Category Archives: US Congress

Hypocrite Joe ‘You Lie’ Wilson honored to serve Wendy’s customers

Joe Wilson is best known for yelling ‘you lie’ at President Obama during an address to Congress last year and became a hero to Rush Limbaugh and the Teabagger crowd.

On Wednesday, he Tweeted on his @CongJoeWilson Twitter account

I was so honored to serve customers at Wendys in Irmo!

It linked to a blog post on his campaign website complete with a photo op.  Here’s the posting:

How’d you like to have a Congressman serving you up lunch?  For some folks at Wendy’s in Irmo, Joe Wilson was the guy manning the drive-thru window, as part of his Joe Means Jobs tour.

The event that attracted all the TV cameras was Congressman Wilson donning an apron serving up some lunch.

Unknowing customers got quite the treat when they pulled up to have Joe serve up their burgers and fries at the drive-up window.  The Irmo Wendy’s employs around 11 to 13 workers per shift.  Being up close during the busy lunch hour gave Joe a firsthand idea of how hard South Carolinians are working.

In case you’re curious, Joe says his favorite item at Wendy’s is the Chili.

{Note:  At the time of this posting, this posting was removed from Wilson’s campaign website however the Tweet was still up on his Twitter account.}

Joe Wilson serving up food for a photo op

Even his campaign’s jobs posting admits to the photo op – ‘the event that attracted all the TV cameras …’.

Unknowing customers received quite the treat when they saw Joe serving them their food.  Seriously, how many Americans would recognize their United States Congressman or Senator on the street?  Unless of course, they saw the TV camera and ‘Joe Means Jobs’ on his apron.

Lastly, this Joe Means Jobs is all well and good but get real – if the jobs are at Wendy’s, then we’re in some serious trouble.  When I was a child, fast food restaurant jobs were filled by high school dropouts in the morning and high school students during the nights and weekends. 

My first real job was at Burger King and I don’t recall any real adults there except the manager and the assistant manager who left for a brief period to attend BKU (Burger King University) – I’m not making that up.

The articles that hit the papers were titled:

It’s no lie.  Joe Wilson serves up fast food.

It’s cute but I’m kind of put off by the title because it trivializes the level of the disrespect Wilson showed the President.  Republicans were even offended and told Wilson to apologize to POTUS.  That is until Rush Limbaugh hailed Wilson as the conquering hero and the martyr because he was pummeled in the media for his offense.

From the It’s no lie article.

“We have some of the highest taxes in the world,” said Congressman Joe Wilson.  “That makes it very difficult for us to compete with Europe, with Asia.  So we need to reduce taxes.”

A simple Google search indicates that Wilson is referring only to the Corporate tax rate.  Documentation does support that numerous states have higher corporate tax rates than many other countries.

What Wilson is ignoring is that the tax rate on individuals in the United States ranks among the lowest worldwide.

What this tells me is that Wilson’s priority is to the corporations.

He was honored to serve Wendy’s customers and corporate interests.  As far as his Individual constituents – not so much.

Lower the Corporate tax rate – More Individual jobs at Wendy’s.

 

Sources for Tax Rate information:

U.S. States Lead the World in High Corporate Taxes (2008) – TaxFoundation.org

Tax Rates Around the World (Corporate and Individual) – last updated Jan 2010 – Worldwide-Tax.com

Think your taxes are bad?  (no date but I suspect it’s from 2006) – MSN Money Central

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SCOTUS Kills Democracy

Actually, they have reshaped it.

In case you missed it, our fine United States Supreme Court led by Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito,  Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy ruled in a 5-4 vote that corporations cannot be restricted on political contributions in candidate elections.

The majority said that this was a vindication “of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech.”

But since when did corporations become citizens?  Yes, I know that they pay taxes but not the way citizens are required to.  We definitely don’t have the same loopholes.  Nor do they have the same bankruptcy laws.  Nor do I have shareholders that invest in me.

So far the media has been relatively quiet about this.  Surprisingly so considering the magnitude of this decision.

President Obama called it “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

For the first 24 hours following the decision, I was furious.  I came to the conclusion that Americans were no longer part of the election process.  As it was, corporations wielded a mighty big sword by utilizing corporate lobbyists to do their bidding for them in Washington.

Add the money they can now freely contribute and there is no way common Americans can have any quality time with our politicians.

