Friday, August 14, 2009

Last Call

I leave you with a cheery thought from one of Josh Marshall's readers this evening:
Watching the current "debate" over healthcare reform, I find myself in the strange position of giving thanks for John McCain. His behavior during the election was anything but classy, but he did refuse to take that final step of endorsing the fully crazy wingut memes (Obama is a Kenyan Muslim terrorist, etc.) even though certain folks were urging him to go there. When I see how easily the "death panel" and other completly-divorced-from-reality memes have taken hold of the public and the media, I can't help but wonder if such crap would have propelled McCain to victory, if he had chosen to embrace it. Oh, the irony: McCain's last shred of integrity saved us from a McCain presidency.

Even if this isn't true, you can bet this is the lesson the GOP will take into 2012. What we're seeing right now is a preview of the election (God help us).

Case in point however: for this to be a preview of the election, one has to assume that we don't have wall-to-wall birther lunacy for the next 39 months in the meantime. I mean yes, I fully expect the entire year of 2012 to be taken up by Rasmussen and Public Policy Polling polls showing X% of group Y in location Z still believe Obama is really a Replicator colony from Stargate SG-1 or a Super Skrull or a T-1000 or Tron 2.0 or some crap. The question is, how much of 2009-2011 will be taken up by it?

Also, Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha says there won't be a health care bill before January 2010.

However, an influential Democratic representative said the House would only pass a health care bill in January or later, signaling continuing rifts within Obama's party on his domestic priority for 2009.

"We're taking some time to make sure it's done right," said Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania. "I don't know that we'll get something done before January, and even then we may not get it done. We're going to do it right when it's finally done."

And Jack Murtha there just gave the game away early. It's laughable. The Democrats have a 77 seat margin in the House and 60-40 in the Senate and a still popular President (let's keep in mind the last guy was in the 20's here) and they are telling the people who voted for them that "sorry, we cannot pass legislation you wanted for at least another 5 months entire election cycle or longer." Maybe then, huh?

Meanwhile, we get to put up with 39 more months of Obama is a illegal alien usurper fascist articles from people who will claim "Well, at some point you said Bush was evil, so that absolves us forever from what we're going to do to Obama, libs! Deal with it! We win!"

And the wise old Democrats of Washington and the Village talking heads will go "Gosh, they're right you know" and let the Republicans do whatever the hell they want with no penalty or no resistance.

Me, I'm going to bed to read. Have a nice evening.

We're Well Past The Time For Semantics

Kent Conrad is doing a truly lousy job of supporting the President's health care plan. Bob Cesca argues that Kent's being terribly clever in the semantics department in order to sate the wingnuts in his state.
News came down this afternoon that Senator Conrad pledged to vote against "government-run healthcare." Both TPM and Firedoglake, for example, are reporting this as a pledge against the "public option."

I don't think it is.

If you look at the original reporting (you only get one click on the item before it asks you to register), he specifically says he won't vote for "government-run healthcare." Healthcare. Not health insurance. I took this to mean that he's pledged to vote against a single-payer bill -- not an optional public insurance plan.

This analysis is further backed up by the fact that at the end of the article, it mentions that Conrad pledged to vote against "mandatory end of life counseling." Well, that's not in any of the bills. He also pledged to vote against bills that finance abortions. Not in any of the bills, either.

In other words, Conrad made a series of pledges to vote against things that don't exist in order to satisfy the screeching wingnuttery.

Which is fine and good and all, and terribly clever, but should the bigger question be why Kent Conrad, instead of trying to speak Wingnut, isn't you know, actively telling the truth about the plans before Congress and telling the people of North Dakota how it will be helping them?

Why can't he tell us what he *is* going to support, rather than list made up imaginary crap that doesn't exist? All he's doing is just giving credence to the lies and the wingnuts will keep saying that Obama's trying to kill them in the night anyway.

In other words, Kent Conrad needs to spend less time being an appeasing ConservaDem jagoff and needs to be out there aggressively pushing what health reform will ACTUALLY DO.

