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Friday Talking Points [108] -- Obama's Pivotal Week

[ Posted Friday, January 22nd, 2010 – 17:26 PST ]

I have to start off today apologizing to my Huffington Post readers for possibly wearing out my welcome there this week, since this will be my fourth post in as many days there. But it's been a heckuva week, that's my excuse. I started with two columns on the anniversary of Barack Obama's Inauguration and his first year in office (one with my thoughts, and one with two extraordinary essays from young Americans I attended the Inauguration with). But, while I was wallowing in the calendar, other things were happening.

That's right. This column was moved to 12:05 in the morning, and Jay Leno announced he'd be taking over the normal Friday Talking Points column.

Heh. No, seriously, there was this election up in Massachusetts, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are "persons" with full First Amendment rights, and then Barack Obama pivoted hard -- to Populism, of all things. Which led me to offer up a rare Thursday column, where I tried to encourage the "Let Obama be Obama" moment that had apparently just happened.

So, for those HuffPosters who feel it's been too much, well, my apologies.

But it is Friday, and Fridays are what we enjoy most around here, since it's time for the weekly wrapup/smackdown known as the Friday Talking Points.

Here's a bit of news you may have missed: Democrats still control the Senate. Really! This seems to have escaped a lot of people, leading the Village Voice to run the hilarious tongue-in-cheek blog headline: "Scott Brown Wins Mass. Race, Giving GOP 41-59 Majority in the Senate."

Although portrayed as Doomsday by both the media and by Democrats themselves, everyone seems to have forgotten that Democrats only held the 60 votes (really, "59 plus Lieberman") for a period of a few months. Most of last year, they only (even counting Lieberman as a "Democratic" vote) had 58 or 59 votes, and they still managed to get a few things done.

But if it scared the living daylights out of Capitol Hill Democrats, then I guess there is a silver lining to the whole Massachusetts fiasco. And it fits right in with the White House's plans to "pivot" (more on this pivoting, in a bit) after healthcare reform was done... or, maybe, during the State Of The Union speech next week.

Those two used to mean pretty much the same thing, but healthcare reform now looks like an even bigger trainwreck than the Massachusetts election. The only thing certain at this point is that it ain't going to happen before the State Of The Union speech.

But since Democrats are taking some time to figure out what to do next, we shall do the same here, and skip over the entire healthcare reform subject, after highlighting (in the "if I doesn't laugh, I'm sure gonna cry" spirit) two hilarious commentaries on the situation. The first comes from Tom Toles, Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist at the Washington Post (Oh, let's go for the field goal, whaddya say?). And the second I noticed on Salon, in the "War Room" column, an ad for "Balls Beer" that is just as funny.

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

While the Awards Committee here at FTP had some reservations about this one, we're going to remain optimistic and positive, and go ahead and award President Barack Obama this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

Obama didn't start the week strong, of course, since his last-minute campaign blitz into Massachusetts last weekend didn't really accomplish much. A backdrop to the early part of the week that helped Obama nationwide, however, was his handling of the Haiti earthquake situation, which seems to have done him a bit of good in general. But this, and his celebration of Martin Luther King Day were overshadowed by the Massachusetts Senate loss.

Luckily, Obama was ready. There's a reason for this, and the reason is that about a month (or so) ago, the White House reportedly woke up to the fact that the Obama administration was generally seen by the public as sucking up to Wall Street, while simultaneously ignoring Main Street.

This both astonished and dismayed Obama's advisors, from all reports.

But, to their credit, they started working on the problem. And, for the past month, the White House leak brigade has been continuously squeaking about how Obama was going to perform a massive "pivot" -- after healthcare reform was signed -- to economic issues average Americans worried about, like jobs (for instance). And taking on the Big Banks on Wall Street.

So they had a lot of this stuff teed up and ready to drive down the fairway, right after healthcare reform was done. Problem was, healthcare reform is still not done, and now that the Senate's makeup is going to change, it just got a lot harder.

So Obama's team decided not to wait. They announced that the State Of The Union would take place in January (early leaks were that it was going to be pushed back to February), all but guaranteeing that the speech would fall before the healthcare bill's signing ceremony (this was even before Massachusetts voted). In other words, Obama was ready to pivot.

Then Massachusetts happened. And Obama, to his credit, executed his pivot without even waiting for the big speech next week. He is obviously annoyed at the perception of being in bed with Wall Street (especially since, honestly, that particular rhetorical shoe must have fit pretty well when he tried it on), and he is going to try to change that with a vengeance.