I envisioned our election process being taken over by corporate interests.  Debates, primaries and caucuses get sponsorships.  (McDonalds Super Tuesday)

Whichever candidates best supported the corporate needs would receive hefty campaign contributions and a chance to represent their state or district for the next term. 

And it really isn’t difficult to “drown out the voices of everyday Americans” as President Obama put it.  The corporate lobbyists are always in the politicians faces and politicians are oblivious as to what we are saying outside the Beltway.

Initially, I believed that Republicans would now win every election.  But that isn’t true.  Many Democrats also put corporate interests ahead of American citizens.  So in that regard much wouldn’t change.

What would change are the politicians who nobly put their constituents before the corporate interests.  Their reelections would be in doubt. 

And unless you have the corporate political machine behind you, you can forget any political aspirations you may have.

The point to remember is that we are a Representative Democracy.  We elect people to represent us in the political process.

The added dollars coming from corporations will mean that ‘We the People’ will only be made aware of the candidates engulfed in that machine.

And as a Representative Democracy, the Supreme Court has determined who ‘We the People’ will rely on for determining which candidate we will ultimately vote for. 

But isn’t that the way it seems to be anyway?

Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority:

“When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought.  This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

This will also ensure that Fox News can provide 24 opinion on their ‘news’ station. 

What is bizarre is that this does not explain how restricting corporate campaign contributions would use censorship to control thought.  Campaign finance restrictions didn’t dictate the message, it just attempted to balance the process so ‘We the People’ had our voices heard – not ‘We the Corporations’.

In fact, stronger campaign finance restrictions were necessary in order to give our elections back to the people and really permit our voices to be heard.

Today, pork projects are given to districts so the politician can get support for his reelection.  Watch how the pork projects will go to districts where the corporate dollars are flowing in from. 

I hear Honda needs a new automotive facility in Alabama.

Anyway we spin this, this is bad for democracy.  It’s bad for the country.  And worst of, it will be bad for Americans.  The Supreme Court has failed us. 

United Corporations Supreme Court - Great job, fascArt {h/t BuzzFlash}

Marco Rubio – Shut Congress for 2 years to Fix Economy

Marco Rubio’s preaching to his far right base with his latest comments:

“Well the problem is the people in Washington don’t understand what’s causing [unemployment and the economic recession]. They think that Presidents and Senators are job creators and they’re not. The job creators are people who have access to money, whether it’s their own or borrowed, who use that money to open up a new business or expand an existing one. And they’re not doing that right now because of the tax chaos and all the regulatory chaos and all of this uncertainty created in Washington DC. Perhaps the most stimulative thing they can do right now is take a two year recess or something.”

One thing to note:  Marco Rubio is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida that was vacated by Mel Martinez.  Rubio is a far right-wing conservative Republican who is challenging moderate Republican and current Florida governor Charlie Crist for the Senate seat.  Crist also supported President Obama’s stimulus plan.

Michael Steele previously stated that the government doesn’t create jobs and never did.

Steele and Rubio obviously forgot about all of the government employees who work for the politicians and the politicians themselves.  And he forgot about police, fire and rescue workers.  And teachers.  And postal workers.  And the military. 

How did the U.S. Interstate Highway System get made? 

Maybe we should get away from direct deposit so Rubio could look at his paycheck. 

If it wasn’t for government, lobbyists would not have jobs. 

If government shut down for 2 years, what would Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and scores of others talk about?

If government was shut down for 2 years, how could the Republicans bitch and moan, lie and obstruct all the way into the 2010 and 2012 election cycles?

Now let’s look briefly at what effect the stimulus program had on America.  The one President Obama said would help create jobs and the Republicans said would bankrupt our children and grandchildren.

According to the Obama  administration, the $787 billion stimulus program saved or created “1.5 million to 2 million jobs last year.”

These numbers do coincide with the estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office but get ready for the Republican backlash.

The “regulatory chaos” that Rubio mentioned is the lack of any regulations, of course.  (sarcasm intended).  And let’s not get started on the tax benefits already established for corporations.

What would be nice is that with a government shutdown, I won’t have to hear the crap spewing from the Republicans. 

