Posts tagged ‘Health Care’

06/02/2012

Health Care in U.S.: Hostile to Consumers

Would you buy a car, and drive it off the lot, not knowing its cost, just hoping for the best when the bill arrived in the mail? I didn’t think so. But that is exactly what the U.S. medical community seriously expects you to do when consuming health care.

American medicine operates within a totally dysfunctional economic system. Patient accounts do everything possible to avoid price quotes. If consumers are patient enough to wait on line to speak to an actual human being, many of whom are impatient, condescending, or just downright rude, they will at best hear only vague meaningless “estimates.”

If a written letter is issued, and it actually states an “estimated” price for a procedure, the following paragraph will qualify the cost, and make it totally meaningless, through additional language that states: “this does not include any potential facility fees, anesthesia fees, lab or pathology fees, or supply charges.”

Don’t they realize “estimates” followed immediately by language that allows billing for of a whole host of additional expenses, renders them absolutely worthless? How is the consumer to know even a ballpark cost? What is the reasonable consumer to think?

But let’s not accuse the relatively well-off medical community for creating this terrible American system we have. Let’s keep the blame where it belongs, on the consumer, for they are the ones who deserve ridicule. How dare they even seek price quotes in the first place? Just who are these peons with the audacity to request information on costs? Don’t they realize they’re addressing the medical community? Don’t they know those in medicine simply don’t dirty their precious hands with costs, that is, until it is time to collect, and the wretched consumers are fully expected to pay every nickel, under a one-way highway billing system.

Personally, I was priced out of the private health insurance market long ago. No, I am ok. I can walk, talk, and get around just fine, but my parents had diabetes and heart disease, so on the assumption I would also succumb, my premiums started galloping upward with each payment, until the private carriers finally got what they wanted, and pushed me away without insurance. So, now I pay cash for health care, and must shop around.

Although the online price for a cataract procedure was an average of $3,300 and up, when I tried to nail something down this week, I was unable to do so. The Dean Clinic gave me an “estimate” of $5,686 with all the qualifying language mentioned earlier in this article, which amounted to no price quote at all. Anderson and Shapiro started at $2,999, “with no hidden costs,” but then after I was switched to the next operator, I was told I needed a physical and EKG, since I was over 55, even though I was symptom free. The “estimated” cost online for the unnecessary EKG was around $2,000. So, I was left with truly no idea what the cost of a relatively simply out-patient 10-minute cataract procedure would be, except that it would be starting somewhere above $5,000.

I don’t mean to single out just two clinics, as almost all of them have created problems over the years. When I set up an eye exam at the University of Wisconsin Eye Clinic earlier this year, I was quoted $246, but when the bill arrived, it was $358, which was $112 more than the quote. I just laughed, because I knew they would not honor their own quote. Since their ophthalmologist “estimated” cataract surgery at around $6,500, I definitely didn’t return there, due to their history of billing more than their quotes.

There is no reason the government could not simply order health care providers to post their prices for each procedure, somewhat like those visible at gas pumps. Yes, each patient is unique. We all know that. But while treatment may differ slightly from one to the other, there is no reason we could not mandate a public disclosure of all-inclusive singular prices, so consumers could be informed, and could begin shopping in a competitive market. For the uninsured, the current pricing system is totally dysfunctional.

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01/29/2012

Republican Debate: Florida (1-26-12)

ROMNEY’S TAXES: Gingrich said Romney owns shares of Goldman Sachs and lives in a world of Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts. He said he did not “know of any American president who had had a Swiss bank account.” Romney, who all along has said he is a great money manager, said “my investments are not made by me.” They have “for the last 10 years have been in a blind trust, managed by a trustee.” His trustee invests in mutual funds and bonds, he said, and not in stocks. When Gingrich said Romney made a million dollars off of stock in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Romney denied it. He said his trustee loaned money to Freddie and Fannie and received interest, like from U.S. savings bonds. His trustee diversified investments and reported the money held in Swiss accounts to the U.S. and he paid U.S. taxes on it. Romney repeated he did not inherit money and claimed to have earned it. He said his taxes and charitable contributions took about 40% of his income.

ROMNEY’S PARTY: Gingrich claims Romney voted for Democrat Paul Tsongas in 1992, and when he ran against Kennedy in 1994, he said he was an “independent” who did not want to go back to the Reagan-Bush era. Romney said he never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot.

FOREIGN POLICY: Paul rejects a foreign policy that says we must be the policeman of the world. He opposes nation-building.

PUERTO RICO: Santorum was asked whether Puerto Rico should become a state. He said he believes in “self-determinism” and Puerto Ricans should decide for themselves.

CUBA: Paul said the sanctions against Cuba backfired and caused the Cuban people to rally behind Castro. The Cold War is over, and they are not going to invade us, he said. Romney said he will help the people of Cuba enjoy freedom when Fidel Castro is dead. He thinks Obama has ignored Cuba and Venezuela, and wants more trade with Colombia and Panama. Santorum opposes liberalizing trade or travel with Cuba.

LATIN AMERICA: Paul opposes dictating to Latin Americans what governments they should have. He said Santorum’s definition of standing up for Latin America means supporting dictators and undermining governments through the use of money. Santorum thinks Iran and the jihadists want to set up training camps in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. He opposes Latin American leaders Chavez, Noreiga, and Morales. He accused Obama of hanging our friends out to dry for 3 years in Colombia, and of standing with Chavez and Castro, instead of the people of Honduras. He denied wanting to use force in Latin America.

PALESTINE: All of the Republicans pandered to the Jewish vote in Florida. There is no peace between Israel and Palestine, Romney said, because he believes all Hamas wants to do is eliminate Israel and teach people to kill Jews. He incorrectly believes Palestinians do not want a two-state solution. He found fault with Obama for rightfully castigating Israel for illegally building settlements in Palestine in violation of international law. He showed ignorance on this subject by faulting Obama for suggesting a return to the 1967 borders. In an incredible statement, he said thought it was Obama who “disrespected” Netanyahu, when in fact it was Netanyahu who ungratefully and inappropriately lectured our U.S. President. Gingrich continued to defend his prior ignorant statement that Palestinians are an “invented people,” as he stated a belief that they are Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian or Jordanian, but not Palestinian. He thinks Obama undermined Israel. He would provoke greater tensions by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.

MILITARY: Gingrich promised to make Jacksonville, Florida the home of a nuclear aircraft carrier battle group.

SPACE: Gingrich wants six or seven space launches a day. He reminded us when Kennedy said in May 1961: “We will go to the moon in this decade,” no American had even orbited the earth, and the technology didn’t even exist. He wants to give out prizes like the $25,000 Lindbergh received for flying to Paris. He asked: Does the Washington NASA office just sit around and think about space? 90% of those employed under his space plan would come from the private sector. He would get NASA out of the rocket business. Santorum wants young people involved in math and science, but said promising new space programs, when we are borrowing 40 cents on the dollar, is not responsible. Romney accused Gingrich of pandering, by telling NASA workers what they want to hear. He believes in a vibrant and strong space program, but described Gingrich’s plan to put a permanent colony on the moon, as an “enormous expense.” He would fire someone who wanted to spend a few billion dollars on it. He wants a space program related to commercial products. Paul would vote for only that part of the space program that supports national defense. The only things he would send to the moon are “some politicians.”

TRADE: Paul supports free trade in Latin America, including Cuba. Gingrich said the Jacksonville seaport has to be expanded, because the Panama Canal is being widened.