Jesus. C'mon, we need to stop letting the damn Wingnuts define the battlefield every damn time on every damn issue. It's the same friggin' tactic they've been using for 16 years, browbeat the Dems until they capitulate with wild lies, then punch the Dems in the genitals when they go for the apology handshake.

When will assholes like Kent Conrad start acting like Democrats won in 2008?

Dear America:

"The Nazis were horrible, horrible people. It's unfortunate then that Nancy Pelosi, President Obama, and their socialized medicine eugenics plan started this whole Nazi comparison mess. That's very sad. Oh, but while we're at it, have you noticed that Leftist Socialist America in 2009 is pretty much exactly like Leftist Socialist Germany in the 30's? No really, my friend Jonah Goldberg wrote a book about how the Nazis were totally Liberals. Really interesting comparison, don't you think? Who are the Nazis now, hmm? Hitler had a stimulus package, you know."

--Andy McCarthy, National Review

Bonus Verbatim The Stupid: "Let’s put aside the Left’s propensity to slander conservatives with comparisons to Adolf Hitler, who was patently a man of the Left."

Big Sky Country

Obama hit Belgrade, Montana this afternoon and found more terribly polite people to have a town hall meeting with.
Obama decried the media’s focus on contentious town halls and said the scenes that have been airing on cable TV are not representative of the many calm meetings being held across the country. “TV loves a ruckus,” Obama said.

In that case, Obama’s event certainly wasn't made for TV. The president’s two town halls this week — first in Portsmouth, N.H., and Friday in Belgrade, began and ended respectfully, with nary a raised voice.

And just like in Portsmouth, Obama had to ask for a critic to stand up and ask him a question. In Belgrade, it was a man who sells individual health insurance. “Why is that you’ve changed your strategy from talking about health care reform to health insurance reform and vilify the health insurance companies?”

"My intent is not to vilify insurance companies. If my intent was to vilify them, we'd be saying private insurance has no place in the health care market," Obama said, but added, that he wants to make sure "certain practices that are very tough on people — those practices change."
Well, could have been worse. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. He did give a strong speech in his opening remarks.

[UPDATE 6:00 PM] Bob Cesca has more, including the transcript.
A woman from Texas was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, was scheduled for a double mastectomy. Three days before surgery, the insurance -- the insurance company canceled the policy, in part because she forgot to declare a case of acne. True story. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, the cancer had more than doubled in size.

And this is personal for me. I'll never forget my own mother as she fought cancer in her final months, having to worry about whether the insurance company would refuse to pay for her treatment. The insurance company was arguing that she should have known that she had cancer when she took her new job, even though it hadn't been diagnosed yet. If it could happen to her, it could happen to any one of us.

It's wrong. And when we pass health insurance reform, we're going to put a stop to it once and for all.

Of course, Politico's Carol Lee up there was just terribly disappointed that nobody called the President a fascist. What's the point of watching people debate health care and the President putting forward his arguments? That's SOOOOOOOOOOO BORING to our Villagers, you know.

Please, won't somebody think about our bored, listless Villagers tomorrow when the President's in Colorado? Won't somebody give the Village the excuse to reduce the President's excellent points down to "Somebody in America doesn't like Obama"?

Advancing The Debate

Via Balloon Juice, it's a Town Hall Blitz in Luffabo.

Here is the video of some of the nonsense that took place outside a fundraiser for Brian Higgins last night and it’s full of crazy. My favorite was the lady yelling at me (pretty much the entire time) about how “eugenics is killing old people”. Not that I needed too, but she insisted I look it up. So I did:

Eugentics is “the study of, or belief in, the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).” [2] Prominent in the late 19th century Progressive Era, eugenics became a core tenet of some of the policies behind Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.

And as I tried to tell her, it has nothing to do with old people, but she wasn’t having it.

Good luck to Obama in Montana and Colorado, is all I have to say.