Sources:

Stimulus:  1.5 million jobs created, saved – Swamp Politics – Chicago Tribune

Stimulus saved or created up to 2 million jobs in 2009, White House says – LA Times

GOP Senate Candidate Marco Rubio Calls For Suspending Congress for Two Years to Fix the Economy – Think Progress

Greed gone wild – Insurance companies go after the Baucus Healthcare ‘Lack of’ Reform Bill

There is something definitely wrong with the Democrats.  They have a huge majority in the House and Senate AND the White House.  Poll after poll show that the people support a public option.

So this headline from the AP should have been baffling.  “Dems scramble after warning from health insurers.

I’ll tell you, it got me to open this article.

WASHINGTON – Insurance companies aren’t playing nice any more. Their dire message that health care legislation will drive up premiums for people who already have coverage comes as a warning shot at a crucial point in the debate, and threatens President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

When did the insurance companies ever play nice?  They do have their facts straight however.  This bill presented by the Senate Finance Committee and Max Baucus will drive up premiums.  This bill was written FOR the insurance companies.  Now they’re pulling this crap?!?

The insurance companies served up a nice slow pitch and this is how the White House, AARP and Max Baucus responded!

“This is a distorted and flawed report from the insurance industry and cannot be taken seriously. This so-called analysis appears on the eve of a vote that may eat into the insurance industry’s profits. It conveniently ignores policies that will lower costs for those who have insurance, expand coverage and provide affordable insurance options to millions of Americans.” – Reid H. Cherlin, a White House spokesman.

“Distorted and flawed.” – White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass.

“Fundamentally dishonest.” – AARP’s senior policy strategist, John Rother.

“A hatchet job.” – A spokesman for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana.

The Democrats criticized the report.  They need to go after the insurance companies.

I so wish the Democrats had some stones.  They should have said ‘yes – this legislation will drive up the costs – because we are catering to the insurance companies.  Want to keep the price down – kick them out of the mix.”

“No more CEO salaries.  No more senior management salaries.  No more corporate profits.  No more lobbyists.  No more Congressional fundraisers.”

How many insurance companies are there?  You do the math.  Millions and millions saved annually.

Our premiums remain about the same and EVERYONE gets coverage.  We could pay for the uninsured and all of our co-pays with the millions saved in salaries, profits, lobbyists, advertising, and so on.

In addition to the insurance companies, we have the pharmaceutical companies who charge Americans more for our medication than they do the rest of the world.  Figure out how much money Big Pharma spends annually on advertising alone – those 30 second spots where we have to hear the list of potential side effects.  That after they tell us that if you cough you may have some horrendous thing that could kill you so you need to take their medication.

People actually have to take other medication to deal with the side effects from other medication.  This is lunacy.

Bring in Medicare for all – dump the insurance companies and tell Big Pharma that we’re no longer going to pay their insane rates for medication.  Period.

The Lobbyist firm, America’s Health Insurance Plans says on their website “Supporting Bipartisan Reforms.”  As long as it doesn’t interfere with the corporate profits.

AHIP’s President and CEO is Karen Ignagni.  She seems to have the most power in this healthcare reform debate.  As the top lobbyist for the insurance companies, she definitely doesn’t have the best interests of Americans at heart.

Karen Ignagni

Karen Ignagni

According to Money, Ignagni made (I purposely didn’t say earned) $1,236,432 in 2006.  Numbers in 2008 vary but including salary, bonus and deferred compensation she easily surpassed $1 million.   It does look like she earns the money the insurance companies pay her and her company.

Do we really want people like Ignagni fighting the battles against us?  We need to kick the lobbyists out of Washington and the first step is to set up Medicare for All, take healthcare away from the insurance companies and lobbyists and turn it over to Americans and their doctors.  It IS as simple as that.

The greed from the insurance companies is amazing.  They could have easily banded together to propose a fair and competitive process where each company submits their plan choices and all Americans can review each option, selecting the plan best suited for them and their family.

When we talk cost, how much money do we already have deducted from our paychecks to cover the insurance premiums?  All that remains is covering the uninsured.  I doubt that would cost $800 billion.

But the insurance companies have pissed me off so I no longer want an option that keeps them around.  I want a Medicare for All plan.  Before the Bush Administration privatized part of Medicare, older Americans had a great thing going AND it was run by the government.  Wow socialized medicine.