IMMIGRATION: Santorum wants to enforce the immigration laws we have. We need legal immigration he said, to keep our population growing. The first act of responsible immigrants is to obey our laws, and then continue respecting them. He would use the employer E-verify system to enforce immigration. He speculated illegals steal Social Security numbers (who says they are not paid cash under the table, and use no SS number at all). Gingrich pledged to control the border by Jan. 1, 2014. He would fix the visa system to make it easier to come and go. He wants to make deportation easier. He doubts grandmothers would self-deport and would not enter church sanctuaries to deport those who sought shelter. He said Miami has 94 languages, and wants English as the official one, adding everyone should learn it to get jobs. He denied calling Spanish a ghetto language. Romney said the problem with illegals is they take jobs legal residents would like, put their kids in school districts that can’t afford them, and get free health care, because emergency rooms must provide it. He favors work permits and identification cards, an E-verify system, and severe sanctions against employers who hire illegals, so those unable to find work will self-deport. He would not round up people or deport the 11 million illegally in this country. He said his father was born in Mexico. (Since the Constitution limits the Presidency to “natural born” citizens, how was his father able to run for President in 1967?) Romney wants English as the official language and schools to provide English immersion classes. Paul said resentment towards illegals goes up when the economy is down. Businesses are now looking for workers, but can’t find them. We worry about the Afghan and Pakistan borders too much, Paul said, and not enough about our own.

JOBS: Romney said there is 9.9% unemployment in Florida, but it is really 18%. Lowering corporate taxes would get people back to work, he said.

FINANCE: Paul said the Middle Class is losing their jobs and houses, but Wall Street got bailouts. He wants to bring back the gold standard, since it is mentioned in the Constitution.

HOUSING: Paul said, after the crash, the bad paper should have been auctioned off and sold, and it would have been cleansed by now. The problem was caused by excessive credit and interest rates that were too low for too long. The Community Reinvestment Act is affirmative action, he said, which tells banks to make risky loans. The line of credit from the Fed to Freddie and Fannie should have been cut. Romney said Fannie and Freddie are a big part of the housing crisis. They caused a housing bubble that collapsed, and are still offering mortgages to people who can’t afford them. Santorum wrote a letter in 2006 with 24 Senators warning of a meltdown as they requested reforms of Freddie and Fannie. He said we need to decrease the amount of mortgage that can be financed by Freddie. Gingrich said he told Republicans in July 2008 to deny money to Freddie and Fannie.

ENVIRONMENT: Gingrich said the Everglades Restoration Project must be completed.

HEALTH CARE: Santorum said medical savings accounts would get consumers involved in the cost of health care. He reminded voters that Romney and Gingrich supported the individual mandate, and if they are nominated, the issue will be forfeited to Obama. He claims people in Mass are now opting to be fined, because the cost of health insurance is too high. Paul said health care is a greater priority than going to the moon. Health insurance should be affordable for individuals, he said, so employed or not, they can have it. He claims the cost of medicine went up, because the government distorted that sector of the economy, and pumped money into it. He repeated his unfounded belief that before Medicare and Medicaid, nobody was on the streets without health care. Gingrich said the system that existed in the early 1960s was fundamentally less expensive. Romney said it doesn’t make sense to lose your health insurance if you lose your job. He insisted on personal responsibility in Mass to end free riders. He distinguished his plan from Obama’s, saying the President’s cuts Medicare 500 billion, and raises taxes 500 billion.

BUDGET: After Gingrich repeated his claim he balanced budgets four times in the 1990s, Paul pointed out the National Debt actually went up by a trillion dollars in those years, because money was taken from the Social Security Trust Fund. He said neither Reagan nor Gingrich had balanced budgets, as the National Debt went up. Santorum said we must get our financial house in order.

TAXES: Santorum opposes a 0% capital gains tax, saying guys like Romney wouldn’t pay much at all. He theorized when tax rates increase, the rate of return decreases, leading to investments in non-taxable instruments. He said a 28% top bracket was good enough for Reagan, and is good enough for him. His lower bracket would be 10%. Gingrich was asked why under his tax plan he would let someone like Romney pay nothing, and Gingrich said he wants everyone to pay 15%. Paul favors getting rid of the 16th Amendment, which allows income taxes, and said we also would have to get rid of the warfare and welfare systems.

RELIGION: Romney thinks our nation is based on Judeo-Christian ethics. He would seek the guidance of providence in making critical decisions. When the Founders drafted the Declaration of Independence, he said, they referred to being endowed with certain inalienable rights. Gingrich would seek guidance from God. He thinks there is an aggressive war being fought by secular elites in the news media and in the judiciary, against the Christian religion. Santorum actually believes the Constitution exists “to do one thing: protect God-given rights” and said our rights are “god-given rights and not government-given rights”

01/27/2012

Republican Debate: Florida (1-23-12)

FOREIGN POLICY: Paul said Gingrich would have to change his foreign policy to gain his support. He believes it is not the role of the federal government to be the policeman of the world.

AFGHAN: Romney thinks the War in Afghanistan can be ended, not by talking to the Taliban, but by beating them.

CUBA: Paul opposes a military overthrow of Cuba. We propped up Castro for 40 years, Paul said, by imposing sanctions, which gave him the ability to blame everything on the U.S. He reminded everyone he was drafted in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, but it’s not 1962 anymore and the Cold War is over. We now talk to Russia, China, and Vietnam and have trade with them, so why not Cuba? Romney thinks it is dangerous to open travel with Cuba now, but if Castro died, he would work with a new Cuban leader to move them in an open direction. Gingrich favors aggressively overthrowing the Cuban regime. He accused Obama of being infatuated with the Arab Spring, but ignoring a Cuban Spring. Santorum tried to distinguish Cuba from China, by saying the Cuban island is only 90 miles away. He would continue sanctions against Cuba. He would wait until the Castro brothers died. He believes jihadists and Iranians are excited to establish a platform 90 miles off our coast in Cuba, Venezuela, or Nicaragua.

IRAN: Paul does not think Iran will close the Straits of Hormuz, because they need them open as much as we do. He said it is our blockade that would make Iran close the Straits. A blockade is the act of war, he said, and closing the Straits would be retaliation. Americans certainly do not want a hot war in Iran right now. He asked, what would we do if someone blockaded the Gulf of Mexico? Romney said we need opens seas and if Iran shut down the Straits of Hormuz, it would be an act of war. Gingrich said America has no appetite for war, but we didn’t have one when Pearl Harbor was bombed or the World Trade Center was destroyed either. He accused Obama of cancelling a military exercise with Israel, so as not to be provocative. Santorum said Obama does not see the threat Iran poses, not just to Israel, but the entire world. He argued they held hostages, attacked our ships and embassies, and made improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to harm our troops.

MILITARY: Romney believes we are shrinking our Navy. He again repeated the ridiculous assertion that it is now smaller than at any time since 1917. He wants to increase shipbuilding from 9 ships a year to 15. He wants a carrier in the Gulf. We need to be so strong, he said, so they could never defeat us.

SPACE: Romney thinks space exploration should be a priority for science and military development. Gingrich wants a series of space stations built. He wants to offer prizes for going into orbit.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE: Gingrich was asked: Why is it alright to court votes using Spanish TV ads, but not ok for government to serve people using it? Gingrich said there are 86 languages in Miami-Dade County, and 200 in Chicago. We need a central language to unify the country. Romney said Mass allowed teachers to teach in their native languages, and students ended up not speaking English very well. He pushed English language emersion. People must learn English, he said, to be successful in the U.S. Paul said for national business, we need one language, but states should be allowed to accommodate local needs.

IMMIGRATION: Gingrich favors allowing aliens to earn citizenship through military service. Romney favors self-deportation, which is what he thinks they will do if they do not have proper employment documents. Santorum said people are returning home now, because there are no jobs. He speculates they steal Social Security numbers to get work. Someone who came here illegally, he said, is continually breaking our laws. If you want to come to America, respect our laws, Santorum said.