[UPDATE 4:50 PM] Fresh off the win (in her own mind) over Death Panels For Trig in the Senate version of the bill, Sister Sarah has decided that the entire rest of the health care bill will kill Trig and Grandma and everyone, so we should just cut that part out too.
She writes that the plan making its way through Congress will "inevitably" lead to health care rationing. Pointing to an essay co-written earlier this year by White House health care adviser Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel — the brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — Palin claims the president wants to enact a rationing system that would "refuse to allocate medical resources to the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled who have less economic potential."
The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee concludes her Facebook post by attacking the cost of health care reform, which she said will only deepen the country's debt and force the president to raise taxes. "Health care is without a doubt a complex and contentious issue, but health care reform should be a market oriented solution," she writes.
Market oriented. You know, like Alaska's state budget. No federal government spending there.

It's Like Farmville, Only With Poppies

How do we fix the Afghan poppy problem? By growing Not Poppies!
The Obama administration is overhauling its strategy for eliminating Afghanistan's flourishing drug trade, a key source of funds for the Taliban. Its plan hinges on persuading farmers like Mohammed Walid to grow something other than poppies.
What, you thought I was kidding? That's the plan, Stan.
Obama administration officials say the U.S. will largely leave the eradication business and instead focus on giving Afghan farmers other ways of earning a living.

The new $300 million effort will give micro-grants to Afghan food-processing and food-storage businesses, fund the construction of new roads and irrigation channels, and sell Afghan farmers fruit seed and livestock at a heavy discount. The U.S. is spending six times as much on the push this year as the $50 million it spent in 2008.

"We're trying to give the farmers alternatives so they can move away from the poppy culture without suffering massive unemployment and poverty," says Rory Donohoe, the U.S. Agency for International Development official leading the drive. "The idea is to make it easier for farmers to make the right choice."

Unfortunately, we've kind of bombed the rest of Afghanistan's economy into smoking piles of ash. The good news is, with all the money we've thrown at the problem that's gone missing in the region, somebody should have the money to pay off the farmers to start growing poppies again.

It's win-win!

Senior Obama administration officials say bluntly that earlier U.S. efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's poppy fields have failed. The Bush administration initially envisioned spraying herbicide on the poppies from planes or tractors, but that was vetoed by the Afghan government. Instead, Washington paid American contractors and Afghan security personnel hundreds of millions of dollars to slash and burn individual poppy fields.

The eradication effort has been widely unpopular in Afghanistan and hasn't discernibly hurt the drug industry here. Afghanistan accounted for 12% of the world's opium production in 2001, according to the United Nations. By 2008, it accounted for 93%.

Richard Holbrooke, the administration's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told reporters in Washington late last month that the U.S. "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars" on eradication. "All we did was alienate poppy farmers," he said. "We were driving people into the hands of the Taliban."

My friend remarked "We should just unionize the farmers, have them take over the drug trade, have the head of the drug trade as a puppet of the U.S., sell all the opium to China and then use that money to buy Iraqi oil."

And I'm having trouble seeing the downside to that one. It certainly makes more sense than the glorious Charlie Foxtrot we have over there now in Sandboxistan. After all, we singlehandedly revived the opium trade in Central Asia.

How's that for your free market?

The Real Battle Begins

Obama's town hall in Belgrade, Montana gets underway at 3 PM EDT, and I'm really, really hoping he gets some rough, brutal questions. I don't expect any screaming and craziness, but I do expect him to have to deal with some rough patches both today and tomorrow in Grand Junction, Colorado.

We'll see how it goes. CNN's Ed Henry expects the President will have some confrontations.
I arrived here a couple of days ahead of the president in order to get a better read on his reform effort by talking to people like Sonja McDonald, who told me her husband's job as a diesel mechanic doesn't provide health insurance for them and their two children.

So I found McDonald at a remarkable local clinic getting a low-cost tooth extraction because she has not been able to afford a trip to the dentist in a couple of years. She voted for Obama and agrees with him that reform is needed, but said she's worried about the details.