And the VA is socialized medicine too and Bill Kristol said on The Daily Show that US veterans had the best medical coverage in the world.

So enough is enough.  Time to take back our health from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

More angering items from the AP story:

“We’ve got ourselves a real health care shooting war now,” said Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive turned consultant. “The industry has come to the conclusion that the way things are going in Congress, we’ll have a … formula that will be disastrous for their business, so they can’t stand on the sidelines any longer.”

First of all, the insurance companies haven’t been on the sidelines.  They have been utilizing their lobbyists and had significant influence on the wording of the Baucus bill.  Second, they want the status quo and are totally unwilling to give up anything in this compromise.  Americans are already being asked to give up quality and cost effective healthcare so these greedy companies can continue to rake in the profits.

“The misleading and harmful claims made by the profit-driven insurance companies are politicking for corporate gain at its worst,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

You think?

The politicians in favor of the single-payer (Medicare for All) system need to band together and get the word out.  They need to organize their constituents to come out and fight for what is right for all Americans.  We know the media is behind the insurance and pharmaceutical companies as they would like to keep their advertising revenue.

Another huge issue I have is that this bill won’t be fully in effect until 2013!   Notice that it’s set to go AFTER the next presidential election.  Can we really wait another 4 years for this garbage plan that solidifies the insurance company’s stranglehold on American’s health?

Worse still, this bill will only cover 94 percent of eligible Americans up from 83 percent today.  Can the 6 percent really afford not to have healthcare coverage?

How is this healthcare reform?  As I’ve said before – this bill is healthcare reform without the reform.

We need a bill that will cover 100 percent of Americans.  Anything short of that is pure failure.  Anything that permits companies to deny coverage and stand between Americans and their doctors is unacceptable.

I’m sick and tired of Americans having to fight their insurance companies in order to get coverage for life saving medical treatment.

This has got to stop.  Americans need to fight back.  If our elected representatives will not take up the fight for us in Washington, we need to throw them all out.

In Greed We Trust

Mark Foley: He’s Back and Has a Radio Program

I guess we should be surprised that former Republican Congressman Mark Foley actually resigned from Congress.  Republicans involved in sex scandals genuinely stay in office.

David Vitter – caught with a prostitute – is still in office.

Mark Sanford and John Ensign cheat on their wives and are . . . . still in office.

Larry Craig – caught in the airport men’s room seeking a good time – is still in office.

Mark Foley – sends explicit emails to congressional pages (teenagers) and he resigned.  Of course he resigned because it was right before the 2006 elections and he was going to be a distraction.

So his low profile has ended at about 3 years.  He started a radio talk show this week where he answers questions sent in from emails.  Obviously, too scared to take a phone call.

Sounds like a winning format.

But is he going to run again?

“I doubt I will re-enter the political arena as an office-seeker, but I will use my experience and my voice to help others, to rally for economic sanity, to bring about real reforms on a local, state and even national level.”

Will he use his experience with pages?  (Sorry?)

An article I saw in the Sun-Sentinel Tuesday night caught my attention and delayed / altered my original post on this subject.

The title was:  Former Congressman Mark Foley addresses scandal.

Subtitle:  On radio show, he says he never told parents about homosexuality.

As far as I’m concerned the two items are separate.  The scandal Foley found himself involved in was one where Foley sent sexual emails to teenage congressional pages.

Being a child predator has nothing to do with homosexuality.

Read the opening 2 paragraphs in that article:

PALM BEACH COUNTY – Mark Foley, the former U.S. congressman who left office in 2006 after the revelation that he sent sexually explicit messages to male congressional pages, publicly addressed the scandal Tuesday during a radio talk show that he will be hosting each week.

Foley said he hid his homosexuality because he “worried about electability.”

A Republican worried about electability because of his sexuality.  Who would’ve thunk it?

Right out of the box, [WSVU 960 AM General Manager Chet] Tart asked about the 2006 career-ending scandal and why Foley never acknowledged being gay.

“It was a deeply personal issue and, frankly, I was frightened of voter reaction,” he explained. “I’d never mentioned it to my own parents so to admit it publicly would be a lot more difficult, as a backdrop.”