JOBS: Romney again claimed to help create thousands of jobs at Staples, Bright Horizons, the Sports Authority, and Steel Dynamics. Gingrich was asked why the Bush tax cuts have not created jobs. He speculated things would have been worse.

OLYMPICS: Someone please tell Romney to stop mentioning his work on the Olympics, as if it was some great achievement. Who cares if he was in charge of the Olympics? It’s not important.

VULTURE CAPITALISM: Santorum said there is constructive capitalism and destructive capitalism.

FINANCE: Santorum asked Romney and Gingrich why they supported the Wall Street bailout if they believe in capitalism. Why not let destructive capitalism work, he asked? He said financial institutions should have been allowed to go bankrupt. Why prop them up through government? Romney said the derivatives market was not being regulated. Gingrich said Dodd-Frank allowed the biggest banks to get even bigger. He said regulators are walking into banks and telling them not to lend money.

FED: To placate Ron Paul, Gingrich discussed the formation of a commission to bring back the gold standard.

AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES: Gingrich was asked if he would do away with subsidies for the sugar industry, and get rid of import quotas that protect them. He said the industry was real good at protecting themselves. Romney would eliminate subsidies and let the markets work properly.

ENERGY: Santorum was asked if off-shore oil drilling was worth it. He believes it is essential to build the Keystone Pipeline and gain oil from domestic sources. Pipelines are safer than off-shore.

ENVIRONMENT: Paul would continue federal financing to protect the Everglades. Santorum said Romney believed in global warming enough to sign a cap on CO2 emissions in Mass.

HOUSING: Paul said interest rates were kept too low for too long. He said he introduced legislation 10 years before the bubble burst to end the line of credit to Freddie and Fannie. The Community Reinvestment Act forced banks to make even more risky loans. Our policy has been to try to keep home prices up, but they should be allowed to fall. We have to liquidate the debt, Paul said. They should have gone bankrupt, and the bad debt would have been wiped off the books. As long as we keep the debt on the books, we are not going to grow. Gingrich told Republicans in July 2008 to deny Freddie Mac any money, because they needed reform. Romney accused Gingrich of failing to speak out against what Freddie Mac was doing. Santorum was asked about the 40% of homeowners in Florida whose homes are underwater and the 53% whose homes are worth less today than before the crisis. He was asked if it was too easy to own a home. He said the Democrats fought a reform of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He said we have to let capitalism work and allow banks to realize their losses. He would allow homeowners a tax deduction for their losses. Romney thinks Dodd-Frank makes it harder for banks to renegotiate mortgages and is killing the residential home market.

LOBBYING: Romney said Gingrich was paid 1.6 million by the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac to influence Congress. He received $25,000 per month, or $300,000 a year, for services for Freddie Mac. Gingrich said he was paid for consulting, not lobbying. Romney reminded Gingrich he first said he was paid to be a historian. Gingrich said his share for three offices was $35,000. Romney said Gingrich spent 15 years on K Street influence peddling. Romney reminded viewers 84 ethics charges were filed against Gingrich and 88% of the Republicans in the House voted to reprimand him, causing him to resign in disgrace in 1998.

HEALTH CARE: Gingrich said he always favored a stronger Medicare program and favored Medicare Part D. The government would not pay for insulin, but they would cover kidney dialysis. They would not pay for Lipitor, but would cover open heart surgery. It was a terrible way to run Medicare, he said. Santorum said Romney’s health care plan in Mass was the basis for Obamacare, and Gingrich supported the individual mandate for 20 years. Romney said his health care plan, chosen by the people in Mass, is the one the Constitution allows us to have. He then said he opposes a federal mandate.

BUDGET: Gingrich thinks he balanced four federal budgets in the 1990s. He apparently forgot that they came about because Bill Clinton was President, and a democratically controlled Senate voted, without any Republican support, to make it happen.

TAXES: Romney said he paid a lot of taxes and not a penny more than required. He wants to eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for those earning less than $200,000. He wants the highest corporate income tax lowered to 25%.  Gingrich called his 15% flat tax proposal a “Romney Tax.” He wants everyone to pay the level paid by Romney. In an inconsistent way, he said he would lower capital gains taxes to zero. Romney responded saying his tax liability would have been zero in that case. Romney refused to follow his father’s example of releasing 12 years of tax returns.

LIFE SUPPORT/DEATH: Santorum was asked if government should get involved in disputes like the 2005 case between the spouse of Terri Shaivo and her parents over removing feeding tubes. Non-lawyer Santorum admitted he asked a “federal” judge to get involved, when such situations are almost always ruled upon in state courts. Non-lawyer Gingrich also argued in favor of federal court intervention, where it clearly does not belong.  Paul correctly said the decision should be made at the state level.

01/25/2012

Obama: 2012 State of Union Speech

IRAQ: For the first time in 9 years, President Obama said, no Americans are fighting in Iraq. He welcomed home the last troops in Dec. 2011, but made the highly questionable comment they made the U.S. safer and more respected around the world.

BIN LADEN: Obama noted Osama bin Laden is dead, and no longer a threat to the U.S. He said most al Qaeda’s top lieutenants are defeated, and those who remain are scrambling.

QADDAFI: Obama reminded us that Libya’s Col. Qaddafi, a long-time dictator, who had U.S. blood on his hands, is also dead.

AFGHANISTAN: Obama said the Taliban’s momentum has been broken. We are winding down the War in Afghanistan, as 10,000 troops already came home, and 23,000 will return this summer.

IRAN: Obama said a world that was once divided on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program is now united as one, through diplomacy. Iran now faces crippling sanctions and the pressure will not relent. We are determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. He said he took “no options off the table to achieve that goal.” A peaceful solution is still possible, he noted.

ISRAEL: Obama said we have an ironclad commitment to Israel’s security–the closest military cooperation in our history.

VETERANS: Obama said he increased annual VA spending every year as President.

TRADE: Obama said it is now getting more expensive to do business in China. Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is now running at full capacity and they brought jobs home. He signed trade agreements that gave U.S. firms new customers in Panama, Colombia and South Korea. He filed twice as many trade lawsuits against China, as Bush did. He said it is unfair when subsidies are given to foreign manufacturers, and created a Trade Enforcement Unit to investigate unfair trade by China.

IMMIGRATION: Obama said we have more boots on the ground than ever before and fewer illegal crossings. We should take on illegal immigration, he said, but believes we need comprehensive immigration reform. We should not expel young illegal aliens, he said, who staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. We should give them a chance to earn citizenship.

JOBS: Obama reminded us 4 million lost their jobs in 2008, in the six months before he took office, and another 4 million were laid off before his policies took effect. Businesses have created more than 3 million jobs in the last 22 months and 600,000 will come from the natural gas industry, by the end of the decade.

MANUFACTURING: Obama wants a new generation of high-tech manufacturing. Long before this recession, he said, jobs started leaving our shores. Manufacturing is now creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Our blueprint for jobs includes manufacturing and we should not return to outsourcing.

AUTO: The auto industry, Obama inherited, was on the verge of bankruptcy, but he refused to let it die. Now, GM is once again the world’s number one automaker, Chrysler has grown, and Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants. The industry has now added 160,000 jobs, and we will soon be selling U.S. cars in Korea.

TRANSPORTATION: Obama noted we have crumbling roads and bridges. He noted we built the Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression and the Interstate highway system after WWII.

