last five years.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive   reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium.  It  is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for  a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best   progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care  and  immigration issues, check out The Audit,  The Mulch,   and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of  leading independent media outlets.

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Weekly Pulse: Egg Salad Surprise! Congress Votes to Clean Up Food Supply

by: The Media Consortium

Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 20:22

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

It's a Christmas-week miracle! The Senate, in a vote that astonished everyone, brought the Food Safety and Modernization Act back from the dead on Monday, as Siddhartha Mahanta reports in Mother Jones. The bill, which will enact tougher consumer protections against E. coli and other deadly contaminants in staples like eggs and peanut butter, died in the Senate last week when the omnibus spending bill it had been folded into kicked the bucket.

At Grist, Tom Philpott explains the initial demise, and the basis for the ultimate resurrection of the bill. The House passed the bill on Tuesday, having already passed it twice before.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law, which will usher in the first major overhaul of the country's food safety system in more than 70 years. Food poisoning strikes 48 million Americans (1 in 6), lands 128,000 in the hospital, and kills 3,000 ever year, according to CDC figures released last week. Now that's something to talk about with your relatives around the holiday dinner table.

Wisconsin clinic backs off 2nd trimester abortion care

A clinic in Wisconsin has reneged on its commitment to provide second trimester abortion care, as Judy Shackelford reports in The Progressive. Shackelford is outraged that the Madison Surgery Center walked back on its promise to patients. She knows first hand how important later term abortion access can be.

Shackelford found herself in need of a second trimester abortion when she developed a blood clot in her arm during her second, much-wanted pregnancy. She decided to terminate rather than risk leaving her 7-year-old son motherless. It was hard enough to find an abortion provider when she needed one, but if she needed the procedure today, she would have nowhere to turn.

Teen birth rate at record low

The birth rate for women ages 15-19 fell to 39.1 per 1000 between 2008 and 2009, the National Center for Health Statistics announced Tuesday. Many commentators, including Goddessjaz of feministing attribute the drop to the recession. The economy seems to be an important factor because birth rates dropped in all age groups, not just among teens.

Predictably, proponents of abstinence-only-until-hetero-marriage are trying to take credit for the falling birth rate. It's not clear why they think ab-only is finally starting to work after years of unrelenting failure. Perhaps it was Bristol Palin's electrifying performance on "Dancing With the Stars"?

Get the government out of my Medicare

We've become  accustomed to the ironic spectacle of senior citizens on Medicare-funded scooters  decrying the "government takeover of health care." Medicare is wildly  popular, even among those who decry "socialized medicine." When the  Affordable Care Act is finally implemented, it won't feel like a  government program, either. Paul Waldman of The American Prospect wonders if this "private sector" feel will undermine support for the program:

The  Republican officials challenging the ACA in court have characterized   its individual insurance mandate as an act of tyranny ranking somewhere   between the Stalinist purges and Mao's Cultural Revolution. But in the   "government takeover" of health care (recently declared the 2010 "Lie of the Year" by the fact-checking site PolitiFact),   Americans will continue to visit their private doctors to receive care   paid for by their private insurance companies. The irony is that if the   ACA actually were a "government takeover," people would end up feeling   much better about government's involvement in health care. But since it   maintains the private system, conservatives can continue to decry   government health care safe in the knowledge that most people under 65   won't know what they're missing, or in another sense, what they're   getting.

If people don't realize that they're benefiting from government programs, they are less likely to support those programs. In an attempt to deflect Republican criticism, the Democrats assiduously scrubbed as much of the aura of government off of health reform as they could. This could prove to be a disastrously short-sighted strategy. If health reform works, the government won't get the credit, but rest assured that if it fails, it will take the full measure of blame.

Funding for community health centers at risk

One of the lesser-known provisions of the Affordable Care Act was to expand the capacity of community health centers (CHCs) from 20 million to 40 million patients by 2015. This extra capacity will be key for absorbing the millions of previously uninsured Americans who are slated to get health insurance under the ACA.

CHCs have been praised by Democrats and Republicans as an affordable way to provide quality health care. However, state budget crises are threatening to derail the plan, as Dan Peterson reports for Change.org. States must contribute to the program in order to qualify for federal funding. However, state funding for CHCs has plummeted by 42% since 2007. So far this year, 23 states have cut funding for CHCs and eight have slashed their budgets by 20% or more.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive   reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium.  It  is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for  a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best   progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care  and  immigration issues, check out The Audit,  The Mulch,   and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of  leading independent media outlets.

     
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Facts vs. Fiction: The Big Lie About the Government "Takeover" of Health Care

by: Steven J. Gulitti

Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 01:10

Back on December 9th, in a post entitled "Fox Fair and Balanced" on Health Care Debate.....NOT!" I pointed out how the Fox News Network had deliberately tried to skew the national discussion on health care reform in such a way as to discredit the concept of a public option. Well just yesterday The Saint Petersburg Times' Pulitzer Prize winning affiliate, PolitiFact.com published:"PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'A Government Takeover of Health Care". This article pointed out how, when the facts are objectively analyzed, that for all of the rhetoric surrounding health care reform as being Socialist, it was in fact far from it .

Well with the health care debate behind us and with those facts on the table, the folks at PolitiFact's.com have detailed the inaccuracies of this conservative claim, labeling it the political lie of 2010. This falsehood was second only to Michele Bachmann's bizarrely absurd claim that Barack Obama's trip to India would cost 200 Million Dollars a day. Politifact.com deconstructs the logic behind the argument that "ObamaCare" represents a "government takeover of health care" with the following facts:

"Government takeover" conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:

• Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.

• Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up "exchanges" where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don't have it.

• The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

• The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.

• The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

It's true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market."

This very argument was raised last February when the renowned health care economist Uwe Reinhardt published an article entitled: "A Government Takeover of Health Care? Reinhardt came to the following conclusion: "A common refrain among critics of the health reform bills passed by the House and the Senate is that they constitute a "complete government takeover of 17 percent of the American economy."How could this be so? Start with the $950 billion price tag over the next decade for federal subsidies toward the purchase of private health insurance.  Divide that amount by $34 trillion, the current projection for total national health spending over the next decade even in the absence of health reform. You will get 2.8 percent.  Does that, then, constitute a government takeover of our health system?" Reinhardt concluded that the proposed reforms at the time, while certainly representing a major intrusion by the Federal Government into the health care process, were necessary as the system was "wasteful and unwieldy" and "would require substantial intrusion of government into the system, as evidently the system cannot correct itself."

Thus with the benefit of hindsight and with the 2010 elections where "ObamaCare" was certainly a topic of discussion now history, the question arises: To what extent have the American people been misled, if not outright bamboozled by the ultra right campaign against health care reform and it's conflating of that topic with the conjured up "specter of creeping Socialism?" To my mind the conservative attack on health care reform fits very neatly into a pattern of history that stretches all the way back to Theodore Roosevelt's first mention of the need for some type of national health care system. Since that time, health care reform has dovetailed neatly into more than one of the "red scares" that have accompanied this debate and that of progressive reform in general. Then like now, health care reform was seen as something that was tied to a decline of freedom in America and its replacement with that European import labeled "Socialism." Remember how Ronald Reagan once told us that the enactment of Medicare would bring about the decline of freedom in America and how we would all one day tell our grandchildren what it was once like to live in a free country? And just like then, these claims have now been proven by facts to be far fetched at best and fictitious at the very worst. Thus have those Americans who bought into this rhetoric of fiction and fear become nothing more than the "useful idiots' for those on the far right who have a vested interest in the status quo? Have they in so doing sacrificed their own best interests so as to avoid a "Socialist" threat that doesn't even exist in today's America? Or, have just so many Americans become fooled by the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh as to be unable to distinguish fact from fantasy and what does that say about the future of American Democracy?

Steven J. Gulitti

12/17/10

Sources:

PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'A government takeover of health care'
http://politifact.com/truth-o-...

The 'Government Takeover' of Health Care, and Other Whoppers
http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/...

A 'Government Takeover' of Health Care?
http://economix.blogs.nytimes....

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Weekly Pulse: Judge Rules Against Health Reform, Takes Cash from Opponents

by: The Media Consortium

Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 14:42

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The Virginia federal judge who ruled against a key component of health care reform on Monday has ties to a Republican consulting firm. Judge Henry Hudson is a co-owner of Campaign Solutions, as Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! reports.

Hudson, a President George W. Bush appointee, has earned as much as $108,000 in royalties from Campaign Solutions since 2003. A cached version of the firm's client roster lists such vocal opponents of health reform as Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jim DeMint (R-SC), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), the Republican National Committee and the American Medical Association.

In November, Collins and Snowe joined McConnell in signing an amicus brief to challenge the constitutionality of health care reform in a separate suit in Florida. Campaign finance records show that Campaign Solutions has also worked for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is spearheading the lawsuit. Tiahrt added an amicus brief to Cuccinelli's lawsuit.

Today, the mandate. Tomorrow, the regulatory state?

Hudson ruled that the individual mandate of health care reform is unconstitutional. The mandate stipulates that, after 2014, everyone who doesn't already have health insurance will have to buy some or pay a small fine. The judge argues that this requirement exceeds the federal government's power to regulate interstate commerce.

The Commerce Clause gives the federal government the power to regulate commerce between the states and international trade. Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones explains that this clause underpins the power of the federal government to regulate the economy in any way:

But the issues at stake in Cuccinelli v. Sebelius (Ken Cuccinelli is the conservative attorney general of Virginia;  Katherine Sebelius is President Barack Obama's Secretary of Health and  Human Services, or HHS) are actually far broader. Hudson's ruling  doesn't just show how the Supreme Court could gut the health law-it  shows how the court could neuter the entire federal government.

Is it constitutional?

Chris Hayes of The Nation interviews Prof. Gillian Metzger, a constitutional law scholar at Columbia University, about the merits of challenges to the constitutionality of health care reform. According to Metzger, "the argument that [the mandate] is outside the commerce power is also pretty specious given the existing precedent."

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly accuses Judge Hudson of committing an "inexplicable error" in legal reasoning. There is a longstanding precedent that the federal government can regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause. Hudson acknowledges this, but he maintains that this power doesn't cover regulations of "economic inactivity" (i.e. not buying health insurance). As Benen notes, people who don't buy insurance aren't opting out of the market, they're opting to let society absorb their future medical costs. Everyone who does buy insurance pays more because freeloaders coast without insurance and hope for the best.

Luckily for the Obama administration, the judge did not bar the implementation of health reform while the case works its way through the courts. The Supreme Court will ultimately hear this case. In the meantime, the federal government can continue building the infrastructure that will eventually support health care reform.

