Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Last Call

How will this wild card play into the health care debate scenario over the next couple months (emphasis mine)?
Drugmakers may ramp up their push for an overhaul of the U.S. health care system by spending $100 million on ads starting as early as September, said a person familiar with the discussion.

The Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, the industry lobbying group, discussed funding the advertising campaign during a meeting last week in Washington, the person said. PhRMA senior vice president Ken Johnson said no decision has been reached on the group’s campaign strategy for when Congress reconvenes after the August recess.

PhRMA will be running television commercials in August, in states where pharmaceutical companies have operations, asserting the importance of the drug industry for the economy, Johnson said. The drugmakers, by offering to lower drugs costs by $80 billion over 10 years, became one of the first industries to reach an agreement with the Obama administration in its efforts to revamp the health-care system. The drugmakers said they would oppose legislation allowing the government to negotiate prices on medicines sold through the U.S. drug program of Medicare.

“We are always preparing to fight back against bad public policy that would hurt patients and our ability to discover and develop new life saving medicines,” Johnson said July 24 in a telephone interview.

In other words, if the drug companies see at any time that the legislation coming out of Washington is not a sweetheart deal for the drugmakers, Big Pharma is prepared to scuttle the deal with more ad money than anyone. On the other hand, as long as the deal has plenty of goodies ($80 billion is chump change to these guys) they're happy to go along, because it means big fat subsidies.

Obama's cutting deal after deal with the industry groups. They want their cut on the back end, billions up front now, a whole lot more later... and they're going to get it...trillions over the next several years. The $100 million ad buy is firelighter money, not to mention a marker that Congress behaves itself. The real problem here is the insurance industry. They will fight a public option until the end of time.

We'll see where this lands. All sides are gearing up for the real fight now.

The Uptick Rule

TPMDC's Eric Kleefield picks up what I've been warning about here for weeks, the racist commentary against Barack Obama has really exploded in July. It started in earnest with the attacks on Sonia Sotomayor, but has now elevated directly to the President.
An interesting pattern has emerged in the last few weeks, as President Obama's ratings have started to come down to Earth: You can really see a type of Obama-hatred out there that really does cross over into a purely racial territory.

This has gotten especially worse in the aftermath of Obama's comments and subsequent mea culpa on the Henry Louis Gates arrest, but the pattern has been there all the same. You can look back to the 2008 campaign, with the Jeremiah Wright controversies, the phony rumors of a tape of Michelle Obama defaming whites, and the slow but steady emergence of the Birthers. And these days, the Birthers seem to be getting more and more bellicose.

It's nothing new. How quickly we have forgotten last December...
Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama." Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been "hundreds" of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

Remember Ashley Todd, Michele Bachmann's McCarthyism, or the GOP Haterade machine back in October? I do. They're going for broke on the racism stuff here. All that is back and more. There's no election to backfire in their faces now. They've got it free and clear, and no consequences from the Village as they're tired of Obama already too. Remember Obama Waffles? Remember "disrespectful?" Remember "uppity?"

One of my very first posts was about The GOP Plan. Attack Obama by calling him a racist. That was back almost a year ago.

Obama is in the White House now. The Plan remains the same. It hasn't just been going on for a few weeks. It has been going on for over a year now.

It's all they have now.

[UPDATE 8:24 PM] This, also.

It has become so ingrained into them now it just leaps out, fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus.

Favre Is Out

NFL.com is reporting that Brett Favre is staying retired.
Quarterback Brett Favre has decided to stay retired and not join the Vikings this season, he told NFL Network's Rich Eisen in a text message.

Vikings coach Brad Childress told The Star Tribune in Minneapolis that Favre didn't want to put himself through the grind of a 19th NFL season.

"I just think it was a rare opportunity to explore a Hall of Fame quarterback who had background in the NFC and in this division (with the Green Bay Packers)," Childress told The Star Tribune. "He knows our system inside out … This doesn't change anything about how I feel about our football team."

I think he made the right choice. NFL players older than I am should stay retired. Besides, I hear that there's at least one QB looking for a job if the Vikes are needing a backup...