ENERGY: Obama wants us to control our own energy, so we need not depend on the world. During the past 3 years, he said, millions of new acres, including 75% of offshore oil and gas reserves, have opened for oil and gas exploration. Obama noted the development of natural gas from shale rock. Our oil production, he said, is now at its highest production level in 8 years, and we now rely less on foreign oil than at any time in the past 16 years. He said we cannot cede wind, solar, or battery industries to China or Germany. We are poised to become a leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Our century-long subsidization and taxpayer giveaway to oil should be ended. He instead wants clean energy tax credits. We should also help manufacturers eliminate energy waste by upgrading buildings.

FINANCE: Obama said he imposed new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, and will not return to the days when they governed themselves. He announced financial institutions are not going to be bailed out ever again. He told mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and credit card companies, the days of deceptive practices are over, and he asked Congress for greater penalties for fraud.

HOUSING: Obama reminded us the housing market collapsed in 2008, because regulators looked the other way, as mortgages were sold to people who could not afford them, by lenders who knew it. This is why we need regulations to prevent financial fraud. We should not wait for the housing market to bottom out before providing relief, but homeowners should be allowed to save on their mortgages now, through refinancing at lower rates.

HEALTH: Obama will not return to the days when health insurance companies could deny coverage or cancel policies. He reminded Republicans that his new health care law relies on the private insurance market, not a government program.

EDUCATION: Obama wants to lead the world in education. Although states have already raised standards for teaching and learning, he asked them to require students remain in high school until they graduate, or turn 18. We should reward the best teachers and should stop teaching to a test. To help 2 million Americans who need new job skills, businesses should work with community colleges to design courses. He said every family should be able to afford college, and universities have to keep their costs under control. He warned them: “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.” Obama wants to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. He would extend tuition tax credits, and double the number of work-study jobs. He asked Congress not to gut federally financed university labs, researching cancer and computer chips.

DEFICIT: Obama said together we cut 2 trillion from the deficit.

TAXES: Obama wants everyone to pay their fair share of taxes. The tax code must be changed so wealthy persons like Congressional members pay their fair share in taxes. 98% of all Americans make under $250,000 per year. 25% of all millionaires pay taxes at a lower rate than millions of middle class households. Warren Buffett pays a lower rate than his secretary. If a person makes more than 1 million a year, you should pay no less than 30%. Folks at the top, he said, have seen their incomes rise like never before, but for most workers, paychecks have not been growing, and their debts are piling up. He asked Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for working Americans.

CORPORATE TAXES: Every multinational corporation should pay a basic minimum tax. Companies should not get tax breaks for moving jobs overseas or be allowed a “moving expense” for outsourcing. We need to change a tax law that hits U.S. corporations with one of the highest tax rates in the world. Manufacturers in America should receive a tax cut. He noted we now provide tax credits to companies that hire veterans, and suggested tax relief for small businesses that raise wages and create good jobs. We need incentives so they relocate in communities that have been hit hard by factories that left town.

WOMEN: Although there is already a federal law that requires equal pay for equal work, Obama said “women should earn equal pay for equal work.”

CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Obama would do something about the corrosive influence of money in politics and called for an end to perpetual campaigns of mutual destruction.

APPOINTMENTS: Obama wants up or down votes on judicial and public service nominations held within 90 days.

AGENCIES: Obama ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that make no sense.

01/20/2012

Republican Debate: S Carolina (1-19-12)

MILITARY: Paul, who served along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the 1960s when he was in the Air Force, would cut overseas military spending. He asked why we have troops in Korea, 59 years after the Korean War ended; or in Japan and Germany, 67 years since WWII. We subsidize those countries, he said. Why are we in Afghanistan now for 10 years, and fighting so many undeclared wars?  He argued it is making us bankrupt. Romney thinks we have an aging Navy and Air Force, and it is wrong to balance the budget on the back of the military. He wants a military so strong no one would even think of testing it.

VETERANS: Paul receives twice as much support from veterans than all the others combined, he said. Santorum would continue the multitude of veteran’s preferences.

SOVIET UNION: Gingrich harbors the delusional belief he and Reagan were somehow responsible for Gorbachev’s unilateral decision to dissolve the Soviet Union.

TRADE: Romney wants to crack down on China, since he thinks they cheat with unfair trade. Santorum was asked about Apple Computers, an American company with 40,000 employed here, and 500,000 in China. He would cut to zero corporate income taxes for companies who manufacture in the U.S. Paul tried to explain the consumer benefits from cheaper products made in China. He said a $100 computer instead of one $1,000 is a benefit, but the audience reaction fell flat. He mentioned foreign auto companies still make money assembling cars in America.

IMMIGRATION: Gingrich would control the border and if needed, move half of the 23,000 who work for Homeland Security to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. He would: 1) enforce English as an official language; 2) modernize visas; 3) make it easier to deport; 4) allow guest worker programs; 5) impose enormous sanctions against businesses that hire illegals; 6) have local boards review residency permit applications for those here 25 years; and 7) drop federal lawsuits against South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona. Romney said immigration is a simple matter of forcing employers to check a data base. Those illegally here need to go home, and apply for citizenship, like everyone else. No one should gain an advantage by coming here illegally. Santorum said if you want to become an American, the first thing you have to do is respect our laws. Someone who has been here 25 years, he said, has been breaking the law 25 years, and probably stole someone’s Social Security number. Paul does not believe those who hire should be forced to become policemen, as border guards and the federal government have that job. There should be no federal mandate that forces states to provide medical or educational needs, Paul said. Instead of protecting borders in Afghanistan, Paul said, we should use those resources at home.

VULTURE CAPITALISM: Santorum wants capitalism that works for everybody, including working men and women. Gingrich argued Romney’s Bain Capital leveraged a company in South Carolina and left it with debt. Romney claimed he created 120,000 jobs at four places, and only 10,000 lost their jobs. He said a lot of people benefitted, as profits went to pension funds, charities, and a wide variety of institutions.

JOBS: Santorum wants a Republican Party that talks about putting back to work the men and women who built this country. Paul said the solution is for the government to get out of the way, by reducing regulations, and dropping taxes to zero. The country has to liquidate their debt, Paul said. Regarding jobs, Gingrich would repeal Dodd-Frank, as he thinks it is killing small banks. He would develop natural gas and overhaul the Corps of Engineers.

LABOR: Romney thinks Obama is stacking the NLRB with labor stooges. Santorum pledged to sign a national right-to-work law.

MANUFACTURING: Romney claimed GM was given to the UAW. Santorum noted manufacturing dropped from 21% to 9%, because it costs our companies, excluding labor, 20% more than our top nine trading partners, to do business in America.

ENERGY: Romney wants to use our resources to become energy secure. He complained the 500 million dollar solar energy loan to Solyndra was a waste, as Obama’s rejected the Keystone Pipeline.

ENTITLEMENTS: Santorum believes all Obama wants to do is give people food stamps and Medicaid. He heard Iowa was being fined, because they didn’t sign up enough people for Medicaid. Romney thinks Obama wants to create a European style social welfare state.

HEALTH CARE: Santorum claimed he consistently favored health savings accounts. He accused Romney of promoting a Mass plan, which was not based on the free market. Over half the new people buying health insurance in Mass, he said, were fully subsidized by the state. He also accused Gingrich of supporting an individual mandate for over 10 years, from the 1990s through 2008. As to Gingrich’s idea to make everyone post a $150,000 bond, if they did not buy insurance, Santorum asked how many in the audience could post $150,000. Romney said he would go for a complete repeal of Obamacare. People should be able to take their own insurance with them as they go from job to job, he said. He denied setting up a government-run health care system, since they bought insurance from private companies. He accused Obama of creating a 2,700 page, tax-increasing, Medicare-cutting, monster. He would return health care to the states, and get the government out of Medicaid. Gingrich said to repeal it, a Republican House and Senate must be elected. He claimed to have led the charge against Hillarycare and help write the Health Savings Accounts law. He admitted he was wrong for supporting a mandate. Paul, who apparently did not practice medicine in poor areas, thinks health care “worked rather well” before the government got involved in the 1960s with Medicare and Medicaid. He remembers a fictional world, where “there was nobody on the streets suffering with no medical care.” He accused Santorum of expanding government with the unfunded Prescription Drug law.

