Tea Party demands to eliminate the Medical Device Tax in the ACA are based on a lie

October 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

During the recent debt ceiling debacle in Congress, Tea Partyers were demanding that the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act be eliminated. This is yet another example of politicians trying to sell a bill of goods to the American people in the guise of shrinking government and lowering our debt. The truth is, in fact, quite the opposite.  The medical-device industry waged an intense lobbying campaign –– spending more than $50 million — even garnering the support of many Democrats who favored the law — arguing that the tax would stifle innovation and increase health care costs.

According to an investigative report by the New York Times, this argument is doubly disingenuous. Not only can the medical-device industry easily afford the tax without compromising innovation, but the industry’s enormous profits are a result of anticompetitive practices that themselves drive up medical-device costs unnecessarily. The tax is a distraction from reforms to the industry that are urgently needed to lower health care costs.

The medical-device industry faces virtually no price competition. Because of confidentiality agreements that manufacturers require hospitals to sign, the prices of the devices are cloaked in secrecy. This lack of transparency impedes hospitals from sharing price information and thus knowing whether they are getting a good deal.

Even worse, manufacturers often maintain personal relationships (sometimes involving financial payments like consulting fees) with physicians who choose the medical devices that their hospitals purchase, creating a conflict of interest. Physicians often don’t even know the costs of the devices, and individual physicians often choose devices on their own, which weakens a hospital’s ability to bargain for volume discounts.

Such anticompetitive practices obviously contribute to higher prices in general. For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that prices for cardiac implantable medical devices in the United States vary by several thousand dollars. And even the lowest-priced devices in the United States are expensive compared with those in other developed countries. According to the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the United States spends about 50 percent more than expected on the top five medical devices, compared with Europe and Japan. McKinsey calculates that this amounts to $26 billion in excessive spending each year.Medicare, private health insurers and patients end up paying these inflated prices.

Excessive prices fuel enormous profits — profits that dwarf both the medical-device tax and the industry’s investments in research and development. Consider the device division of Johnson & Johnson, which in 2012 had an operating profit of $7.2 billion. By the company’s own estimate, the device tax would amount to at most $300 million, and its investment in research and development amounts to only $1.7 billion.

There are several ways policy makers could lower device costs. The first step would be to end the anticompetitive practices that prevent hospitals from getting the best deals. 

Currently, medical-device manufacturers allocate only a sliver of profits to research and development and often focus on “tweaks” to existing devices, without providing any evidence that they are of better quality. Competitive pressures from public and private payers would provide incentives for the industry to become more innovative, producing technologies that actually lowered costs and offered truly advanced breakthroughs.

Instead of using its clout to lobby against the device tax — which helped foment opposition to the Affordable Care Act — the medical-device industry needs to share the responsibility of lowering costs for patients, businesses and taxpayers.

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The Facts About the Deficit and Obama…

October 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

While it is true that we have added a little under $5 trillion to the debt since Obama took office, it is important (and fair) to remember that most of the massive spending policies implemented by the previous administration did NOT cease to exist the day Obama was inaugurated. The wars, the ridiculous tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, Medicare Part D (boondoggle for Big Pharma) all continue to contribute to the debt to this day, while adding to the amount of interest that has to be paid on the debt.

The fact is, as a percentage of GDP, new spending by the Obama administration is actually lower than it has been since World War II — lower than the rate of inflation for the past two years. Obama’s actual “new” spending has amounted to about $900 billion over the last 3 years. This, despite the fact that government spending routinely goes up during economic downturns regardless of who is in the White House because more people have to depend on unemployment benefits, welfare, food stamps and Medicaid in order to survive.

According to CNN.Money, it has now been determined that more jobs have been created since the economy tanked than were lost. Obama has managed to achieve this net gain in jobs since 2009, despite having to deal with the lowest rated, least productive and most obstructive Congress since the Civil War, not to mention the fact that this country lost more than 50,000 factories between 2000 and 2009.

Mitt Romey’s and Paul Ryan’s plan would cut taxes 20% and allegedly keep those cuts “revenue neutral” by eliminating loopholes and certain deductions which they have both refused to identify. Most economists agree that their tax cuts would cost about $5 trillion over the next 10 years, and they also agree that eliminating every single loophole and write-off would NOT pay for them. In other words, they are making stuff up as they go along, refusing to provide any details because those details would expose the problems with their ideas.