"I believe that there is a health care crisis, I really do," she told me from a dentist chair in the clinic. "Do I believe that the government needs to be more involved? No! Because I think that they just -- whenever they get their fingers in the pot it just kind of turns black."

It's a common sentiment in this part of the country. There is great distrust for the federal government, especially after the string of bailouts, and that fatigue is clearly hurting the president's push for health reform. Just ask another Obama voter, David Lewis, whom I met in the quaint downtown here.

Lewis is publisher of The Mountain Pioneer, a monthly newspaper focusing on the outdoors, and he says people around here are just fed up with the mounting federal tab that's being racked up in Washington.

"We've just spent so much money on the stimulus and the TARP," Lewis said, noting that Social Security and Medicare are projected to be bleeding red ink soon too. "And then we're going to add another huge entitlement in terms of the public option."

Obama will have to answer these questions. But if he does well, it could be something of a turning point. If he blows it however, it could be the final nail.

How To Be A Journalist

Via Oliver Willis, here's a training video for the Village Idiots.

This kid is already head and shoulders above 95% of the Village Steno Pool. Hell, he already asks better questions than Chuck Todd.

If It's Working, Why Not?

Working off the playbook of the Town Hall Blitzers and Teabaggers astroturfing manual from outfits like FreedomWorks, the energy industry is setting up their own efforts to astroturf climate change legislation.

A leaked memo sent by an oil industry group reveals a plan to create astroturf rallies at which industry employees posing as "citizens" will urge Congress to oppose climate change legislation.

The memo -- sent by the American Petroleum Institute and obtained by Greenpeace, which sent it to reporters -- urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will "put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy," and will urge senators to "avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill."

API tells TPMmuckraker that the campaign is being funded by a coalition of corporate and conservative groups that includes the anti-health-care-reform group 60 Plus, FreedomWorks, and Grover Norquist's Americans For Tax Reform.

The memo, signed by API president Jack Gerard, asks recipients to give API "the name of one central coordinator for your company's involvement in the rallies."

And it warns: "Please treat this information as sensitive ... we don't want critics to know our game plan."

Little late on that, I think. But gee, looky there, FreedomWorks is at it again on defeating Cap and Trade. Not that they'll need too much help I think with the ConservaDems fighting to keep the Senate from even taking up the measure. But it's important to note that there's a massive corporate lobby disguised as "grass roots protesting" that is anything but.
A Washington lobbying group has already been caught sending forged letters, on behalf of a coal industry organization, purporting to come from local minority groups and urging lawmakers to oppose the climate change bill. A congressional inquiry into the matter is ongoing.
But hey, so far these guys have been pretty effective. Why not continue to astroturf everything the President tries to do?

After all, the plan is "break Obama".

Another Bank Goes Bust

Breaking news from Bloomberg, NC-based BB&T is buying out Alabama's second-largest bank, Colonial BancGroup.
Colonial, Alabama’s second-largest bank, is being closed by regulators today, the person said, becoming the largest U.S. bank failure of 2009 after an expansion into Florida saddled the lender with more than $1.7 billion in soured real-estate loans.

Colonial said last month there was “substantial doubt” it could survive and on Aug. 7 said its warehouse mortgage-lending business is the target of a U.S. criminal probe. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued subpoenas for documents related to accounting for loan loss reserves and participation in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bank said.

Somehow I doubt it will remain the largest bank failure of the year, there's still four and a half months to go. As I said earlier this morning, there are still hundreds of banks in financial trouble.

The forced consolidation of the financial industry continues. Big banks get bigger and take over branches. The toxic debt gets passed to taxpayers. The game of three-card monte continues.

There will be many, many more failures like this in the weeks and months ahead.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Should the really, really unthinkable stuff happen politically, just remember that I wasn't the only one warning you.