This is the third time a federal judge has ruled on the constitutionality of health care reforms and the first victory for the anti-reform contingent.

Mandatory mandate

Paul Waldman reminds TAPPED readers why the mandate is critical to any health care reform based on private insurance. With a single-payer system, you don't need a mandate because everyone is automatically covered. A mandate only comes into play when you have to force people to buy insurance.

Without a mandate, healthy risk-takers who don't buy insurance will starve the system of premiums while they are well and bleed the system for benefits when they get sick. Meanwhile, people who already know they're sick will sign up in droves, and the Affordable Care Act will force insurers to accept them.  Without a mandate, the private health insurance industry would collapse and take health care reform down with it.

Is expanding Medicare the answer?

Matthew Rothschild of the Progressive argues that the legal headaches over the individual mandate illustrate why it would have been legally and procedurally easier to achieve universal health care by simply expanding Medicare to cover everyone.

At Truthout, Thom Hartmann argues universal health insurance in the form of "Medicare Part E" would spur economic growth and innovation because entrepreneurs could start businesses without worrying about how to provide health insurance for their employees.

Meanwhile, Brie Cadman reports at Change.Org, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is trying to defund health care reform by cutting funds for preventive health care. Coburn is urging his fellow Republicans to vote against a House-passed measure that would allocate $750 million for the 2011 Prevention and Public Health Fund. Cadman notes the irony of a medical doctor like Coburn, who also claims to be a fiscal conservative,  trying to scuttle funds to control preventable diseases which would otherwise cost society billions of dollars a year.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive   reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium.  It  is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for  a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best   progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care  and  immigration issues, check out The Audit,  The Mulch,   and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of  leading independent media outlets.

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Obama's mythical great Social Security compromise, by the numbers (Medicare, too!)

by: Paul Rosenberg

Thu Dec 09, 2010 at 19:30

Obama babbled, Reagan-like at his Dec. 6 press conferece:

Most Americans, they're just trying to figure out how to go about their lives and how can we make sure that our elected officials are looking out for us. And that means because it's a big, diverse country and people have a lot of complicated positions, it means that in order to get stuff done, we're going to compromise. This is why FDR, when he started Social Security, it only affected widows and orphans. You did not qualify. And yet now it is something that really helps a lot of people. When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew.

Under the criteria that you just set out, each of those were betrayals of some abstract ideal.

Fact: (Dan Froomkin):

The Social Security Act, as first signed into law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935, paid retirement benefits to the primary worker -- and not to their widows and orphans.

1935 SS Act Old Age Provisions here.

1935 SS Act Death Benefits here.

"History (Social Security Numbers / Social Security Number Chronology):"

1936-1937 | Approximately 30 million applications for SSNs were processed between November 1936 and June 30, 1937.

Geez!  Obama sounds just like Hannity or Beck!  And what about the notion that this was some sort of hard-fought compromise?  Well, of course blacks were almost entirely excluded, due to how racist the country was.  But within those restrictions, the Democrats had a landslide majority, and even the small slice of Republicans in Congress didn't put up much of a fight. From Social Security Online (History):

And the legislative backstory is similarly placid:

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Weekly Audit: A Progressive Deficit Fix?

by: The Media Consortium

Tue Nov 30, 2010 at 11:37

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The co-chairs of the 18-member deficit commission issued a preliminary presentation two weeks ago that favored tax breaks for the wealthy and left open the possibility of deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other social programs. But there's still time for the commission to radically reshape its message before it issues its final report.

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The Coming War on Health Reform, Government Cheese, and how CPCs Incubate Anti-Choice Violence

by: The Media Consortium

Wed Nov 10, 2010 at 11:35

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Republicans don't have the votes to repeal health care reform, but they are determined to use their newly-won control of the House to fight it every step of the way. Marilyn Werber Serafini gives Truthout readers a sneak-peek at the GOP playbook to attack healthcare reform in 2011.

Who are some of the top contenders in this coming battle? Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) is a leading candidate to chair of the House  Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton is vowing, if elected chairman, to use the oversight powers of the committee to hold a flurry of hearings on alleged misconduct in the crafting of the Affordable Care Act. Barton plans to show that budget experts "covered  up" the true projected costs of health care reform. In Barton's world, the fact that there's no evidence to support this allegation is all the more reason to investigate.

Other key players include James Gelfand, the  director of health policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has already  compiled a wishlist of 31 investigations that he wants the newly  Republican-controlled House to undertake. The Chamber spent millions to elect Republicans this cycle. Barton's hearings will have to compete for political oxygen with those of Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), the chair apparent of the Investigations Committee, who is promising to gum up the works of government with at least to seven hearings a week for 40 weeks, a projected rate nearly triple that of his predecessor Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca).

Health care freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose

If they can't undo health reform in the corridors of Washington, conservatives are looking to the states and the federal courts. In The Nation, Nicholas Kusnetz reports on how a coalition of hard right groups are organizing against health care reform at the state level.

A group known as the American Legislative Exchange  Council (ALEC) is at the forefront of the drive to pass so-called "health care freedom acts" in the states to preemptively outlaw federal health reform before it can be implemented.  ALEC claims to have filed or pre-filed bills in 38 states and passed 6 so far. Few expect these laws to stand up in court, if challenged, but they are part of ALEC's long term strategy to fight health reform itself in the federal courts. A Virginia judge recently ruled that an ALEC-sponsored "freedom" law gave the state standing to challenge federal reform.