BUDGET: Gingrich erroneously took total credit for the 4 years when President Clinton and a Democratic majority in the Senate balanced the federal budget.

TAXES: Santorum would cut the corporate income tax rate to zero. Gingrich opposed President Bush Sr. when he raised taxes, despite a pledge not to do so.

TAX RETURNS: Gingrich put his 2011 tax returns online, showing he paid 31% of 3 million in income taxes. Romney said, over jeers, he would disclose his tax return for this year, when it is due in April, and probably for other years too. He thinks disclose would only serve the purpose of allowing people to attack his financial success. He lied as he added: “I didn’t inherit money from my parents.” He claimed he pays a lot in taxes. When he was asked if he would follow his father’s lead in 1967 and release 12 years of tax returns, because only one year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show., Mitt said just “maybe” and “I don’t know how many years I’ll release.” As the audience jeered him, he then said he would release “multiple” years. Santorum, whose tax rate is higher than Romney’s 15%, said he keeps his records on his laptop, and would release them when he gets home. Paul said he would be embarrassed to disclose his tax returns, because they show so little, but added Congressional financial statements show everything a person might need to know, and he has no conflicts of interest, since he doesn’t even talk to lobbyists.

FREE SPEECH: A question arose regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act, which pits anti-censorship groups against those who say movies and other property are being pirated. Gingrich said the degree of pre-emptive censorship in the law is unacceptable. He though people could use Copyright and Patent protections to sue infringers. Romney argued we should more narrowly go after offshore pirates. Paul said Republicans have been on the wrong side of this issue, as he joined Democrats to oppose it. Santorum opposed the law, but added the Internet is not a zone where people can trample on the rights of others, as property must be respected.

MARRIAGE: The hypocrite Gingrich, who went after President Clinton with a vengeance when he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, was appalled, as he denounced the media for having the audacity to ask him questions about his affair, while married to his second wife. He described it as a vicious attack of the sort that makes it hard to find descent people to run for public office, and harder still to govern. He then distracted everyone by coming up with the preposterous diversion that he was tired of the media protecting Obama by attacking Republicans.

ABORTION: Romney said he was pro-life, and it was the Mass Supreme Court that made abortion available under his health care law. Planned Parenthood was not mentioned in his law, he said. Gingrich claimed a pro-life voting record of 98.6%. Dr. Paul was taught pregnant women are two patients. Santorum said Paul’s right to life record was only 50%. Paul said abortion should be handled by states, where murder and violent crimes are dealt with.

01/17/2012

Republican Debate: New Hamp (1-8-12)

FOREIGN POLICY: Paul said we need someone to challenge our huge empire overseas and the amount we spend on it. Elections are held overseas, he said, but we refuse to accept results. We can no longer have 900 bases in 130 countries, he said. Santorum argued the problem with Paul is all the things Republicans like about him, he cannot accomplish, and all the things they worry about, he can do on day one. As commander-in-chief, on day one, Paul could pull all our troops back from overseas. We would no longer have the 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Perry also disagreed with Paul, saying overseas spending is not our biggest problem.

DEFENSE SPENDING: Huntsman said Defense should not be a sacred cow. If we cannot find cuts in the Defense, we are nuts.

IRAN: Santorum argued Iran has a theocracy which believes the afterlife is better than this one. They are different than the Soviets, China, or North Korea, as they would actually use nuclear weapons, since they value martyrdom and would die for Allah.

PAKISTAN: Even though Pakistan already has nuclear weapons, Santorum said they are a secular state, and not theocratic.

SOCIALISM: Perry believes Obama is a socialist. Paul said there is a socialism for the rich. The banks, and military industrial complex run the entitlement system, and benefit from it.

CAPITALISM: Gingrich referred to a NY Times report that said Romney’s Bain Capital engaged in behavior which looted a company and left 1,700 unemployed.

RECESSION: Romney does not blame Obama for the recession, but claims he is responsible for getting us deeper into it and causing it to go on longer.

BANKS: Romney argues the Dodd-Frank Bill made it harder for community banks to make loans.

LABOR: Perry thinks there is a federal law that forces states to enact right-to-work laws. He claims he is not anti-union, but instead pro-jobs. Santorum would sign a national right-to-work law. Romney said the anti-union right-to-work laws make sense for the entire nation. He also claims Obama stacked the National Labor Relations Board with “labor stooges.”

ENERGY: In response to a question regarding home heating oil prices rising in NH to $4 gallon, because Obama cut the program that helps low income people, Huntsman said we need to disrupt the oil monopoly. Paul wants energy deregulated. He said subsidizing it is not the way to do it. Gingrich wants federal lands and offshore areas opened for oil and gas development. Romney said air pollution is a reason to switch to natural gas, located in the Dakotas, Penn and Texas, which costs only a fraction of oil.

ENVIRONMENT: Romney said we are responsible for clean air and cannot allow pollution from one state to flow to another state.

HEALTH CARE: Huntsman agrees with the Ryan plan which would remove 6.2 trillion from the budget over 10 years. Medicare should not be a sacred cow, he said. He would impose means testing. Gingrich called the new Ryan-Wyden bill more sensible. Paul explained medical care is not a right, like liberty, but rather an entitlement. He explained federal employees have a choice of plans. If they opt for a more expensive one, their co-insurance costs are higher. Romney would cut Obamacare and save 95 billion a year. Santorum opposes subsidizing high income seniors and supports anti-socialist approaches like Medical Savings Accounts, Medicare Advantage, based on premiums, and Medicare Part D.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Romney does not want to change Medicare or Social Security for current retirees.

POVERTY: Romney said federal poverty programs need to be sent back to the states. Given the bureaucracy, he thinks very little actually reaches those who need it. Santorum would block grant food stamps and housing and send them back to the states.

AGENCIES: Perry would eliminate the Energy, Commerce, and Education Depts. Romney would cut a whole series of programs.

TERM LIMITS: Huntsman said, as a candidate for governor, he talked about term limits and campaign finance reform.

BUDGET: The only people who would be in pain through budget cuts are crooks, Gingrich said. Romney said we need to stop the extraordinary spending going on for the past 20, 30 to 40 years.  Paul said his 1 trillion dollar proposal to cut spending would not begin with Social Security, but rather overseas spending. He would return to the 2006 budget. Perry said spending is the biggest problem and wants a balanced budget amendment.

TAXES: The right course, Romney said, is not to raise taxes. Huntsman said loopholes and deductions weigh down our tax code by 1 trillion dollars, and give rise to lobbying on Capitol Hill. We must say good-bye to corporate welfare and subsidies.

FAMILY: Santorum believes the breakdown of the American family is undermining America, as he pointed out the rate of poverty in single-parent families is five times higher.

GAYS: Romney would not discriminate against gays. He appointed people to the bench regardless of sexual orientation, but does not favor same-sex marriage. Santorum said every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should have equal opportunity, but he opposes adoption by gay couples.

ELECTABILITY: Romney will have a very hard time getting elected, Gingrich argued. Romney called himself a conservative, who balanced the Mass budget 4 years straight, and cut taxes 19 times. Santorum pointed out that if Romney was such a great Mass. Gov, why didn’t he run for re-election? He said Romney lost a race to Sen. Kennedy in 1994 by 20 points. When Romney claimed politics is not a career for him, Gingrich told him to drop the “pious baloney.” He said Romney has been running for office since the 1990s.  Paul doesn’t think the Republicans will do well with a candidate who endorsed the single-payer system and TARP bailouts. Paul sponsored 620 measures, but just 4 made it to the floor, and only 1 became law.