Breaking Out The Old Playbook

Democrats continue to walk into the jet engine intake politically, and Byron York over at the GOP Talking Point Washington Examiner is rubbing his hands, awaiting the 2010 bloodbath as Democrats take the blame for obstructing health care.
It's a possibility many Republicans speak of only in whispers and Democrats are just now beginning to face. After passionate and contentious fights over health care, the environment, and taxes, could Democrats lose big -- really big -- in next year's elections?

Ask them about it, and many Democrats will point to the continued personal popularity of Barack Obama. But that's not the story. "I think what's going to happen is Obama's going to be fine, and the Democrats in Congress are going to get their asses kicked in 2010," says one Democratic strategist who prefers not to be named. "This is following a curve like the Clinton years: take on really controversial things early, fail, or succeed partially, ask Democrats to take really tough votes, and then lose. A lot of guys are going to get beat, but the president has time to recover."

Seven months in and the GOP is already planning the celebration.

I think somebody's getting just a tad bit ahead of themselves. What's the Republican plan to deal with all the problems Republicans left Obama, to do the same things they were doing under Bush?

Until the GOP comes up with ideas that are better than what the Democrats have, they're not winning anything. The lesson to Democrats is simple: Git 'r' done.

[UPDATE 3:30 PM] Bill Schneider reminds us exactly why Contract With America II: Wingnut Boogaloo ain't happenin'.

President Obama's job-approval rating fell from 63 percent in late April, at the end of his first 100 days, to 56 percent early this month, after 200 days, according to a CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research. That's a 7-point decline. Among white men, Obama's ratings have fallen twice as far -- down 14 points, from 56 percent to 42 percent. Obama's most outspoken critic? Limbaugh.

But there are important differences this time. In August 1993, at the end of his first 200 days, President Clinton's job-approval rating stood at 44 percent, 12 points lower than Obama's is now. In 1994, white men comprised 43 percent of the electorate. In 2008, their share fell to 36 percent.

And in 2010 it will be even lower. It will be lower still in 2012, and so on. The GOP still has a major, major problem outside Angry White Men. You can hate health care reform all you want to...but in the voting booth, your vote counts just as much as mine does.

And the GOP is losing the numbers game badly.

Killing Cap And Trade

The Senate is making it clear it has no intention of dealing with climate change legislation in any way, shape or form.
“I don’t think we are going to take to the Senate floor a bill stripped of climate provisions,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, told reporters in Las Vegas on Aug. 11.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the renewable-energy legislation, 15-8, in June. Reid has set a deadline of Sept 28 for committees to complete work on climate- change provisions.

Ben Nelson of Nebraska and North Dakota Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan joined Lincoln in suggesting that the climate measure be put off.

“We should separate the energy bill from the climate bill,” Conrad told reporters this month. ‘It needs to be done as soon as we can get it done,” he said, referring to the energy legislation.

Climate legislation would require 60 votes in the Senate. Most Republicans have said they oppose the cap-and-trade measure, and at least 15 of the Senate’s 60-member Democratic majority have said the House-passed version would hurt the economy and needs to be revamped to win their support.

It would require 50 votes actually, but Republicans will filibuster it, as they do with all legislation. Still, it's clear the Dems don't have the votes for even 50 in the Senate right now. It's even more clear that the Senate lobbyists who don't want to pay to help fix the environment are running the place.

I do wonder what it will take before the US gets serious about climate change. What kills me is that the Democrats are doing the damage here after yelling for years that Republicans were never serious about climate change.

The Kroog Versus Death Panels

Paul Krugman determines that maybe the Republicans don't really care to do anything other than obstruct and destroy. Like myself, he had figured that out from Election Day.
Some of us were skeptical. A couple of months after Mr. Obama gave that speech, I warned that his vision of a “different kind of politics” was a vain hope, that any Democrat who made it to the White House would face “an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false.”

So, how’s it going?

Sure enough, President Obama is now facing the same kind of opposition that President Bill Clinton had to deal with: an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumor manufactured by the right-wing media complex.