"About time!" I hear many of you say.

But timeliness (and his first year in office) aside, we simply have to recognize that Obama's pivotal moment has sent him off in a new and welcome direction. There seems to be a struggle within Obama's economic team, and for once Paul Volcker (look for his name in the news a lot more in the immediate future) seems to have come out on top.

The first three shots across Wall Street's bow from Obama are (1.) a bank tax, levied on how risky the bank is behaving, (2.) support for restoring Glass-Steagall rules for banking, and (3.) defining what "too big to fail" means, and drawing a line that says "no company should be too big to fail."

All admirable goals, I have to say.

Now, these are likely just the first proposals in a whole raft of proposed legislation we should look for in the coming weeks from the White House. And, really, they're not too hard to come up with, which I'll get to in the Talking Points part of the program, in a minute.

Obama still does face a lot of suspicion and mistrust by voters, mostly due to his own actions in the past year. Obama's known for talking a good game, and then quietly allowing Rahm Emanuel to "give away the store" in negotiations with Big Business -- while most people aren't even paying attention. So we'll see what the actual follow-through is on Obama's newfound Populism.

But my guess is that a new day is dawning in the White House. Obama is no fool. He can read his own poll numbers just as well as the next guy can. And they've been on a slow slide ever since he took office. He knows that he's got to act soon, or watch his presidency's opportunities slip away. My guess is that he knows full well that he's got about half a year or so to prove himself on the issue -- to many who are seriously skeptical about his commitment right now.

Time will tell, in other words. But for now, for this week, Obama's pivot simply has to be acknowledged. Obama has pivoted hard, and he has pivoted in the right direction. For this, he has earned his Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate President Barack Obama on his White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

This one is easy, this week.

Martha Coakley, erstwhile Democratic candidate for Ted Kennedy's seat in the Senate, was easily far-and-away the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Disappointment reigned far from Boston this week, as Coakley blew an enormous lead in the foreshortened 42-day campaign, to lose this past Tuesday's special election.

Now, there's plenty of blame to go around in this particular fiasco, there is absolutely no doubt about that. But Coakley was head and shoulders above (below?) the rest, in the running for MDDOTW this week, for her (to put it mildly) uninspired campaign.

Here's a hint for all up-and-coming Democratic candidates for higher office: don't take a six-day vacation in the middle of a 42-day race! Sheesh! I'm surprised I have to explain this stuff, as the renowned philosopher Joe Bob Briggs would put it.

Also, the Hillary-esque "I'm inevitable, don't bother me with the campaign, I'm busy measuring the drapes for my new office" campaign strategy is not particularly a good one for the mood the country's in right now.

But Coakley's been beaten up enough this week, both in print and at the ballot box. So we'll just hand her the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award, and move on. To dwell on it anymore would be the equivalent of rubbernecking at a particularly bad trainwreck, which would be unseemly. Ahem.

[No contact information is available for Martha Coakley, which is not all that surprising, really.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 108 (1/22/10)

Today's talking points are directed at President Obama and the White House Team Of Economic Muckety-Mucks.

The following are seven suggestions for issues to champion, to follow up on President Obama's pivotal week. They come complete with an easy way to explain what you are doing to the public. That's a key part of these reforms -- they should be simple. The legislation should be twenty pages each, tops. And they should be easy to explain to average Americans -- because they are issues that will greatly benefit average Americans. I should mention that it took me about five minutes to come up with these seven ideas, proving that there are many, many different ways to tackle the core Populist issues.

Because once you begin, Mister President (and assorted Muckety-Mucks), I believe you'll figure out this core truth: this Populism stuff is easy!

 

1
   C.F.P.A.!

The reason this one is first is that it is currently grinding its way through Congress. But, unfortunately, as with almost all financial reform legislation, it is being gutted in the process. Obama has already taken a stronger stand on this than many expected (quite recently, I should mention), and it, like the issues mentioned in the MIDOTW section, has already been debated in Congress. Obama needs to issue his first veto threat over this one, in no uncertain terms.

"I believe Americans need a strong agency that fights for their rights against the banks. Congress is considering a Consumer Financial Protection Agency right now, and some have suggested that it is going too far, or that it is somehow too much. I disagree strongly, and I say to Congress that any bill which reaches my desk without a truly independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency will be returned with a large 'VETO' stamped upon it. Because anything short of this is a giveaway to Wall Street, instead of protecting Main Street as it should. If this is the first bill I veto, then so be it. I will fight for the C.F.P.A. until Congress gets it right."