Romney and Ryan also say that they want to “widen the tax base”. There is only one way to interpret this: they want families to start paying federal income tax who have, until now, made too little money to pay any federal income tax. So, according to Romney and Ryan, low income families would be subject to paying taxes they’ve never had to pay before, while the wealthy would get an average of a $250,000/year tax cut.

Obama 2012 –– Because the alternative is UNTHINKABLE!

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Are you better off now……?

October 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Four years ago, this country was on the precipice of a second Great Depression. That’s an economic state where more than a quarter of the population is unemployed, half of all businesses close their doors, banks stop lending, and the government has to go into massive debt to keep the population from starving. It is a time when the majority of the country has to do without basic necessities. The only thing that got us out of the Great Depression was government spending on World War II.

Fortunately, the second Great Depression didn’t happen. In fact, less than three years after the recession bottomed out in 2009, the country has had a net gain in jobs relative to the jobs that had been lost. We have had 32 straight months of job growth in the private sector. The DOW has more than doubled, which has been good news to anyone with a 401K. We did NOT have to turn our auto industry over to foreign manufacturers two years ago, which saved more than a million jobs. Our exports are near record levels and we are less dependent on foreign oil than in the last 20 years. Home prices are finally headed up again. In Los Angeles, home values posted their highest gains in more than 6 years. Taxes have actually gone down since Obama took office, and more than 30 million people now have medical insurance who couldn’t get it before.

By any measure, the economy is trending upward.

Has it been fast enough? Of course not. You don’t recover from the loss of more than 50,000 factories (between 2000 and 2009) in just 3 years. New industries have to be generated. More people need new training for those jobs. It requires a national investment. The problem is, we now have the lowest rated, least productive, most obstructive Congress since the Civil War, whose primary objective has been to ensure that nothing President Obama proposes or supports passes or is adequately funded. It is politics of self-destruction.

Obama’s and Biden’s economic plan has been simple enough to grasp for anybody who has bothered to pay attention. The American Jobs Act was a great bill that would have been paid for while creating 3 million jobs. Guess who blocked it.

Undecided voters have no excuse. And no option.

Obama 2012 –– Because the alternative is UNTHINKABLE.

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What Romney and Ryan are really planning to do…

October 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Both Romney and his running-mate have repeatedly stated that their intent is to cut taxes 20% for everybody who pays federal income tax. The cost of such a cut over a ten-year period is approximately $5 trillion, yet Romney now denies having ever said anything about this tax cut.

Both Romney and Ryan say that these cuts would be deficit neutral because, at the same time, their plan would eliminate certain unspecified loopholes and write-offs currently in the tax code. The problem is, even if they eliminated every single write-off, including charitable donations and home mortgage interest, it still wouldn’t come close to covering the cost of the $5 trillion tax cut.

HOWEVER, they also say that they would increase revenue by “broadening the tax base”. The only way to interpret this is that they intend to tax low and middle income families who, until now, have no earned enough to qualify for paying federal income tax. Therefore, their stated intent is to cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans and raise taxes on the middle class. You can’t get around that.

By the way, cutting taxes does NOT stimulate economic growth. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Low taxes encourage profit-taking. Periods of higher tax rates show more re-investment. Business owners take less profit out of their companies if they know they’re going to pay higher taxes on that income. In any case, the last eleven years has provided ample proof that tax cuts boost nothing but the wealth of the top 1% of the population. 93% of all gains in the economy over the last two years have accrued to that small group of highly fortunate people.

Romney has also stated numerous times that he wants to increase defense spending by a $1 trillion over the next ten years and $2 trillion over the next 20 years. He would also add more than 100,000 more personnel to the armed forces. He has vowed to do this despite the fact that the Pentagon has said it doesn’t need the additional people or extra money. Romney just wants to be seen as a pro-military leader by his right-wing base. It is a completely disingenuous position.