Taibbi On Obamacare

Matt Taibbi gets all inevitable on us with Obamacare, and not in a good way (emphasis mine):
If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters. The situation we have here is an angry and desperate population that at long last has voted in a majority that it believes should be able to pass a health care bill. It expects something to be done. The task of the lawmakers on the Hill, at least as they see things, is to create the appearance of having done something. And that’s what they’re doing.
I don't completely agree with Taibbi on this one. I honestly do think there are lawmakers who want to see this done, and I think the President wants to see this done. But they are terribly outnumbered, and Obama's not looking like he's going to fight. It's not the American people he needs to convince. The only people who get a real say in this are 435 people in Washington, and they're not listening for the most part.

But he is right about the second point there: the insurance industry is going to get their way on whatever passes, just like the banks got everything they wanted over the last 12 months. Whatever passes for Obama's energy bill will do the same for energy companies, whatever passes for Obama's education bill will do the same for the student loan industry, it just never ends.

Lobbyists own everything. They always will.

Epic Law Of Large Numbers Fail

FOX News. Not only bad at geography, but terrible at math, too.

BillO explains that Canada has a higher life expectancy than the United States (which is true) because America has ten times the people. Now, America in fact does have ten times the people of Canada, but saying one causes the other is like saying the average temperature in Alaska is lower than the average temperature in Florida because Alaska is ten times larger.

EPIC FAIL. And with Glennsanity and the geography wizards in the graphics department, FOX News is 0-3 here lately.

The Governator Draws The Line

Via Atrios, Robert Cruickshank at Calitics reports on Ahnold wielding the line-item veto pen like Conan's broadsword.
Today we witness the damage that the line-item veto causes in the hands of a right-wing governor bent on using it to achieve his long-desired destruction of public services. Arnold's vetoes include:

• An additional $6.2 million cut from state parks, which will likely cause as many as 50 more parks to be closed (potentially 1/3 of parks - 100 total - will now have to close)

• Elimination of state funding for community health clinic programs

• $80 million cut to child welfare services

• Total of about $400 million in health care cuts, including further Healthy Families cuts

• Elimination of funding for the Williamson Act programs to preserve farmland from development

• Deeper cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, as Brian noted.

• Cut 80% of funding for domestic violence shelters

• Elimination of funding for California Conservation Corps

• Cut half of Cal Grant funding, but could be restored "contingent upon enactment of legislation that authorizes the decentralization of the Cal Grant Program and other financial aid programs as warranted."

The state legislature could try and override these vetoes. But as we've seen time and again, this legislature appears to have forgotten that the override power actually exists. It would be a very good chance for Democrats to force Republicans to take a stand on these programs. Either they vote to restore the funding, or they vote to kick kids off of health care and close beaches and parks, giving Dems a set of issues to run on in 2010.

It seems doubtful that such an override will even be attempted. And so California slides deeper into ruin.

Not satisfied with the tens of billions in cuts taken out of California programs, Ahnold sees his enemies driven before him and listens to the lamentations of the Democrats. What are the Dems going to do, exactly? They've already given him 98% of the cuts he wanted. He just decided to take the last 2%.

Thank You, Howard Dean

The BYAAAAAAAAH is wise. Believe in the BYAAAAAAAAH, for he knows what he is talking about. Here he is on Rachel Maddow, talking about the Baucus bill.

You know, this is going to be a hell of an issue in 2010 cause honestly, what’s the point of having a 60 vote majority in the United States Senate, if you can’t produce…health care reform. You can get health insurance reform. This bill is going to cost us a lot of money and it isn’t going to do anything, if this so-called compromise is true. This compromise does nothing, except it will reform insurance. That’s a good thing to do, but they ought to strip the money out of it cause we reformed insurance like this in Vermont 15 years ago. It’s a fine thing to do, but it doesn’t insure more people.
You know, we need to be hearing a lot more from Dr. Howard Dean on health care here. He's a doctor, he understands the consequences of what this will mean for people from an executive branch standpoint, and most of all he understands that the American people are going to pillage the Democrats if they foul up health care again. Nearly everyone who will be voting in 2010 remembers 1993. I don't know why the Democrats in Congress don't, particularly the ones that were around back then.