 

2
   Credit card caps

This one is easy, and would require revisiting an issue that Democrats previously watered down. Luckily, one of the ways they watered it down was to delay implementation, so there is still a short window where they could just amend the new credit card rules which are about to take effect. This one issue -- more than any other financial issue -- would reap an overwhelming amount of support from average folks. Which is why it should be pushed -- hard.

"Looking at credit card rates today brings to mind a word from the Bible -- 'usury' -- which, in modern terms, might be called 'loan sharking.' I call for a federal law that no credit card or debit card would be allowed to have interest rates over twenty-five percent. Even that's too high, but anything over that is just flat-out wrong. I intend to end these abominably high interest rates from greedy Wall Street firms, and instead pass a law to change it overnight. This wouldn't have to be a long and complicated law, it could consist of about two or three paragraphs. No interest over 25%. I call on Congress to pass such a law immediately and put it on my desk so that this change can take effect when the other credit card reforms already passed take effect. And if there are bought-and-paid-for Congressmen from either party who are holding it up, I want to know their names so I can share with the American people exactly who is on the side of obscene bank profits, and who is fighting for the middle class."

 

3
   TARP to go to small businesses

This one probably would need a little tweaking, but I still think the core idea is a good one, once again, because it is such a simple concept to comprehend.

"I am calling on Congress to pass a bill which frees up all the remaining TARP funds, so that instead of shoveling money at Wall Street forever, we send this money instead to the Small Business Administration, so that they can lend this money directly to American small businesses, to jumpstart our economy. Small businesses create around seven of every ten jobs in America, and they have been hurt by the tight credit situation on Wall Street. To rectify this situation -- since Wall Street doesn't seem interested in making loans available to small businesses -- we will offer to loan this money to these small businesses directly, at the same rate we lend money to the big banks on Wall Street. That's right -- the same rock-bottom rates the big banks get will be offered to the public instead, on hundreds of billions of dollars. We may lose a little money on these loans, but I am betting American small businessman will take this money, expand their business, and create some jobs -- and then successfully pay it back to the taxpayer. I'm willing to bet the federal government will actually make money on this deal, because I believe in the power and in the future of American small business."

 

4
   Call it "the Mr. Magoo rule"

OK, this one is trivial, I'll be the first to admit. But it bugs me no end, and always has.

"I am calling for new rules for television advertising, which will permanently ban 'the fine print.' Right now, anyone advertising anything on television is free to put whole paragraphs of text (legally-required notices, mostly, that the businesses don't like) into such tiny text that it is completely unreadable, even on the new digital televisions. This practice must stop. From now on, any legally-required notice on television will have to meet readability standards. I want legal notices on ads to be so large that Mister Magoo can easily read them. It's time for advertisers to end the 'fine print' forever."

 

5
   End the hedge fund managers' gargantuan tax loophole

If you're a banker, your obscenely-large salary, even with bonuses (which we'll address in a moment), is taxed as income -- because it is. If you're a hedge fund manager, your salary is taxed at less than half the rate everyone else pays, as "capital gains" -- even though it is clearly income. This one is an easy target.

"I call on Congress to make sure that people whose job it is to make other people money are all taxed at the same rates -- and at the same rates all other American employees are taxed. This means taxing hedge fund managers at the same tax rate as bankers. It means taxing people raking in millions of dollars at the same tax rate everyone else pays, instead of letting them get away with paying a lower tax rate than policemen, firefighters, teachers, and secretaries. Congress needs to close the loophole that hedge fund managers use to pay lower tax rates than the rest of us, and declare the money that they make as 'income' so that they pay the tax rates that all other Americans pay. Fairness demands it."

 

6
   No business can "write off" any salary or bonus above what the president makes

This one is easy, too. The White House has been trying to say one thing on this issue, and then turn a blind eye to it, for far too long now. Obama needs to see the error (and political stupidity) of these ways, and get on the bandwagon before it leaves town without him.