This opposition cannot be appeased. Some pundits claim that Mr. Obama has polarized the country by following too liberal an agenda. But the truth is that the attacks on the president have no relationship to anything he is actually doing or proposing.
Agreed. No matter what President Obama was proposing, he would still be under constant attack by the Republican Pretty Hate Machine, and often for the same things Republicans praised Bush for. Anything he does is inherently evil.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is one of these supposed moderates. I’m not sure where his centrist reputation comes from — he did, after all, compare critics of the Bush tax cuts to Hitler. But in any case, his role in the health care debate has been flat-out despicable.

Last week, Mr. Grassley claimed that his colleague Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor wouldn’t have been treated properly in other countries because they prefer to “spend money on people who can contribute more to the economy.” This week, he told an audience that “you have every right to fear,” that we “should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.”

Again, that’s what a supposedly centrist Republican, a member of the Gang of Six trying to devise a bipartisan health plan, sounds like.

So much, then, for Mr. Obama’s dream of moving beyond divisive politics. The truth is that the factors that made politics so ugly in the Clinton years — the paranoia of a significant minority of Americans and the cynical willingness of leading Republicans to cater to that paranoia — are as strong as ever. In fact, the situation may be even worse than it was in the 1990s because the collapse of the Bush administration has left the G.O.P. with no real leaders other than Rush Limbaugh.
The Kroog is hot today as he notes The GOP Plan in all its dark glory. The goal is to "break Obama" remember? So what can you do when you have one party wanting to pass legislation and a vocal, obstructive minority that refuses to allow anything to happen?

So far, at least, the Obama administration’s response to the outpouring of hate on the right has had a deer-in-the-headlights quality. It’s as if officials still can’t wrap their minds around the fact that things like this can happen to people who aren’t named Clinton, as if they keep expecting the nonsense to just go away.

What, then, should Mr. Obama do? It would certainly help if he gave clearer and more concise explanations of his health care plan. To be fair, he’s gotten much better at that over the past couple of weeks.

What’s still missing, however, is a sense of passion and outrage — passion for the goal of ensuring that every American gets the health care he or she needs, outrage at the lies and fear-mongering that are being used to block that goal.

So can Mr. Obama, who can be so eloquent when delivering a message of uplift, rise to the challenge of unreasoning, unappeasable opposition? Only time will tell.
Not only are all those excellent suggestions, I would add "Telling the Republicans to shut the hell up" and getting on with passing whatever legislation needs to be passed. There's no good faith negotiation here. There's no bipartisan comity. There's only the Party of No. If they don't want to be part of the solution, then exclude them from the process.

Stop being nice to them. Kick them to the curb and get on with the country's business.

Preventing Chuckles From Making A Mistake

Charles Krauthammer unloads all sorts of numbers proclaiming preventative health care doesn't save money. Mark Steyn tried this tack last month, and Chuckles is just as ridiculously off the mark in his column today.
Think of it this way. Assume that a screening test for disease X costs $500 and finding it early averts $10,000 of costly treatment at a later stage. Are you saving money? Well, if one in 10 of those who are screened tests positive, society is saving $5,000. But if only one in 100 would get that disease, society is shelling out $40,000 more than it would without the preventive care.

That's a hypothetical case. What's the real-life actuality? In Obamaworld, as explained by the president in his Tuesday town hall, if we pour money into primary care for diabetics instead of giving surgeons "$30,000, $40,000, $50,000" for a later amputation -- a whopper that misrepresents the surgeon's fee by a factor of at least 30 -- "that will save us money." Back on Earth, a rigorous study in the journal Circulation found that for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, "if all the recommended prevention activities were applied with 100 percent success," the prevention would cost almost 10 times as much as the savings, increasing the country's total medical bill by 162 percent. That's because prevention applied to large populations is very expensive, as shown by another report Elmendorf cites, a definitive review in the New England Journal of Medicine of hundreds of studies that found that more than 80 percent of preventive measures added to medical costs.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't be preventing illness. Of course we should. But in medicine, as in life, there is no free lunch. The idea that prevention is somehow intrinsically economically different from treatment -- that treatment increases costs and prevention lowers them -- is simply nonsense. Prevention is a wondrous good, but in the aggregate it costs society money. Nothing wrong with that. That's the whole premise of medicine. Treating a heart attack or setting a broken leg also costs society. But we do it because it alleviates human suffering. Preventing a heart attack with statins or breast cancer with mammograms is costly. But we do it because it reduces human suffering.

