Carnival of Confusion – Health Care, Climate Change, Financial Reform…and More

Posted in General by TBartine on September 23, 2009 No Comments yet

Yesterday, we managed to get caught up on news items related to politicians, the media, and the “Values Voters Summit.”  Today…we dive into policy.  Surprise, surprise: most of the items revolve around health care…but there are a number from other policy arenas.

THE HEALTH CARE REFORM CARNIVAL OF DESPAIR:

  • It’s no big surprise that the proposed cuts to Medicare have raised a few eyebrows.  Proponents state that the cuts involve only the elimination of waste, and will not affect the benefits and services provided.  Opponents suggest that this is merely a dishonest feint…and once the cuts are passed, Medicare/Medicaid recipients will suffer the cost of reduced benefits.  While the issue is certainly debatable…the one thing that insurance companies should probably do, is to STAY OUT OF IT.  An investigation has been launched into insurance giant, Humana (known for some controversial behavior in the past)…and the letters that Humana sent to Medicare Advantage policy holders, asking them to contact their representatives and express their disapproval of the cuts.  The letter claim, “millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable.“  While the claim itself is certainly dubious…it also appears to be in clear violation of the laws that restrict the ways that Humana is allowed to communicate with policy holders.  Charges are pending…and may result in serious fines for Humana.
  • Speaking of “scare tactic” mailings, a letter sent out by the Senate Republicans (using the vague sounding “U.S. Senate Health Care Task Force” as a “pseudonym”) strays even further into the realm of inaccuracy and impropriety.  The letter claims…that the new system will discriminate against citizens an deny treatment based on the basis of race and age: “Are you concerned that health care rationing could lead to: 23. Denial of treatment in cases where the patient’s prospects are deemed not good?  24. A “lottery” system of determining who will get priority treatment?  25. A “quota” system which would determine who would determine who would get treatment on the basis of race or age?“  It gets worse…the letter also implies that the government will be able to “• Pick who is “eligible” for certain medical procedures? • Pick your doctor for you? • Restrict certain medical procedures on the basis of age? • Put strict price controls on medicine and drugs? • Penalize you for choosing to see a private doctor • Seriously undermine private health care insurers who currently serve tens of millions of Americans?“  So much for debating the bills on their actual merits…
  • The Republicans?  Besides adding hundreds of amendments to the “Baucus Bill,” ranging from the counterproductive to the deranged…they have proposed no alternative solutions to the Democrats’ plan(s).  At a recent town hall meeting, Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) listened to a woman named Patricia Churchill describe a family member who has tumors in her stomach, needs immediate surgery, and has no insurance.  Cantor’s response…was that she should look for an “existing government program“…or charity.  Nice.
  • The same Eric Cantor took part in a bipartisan forum on health care with Representative Robert Scott (D-VA), and faced repeated questioning about about how the GOP would plan to reform health care reform in our country, if not through a public option or the Democrats’ other proposals.  The answer: well, the GOP doesn’t really have a “detailed plan“…but Cantor suggested that the Republicans and Democrats should work together where they agree.  Not really changing the image of the “party of NO,” are we, Eric?
  • Of course, it’s easiest for the GOP to realize that people aren’t buying the lies and scare tactics anymore…when they are openly laughed at during town halls:

  • It’s hard to defend the insurance companies, especially when new articles are being run everyday, exposing their varied and  nefarious practices.  Like this one…which details how these companies deny policies to people with “pre-existing conditions.“  Of course, for the insurance companies, “pre-existing conditions” includes acne, hemorrhoids, pregnancy, or being a firefighter or policeman.  Despite all this…the GOP is rushing to the defense of the industry, claiming that Obama and the Democrats are attempting to “muzzle” the insurance giants…because some Democrats (most notably and surprisingly, Senator Max Baucus) have criticized Humana (see item above) for using TAXPAYER-SUBSIDIZED mailings to SCARE SENIORS into opposing reform efforts.  Republicans are claiming that the criticism of Humana is simply part of an effort to keep information from seniors…no, guys…it’s an effort to keep taxpayer money from being spent by an insurance company to send out self-serving MISINFORMATION to seniors.
  • File Under D for Duh: Of course, it can’t really be mentioned enough…but the overwhelming majority of people want health care reform and support the public option.  So for the GOP…there are obvious political consequences for running a campaign of opposition, misinformation, and defense of a corrupt industry.  Here’s how the numbers are looking.
  • Of course, who but Will Ferrell could such a wonderful job of pointing out exactly how INANE it is to defend unethical behavior on the part of insurance giants:

CLIMATE CHANGE REFORM…THE WATER’S RISING:

  • CBS and Politico made a mistake.  They cited a $1761 per household tax that would be associated with a new Climate Bill…the only problem was:  there was no such bill before Congress.  Immediately, the Treasury Department, the Congressional Budget Office, and other groups pointed out this error and both publications retracted the item.  Which of course…prompted Republicans to start citing the number to scare people away from supporting Climate Reform, and near-instantaneously, the right-wing media started using the bogus estimate as well.  Brad Johnson of ThinkProgress, outlined this “disinformation process” as follows:

STEP ONE: “News” generated by right-wing think tank.