All that said, I also have doubts about President Obama’s debating skills (although I don’t know what that has to do with being President of the United States). I wish he had been more energetic and assertive in the debate. I also wish that he called Romney on all of his lies and half-truths. That was a major mistake.

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Paul Ryan’s Lies

October 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Ryan’s speech was a well-written, well-executed pack of lies. This is the same guy who voted FOR every single one of George W. Bush’s big spending policies — both unfunded wars, all of the unpaid for tax cuts, the Medicare Part D boondoggle for Big Pharma, and TARP. Yet HE’S calling Obama a big government spender. (By the way, all of these policy decisions continue to contribute billions to the national debt every year. They didn’t just go away when George W. Bush left office).

Ryan stated that Obama took $716B out of Medicare and gave it “too someone else”. Two responses: First, Obama SAVED $716B in Medicare by eliminating waste and fraud, and discontinuing the tax-payer funded subsidies to private insurance companies that were “administering” the Medicare Advantage program; Second, Obama used that savings to close the drug “donut hole” for seniors and having wellness visits covered. Mr. Ryan’s plan also cuts $716B out of Medicare, but he uses that money to help pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Ryan’s plan, which Mitt Romney has embraced, gives seniors the “option” of using “premium support” (vouchers) to go out and buy their own insurance from private insurance companies. This assumes that seniors could even find an insurance company that would be willing to give them coverage when they are older and more likely to become ill or injured. If they could find such a company, it would cost them an average of $6500 out-of-pocket to get coverage equal to what they currently have with Medicare. Of course, just by offering this option, Ryan strangles an already threatened Medicare program by taking people out of the mandated system. The obvious objective here is to end Medicare for EVERYBODY.

Ryan also took a shot at Obama for walking away from the Simpson Bowles Commission. This remark was the height of hypocrisy as Ryan himself turned his back on the commission’s recommendation to reduce the debt in a balanced fashion by cutting spending AND increasing revenue by raising taxes. Obama walked away from it because he knew the House would NEVER pass it. Subsequently, Obama asked congressional leaders to form the Super Committee, which the Republicans in Congress agreed to follow and which they are now threatening to back out on.

Ryan’s entire speech was riddled with falsehoods and half-truths and it made me sick every time that audience cheered what it was hearing. These people are supposed to be well-educated, moderately well-informed adults, yet they were jubilant about the load of garbage Ryan was feeding them.

“A downgraded America.” Ryan blamed the president for the nation’s credit downgrade in August 2011 after Republicans threatened to allow the government to default on its debt for the first time in history. But the ratings agency explicitly blamed “Republicans saying that they refuse to accept any tax increases as part of a larger deal.”

“More debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined.” Romney has made the almost identical claim, that Obama has amassed more debt “as almost all of the other presidents combined.” But their mathdoesn’t add up: when Obama took office, the national debt was $10.626 trillion. It has increased to slightly above $15 trillion.

Shuttered General Motors plant is “one more broken promise.” Ryan described a GM plant that closed down in his hometown, Janesville, Wisconsin, and blamed Obama for breaking his promise to keep the plant open when he visited during his campaign. But Obama never made that promise, and the plant shut down in December 2008, before Obama even took office.

“The greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak.” Ryan closed the speech with an invocation of social responsibility, saying, “The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” However, numerous clergy members have condemned Ryan’s budget plan as “cruel,” and “an immoral disaster” because of its devastating cuts in social programs the poor and sick rely on. Meanwhile, Ryan would giveultra-rich individuals and corporations $3 trillion in tax breaks.

Finally, the recent ad being run by the Romney/Ryan campaign asserts that President Obama took the job requirement out of the welfare reform law that was passed during the Clinton administration. It has been debunked by every fact checking organization on the net and several major newspapers, yet the RNC has doubled down and continues to run the TV spot. Clearly, the decision has been made by the RNC that lying is perfectly acceptable as long as it works. Unfortunately, it does appear to be working in a couple of crucial swing states. Again, this demonstrates a willingness by some people to believe any lie that is spoken against this president, no matter how blatant or disproven by facts.

Obama 2012 — Because the alternative is unthinkable.

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Paul Ryan : A radical ideologue or just plain stupid?