However, prevention is not, as so widely advertised, healing on the cheap. It is not the magic bullet for health-care costs.

You will hear some variation of that claim a hundred times in the coming health-care debate. Whenever you do, remember: It's nonsense -- empirically demonstrable and CBO-certified.

What Krauthammer is missing is that catching the disease early and treating it allows the person to be far more productive instead of bed-ridden in a hospital for long-term care...or dead. If health care were all about money, there would be no health care whatsoever, of course being healthy costs society money (which is apparently his main complaint.) Healthy workers get to contribute more to society, correct? Doesn't that increased productivity count for something as far as costs go?

Also, his numbers are wrong. If a test for a disease is going to be widespread, there's competitive forces at work among pharmaceutical companies to provide the cheapest, most accurate test. Second, any major disease that you would want to screen for is not going to cost merely $10,000 in additional treatment. That would barely cover one day in a hospital, let's be honest. That additional treatment for a terminal disease may exceed $1 million in total costs. Screening and early treatment on the other hand could save hundreds of thousands in the long run, plus the person being able to go back to work, and not to mention having beaten a deadly disease and being alive.

Suddenly that $500 test looks a hell of a lot better by comparison. The cost of the program will yes, go up. But the cost to society as a whole is offset by healthier, more productive members of society.

There's a much bigger picture here.

Toxic Trouble Trap

Expanding on yesterday's stories about bank loans underperforming by hundreds of billions and the banks doing everything they can to keep from having to count those bad loans at market value, comes this Bloomberg story that over 150 banks have underperforming toxic loans on the books that total more than 5% of their total holdings.
The number of banks exceeding the threshold more than doubled in the year through June, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as real estate and credit-card defaults surged. Almost 300 reported 3 percent or more of their loans were nonperforming, a term for commercial and consumer debt that has stopped collecting interest or will no longer be paid in full.

The biggest banks with nonperforming loans of at least 5 percent include Wisconsin’s Marshall & Ilsley Corp. and Georgia’s Synovus Financial Corp., according to Bloomberg data. Among those exceeding 10 percent, the biggest in the 50 U.S. states was Michigan’s Flagstar Bancorp. All said in second- quarter filings they’re “well-capitalized” by regulatory standards, which means they’re considered financially sound.

“At a 3 percent level, I’d be concerned that there’s some underlying issue, and if they’re at 5 percent, chances are regulators have them classified as being in unsafe and unsound condition,” said Walter Mix, former commissioner of the California Department of Financial Institutions, and now a managing director of consulting firm LECG in Los Angeles. He wasn’t commenting on any specific banks.

Missed payments by consumers, builders and small businesses pushed 72 lenders into failure this year, the most since 1992. More collapses may lie ahead as the recession causes increased defaults and swells the confidential U.S. list of “problem banks,” which stood at 305 in the first quarter.

In other words, there's literally hundreds of banks out there that are in real trouble of going under here, especially as the commercial real estate collapse picks up speed. More and more banks will be shuttered, assets absorbed by bigger banks, and those toxic loans stuck with the American taxpayer as the FDIC bank failure fund picks up the tab.

The forced consolidation of the banking industry continues. The stock market continues to bet on a V-shaped recovery that will not happen. The next bubble is forming already. It's 2003 all over again only this time when the bubble bursts, there's not going to be anything to do other than hyperinflation and prayer.


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