"I propose a new law for all American businesses. Any compensation paid to any employee of any business which is above the salary America pays the president will not be tax-deductible on the business' tax returns. And I mean any compensation whatsoever -- salary, bonuses, stock options, any other way businesses try to find loopholes to reward their workers -- any of it. Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying that any business isn't free to pay any amount of money they choose to any employee they wish. There will be no law saying they can't. But for them to write off on their taxes as a 'business deduction' millions upon millions of dollars (that are, quite frankly, obscene amounts) will come to an end! In other words, any money paid to an employee over $400,000 per year will come out of that company's profits, and will be fully taxed as such. The fat cats have had a free ride for far too long, and I propose to end this free ride once and for all."

 

7
   A "bonus" for the American people

This last one has the added benefit of being a Republican idea. So any Republicans who now come out against it will have to explain to voters why they supported it last year and are now against it, just because Obama's for it.

"Last year, Republicans offered a suggestion that I think bears a second look -- a 'payroll tax holiday' from all payroll taxes for one year. For the next year, American workers would get a boost to their take-home earnings by exempting them all from Social Security and Medicare taxes. This will boost the economy by giving folks a break on taxes for one year, until the economic recovery is fully underway. This may push the deficit a bit higher for a single year, but I think it is worth it in the end. I have to say that after seeing one company on Wall Street hand out over sixteen billion dollars in bonuses and compensation last year, that it is about time the average American worker got a 'bonus' -- since many of them have never gotten one in their lives, much less sixteen billion dollars in one year. I call upon the Republicans who originally proposed this idea -- as well as all Democrats in Congress -- to immediately pass a temporary one-year payroll tax holiday. And I suggest you call the bill 'The Main Street Bonus' bill, as well."

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground

Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

27 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [108] -- Obama's Pivotal Week”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Here's a bit of news you may have missed: Democrats still control the Senate. Really!

    Awww, com'o, CW!

    You and I both know that Democrats can't control anything, let alone the Senate.

    Still have a majority? Yea, Dems still have the majority..

    Control? Surely, you jest...

    :D

    Michale.....

  2. [2] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Cross-posted at HuffPo:

    Chris,

    It may be that I just haven't read enough. It may be that others are saying or thinking the same as am I. If it is being said, it isn't being said enough or loudly enough. So, let me use your forum to give it some play.

    The President is calling for those receiving our money to keep them from failing to pay it back. That is insufficient.

    In their failures they caused a great deal of harm, to the nation, to the world economy, to taxpayers, to those who lost their jobs, their retirements, their college funds, indeed, everyone. Why should they not be expected to pay at least a modicum of compensation? Many have, in less than a year, survived, made record profits and paid record bonuses, while the economy languishes, unemployment grows, foreclosures increase. In other words, they flourish while the ramifications of their greed continue to burden everyone else.

    Simply paying back the money they received from the taxpayers is grossly insufficient.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Nutcase,

    If this is true, then Obama et al shouldn't have bailed them out in the first place.

    Michale...

  4. [4] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Michale,

    That's true but, when Paulson, Geithner, Summers, Rubin, et al. are your advisers, that's the advice you should expect.

    Obama didn't have the confidence in his own instincts to go off the beaten path and pick advisers without Wall Street connections.

    Don't forget though, the bailout started before the election. Don't give Obama all the credit for this mess.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    Fair enough.

    Bush et al does deserve some of the blame.

    My only point is that, 8-10 months ago, Obama was all about saving these poor banks, that it was imperative to the survival of the country to save these poor banks.

    NOW he comes back with the banks are the villains and it's their fault that the country is in this mess..

    Sounds to me that Obama is simply tailoring his argument to fit his agenda.

    "We are at war with Eurasia... We have ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia."

    My advice back then was, "LET THEM FAIL"...

    Guess that was prophetic, eh? :D

    Michale.....

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    I am also constrained to point out that it's not the GOP that Obama has to worry about when it comes to his "populist" agenda of taking on Wall Street.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/821dce96-0786-11df-915f-00144feabdc0.html

    It appears that Obama will have more trouble with fellow Democrats..

    Michale....

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale, nutcase -

    (That's two login names, not a slur on Michale, I hasten to point out... heh.)

    Two points at the edges to toss in. (1) hopefully, they'll pay back the money WITH INTEREST, meaning the taxpayer will reap a profit (that's the plan anyway), and (2) Obama's actually got a good argument -- that he couldn't let the banks fail, but that they're still operating under the regulations that got us into this mess (meaning there is nothing to prevent it happening again). If he's driving for better regulations, now that things have settled down, then I really don't see a contradiction.

    -CW

  8. [8] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Chris,

    The argument that he couldn't let the banks fail was not Obama's. It was that of his advisors, and it was incorrect. Maybe he's learned a bit from Volker.