01/16/2012

Republican Debate: New Hamp (1-7-12)

QUALIFICATIONS: Huntsman repeated he lived overseas four times and managed two American embassies, one in China. Santorum mentioned his eight years on the Armed Services Committee, as qualification for Commander-in-Chief.

TERROR: Santorum said Obama is trying to make the war on terror politically correct by removing the words “radical Islam” from every defense document.

DEFENSE: Santorum argued government has a role to play in defense. Romney accused Obama of wanting to shrink the military, and Perry said he is cutting 1 billion in defense spending.

MILITARY SERVICE: Paul, who was drafted and served when he was young, noted 40,000 were seriously injured in our recent wars, while 8,500 died, and those who received 3, 4 or 5 deferments and did not serve, have no right to send our kids off to war. Gingrich said during the Vietnam War, he was married and never requested a deferment. He claimed he was somehow ineligible for the draft. Paul said when he was drafted, he went despite being married with two children. Romney, who received several deferments during Vietnam, finds it extraordinary that only a few families are paying the price for freedom.

AFGHAN: Huntsman said we drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, ran al Qaeda out into sanctuaries, held free elections, and eliminated bin Laden. It is time to come home and stop nation-building. He thinks a civil war is around the corner. He would leave behind only Special Forces and 10,000 troops for intelligence gathering. Romney would listen to the generals on the ground, and without reason, said he would wait until 2014 to withdraw. Huntsman said we deferred to the generals in 1967 and did not get good results.

IRAN: Paul said he does not want Iran to get a nuclear weapon, but putting sanctions against Iran will only lead to the unintended consequence of pushing them into the hands of China. Romney accused Obama of not imposing crippling sanctions against Iran. Santorum wants to help the revolutionaries in Iran as he called the situation the most pressing issue of the day. Gingrich worries more about the closing of the Straits of Hormuz, since one of six barrels of oil flows through it every day.

IRAQ: Perry wants to send troops back into Iraq now. He worries Iran will enter Iraq. Romney would not now send troops to Iraq.

TRADE: Romney said China and European states opened 44 different trade relationships with various nations around the world. We have to do the same for American goods, claiming Obama not. He also said China manipulates their currency and if you artificially hold down its value, you make your products lower-priced and kill American jobs. Huntsman said its nonsense to think you can slap a tariff on China your first day in office as Romney would do. He said Romney would take us into a trade war where we would get tariffs in return that will hurt our exports. Romney said China does not want a trade war, because they sell more to us than we sell to them. He would hold China to free and fair trade rules. Gingrich said we cannot compete with China with an inferior infrastructure.

VULTURE CAPITALISM: Gingrich accused Romney of making spectacular profits by stripping American businesses of assets, selling everything to the highest bidder, and killing jobs for big financial rewards. He opposed leveraged buyouts, where money is taken out and workers are left behind. He said Bain bankrupted companies and laid off employees. Romney said companies must downsize before turning around and making a success. Bain invested in over 100 businesses, he said, and on balance claimed 100,000 jobs were added. Steel Dynamics in Indiana added thousands, Bright Horizons 15,000, Sports Authority 15,000, and Staples 90,000. Romney said sometimes they were not successful.

MANUFACTURING: Huntsman thinks we can win back investment and have a manufacturing renaissance.

FINANCE: Paul thinks we are in a 40-year financial bubble which is bursting and we must liquidate the debt. Romney opposed the Dodd-Frank bill.

CLASS WAR: Santorum said there are no classes in America; there are middle income people

JOBS: Romney hopes the economy is turning around, because there are 25 million unemployed or who stopped looking. Obama’s policies have made the recession deeper, he argues. Perry wants New Hampshire to pass a right-to-work law, and Paul said Santorum voted against right-to-work laws.

REGULATIONS: Perry thinks Americans want less regulation.

ENERGY: Romney said our policies keep us from using our own energy. Perry wants to open up federal lands and waters to more domestic energy drilling, so we are not hostage to countries hostile to us. Gingrich wants an energy plan free of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela. Santorum served on a coal company board.

TRANSPORTATION: Gingrich said we must make investments, because we cannot complete with China with an inferior infrastructure. Romney advocated improving our infrastructure by rebuilding bridges, roads, rail beds, and air transport systems.

HEALTH: Romney opposed Obamacare. Huntsman said he reformed health care in Utah, without an individual mandate. Paul said Santorum voted for the Prescription drug program.

EDUCATION: Paul said Santorum voted to double the Dept of Education.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Santorum said he voted for SS reform.

BUDGET/DEBT: Paul said Santorum is a big government person who voted to raise the debt ceiling five times. For the past 26 years, Paul voted against appropriations bills. Perry wants to get rid of what he called corrupt spending. Santorum said increases in the debt ceiling have happened for 200 years.

TAXES: Huntsman would eliminate 1 billion of loopholes in the tax code. He implemented a flat tax in Utah, and said the Wall St Journal endorsed his tax plan. Santorum would keep only the deductions for health care, housing, pensions, children, and charity.  He would cut corporate income tax in half, down to 17.5%. He claims the 35% rate is the highest in the world. Romney said we must have some taxes to pay for our military, but noted government has grown from 27% in JFK’s day to 37% now. He repeated a pledge to eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains. Perry thinks Americans want less taxation.  Gingrich would reduce capital gains to zero, corporate income tax to 12.5% and he would abolish the death tax. He would allow 100% expensing for all new equipment.

TERM LIMITS: Huntsman wants Congressional terms limits.

DISCRIMINATION IN LEGAL SYSTEM: Paul said the legal system discriminates, as it arrests and imprisons blacks for drug offenses far more than whites. They get the death penalty more often, he added.

CONTRACEPTION: Santorum believes there is no constitutional right to privacy, and states have a 10th Amendment right to ban contraception. After being directed to Griswold v Conn (1965), in which a state law banning contraception was challenged, Romney doesn’t think any state today wants to ban contraception.

ABORTION: Romney said Roe v Wade (1973) was not decided correctly because he thinks the issue should have been left to the states. He wants the ruling overturned.

PRIVACY: Paul correctly informed everyone the 4th Amendment contains privacy protections. Santorum agreed there is a right to privacy in the 4th Amendment.

GAYS: Huntsman, married 28 years with 7 children, thinks civil unions are fair. Santorum said gay marriage is not a federal issue, but marriage itself is because we need one law on the topic. We cannot have someone married in one state, and not in another. He wants a federal law that bans adoption for gay couples. Romney would amend the constitution as to gay marriage. Gingrich said gays ought to be able to designate friends in their last will or who can make hospital visits, but not through marriage, which should be reserved to one man and one woman. Perry favors a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Gingrich, Santorum, Romney all got it wrong when they said in succession if they were not debating they would be watching the championship college football game. The game was actually not on until a few evenings later.

01/12/2012

Ron Paul: Why Voters Support Him

While the inside the beltway crowd cannot understand why Ron Paul finished a close third in Iowa, and now second in New Hampshire, if they had been listening, they would have heard his anti-war, anti-torture message, his willingness to cut military spending, his pledge to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, his promise to avoid conflict with Iran, his hostility towards corporate welfare, deficit spending, his defense of liberty, and personal freedom, and scorn for wasteful projects, like the war on drugs.

FOREIGN POLICY: Paul clearly receives his popularity from his foreign policy. He said: we need to stop our wars. It angers foreigners when we occupy their lands. We were attacked on 911, he explained, because we had troops in Saudi Arabia. We are disliked because we have done nothing to stop the abuse against the Palestinians. We have 900 bases around the globe in 150 nations. Paul asked why we keep troops in Korea, Japan, or Germany. We have more weapons than all other nations combined–enough to blow up the world 20 to 25 times. He said we have to stop trying to be the policeman of the world.