May 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

In a recent CNN interview, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) accused opponents of his alleged “Path to Prosperity” of being “willing to lie and demagogue Medicare and scare seniors”. This is the same man who has been screaming the sky is falling for the last two years and that we have to radically reduce the deficit RIGHT NOW, or the country will suddenly fall into an economic abyss. He doesn’t see the content of his plan as being the cause for resistance. He claims that it’s a “marketing problem”. To clarify things, he says, “Our budget’s so clear. It doesn’t change benefits for people over the age of 55 and it saves Medicare for the next generation”. Clearly, his plan does not “save” Medicare for anybody. It is a classic example of privatization.

Let’s first examine what Ryan claims to be his primary motivation: the deficit crisis. We should not allow Ryan’s alarmist rhetoric to panic us. We have some economic problems, but we’re not Greece. Deficits should decline markedly over the next few years, and Social Security and Medicare will not devour us. Over the last 3 years, the federal deficit has been about 9% to 10% of GDP. By historical standards, that’s very large, but it wasn’t the result of profligate spending. It was caused by the worst recession in +70 years. While it is happening slowly, the economy has been steadily recovering since June 2009. Barring some catastrophe, the effects of recession should fade and the economy should start showing more robust growth. (Certainly, we’ve already seen this in the American auto industy). This means greatly increased revenues and less spending on things like unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicaid rises and financial bailouts. Plus, we have the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to look forward to, as long as Republicans don’t try to extort another extension.

The bottom line is that, if we do NOTHING, the deficit as a percentage of GDP should go from 10% to about 3% by 2014. Using Medicare as an instrument of fear to justify radical change, which is what Ryan has been doing, is more than a little dishonest. In 2010, Medicare spending (less premiums paid by beneficiaries) was 3.1% of GDP. In 2021, the CBO projects it will be 3.6%, an increase of only 0.5 percent. In other words, this budgetary “monster” which Ryan claims is going to ruin the American way of life will increase its share of the national economy by about 1%. This amounts to less than half the cost of the Bush tax cuts.

This is not a long-term fiscal emergency; it’s what you’d expect after the deepest recession since the Great Depression. So Rep. Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare is not only extreme, it is wholly unnecessary. Ryan’s Medicare plan would force those who become beneficiaries starting in 2021 to more than double their out-of-pocket spending. Some estimates for this out-of-pocket increase are as high as $7,500/year. But that’s not the worst thing about his plan.

What congressional conservatives have wanted to do for decades is wipe out the entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They don’t view these programs as vital safety nets for seniors which have helped lift them out of poverty over the last 70 years. They see them as evil ideology; socialism.; an obstacle to states’ rights, which they have been fighting for since the mid-19th century. They know that the quickest way to kill these programs is to privatize them. Put for-profit companies in charge and let the so-called free market do the rest. They realize that Medicare, as a government program, operates on about 6% overhead, while private insurance companies have overhead costs which are six times that. On top of that, private insurers have to show their investors a profit every year. So, what we’re looking at here is a plan that will drastically reduce coverage, while allowing premiums and deductibles to continue to escalate at warp speed. Medicare, as a vital service to seniors, will become a shell of its former self. All the money people have paid into Medicare during their working years will now be handed over to private insurance companies, with more than 1/3 going to pay for corporate overhead. Then, insurance companies will fight tooth & nail to hold onto the other 2/3s by denying claims and greatly reducing coverages. That’s how for-profit companies work.

So, the question remains: Is Paul Ryan consciously trying to destroy Medicare in order to satisfy his ideologically-driven hatred of the federal government, or is he just an ignoramus who actually believes the growth predictions that his plan borrowed from The Heritage Foundation? Does he actually believe that he’s saving Medicare for the next generation? From what I can tell, Paul Ryan is not a stupid man. But his common sense and humanity are definitely being held hostage by his extreme right-wing ideology. I don’t think he really cares about the deficit at all. If he did, he wouldn’t be so dead set against letting the Bush tax cut for the wealthy expire, and he certainly wouldn’t have opposed ending subsidies for Big Oil. Ryan has also opposed allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma, which could save seniors billions of dollars, and such a proposal is nowhere to be seen in his plan. I believe Ryan and the GOP are trying to manufacture hysteria over the deficit, then use that fear to gain support for dismantling vital federal programs and, more importantly, to defeat Barack Obama in 2012.

