Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lots of Violence

Republicans and well-funded special interest groups are sending far-right extremists to local town halls to stop any meaningful discussion of Health Insurance Reform. Some of these mob scenes have turned especially ugly -- including the hanging of Members of Congress in effigy and use of Nazi SS symbols.

Read more about the subject here:

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, has compared the scenes at health care town halls to the “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000 — the demonstration that disrupted the vote count in Miami and arguably helped send George W. Bush to the White House. Portrayed at the time as local protesters, many of the rioters were actually G.O.P. staffers flown in from Washington.

But Mr. Gibbs is probably only half right. Yes, well-heeled interest groups are helping to organize the town hall mobs. Key organizers include two Astroturf (fake grass-roots) organizations: FreedomWorks, run by the former House majority leader Dick Armey, and a new organization called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights.

The latter group, by the way, is run by Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain. Mr. Scott was forced out of that job amid a fraud investigation; the company eventually pleaded guilty to charges of overbilling state and federal health plans, paying $1.7 billion — yes, that’s “billion” — in fines. You can’t make this stuff up.

But while the organizers are as crass as they come, I haven’t seen any evidence that the people disrupting those town halls are Florida-style rent-a-mobs. For the most part, the protesters appear to be genuinely angry. The question is, what are they angry about?

There was a telling incident at a town hall held by Representative Gene Green, D-Tex. An activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they “oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.” Nearly all did. Then Representative Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.

Now, people who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Budget and Health Care Numbers

Much of the discussion on Health Care reform is on its effect on the deficit. Obama claims there is none - short term or long term. The Congressional Budget office disagrees, saying they think it will add something like $23B/year of the next 10 years. Even if we assume the CBO is correct, this represents a very small amount of the budget deficit over that time, especially compared with GWB's policies. Here is a graphic representation of the policies contributing to the deficit, according to CBO numbers:

It's actually pretty easy to separate causes of the budget deficit seeing as, when GWB took over, there was a surplus. So everything contributing to the budget since then is either GWB's fault based on his policies over the past 8 years, or Obama's fault, for his policies over the past 6 months - or both (ie. Obama continuing GWB's policies.

Here's an article breaking down the graph:

...The first is that President Obama’s agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying....

The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.

You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.

The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing. It’s a reflection of the fact that both the 2001 recession and the current one reduced tax revenue, required more spending on safety-net programs and changed economists’ assumptions about how much in taxes the government would collect in future years.

About 33 percent of the swing stems from new legislation signed by Mr. Bush. That legislation, like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.

Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Obama's Healthcare Plan

Overview: Obama’s Health Care Plan:

Plan will be available to the self-employed, employees of small businesses and people that are not eligible for other health insurance, including Medicare or Medicaid

Plan will offer benefits similar to those available to members of Congress

Plan will have guaranteed eligibility and will not be able to exclude any one due to sickness or previous medical conditions

Plan will have affordable premiums, co-payments and deductibles. Subsidies will be available for people that cannot afford premiums but do not qualify for other subsidized health plans, such as Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP

Plan will provide portability, allowing people to retain coverage, even when changing jobs or losing their job.

Employers not offering coverage to their employees or not providing a meaningful contribution to health care costs of their employees will be required to pay a fee (based on a percentage of payroll) to the National Health Care Plan. Small businesses will be exempt from this fee.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why the rich get richer

Recently on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich about the power of Washington lobbyists and his vision for reforms to make America more prosperous and equitable.
Reich lamented that the middle class has not shared the benefits of our nation’s economic expansion over the past few decades:

“The fact of the matter is that, as late as 1980, the top 1 percent by income in the United States had about nine percent of total national income. But since then, you’ve had increasing concentration of income and wealth to the point that by 2007 the top 1 percent was taking home 21 percent of total national income. Now, when they’re taking home that much, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy growing. That was hidden by the fact that they were borrowing so much on their homes, they kept on consuming because of their borrowing. But once that housing bubble exploded, it exposed the fact that the middle class in this country has really not participated in the growth of the economy, and over the long term we’re not gonna have a recovery until the middle class has the purchasing power it needs to buy again.”

How I agree! That's one good thing I recall about the 50's. We may not have had a lot but we could afford about anything we needed without "charging" it. There were no credit cards and that was a good thing. People had to save for the things they wanted.

Our purchasing power is gone. I wanted to get Bob the shot for shingles I had in the early 80's for $25. and now it is $175. Go figure! The medicine he uses for his keratosis was $28 the last tube I bought twenty years ago. It's now $190.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Busy Monday

I cleaned house today and done three loads of laundry. Then we went to Independence and I took Juanita's peaches to her. We stopped by the dry cleaners and left Bob's pants to be altered. He has lost so much weight. He weighs 146 last time I saw him weigh a week or so ago.

I should be so lucky.

After that, we went by Wal Mart and I bought some Iams dog food for Slinky. He has decided he does not like Purina Dog Chow. I will give it to my neighbor.

I warmed up our Parmesan Chicken for dinner. that's the last of it. We had some bean salad and some of Leslie's tomatoes too. Then my cherry pie cake and some "no sugar added" ice cream.

I tried most of the afternoon to get my wireless printing to work from my laptop but I'm doing something wrong and it just doesn't work now.

Tonight we will watch some worthless TV. I swear, there's absolutely nothing to watch except PBS.

It's 100 degrees today and we have had to let Slinky in the house. He wants to be out so badly but cannot handle the heat. He foes out for short trips out but then comes back to the door and barks once just to let me know he's hot and needs to get back inside.

The driveway entrance at church will be poured August 17th so we have some time to get some gravel brought in and spread. Hopefully that will stop the washing of ruts in our drive.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Usual Busy Sunday

Same old...same old. Feed the dog and cat and water the plants.

We went to church a little early this morning. I needed to run off the bulletins. Bob presided and I spoke. We had a small congregation today. Several were sick and some worked. The sermon was the one I posted.

I spent the afternoon doing my letters for those who did not make it.

This evening we have Living the Questions at the Wanser's home. It was supposed to be at Karan's but she was sick today.

It's not until 7:00 so I have some time.

We decided at church today to go ahead and have the apron on our church drive cemented so it would not constantly wash out when it rains.

When it is finished, I'll post a photo of it.