WAR ON TERROR: He said the war on terror is like the war on drugs. It’s a pretend war. No formal declaration of war was ever made. Terrorism is only a tactic, he said. Others may want to bomb us, because we bomb them, not because of what we believe.

LIBERTY: As to profiling, Paul asked what if a person looked like the white Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh? As to the Patriot Act, our Founders warned not to sacrifice liberty for security, Paul said, something our government now does too willingly. We should not give up freedom for a police state.

TORTURE: Paul correctly argued torture is illegal under U.S. and international law. Water-boarding is torture, he said in no uncertain terms. It’s uncivilized and immoral. We should not give up so easily on the rule of law, he said, as he pointed out over 300 terrorists were convicted in civilian courts and sent to prison.

MILITARY BUDGET: Paul said there is a lot of waste in the military and we can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman. Our new embassy in Baghdad alone is costing 1 billion. He courageously said the military budget must be on the table and offered to cut billions from their overseas spending. He accused others of just talking about reducing proposed increases.

FOREIGN AID: Paul would also cut all foreign assistance, including aid for Israel, since the Constitution does not authorize it. We gave military aid to an Egyptian dictator and got nothing.

AFGHANISTAN: He would clearly withdraw from Afghanistan now, and would save billions. He said the U.S. should withdraw from Afghanistan, because that’s where the Soviet Union was brought down. He predicted the same may happen to us.

IRAN: Paul does not pander or say things he thinks the audience wants to hear. He explained Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, because they have well-armed neighbors who already have the bomb, and for them, it is a matter of self-defense. He was not afraid to say Iran is no credible threat to the U.S. He warned the imposition of sanctions against Iran would provoke yet another war. He said it is not worth going to war against Iran to prevent them from gaining nuclear weapons. What is going on right now with Iran is the same propaganda used in the build-up to the Iraq War. He would not support an unprovoked unilateral attack by Israel upon Iran. He asked: why are we flying drones over Iran? While we don’t want to see Iran with nuclear weapons, he said it’s dangerous to declare war on 1.2 billion Muslims.

SYRIA: Paul would stay out of Syria. The Syrians need to deal with Syria, he said. We would only get in trouble if we got involved. We should simply support self-determination.

IRAQ: He would complete the withdrawal from Iraq, reminding us we still have 17,000 contractors on the ground over there.

ISRAEL: Paul asked: why should we commit our kids and our money to endlessly aid Israel?

CORPORATE WELFARE: Paul accused both parties of bailing out big corporations and Wall Street speculators, who ripped off regular people in the derivatives market. He would deny government aid to private enterprise.

HOUSING: Paul said Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae caused overbuilding and distortions, and government needs to get out of housing. Easy credit built too many houses and caused a bubble, he argues, which eventually burst, and now we are going through a correction, that is costing Middle Class people their homes. If money was to be given out, Paul said, it should have gone to those who lost their mortgages, not the banks. He said government sponsored enterprises received excessive credit from the Fed under the Community Reinvestment Act, and the housing debt must now be liquidated, as we are just prolonging the agony.

BUDGET/DEBT: Paul said nobody cares about the national debt, but it is a burden on the economy. Our financial condition is actually the biggest single threat to national security, he said.  Unnecessary wars have added to our deficits, and yet we are not cutting anything; it’s just talk. They only nibble away at baseline budgeting. They get hysterical on the Hill, because their budgets are not going up as rapidly as they want. The budget is out of control, because of earmarks. Paul said he would eliminate five departments and cut 1 billion in spending from the federal budget in his first year.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Paul said the Social Security Trust Fund should not have been used to fight wars.

DRUG WAR: Paul argued the war on drugs is a total failure, which should be handled like alcohol.

THE FED: Paul does not believe the Fed Reserve should set interest rates or decide how much money should be in circulation. He would return the gold standard. He said the Fed set interest rates well below market levels and keeping them low only distorts the economy. He does not believe they stimulate economic activity. He said Greenspan kept them too low for too long. He criticized the ability of banks get loans at zero percent, a practice which cheats the elderly of interest income they could earn from CDs. He was concerned the Fed sent five billion overseas to bail out foreign banks, and wants the Fed audited.

HEALTH CARE: Paul correctly said the insurance and drug companies will love the individual mandate. He wants more market competition in medicine. He supports medical savings accounts and would let people opt out of the health care plan.

 

12/27/2011

Health Care Law in Plain English

After reading a Health Care Law article by attorneys Skindrud and Cleary in the Wisconsin Lawyer (12-11), I translated it into a plain English version for ordinary Americans.

“Obamacare,” as Republicans put it, was not written by President Obama, it was drafted by lobbyists, enacted by Congress, and handed to the President on March 23, 2010, for his signature. It is actually two laws: the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” and the “Health Care Education Reconciliation Act.”

The purpose the new legislation is to cover most Americans with private health care insurance, and to reduce taxpayer subsidization for ER services, provided to the growing number of uninsured.

The law contains an individual mandate, requiring the purchase of health insurance. The idea of forcing people to buy insurance is not new. For nearly 100 years in Wisconsin, businesses have been under a government mandate to acquire Workers Compensation Insurance, from private carriers, to cover employees in the event of accidents at work. Employers also contribute to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) to provide for laid off employees. They must further pay the Social Security-Medicare system, under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

What is different about the new health care law is the individual mandate to buy insurance, as opposed to one requiring businesses to do so. The new Act raises Constitutional issues as to whether it exceeds the Congressional power to regulate Commerce, a question that will be ruled upon by the Supreme Court. While states have long mandated the purchase of automobile liability insurance or at least proof of financial responsibility, the opponents of the health care law may be able to show legal distinctions between auto and health.

For the most part, the new law does not kick in until 2014, when individuals must have “minimal essential coverage.” If they do not, penalties may be imposed for each month they went without it. The punishment will be based on a percentage of income, as reflected in annual tax returns.

Although most Americans will see no tax increase as a result of the new law, those earning $200,000, or more, will contribute a certain percent of income to help finance the new Act.

The federal Medicaid program for the poor, administered by states, but paid largely by Washington, will extend coverage in 2014 to those under 65, who are not disabled, if they earn 133% of poverty or less.

Each state will open up Health Insurance Exchanges in 2014, as a place for individuals, and businesses of up to 100 employees, to find affordable insurance. Larger employers must wait until 2017. Individuals and businesses will pay a portion of the premiums, up to certain caps, and to insure affordability, the government will pick up the balance owed to the insurance industry. Those at the poverty level will pay 2% of income in premiums; those at 400% of poverty will pay 9.5%.

Private insurance companies will be required to provide coverage for “essential health benefits,” without lifetime caps. Co-payments and deductibles will disappear in 2014. Children will no longer be subjected to pre-existing condition exclusions, and are now able to stay on their parents plan through age 26. Adults have to wait until 2014 to be free of the pre-existing condition exclusion.

To control health care costs, the government is pushing health care providers through Medicare reimbursements to abandon the fee-for-service system, reduce ER visits, eliminate duplication, and end unnecessary procedures. Payments for excess readmissions for conditions like heart failure will be reduced. The plan is to cut Medicare re-imbursement rates by 30% in 2012.

Although the goal of coverage to all is a noble one, the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court may in a 5-4 vote find the individual mandate unconstitutional. If the law is upheld, some previously without coverage will benefit, but the biggest winner will be the health insurance industry, since the federal government will subsidize their unregulated premiums. The government will probably also lose the struggle with the health care industry to lower reimbursements. While a single-payer system would have been better, and more efficient, we can only wait and see what develops under this law.