This guy, he gets it. He always has gotten it. He worked hard in 2008 to get Democrats into this position as party chair, and he's watching them toss his advice -- the advice that got the Democrats such a huge margin in Congress -- out the window in order to appease the Villagers and the lobbyists.

Those aren't the people that put you in Congress, guys. It's the voters.

More BYAAAAAAAAH please. Thank you.

[UPDATE 5:14 PM] BYAAAAAAAAH is in for Olbermann tonight. Neat.

Steve And Rudy Go Old School

I was remarking to myself the other day where the hell Rudy Giuliani went to lately, because blessedly he had been silent since November. Alas, he's teamed up with Steve Forbes to defend the free market system from the ravages of Barack Obama.

Luckily, Steve Forbes and Rudy Giuliani are here to protect us from Obama's Socialism. While this failed miserably during the campaign, they figure now's a good time to pile on the Odamage after six months.

I suppose it hasn't occurred to Flat Tax Man and the Nine One One-der here that the moral hazard in giving billions in cash and trillions in loan guarantees to the megabanks might be a problem, but that's socialism these two clowns can believe in.

Oh, and Rudy has discovered the key to health care: medical tort reform! If only people couldn't sue doctors, health care would be great!

So, the big GOP talking point is "-isms". Socialism, Elitism, Fascism, Racism. I've got one for the GOP: Anti-Intellectualism.

Glennsanity Crosses The Rubicon

Where's the apology for this, folks?
On Fox & Friends today, Glenn Beck called Obama "a racist" during a discussion of how the president handled the arrest of Henry Louis Gates.

"This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture," Beck said. "I don't know what it is."

Following up on Beck's ridiculous claim, Fox's Brian Kilmeade pointed out that Obama is surrounded by white advisers like David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and Rahm Emanuel.

"I'm not saying he doesn't like white people," Beck said. "I'm saying he has a problem. He has a -- this guy is, I believe, a racist."
Wow. Just...incredible. What does it take to get Glenn Beck fired, guys? Showing up to work in blackface? A white hood? A live segment where he burns a cross on the White House south lawn?

I'm not surprised in the least, however. I called this back on Monday. And believe it or not, if Glenn Beck's allowed to get away with this, it's only the beginning.

At some point we have to draw the line. I'm hoping Glenn Beck just did it for us.

Epic Blue Mouse Win

Scientists have discovered clinical evidence that a compound in FDA approved blue food dye called BBG actually may prevent spinal cord neurons from dying after injury by stopping a compound called ATP from overloading and killing off those cells.
"While we achieved great results when oxidized ATP was injected directly into the spinal cord, this method would not be practical for use with spinal cord-injured patients," said lead researcher Maiken Nedergaard, professor of Neurosurgery and director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

"First, no one wants to put a needle into a spinal cord that has just been severely injured, so we knew we needed to find another way to quickly deliver an agent that would stop ATP from killing healthy motor neurons. Second, the compound we initially used, oxidized ATP, cannot be injected into the bloodstream because of its dangerous side effects."

Back in 2004, Nedergaard's team discovered that the spinal cord was rich in a molecule called P2X7, which is also known as "the death receptor" for its ability to allow ATP to latch onto motor neurons and send the signals which eventually kill them.

Nedergaard knew that BBG could thwart the function of P2X7, and its similarity to a blue food dye approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982 gave her the confidence to test it intravenously.

It worked. The rats given BBG immediately after their injury could walk again with a limp. Those that didn't receive a dose never regained their mobility.

Hopefully this will work out without the "smurf" effect there (side effects of the rats tested were, well, parts of them turning blue temporarily) but it goes to show you that food chemistry is A) very complex and B) very cool.

Not everything I post about health care is a complaint about the current system, I guess. The medical research end of the system does work, especially using a food dye to prevent spinal cord damage.

EPIC WIN, there.

Political Cartoon Of The Moment

Competition For The Crown

It looks like Bachmanniac has some competition for "Craziest GOP Lawmaker" these days: Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert. Steve Benen makes the call:
I continue to be fascinated by the shrinking differences between the nutty, right-wing fringe and the Republican establishment. Lee Fang flagged this gem yesterday.