    The interest profit is miniscule compared to the damage they have caused. Much of the loss was to individuals but much was also matters that the government must spend money on to correct or ameliorate.

    Someone may cause you to have a wreck. Perhaps the repairs only cost $1,000 but the loss of time and transport cost you a million dollar deal, a job, a chance to see your kid before he left for Iraq or a wedding or a funeral. Does $1,000 represent sufficient compensation? Probably not the best analogy but i tried.

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Michale, nutcase -

    (That's two login names, not a slur on Michale, I hasten to point out... heh.)

    Ouch...

    ....and the ref takes a point away...

    :D hehehehehehe

    (1) hopefully, they'll pay back the money WITH INTEREST, meaning the taxpayer will reap a profit (that's the plan anyway)

    Yea, that's the plan...

    But honestly.. What has gone according to plan to date??

    Obama's actually got a good argument -- that he couldn't let the banks fail,

    That was the ONLY sure way to actually accomplish anything positive...

    You can't change the corrupt system if you are constantly building on the foundation of said corrupt system, no?

    Michale.....

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Reading thru your TPs.....

    You realize that Dem CongressCritters are going to be as much up in arms over all that as GOP critters, no??

    Let's face it..

    Unless President Obama is set to take on his own party, as well as the GOP, none of that will see the light of day.

    A year ago, I would have said, "Hell yea!! Obama is gonna take them down!!!!"

    Being one year wiser (and infinitely more cynical) my response is, "Yea... When Monkees fly outta my butt..."

    Michale.....

  11. [11] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Chris-
    I've always wondered why our government is willing to lend to the largest banks practically interest free and yet somehow everyone else has to then pay interest at rates determined by these banks.

    It seems like we're just giving these giant institutions, the ones that made such poor decisions, an absolute money maker without any expectation that they will do anything to help out the economy.

    Why not go a step further and simply cut out the middle man? Why not open an operation that lends directly to the people at the same rates banks can get?

    It seems like the reasoning for lending to them was so that they in turn could help out individuals and small businesses. But it's becoming apparent they're not doing that.

    Cut out the middle man. Why not let the people borrow at the same rate as the banks?

    -David

  12. [12] 
    nutcase wrote:

    akadjian,

    And just think, that money they are being lent is yours.

    Obama has at least proposed eliminating the middle men for student loans. That should have been a no-brainer decades ago.

  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    nutcase -

    OK, I hear what you're saying. I am optimistic that we'll be hearing more from Volcker in the days to come.

    Michale -

    Ah, but I'm talking about changing some of that corruption in the foundation, as it were. As for blame, lots of Dems (including Clinton) share the blame for jettisoning Glass-Steagall. The vote in the Senate was something like 94-6. There's PLENTY of blame to go around.

    But you're right -- let's get to work on that foundation. Starting with reinstating Glass-Steagall.

    You're also right about the TPs -- it would cause fear and loathing among many Democrats. But the beauty of it is that (1) even if he loses the vote, the president gains politically by trying (and FIGHTING), and (2) forcing votes on such things shows very clearly who is for and who is against such proposals, which hopefully will be remembered come election day. That fear might be enough to change some Democratic minds.

    akadjian -

    I believe something like this was tried in the Great Depression -- direct home loans from the federal government? I might be wrong about that, I'd have to research it, but I could have sworn I heard someone talking about this over the holidays. I'm no economist, but it sure sounds like a swell idea to me.

    nutcase -

    Didn't they get that through already (stopping the "rake" on the student loans) last year? Didn't follow it all that closely, but I could have sworn they passed something along those lines...

    -CW

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    nutcase,

    Obama has at least proposed eliminating the middle men for student loans. That should have been a no-brainer decades ago.

    There are two problems with government control over anything that has, traditionally, been private sector.

    1> The government can't run things worth a shit. That was my biggest argument against DunselCare, AKA CrapCare. There are dozens and dozens of examples of government programs that are being run into the ground and completely and utterly failing to meet the needs of the people.

    and

    B> Administrations change. Control will not. Since it is all but assured that there will be a huge GOP victory this Nov, all the control that the government assumes now will fall into the hands of the Republicans this fall.
    You have to ask yourself, "Would I be advocating for these government take-overs if the GOP was the majority party?"
    Because that is, in essence, what you are doing. Advocating government control on behalf of the Republican Party which is, soon to be, the majority party.