12/13/2011

Republican Debate in Iowa (12-10-11)

Six of the remaining Republican candidates, with the notable absence of Gov. Huntsman, debated in Iowa on Dec. 10, 2011.

CANDIDATE HARDSHIPS: Romney admitted he didn’t grow up poor. If people are looking for that background, he said, he is not their man. He said his father taught him hard work, by making sure he had jobs, such as serving overseas for his church. While debating health care, Romney however showed how out-of-touch he is with normal people, by offering to bet Perry, not $10, but $10,000, over the content of his book. Perry explained his family didn’t even have running water, until he was a 5-year-old. Paul worked his way through college, saying they didn’t have much. Bachmann got a job at age 13, when her mother divorced, and her family dropped below the poverty level. Gingrich’s father was in the army, causing him to move about a lot. Santorum was happy to have lived in a modest setting with a father and a mother.

FOREIGN POLICY: Paul would stop being the policeman of the world, allowing us to cut billions from overseas spending. He said we don’t need another war in Syria or Iran. We pretend we are leaving Iraq, he said, but we still have 17,000 contractors there. He would get rid of the new embassy in Iraq that cost 1 billion.

IRAN: Perry thinks Obama could have retrieved or at least destroyed the Drone recently downed by Iran. He believes China and Russia now have the Drone’s highly technical equipment.

SPACE: Romney disagreed with Gingrich’s idea to establish a lunar colony to mine minerals from the moon. Gingrich said he only wanted to prompt kids into dreaming of going to Mars.

PALESTINE: Paul correctly explained: when the Ottoman Empire ruled the Mideast, neither the Israelis, nor the Palestinians, had independent states. He suggested letting the people in that region deal with their own problems, as we cannot be the policeman of the world, or settle their disputes, because we are broke. Gingrich, ignorant of history, called the Palestinians an “invented people.” He labeled all of “these people” terrorists. He accused them all of teaching terrorism in schools. He exaggerated, suggesting Israel was getting rocketed every day. He believes the Palestinian “right of return” to their homeland, now illegally occupied by Israel, is based on a historically false story. He incorrectly suggested the word “Palestine” did not become a common term until after 1977. The Chief Palestinian negotiator correctly observed Gingrich’s statements will give Bin Laden like extremists, ammunition for a long time. Romney agreed with “most of what Gingrich said, except the Palestinians are an invented people.” He criticized Obama for wanting to go back to the 1967 borders, as he thinks this would only make things more difficult for Netanyahu. Our disagreements with Israel, he said, should be conducted in private. Bachmann went to Israel in 1974 and worked on a kibbutz. Before she would make any statements about Israel, she would first call Netanyahu to seek his permission, by asking him “would it help if I said this?” She thinks all Palestinians teach their children to hate Jews. Santorum said “the Israelis have a right to determine what happens on their land,” but incorrectly believes, “the West Bank is Israeli land.”

IMMIGRATION: When Gingrich was asked how many years an illegal alien would have to live in the U.S. to get special consideration, he said the issue would be turned over to local review boards, who would consider whether they had been a good local “citizens,” or belonged to a church, before granting residency, not citizenship. He doubted there are 3.5 million who have been here 25 years. He wants severe penalties for employers who hire illegally. Romney said amnesty would give rights to education and health care. He does not want to encourage another wave of illegal immigration and would make them get in the back of the line with everyone else who wants to come here. Perry would enforce the immigration laws already on the books. He would not do catch and release, or sue states like Arizona.

WALL STREET: Bachmann opposed the Wall Street bailout, as they made foolish decisions, took profits in good times, but when things went bad, their losses were socialized. Paul said the Middle Class is being destroyed, and things are only going to get worse.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Perry accused Obama of defunding Social Security through a payroll tax cut. We can’t fix the Trust Fund by taking resources away from it. Either you care about Social Security, and you fund it, or you don’t, he said.

HEALTH CARE: Bachmann said Gingrich advocated for an individual mandate for over 20 years, and Romney implemented socialized medicine in his state. Perry also accused Romney and Gingrich of favoring the individual mandate. Gingrich said the mandate idea arose in the 1990s in response to Hillary Care. Newt said he fought Obamacare every step of the way, incorrectly arguing if Congress can make you buy insurance, they could make you buy anything. He said the whole third party payer model, public or private, has become difficult and expensive, suggesting we return to a doctor-patient relationship, with Health Savings Accounts, so people are involved in their own health care costs. Santorum opposed the mandate in 1994, while a Senate candidate, and supported Medical Savings Accounts. Romney authorized the mandate in Mass, because three of four supported it. He said Obama’s plan does three things Mass. did not do: 1) raise taxes 500 billion; 2) cut Medicare 500 billion; 3) take over health care. Obama’s plan, he said, is wrong, and should be repealed, because it cuts Medicare and raises taxes. He thinks the Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional, as it violates the 10th Amendment. The right course, Romney said, is to let each state experiment.

JOBS: Gingrich thinks he will create jobs by lowering taxes, repealing regulations, and developing energy. Romney said jobs are not created in Washington, but in the private sector. He would do seven things to create jobs: 1) lower tax rates; 2) change regulations; 3) alter trade policy; 4) use energy resources; 5) curtail the NLRB; 6) use human capital; and 7) limit government spending. Paul thinks jobs are related to financial bubbles, caused by excessive credit, stimulated by the Fed. The debt, he said, inhibits economic growth. Instead of liquidating it, it was dumped on the American people. Paul said the culprit is big government spending. Bachmann thinks she would create 1.4 million jobs by legalizing American energy. She would cut Obamacare, as she believes it will cause a loss of 1.6 million jobs. Santorum said 21% were employed in industry, but now it’s only 9%. To revitalize it, he would eliminate income taxes on manufacturing.

LABOR LAW: Romney does not agree with Gingrich’s idea to abolish Child Labor laws, or have kids clean schools. He said those laws don’t need changing. Gingrich thinks kids should learn to work at an early age, saying janitors in New York are paid twice as much as teachers, and children should take their jobs.

HOUSING: Paul said Gingrich supported TARP, and received a lot of taxpayer money from Freddie Mac, which is essentially a government organization. Gingrich denied being a lobbyist for any government agency. He said he was only paid to give advice. Paul reminded Gingrich he took taxpayer money.

ENERGY: Gingrich said he testified against “cap and trade” and helped defeat it in the Senate, the same day Gore testified for it.

TAXES: Gingrich would eliminate capital gain and death taxes, and would lower corporate income tax rates to 12.5%. Perry wants a flat tax of 20%. Bachmann would abolish the entire Federal Tax Code, and replace it by lowering tax rates for individuals and businesses, and increasing them for the poor, by making sure everyone pays. She said 47% pay no federal income tax. She opposed the payroll tax cut for ordinary Americans, because she called it a gimmick that took 111 billion from the Trust Fund, forcing us to go to the Treasury for the difference. Romney called the payroll tax cut a Band-Aid.  He repeated his desire to help the rich, by eliminating taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains.

FAMILY: Perry said if you cheat on your spouse, why wouldn’t you cheat on anyone? Santorum would not go so far as to say character is a disqualifier, since people make mistakes, but said it’s a factor. Gingrich admitted, as a 68-year-old grandfather, he made mistakes, but went to God for forgiveness, and the question now is whether he can be trusted. Bachmann declared herself an unashamed and unapologetic Christian. Paul, married for 54 years, said marriage vows are as important as the oath of office. If we took our oath seriously, he said we would get rid of 80% of government, have a balanced budget, not be the policeman of the world, not have a Fed Reserve, and not invade the privacy of citizens under the Patriot Act.