I think the funniest thing I ever heard was Mitch McConnell on a recent Sunday morning news program, defending Ryan’s plan for Medicare. McConnell said it would “empower Grandma, by giving her the power to shop for the best policy for her”. He went on to say this “shopping would create competition and drive down costs.” He conveniently leaves out that Ryan’s plan would be giving her a fixed “premium assistance” check which would end up covering less than half what her new private insurer would charge for adequate coverage. This also begs the question as to whether or not insurance companies are going to be lining up to insure people in their 70′s and 80′s. Doesn’t sound very realistic to me.

At the end of the day, Ryan’s plan destroys Medicare by privatizing it, and leaves a new program in place which would be more aptly named Mini-Care.

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How to Slash the Deficit Without Slashing Our Own Throats

April 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Making large spending cuts while the country is still struggling to climb out of the deepest recession since the Great Depression is NOT a smart idea. Here’s what I would do:

1. Cut defense spending immediately by 5%, and 10% over the next 5 years, by closing a few bases in Europe and Asia. Make all defense contracts subject to mandatory competitive bidding, and empower the OMB to audit all defense expenditures. Eliminate the development and production of out-dated weapons systems. (Secretary Gates has already endorsed most of this).

2. Institute means-testing for all Medicare recipients. Benefits should decrease as our income increases. Giving free medical care to a millionaire who makes almost $3,000 per day is obscene. Everybody should get some benefits, but we have to stop throwing money at people who are made of money. (Leave Medicaid alone! The poor, low-income families and the elderly are having a difficult enough time already). Finally, empower Medicare administrators to negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma. This would save seniors and the Medicare program billions of dollars, yet Republicans in Congress are obstructing any move to do this.

3. Raise the retirement age for Social Security to 68, not 70. The current retirement age is not reflective of the world we live in, with people living and working longer. Payroll deductions for Social Security should NOT have a cap for wage earners. Lower the annual tax to 5% from 6.2%, but remove the wage base cap (currently at $106,000) for employees. Retain the wage base cap for employers so that their matching contribution requirement ends when the employee reaches $110,000 in gross wages. Finally, take Social Security out of the General Fund, so that it can’t be stolen from again.

4. Do not touch discretionary spending, which only accounts for about 16% of the budget. I would actually increase this percentage, so that it includes infrastructure projects that would create jobs. All programs should, however, be subject to annual audits to ensure money is being spent where it’s supposed to be spent and there is no fraud or waste.

5. Implement a transactional tax on hedge fund managers and Wall Street speculators that will bring their real tax liability up to the top bracket where they belong. Some of these people are earning 12-figure incomes, contributing nothing to the economy but higher costs for commodities, and their current tax rate is about 11%.

6. Eliminate the tax loophole created by George W. Bush in 2005 which allows corporations to write-off the cost of training foreign workers in this country, as they out-source American jobs to foreign countries. This loophole actually incentivizes out-sourcing.

7. Keep current individual tax rates where they are for people earning between $50,000/year and $300,000/year. Those earning less should also be given a ‘payroll tax holiday’ for the next two years. Those earning more than $300,000/year should see an increase in their tax rate from 35% to 39%. (These rates can all come down over the next 10 years if we’re serious about ending many of the tax avoidance loopholes in the tax code).

8. Leave corporate taxes where they are, but provide some tax incentives for companies who move their manufacturing facilities back into the US. We have lost nearly 60,000 factories in the last decade and our economy will not fully recover until we can get manufacturing back on its feet in this country.

9. Raise the Estate Tax on estates valued in excess of $10 million. Estates valued at less than $2 million should pay no Estate Tax.

10. End the subsidies to the wealthiest industries on the planet — big oil and big agra. It is absurd that US tax payers are helping to finance the operations of these mega-businesses).

None of these ten ideas alone is perfect, but we have to do something. I believe that taking the above ten steps would drastically reduce our deficit with the least amount of pain for everybody. More importantly, it would serve to buttress the middle class, which is the engine that drives our economy.

