Monday, February 20, 2012

Last Call

Republicans may have hidden their plan to end Medicare and replace it with vouchers with a presidential election year in the cards, but it doesn't mean they've given up.   There's too much money at stake for their corporate overlords, and when there's big enough money, there's Blue Dogs willing to crap on the carpet.

Republicans want to turn Medicare into a subsidized private insurance structure and cut costs on the beneficiary side. This concept — dubbed “premium support” by backers and “vouchers” by critics — would end the coverage guarantee and give seniors a fixed amount to shop for insurance on a private exchange. If the subsidy is too small, tough luck; they’re on their own.

The Ryan budget aimed to replace traditional Medicare with this concept. But after voting overwhelmingly for it last year, Republicans have grown conscious of the political reality that it’s too radical to pass, and are offering up gentler versions of its core components. Two months ago Ryan himself teamed up with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to unveil a new blueprint that keeps traditional Medicare alive as an option in the exchanges and has less harsh benefit cuts. Last week Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) rolled out a more fully developed version of a similar plan, containing provisions clearly aimed at enticing Democrats.

The idea was first proposed by former Sen. Pete Domenici (R) and former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin before Ryan ran with it. Wyden is the only Democrat to support the concept — the White House and Dems otherwise remain strongly opposed to any version of it.

Contrary to Republican claims, Democrats do have a plan to keep Medicare solvent: the plan is to keep its single-payer structure and cut costs on the provider side. The health care reform law lays the framework for such a mechanism starting in 2014 called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel of 15 presidential-appointed and senate-confirmed members that has the authority to restrict provider payments without congressional approval. (The theory is lawmakers won’t do it on their own.)

But keeping IPAB alive will be a hard slog. One reason is Republicans are determined to smother it in its cradle: they’ve threatened not to confirm any members to the board, and it’s unlikely Dems will have a filibuster-proof Senate majority anytime soon. The second reason is that health industry opposition to IPAB is so vociferous and united that some Dems are running away from it and signing on to GOP legislation to repeal the panel.

So keep a careful eye on this.  Just like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Republicans have every intention of making sure the mandated plan they agreed to and that was signed into law can never function.  To do it, they will need the Blue Dogs that are left.  And both sides know it.

You Can Keep The Dime, Operator

When you privatize a utility and cry "Government has no business in business!" and leave everything up to the free market and profit motive, you invariably get people who are priced out of the market.  Take for example phone companies who want to simply end landline phone service in the some of the poorest counties in the country in eastern Kentucky.

The industry is pushing Senate Bill 135, referred to as "the AT&T bill" by its sponsor and others because it originated with that company's lobbyists. The bill would strip the Kentucky Public Service Commission of most of its remaining oversight of basic phone service provided by the three major carriers — AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell — such as the power to initiate investigations into service problems.

More significant, critics say, the bill would let the companies end basic phone service in less profitable parts of their territories if other communications options. State law now requires the companies to serve as "carriers of last resort" for households throughout their territories.

AT&T says it must follow where the market leads. Among its customers, land line usage has dropped 50 percent over the last 10 years and wireless usage has jumped 300 percent, said AT&T spokesman Brad Rateike.

When you take utilities out of the public domain, this is invariably what happens.  Profit motive means providing the utility to areas where it's unprofitable means the service is ended.  That's where we're heading right now, and with the country needing tens of billions of dollars worth of utility and infrastructure improvements, putting those under the aegis of the free market will only make things worse.

Taxes exist precisely for things like this.  But we're told government itself is evil and useless.  I may joke about how glibertarians want us all to fend for ourselves, but the reality is that's exactly where we're going under "smaller government".

Read more here:

Up In The Rareified Airhead

Ross Douthat pretty much breaks my Douchebagometer with his Sunday column on abortion and statistics showing that rates of teenage pregnancy are higher in red states with abstinence-only education.  He explains that inconvenient truth away with the following:

Liberals love to cite these numbers as proof that social conservatism is a flop. But the liberal narrative has glaring problems as well. To begin with, a lack of contraceptive access simply doesn’t seem to be a significant factor in unplanned pregnancy in the United States. When the Alan Guttmacher Institute surveyed more than 10,000 women who had procured abortions in 2000 and 2001, it found that only 12 percent cited problems obtaining birth control as a reason for their pregnancies. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of teenage mothers found similar results: Only 13 percent of the teens reported having had trouble getting contraception. 

At the same time, if liberal social policies really led inexorably to fewer unplanned pregnancies and thus fewer abortions, you would expect “blue” regions of the country to have lower teen pregnancy rates and fewer abortions per capita than demographically similar “red” regions. 

But that isn’t what the data show. Instead, abortion rates are frequently higher in more liberal states, where access is often largely unrestricted, than in more conservative states, which are more likely to have parental consent laws, waiting periods, and so on. “Safe, legal and rare” is a nice slogan, but liberal policies don’t always seem to deliver the “rare” part. 