Article author, Missy Diaz clearly links the 2 items together.  It’s disingenuous and unprofessional.  I have no issue with covering both.  It’s fair to discuss his child predator scandal with congressional pages and it’s fair to ask why he felt the need to hide his sexual preference.  But Diaz crosses a journalistic integrity line when she merges the 2 items implying that homosexuals are child predators or sexual deviants.

A few paragraphs later, Diaz does permit a single paragraph when Foley only mentions the scandal.

He characterized the messages he sent as “inappropriate and sad” and said he acted “egregiously, humiliated pages and made a mockery of the job I loved so much.”

Back to his radio show, I don’t live in the coverage area of the station nor would I listen if I could.  I have no interest in hearing Foley’s political opinion.  Personally, he should be in jail and the article does mention that no charges were brought ‘citing lack of evidence.’  Interesting because the emails exist and that was the evidence and the pages themselves were witnesses.

Foley was also interviewed by Javier Manjarres for the Conservative Republican Alliance in Florida web-site.  Manjarres believes that Foley is considering a run some time in the future though he admits Foley never said that.

Well, John McCain can have an affair and eventually run for the presidency.

Welcome back to public life Mark.  It’s time to turn the page.  (I can’t believe I said that)

Sources:   Mark Foley Leaves Door Open for a Run – CQ Politics

Former Congressman Mark Foley addresses scandal – Sun-Sentinel

Disgraced Ex-Congressman

Max Baucus’s Healthcare Reform Bill – Is it better than nothing?

It’s nearly unanimous.  The Healthcare Reform Bill presented by Max Baucus and the Senate Finance Committee is not a good bill. 

No matter what the bill said, you knew the Republicans would rally against it.  That is what obstructionists do.  Republicans don’t even pretend to be bi-partisan.  This bill is fantastic for the insurance companies which, doesn’t fully eliminate pre-existing conditions and even introduces co-operatives.  All Republican backed these ideas though they are still coming out against it because just the mere fact that a bill passes into law with the words ‘Healthcare Reform” attached to it and it will be perceived as a Democratic Party victory.  Forget that this bill would be a victory for their corporate love interests.

Meanwhile, liberals and most progressives like the idea of a single-payer Medicare for All plan.  Anything short of that is failure.  They will bash whatever plan is out there (as I did with Baucus’s plan).  Their argument is that the Democrats control Congress and the White House so let’s just come up with the real liberal bill.

Blue Dog Democrats (or as I like to call them Moderate Republican) are in favor of many of the items in the Baucus bill.  That said, I still haven’t read one story of someone coming out in favor of the bill other than Max Baucus.

What surprises me is that Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is against this bill.  I figured that since it had co-opts in there, she would have approved.  Looks like she too is putting party before country. 

Don’t get me wrong.  Baucus’s bill doesn’t put country first.  It puts corporate interests first which is just as bad. 

Paul Krugman published an op-ed Thursday that further analyzed the reaction of this bill. 

“You see, it has been clear for months that whatever health-care bill finally emerges will fall far short of reformers’ hopes. Yet even a bad bill could be much better than nothing. The question is where to draw the line. How bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?”

I disagree that a ‘bad bill’ is better than nothing.  This bill is good for the insurance industry and really doesn’t help people.  It doesn’t lower cost as it actually will cost more and it doesn’t offer better access.  It penalizes those who do not purchase coverage.  If pre-existing conditions are permitted for even one day, Americans would still suffer the risk of financial ruin.  Besides, who determines what exactly is a pre-existing condition?

“Now, the moment of truth isn’t here quite yet: There’s enough wrong with the Baucus proposal as it stands to make it unworkable and unacceptable. But that said, Senator Baucus’s mark is better than many of us expected. If it serves as a basis for negotiation, and the result of those negotiations is a plan that’s stronger, not weaker, reformers are going to have to make some hard choices about the degree of disappointment they’re willing to live with.”

Mr. Krugman said that this bill was better than he expected.  What kind of garbage was he expecting?  J

Krugman’s op-ed also provided examples of countries with universal coverage that utilize the private insurance system to achieve their goal.  He also cited the Massachusetts health reform that – though flawed – is far better than what currently exists in the U.S.

Krugman outlines the 3 major areas of inadequacy of the Baucus bill:

“First, it bungles the so-called “employer mandate.” Most reform plans include a provision requiring that large employers either provide their workers with health coverage or pay into a fund that would help workers who don’t get insurance through their job buy coverage on their own. Mr. Baucus, however, gets too clever, trying to tie each employer’s fees to the subsidies its own employees end up getting.”