In concert with these ten steps, we need to address the trade imbalance and its underlying causes. India and China in particular, need to implement worker protections and an acceptable minimum wage. China needs to stop manipulating the value of its currency and subsidizing its so-called ‘private industry’, so the playing field is more level. Otherwise, their exports should face tariffs.

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Sarah Palin: Why Is She Still Important?

February 11, 2010 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It seems that some politicians are given a free-pass when it comes to even the most basic knowledge. Take Sarah Palin. If you look at the list of statements that this woman has made over the last 3 years, it is mind boggling that anybody would ever want her as the leader of the free world. Let’s review her history here:

This is the same woman who told Charlie Gibson of ABC in a nationally televised interview that her foreign policy expertise included the fact that Russia could be seen from an island off the coast of Alaska. This, I might add, is an island that Palin had never once set foot upon. “You never know when ole Mr. Putin is gonna come flyin’ over here…”. Yep. She actually said that.

When asked which periodicals and publications she has been reading to keep up on national and world affairs, Palin told Katie Couric that she reads “them all”. Whenever Palin is baffled by a question she uses her standard “I like ‘em all” answer, and that’s what she did. To this day, we still do not know what Palin reads to keep informed about national issues. Until four years ago, she never even had a passport and had never left the United States.

Sarah Palin has stated publicly that she does not accept the theory of evolution, not even understanding the meaning of the term “theory”, and that she believes in a literal translation of the Bible. This means Palin believes mankind walked alongside living dinosaurs and that the world is only 6,000 years old. Of course, when asked which book of the Bible she likes most, she would no doubt say, “I like ‘em all.” Certainly, people are free to believe whatever they like, but Palin’s rejection of the scientific method hardly makes her the ideal leader of a nation of 300 million people which share a variety of beliefs.

When asked by Glenn Beck who her favorite Founding Father was, Palin stumbled with the question, then said– you guessed it– “I like ‘em all.” When pressed by Beck, Palin said she liked George Washington the most, not knowing that Washington was a general and not one of the Founding Fathers. Furthermore, in her stone ignorance, she chose a man who actually favored a strong central government as well as the formation of a national bank. In other words, George Washington stood for everything that Palin says she is against. More recently, when asked what notable role Paul Revere played in the Revolution, she said he “warned the British” that they couldn’t just “come over here and take our guns…” by “ringing bells” and repeatedly firing his muzzle-loaded flint-lock rifle.

Probably one of Ms. Palin’s most hysterical misstatements occurred during the campaign when she referred to “the great country of Africa”. More recently, she didn’t seem to know why there was a North and South Korea. One has to wonder if she can’t figure out who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb.

During a Tea Party convention, Palin made several insulting remarks about President Obama, one of which accused him of being “a law professor lecturing the American people behind a lecturn using a teleprompter.” Of course, she failed to realize that she was doing precisely the same thing, only she was using the palm of her hand instead of a teleprompter.

What Palin is best known for is her bald-faced lie about “death panels” during and after the health care reform debate. Despite the fact that every fact checking organization had debunked that outrageous lie, Palin has stuck to her guns. Of course, she would never admit that private insurance companies already utilize de facto death panels by denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and canceling the policies of people who become ill.

Palin has referred to President Obama on numerous occasions as a socialist, but refuses to provide her definition of the term, no doubt because she doesn’t have it written on the palm of her hand. She doesn’t care that Obama hasn’t nationalized a single business, nor has he put any government employees into the boardrooms. Of course, Palin believes that Obama should have just let the auto companies fail, even though doing so would have caused hundreds of thousands of Americans to lose their jobs and essentially turned over that industry to foreign manufacturers. In recent weeks, we have learned of the remarkable rebound of the US auto industry and the fact that they have repaid most of the funds that the Obama administration LOANED to them. Not surprisingly, you won’t hear Sarah Palin talking about that.