Kusnetz shows the close ties between ALEC officials and Americans for  Prosperity, the Cato Institute, and other Koch-Industries-funded  conservative activist groups that are campaigning against health care  reform in various capacities.

What about Medicare?

At the Washington Monthly,  Steve Benen notes that many Republicans, including Senator-Elect Rand  Paul (R-KY) successfully campaigned on a platform of repealing health  care reform to save Medicare.  Benen explains that repealing the Affordable Care Act would actually  put Medicare in worse financial straights than staying the course. The Republican rhetoric of defending Medicare and railing against socialized medicine is a flagrant self-contradiction. It's not hard to see which of these two projects they are more committed to.

As Brie Cadman points out at Change.org, the self-proclaimed "Young Guns" of the Republican Party are keen to privatize Medicare all together.

Government cheese: Corporate welfare edition

The USDA is scheming to make you eat more cheese. Tom Philpott of Grist explains how it works. Big Dairy produces more milk than Americans care to drink. Plus, consumers are increasingly demanding reduced-fat milk. That leaves a lot of milk left over to make cheese, but Americans aren't eating enough cheese to make a dent in the national milk fat surplus.

Unsold milk fat could become a toxic asset on the books of Big Dairy. So, the USDA created a non-profit corporation called Dairy Management (DM) to convince fast food companies to spike their products with millions of tons more cheese every year. With the help of DM, Domino's Pizza created a line of "Legend" pizzas with 40% more cheese. Who can forget the epic 2002 "Summer of Cheese" when DM teamed up with Pizza Hut to boost cheese consumption by an astonishing 102 million pounds? The average American now eats 33 pounds of cheese per year, three times as much as in 1970.

Officially, the USDA is supposed to help Americans eat better and support the agriculture industry. Cheese can be part of a healthy diet, but not in ever-increasing quantities. In practice, supporting the profits of Big Agra should not take precedence over preventing obesity or reducing the incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

CPCs: Incubators for anti-choice violence

In Ms. Magazine, Kathryn Joyce explores the shadowy world of "crisis pregnancy centers," anti-choice ministries that pose as full-service reproductive health clinics, but offer no real health services. CPCs have a business model built on deceit. They seek to prevent abortions by tricking women seeking comprehensive reproductive health care, which might include abortion.

Activism rooted in such deceit and contempt for women's autonomy can flare into violence. Joyce reveals that CPCs also serve as incubators for radical anti-choice activism. Radical groups like Operation Rescue encourage their supporters to volunteer. Scott Roeder, the assassin of Dr. George Tiller, got his start accosting women on the street outside abortion clinics as a volunteer "sidewalk counselor" for a crisis pregnancy center.

Just the presence of a CPC near an abortion clinic is correlated with increased violence against the clinic, as Joyce reports:

A recent survey by the Feminist Majority  Foundation of women's reproductive-health clinics nationwide found 32.7  percent of clinics located near a CPC experienced one or more incidents  of severe violence, compared to only 11.3 percent of clinics not near a  CPC. (Severe violence includes clinic blockades and invasions, bombings,  arson,  bombing and arson threats, death threats, chemical attacks,  stalking, physical violence and gunfire.)

Doctors on the front line see the overlap between CPCs and more virulent forms of anti-choice activism every day. "[CPCs and violent anti-choice activists] have two different spheres," OB-GYN Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the nation's last remaining specialists in late-term abortions, told Joyce. "The underlying theory  of both is never let the truth stand in the way of getting your point  across. If you distort facts to women, there is no difference."

Flip Benham's slap on the wrist

One of the activists Joyce interviews in her piece is Rev. "Flip" Benham, director of Operation Save America/Operation Rescue. Robin Marty of RH Reality Check reports that Benham was found guilty of stalking an abortion provider and posting "Wanted" posters with the doctor's picture on them, accusing him of being a baby killer. Benham was sentenced to 24 months probation.

In his defense, Benham claimed that this was a harmless gesture that never killed anyone. In fact, "wanted" posters for abortion doctors are a time-honored intimidation tactic that has been used repeatedly before the murders of abortion providers. Benham is deliberately cultivating a climate of fear and rage is conducive to violence.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive   reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium.  It  is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for  a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best   progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care  and  immigration issues, check out The Audit,  The Mulch,   and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of  leading independent media outlets.

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4 Tea Party leaders tell Lawrence O'Donnell: Social Security, Medicare AREN'T Socialism

by: Paul Rosenberg

Mon Nov 01, 2010 at 09:00

[What's This Election About, Anyway. Special Last Minute Edition.]

In a special Sunday edition of The Last Word Lawrence O'Donnell had leading members of four Tea Party-related organizations on his show, and in the course of trying to get to the bottom of what they are all about (a little late for that, one might think, but then, Sharon Angle is keeping her foreign policy under wraps until she's elected, after that... watch out Klingon Empire! But I digress....) he tried to get them to explain what they regarded as socialism that they wanted to get rid of in the federal budget.  What about Medicare and Social Security?  Are they socialism?  He asked.  They said, "No," he said "Yes":

Eventually, some of them were able to name some things they'd cut, but the connection to "socialism" wasn't particularly clear.  The old "waste, fraud and abuse" mantra was heard.  And dismantling the Department of Education.  But the more they talked, the harder it was to find a correlation between "socialism" (whatever that is) and what they wanted to cut.  Unless, of course, you just decide that "socialism" means "anything I want to cut, and am not afraid to say so on national TV."