Which may be the most pedantically trite thing ever uttered by any man named Douthat in the history of Earth.  The number of abortions in blue states is an integer greater than zero, thus proving that liberals are the Anti-Life Equation.


He's discovered that where states contrive to legislate through completely artificial means to make the choice to have an abortion more difficult (by raising the cost of time and lost income through waiting periods, exacting a shameful emotional price through forcing physicians to talk women out of it, increasing the economic cost through ultrasound procedures and "crisis pregnancy counseling", and enforcing a scarcity cost through regulating available clinics that perform the procedure out of business to reduce if not eliminate their availability) for the sole reason of making that choice more difficult, then amazingly enough those states have fewer abortions.

The man is an unabashed genius, truly one of the greatest minds of our age.  For an encore, he'll explain how Arizona gets less yearly rainfall than Washington State and how that proves the GOP-controlled Grand Canyon State has fewer deaths caused by trees than the vile, overly liberal Evergreen State, so that there's a distinct advantage to clear-cutting the place (if only to feed all the trees to the forges at Isengard.  Job creation!) 

Soldier on, Mighty Ross. out for those trees.

Same Song, 1,390,203,128th Verse

Just doing a current events recap, the same recycled stupidity but proving Bachmann will keep talking long after she stops making sense.

(CNN) - Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Sunday railed against critics who say the recent birth control controversy reflects a Republican Party that holds suppressive views toward women.

“There is no anti-women move whatsoever. The Republican Party is extremely pro-women,” Bachmann said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “What we saw was President Obama's signature piece of legislation, which is ‘Obamacare,’ demonstrated 3-D.”

Well, there you have it women. We're just imagining that our lives are being controlled and scrutinized by the GOP.  We've been told by "one of our own" that there's nothing going on here, move along now. Of course, she's still too blind to realize she was a puppet, but she is still smart enough to feel okay telling us to trust the guys fighting to make women answer for their private lives.

“The 3-D full-court demonstration is that now ‘Obamacare’ means that one individual, the president of the United States, has unprecedented breathtaking authority to make a decision about whatever health care service, whatever health care product, if he wants it offered or not offered,” Bachmann told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

What. The. Hell. Is she even thinking before she speaks? Or is this stupidity just to meet some sort of contractual obligation to work the word "Obamacare" into any conversation on camera? She's against one guy trying to say women get a choice and a voice, but is totally okay with an entire league of controlling bastards eroding our rights and punishing women for taking advantage of legal services. She points out that Obama wants to protect choice, and with a straight face warns us he is overstepping himself. Maybe she's a closed Dem, because with friends like her speaking out, they don't need another enemy.

If they do though, Herman Cain still has some free time.

Slipping Between The Cracks

Daniel Roth of the Miami Herald recently posted an article talking about how a society is measured by how it treats the children, and a child who fell between the cracks.  This child was starving to the point that his bones stood prominently from beneath his skin.  He had a black eye, and had been reunited with abusive parents.  As Mr. Roth points out, he had been supervised by state employees.  He was supposed to be watched and monitored.  Instead, he nearly starved to death on their watch.

The state of Florida's Department of Children and Families has previously been accused of "fatal ineptitude" when it comes to child welfare.  This is not the first time a child's pain has been overlooked, and while this 9-year-old boy didn't die, it sure doesn't feel like much of an improvement.  That is, however, exactly what it is.  When children weren't safe, the system was supposedly fine tuned to prevent that from happening again.

Kids deserve better than this.  This is blatant abuse and neglect.  Wake up and give a shit, people.  Black eyes and skin stretched over bone isn't something you can hide with a sweater or explain away.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

If you look up the term "projection" in the dictionary, you'll find this statement from GOP Rep. Paul Ryan.

“What we’re getting from the White House on this conscience issue, it’s not an issue about contraception, it’s an issue that reveals a political philosophy the president is showing that basically treats our constitutional rights as if they were revocable privileges from our government, not inalienable rights from our creator.” said Ryan on NBC’s Meet the Press.

We’re seeing this new government activism, paternalistic, arrogant, political philosophy that puts new government-granted rights in the way of our constitutional rights.”

“That’s really not about contraception,” said Ryan of the mandate. “It’s about violating our first amendment rights to religious freedom and conscience.”

It would be hysterical if anyone in the Village would call Paul Ryan out on such complete nonsense, especially since Ryan's party thinks forcing women to go through trans-vaginal ultrasound procedures is completely okay, not to mention the whole "Obama is arrogant" dog whistle again.  Sadly, Fluffy here remains silent.

The arrogance is of course is Paul Ryan deciding what tens of millions of American women can and cannot do with their bodies.  The Republicans are just foul.

Chart Of The Day

Shamelessly appropriated from The Kroog about the awesome success of Irish austerity:

Coming soon to a Republican-led US government in 2013 if the GOP wins. Austerity. It works!  (Just not for the 99%.)

StupidiNews, President's Day Edition!

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