In a closed meeting at the White House, Rahm Emanuel told a group of liberal activists that their idea to air attack ads targeting conservative Democrats who were against the health care reform bill was “f’ing retarded”. Palin, who has inserted her special needs child into the political arena before, demanded that Emanuel immediately resign. Then, when Rush Limbaugh said on national radio that all Democrats are retards, Palin went on FOX News and defended Limbaugh’s use of the word and his characterization of all Democrats. While his use of the term was insensitive and inappropriate, Emanuel said that an idea was “f’ing retarded”, while Limbaugh was using the term to describe a group of people he doesn’t like. But, according to Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh should get a pass. This could be a blatant case of hypocrisy, but it could also be that Palin is just too dim to understand the difference between what Emanuel and Limbaugh said.

Sarah Palin never speaks in specifics and is always on the attack, never offering a single constructive alternative. Why? Because she doesn’t know what the specifics are. It is far easier to make insinuations, and attack with empty-headed sarcasm than it is to develop your own well thought out ideas and articulate them in a comprehensible manner. We all get a good laugh about Sarah’s gaffes, but the time to stop laughing has come. This is a person who is building a political movement on the cult of her personality. She is a classic fascist masquerading as a populist who has managed to win the hearts and minds of far too many Americans. Even if she never ran for president, her influence on our political process and election outcomes could do great damage to the country.

Elia Kazan, the Academy Award-winning film director, said many years ago that the greatest danger to our democracy would be having person of no ability or intellect elected to high office based solely on their personal charm.

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It’s time to outlaw lobbyists in Washington.

October 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

As long as lobbying members of Congress is allowed, no member should be permitted to vote on a piece of legislation which has any connection to those that are lobbying him or her. This would obviously stem the flow of cash, free private jets, sexual favors and other perks which are currently provided to senators and representatives by various corporate and political interests in Washington in order to secure votes and vocal support. Unless we have this form of recusal, the concept of a representative government in Washington will be a fairy tale.

What we’ve witnessed over the last several months of debate over health care reform is ample evidence of how much this kind of change is needed. From Mitch McConnell to Max Baucus, we’ve witnessed the corporate takeover of the democratic process in the United States. Baucus, who has received more than $3.5 million from the insurance industry, is probably the most hypocritical of the lot, pretending to be for serious reform and calling himself a democrat, he voted against the public option in the Finance Committee. His reason, as stated following the vote, was that it was his responsibility to get a bill out of the committee which could pass in the Senate and he “just didn’t see the votes there for a public option”. In other words, the quality of the bill’s contents was less important to Baucus than its chances of winning approval. More importantly, he failed to mention that a majority of his own constituency favors the public option. Whom does Max Baucus represent?

Baucus’ bill contains the “mandate” which requires all citizens to obtain medical coverage, yet it does nothing to create effective price controls on the insurance industry. Those who cannot afford to pay their insurance premiums will receive tax credits to help them pay. In other words, in addition to giving the insurance industry millions of more customers by government mandate, Baucus would have tax-payers paying for those who can’t afford insurance. The best that Baucus’ Finance Committee could come up with after months of haggling is a windfall for the insurance industry that provides zero relief to citizens. What idiot could possibly support this obvious scam?

The leaders of the Republican Party in Congress, such as McConnell, Boehner and Canter, are all on the take from the private insurance industry, and the few members that are not being lobbied are too cowardly to stand up to them. Of course, there are also many democrats, such as Baucus, Childers and Lincoln, who are also enjoying the generosity of the insurance industry, but the majority of democrats are not and it shows in their votes in these committees.

If you’re a Republican who is against the public option or serious health care reform because you sincerely believe what we have is adequate, you need to ask yourself how you arrived at that conclusion. If you’re just having a knee-jerk, partisan reaction to any idea that a democrat comes up with, then you have a problem. Even worse, if you’re basing your opinion on information that has been spread by organizations like Americans for Prosperity you have a bigger problem because that so-called grass-roots group is a tool of the private insurance industry, which has a vested interested in the status quo and discrediting any kind of reform.

The private insurance industry has 6 lobbyists in Washington for every representative and senator and it is now spending nearly $2 MILLION PER DAY to undermine attempts to fix our broken, soon-to-collapse health care system. In the last 6 months, it has spent more than $390 million to convince voters that the government wants to take over health care and euthanize the elderly. This is the most money that has ever been spent on influence-peddling in the history of the United States. If you believe any of those lies, either you hate President Obama to the point of being self-destructive, or you are simply too ignorant to understand what is being proposed. Either way, you have become a willing tool of corporate fascists who are in control of one of the few business sectors that has continued to see profits grow despite a severe global recession.