    Michale.....

  15. [15] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Michale,

    Being against everything government is not an assessment. It is an ideology. All ideologies are crap because they are by nature too simplistic to account for the realities of the real world.

    Private insurance companies spend 30-32% on administration. CMS (Medicare, Medicaid & SCHIP) spends 1.8%. People on Medicare like it far, far more than people on any private health plan like theirs. Also, 59% of physicians support Medicare-For-All.

    We honor the members of our military. How many parades has anyone ever given for Blackwater employees?

    My brother lived most of his adult life in East Ridge, TN. It was the largest city in the country without a public fire department. It had (has?) a private one. I never met anyone happy with it and their fire department rating caused their insurance rates to be higher.

    You want a private company handling law enforcement? The government is constrained by the Constitution. Corporations are not.

    Would I want them under the GOP? No. I don't want anything under the GOP but what I wrote about Medicare holds true under both parties. The bulk of control of established programs is done by bureaucrats (fellow Americans), not politicians. Did W destroy Social Security by investing it in the Wall Street casinos? No.

    Our economic meltdown was not caused by government. It was allowed by government. It happened because government gave the private sector permission to do it their way.

    Despite what is claimed, the government funds most medical research, by far. Meanwhile, a private company gave us Vioxx. Although on the market for about 5 years, a study covering just 3 years was admitted in federal court. It showed 28,000 deaths and another 139,000 non-fatal heart attacks and strokes during that 3 years. That is 10 times the number of killed from the twin towers attack. The company admitted the validity of that study. That case also brought to light an internal email from the scientists to the executives stating that the drug was a killer - 4 years before it went to market. The FDA (read government) approved the drug because the private company lied to it and held back pertinent data.

    You like the private sector? You like the internet? The Supreme Court's decision on campaign finance will allow private corporations to buy Congress and give us an internet even less free than China's.

    How much was spent on the last presidential campaign? Perhaps a billion or so. Wall Street, while the economy is in ruins (a private gift to all of us), is producing record profits and giving $150 billion in bonuses. If they devoted half that to bribery of politicians we would never have to see a non-political ad on television again. The upside? You need not donate to any political campaign. The private sector will take care of that for you.

    Private garbage service over municipal government? Well, it might be cheaper but city and county employees usually get paid more than minimum wage and have benefits. I prefer that.

    Here is Tennessee private corporations spread out enough bribe money so that Shaw Industries (I think they are still number one in carpet manufacturing) and others could rid themselves of all of their minimum-wage employees and give some of that to the state, so prisoners could do the work much cheaper. See how creative the private sector is? They no longer have top ship jobs over seas.

    Perhaps, if I took a few sabbaticals, I could come up with an area where private enterprise was appealing to more than themselves and the ideologues. No promises though.

  16. [16] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Michale,

    Those expected big victories by the GOP are only expected to reduce the Democratic majorities, not produce GOP majorities.

    I was wondering why you wish to give extra money to the private corporations. Do you get some benefits from the student loan middlemen that you don't get from the government? It costs considerably more to include the middlemen and the government is supposed to set the rules and enforce them anyway. That is their proper custodial responsibility to the citizenry.

    Will the government agency require everyone to get a college education? Will they require all students to take courses in Marxism? Just what nefarious plans do they have in store?

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    nutcase,

    I don't want you to think I am ignoring you.

    You obviously put a lot of thought and time in your postings.. It's only fair that I do the same.

    Unfortunately, I am at work now til tomorrow, so I won't be able to address things til then..

    Just wanted you to know..

    Michale.....

  18. [18] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Michale,

    I understand. I have to work sometimes too.

  19. [19] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Wow, you guys are being nice over here, and I was just answering a HuffPoster who, while espousing positions 180 degrees from mine, conceded a point in a gentlemanly fashion.

    Must be something in the air, I dunno. Happy weekend to all!

    :-)

    -CW

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    There is definitely something in the air ... GO SAINTS!

  21. [21] 
    Dorkfish wrote:

    Nutcase;
    To your point about the government's expense to run health insurance; the government's administrative cost far exceeds that of the private sector. The government loves to use the same fuzzy, non insurance math about its expenses as it does in the debate overall. Included in expenses in the private sector are payments to doctors. The government as a matter of course pays 30% or higher LESS than private providers to doctors for services. just on face value, that pushes their (the govenment) expenses to the level of private insurers. In addition to that, the vast majority of private sector contracts with doctors have to absorb the cost shift created buy the govenment's underfunding of those payments.