Oh, by the way, what we so often hear regarding the Department of Education is that it's interfering with local decisionmaking. But we've got far and away the most decentralized education system in the world. (And funny how that never becomes the focus of attention amidst all the hysteria about how we're falling bhind Outer Mongolia!)  So, since O'Donnell's quest for socialism turned out to be such a bust, why not take a little peak into the Department of Education, since it ended up getting the most prominent mention in the rest of the segment. Here's Wikipedia:

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An Impending and Inevitable Train Wreck

by: Steven J. Gulitti

Sun Oct 31, 2010 at 20:44

In the event of a Republican takeover of one or both houses of Congress on November 2nd, it won't be long before the Tea Party Movement and the G.O.P. will be involved in one or more train wrecks, some of which could be pretty dramatic. These train wrecks will arise from fundamental differences in philosophy and will occur over a period of time that could begin sooner rather than later. Upending Republican establishmentarians during primaries was relatively easy; winning general elections where competitive ideas are at issue could be a bit harder. Governing will be much harder still, particularly when you take into account the differences between Tea Party rhetoric and American political reality.

The first obstacle newly elected members of the movement will face is the institutional nature of Congress. Tea Party freshmen in both the House and Senate will be at the bottom of Congressional seniority lists and thus not immediately in line for leadership roles as committee chairpersons. Thus they will be in the position of having to sell their policy proposals to the existing leadership. That leadership may be more amenable to the ideas of the newcomers given the fact that several veteran Republican lawmakers are no longer around thanks to the Tea Party. Conversely the G.O.P. leaders may let Congress work the way it always has thereby attenuating the influence of the Tea Party. In the Senate in particular the likely Republican winners are veteran politicians who will come to the office with considerable experience. According to political observer David Herszenhorn: "Insurgent challengers may be grabbing all the headlines in midterm elections this year, but most of the Republicans who are best positioned to snap up Senate seats currently held by Democrats are veteran politicians - and most of them have already served in Congress.  Based on their experience, the 2010 class of Senate Republican freshman could well prove to be relatively pragmatic and wise to the ways of legislative deal making - almost certainly more so than the Tea Party-backed firebrands like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky, who have built their campaigns around ideological demands and an end to business as usual." In all of the discussions surrounding this election, few have pointed out the difference between those candidates who come out of, or are closely aligned with the Tea Party Movement and those who have received the movement's support solely because of their Republican affiliation. This second group will not necessarily move in lock step with the hard-core ideologues of the Tea Party seeing as they are not beholden to the movement in any meaningful way. Therein lay the seeds of intra-party conflict and controversy.

The next challenge facing newly elected members of the Tea Party Movement will be the reconciliation of their penchant for spending cuts and ending earmarks versus what can be achieved in the realm of the possible. These desires will butt up against the fact that cutting government spending during a severe economic downturn could only make things worse and many Republicans favor an ending of the G.O.P.'s moratorium on the use of earmarks. There's a reason that the G.O.P's leadership has been mum on the political talk show circuit when it comes to detailing the particulars of spending cuts and the reason is that they don't have a viable plan. Even as late in the game as this morning, Haley Barbour, appearing on "Meet the Press" was unable or unwilling to fill in the blanks when asked how a Republican controlled Congress will reduce the size of government. Tom Brokaw, appearing on this same show pointed out that many Republican candidates have made rash promises on the campaign trail that can't be kept or will be nearly impossible to keep given the current political situation. Again we see the future of conflict as already being baked into the cake, so to speak.

I read "A Pledge to America" and it is full of general statements regarding spending cuts, but for the scope of its discussion, it lays out few policy specifics. The "Pledge" is equal parts indictment, rallying cry and Act of Contrition, but what it isn't is a blueprint for reducing government. I can't help but wonder why the G.O.P. trotted out the "Pledge" when they have Congressman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) "A Roadmap For America's Future" which is a well reasoned analysis full of specific proposed cuts. Again to Herszenhorn: "while polls show that the Republicans' message is succeeding politically, Republican candidates and party leaders are offering few specifics about how they would tackle the nation's $13.7 trillion debt, and budget analysts said the party was glossing over the difficulty of carrying out its ideas, especially when sharp spending cuts could impede an already weak economic recovery...(both) parties share blame for the current fiscal situation, but federal budget statistics show that Republican policies over the last decade, and the cost of the two wars, added far more to the deficit than initiatives approved by the Democratic Congress since 2006...Calculations by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other independent fiscal experts show that the $1.1 trillion cost over the next 10 years of the Medicare prescription drug program, which the Republican-controlled Congress adopted in 2003, by itself would add more to the deficit than the combined costs of the bailout, the stimulus and the health care law." Moreover, most Republicans are calling for the permanent extension of all Bush-era tax cuts and that would add $700 billion more to the deficit over the next 10 years.