At the end of the day, the power of lobbyists in Washington is about as unAmerican and anti-democratic as anything Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler tried to do. It has become abundantly clear over the last few months that real change in ANY AREA will never be possible as long as our elected representatives are in the pockets of corrupt, for-profit industries which do not have the interests of the American people at heart.

And don’t expect any tort reform while the Democratic Party is in the back pocket of the Trial Lawyers.

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Is the opposition to President Obama driven by racism?

September 16, 2009 at 11:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I would have to agree with President Carter’s assessment, when he says that racism lies at the core of the current venomous attacks on President Obama. (To be clear, Carter said that he was talking about a “radical fringe element”, rather than all people who oppose Obama’s policies). While the extreme language and behavior of many people involved in the Tea Party movement in addition to the rantings of people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh has been veiled in manufactured political causes, they are clearly driven by anger that a black man is sitting in the White House. At best, they are attempting to tap into the undercurrent of “white man’s anger”, especially in the southern states, in order to score political points. We also have people like Michelle Malkin attacking Mrs. Obama, and a pastor in New Mexico preaching that the President and his family should die and go to hell. All of this is symptomatic of a concerted effort to de-legitimize Barack Obama’s presidency before he has even been in office for one year.

When people refuse to listen to reason and continually ignore the facts as they are presented to them, then hallucinate nefarious schemes such as death panels, secret nationalist armies, and concentration camps for political enemies, we are witnessing the kind of ignorance and fear that are the building blocks of bigotry. When people scream, “I want my country back!”, they’re really saying that the President of the United States isn’t a true American. When they walk around carrying signs that say “Bury Barry with Teddy” and hold up forged Kenyan birth certificates, they’re saying that they truly believe the President is the enemy. One man even stated on camera at a Tea Party rally that Obama was more dangerous to the United States than Osama Bin Laden. This is not rational behavior, and it’s edging closer to sedition every day.

This monster has been created by the right-wing of the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement, whose organizer is a blatant racist. On his website, he refers to the President as an “Indonesian, Muslim communist thug”. Like any good propagandist, he hand-picked each of those words to push the most sensitive buttons without regard to the fact that none of them have a thing to do with reality. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin are the incendiary personalities who are inciting these crowds with their strident and almost comical accusations. At a certain point, this country is going to have to deal with them, just like it dealt with Joseph McCarthy, another political opportunist with a sick agenda.

If you think Joe Wilson would have yelled “You lie!” to a white president, you’re on crack. Mr. Wilson, a member in good standing of the Sons of the Confederacy as well as other organizations with ties to white supremacists, is an overt racist. He has also been a staunch proponent of making the Confederate flag the standard for his state. On top of violating decorum during a presidential appearance before a joint session of Congress with his Tourette’s-like outburst, he was just plain wrong. All five of the reform proposals currently before Congress contain ‘verification’ provisions. Just because those provisions don’t go as far as he would like them to go does not mean they are not there. The Republican amendments which were voted down required that emergency room doctors and nurses refuse treatment until an incoming patient’s status had been verified by some unnamed bureaucrat. Imagine a situation where a bleeding child who has been hit by a car is brought into ER and somebody who looks like Joe Wilson steps in and says “Don’t touch that child until we make sure he’s not another Mexican trying to get free health care.” Preposterous.

The longer that the Republican Party remains in denial about the emergence of racism within its own ranks, the sooner this country is going to have a one-party system. The problem is that the GOP actually relishes this grotesque phenomenom because it is energizing its notorious right-wing base and creating doubt among more impressionable independents. For that reason, you will never hear Michael Steel admit that there is any racism going on in the Republican Party and that all these lunatics at Tea Party rallies are just hard-working Americans who hate President Obama’s policies. Of course, we’re talking about the policies as characterized by the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin.

Here is another interesting and eye-opening video which compares Canadian health care to the U.S.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3EoziMcFvE&feature=response_watch

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