  22. [22] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Dorkfish,

    You really should have included at least one fact. Perhaps you are merely passing on something from someone else but I can assure you that every detail of your post is made up from whole cloth.

    As a former foreign correspondent (from the old days), I try to have multiple, reliable sources. I can assure you that both my facts and my points are correct.

    True, there is a lot of garbage out there but valid sources are not that difficult to find. You may even use me as a source.

  23. [23] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Dorkfish,

    Just one specific point.

    If the private sector has to pay so much more because the government payments are grossly inadequate, why did polls of physicians show 59% preferred Medicare-For-All? Do they have some unstated reason for wanting to be underpaid for all patients without a higher payout by a then essentially non-existent private sector to compensate?

  24. [24] 
    Dorkfish wrote:

    Nutcase;
    Thanks for the lecture on facts, as a 24 year member of the insurance industry (Property and Casualty) and a former vice president of an insurance company, it is not humanly possible to run an insurance program, public or otherwise for less than 2%. The statement doesn't even hold merit on the basic math. Do you know what Medicare pays doctors on the dollar verses the private sector? It's generally about 70 cents on the dollar per visit verses what private companies pay. That number varies based on different amounts for specialists. I don't believe that most doctors consider the consequenses of the destruction of the private system. Why are more doctors on a daily based on refusing to see medicare patients? Why are doctors limiting the number of Medicare patients that they are seeing? I don't know whether a NY Times story for 4/09 will be enough support for you, but check it out. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/business/retirementspecial/02health.html It is my understanding that the AMA, 29% of America's docs supported Crap Care while 29 different physicans organizations opposed it. Doctors do support care for all, but who doesn't. The disagreement is how do you pay for it without going bankrupt IE Medicare.
    In 2008 53% of Texas doctors would only take on new medicare patients. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine supports numbers similar to yours for a public option, however, but not for a complete medicare system for all. I am sure for each poll you produce I can produce one myself. The core of the arguement still comes back to whether that govenment can actually run something as complex as health insurace while they have an extensive track record of mandates that have served to drive insurance prices through the roof while at the same time running medicare in bankruptcy? The problem is that math is not political. Two plus two always equals four. We don't have to look to therory here, just look at the resume. The problem is the COST OF THE CARE. Paying doctors less IE massive Medicare cuts that are being proposed but will never happen, doesn't do a thing for controlling costs. It can only lead to less care. Having spent 3 years on Canada's crap plan while watching my wife wait 7 months to see a doctor for for a life altering surgery is not something I want to see here.
    Put all the BS aside and the reason why companies don't want to insure everyone is that you can sell something for $2 that costs your $4 to make. The fact is that the government can't afford that either. If this were really about fixing that problem, the government could have done this without this massive spending and cutting plan currently on the table. They simply could have taken the "table rate" for a healthy person at their age and applied a voucher (like a food stamp) to cover the additional costs. This is about control, taxation and the illusion of "social justice," at least the liberal verson of it. Sorry about any grammer errors, had to whip this off quickly.

  25. [25] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Thank you for admitting where your 'facts' and talking points originate.

    You claim that payments to physicians are counted as expenses for private plans. Of course they are. That also holds true for CMS. That is not the same as administrative costs. Did you not understand my statement or was your confusion intentional?

    You try to misrepresent a set of polls I cited. It is a fact that 59% of physicians supported HR676, the specific bill known as Medicare-For-All. That you wish to misrepresent that as support for the public option is understandable but incorrect. The number rose to 72% support among physicians for the public option.

    You can't even get the numbers straight on the poll that seems to support your point. Support for a generic healthcare reform bill was actually less than 29% among AMA members. There is a problem in citing that as representative. Only 20% of physicians belong to the AMA.

    Since CMS is by far the largest purchaser of medical goods and services, it is humanly possible for them to breach 2%. Remember, they don't have to pay for advertising, marketing or multimillion-dollar salaries. Neither do they have to pay lobbyists to buy politicians.

    Did you make up such terms as 'crapcare' yourself or is that evidence that you are parroting what you've been told by more creative defenders of greed.

    You say you can produce a poll for every one that I produce. I'm sure you can. I have to depend on others to conduct any polls I use. That takes time. It is much easier for you. I can't just pull them like rabbits out of a hat.