The "Pledge" has come in for scathing criticism on the right as well as the left. Janet Hook and Naftali Bendavid of the Wall Street Journal made the following observations: "The new policy manifesto released by House Republicans Thursday is laced with ideas and rhetoric designed to appeal to the surging tea-party movement. But it left some conservatives disappointed with its omissions and complaining that the plan had limited sweep... Yet the new agenda was silent on some of the most sought-after goals on the tea-party wish list, such as a balanced budget constitutional amendment and a ban on special-interest appropriations called earmarks." Many conservatives look to what is now happening in the United Kingdom as a model of inspiration for cut backs here. But that program involves a significant reduction in defense spending; something that would have to be included here as well as those outlays constitutes 58% of discretionary federal spending. With a large portion of federal spending being committed to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and paying off interest on Treasury Bonds, the amount of money subject to discretionary spending reduction is only one third of all outlays. There is a growing minority within the G.O.P. on Capitol Hill who are making the case that the projected debt is too big to handle through spending cuts alone. According to Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): "Everything has got to be on the table for discussion... "there are a lot of things people are going to have to be educated about, on the spending side as well as the revenue side. They're thinking we can come in and eliminate earmarks and everybody's going to be happy on the spending side. Gee, that just scratches the surface." Is Senator Chambliss tacitly acknowledging that tax cuts will have to expire or even that tax increases may be needed to deal with the deficit? The "Pledge" is notoriously silent on the subject of earmarks and seeing as they are a major source of spending, this is sure to give rise to a rift within the new Republican caucus on Capitol Hill. It doesn't take a soothsayer or a professional handicapper to see that the G.O.P. and the Tea Party Movement are on a collision course with regard to spending and the practical ability to reign in that spending given the current economic situation and the present composition of federal government outlays. Thus there is little reason to believe that the Republican rhetoric of the campaign trail will carryover to policies that actually achieve what that rhetoric has promised. Therein lies the root of yet another G.O.P. - Tea Party collision.

Newly elected Tea Party Movement lawmakers may find themselves running into some strong headwinds in the form of those special interests that have invested heavily in this election on behalf of conservative causes. While it is now likely that in the final analysis Democrats may end up spending more money than their opposition, there is an unprecedented amount of money flowing to the Republican side from outside sources as a result of the Citizens United ruling. According to OpenSecrets.org the 2010 midterms have seen a whooping 186.7 million dollars flowing into Republican coffers vice 88.6 million for the Democrats. Likewise an article on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business donations shows the tide running against the Democrats among these groups at a rate of almost two to one. Ostensibly one would say what difference does it make where all this money is coming from if the Democrats are actually spending more? But within the confines of this argument, what matters is that this tidal wave of money spent by outside interests is being spent for a reason, to influence the election's outcome and thereafter to buy influence with the winners. Washington lobbyists are already courting the potential new Congressional chairmen and in the process could effectively be
outmaneuvering the Tea Party activists in the game of power and influence. Thus the many questions that beg to be asked: Won't all of this money muscle out the grassroots crowd and how will the Tea Party activists compete for attention with the lobbyists who are already prowling the halls of Congress and the bars and restaurants of downtown Washington? Is the movement about to get mugged on K Street? Are the rank and file Tea Party patriots in the process of "taking their country back" just to have it taken away in turn by the wealthy interests who have spent all of this money to influence the outcome of the 2010 elections? Surely this money was not spent because it was burning a hole in someone's pocket. Does anyone believe that these special interests were in the mood to do the activists a favor on November 2nd? Will the rank and file Tea Partier unwittingly deliver "his country" as a gift to a new class of plutocrats that will have no use for him except for his vote during the next election cycle and his attendance at rallies? Don't look now but we may be about to witness the greatest political hustle since the evangelicals came out in force for George W. Bush only to get nothing of substance in the bargain.

Finally, the Tea Party Movement will continue to run up against the fact that many of its essential beliefs are divorced from reality and therein lay the seeds of train wrecks to come. First and foremost is one of its core ideas, that Americans are over taxed. The fact is that taxes are as low as they have been in sixty years; lower than they were when Ronald Reagan was President. As Senator Chambliss implied above, increased taxes may be inevitable if people are serious about reducing the deficit. The Tea Party waxes nostalgic for the Reagan era, yet unemployment was higher when the "Gipper" went into his first midterm election than it is now and his approval rating was roughly the same as Obama's. The movement preaches fiscal restraint while refusing to consider reductions in defense spending where wasteful spending is well documented and widespread. This will lead to calls for a reduction in social programs during the worst economic downturn since the 1930s and that will only create resistance on the left and reluctance on the part of practical Republican officeholders on the right. The Tea Partiers clamor, "keep your hands off my Medicare" but underplay how to reign in the program's cost increases. They rail against TARP, blaming Obama for its inception all the while ignoring the fact that many of the very Republicans running for re-election are the ones who originally put the bailout in place. How will they address the fact that TARP's costs will be less than originally anticipated? Even conservative observer Ross Douthat admits that for all its shortcomings TARP was a necessary evil at the time of its inception. On the issue of repealing health care reform there is now no clear consensus to do so, according to the latest CBS poll, yet repeal is a major Tea Party goal.

