Thursday, December 18, 2014

Last Call For Vermont's Single Payer Plan

Looks like Vermont won't be implementing single payer healthcare anytime soon, as Dem Gov. Peter Shumlin, who barely survived re-election in November, is quietly dropping the attempt as unworkable.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday dropped his plan to enact a single-payer health care system in his state — a plan that had won praise from liberals but never really got much past the framework stage. 
“This is not the right time” for enacting single payer, Shumlin said in a statement, citing the big tax increases that would be required to pay for it.

Shumlin faced deep skepticism that lawmakers could agree on a way to pay for his ambitious goal and that the feds would agree to everything he needed to create the first state-based single-payer system in 2017. 
And that was all before Shumlin, a Democrat, almost lost reelection last month in one of the country’s most liberal states. And it was before MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, the now notorious Obamacare consultant who also advised Vermont until his $400,000 contract was killed amid the controversy, became political poison.

Gruber nonsense aside, the real problem was the money.

Shumlin had missed two earlier financing deadlines but finally released his proposal. But he immediately cast it as “detrimental to Vermonters.” The model called for businesses to take on a double-digit payroll tax, while individuals would face up to a 9.5 percent premium assessment. Big businesses, in particular, didn’t want to pay for Shumlin’s plan while maintaining their own employee health plans. 
“These are simply not tax rates that I can responsibly support or urge the Legislature to pass,” the governor said. “In my judgment, the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families and the state’s economy.” 
And that was for a plan that would not be truly single payer. Large companies with self-insured plans regulated by ERISA would have been exempt. And Medicare also would have operated separately, unless the state got a waiver, which was a long shot. 
Shumlin added that federal funds available for the transition were $150 million less than expected.

So, big business payroll tax hikes, a 9.5% tax on individual plans, and large businesses wanted exemptions, and that's all before Medicare and the fact the federal bucks weren't there.  The plan was a non-starter, and I don't know why our side made single-payer such a huge deal, when it would have meant serious tax hikes on people and businesses and the rich would have walked away with "exemptions" anyway.

As much as I'd like to see single payer, it has to be everybody at once.  One state doing it without federal support (and let's face it, a GOP Congress will kill any federal money for this because they're perfectly fine letting poor blue state voters die) isn't going to work.

And Cue-ba The GOP Outrage

Republicans (and even a couple of Democrats like NJ Sen. Bob Menendez) are not taking this whole "normalization with Cuba" thing well at all.  Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio spent hours screaming on the cable news shows that Obama had appeased yet another terrorist regime, and Republicans are vowing to permanently block any funding for a new embassy or appointment of an ambassador to Havana.

“It’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established,” Rubio said on Fox News, one of multiple media appearances he made Wednesday. He insisted that the White House’s plans, which include opening an embassy in Havana, won’t result in more economic freedom or democracy in Cuba, a country that survived decades under a U.S. embargo.

This notion that somehow being able to travel more to Cuba, to sell more consumer products, the idea that’s going to lead to some democratic opening is absurd,” Rubio said. “But it’s par for the course with this administration constantly giving away unilateral concessions … in exchange for nothing.”

Never mind that this is exactly what Reagan's playbook on the Soviet Union was, and our current playbook with China is now.  And Rubio doesn't seem too concerned about either Moscow or Beijing.  But where there's foreign policy histrionics, there's Huckleberry Graham.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is expected to chair a powerful Senate panel next year that oversees funding for the State Department and other foreign operations, tweeted that the development is “an incredibly bad idea.” The Republican added later: “I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.”

But here's the thing: some Republicans are seeing dollar signs in a new Cuban market and want to make the jump.

But incoming Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, was more measured, saying in a statement that he heard the news Wednesday morning and that “as of now there is no real understanding as to what changes the Cuban government is prepared to make.”

And Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who flew to Cuba to help bring Gross back, warned against rushing to stop the White House’s moves.

I think that would be really counterproductive to block funding for an embassy,” Flake told reporters at the Capitol, adding: “For those who say this is a concession somehow to the Cuban regime … I think that that is a wrong way to look at it. That is simply wrong. The policy that we’ve had in place for the past 50 years has done more in my view …. to keep the Castro regimes in power than anything we could’ve done.”

The Chamber’s support of the Obama administration’s actions also was evidence of fissures within the GOP over Cuba.

The U.S. business community welcomes today’s announcement, and has long supported many of the economic provisions the president touched on in his remarks,” Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement.

“We deeply believe that an open dialogue and commercial exchange between the U.S. and Cuban private sectors will bring shared benefits, and the steps announced today will go a long way in allowing opportunities for free enterprise to flourish.”

Somehow I'm thinking there are enough votes to lift the embargo on on Cuba for good, and Rubio is still stuck in 1958.  There's also zero doubt in my mind that if any Republican president had done this, Rubio would be on board 100%.

Barack And Michelle Obama In "The Help"

The Obamas talked to People Magazine about their experiences with everyday racism and prejudice in America, and it's some pretty frank and eye-opening stuff.

"I think people forget that we've lived in the White House for six years," the first lady told PEOPLE, laughing wryly, along with her husband, at the assumption that the first family has been largely insulated from coming face-to-face with racism.

"Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs," Mrs. Obama said in the Dec. 10 interview appearing in the new issue of PEOPLE.

"I tell this story – I mean, even as the first lady – during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn't see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn't anything new."

In a 30-minute conversation, the president and Mrs. Obama candidly added their stories to the national discussion of race and racial profiling that was sparked by the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.

"There's no black male my age, who's a professional, who hasn't come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn't hand them their car keys," said the president, adding that, yes, it had happened to him.

Mrs. Obama recalled another incident: "He was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee."

Things have gotten better, both Obamas agreed, but there's still more progress to be made.

And yes, I've been mistaken as The Help and not an IT professional before on several occasions, once at an office holiday party.  You can be any kind of professional, even the President of the United States of America, apparently, and as a black person there are still people who will assume you're the wait staff.

No amount of professional accomplishment will protect you from that, folks.  No amount.


Related Posts with Thumbnails