STEP TWO: Right-wing print journalists write “breaking news” story.

STEP THREE: Promoted by Drudge, story repeated endlessly on right-wing blogs, Twitter, and talk radio.

STEP FOUR: Republican politicians, right-wing think tanks, and polluter front groups release statements of shock and outrage.

STEP FIVE: On Fox News, Glenn Beck calls President Obama a liar/socialist/Marxist/communist/fascist/racist.

  • Joe “I-Like-To-Pretend-I’m-A-Democrat” Lieberman is already getting a jump start on defiling the House Climate Reform bill, by adding provisions that help out coal and nuclear power companies…companies that provide some of the “dirtiest” power available (environmentally speaking).  I mean, really…that would be like adding provisions to Health Care Reform that puts more money in the pockets of the insurance companies…hey, wait a minute…I’m sensing a trend.

FINANCIAL REFORM – PUTTING A LEASH ON THE BULL:

  • Let me get this straight: we are currently in a recession…because companies that were “too big to fail“…did.  And they failed because companies in the arenas of banking, lending, investing, and real estate engaged in wildly speculative (sometimes illegal) behavior and created financial instruments of dubious worth, and proceeded to trade these instruments as if they were Topps baseball cards.  The reason they were able to do this…is because the safeguards and regulations put in place over the years have been gradually whittled away by both Democrats and Republicans attempting to appease their corporate overlords.  So the solution is to put safeguards and regulations back in place, right?  Well of course…predictably, Republicans call this “government interference in the free market.“  What may surprise you…is that some Democrats don’t support the current Financial Reform plan, either.
  • Arianna Huffington proposes a unique solution:  the representatives making the critical decisions regarding financial reform…should watch Michael Moore’s new movie.  She argues that one can’t watch the film, seeing the REAL injustices performed by profiteers run amok…seeing the REAL faces of the people who’ve had their lives affected by unfettered greed and amoral business practices…seeing some of the REAL and truly ridiculous steps taken to address the problem…without walking away and saying: “we have to do something REAL about this.

NATIONAL SECURITY – GHOSTS OF THE PAST:

  • I have criticized the Obama administration for over-utilizing the “state secrets” defense in much the same way as their predecessors.  Well…Obama is doing something about that.  Starting October 1st, new restrictions will go into place, which clearly define when the “state secrets” defense may be used by the government to withhold information from courts of law.  The restrictions are much stricter than in the past…and certainly represent a step towards the increased “transparency” that Obama promised.
  • One Step Forward, One Step Back: How come every time I am able to report that Obama is overruling/removing a Bush-era policy…I find out that he is also retaining another?  While claiming that the law should be rewritten to require more in the way of warrants…Obama is pushing Congress to extend the “surveillance” provisions of the Patriot Act, perhaps the most misnamed act in American History, given its circumvention of Constitutional protections, most particularly in the realm of the Rule of Law.  We’ll see: if this allowance is given with strict new subpoena and warrant restrictions…it may bring the idea back into the good graces of some civil libertarians.

GAY RIGHTS – ARE THEY EVER GOING TO GET ANY?

  • Back when Iowa legalized same-sex marriage, I told a few more-than-a-little-surprised friends how I thought it happened.  Iowans may be conservative….but in my experience (I have lots of family there), they are the ultimate pragmatists…they only care about what they KNOW is important (which is mostly determined by what actually affects their lives), and aren’t easily distracted by “sensationalized issues” and “hot-button debates.”  This notion was only reinforced by a recent poll, which shows that on the subject of gay marriage…92% of the people in Iowa say it “doesn’t really affect their lives,” and…that is why most of them don’t oppose gay marriage’s legalization.  If only more people would exercise this kind of “practical rationality.”

CZARS AND ACORN – CONSPIRACY TIME-WASTERS OF THE MONTH:

  • We’ve talked some about the baseless “czar conspiracy,” based on Obama’s use of well-established advisory positions, held by people with little or no policy-making power and authority.  Well…just to show HOW ridiculous the conspiracy theorists really are, an advisor who served under Reagan and Bush Sr. points out that these positions are ENTIRELY legitimate…the Constitution EXPLICITLY permits the President to fill these posts…and this practice is FAR from new.
  • In reaction to the recent scandal involving ACORN, the community agency that serves to sign up voters amongst underrepresented and often impoverished constituencies, Obama has declared his support for an investigation…Governor Jindal of Louisiana and Governor Pawlenty have called for all state funding to the agency to be cut (despite the fact that neither state PROVIDES any funding to ACORN)…and a bipartisan bill has been drafted to prevent companies that have been “charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency” from receiving government funding.  Only one little problem:  the bill as currently worded…would prevent almost all of the military/defense industry from being funded, also.  Ooops

AFGHANISTAN…WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?

  • The Pentagon:  We need more troops or we’ll lose this thing.  The White House:  When can we stop sending troops?  The Pentagon:  As soon as we’ve got the Afghan army and police up to snuff.  The White House:  How long will that take?  If you read Ann Jones’ firsthand account of the state of the Afghan security forces…the answer is clearly “forever.”

That’s it…all caught up from last week.  We’ll be back to our “regular format” starting tomorrow…

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