Last Friday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) joined radical conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his radio talk show for an interview. Jones has made a name for himself propagating conspiracies ranging from the claim that Bill Clinton planned the Oklahoma City bombings to the idea that the attacks on 9/11 were orchestrated by a cabal of American and Israeli government officials.

During the 30-minute interview about "nation ending stuff," Gohmert used his opportunity on the Jones show to showcase his own odd anti-Obama conspiracy theories.

Gohmert was on quite a roll, insisting that health care reform will "absolutely kill senior citizens," because the government will put older Americans on a list and then "force them to die early." He added that the government will also control what Americans eat and where we can live.

When Jones, compared current events to Hitler and Mao, the Republican Texan replied, "Well that's exactly what I was thinking of. This is the kind of the thing we got to stop." Gohmert went on to praise the fringe talk-show host for being "on top of things."

So, Obama's real evil plan is to impersonate an American, gain the Presidency, control every aspect of our lives, and then euthanize millions of old people (maybe with some sort of large laser.)

It's Logan's Run, only without the neat white jumpsuits. The dude is a barking lunatic and yet still has his elected position, and Steve goes on to explain just why that is the real problem with the Republican Party.

Now, I don't much care what these obviously unhinged conservatives have to say. What's fascinating to me, though, is the fact that there was no real difference between them. Generally, politicians try to keep radicals and fringe activists at arm's length. If a politician runs into a nut in public, he/she tries to avoid making eye contact, and scurries away as quickly as possible.

But here's an elected member of Congress, voluntarily appearing on a notorious extremist's radio show, as if this were a normal thing to do. They two swapped insane conspiracy theories casually, as if radical nonsense were as commonplace as discussing the weather.

The line, in other words, between the member of Congress and the fanatic simply didn't exist. What's more, because right-wing extremism has become mainstream in conservative circles, there are no consequences for Gohmert's rhetoric or appearance. It's just what GOP officials do in the early part of the 21st century.

There is something inherently wrong with this situation Other than being pegged "Worst Person In The World" by Keith Olbermann, what's going to happen to ol' Louie here? Nothing. No resolution demanding his apology will come before the august body of legislators, no week of Village op-ed pieces saying Gohmert shouldn't have crossed that line, no rebuke or censure will be forthcoming.

So Republicans like Gohmert will continue to accuse the President of lining up seniors in order to murder them, or that he's really a Kenyan Muslim plant, or that he's really whatever crazy garbage they dream up to terrify us into hating him, wanting him gone, wanting him out by any means necessary because he's a monster.

Raw hate that the base devours. And soon, that hate will metastasize into something unspeakable and deadly, and it too will become another sad chapter in the history of our country. We have a mainstream political party that is allowed to make the most disgusting and virulent accusations about the people on the other side of the aisle and the President in particular, and the crowd roars and demands more. The Village Caesars raise their thumbs in approval and then look the other way.

As Steve said, there is now no difference between the fringe lunatic and the GOP rank and file. They are one and the same.

Trimming The Branches

As I've said before, the most visible result of the bank balilout so strongly favoring the Too Big To Fail banks is the forced consolidation of the industry. Smaller regional and local banks will be eaten, reducing competition and the need to have so many branches. If you're the only game in town, after all, and you're a megabank like BoA...make the people come to you.
Bank of America Corp said on Tuesday it plans to "modestly" reduce the size of its U.S. branch network over the next three to five years, but does not have plans to eliminate 10 percent of its branches.

The largest U.S. bank by assets ended June with 6,109 branches, second nationally to Wells Fargo & Co.

Earlier Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis told investors at a meeting last Thursday that he plans to shrink the branch network by about 10 percent.

A bank spokesman, James Mahoney, said: "We do not have a plan to reduce branches by 10 percent," though the network "will come down modestly" in size over three to five years, even as the bank builds new branches.
Why pay for additional branches when you don't need them? Buy out your competitors, then shut them down. Go to more internet banking. Charge more fees, get rid of tellers and branches. What are people going to do, go to another bank with even fewer branches?

Makes perfect sense to me.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day


Rocket Moose, burning out her career up here all alone.