The continued Tea Party fixation with Obama as a Socialist, Fascist or both at the same time reveals a lack of understanding of what actually comprises these two somewhat similar yet fundamentally different schools of political thought. If it's not that, then what else could it be other than a deliberate attempt to misinform the public for partisan ends. It goes without saying that this is something that can only contribute to further gridlock. This fact stands in direct contrast to what the public wants. The latest polling by both Bloomberg and the New York Times / CBS News reveals an electorate that wants compromise not confrontation. Yet with the arrival of Tea Party backed lawmakers the stage is now set for a political environment more favorable to confrontation than to compromise. Attempts to fix the blame on President Obama for the current economic situation are likely to fail as well as "nearly 60 percent of Americans were optimistic about Mr. Obama's next two years in office and nearly 70 percent said the economic slump is temporary. Half said the economy was where they expected it would be at this point, and less than 10 percent blamed the current administration for the state of the economy, leaving the onus on former President George W. Bush and Wall Street." In the final analysis, the 2010 election is shaping up to be something of an anomaly. On the one hand you have widespread voter dissatisfaction with the status quo while at the same time the party likely to gain seats has a favorability rating below the party that will be turned out of office. Thus for the Republicans this victory will be a political windfall rather than an endorsement of the party and its platform. The G.O.P. will find itself in an inopportune marriage of convenience with the Tea Party Movement which in the long haul may turn out to the G.O.P.'s detriment as the public grows weary of the gridlock and political train wrecks that are sure to come. Rather than being on the cusp of a Republican revival or a "return to our core values" we are more likely on the verge of an environment of political chaos which is just what we don't need at this point in time and that chaos may well come back to haunt the Republican Party and hobble its chances in the 2012 election and beyond. Ladies and Gentlemen, fasten your seat belts.

Steven J. Gulitti
10/31/10

Sources:

The New Face of the G.O.P.? Grizzled Veterans, by David Herszenhorn; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10...

Deficit Divisions Likely to Grow After Election by Jackie Clames; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10...

Earmarks Cause GOP Rift  By NEIL KING JR. ; http://online.wsj.com/article_...

A Pledge to America;  http://pledge.gop.gov/

Republican Plan Fails to Persuade Some Activists,  By JANET HOOK And NAFTALI BENDAVID; http://online.wsj.com/article_...

As G.O.P. Seeks Spending Cuts, Details Are Scarce by David Herszenhorn; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10...

OpenSecrets.org The Center for Responsive Politics; http://www.opensecrets.org/out...

Top Corporations Aid U.S. Chamber of Commerce Campaign http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10...

Federal Discretionary and Mandatory Spending; http://nationalpriorities.org/...

Lobbyists Court Potential Stars of House Panels;   http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10...

United Press International: U.S. tax burden at lowest point in years; http://www.upi.com/Business_Ne...

TARP Bailout to Cost Less Than Once Anticipated, by Jackie Calmes; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10...

The Great Bailout Backlash, by Ross Douthat; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10...

The Hill: Polls: Americans want compromise from Obama, GOP, by Michael O' Brien; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-...

NYT / CBS News Poll: Three in Four Want Political Compromise; http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-50...

Marist Poll: 10/8: Obama Approval Rating at 43%, but Majority of Voters Confident in Obama's Approach; http://maristpoll.marist.edu/1...

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Obama's "mandate" to slash Medicare, Medicaid & Social Security

by: OpenLeft

Fri Jul 23, 2010 at 10:30

During Netroots Nation, we are running Golden Oldies plus a few surprises.  Regularly Scheduled programming will resume on July 26.

A Paul Rosenberg Golden Oldie
From Sat Jan 17, 2009.  Original here.


Did you know that Obama has a mandate to slash Medicare and Medicaid?  Probably not, I'd wager.  But it seems that Obama believes he has such a mandate, according to an item at the Washington Posts' website ( h/t Digby ), that reads, in part:

Obama To Hold Fiscal Responsibility Summit

President-elect Barack Obama will convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" in February designed to bring together a variety of voices on solving the long term problems with the economy and with a special focus on entitlements, he said during an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors this afternoon.

"We need to send a signal that we are serious," said Obama of the summit.

Those invited to attend will include Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), ranking minority member Judd Gregg (N.H.), the conservative Democratic Blue Dog coalition and a host of outside groups with ideas on the matter, said the president-elect....

Obama said that he has made clear to his advisers that some of the difficult choices--particularly in regards to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare - should be made on his watch. "We've kicked this can down the road and now we are at the end of the road," he said.

This is not just something he didn't run on.  It is, in fact, the exact opposite of what he ran on-or at least appeared to, as can be seen from economist Dean Baker's op-ed in The Guardian, a few days earlier, in which he wrote:

Although Social Security is paid for long into the future, Medicare does face problems due to the explosion of private sector health care costs. The way to address Medicare's shortfall is to fix the private health care system, as President Obama has pledged to do.

The truth of Baker's statement is readily apparent from the following chart, which I presented in my diary from last April, "Medicare Myths--Don't Blame The Boomers".  Our medical costs are far higher than other countries with a significantly larger share of older citizens:

Not only is Obama's "fiscal responsibility" kick at odds with his actual mandate and his own health care proposals, it reflects a deeply ideological worldview that--far from being bipartisan or "post-partisan"--is strongly opposed by solid majorities across the political spectrum.  It is the very essence of Versailles insiderism.

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Medicare and Social Security cuts inch closer

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Jul 01, 2010 at 21:01

In a surprising, and ominous, move, tonight the House of Representatives, by a 215-210 vote, passed a rule guaranteeing a vote on the deficit commission recommendations in December, if--and this is a big if--those recommendations pass the Senate:

FDL has learned that in a last minute move, Nancy Pelosi sneaked language into the rule that the House is voting on tonight regarding war funding.

Embedded in the rule is the requirement that the House will vote on the deficit commission's recommendations in the lame duck session if they pass the Senate.