“That’s a terrible idea. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, it would make companies reluctant to hire workers from lower-income families — and it would also create a bureaucratic nightmare. This provision has to go and be replaced with a simple pay-or-play rule.”

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, if my company offers me a less than adequate plan, I should be able to opt into the public option.  Without it, there is no incentive for my company to offer me any quality coverage. 

Additionally, if I were to opt out into the so called public option, I would expect my company to have to supply my employer contribution into the plan.  If they are permitted to keep the money, it would mean huge savings for my company. 

In my case, my employer contributes roughly $7,000 for my health coverage.  If they are not required to contribute it to the public option, they will save $7,000.  I work at a large corporation with more than 10,000 employees.  Let’s say 10,000 employees opt out, my company will save approximately $7,000 for ten thousand employees.  You do the math.

“Second, the plan is too stingy when it comes to financial aid. Lower-middle-class families, in particular, would end up paying much more in premiums than they do under the Massachusetts plan, suggesting that for many people insurance would not, in fact, be affordable. Fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.”

This plan is stingy when it comes to assisting the Americans who need it the most yet it calls for $349 billion in cash raised through taxes and fees. 

Look at Krugman’s last line in this paragraph – ‘fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.’  In my post from September 16th, I pointed out that this estimate is inaccurate predicting an estimate closer to $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion.  If Mr. Krugman is correct in his thoughts, the concern I have is that the final number may push past the $1.5 trillion mark. 

Third, the plan doesn’t create real competition in the insurance market. The right way to create competition is to offer a public option, a government-run insurance plan individuals can buy into as an alternative to private insurance. The Baucus plan instead proposes a fake alternative, nonprofit insurance cooperatives — and it places so many restrictions on these cooperatives that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they “seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”

Mr. Krugman is correct here.  From 1986-1991 I worked for the federal government.  Each year, for open enrollment, I entered the cafeteria to a plethora of insurance companies each seeking my business.  I spoke to representatives of the companies and brought home documentation to read describing each plan.  I selected the plan that best suited my needs at the time – a single man in my mid-20’s with no children.  I rarely needed the plan, just as I expected but when I did, it performed exactly as I needed it to. 

That is what we need.  If we cannot run with full Medicare for all, then the only other alternative is the Public Option for all.   Plans offered by insurance companies but managed and regulated by the government.  Insurance companies will still make nice profits, all Americans will receive coverage, all Americans will have choice through competition thus driving down price. 

“The insurance industry, of course, loves the Baucus plan. Need we say more?”

Of course they do.  The industry loves it – Republicans are afraid to support it – liberal Democrats hate it. 

Where Mr. Krugman thinks this should be a starting point, I believe we should start by shredding all 1000+ pages.

“It would be disastrous if health care goes the way of the economic stimulus plan, earlier this year. As you may recall, that plan — which was clearly too weak even as originally proposed — was made even weaker to win the support of three Republican senators. If the same thing happens to health reform, progressives should and will walk away.”

Mr. Krugman is spot on here.  Democrats are working very hard to appease Blue Dog Republicans Democrats and win over the love of Olympia Snowe.    That is a bad idea and I agree – progressives need to run away.

“But maybe things will go the other way, and Mr. Baucus (and the White House) will, for once, actually listen to progressive concerns, making the bill stronger.”

“Even if the Baucus plan gets better, rather than worse, what emerges won’t be legislation reformers can love. Will it nonetheless be legislation that passes the threshold of acceptability, legislation they can vote for? We’ll see.”

Read:  Baucus and the Threshold

Here is the Baucus Bill – Healthcare Reform Minus the Reform

Senator Max Baucus and the Finance Committee finally released their version of the healthcare reform bill.  Here are a number of sticking points I see right off the bat.

This will cost $856 billion over 10 years.  I have learned to essentially double estimates especially when the political process is involved.  This clearly will end up costing over 1 trillion dollars and in my opinion would wind up close to 1.5 trillion.

There is a requirement in the bill that everyone MUST purchase healthcare coverage or be subjected to a fine.  I have an issue with forced fines in this case especially since finances are tough.  What does one do – purchase healthcare coverage or pay the rent?  And levying a fine against someone who can’t afford to pay for healthcare coverage is also nuts.