Denial Ain't Just A River Near Israel

Israeli really, really doesn't take being told "no" on anything by the Obama administration very well, does it?
Six months into his presidency, Israelis find themselves increasingly suspicious of Mr. Obama. All they see is American pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze settlements, a request that’s been interpreted here as political arm-twisting meant to please the Arab street at Israel’s expense — or simply to express the president’s dislike for Mr. Netanyahu.

This would seem counterproductive, given the importance the president has placed on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Israel is part of the problem, it’s also part of the solution. Yet so far, neither the president nor any senior administration official has given a speech or an interview aimed at an Israeli audience, beyond brief statements made at diplomatic photo ops.

The Arabs got the Cairo speech; we got silence.

This policy of ignoring Israel carries a price. Though Mr. Obama has succeeded in prodding Mr. Netanyahu to accept the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he has failed to induce Israel to impose a freeze on settlements. In fact, he has failed even to stir debate about the merits of one: no Israeli political figure has stood up to Mr. Netanyahu and begged him to support Mr. Obama; not even the Israeli left, desperate for a new agenda, has adopted Mr. Obama as its icon.

As a result, Mr. Netanyahu enjoys a virtual domestic consensus over his rejection of the settlement freeze. Moreover, he has succeeded in portraying Mr. Obama as a shaky ally. In Mr. Netanyahu’s narrative, the president has fallen under the influence of top aides — in this case Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod — whom the prime minister has called “self-hating Jews.” Meanwhile, Mr. Netanyahu is the defender of national glory in face of unfair pressure, someone who sticks to the first commandment of Israeli culture: thou shalt never be the freier (that is, the dupe).
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the last administration's approach, which was literally agree to everything the Israelis really, really wanted, didn't work so well on the peace process.

Actually saying "no" to Israel on something as counterproductive as settlement expansion was and still is necessary. You don't always get what you want in the end, and both sides, both Palestinians and Israelis, are going to have to make sacrifices.

Of course neither side wants to make them. They wouldn't be called sacrifices if either side was freely willing to give them up. Sacrifices by definition are difficult, unpopular but necessary choices.

Obama is talking to the Israelis. What he's telling them are things they don't want to hear, and as such, they're not listening and instead pretending he's "not speaking to Israelis." This is actually the first thing the US has asked the Israelis to actually do, despite the billions in military aid and equipment we give them annually to defend themselves. If we ask anything reasonable in return, apparently Obama is guilty of trying to dupe the people of Israel, or a shaky ally.

A "shaky ally" wouldn't keep handing over billions in aid without question. It's a self-serving article at best. The era of one side making all the scarifices and the other side getting rewarded, especially while there is blood on everyone's hands involved, has to end. Something has to change from the status quo of the Bush years for peace to have a chance.

Grow up, guys.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog asks:
It seems to me that health care is a millstone around Obama's neck. It's dragging his ratings down. It's worth risking a decline in popularity for a really good bill, but if it's not a really good bill, what's the point?

The GOP and right-wing pundits and Blue Dogs and centrist MSM bloviators have all sent out the word that whatever Obama endorses is toxic. So if he doesn't sign a bill at all, how does that poison him? Shouldn't it do the opposite?
It's a valid question. The Village has already decided to call the game in the Republican's favor. It's no longer "Will health care reform pass?" but "When will the Democrats realize they have lost?"

The problem was until Baucus made his play, the situation was in limbo. We've now seen what Baucus has to offer, and it's basically a total victory for the Republicans. At this point if Obama is serious about getting that good bill, it's time to consider jettisoning the GOP and making it damn clear to the Democrats that a health care bill needs to have X, Y and Z in it or it won't get signed.

Obama could walk away from health care like Clinton did. The GOP certainly can't attack him on it if the plan fails. But I don't think it will help his numbers any. People will say "You know, Obama's biggest campaign promise was health care. He blew it and the Democrats blew it." You really have to ask yourself if the Dems can't do it with 60% margins in both the House and Senate and a Democrat in the White House, what will it take? Why are the Republicans dictating the health care plan at all?

Look, Baucus has revealed his hand. Now that we know what it is, the rest of the Democrats need to move forward. The Village and the GOP are already acting like the choice is now the Republican health care plan insurance company subsidy or nothing. If the Democrats don't start acting like they have a mandate, then they won't have it.