Now, its pretty bloody unlikely that you will round-up unanimous consent on any deficit commission vote in the Senate, so you would need a cloture vote to pass it (Senate rules will not be changed before January).  In order for there even to be a cloture vote, you would need consent from the Senate leadership, and 60 Senators in favor.  That is all unlikely for multiple reasons, including inevitable absentee Senators during any lame duck session, getting any Republicans to vote for a recommendation that raises any taxes at all, progressive objections to benefit cuts, and more.

It is, however, not impossible.  Elites all have deficit fever, and it is attacking the intestinal linings of this country.  Further, the weeks immediately following what will be a relatively successful election for Republicans (even if they don't take back either branch of Congress, they will pick up a significant number of seats) are bound to be a perfect moment for Democrats to act scared, and cave.  Finally, President Obama has often used the language of crisis to discuss Social Security, and bends over backward to appear bipartisan and reasonable, so he may well support the recommendations.  Given Obama's proven ability to persuade the base, his support would result in significant backing of the commission's recommendations from both activist and rank and file Democrats.

With little time to organize opposition to the recommendations once they are announced, the end result of this could be a perfect storm where there are 60 Senators  in favor of those recommendations.  It isn't likely, but it is possible, and given the damage it would do it is something that requires immediate organizing attention.

On a related note, here is a good video from Rep. Grijalva and Grayson on deficit hypocrisy:

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Weekly Pulse: What Would Jesus Insure?

by: The Media Consortium

Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 11:43

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Christian groups are trying to create a run around health care reform by setting up alternative, unregulated religious health care bill collectives-and movement conservatives are cheering them on.

Religious right-watcher Sarah Posner reports on so-called Christian health care-sharing ministries in the American Prospect. Health-sharing ministries (HCSM) bill themselves as godly alternatives to health insurance. HCSM are groups of Christians who promise to cover each other's heath care costs. About a hundred thousand people nationwide belong to these collectives. The Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries and its army of lobbyists convinced Senate lawmakers to exempt HCSMs from health care reform's individual mandate.

Obliterating patient privacy

According to Posner, anti-reform conservatives are talking up these groups because they see them as a way to undermine the individual mandate. But if you think HCSM are a convenient loophole to avoid paying for insurance, think again. Posner describes the criteria for joining Samaritan Ministries International (SMI), one of the largest HCSM:

"To join the HCSM, applicants must agree to a statement of faith that they are a 'professing Christian, according to biblical principles' set out in Romans 10:9-10 and John 3:3. They must agree to adhere to guidelines that include no sex outside of "traditional Biblical marriage," no smoking or drugs, and mandatory church attendance.

SMI members pay their own health care costs out of pocket and seek reimbursement from the group. What about privacy? In order to get reimbursed, they have to publish their health care "needs" in a monthly newsletter and hope someone sends cash. Lifetime benefits are capped at $100,000. Members waive their right to sue for any reason. SMI won't cover treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, addictions, or the pregnancies of single mothers.

It doesn't take a genius to see that this free-for-all won't end well. You can't just start a quasi-health insurance scheme in your garden shed and expect it to work out. Real insurance companies are subject to oversight to make sure that they have enough money on hand to cover their claims. Who knows what HSCM are doing with people's money? These outfits have all the disadvantages of private insurers and none of the benefits. Members are a single major illness away from bankruptcy.

Bartering for health care?

Speaking of wacky alternatives to health insurance, Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) main Republican challenger, Sue Lowden, insists that patients can pay for their health care via a barter system, as Rachel Slajda reports for TPMDC. Great! How many chickens for an appendectomy?

Medicare expansion doesn't equal bankruptcy

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum debunks the latest right-wing myth about health care reform, that Medicare expansion will bankrupt the states. States pay part of the cost of Medicare, so it's true that any expansion of the program will cost the states some money. However, the talking point is that the expansion will push state budgets to the breaking point. That's false.

Drum explains that the health care reform bill exempts states from the extra cost until 2016. Even after that, the costs to the states will be minimal:

"[Health care reform] won't cost states an extra dime through 2016, by which time our recession will presumably be over, and even after that states will only pay for a tiny fraction of the increased costs. As CBPP points out, states will pay about 4% of the total costs of Medicaid expansion over the next ten years. This represents an increase in overall state Medicaid spending of slightly over 1%."

Abortion and 'convenience'

Jessica Valenti of Feministing has been taking on manipulative, anti-choice ads in the New York City subway. These ads are sponsored by an anti-abortion group. They feature various distraught-looking models staring wistfully into space. The tagline is "Abortion Changes You." The message is that if you have an abortion, you will be a guilt-racked wreck for the rest of your life. Some feminist with a wry sense of humor and a little glue pasted in another sentence on the ad (pictured above): "Now I can go to college and fulfill my dreams."

Anti-choice blogger Lori Ziganto was scandalized by the anonymous culture jammer's message. She sneered at the idea that women's lives and hopes actually matter: "Want to go to college, but there is a pesky baby growing inside of you? Abort! A life is far less important than your co-ed fun and career plans, right?"

Valenti's response: "It isn't that anti-choicers don't understand why women get abortions - it's that they care so little about women's lives that any reason given to obtain an abortion is seen as "convenient." Some things that are convenient: Providing for your existing children. Going to college. Having enough money to eat, pay rent, keep the electricity on. Not dying."

HSCMs and the subway ads are part of an enormous rift in contemporary politics: Opponents of health care reform say that they're defending freedom, but in reality, they're advocating control.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive  reporting about health care by members  of The Media Consortium. It  is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse  for  a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best  progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and  immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch,  and The  Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of  leading independent media outlets.

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