More Health Care Madness: Money Changed Hands, Steele Digs a Hole, and a Leaked Memo

Posted in General by TBartine on July 21, 2009 No Comments yet

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had made a difficult decision:  I had equal numbers of articles relating to health care, and to new (and numerous) allegations of right-wing bigotry.  I chose to address health care, and intended to write on the topic of racism today…until I ran into the same dilemma.  There are certainly a wealth of new health care reform “revelations” today…and there are also BRAND NEW allegations of GOP/RNC racism (what are these people thinking?).  As I have already invested a considerable amount of time and research into the health care issue…let’s continue on that line of inquiry and discussion.  We’ll cover the GOP’s continuing issue with racial prejudice at the next opportunity.

The lines on Obama’s health care policy are drawn…with no surprisesHere’s the latest news out of each faction:

DEMOCRATS:

  • Yesterday, President Obama called on progressive bloggers and non-partisan fact checking groups to fight the great battle against misinformation, and disinformation.  Today…he confronts his opponents within his own party.  He will meet with the “Blue Dog” Democrats to attempt to allay their concerns over his plan; concerns that generally revolve around the cost to implement and sustain the plan.  Many of these conservative Democrats are held accountable to very conservative districts back home, and faced a lot of criticism over their support for climate and energy bills back in June.  The trillion dollar price tag on the health care reform bill has some of these legislators, perhaps already facing tough re-election campaigns, understandably on edge.  Most analysts agree that some or all of these “Blue Dogs” will eventually be persuaded to support the bill, once specific cost-cutting measures are agreed to, and once the new concept known as payment “bundling” is better understood.
  • Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont) is the head of the Senate Finance Committee, which is currently playing an important role in the health care bill’s drafting.  So it shouldn’t surprise you that the health care industry has an interest in obtaining his attention to their concerns.  How much did his attention cost?  Apparently, $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008…donated by companies and their employees to Baucus’ political committees.  Baucus has received a total of $3 million since 2003.  This amount represents more than was given to any other recipient.  Also, according to The Washington Post: “Top health executives and lobbyists have continued to flock to the senator’s often extravagant fundraising events in recent months. During a Senate break in late June, for example, Baucus held his 10th annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation of $2,500. Later this month comes ‘Camp Baucus,’ a ‘trip for the whole family’ that adds horseback riding and hiking to the list of activities.“  Baucus’ attempts to appear unbiased, won’t impress too many critics: “To avoid any appearance of favoritism, his aides say, Baucus quietly began refusing contributions from health-care political action committees after June 1. But the policy does not apply to lobbyists or corporate executives, who continued to make donations, disclosure records show.” To be fair…others have received similarly disheartening amounts…keep reading below. Over that same period of time, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a grand total of $170 million was given to federal lawmakers, almost evenly split between Democrats (54%) and Republicans (46%)…although this year, Democrats have received 60% of the money given. Oh, and Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), the House Ways and Means Chairman?  $1.6 million over the last two years.
  • Just for a laugh:  I know…it’s not news…and it’s puerile…but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny.  Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) needs to slow down a bit when “tweeting.”  Yesterday evening she posted on Twitter, “I support the pubic option on healthcare reform, but must make sure private market can compete. Working on that in the Senate.“  Did you miss it?  Go back and read it again.  Catching her mistake, she responded, “Big mistake, tweetng when dead tired, one more time spelled right….I support public option, as long as private can compete. Now sleep.“  Of course, the second time she misspelled “tweeting”…you would have thought she’d have been more careful.

REPUBLICANS:

  • I mentioned the Washington Post article about how much the health insurance industry was giving to influential Democrats?  Of course…there are a few Republicans they would also like access to.  Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), who is moderate Republican whose vote on the reform bill is considered “crucial“…has taken $2 million from health and insurance companies, their executives, and their employees since 2003.  Dave Camp (R-MI)? A mere $1 million.  What does all this mean to those people who are afraid that the proposed bill will “kill” private insurance?  It means that the bill was drafted by legislators paid MILLIONS by the insurance industry…I’m guessing…just guessing…that they are not going to write a bill that would put out of business the companies who are funding their next re-election campaign.  Call it a hunch
  • Yesterday, I mentioned RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s speech where he called President Obama’s health care plan “Russian roulette” and a “dangerous experiment“…and of course “socialism“…you’ve got to get “socialism” in there, somewhere.  If you go out and look for the clip of the speech, you’ll generally find a 2:09 minute clip, that excludes a very critical section:  the question and answer portion of the program.  After the speech, Steele was asked if Republicans support a requirement for all people to have insurance.  First…he obvious did not know what the question was referring to (despite the fact that the idea of “individual requirement” has been very contentious).  Then, he responds, “Again, that is one of those areas where there is different opinions…I don’t do policy…My point in coming here today was to begin to set a tone, and a theme if you will.“  Chairman Steele: you don’t comment on policy?  And you appear to not even know the policy?  Then why, Michael Steele, on something as important as health care…should anyone listen to you?  If all you are going to do is to call the program “socialism,” and then tell everyone that they should be terrified of what will happen if the policy (that you don’t know anything about) is enacted…then how does that promote an informed democracy?  Here’s the clip most outlets AREN’T showing:

  • He has his own opinion…for just a moment:  When Representative John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) was asked about what he thought of Michael Steele’s assertion that the health care plan is “dangerous and reckless“…he said, “Well, those are pretty strong words.“  But then, perhaps realizing that his party does not tolerate any form of dissent, he clumsily changed the subject…and then swerved back to it : “I do believe that the stimulus bill was a failed process and it has not done what the president told us it would do. He told us it would stop the loss of jobs and hold unemployment down. He said we would not get to anything close to the 9.5 percent unemployment rate we have now. I do think that what he is doing to health care will, in fact, destroy health care and all of the good things in it that we have right now.“  Whew, that was close…you almost sounded like an independent thinker for minute there, Shadegg…you’ll want to watch that.
  • An internal RNC memo calls for all members to “engage in every activity” to slow down the health care reform bill.  The memo cites as its rationale the need “to slow down this mad rush while promoting sensible alternatives that address health care costs and preserve quality.“  Yes…great…where are those alternatives, by the way?  The memo goes on, as expected, to tell GOP operatives exactly what to say about the the bill:  be sure to refer to it as a “grand experiment“, and as a “government takeover“…use the word “spending” a lot…blame Obama for the recession, and criticize him for not completely “fixing” it in his first six months in office…say “experiment” a few more times…talk about how people’s grandchildren will suffer…insinuate that medical decisions will not longer be between them and their doctors…you get the ideaHere’s the memo.

MEDIA:

  • Yikes.  When Michael Steele tried to peddle his “non-policy” talk on Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough…his comments did not receive the reaction that he had hoped for.  MSNBC’s Donnie Deutsch asked Steele what HIS suggestions were to fix our health care system, to which Steele responded: “I’ll give you three…you’ve got portability…let’s create co-ops…let’s make it so that the people who aren’t employed or have an employer at the time can deduct their health care if they’re not getting it through their employer.  I’ll give you an extra one: let’s do tort reform!”  Joe responded, “Mr. Chairman.  I agree with you on all four points, but you can add up all those four points and none of them are going to take care of the overriding issue.“  The following confrontation ensued:

SCARBOROUGH: Those four issues will not cut costs.

STEELE: You’re absolutely wrong! Joe…

SCARBOROUGH: Are you here telling me if we do those four things…(everybody talking at once) hold on a second!

STEELE: Please…

SCARBOROUGH: If we do those four steps…

STEELE: Spare me.

SCARBOROUGH: Spare you? Give me a CBO estimate of that then!

Here’s the clip…and here’s a good explanation of why each of Steele’s points reveals just how little he understands the issue.

  • MSNBC’s Chuck Todd thinks some of the media coverage of this “battle” is getting a little carried away.  Particularly the part where media outlets constantly signal that some event/poll/announcement is the “death” of health care reform.  As Todd points out, in all likelihood, the bill won’t die and some form of health care reform will eventually pass.

That’s all I have for now…more is sure to follow.  Tomorrow, unless something truly earth-shattering occurs in the health care arena, we’ll take a breather and move on to a different topic.