Obama has to take control of this now. It's time to move ahead. If that means without the Republicans, then do it. Go big, or go home.

Epic We Report, You Decide That We're Wrong Fail

FOX News fails at geography.

live desk

I guess FOX is trying to forever ruin the joke that Kuwait is between Iraq and a hard place, either that or it's one hell of a social commentary on the condition of the Pyramids.


Bachmann Birther Overdrive

Yesterday I mentioned that Hawaii Democrat Rep Neil Abercrombie was going to bring a resolution to the House floor recognizing the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood. The best part was that the resolution described Hawaii as the "birthplace of President Barack Obama", possibly having to put dozens of Republicans on record that they recognized Barack Obama's legal birthplace in America and that he was indeed an American citizen (and throwing the Birthers under the Hawaii tour bus while at it.)

The resolution came up for a voice vote, which wouldn't have put the Republicans on record or anything, but would have gotten them off the hook and out of the neat little trap that Abercrombie laid for them.

Only, one Republican walked right into the trap and dragged the rest of her party along with her by objecting to the voice vote: good ol' Bachmanniac.
This afternoon on the House floor, Abercrombie spoke of his measure and specifically noted that Obama had been born in Hawaii. “It’s also going to be the birthday in a week or so of President Obama, born in Kapiolani hospital just down the road from where I lived,” he said. Just as the presiding chair of the House, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), was about to declare the resolution passed by voice vote, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) stood and objected:

BACHMANN: Mr. Speaker? I object to the vote on the grounds that a quorum is not present and make a point of order that a quorum is not present. [...]

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): Further procedings on this motion will be postponed.

Nice. And I'm sure GOP Rep. Bill Posey of Florida is writing a big thank you card to Shelly there, because he had to go on record to vote for the Hawaii resolution as Jeff Fecke continues the saga.
Well, the roll call vote was taken, and Our Michele voted aye — congratulating Hawai’i and implicitly agreeing that Barack Obama was not born in Kenya. Indeed, 378 Representatives voted in favor of the resolution, and none voted against it. And of the 55 not voting, only 16 were Republicans. Indeed, even House GOPers who have played wink-wink-nudge-nudge with the birthers, like Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., voted to support the resolution.

One would think this would lay to rest, once and for all, the bizarre notion that five decades ago, a massive conspiracy was carried out to make it look like Barack Obama was actually born in America instead of hatched from an alien pod, so that some day he could run for president (the proof is in the name he was given — Barack Hussein Obama. A name as American as baba ghanoush) and then govern as a center-left, mainstream Democrat. But of course, one would think the fact that we all actually saw airplanes fly into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, would have convinced everyone that those towers were actually destroyed by, you know, airplanes. Or the fact that Tim McVeigh confessed would have convinced people that the Clinton Administration did not actually blow up the Murrah Federal Building. But conspiracies have a tendency only to strengthen in the face of facts. And so while the House unanimously rejected the birther theories today, don’t expect that to stop Lou Dobbs from talking about it tomorrow. That’s just proof that the Republicans are in on it, too. Or that they really don’t want Biden as president.

We salute you, Michele Bachmann, Real Congresswoman Of Genius. Without you, the Birthers in the GOP might have been able to slide under the radar without having to go on record as agreeing that Obama was an American citizen. But thanks to you, we now know that the House unanimously believes he is.

So here's to you, Shelly. You've done America a huge favor. No. Really. She has. (Well, not if you're a Birther...)

Dealt Out Of The Game

As I mentioned yesterday, the rumors of the "bipartisan" health care deal coming down the pike in the Senate from Max Baucus and company looked like crap and smelled like crap. This morning, the NY Times confirms that it is indeed crap.
Mr. Baucus says his group will produce the bill that best meets Mr. Obama’s top priorities, broadly expanding coverage to the uninsured and curtailing the steep rise in health care spending over the long term, what policy makers call “bending the cost curve.”

Still, if the three Democrats and three Republicans can pull off a grand bargain, it will have to be more conservative than the measures proposed by the House or the left-leaning Senate health committee. And that could force Mr. Obama to choose between backing the bipartisan deal or rank-and-file Democrats who want a bill that more closely reflects their liberal ideals.