    I would love to dismantle your posts point by point but I have to get ready for an appointment with my neurologist.

    Don't fret. I can return but at some point I'll tire of pointing out your errors. After all, a cat will finally tire of that ball of yarn.

  26. [26] 
    Dorkfish wrote:

    Nutcase;
    You just sound like one of those typicle angry guys that spends a lot of time reading others of like mind. I suggest that you return to my last post as it appears that you didn't read it clearly. I am unclear as to what you are "dismantling" however, I find that most angry folks like you know very little about how insurance actually works, and guess what, the acturarial principles are exactly the same in the public secter as in the private sector. If you want to discuss the actual math merits of this very bad legislation, anytime. As far as misrepresenting, I am not doing such, in your anger, you missed my point. In the words of our great master Obama, "LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR," I too SUPPORT HEALTH CARE FOR ALL! The issue is how do you pay for it and how do you keep from the mess that the government has helped to create in the private sector and the bigger mess that they have made with Medicare? How do you not end up with a plan that currently denies more claims than the private sector, such as Medicare and has huge coverage limitations, like Medicare. I am sure in your vast knowledge of the subject you are aware of the need for Medicare supplements. Those exist because of the lack of coverage in the public plan AND they are sold by the private sector to fill those holes. When was the last time that a private major med plan needed a supplement? I am NOT interested in defending those filled with black hearted greed. I am interseted in not seeing the vast majority of American's see a major decrease in health services and an increase in cost in order to help those that need medical care. I don't have a financial dog in that hunt. There are ways to do it and the government is needed to help that process along, but this plan is what it is, crap. In the end it will never give the vast majority of American's the coverage that they currently enjoy. The runaway cost of health insurance is a mirror of the runaway cost of health care. This plan does nothing to bring down care costs. I would be happy to put my 24 years of experience and knowledge on the subject in any debate that you wish to offer. In the end, we both want care for all, the issue remains how to get there. On the subject of greed, I hope that you are not implying the there's no greed in the government? As far as the expense ratio, I stand by my statements. While multi million dollar babies make for great press, they represent a blip on the expense ratio. I am not defending all of them, its just a point of math. Again, there is no business in America (with the possible exception of self employed w/no employees or inventory) that runs on a 2% expense ratio. Even a college freshmen business student wouldn't buy that arguement. As far as government accounting,they collect taxes to cover the expenses to run the govenment, but since there isn't one singlular tax that accounts for the cost of running Medicare, but rather taxes that flow from various tributaries, they can point to expense ratios that have no merit. Remember, I have been doing this for 24 years and have a significant understanding of expense ratios. I don't even think that 2% would cover their building costs (rent, heat, maintanence etc) That is a guess, but I'm sure its close. Also, if they were at that expense number, why is Medicare going bankrupt? Especially since they don't have to spend money on lobbists, multi million dollar salaries (althought the average government employee makes more than the average private sector employee), and advertising, why are they running out of money? In addition, they don't have to fend off malpractice suits in the 10's of millions of dollars. Lastly since the Medicare coverage isn't as broad, they should be paying out less in claims. Again, why then can't they stay afloat?

    I resent folks like you that I think are much more interested worshiping at the alter of government than what is best for the American people. This plan stinks on so many levels and riding a wave of anger doesn't justify the insanity of this legislation. I am sure your anger won't be swayed by an understanding of the working of insurace, hopefully it will be swayed by actually protecting those that really need the help. The current stuff coming out of Washington does little to make that happen. In the long run it will hurt Americans. When reform, I mean REAL reform happens, I will be the first to support it. BAD LEGISLATION WITH A NOBLE CAUSE IS STILL BAD LEGISLATION. We can do better.

    If you want to debate how, I would love to debate it with you. If you just want to be condesending and angry, I won't bother. Although I am not of the same political opinion as many of Chris' readers, I follow his blog because its well written and thoughtful. My initial statement, which is accurate, in reference to expense ratio did not warrent that type of response. There are lots of angry blogs out there that are less interested in the exchange of ideas, maybe that would be a better choice.

  27. [27] 
    nutcase wrote:

    Replace the word anger with bemused.

    When one confuses payments to physicians with administrative costs and uses polling based on a self-selected, unrepresentative 20%, I find nothing worth debating.

    By the way, malpractice accounts for less than 1% of costs. Both the number cases and size of payouts have decreased since at least 2000. This while premiums have ballooned. Thank the insurance industry for that.

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