The bill does stipulate that those unable to afford healthcare coverage would be excused from the fines.  Now how is ones ability to pay determined?  I suspect that someone will audit the income and expenses and reach a judgment.  How will they determine what is a legitimate expense?  Is the new flat-screen television a priority over healthcare for the family?  How about leasing a Lexus when a Toyota will do?

There is no Republican backing.  This is not critical for getting it passed through the House or Senate but as with every single bill that will be presented, it will generate fodder from the Grand Obstructionist Party’s Right wing noise machine.  This bill doesn’t offer the single-payer or the type of public option that will pacify the liberal end of the Democratic Party.

There must be quality options since the single-payer option is not a possibility thanks to the corporate  / corporate lobbyist stronghold on the industry.  It is critical that everyone have a choice to either stay with the carrier offered by their employers or to join a national exchange.

Apparently this is in the Baucus plan.  My question is – which is still unanswered –will my employer-based contribution carry over to the insurance carrier I select from the exchange?

If not then there are 2 serious issues.

  1. The costs by opting into the exchange will invariably be higher since I will have to foot the portion of the bill my employer would have paid had I remained with my employer’s carrier which for me amounts to about $7,000.
  2. If employers realize that they can save money by letting their employees opt into the national exchange, they will have no incentive to offer quality options to their employees.  My company contributes about 75% of my plan costs or about $7,000 for the plan I specifically have.  Imagine how much my employer could save if 10,000 employees opt out.  ($70,000,000 per year)

If the majority of people remain with their employer offered carrier, you will only see people who are unemployed, self-employed, employed by small businesses or those who really detest their employer option.  Since the volume of people would be relatively small, the cost of the options will be higher than if all Americans were to join.  Worse, the pool will be smaller therefore Americans (through taxes) will have to help fund this public option.

If all Americans went into the public option and larger employers contributed to this public option the competition for all Americans would be great enough to offer lower costs.  The pool will also be sufficient enough to better spread the cost of those who need assistance which will also significantly reduce the amount coming directly from taxpayers.

President Obama did say that he would veto any bill that raised taxes.  According to the bill $507 billion will be paid for though cuts to government health programs.   That leaves $349 billion which, according to the bill, would be paid through new taxes and fees, ‘including a tax on high-end insurance plans and fees on insurance companies and medical device manufacturers.’

It also looks like we’re going to be forced into this co-opt option as the Baucus plan proposes a system of nonprofit member owned cooperatives rather than the Obama preferred government-run insurance plan.  This is a concession in order to win over Republicans.  Of course, this bill will get ZERO Republican support regardless – so why don’t they submit a bill that does the right thing and screw the Congressional Republicans.  They demand concessions – get them – and still vote against the bills.

healthcare reform 2

The bill includes a provision to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining coverage through these co-opts but their U.S. born children would be eligible for coverage.

This bill includes the requirement of a verification system that will cross reference Social Security data with Homeland Security files in order to determine citizenship status.  The bill imposes penalties for fraud and identity theft which is interesting.  One would think that fines involving fraud and identity theft already exists.

Another provision will prevent federal funds to be used to pay for abortions – EXCEPT in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the life of the mother.  Though the exchange plans may offer unrestricted coverage for abortions so long as no funds are provided by federal funds or government subsidies.

Of course, Republicans will rally saying that it will cover illegal aliens and abortion.

Are there any provisions preventing federal funds for paying for elective surgery such as tummy tucks, nose jobs, any type of enlargement or reduction, birth control, in-vitro, Viagra, or tattoo removal?  Will there be any provisions to prevent ‘the gays’ from having coverage?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was quick to weigh in:

“This partisan proposal cuts Medicare by nearly a half-trillion dollars, and puts massive new tax burdens on families and small businesses, to create yet another thousand-page, trillion-dollar government program.  Only in Washington would anyone think that makes sense, especially in this economy.”

This bill protects the insurance companies, does not adequately offer a way to drive down the price of healthcare, does not guarantee that Americans will have quality coverage or offer real reform to provide quality healthcare coverage at an affordable price.

Congress needs to grow a pair and do what’s right for Americans.  All other industrialized countries have accomplished this, why can’t we?

Oh yeah.  Corporations won’t let it happen.

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