Already, the group of six has tossed aside the idea of a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers, which the president supports but Republicans said was a deal-breaker.

Instead, they are proposing a network of private, nonprofit cooperatives.

They have also dismissed the House Democratic plan to pay for the bill’s roughly $1 trillion, 10-year cost partly with an income surtax on high earners.

The three Republicans have insisted that any new taxes come from within the health care arena. As one option, Democrats have proposed taxing high-end insurance plans with values exceeding $25,000.

The Senate group also seems prepared to drop a requirement, included in other versions of the legislation, that employers offer coverage to their workers. “We don’t mandate employer coverage,” Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and one of the six, said Monday. Employers that do not offer coverage may instead have to pay the cost of any government subsidies for which their workers qualify. In the House, centrist Democrats have temporarily stalled the health care bill, many lawmakers want to see what Mr. Baucus’s group produces before voting on tax increases in the House bill.

Mr. Obama, in his news conference last week, praised the three Republicans in the Senate group — Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Ms. Snowe. Mr. Grassley, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, and Mr. Baucus share a history of deal-making, and group members said they share a sense of trust despite the partisan acrimony that pervades the Capitol.
Question: exactly what are the Democrats getting out of this bipartisan Republican health care plan deal, anyway? It amazes me that the definition of bipartisan for the last twenty years or so has been defined as "Democrats roll over and give the Republican Party 99% of what they want, then claim that 1% as victory."

No public option, the Republicans didn't want it. No surtax, the Republicans didn't want that, no employer mandate to offer coverage, but there's still the mandate you have to have coverage apparently, and your employer may or may not have to subsidize it if you're not offered coverage. Stop me if I'm wrong here, but what we'll end up doing under this plan is give the insurance companies 50 million new sources of premium revenue, force millions more to self insure at exorbitant rates through the "co-op" plans as more employers drop coverage completely choosing to subsidize employees just enough for minimal insurance plans rather than offer decent coverage, and basically end up seeing tens of millions of Americans more are underinsured, rather than uninsured.

There's zero incentive for the insurance companies to lower costs. This would be a flat-out gift to the insurance giants, to the tune of tens or hundreds of billions. They would offer high-deductible low-cost plans to fufill the co-op's affordability requirements, the same way we do with "just enough to be legal" auto insurance today. They'd have every reason to raise premiums on comprehensive plans, arguing that they have a right to stay in business too. It would still be profit motive driving the industry.

So many companies would then end their comprehensive coverage options in order to go with the cheaper co-op subsidies, it would be staggering. We'd have an all new disaster in just a few years, and huge insurance company profits to boot.

So again, I ask what the Democrats are getting out of this plan...other than looking like with 60 Senators that they've still been dealt out of the game again.

[UPDATE 8:03 AM] Nate Silver runs the numbers on the Baucus plan and surprise! It looks both familiar...and bad.
The bigger news, rather, is that Baucus's bill will not contain an employer mandate -- a requirement that employers provide health insurance to their employees -- even though it does contain an individual mandate.

Does this look familiar to anyone?
-- No employer mandate
-- No public option
-- But yes, an individual mandate
It should -- because this particular permutation on health care reform looks an awful lot like the incomplete draft of the HELP Committee's bill that the CBO scored last month, which also lacked an employer mandate and a public option but contained an individual mandate. That bill, the CBO estimated, would cost about $1.0 trillion -- but would only cover a net of about 16 million people. In contrast, the revised version of the HELP Committee's bill, which did include both a public option and an employer mandate, would cost about the same amount but cover a net of 37 million people.
Nate goes on to say that even with an individual mandate, there will be millions of people who will remain without coverage and accept whatever penalty is assesed them...because the penalty will be cheaper than the insurance, plus the subsidy for paying for the plan stops at 300% of the poverty line rather than 500% of the HELP plan, leaving a whole hell of a lot of people with no employer insurance (their employer dropped coverage), an expensive plan they have to buy to self-insure, and no subsidy to help them pay for it.

As Nate concludes, "
You think those 15 million people are going to vote for the Democrats again, like, ever?"


Related Posts with Thumbnails